ZTE Boost Max review: Goes big in size, but not in specs

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.7
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 6.0

Average User Rating

4 stars 1 user review
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good ZTE's Boost Max sports a premium build, a competitive off-contract price, and expandable memory.

The Bad Both the handset's call and camera quality are middling, and 4G LTE data speeds were consistently slow in our tests.

The Bottom Line Consider the Boost Max if you want a cheap Android handset with a lot of screen. But if you can pay a little extra, the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 is the better budget phablet.

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When Boost Mobile decided to rebrand ZTE's Iconic Phablet as the Boost Max, the carrier wanted to go big -- 5.7 inches big, in fact.

But even though it's touted as Boost's first phablet and has a large touch screen, the Max isn't very "max" at all. Especially when you consider it has just a 720p display, a dual-core processor, and an average-quality 8-megapixel camera.

At $299.99 prepaid though, the device is indeed a bargain. Taking into account other handsets of similar size, it's one of the least expensive supersize phones on the market.

So if you want a phablet for not much cash and are willing to make a few compromises on performance and speed, the Boost Max is worth looking into. However, if you have an extra $50 to spend, consider the superior Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3. Otherwise, you'll need to save a couple of hundred dollars more for a faster, more premium device.

Design
Measuring 6.5 inches tall, 3.25 inches wide, and 0.4-inch thick, the Boost Max is a behemoth of a device. Don't expect to be able to navigate this one easily with one hand, or to have it fit comfortably inside your jean pockets. Though I don't consider it overly heavy for its size, at 6.87 ounces, this handset is going to be heftier than most smartphones. I wasn't able to prop it between my face and my shoulder while having a conversation for a long time due to its weight, but it felt fine when held with my hand.

The Max's 5.7-inch HD IPS display is topped with Corning Gorilla Glass. Its 1,280x720-pixel resolution is a disappointment for a screen this size, which would benefit most from the standard 1080p resolution of top-tiered devices. True, at 257ppi, it does have a slightly higher pixel density than the Galaxy Mega's 233ppi, but I could still easily see color banding, as well as a "crunchiness" with images and graphics. Even app icons looked blurry. When I zoomed in on text, there was some aliasing along the edges. However, the display itself is responsive and sensitive. It's easy view in the daylight and has a satisfactory viewing angle. In addition, high-definition videos still looked smooth, and thanks to its immense size, watching videos and playing games was more immersive than the experience you'd find on smaller handsets.

ZTE Boost Max (internal)
To access the handset's SIM card, remove the top half of the rear panel. Josh Miller/CNET

On the left are a volume rocker, a Micro-USB port, and a microSD card tray that you can access by inserting a small pin that's included. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the right are keys to power off the phone and to launch the camera app.

The back is made out of an attractive all-aluminum plate that is letterboxed between matte-gray panels. The top half houses the 8-megapixel lens and flash. The paneling also can be removed so users can access the SIM card. At the very bottom is a small speaker grille for audio output.

Software features
Like most ZTE devices, the Max runs a nearly skinless version of Android 4.1.2 and has all the staples of Google's biosphere, such as Chrome, Gmail, Hangouts, Plus, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, portals to Play Books, Magazines, Movies & TV, and Music Store, Search, and YouTube.

On top of the Android OS is ZTE's MiFavor user interface. One neat feature included in this UI is called Smart Viewer, which enables you to split-screen two apps at the same time. To do so, long-press the back button. A small menu of apps (and that includes third-party apps, too) will pop up. There you can select and drop the two apps you want to open.

Basic task-managing apps are included, such as a native browser, an e-mail client, a music player, a video player, a calendar, a clock with alarm functions, a news-and-weather app, a sound recorder, a timer, and a voice dialer.

Boost Max (Smart Viewer)
To take advantage of the Max's immense display size, you can use Smart Viewer to split-screen apps. Lynn La/CNET

Boost loaded a few of its own apps, too. One is Boost Zone, a help portal through which you can check your phone balance and fees. Another is Mobile ID, which allows you to customize your phone with preselected apps, widgets, and other items depending on which ID profile you choose. There's also Boost Music, where you can download songs and ringtones.

Additional features include 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal memory, Bluetooth 4.0, and Dolby Digital Plus, which is a useful software goodie that improves the quality and clarity of audio.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Boost Max (Boost Mobile)

Part Number: BOOST-MAX Released: Jan 30, 2014
MSRP: $299.99 Low Price: $239.93 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jan 30, 2014
  • Technology CDMA2000 1X
  • Service Provider Boost Mobile
  • Weight 6.9 oz
  • Diagonal Size 5.7 in
  • Sensor Resolution 8 pixels
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