When ZTE unveiled its Grand X Max+ for Cricket Wireless at CES 2015, I honestly wasn't very impressed. Despite now having an HD display and LTE, it didn't seem too different from the original Grand X Max. And aside from its wide-angle front-facing camera, nothing about it stood out.
As I spent more time with the phone, however, I began to appreciate the Max+'s solid user experience and steady performance. I especially liked its capable cameras (yes, both front and back) and responsive 6-inch display.
Most importantly, however, this sturdy phone comes at a terrific cost: just $200 prepaid. Top-tier phablets already cost upward of $500 off-contract, and a lower price suggests a lot of cut corners. Happily, that isn't so with the Max+. Sure, its specs are modest, but if you want a big-screen handset and you're not looking to spend a lot, this is a handset to get.
Similar to its predecessor, the Max+ sports a generous 6-inch touchscreen with a 1,280x720-pixel resolution. This time, however, it has an HD display that is bright and easy to view under sunlight. With a close eye, you can still see some aliasing with images and texts, but for the most part, the display is sharp, responsive, and has a wide viewing angle.
The device measures 6.38 inches tall, 3.27 inches wide, and 0.31-inch thick. Given my petite grip, I found it difficult to maneuver with one hand, and uncomfortable to hold. Especially since its front and back surfaces are completely flat with no curvature, and its right and left edges run completely straight. In addition, its back panel is smooth and glossy. Though I thought this detail lent a subtle element of luxury, it also makes it slick to hold. There were a handful of times I almost dropped the handset while using it.
Of course, if you have bigger paws, the phone's size may not bother you. And compared with other devices its size, the X Max+ is relatively light at 6.06 ounces. Alternative big-screen handsets, like the, , and , are heavier, as well as Cricket's other cost-conscious phablet, the . During my time with it, it didn't feel particularly hefty when I put it in my back pocket or held it still in landscape mode while watching a few video clips.
On the left of the phone is a volume rocker, and up top you have a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right edge sits the microSD card slot that is expandable up to 32GB, and a SIM card slot (you'll need a small pin key to open both ports). Smack dab in the middle of the spine is the sleep/power key that is raised slightly above the surface to make it easier to feel for. The back sports a subtle striped pattern and houses a 13-megapixel camera and its flash, as well as a small slit for the audio speaker at the bottom right corner.
The X Max+ runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, and has the standard package of Google apps you'd come to expect, like the Chrome browser, Drive, Gmail, Search, Plus, Hangouts, Maps, Photos, YouTube and portals to the Play Store for Books, Games, Newsstand, Movies & TV and Music.
Baked-in task management apps include native browser and email clients, a calendar, a calculator, a notepad, a clock with alarm and stopwatch functions, video and music players, a sound recorder and a voice dialer.
Cricket threw in some of its preloaded apps, too. There's a mobile Wi-Fi client, visual voicemail and My Cricket, which lets users manage their phone and data services. Other third-party apps include TouchPal X, which activates an optional keyboard and text-inserting function; Amazon Kindle; AccuWeather; the mobile office suite KingSoft Offices; and AskMD, a medical reference and health consulting app.
The device also has Bluetooth 4.0, 16GB of internal memory (which, again, can be expanded up to 32GB) and 2GB of RAM.
Camera and video
Taking brilliant photographs has rarely been a strong suit for ZTE handsets (even its, which was billed as a "photographer's phone," fell short of its promises). But surprisingly, I was genuinely impressed with both the Max+'s rear- and front-facing cameras. Although some photos taken with the 13-megapixel were overexposed, and it took a few beats for the camera to ready itself for another shot after I pressed the shutter, images for the most part were clear, in-focus and had colors that were true-to-life. For more details on photo quality, click on each picture below to see them at their full resolution.
Video quality was also solid. Both moving and still objects were easy to make out and colors were accurate. The camera adjusted quickly to varying lighting situations, and nearby and distant audio picked up well.