1. metllicamilitia's Avatar
    Overview
    So I needed another phone line for work because T-Mobile doesn't get service everywhere I need. I knew AT&T did but I couldn't just switch as I'm on a family plan, nor did I want to. This lead me to get a line with Cricket. I have the AT&T network for $30 a month and I can cancel at any time. While I already owned a Moto G5 Plus, I wanted a secondary Android device that I could tinker around with. What I really wanted to get was the standard size ZTE Blade X, it looked like a manageable size and the videos I saw were promising. However, the Cricket store I went to didn't have any in stock. I debated for a bit before deciding to spend the extra $50 to get the ZTE Blade X Max. The total cost is only $130. The biggest setback to the Blade X Max is the size; it's monstrous. The side bezels aren't terribly large, but the top and bottom bezels are quite big. This wouldn't be an issue if they weren't framing a 6" TFT full HD display. It's almost unwieldy in my smaller hands. Let's just dive right in with the specs though.



    Specifications
    Operating System
    Android 7.0 Nougat

    Dimensions
    6.50" x 3.27" x 0.37"

    Display
    6" TFT Full HD

    Memory
    Up to 32GB internal storage
    MicroSD slot up to 128GB card

    Connectivity
    4G LTE
    Wi-Fi
    Bluetooth 4.2
    USB Type-C
    Mobile hotspot eligible
    Wi-Fi manager

    Camera
    Rear: 13MP with 4x zoom and LED flash
    Front: 5MP with 4x zoom and flash

    GPS/Maps
    Google Maps

    HD Voice capable

    Processor/Battery
    1.4 GHz octa-core processor
    3,400mAh non-removable battery
    Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0

    Hearing Aid Compatibility
    Rated for hearing aids M4 and T3



    These specs sound great on paper, however, in my usage I've found they aren't that great. The screen looks good, but I run into lag fairly often. While the large battery is more than capable of getting through a day, maybe even two, and charges quickly other things are a little held back. For example, I have gigabit internet at home, my iPhone X hits 500mbps with ease on wifi, my Moto G5 Plus tops out at 150mbps roughly, and the Blade X Max.....tops out at around 50mbps. That's more than fast enough for watching video, but it's also disappointing in 2018. Having USB Type-C is really nice though, and with the QuickCharge 2.0, the Blade X Max does charge fairly quick. The cameras though, the cameras are bad. There are no two ways about that. The shutter is slow and jittery, focus takes a while, with no image stabilization you have to be very still, and it's quite terrible in low-light scenarios. You also have to keep in mind that is a $130 phone, but on the other hand camera technology has improved drastically and other cheap phones have much better cameras for around the same price.

    Hardware
    I've already touched on the screen on the screen and camera in the specs section so I won't reiterate those here. The body of the Blade X Max is made of glass and plastic. It's a glass front with a plastic body that curves around the back to fit in your hand better. There are software buttons on the bottom bezel and you can choose which side you want the back button on, which is nice. You have one speaker on the top bezel specifically for phone calls and right next to it on the left, you have the tiny front-facing camera. The bottom of the phone houses only the USB Type-C port, and the left side of the phone only contains the SIM/MicroSD card tray. The right side of the phone has the only three physical buttons on the phone, which feel like they might possibly be aluminum. The power button is ridged so you can tell it apart and the volume buttons are separate so you can feel them out too. The top of the phone has a microphone pinhole on it and wouldn't you believe it, a 3.5mm audio jack. The back of the phone is where you see the only color on the phone, it's a darker blue with a black border that blends nicely, partly from the black dots all over the back. You also have a ZTE logo on the lower portion right by the rear-firing speaker for audio. You have the Cricket logo right about the center, in-line on the center. At the top you have a large camera ring with a tiny camera in it, below that the flash, and below that just above the Cricket logo is a fingerprint scanner. Believe it or not, it works really well and it's fast. All in all, the Blade X Max feels cheap like you would expect, but packs quite a lot into it's $130 price tag.



    Software
    Everyone talks about stock Android and the general consensus is that the Pixels have what is or should be considered, stock Android. I tend to agree, however, the ZTE Blade X Max has an even more stock Android experience than that. It is very barebones with stock apps for messages, phone, browser, but it does have Google Maps, Gmail, and a few other apps. The only real bloatware is the Amazon app, which you can't uninstall, and the MyCricket app. My Blade X Max is on Android 7.1.1 with the September 2017 security patch. It's a little dated. You only have the most basic options in settings that come with AOSP, which isn't a lot. It has Launcher3 by default but I've gone through a few different launchers to get more options and an aesthetic that I like. I could try to delve deeply into the software, but it really is as basic as it gets. You mostly have quick settings, and developer options if you unlock them. One thing ZTE did add though, is called Mi-POP. Mi-POP is for one-handed usage and gives you quick access to five functions. You can change these functions from a preset selection of just a few really. When you turn on Mi-POP you have an always overlay showing the main function you chose, and the others can be popped out by grabbing the icon and flicking it toward the middle of the screen. It will bounce back to the edge, where it lives, and pop out the other options. Other than that, there is nothing to really talk about on the software side. It is basic, minimal, and really just enough to run the phone.

    Camera
    The rear camera on the Blade X Max is not the greatest camera, which is to be expected from a cheap phone. While it is a 13MP camera, photos are very easy to blur and the shutter speed is quite slow. Under the video and photo options, you have the choices of panorama, multi-exposure, and time lapse. You are also given a manual mode that allows you to control the shutter speed, ISO, exposure, white balance, interval(s), and focus while also being able to lock the focus and exposure. On top of that, you have nine different filters you can apply as well control of the flash, HDR, and a timer. Under the main camera settings you can set the resolution, watermark, shutter tone, geo-tag, auto review, set the function of the volume key, anti-banding, save location, and have access to a help menu. It's fairly basic but the camera is still slow and prone to blur. When you do get a blur-free photo the photos can turn out pretty decent. You do get all the same options and settings for the 5MP front-facing camera, but you also get all the same shortcoming. Both cameras have 4x zoom and LED flash. Below are some examples of the photo and video quality.

    Photo/Video Samples
    Indoor with flash


    Indoor no flash


    Outdoor with HDR


    Outdoor no HDR


    Sample video


    Audio/Video/Gaming
    With a 6" full HD screen and 16:9 aspect ratio, video looks great on the Blade X Max. I do, however, have an issue with the YouTube app where the video will go black with the sound still playing. The issue does not happen on the YouTube website or in any other app that I've noticed. I really do like the way video looks on this screen, it's great for the price. Now audio is a little different. You have one single rear-firing speaker which really isn't that great. Not unless you can use something to passively boost the sound. This is a great place to mention that the Blade X Max has Dolby Audio built in and it's still not quite enough to make the sound great due to the limitations of the speaker itself. I did try a few games from Mario Run, Pokemon Go, HQ Trivia, and Asphalt 8. The Blade X Max handles them quite well. You will experience the occasional slow down or hiccup due to the processing power of the phone, but otherwise, the games run much better than I expected. Gaming is surprisingly decent on the Blade X Max.

    The Good
    Large screen
    Affordable
    Fingerprint scanner


    The Bad
    A bit laggy
    Barebones Android
    Very big


    Conclusion
    You're switching to Cricket and want a better phone than the cheapest offerings, well, the ZTE Blade X Max is definitely a phone to consider if you can't afford a flagship. While you would expect more out of it from the way the marketing is done and the spec sheet, you're still getting a decent phone at a decent price. While I can't say the Blade X Max is the best choice out there, I will say again that it is worth considering at $130. So check it out right here at Cricket.
    05-06-2018 04:02 PM

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