Xiaomi Mi Max 2 Review: Brienne of Tarth’s spirit
You'd think that smartphones with large display s are a thing of past? That gone are the days when people used to hold a Samsung Galaxy Tablet up over their ear to make a call? Well, firstly no, because there's a new entrant in the so called ' phablet' category of devices and I cannot resist evaluating it with the spirit of Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones. Xiaomi, the Chinese consumer electronics company had launched a big smartphone last year, the Mi Max Prime which was hailed for its large display and a humongous battery life. This year, the company has launched its successor which somehow represents the strength and courage of the mighty warrior from the HBO series. Calling the Mi Max 2 a ' Phablet' would be an understatement in the same way as using the word ' Lady' and Brienne in the same sentence. The Mi Max 2 defies the logic of what can be and cannot be called as a tablet because regardless of its size, Xiaomi's Mi Max 2 is a pretty and a usable smartphone and a hell of a warrior.

The Good

The Gentle Giant

The Mi Max 2 has carefully crafted its own little space by blurring the line between a smartphone and a tablet. How you ask? Like Brienne of Tarth, the Mi Max 2 is unusually tall, packs in brute force and doesn't expect the world to accept it for what it is but lives up to its own reputation. Mi Max 2 is in the most literal sense, Phone Magnum Asinum (a word coined by our Deputy Editor Rohith Bhaskar), because what else would you call a smartphone that has a 6.44-inch full HD display? Like Brienne, the Mi Max 2 is tall at 174.1mm and weighs 211 grams. Similarly, the smartphone shares its thickness to that of the Oathkeeper, her sword crafted from Valyrian steel, at a crazy 7.6mm. The armour is a full metal unibody construction with a matte black finish on the back which gives it an overall good grip in hands. It is a fairly large phone, I'll give you that. But it's not too large when you hold it in your hands. Even so, the metal build makes it feel superior and the in-hand feel kind of makes you trust it. The edges of the Mi Max 2 have been rounded for a better grip. The sturdiness of the smartphone is evident right from the moment you hold it and from there it builds an assurance that even if it falls, the armour which consists of the metal body on the back and 2.5D glass paired with Gorilla Glass 3 on the front will save it. The overall look of the smartphone is pretty minimalist and there has been an effort made to keep it that way. For instance, the antenna bands on the Mi Max 2 have been moved up a little bit as an attempt to hide it by making them a part of the edges. They are almost iPhone 7 like.

Ode to the iPhone 7

The back houses a fingerprint sensor which in my usage was blazing fast at unlocking the smartphone, along with the camera module and the dual-tone dual LED flash. The front is a home to the mammoth 6.44-inch IPS display with a front facing camera and a bunch of sensors. Over on the edges, the Mi Max 2 has the usual set of buttons, volume rockers, hybrid SIM-card tray, USB Type-C and two speaker grills. The display largely takes up all the space on the front with almost 75 percent of the 6.85-inch chassis being covered in the panel. It is a really bright display which produces some vibrant colours and is easier to read on. Xiaomi has also included a Reading mode for the same which essentially reduces the glare in the display to provide users with a great readability experience. Simply put, it is great for most things except VR.

Much like Brienne having an eye for correctly judging a shoddy person (not Tormund), the Mi Max sports a 12-megapixel rear camera that shares the same sensor as that of Xiaomi's flagship, Mi 6 that launched a few months back. Sony's IMX386 sensor is paired with a camera of aperture size f/2.2 which supports phase detection autofocus. There's a front-facing 5-megapixel selfie camera with a f/2.0 aperture.

Minimalist design

In my usage, the camera performed impressively with shooting some amazing and crisp daytime pictures. The ability of Max 2's camera to switch focus between objects is speedy and processes the shots swiftly. During my time with the Mi Max 2, the images I captured came out to be a precise replica of the actual scene both from the rear as well as the selfie camera which establishes the Mi Max 2 as a worthy equivalent to Brienne.

The Great Gig in the Sky

Brienne's style in combat is a mix of different techniques wherein she makes use of her size, power and an uncompromising might. Xiaomi's Mi Max 2 picks up these things from her in its day-to-day performance. The smartphone chews through apps and processes like the Oathkeeper cuts through enemies and no matter what we throw at it, the Mi Max 2 is too resilient to fall back. All this might is the courtesy of Qualcomm's best mid range processor working in tandem with the Adreno 506 graphics unit, 4GB of RAM and an onboard storage of 64GB which is expandable. Mind you, this is the same package we saw in the Redmi Note 4 which was a stunning device in its own right. I tried multitasking between the apps and the Mi Max 2 handled it like a pro. Games such as Need for Speed, Injustice 2, Clash of Clans ran on the smartphone without any lags. While playing a graphic intensive game such as the Injustice 2, there was a drop in frame rate which auto-corrected after few minutes. Even the processor doesn't budge in front of my usage and provides a smooth user experience throughout

On the software front, the Mi Max 2 runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat under MIUI 8.5 which offers some new features for the users. Now, people who love stock user interface won't like the interface of Mi Max 2 or any other Xiaomi smartphone for that matter and neither does the company expect you to. Xiaomi has got a great developer user base throughout the world who love the MIUI for its practical features. In Max 2's case, features such as one-handed mode, quickball, dual apps, scrolling screenshots, caller ID, action buttons among others make it for a fairly easy user experience. The interface on Mi Max 2 allows users to fully customise it according to their choice with thousands to themes to choose from. The overall UI of the Mi Max 2 is amazingly smooth and didn't feel broken at any time in my usage. It also adds some Nougat features like split screen and a Xiaomi speciality of having twin instances of the same app running on the same phone.

MIUI running on Android 7.1.1 Nougat

Coming to one of the major characteristics of Brienne of Tarth is her determination, willpower and courage to face the biggest of threats. Remember the showdown between her and The Hound. The Mi Max 2 similarly has a battery capacity that will make sure it lasts long enough, so much so that it's almost intimidating. Do remember that the Mi Max 2 is just 7.6mm at its thickest. It is a feat for Xiaomi that they have been able to pack in a massive 5,300 mAh battery. Now for some technical aspects that Xiaomi shared with use during the launch; the company claims that Mi Max 2 will provide users with a 31 days standby, 57 hours of talk time, a video and music playback time of 28 hours, gaming for 12 hours 26 minutes and reading for 19 hours straight.

In my usage, consisting of playing games, watching videos, listening music, social media platforms, texting among others, the Mi Max 2 lasted for a day and a half with 28 percent battery still remaining before my OCD kicked off and I plugged it in.

For users with a medium use case, the Mi Max 2 will easily last for 3-4 days and that is a big deal for people wanting to have a smartphone that gives that kind of backup. The Mi Max 2 has a battery that will outperform the likes of iPhones and Galaxy smartphones. Here again, the processor works in favour of the battery. On top of that, users can charge up to 68 percent battery in just one hour through the Quick Charge 3.0 charger provided in-the-box.

The combination of all these things makes it one of the strongest just like Brienne of Tarth, who's one of the greatest fighters in the seven kingdoms but is looked upon because of being a woman.

"All my life men like you've sneered at me, and all my life I've been knocking men like you into the dust."

The Bad

The low light performance of both the rear as well as the front-facing camera is poor. The images look over processed and a soft overlay of with grains is noticeable in almost all pictures shot during the night. The images often get blurred if shooting in a low lit environment which also means that the camera isn't the fastest in low-light situations.

The Wheel of Time

I'm not nitpicking but there's just this pet-peeve of mine with companies using a hybrid-SIM slot that will only let you use either a microSD card and a SIM card or two SIM cards.

Should you buy it?

For ₹16,999 if you want a large, powerful, sexy looking smartphone then, of course, Xiaomi's Mi Max 2 is for you. The 5,300 mAh battery is a cherry on the cake. Xiaomi has targeted a certain audience in India with the launch of their Mi Max 2. People who love large displays but not too large and those who want a big battery capacity albeit the bulkiness. The best thing about Brienne of Tarth is that she's straight forward, honourable, faithful and believes in the idea of knighthood. She defines badassery. Xiaomi's best things about their smartphones, culminate in this big, badass and unapologetic, Mi Max 2.