I spent the last 2 weeks testing Coolpad Max and I was enchanted. Most of the people in Europe do not know the brand Coolpad, a thing that the manufacturer would like to change, which is why they started to sell their phones in Europe as well. Coolpad Max is a smartphone in the lower middle class price range. With 4GB of RAM, 64GB of ROM and a Qualcomm octa-core processor, the phone seems to get you the biggest bang for the buck. On the other hand, the phone as only an Android 5.1 system, which is quite out-of-date. Why I don’t care about the “old” operating system and why I will continue using the phone privately, you’ll find out in the following review.
Design and build quality
The first impression after unpacking is absolutely convincing. Coolpad Max feels great while holding it. The aluminium uni-body gives the phone a fine look. The used material has a better gripping power than glass and it is resistant to fingerprints. With dimensions of 152×75.5×7.6mm, the smartphone feels good while holding it in the hand and it is quite slim. A weight of 170g is perfectly fine for a 5.5-inch device.
You cannot open the casing without losing the warranty, as it is typical for aluminium uni-body casings. Replacing the battery might be hard. The device seems to be solid. Nothing groans or can be bent. There are no gaps either. Coolpad Max has such a fine build quality that I would not dare to open the casing. Some find it favorable to have such a good build quality, while others miss the possibility to replace the battery.
Volume control and power button are fixed in the rounded off sides of Coolpad Max. Both are made of alminium and have a nice feedback. If you press them too strongly, they shake a bit, but with a normal amount of strength, they don’t. The headphone connection can be found at the top, whereas the micro-USB port is located at the bottom between microphone and speaker.
The rear side is flat and interrupted by two plastic antenna lines. Coolpad does not try to hide them, but uses them as a nice design element. These black lines are a great contrast to the champagne rear side. Camera and LED flash are in the top center, which is a clever position. The chance to touch it with the finger by mistake is quite low. The camera juts out minimally and it is protected by a thin aluminium frame. The fingerprint scanner is also located on the rear, where is it easy to reach.
The rear as well as the front side look nice. The brand name at the lower read side is not annoying. There are no soft touch buttons, the phone has on-screen buttons instead. The notification LED shines in green and red and informs about the battery level, too. The 2.5D glass merges well in the aluminium frame. There are no gaps and build quality is great all over. The upper and lower edges (in the color of the device) are pleasantly slim. (ich hab im deutschen nicht verstanden was das heißen soll, da stand was mit gerätefarbe)
The bezel – praise Coolpad
Turning the display on, a black bezel appears, which is 1.5mm at the sides and 3.5mm at top and bottom. For a long time those bezels have annoyed me, not because of their existence, but because most manufacturers hide it on their product photos. Xiaomi, Elephone and Vernee for instance tend to do so. The bezels are removed for marketing reasons to depict the device nicer than it is. This is almost a deception of the customers. There I have to praise Coolpad! The manufacturer is honest and shows the bezel on the product website for Coolpad Max. The bezel is pretended to be there even in pictures with dark background (via a reflection). Props to Coolpad! You do not find that kind of honesty a lot on the smartphone market. The manufacturer gained my trust.
The scope of delivery is another reason to praise Coolpad for. I have hardly seen such as high quality equipment with a Chinese smartphone. Screen protector and protective cover are provided from time to time. The detailed operating instructions are not extraordinary either. The headphones on the other hand are a highlight. When buying china phones, it is not usual to have headphones included. The provided headset is not a cheap thing; it offers acceptable performance for listing to music and because of its integrated microphone, it is also suitable for telephoning. Coolpad provides a good charger as well. The cable has high build quality, the contacts are painted gold and it has a trendy USB port. In addition, there is a blue LED above the micro-USB port, which you can turn on at the push of a button. For example, you can use this LED at night to search for your phone or other things without having to turn on dazzling light. Nice idea!
Whenever a smartphone has “Max” in its name, it normally suggests a big display (> 5.5inch). Coolpad Max however uses a 5.5-inch IPS panel, which is hardly oversize. Thanks to full-HD resolution and the resulting pixel density of 401PPI, it should be hard to detect any single pixels. Many current flagship devices have a bigger size than this. Gorilla Glass 4 protects the display from scratches. The glass is rounded off at the sides, which increases the premium feeling. Colors are strong and the viewing angles are stable. Contrast is good as well. Black values are not as perfect as they are in AMOLED displays, but they are good as well.
You cannot customize color representation. MiraVision is not available as it is a feature by Mediatek and therefore, it is not available for Qualcomm smartphones. There is no SmartWake function either. The display is activated only via fingerprint scanner or power button. It has enough brightness and it can be used outside as well. In direct sunlight however, you have some problems to read contents. The display registers 10 points of contact simultaneously and reacts fast to any input, which is nice for those who write fast and a lot.
Coolpad Max houses 8 cores to provide power. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 has 2 quad-core clusters. 4 cores clock at 1.5GHz and the other 4 clock at 1.2GHz. At least the data sheet says so. Qualcomm also states a clock speed of (up to) 1.5GHz for the performance cluster. In a load test, the cores did actually reach 1.5GHz.
The performance is sufficient for daily tasks. Navigation is fluent and apps load fast. Thanks to 4GB of RAM, you can use several apps simultaneously without a noticeable decline in power. The internal storage of 64GB is big as well and should be sufficient for most users.
Thanks to the Adreno 405, you can also play 3D games. Even demanding games like Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5 run well at highest graphics settings. In order to reach high FPS values, you have to decrease the number of details a bit. 44,000 points in the Antutu benchmark are not extraordinary, but in the price category of Coolpad Max, you do not expect more. During gaming, the phone gets noticeably warmer, but this might be because of the slim style. However, the phone never gets too hot. Coolpad offers detailed performance optimization. For example, you can choose which apps can be started automatically to avoid unintentional system load.
2x Android with CoolUI
In terms of software, Coolpad Max has a lot to offer. The secure space is especially interesting, as it seems to run on its own dynamic partition. It is comparable to a dual-boot system, which allows installing Windows and Android on one device for example, but in this case, Android is installed twice. You can change between the two systems during running operation. For instance, you can install WhatsApp twice and use it with two different numbers, thanks to dual-SIM. The secure space can be secured via fingerprint or other authentication. On possible option for the use of the secure space would be to use the normal modus for private purpose and the secure space to save business documents, apps, pictures and messages.
Besides providing this feature, Coolpad Max’ software is quite extensive. The Coolbutler compensates for the “old” Android 5.2 system. It makes it possible to allocate permissions to apps, a feature, which is actually only available since Android 6. In addition, the Coolbutler offers a lot of additional functions such as a virus scanner, a background process killer, an energy manager, an installation manager and much more. The ad blocker is another great idea; it scans apps for ad plugins and deactivates them. I doubt that there will be an update to Android 7. It would be too laborious to adjust the extensive system to a new Android and additionally, I do not think it would be necessary.
It is also possible to customize the system. You can download several different themes, change the animation of the transitions and there are intelligent assistants available, which arrange apps in folders based on their genres for instance. However, there is no app drawer. Those who cannot live without an app drawer has to install an alternative launcher from the Playstore. We could not identify any bugs in the system. The software is an extensive package with a lot of features.
Coolpad did a good job concerning the camera. The 13MP main camera has an aperture of f/2.0, whereas the front camera offers just 5MP and has an aperture off/2.2. As a sensor, Coolpad uses the efficient Samsung ISOCELL 3M2 CMOS. At least Coolpad tried to get the most out of it. Image quality is quite good. I especially liked the macro shots taken by Coolpad Max, as they are accurate in every detail. Color representation is strong, but natural. The focus works fast and trigger time is short, so it is possible to take several snap shots one after another. For selfie fans, there is a beauty mode and face recognition available, which guesses your age sometimes right, sometimes wrong.
I most enjoyed the camera’s variety of options. The camera is perfect for hobby photographers, as there is a pro-mode available. Besides the pro-mode, several other modes are at hand. The long-term exposure makes it possible to take remarkably nice night shots (for a smartphone camera, of course). In order to make full use of this function you need wither an extremely calm hand or a tripod. The image you can see below was taken with an 8-second exposure time and a provisional tripod. The other one was taken without tripod. You notice a huge difference to the automatic mode, as image noise is strongly reduced.
Besides the exposure time, you can customize the focus as well, which can be useful when taking macro shots of tiny objects in front of a background farther away. However, the autofocus worked so well in the test that it was not necessary to use the focus manually.
The SLR mode is great as well; it creates a bokeh-effect – without dual-camera. The focused objects can be 2 meters distant at maximum, so that the difference in distance can be recognized correctly and the software can focus or blur certain areas. The bokeh-effect is not always realized perfectly, but I you’re patient, you eventually get nice pictures. The mode “new focus” allows you to take a picture and change the focus afterwards. During the test, it worked very well. In this case, the 2-meter rule does apply as well.
Connectivity and communication
In terms of connectivity, Coolpad has one disadvantage: the missing LTE Band 20. We already know this problem from Xiaomi. We think Coolpad should provide LTE with their following devices. As it is typical for Chinese phones, Coolpad Max also offers a hybrid slot, in which you can insert 2 SIM cards or 1 SIM and 1 micro-SD card. Thanks to the 64GB storage, most users should not need an additional SD card.
Nevertheless, Coolpad does a fine job in the other categories of connectivity and communication. Reception is always good and reliable. You can use the mobile internet without any problems and the phone supports 3G networks, of course. Wi-Fi works well, too. The connection to the router is established fast and it is stable. During telephoning, I did not have any complaints. The caller could understand me well at all times. There were even no problems with the speakerphone. The speaker works quite well, but it is not extraordinary. The sound has depth, but sounds a bit tinny at full volume. In order to enjoy music, Coolpad luckily provided high quality headphones.
GPS and an integrated compass help to locate and orientate yourself. The phone determines your position quite fast (the blue dot on Google Maps appears quickly). During a test track of 170 kilometers, the navigation software worked perfectly. Bluetooth 4.0 is also available.
In terms of sensors, Coolpad offers everything you need:
- Light sensor
- Proximity sensor
- Acceleration sensor
The fingerprint scanner is a special feature, as you can assign different functions to it. For example, if you touch it with your left middle finger, WhatsApp opens, whereas touching the scanner with your pinkie takes a picture. The integrated radio does a good job and finds several radio stations, which are played with good quality.
Coolpad Max offers a 2800mAh battery, which is a bit little for a 5.5-inch device. Even intelligent energy management can’t save the day. In daily use, the device gets you through the day, but you have to charge it in the evening. With moderate use, you can get 1.5 days of run time. The device is charged quite fast. After 30 minutes, you already have 65% of the capacity back. After one hour, the battery is fully charged. Coolpad offers two different charging modes. The efficiency mode is activated ex works and charges the phone in 60 minutes. The intelligent mode needs 20 minutes more; it secures that the device does not get too hot during charging, which is supposed to prolong the battery’s lifetime. In fact, battery life was a bit stronger after charging in the intelligent mode. In the Workbench 2.0 battery test, this made a difference of 20 minutes. The device lasted for 6.5hours at medium brightness. This means several hours of stand-by, as the phone is quite thrifty with the display switched off.