The smartphone industry has seen an influx of devices which fall under the “cheap but good” category, particularly after the iconic Moto G was introduced. Since then, many manufacturers have followed in Motorola’s footsteps, including Chinese manufacturer ZTE.
I recently had to opportunity to review the ZTE Max XL for Boost Mobile, but today we’re going to review the new ZTE Blade X Max, a $149 device available through Cricket. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Like the name implies, the Blade X Max is on the larger side of smartphones with a 6-inch TFT full-HD display. It has a bit of heft to it, but it’s also fragile. One thing I enjoyed about the ZTE Max XL was the grippy plastic material used on the back of the device. The Blade X Max has taken a more premium route by using glass on the back side of the device. While I’m not a fan of glass (especially on phones as large as this one; I have been extremely careful of my handling of this device) I am a fan of the Blade X Max’s color. In a dark room, it looks black. In light, it’s a dark, shimmery blue. I will admit that I find it quite beautiful.
Spec-wise, the Blade X Max is on the lower end of some areas and higher in others. It features a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage with microSD support up to 128GB external, 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, 5-megapixel front-facing camera, fingerprint sensor, USB-C with QuickCharge 2.0, and a large 3,400 mAh non-removable battery. It currently runs on Android version 7.0.
So, performance-wise it’s not going to be greatest, particularly when it comes to multi-tasking or graphically intense games. 2GB of RAM doesn’t get you very far these days. I currently have 5 windows open: Settings, Play Store, Browser, Play Movies & TV, and Photos, and it’s using up 1.5GB of an available 1.8GB of RAM. I haven’t noticed any real performance issues with the device over the week and a half I’ve been using it. Some things might take a few seconds longer to load, but otherwise performance has been pretty smooth. There’s also a lot of bloatware that comes with the device, most of which can be uninstalled.
I recently took advantage of the Google Play $0.99 movie promotion to rent and finally watch Beauty and the Beast. I started the movie at 37% battery life after a day of jamming out to 90’s alternative music, trying to figure out Magikarp Jump! (I still don’t really get it), checking e-mails, reading the news and social media, and the 2 hour 10 minute long movie left me with 10%. The next day I started at 100% and watched 3 episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, a 45-minute show, on the lowest brightness and I ended up at 79%. Overall, I’m quite impressed with the phone’s battery life and ability to last through long bouts of media consumption.
The cameras are pretty good, all things considered. I took shots of some flowers that recently bloomed under the deck, and without doing anything other than fixing the focus, I think they turned out pretty okay. Indoor lightning isn’t the best, but it is an adequate camera that sometimes does a pretty phenomenal job. I’m no photographer, but I am pleased with some of the photos of the purple flowers. The front-facing camera is alright, but nothing to write home about. The phone does have the option to use the screen as a “flash” when it low-light situations, so that’s pretty handy.
There’s a single speaker on the back of the device. The volume doesn’t get very high and the quality isn’t very good. I recommend using headphones on this device whenever possible for the best listening experience.
One thing I did notice was that the overnight drain on the device was super minimal. The ZTE Blade X Max only slipped by 4% overnight, which was a pleasant surprise, especially compared to my battery-sucking Galaxy S7 which just withers away a good 10 to 15% when nobody is paying attention to it even when I kill all of the apps before going to bed.
In the end, like the ZTE Max XL, I view the ZTE Blade X Max as a good value. The phone costs $149.99 through Cricket, but can be as cheap as $99 if you port your number over from another carrier. Considering the price, the sacrifices made to the device are justified. The device wasn’t made to be the fastest or have the best performance, but even so the excellent battery life, large screen, fingerprint sensor, decent camera, and 32GB of internal storage with microSD card support make it well worth the money in my opinion. It’s good for the basics, but not much more than that. Still, sometimes the basics are all some people need.