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printed July 23, 2014
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Review: ZTE Max for Boost Mobile

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  

Feb 6, 2014, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE brings its big-screen Android smartphone to Sprint's pre-paid service. The Max has a number of things going for it and little going against it. Here is Phone Scoop's full review.

Is It Your Type?

The ZTE Max is large, inexpensive Android smartphone for Boost Mobile. Given the Max's size, you have to be the sort who likes phablets to pick this phone from ZTE. It has features that border on flagship quality, though they don't quite reach that high. Still, it's the biggest phone in Boost's arsenal and has a lot to offer. Here's why.

Body

The Max is a giganto-phone in every sense of the word. It boasts nearly identical measurements to the enormous HTC One max. It's staggeringly big - but that's supposed to be part of this phone's appeal.

The Max boasts fairly good looks. The front is all black glass, and the back is a two-tone combination of metal and plastic. The metal forms most of the back surface as well as the frame encircling the outer edge of the phone. The metallic frame helps give the Max an exceptionally solid feel and a nice touch of class at the same time. The use of metal in smartphone design almost always makes me happy, and the mix of colors is pleasing. The materials and manufacturing of the phone are good, though not quite the best I've seen. Seams are tight for the most part, and the phone doesn't bend or flex.

Good looks aside, the Max is a tough phone to hold onto. The extreme size makes it a two-handed device, without doubt. I found it difficult to grip the phone tightly, as I couldn't wrap my fingers all the way around its wide girth. The device is also weighty, and my hand suffered fatigue after using it for a full day. I often found myself switching hands or resting the Max on a flat surface rather than hold it in the same hand consistently. My thumb can only reach about half the screen, but even adjusting my grip didn't help me reach the top-most area of the screen. The Max will not fit in all pockets. In fact, I found it gave me trouble with some of my newer jeans; It often stuck out of my back pocket or poked me in all the wrong places when in my front pocket.

 

Body

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The front is rimmed with a lip that protects the screen when the device is placed face down on a flat surface. This lip doesn't help make the phone any more comfortable to hold or use, that's for sure. The display fills a respectable amount of the front and the bezels aren't annoyingly thick. There is a big slit at the top for the earpiece grill, and there are three capacitive buttons below the screen (back, home, and menu.) They offer haptic feedback if you prefer. I found them easy to find and use.

The left edge of the Max has a lot going on. It houses the memory card tray, the volume toggle, and the microUSB port. (You need a small paperclip or SIM card tool to eject the memory card.) The volume toggle has a good profile and great travel and feedback. I really liked the action, but it can be hard to reach with your index finger if you hold the Max in your right hand. The lock button and a dedicated camera button adorn the right edge. Both have excellent profiles and travel and feedback. These buttons are much easier to use than the volume toggle.

Wondering where the SIM card is hiding? The plastic band near the top of the Max's rear cover can be removed. It pops off quite easily. The SIM card is sandwiched between the camera module and the stereo headphone jack. It's one of those spring-loaded jobs, which means you press it in until you hear a click. Though you can remove a portion of the back panel, the battery remains buried inside and is inaccessible. That's a bummer.

The ZTE Max is a decent piece of hardware, if a bit too phablet-y (huge) for my tastes.

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