The Korean behemoth Samsung has built a knack of experimenting to ensure that it’s always ahead of the competitors. The Galaxy Note range was a result of that. Keeping its current troubles with the latest Galaxy Note7 (first impressions) aside, there’s no denying that Samsung single-handedly kickstarted the phablet phenomenon. But the rise of phablets spelt doom for the bigger brother of smartphones, the tablets. Perhaps that explains why the numero uno phone manufacturer is christening its Galaxy J Max (first impressions) a phone rather than a tablet, as per the conventional definition.
However, as the Bard said “What’s in a name?”, let’s find out if the Samsung Galaxy J Max is the “phone” you should consider under Rs 15,000 with our review.
|Resolution||800 x 1280 pixels|
|CPU||Quad core, 1.5 GHz, Spreadtrum SC8830|
|Internal memory||8 GB|
|External memory||Up to 200 GB|
|Capacity||4000 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable|
|Talktime||Up to 21 Hours (3G)|
|Primary camera||8 MP|
|Secondary camera||2 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
Dimensions: 186.9 x 108.8 x 8.7 mm
What do you get when you enlarge a budget Samsung smartphone? The Galaxy J Max seems to be built to answer that question. It features typical Samsung’s design language, albeit in a large (read unwieldy) form. While it manages to be quite thin at 8.7mm, its dimensions of 186.9 x 108.8mm makes it quite difficult to be used with a single hand. At 289g, it also tips the scales on the higher side.
Up front, the Samsung Galaxy J Max is mainly dominated by a 7-inch (17.77cm) display, with fairly thick bezels around. Above it, you’ll find Samsung branding, and earpiece, and a front-facing snapper, whereas below the display panel there are the usual navigation buttons – overview key, physical home button, and a return key.
While the device is made out of plastic, its edges sport a metallic frame, making it robust. Towards the right, you’ll find the power switch and volume keys, while the left spine hides ejectable trays for holding a pair of nano-SIM cards and a microSD card. In our usage, the placement of buttons wasn't ideal. Usually, large-screen smartphones have the power toggle towards the middle, so that one can reach them single-handedly with ease, but that’s not the case with the Galaxy J Max. It’s not that you won’t be able to reach the key with a single hand, but it does require you to perform gymnastics with your fingers.
The base of the Samsung Galaxy J Max only features a microphone, whereas the top offers a micro-USB port and a 3.5mm audio interface.
One interesting change between the other budget offerings from the Korean brand and the Galaxy J Max is that the latter comes with a unibody design, which means the back panel isn’t removable. The rear is quite grippy though, thanks to the rubberised texture. Here you’ll find the protruding camera module with a LED flash on one side and a speaker grille on the other. Samsung’s logo can be found slightly below.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy J Max might not warrant any attention in terms of its looks, but it’s quite practical in terms of the design ethos as long as you’re comfortable with its large frame. For most operations, you’ll have to resort to two hands to use it. And, no matter if the Samsung calls this a “phone”, you won’t be able to fit it into your jeans pocket easily.
Size: 7.0 Inch
Resolution: 800 x 1280 pixels
Display Type: TFT
Pixel Density: 216 ppi
Irrespective of the fact whether Samsung calls the Galaxy J Max a phone or a tablet, there’s no denying that it’s targeted towards multimedia enthusiasts with its screen measuring 7-inches (17.77cm). Sadly, apart from the screen size, there’s nothing that seems to be aimed towards such use. The IPS display seems dull in comparison to punchy displays we’ve seen on Samsung smartphones. While the brightness levels are good, you’ll need to adjust them manually since the device lacks an ambient light sensor. However, the worst thing about the display is its WVGA resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels, which results in low pixel density of 216ppi. While it’s not necessarily bad for a budget tablet, the competing smartphones offer a superior 1080p resolution.
The Samsung Galaxy J Max also omits the use of any protective coating on its display panel, which means use of a screen guard is advisable.
Primary camera: 8 MP
Flash: LED Flash
Secondary camera: 2 MP
While the size of the Samsung Galaxy J Max might not be ideal for capturing photos, it does come with a decent 8MP snapper at the back. There’s an LED flash as well to help in poorly-lit environments. For selfies and video calls, you get a 2MP camera at the front, that too with an LED flash.
The camera interface is minimal, with the options to switch between photo, video or front camera towards the bottom. You can also preview images or enable various modes, since the device allows you to tweak ISO and white balance with the Pro mode, while the Animated GIF mode converts a video into a short clip. From the options on the top, you can toggle flash and self-timer, choose picture sizes, enable various effects, or adjust settings such as video size (maximum 720p resolution supported).
In terms of picture quality however, lesser said the better. The pictures turn out to be grainy and colours aren’t impressive as well. In dim settings, there’s a considerable amount of noise, though LED flash does help a bit. Here’s a look at the images captured with the Samsung Galaxy J Max.
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.1, Lollipop
Like all Samsung devices, the Samsung Galaxy J Max has the proprietary TouchWiz UI running atop Android. However, at a time, when the Android 7.0 Nougat is out, it’s odd that the slate has the two generations old Android 5.1 Lollipop.
The device features a stripped-down version of Touchwiz UI, since there’s no Briefing screen in the home screen, among other things. Having said that, if you’ve used the Samsung device before, you’ll feel right at home with the Galaxy J Max, since right from the lock screen to the homescreen and the notification drawer – everything is almost the same.
You do get features like multi window, which are quite useful for harnessing the potential of the large screen size of the Galaxy J Max. It also comes with Ultra Data saving mode, which is quite effective to utilise cellular data efficiently. The device also features the S Bike mode, which debuted with the Galaxy J3 (review).
While there aren’t many preloaded apps on the Galaxy J Max, it does come with a one-year subscription to Viu, which gives you access to premium content such as TV shows and music videos.
Overall, the software experience remains similar to other Samsung offerings, though it’s poorly optimised as we ran into app crashes every once a while.
CPU: Quad core, 1.5 GHz, Spreadtru...
GPU: Mali-400 MP2
RAM: 1.5 GB
Memory: 8 GB + Up to 200 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 4000 mAH
The budget roots of the Samsung Galaxy J Max continue in the hardware department too. It draws power from Spreadtrum SC8830 SoC, which offers four cores running at 1.5GHz. The chipset is fine with handling day-to-day usage without many issues, however processor-intensive tasks take a toll on it. Combine that with its below average 1.5GB RAM, the slate starts breaking into sweat while switching between multiple tasks or running a heavy app.
In terms of gaming, the phone/phablet/tablet is able to handle casual titles like Subway Surfers well, but graphic-heavy games such as Riptide GP2 doesn’t play as smoothly. There were noticeable frame drops and stutters every now and then. However, the good thing is that it doesn’t heat up while playing games or watching a movie for long durations.
Another nail in the coffin of the Samsung Galaxy J Max is the fact that it ships with just 8GB of storage on board. After accounting for the space taken by Android and other system resources, users are left with 3.87GB. For a device that’s geared towards multimedia, this is a red flag. You can certainly extend the storage with the use of microSD card (up to 32GB), but you won’t be able to install apps / games on the internal memory, as the device doesn’t have Marshmallow which supports this capability.
The phone misses out in terms of sensors as well, as at a time when companies are offering dedicated co-processors to track your steps among other things, the Galaxy J Max only features an accelerometer and hardly anything else.
Talking about multimedia, the speaker output of the Galaxy J Max is fairly loud, but lacks crispness. It also sounds shrill at full volume levels.
Thanks to a 4,000mAh battery, the Samsung Galaxy J Max is built to last long. With typical usage of web browsing, reading eBooks, watching movies etc, it manages to survive a day. The standby times are impressive, although in our battery drain test, it was only able to play back a 720p video continuously for just over nine hours. There’s a huge downside to the large battery pack however - to charge it fully, you need to plug it in for more than three hours, since the tablet doesn’t support fast charging capabilities.
One aspect where the Samsung Galaxy J Max truly shines is connectivity. It features dual-SIM support, with 4G and VoLTE compatibility, which is a huge plus. We’ve been using the device with a Reliance Jio SIM, and both data and HD voice calls (when they connect) work perfectly. Other connectivity options on the slate include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. If you feel that it’s odd to keep such a large device against your ears for calls, then fret not, the Galaxy J Max also comes bundled with a Bluetooth headset.
The launch of the Galaxy S6 duo (review) last year marked a shift in Samsung strategy where it focussed more on consumer needs and tried to cater to them with various products. Its new budget range such as the Galaxy J series and On range is a result of that, since the devices offer decent specs and even innovative features such as the S Bike mode at affordable price points. The Galaxy J Max however, seems to be a product from the old Samsung – one which tried to throw everything against a wall to see if it stuck.
We aren’t prophesying that the tablets are dead. They do solve a purpose, and are ideal for those who want the best of both worlds, i.e. the portability of a handset and screen size of a laptop. However, with phablets breathing down their neck, it’s important for them to be a compelling option, and that’s where the Samsung Galaxy J Max fails to deliver.
At the price tag of around Rs 13,000, it’s biggest competition is from the Xiaomi Mi Max (review), which is better in every aspect, yet is pocket-friendly thanks to manageable dimensions of 6.44-inches and sticker price of Rs 14,999. If you want to go even bigger, then the Lenovo Phab Plus brings forth a display panel of 6.8-inches with a powerful spec sheet at Rs 14,490. If you’re just looking at tablets, then the ASUS ZenPad 8.0 seems to be a worthy competitor, offering better innards and a larger screen size of 8-inches.
All in all, the Samsung Galaxy J Max might attract you with its size or connectivity options, but in the end, it doesn’t come across as the best option at its price.
Photos by Raj Rout
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