ZTE Grand X Max 2 review: It gets the job done for budget conscious consumers

Despite a camera that fails to impress, the Grand X Max 2 is a capable phablet for Cricket Wireless customers.

zte grand x max 2 primary
Credit: Jason Cipriani
At a Glance
  • ZTE Grand X Max 2

    Greenbot Rating

    The ZTE Grand X Max 2 is a big phone with a small price tag, that offers middle of the road performance.

In 2016, just how much phone can you get for $200? A lot, if you’re a Cricket Wireless customer.

Case in point: ZTE’s Grand X Max 2 boasts a six-inch display, three cameras (one on the front, two on the back), a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, two-gigabytes of memory, and a sizable 3,400 milliamp-hour battery complete with Quick Charge 2.0 capabilities.

Indeed, this is far from the first $200 Android device we’ve seen, and on paper it looks like a promising device. But we all know looks can be deceiving. So how does this behemoth of a device stack up?

Fairly well, actually.

It’s not a workhorse, but it’s no slouch

It wouldn’t be fair to expect a budget friendly device to offer the latest and greatest processor and a ridiculous six-gigabytes of RAM as we’ve seen in flagship devices the past few months.

It would be fair to expect a phone that delivers acceptable performance and battery life; a phone that doesn’t limit basic functionality of what you can or can’t do on it.

And the Grand X Max 2 delivers on that promise. Its benchmarks place it firmly in the middle of the pack in terms of performance, but after using it for over a week I would have thought it ranked higher. Apps open fast, and lack any noticeable lag or slowdown when bouncing between multiple apps.

zte grand x max 2 benchmarks pcmark

Unfortunately, I could feel a slowdown in performance when playing games. Playing the Minecraft Pocket Edition, there is a noticeable lag between initiating actions and when the action would take place on the screen. So much so, in fact, it is nearly unplayable.

zte grand x max 2 benchmarks battery

Battery life is impressive, easily lasting through an entire day, and partly through the next morning. With Quick Charge 2.0, you can use the included USB Type C cable and wall adapter to quickly top-off the battery when needed.

If we are being honest with ourselves, 1080p displays are all we truly need in a smartphone, and that’s just what the Grand X Max 2 delivers.

Two mediocre rear cameras

ZTE equipped the Grand X Max 2 with a five-megapixel front camera and two rear-facing cameras, of 13-megapixels and 2-megapixels, respectively. The dual cameras on the read of the phone are something we’ve seen before, most recently on the LG G5. Unlike LG’s implementation that allowed you to zoom out when framing a shot, ZTE’s use of the second camera sensor is specific to adding depth to photos.

zte grand x max 2 cameras Jason Cipriani

The secondary 2MP camera on the back is used to add a faux depth-of-field effect.

Just as this feature was a gimmick on the HTC One M8 a few years back, so is the second camera on the Grand X Max 2. The depth that ends up being added to photos is far too blurry and grainy, degrading the overall image quality. When testing the dual-camera setup in “Bokeh” mode, I was able to adjust the fake aperture from F1.0 up to F8.0. Typically, the lower the number the more bokeh—or blurred effect—background items will have in your photos.

zte grand x max 2 bokeh mode w f4.0 Jason Cipriani

The Bokeh mode just made entire photos blurry, rather than creative a nice depth-of-field effect.

However, regardless of the Android figurine I selected as the focal point, the entire photo would come out blurry. It wasn’t until I switched to higher apertures (F5.6 and F8.0) that the figurines started to clear up. Even with the added option of controlling and readjusting the focal point after a photo was taken, the end result was often a blurred mess.

zte grand x max 2 out of focus Jason Cipriani

Just imagine how cute this would be if it was in focus!

During casual use, the camera routinely failed to properly focus on items. The photo above has an overall blurry look, despite being shot in Auto mode. Not all photos turned out as badly focused as the one above, but it was a consistent theme while shooting with the Grand X Max 2.

zte grand x max 2 muted colors Jason Cipriani

Color reproduction is often muted, sometimes blow-out, but rarely accurate.

When a photo was captured in focus, the color replication wasn’t the best. Colors were either somewhat muted, or complete blown out.

Design

When I unboxed the Grand X Max 2, for a split second I thought I was sent the wrong phone. It strongly resembles the Motorola Nexus 6, both in size and shape. Its curved back fits comfortably into the palm of your hand, making it easy to grip the rather unwieldy device.

zte grand x max 2 bottom Jason Cipriani

This phone is just too big to use comfortably with one hand. Stretching to press buttons is a challenge.

One handed use, however, isn’t an enjoyable experience. Ultimately, you end up shuffling the phone up or down in your hand in order to reach an onscreen button with your thumb.

zte grand x max 2 buttons Jason Cipriani

Power and volume are on the same side, which is welcome in a device this big.

On the right side of the phone is the power button and volume rocker. The left side is where you’ll find the all-in-one SIM card and microSD card slot. Placing both buttons on the same side of the device is welcomed, especially on a larger device like this. Instead of having to reach clear across the device to adjust volume, you can easily wake the device and adjust volume with little effort.

Software

Running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, ZTE has taken a fairly light hand in customizing the overall experience of Grand X Max 2.

There are a few tweaks, though. For example, you can change the default setting for the capacitive buttons where the left button serves as the back button, the right pulls up the app switcher. A feature called Mi-PoP adds a floating set of buttons, designed to make one-handed use easier

ZTE also included a Selfie app for quickly launching the front-facing camera and taking a photo, along with several carrier apps from Cricket Wireless.

One frustrating change involves the gesture to clear notifications on the lock screen. Nearly all Android devices I have ever used allow you to clear notifications by swiping across the notification in either direction. With the Grand X Max 2, you can only swipe to the right. Swiping to the left on a notification brings up prompt asking if you’d like to ban the respective app from showing notifications. Try as I might to change muscle memory, I continue to swipe left on notifications only to see the bright pink prompt.

Should you buy it?

For those who want a phablet on Cricket Wireless, the Grand X Max 2 is worth considering. It provides acceptable performance, and a camera that’s just okay.

With that said, the price needs to be taken into consideration when looking at its shortcomings. For $200, you’re getting a phone that will get the job done. You just need to be accept it may not always be the best job.

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At a Glance
  • Greenbot Rating

    The ZTE Grand X Max 2 is a big phone with a small price tag, that offers middle of the road performance.

    Pros

    • Inexpensive
    • Solid performance
    • All day battery life

    Cons

    • This is one big phone
    • A gimmicky camera with poor results
    • 16GB base storage
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