After making a name in the budget smartphone segment, Coolpad launched its first premium flagship, Coolpad Max, in India in May. The Indian smartphone market is a bit convoluted, where not all brands meet the same fate. Coolpad's success in the budget smartphone segment with handsets such as Note 3 and Note 3 Lite is commendable, but can it be equally impressive in the premium market?
Coolpad Max is the company's answer to most high-priced premium flagships in the market. We received the review unit of the Max smartphone at launch and have since been testing the device to its full potential. It is fair to say the Max didn't cease to impress us with its design, camera, and battery or the new dual-in-one feature. But there was a slight unrest at the back of our mind about its success with a price tag of Rs. 24,999.
Our review of the Coolpad Max comes after almost two months of use, and our verdict is on whether it is worth buying. In our first impressions of the Max, we extensively covered the craftsmanship of the device, which is truly impressive. But this review entails the extent of the Max's performance under different usage scenarios and its key features, like camera and battery.
It's worth noting that Coolpad Max is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 octa-core processor, backed by impressive 4GB RAM. The configuration ensured the handset performed without any lag during the review, which was partially surprising considering the mid-range choice of the CPU.
But we felt the pressure on the CPU when we ran high-intensity games such as "Asphalt 8" and "Brothers In Arms." The phone has the tendency to heat up pretty quick, but the company offers a transparent protective case which doesn't let you feel the heat. The phone stuttered on rare occasions during long playing sessions, but it never stopped functioning.
We ran the phone through some benchmarking tests and found the results comparable to some mid-range premium phones. Coolpad Max scored 43,743 on AnTuTu and 2874 in multi-core Geekbench test. We have come across better scores from devices much cheaper than the Max, such as Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (Review).
There were no issues with the interface as it seemed pretty snappy despite heavy customisation. The Cool UI is based on Android 5.1 Lollipop and the default launcher matches the phone's gold body, but creates a lot of confusion while looking for apps, all of which are painted gold. This can be solved simply by changing the theme from the available theme store.
Coolpad Max features a 13-megapixel camera with ISOCELL sensor, 6P lens, f/2.0 aperture, PDAF and dual LED flash on the rear, and a 5MP snapper with f/2.2 aperture on the front. While the specification seemed standard at first, we were amazed by the quality of the Max's camera. It could capture the slightest details with true-to-life colours and sharpness.
There are different modes in the Max, which can be used to shoot in different lighting conditions. The Night mode, especially, enhances the image quality even in low-lit areas. While it may not truly exceed the quality scale, it does a decent job in bringing out the best of low-light photography. A sample of the image shot in night mode is compared against auto mode below:
Daylight photography and photos taken in well-lit areas were quite impressive. We had no complaint with the camera. But it is disappointing to see the smartphone not supporting 4K recording, which is usually offered in phones priced comparatively lower. This could be a turn-off for many camera enthusiasts.
Here are some sample photos shot from Coolpad Max:
Coolpad Max sports a 2,800mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0. The plug end of the charger has a blue LED light, which is handy in dark rooms. The charging is really quick as it fully charges the device within two hours, a good feature especially when the battery discharges quickly. During our review, we were able to get up to two days of battery life with moderate usage without data and just calls. However, the battery levels dropped drastically when 4G was used as it struggled to push through the day without needing another charge midway.
The quick-charge feature, which the company claims to give up to three hours of talktime with just five minutes of charge, worked well, but only to give up to 1.5-2 hours before low-battery warnings started to beep.
The design of the Coolpad Max is compelling as it is, but the display is equally attractive. The edge-to-edge glass gives it a broader landscape for videos to play. There is minimal reflection while using it under direct sunlight, given the brightness levels are set at maximum. The touch interface, however, is not as smooth as expected from a flagship device. But it gets the job done.
We have reviewed all of Coolpad's devices, and the fingerprint sensors have by far been our favourite feature. The fingerprint scanner on the Max is just as accurate and snappy. It can unlock the device within microseconds. The sensor is placed at the back of the device and within easy reach. Users can have up to five fingerprints recorded to unlock the device or access the private space.
Private Space is a quite handy feature, which helps keep personal stuff private. The internal system ensures calls and texts are encrypted for added security. The handset also has dual SIM and dual standby 4G support. Every time you wish to enter the private space, a PIN, passcode or fingerprint authentication is required.
The internal system or the private space separates your personal stuff to a whole new level, by allowing you to have a different Google, WhatsApp, Facebook or any other account within the password-protected area. Although the notifications will appear in the normal mode, users will not be able to respond or view them unless verified with a PIN or fingerprint sensor.
Coolpad Max is an impressive device overall. It has everything an avid smartphone user looks for in a premium device. But the price of the handset makes it a hard sell, especially since there are several other options with similar specs selling at much lesser prices. If we have to pick out our favourites, Coolpad Max's camera, metallic design, dual-in-one mode and ease of use are truly commendable.
But there are some facts that cannot be overlooked. Things like a Snapdragon 617 processor, a 2,800mAh battery, lack of 4K recording and an average selfie camera make it hard for Coolpad Max to be a primary choice in the Rs. 25,000 price bracket.