When the Xiaomi Mi Mix was released, it caused waves of excitement from the tech industry. It’s near bezelless display wowed nearly everyone, and it’s whopping 4 and 6GB of RAM surprised many. What wasn’t as awesome was the price. At release, the Xiaomi Mi Mix costed $800, far too much for a Chinese phone. Today, I’ll be reviewing the MAZE Alpha 4g, the Xiaomi Mi Mix’s cheaper, cuter, little brother. Both phones look nearly identical, with the Xiaomi Mi Mix looking more refined. Though the MAZE Alpha 4G takes after it’s Xiaomi counterpart, the pricing doesn’t. At $179.99, it’s leaps and bounds cheaper than the Xiaomi Mi Mix, which boils down to it’s unknown brand and cheaper build quality. Let’s find out more in this review.
MAZE is a relatively unknown Chinese technology company. They’re based solely in China, and so are their products. That doesn’t mean they aren’t high quality, a lot of their products have admirable quality for the price, including this phone. Since they’re the new kid on the block, they’ve got a lot to prove, and they’ve been doing a good job thus far. Since their phones aren’t flagships, there are a few cost-cutting measures, which keep the phone under $200. One can only hope the philosophy takes after the Vennee Thor E I reviewed earlier, in which aesthetics and extras were held back, while battery life, screen quality and speed were pushed to the max, considering the budget.
The MAZE Alpha looks a lot like the Xiaomi Mi Mix, but it does have a few differences. The screen is still big, yes, but a tad smaller than the Xiaomi Mi Mix at 6.0 inches. It also has a dedicated physical home button, which doubles as a fingerprint scanner. The Xiaomi Mi Mix’s fingerprint scanner is located on the back, which I dislike. Unlike the Xiaomi Mi Mix, there’s a very small bezel at the top of the phone, to make space for the earpiece. Those are a few compromises, but it’s hardly anything to sacrifice for the massive savings. Flip over the phone, and there’s a dual lens camera at the top right, like an iPhone 7. This also contrasts with the Xiaomi Mi Mix, which has the camera located in the middle of the phone. It’s overall shape is rather boxy, but it’s not ugly.
There’s a metal frame which runs down and across all sides of the phone, acting like a bumper case. The front is obviously glass, and the back is a plastic “Midnight Black” color. Unlike the iPhones, the MAZE Alpha has both the sleep/wake button and the volume buttons on the right side of the phone, leaving the left side bare, except for the SIM card tray. Overall, it’s a good looking phone, but it bares a lot of similarities in design to the Xiaomi Mi Mix.
The MAZE Alpha has some very good high-midrange specs. It’s a solid amount of power you’re getting for the money, especially the 4GB of RAM. That’s on par with the Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung’s latest flagship phone. MAZE have done well to add this much RAM to such an affordable phone, but the processors don’t share the same story. The Helio P25 chip in this phone uses the same ARM Cortex A53 cores as the Venmee Thor E I reviewed, and while that was $105, this one is $179. The Helio P25 isn’t a speed demon, but it’ll do fine for most people who don’t play hardcore 3d games, or want their phone to last for a long time.
Cameras, it seems, are one of the things that Chinese phone manufacturers love to compromise on, but MAZE has broken out of that stigma, putting a genuine SAMSUNG S5K3L8 sensor inside of one of the rear-facing cameras. That’s a nice touch, and it does take nice photos. The 5MP front facing camera is nothing to write home about, and the rear facing 5MP doesn’t seem to serve much purpose. Perhaps it is a low light sensor, but with a 13MP Samsung sensor beside it, it seems a little outclassed.
Like most current android phones, the MAZE Alpha has WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and glonass. Also in the lineup is 4g connectivity, and Beidou (?). Unfortunately, the MAZE Alpha doesn’t have NFC technology, so contactless payments and the like are a no-go. It’s a shame, but the phone is $179.99, so I’ll let it slide. OnePlus tried to remove the NFC chip from the OnePlus 2 at $299, and that didn’t go well for them, but $179.99 is a bracket lower.
Although the display is a huge 6.0″ diagonally, the display resolution isn’t that high. At 1920×1080 and 367.15PPI, it isn’t the worst, but for a phone where the display should be leading the technology (i.e bezelless), it’s a shame that the display itself isn’t that special, especially when compared to a lot of other Android phones. However, colors are bright, and the display pops. It isn’t the brightest of displays either, but for $179.99 it’s not too bad. Viewing angles are fairly standard, since it’s an IPS display, but they’re not great either. Overall, the screen is good, but I’d expect better from a phone where the screen is it’s main selling point.
Although I mentioned before that the processors inside of the MAZE Alpha are unlikely to be blazing fast, the MAZE Alpha should do fine for everyday tasks, like web-surfing and social media. It’s rather large 4GB of RAM also helps it in the multitasking department, so don’t worry about that. However, where a lot of Chinese phones falter is optimisation. Companies like Apple and Samsung spend millions making sure their custom OS runs perfectly and efficiently on their devices, so they can squeeze the maximum amount of power and battery life out of them. However, this can’t be said of almost all of the Chinese manufacturers. Take for example, the OnePlus One. With exactly the same specs as the Samsung Galaxy S5, but with an extra GB of RAM, I’d expect it to be faster when gaming.
However, when put head to head, the Samsung Galaxy S5 outshone the OnePlus One in almost every game. The MAZE Alpha is no different. Even though it has mid-high range specs, I could only expect it to have mid-range speed and power. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – after all, it’s priced lower than most of the mid-range smartphones. Considering all of this, using the phone for everyday use proved to be no hitch for the MAZE Alpha. Overall, the MAZE Alpha is no speed demon, but its ample amount of RAM will keep it snappy for a good amount of time. Don’t expect this to be the fastest, but you can still expect it to be fluid.
The MAZE Alpha has a fairly large battery, at 4000mAh. Though it’s slightly smaller than the Xiaomi Mi Mixs at 4400mAh, it still does well. This is most likely due to the fact that the screen is .4″ smaller, and the processor is significantly slower than that of the Xiaomi Mi Mix. During day to day usage, I got a moderate amount of screen on time, but it wouldn’t last me for more than a single day. That’s not too bad, since I am a heavy user, but don’t think you’ll be getting ultra battery life just because of the 4000mAh number. If you’re like me, and you use a lot of apps all day, expect to have to charge your phone every day.
The MAZE Alpha runs Android 7.0, with a custom skin over the top of it. It isn’t the cleanest custom ROM out there, but it’s definitely not the worst. A lot of android is kept in place, and there are only a few key areas where they’ve changed things. Overall, the OS isn’t hindered by its skin, and the Android behind it is the latest 7.0.
Value For Money
At $179.99, the MAZE Alpha represents some of the best value for money you can find today, especially for such bleeding edge screen technology. This is the budget phone of the future, and it’s only $179.99. The specs are decent, and the screen is awe-inducing. You’d be hard pressed to find another phone which could best this in value for money, particularly in the US Market.
The MAZE Alpha is one of the cheapest bezel less display phones, and it’s internal specifications shine for its price bracket. If you want the fastest phone out there, don’t get this one. THe Xiaomi Mi Mix will suit your needs better, albeit at quadruple the price. However, if you want an aesthetically pleasing phone of the future that won’t hurt your wallet, look no further.