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Review: ZTE Grand X Max 2 for Cricket Wireless

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Jun 23, 2016, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

ZTE is looking to take the title of King Phablet with the Grand X Max 2 for Cricket Wireless. This enormous handset features a 6-inch screen, 3,400mAh battery, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Here is Phonescoop's full review of the ZTE Grand X Max 2.

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Is It Your Type?

The ZTE Grand X Max 2 is a massive phablet that Cricket Wireless is selling for a darned reasonable price. If you're in the market for a slick-looking smartphone with the biggest possible screen from a prepaid carrier, the ZTE Grand X Max 2 should be at the top of your list.

Body

There is a point at which phones can be too big. The Grand X Max 2 may pass that point for some, but not it's quite beyond it for me. It is one of the biggest phones I've ever used, surpassing giants such as the Motorola-made Nexus 6 and LG G Flex. ZTE could have relied purely on the size as the phone's main selling point and cheaped out on the design. Thankfully, it didn't. The Grand X Max 2 is a graceful giant.

I'm pleased ZTE opted to give the Grand X Max 2 a flash of personality. It's a slab, sure, but it's not a black slab. Most of the phone has a sparkly, blue diamond pattern that really pops when it catches the light. Sometimes, a little color goes a long way. The blue is complemented by a grayish frame and chrome accents. The shape is pretty basic, with rounded corners and a slightly curved rear surface that thins out as it approaches the sides. The ZTE Grand X Max 2 is the guy who wears a loud tie with his navy blue suit.

The phone is simply ginormous. It has a 6-inch screen and measures 6.46 inches tall by 3.3 inches wide. It's a respectable 0.35 inches (8.9mm) thick. It's also fairly heavy at 6.31 ounces. That makes it both bigger and heavier than the Grand X Max+ that it replaces in Cricket's lineup. My thumb can't reach even half the display; this is a two-handed phone all the way, and yet there's no stylus. I was able to cram Grand X Max 2 into the pockets of my favorite jeans and summer shorts, but the phone's size was always apparent as I walked around.

ZTE selected decent, if not the best, materials to form the Grand X Max 2's exterior. The front of the phone has what many phone makers market as "2.5D glass." This means the edges of the glass curve just a small amount right where the glass joins the frame. The frame is not metal; instead, ZTE picked polycarbonate to form the chassis. The edge is covered in a metallic-looking gray that is somewhat reflective, but not as shiny as chrome. The rear cover resembles glass, but is in fact plastic. ZTE put the phone together tightly. Seams appear uniform and the phone has a strength that boosts its perceived quality. It feels like a plastic phone, but a high-end plastic phone.

Body  

The bulk of this beast's face is the display. The side bezels are kept in check and the top/bottom bezels aren't too thick, either. I appreciate that. It's pretty easy to spot the gray-colored earpiece grille and the camera and sensor positioned close by. Three capacitive buttons are located below the screen, denoted with a small circle for the home button and two small dots for the back/multitask buttons. All three function as intended.

The combo SIM/memory card tray is tucked into the side of the phone and it's easy to use. The screen lock button and volume toggle are huddled next to one another on the right edge. ZTE put the screen lock button close to the middle. This button is a bit too small and is somewhat cheap-feeling. The profile is just barely adequate. The volume toggle, located above the screen lock, is a bit better. The up and down directionals bulge out a bit and are easy to tell apart. Travel and feedback was a bit more satisfying than that of the screen lock button. The stereo headphone jack is perched on the top edge.

ZTE made the jump to USB-C with the Grand X Max 2 (instead of the older but still more-common micro-USB.) The port is on the bottom of the phone, sandwiched between two sets of holes for the speakerphone. USB-C is the future, but the ecosystem is moving slowly. It may be harder for you to find cables and other accessories to work with the Grand X Max 2 at first.

The Grand X Max 2's battery is sealed inside. That might be a dealbreaker for some people. As noted earlier, the rear surface features a reflective, blue diamond pattern. Cricket and ZTE logos are painted on. The two-camera setup is positioned near the top, with the LED flash splitting the two lenses. I like that the lenses have chrome rims to help them stand out. I don't like that the glossy plastic collects fingerprints as if that were its job.

Overall, ZTE did a fine job with the Grand X Max 2. This humongous phone offers more screen and more visual flair than your average slab.

Screen

ZTE took the 6-inch display from the Grand X Max+ and improved the resolution from 720p to 1080p. The additional pixels make a huge difference. A screen this big is begging for full HD resolution and the Grand X Max 2 goes the distance. It may not be as pixel-rich as the quad HD displays on today's flagships, but the Max 2's resolution is more than adequate to ensure on-screen elements look smooth and sharp. I was pleased with brightness, too; the Grand X Max 2 produces more than enough light to dazzle your eyes inside and out. Viewing angles are quite good, as there's no blue shift and very little brightness loss when the phone is tilted. This screen is very good for this class of device.

Signal

Cricket Wireless operates on AT&T's network across the U.S. The Grand X Max 2 performed on par with other Cricket-branded phones I've tested in the metro NYC area. I didn't have any trouble connecting calls even under poor signal conditions. The phone held onto calls at highway speeds, and didn't drop calls while I reviewed it. It did miss one call that went straight to voicemail. The Grand X Max 2 performed as fast as it is allowed to on Cricket's LTE network (speeds are capped at 8 Mbps). Speeds were swift enough to handle Instagram and Twitter, but app downloads were often sluggish. Bottom line: the Grand X Max 2 is comparable to the best that Cricket offers.

Sound

The Grand X Max 2 is a decent voice phone. It's mostly loud and clear enough that I was able to hear and understand calls in most places I took the phone. City streets were often a bit too much, but coffee shops and the car weren't. I did have to keep the volume set all the way up at all times. I heard only minor distortion in the earpiece from time to time. Voices sounded warm and pleasant.

The speakerphone isn't as good. It's not loud enough, and not as clear as the earpiece, which means calls are harder to muddle through. The speaker generates enough noise for use at home or the office, but it's barely adequate for the car. The distortion could be mitigated a bit by turning down the volume. Doing so, however, made calls all but unhearable.

The vibrate alert is underpowered for a phone this heavy. I barely felt it.

Battery

The Grand X Max 2 stuffs a big 3,400 mAh battery into its frame, and it consistently delivered a full day of use over a week of testing. The Grand X Max 2 easily pushed from breakfast to bedtime, and often had power to spare. I was sure to activate all the radios, and I set the screen brightness to "auto" most of the time. The phone handled hours of YouTube videos like a champ.

The phone includes the system-level battery saver tool. You can turn it on manually or set it to come on automatically when the battery reaches a predetermined percentage. It cools down the processor, dampens screen brightness, and chills out the notifications. I doubt many people will need it.

ZTE included Quick Charge 2.0. That means the 3,400 mAh battery can go from 20% to 100% in under two hours. You can get a quick 40% charge in about 30 minutes.

Battery  

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

I was able to pair and connect the X Max 2 to a wide variety of other Bluetooth devices. It worked with headsets, speakers, and cars without problem, and also managed to connect to other phones and PCs without issue. Phone calls with standard, mono headsets sounded good, but just short of excellent. Volume was the biggest issue. Calls were slightly better when pushed through my car's hands-free system, which helped alleviate the volume issue. Music sounded OK when went to a Bluetooth speaker, but it wasn't amazing.

The X Max 2's GPS radio interacted with Google Maps perfectly fine. The phone was generally able to locate me within a few seconds, and accuracy was as good as about 25 feet. When used as a navigation device it performed quickly and kept up with my real-time position as I drove around town.

The WiFi radio works perfectly. The Grand X Max 2 doesn't have NFC.

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