Starmobile Play Max Review
Announced last month, the Starmobile Play Max is one of the latest devices from the local brand that bear a 5-inch display, modest specs, and a 4,000mAh battery capacity. It’s said to be one for the budget-conscious, and touts to last a lot longer than devices with similar battery packs. Here is our full review.
Design and Construction
The Play Max mixes its affair with polycarbonate and brushed metal finishes all over. Its corners are not too boxy, but not too curvy either. At the front is the 5-inch display presented with a decent amount of bezels at 67 percent screen-to-body ratio, along with the front call speaker, the proximity sensor, and the 5-megapixel rear camera accompanied by an LED flash. The buttons at the bottom are capacitive and do not emit light when in operation.
The side frames are chamfered with accentuating edges that serve as the gap between the body and the removable back plate. At the right side, we have the volume rockers and the power/lock button located at the upper part. There’s also the gap for prying open the back plate located at the bottom. Its size is a bit chunky at around 9mm, but nevertheless is not a problem when holding.
At the top, we have the microUSB port which sits right at the middle part, and the audio jack located beside it. On the other hand, the microphone and the phone speakers are both located at the opposite side. The loudspeakers offer a unique symmetrical grill which is unusual, given that other phones offer a standard design when they are located at this part.
Flipping the device over, we have the polycarbonate back plate, donning a brushed metal finish which is great-looking. The 8MP rear camera is located at the upper-left corner, and below it is its dedicated dual LED flash. The Starmobile logo is subtly placed at the middle of the device. Inside the device are two SIM slots and a dedicated microSD card, as well as a slot for a removable battery.
The device, presents itself with a good grip as it is designed with curved edges at the back which makes it easier to hold. As a device bearing a huge battery capacity, heft is noticeable compared to other five-inch contemporaries but does not hamper usage times as it is still comfortable when held for long. The back plate finish, too, adds to a list of pleasing characteristics that this phone has — the brushed metal finish is not that susceptible to fingerprint smudges.
One gripe we had is the buttons placed on the right side. The volume rockers are too soft when pressed, which sometimes annoys us when taking screenshots — pressing the down volume with the power/lock button would oftentimes render a screenshot with the volume window on top.
Display and Multimedia
The Play Max boasts of a five-inch IPS display with an HD resolution, giving a decent 294ppi. As such, the display emits good colors while whites emit hues a bit on the warmer side. Contrast is also decent, and the phone is a pleasure to be seen on most viewing angles. Brightness, on the other hand, suffers a bit as it is insufficient under sunlight, making it a bit hard to read under the sun.
The speakers are typically what you would expect of a budget device — it’s generally decent, and the loudness can fill up a small room. The included headphones in the package are okay, but you might want to get a new one if you’re concerned with hearing better tones.
The eight-megapixel shooter on the Play Max uses the Google Camera app to capture the moments you need. It’s set with touch to focus and shoot by default, so you might need to get acquainted with the app should you come from other stock camera apps.
Nonetheless, the rear camera takes decent photos right out of the box. There may be a few problems with indoor or low ambient light as it can put off colors and exposure easily. Here are a few sample photos:
When it comes to videos, you’d get to record Full HD video at 30fps with mono sound. Same with the camera mode, it gets to have a bit of exposure problems. Adding to that is the constant camera refocus whenever we pan the device. Here’s a sample clip:
OS, UI, and Apps
Starmobile has managed to put in Marshmallow out of the box on the Play Max, and it does wonders. Initial bootup is a bit slow, but the device managed to get the hang of it a few minutes later. The UI was slightly modified with a few tricks such as a choice of function for a stock app when you long press them on the home screen, and is reminiscent of what 3D Touch does to Apple’s own set of apps in iOS.
Pre-installed apps include those from Google and Starmobile’s own Care app, which leaves 4.89GB off for other files. Too bad, the loaded apps can’t be uninstalled, so the only way to not use them is to disable from the apps menu.
Performance and Benchmarks
The device sports a quad-core Speadtrum SC7731G chip along with 1GB of RAM, and performance has been okay for the most part. Multitasking could be a problem, though, especially when too many apps are running on the background. That said, it’s not for hardcore gamers as it presented games such as on Eternity Warriors 3 or Hungry Shark Evo with a few lags and dropped frames. Heat is felt on the upper-back part, but is nowhere near uncomfortable levels.
Here are some benchmarks we got from the device:
AnTuTu – 22,818
Quadrant Standard – 5088
3DMark – 2,821 (Ice Storm Unlimited)
Vellamo – 1556 (Chrome), 735 (Metal), 1223 (Multicore)
Connectivity and Battery Life
Connectivity on the device is good. Wireless connections such as Bluetooth, WiFi, and 3G internet connection work well, while the GPS surprisingly locks into location a lot better than those of its MediaTek counterparts. The microphone is of a mono type but is generally decent-sounding, while hearing the other party when making conversing with the call speaker is clear and audible.
A quick note: the SMART Prepaid SIM is already inserted into the first SIM card slot and has already been activated. While the free 100MB data per month is a generous allocation, one does not need to worry as both SIM slots are not locked to any network.
As for its touted juice, the Play Max does not disappoint — its battery life is astounding. When used as a primary phone, it can last for up to two days of medium use of WiFi, Mobile Internet, Calls, SMS, and a few apps. Our PCMark Battery Test gives the Play Max a 13 hours and 31 minutes score, which puts it along with the Zenfone 3 (5.5) and the Lenovo P1 in our Android battery rankings. Video loop, on the other hand, would give us 16 hours and 22 minutes from 100 percent to zero.
One thing we noticed on the Play Max is that it drains a lot faster when it reaches the last few percentages off its battery scale. Despite that, it’s still one of the best phones with long battery life around.
It’s no surprise that local smartphone brands are now dishing out niches to win your hears and your pockets, and so is the Starmobile Play Max and its 4000mAh battery. It’s one of the longest-lasting devices in town, and the price tag is too sweet not to resist at only Php3,290. It also comes with a Free Smart Prepaid SIM with 100MB of FREE data every month for a year, which could be a deal-grabber or a deal-breaker depending on how you look at it.
While we celebrate the good, let’s remember that the cons are not to be missed out as well — the capacitive buttons are non-lit, the camera isn’t as good as one would think, and the preinstalled apps are forever stuck in your phone’s internal memory.
With that being said, the Play Max is one of the budget phones to go if you’re looking for a device with long-lasting power.
Starmobile Play Max specs:
5-inch HD IPS display, 294ppi
1.3GHz Spreadtrum SC7731G quad-core CPU
8GB internal storage
microSD card support
8MP AF rear camera w/ LED flash
5MP FF front camera w/ LED flash
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
143.9 x 71.5 x 9.9mm
- Great battery life
- Almost stock Android Marshmallow OS
- Good build
- non-lit capacitive buttons
- pre-installed apps cannot be removed
- not suitable for hardcore gaming