Mi Max 3 Review

Screen size of phones have been increasing, which is part of the reason why tablet sales have been declining drastically. But will there ever be a point where a device gets too huge to be considered a phone? If so, how big is too big?

In this article, we will be taking a look at the new Mi Max 3, the third generation of Xiaomi’s Mi Max series that is infamous for its absurd screen size. With a ginormous 6.9″ 18:9 display, it has almost as much screen estate as some of today’s tablets.

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In Singapore, the Mi Max 3 64/4GB is priced at S$399.


Summary – Good, But POCO’s Better

Pros:

  • Huge display
  • Sleek design allows for comfortable grip
  • Great performance (if not comparing with POCO F1)
  • Excellent rear cameras (again, if not comparing with POCO F1)
  • Almost 2 days battery life on moderate use
  • MIUI is still one of the best Android skins

Cons:

  • No case and screen protector included
  • Mediocre selfie camera

Others:

  • Huge battery takes really long to charge, but included Quick Charge 3.0 charger allows it to charge in under 3 hours.
  • Using a case will reduces chances of breaking that huge display, but it makes the phone thicker and harder to use.

Unboxing – No Clear Jelly Case Included, on a Device that Needs It the Most

The packaging layout of the Mi Max 3 is just like every other Xiaomi smartphone I have tested this year. Except that unlike those devices, this one doesn’t have a free clear case included.

Of all Xiaomi smartphone, they chose not to include a case for the device that needs it the most… Mi Max 3 is huge and slippery, so it is pretty easy to lose grip of it. And when such a large display gets dropped, chances are that it will break.

So despite this being only a review unit that I would be testing for a week, I rushed out to purchase a case and screen protector for it. Also, because of its sheer size, shops sell them at a higher price. In total, I spent S$30 just on those 2 items.

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Design – To Case or Not to Case?

Despite being a Mi branded device, the Mi Max series has always been a lot closer to a Redmi in terms of design and build quality. The Mi Max 3 is no different. The Mi Max 3 looks a lot like an enlarged Redmi Note 5, with nicer antenna lines.

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Another difference difference between Mi Max 3 and Redmi Note 5 is that Mi Max 3 has a USB Type-C port. Nice!

On the front, we have a ginormous 6.9″ 18:9 display. This makes the Mi Max 3 one of the largest, if not the largest, smartphone available today. Just look at how tiny my Redmi 5 is when placed beside the Mi Max 3, for both form factor and screen size.

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Mi Max 3 has tapered sides on the rear, so it is easy to hold despite its size. Once you add a case though, you no longer get the same comfortable grip and the device will magically feel much larger. But with a phone so slippery, you need a case.

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To fix this, perhaps Xiaomi can go with a Kevlar back for the next Mi Max device, like what they have done with the POCOPHONE F1 Armored Edition, or even a leather back.

Another thing I hope Xiaomi will change on the next Mi Max is removal of 2.5d glass. With display as big as the Mi Max 3’s, screen protectors are a must and 2.5d glass causes air gaps around tempered glass screen protectors, as seen below.

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Display – It is Huge, But is It Good?

As mentioned earlier, the Mi Max 3 is rocking a 6.9″ 18:9 display. To be more specific, it is a FHD+ IPS LCD panel. Some people may find FHD+ to be too low for a 6.9″ display, but with proper viewing distance, you will not see pixels.

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Mi Max 3’s display is a bit on the warm side, but that can be fixed in the settings, under “Contrast & colours”. You do get the same flexibility in adjusting the colours of the display like on the POCOPHONE F1. It is bright enough to be read under sunlight.

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If you are thinking of getting a small tablet for entertainment, why not get a Mi Max 3? Gaming and watching movies on such a huge display is very immersive. Reading articles and surfing social media has also been a pleasure on the Max 3.

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Performance – Good Enough for Most Users

Xiaomi equipped the Mi Max 3 with a Snapdragon 636 processor, the same one found on Redmi Note 5. Only the 64GB variant, which I am using for this review, is available in Singapore and it has 4GB of RAM. No news on the 128/6GB variant.

In benchmarks, the Mi Max 3 performs very similarly to the Redmi Note 5, scoring 118388 in AnTuTu Benchmarks and 1339 (single-core) / 4941 (multi-core) in Geekbench 4.

Under real usage, Mi Max 3 is able to run MIUI smoothly. It handles basic tasks like browsing Facebook and watching YouTube very well and light games run smoothly.

However, moving to graphic-intensive games like PUBG Mobile, there is occasionally a bit of stutter, even on medium graphics. It is playable, but if you are serious about gaming, consider getting Xiaomi’s slightly costlier POCOPHONE F1 instead.

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End-game animation loading too slowly on PUBG Mobile


Rear Camera – Instagram-able Images

Specs-wise, the Mi Max 3’s rear camera setup is identical to the Redmi Note 5’s; a 12MP primary camera with 1.4μm pixels and dual pixel autofocus, plus a secondary 5MP camera used for depth sensing. So do we get the same awesome photos?

Photos in the day turn out really good, as expected from a phone of this price. Moving to less ideal lighting, we still get really pleasant looking photos, but we do start seeing a bit of noise, though most of the details are still present. Not bad.

Bokeh shots are fantastic for large objects, but Mi Max 3 struggles to detect edges of small objects. Smartphone bokeh mode is not perfect yet, but among all the phones I have reviewed, Xiaomi’s has consistently provided some of the best results.

Noise becomes really noticeable when it gets dark. Overall, the Mi Max 3 has great rear cameras for its price, but Xiaomi’s POCOPHONE F1 produces photos that look even better, especially at night, and it only costs S$50 more than the Mi Max 3.

There is also a manual mode for the Mi Max 3’s rear camera. You can take long exposure shots on the Mi Max 3 and for best results, you will want to use a smartphone gimbal or tripod, but most phone holders wouldn’t fit the Max 3…

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Videos recorded with the Mi Max 3 have beautiful, vibrant colors that may not be the most accurate, but they make the video really appealing. Over-sharpening isn’t a big issue here either. For the price, the Mi Max 3 takes superb videos.

It can record up to 4K 30fps videos, but for stabilization to work, you need to record at 1080p or lower. Not a big deal since 1080p videos taken with the Mi Max 3 also look very good.


Front Camera – Disappointment

On the front of the Mi Max 3 is a 8MP selfie camera. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the device as photos taken with it are often overexposed so colors look unappealing and dynamic range is pretty bad as well. Avoid using  it…


Audio – Average Sounding “Stereo” Speakers

The Mi Max 3 has a single bottom firing speaker, housed behind the right speaker grill. Audio also comes out of the earpiece on top, like on the POCOPHONE F1, resulting in “stereo sound”. Like the F1 though, sound from the earpiece is tiny.

It is slightly softer than my Redmi 5 at max volume, but the audio it produce sounds hollow, with mids being recessed a little. It is good enough to get you immersed in games, but it certainly isn’t the best built-in speaker in a Xiaomi device.

Meanwhile, plugging in a pair of headphones, audio from the Mi Max 3 has less emphasis on bass than the Redmi 5, so you can hear more of the vocals. It depends on what music you listen to, but I prefer the Mi Max 3’s headphone audio output.


Battery – Almost 2 Full Days on Moderate Use

Powering the Mi Max 3 is a 5500mAh battery. Sounds huge for a smartphone, but let’s not forget that it needs to power a larger-than-normal display. With moderate usage, I was able to drain it down to 4% by 7PM of day 2, with over 10h screen-on time.

  • Total time = 1d 12h 46min
  • Screen-on time = 10h 13min
  • 2h 15min Piffle
  • 50min Royal Blade
  • 50min Facebook
  • 10min Instagram
  • 45min Microsoft Word
  • Over 1h music playback

Not bad! But you will be more impressed with the heavy usage results. Playing PUBG Mobile continuously for close to 7 hours, I was only able to drain it down to 5% battery.

A large battery allows for excellent battery life, but it also leads to longer charging times. Thankfully, the Mi Max 3 supports Quick Charge 3.0 (wall adapter included), but even then, the Mi Max 3 was only able to go from 5% to 100% in 2h 37min.

  • Start = 5%
  • 30min = 29%
  • 1h = 59%
  • 2h 37min = 100%

Imagine how long it will take without QC3.0…


Software – Still Waiting for MIUI 10

Despite being one of Xiaomi’s newest device, the Mi Max 3 is not among the first batch of devices to receive the MIUI 10 global stable update. Strangely, its ROM is not even available for download on MIUI’s website yet. Hmm….

So as of now, the review unit I have still runs MIUI 9.6, on top of Android 8.1. It is mostly the same as MIUI on other Xiaomi devices, so I will not be going into too much details here.

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Split screen is super shiok on such a large display, especially with full screen gesture enabled. One-handed mode comes in handy when one of your hand is occupied, but I wish there was a way to enter it when full screen gesture is enabled.

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Conclusion – Get It Only for the Large Screen

From one week of usage, my impression of the Mi Max 3 is that it is just a larger Redmi Note 5. Would I recommend it? If this was half a year ago, my answer would be yes. Redmi Note 5 was amazing and the Mi Max 3 is even better.

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But now that Xiaomi’s own POCOPHONE F1 is available at only S$50 more, I would only recommend the Mi Max 3 if you need the large display. F1 is better than Mi Max 3 in almost all other ways, most notably in the camera and performance department.

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