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Samsung Galaxy On Max Review: The Almost Perfect Smartphone

My first smartphone was a Samsung smartphone. I admired the brand right until my Galaxy Ace started experiencing frequent hiccups and I ended up ditching it for another brand. Since then, I have never liked Samsung phones and was positive that I will never do. This belief was bullishly intact until I got my hands on the Samsung Galaxy On Max. I was very impressed by how the phone felt, both in terms of hardware and software.

To be honest, I had never used a Samsung phone after my first one. I had checked out others’ phones but never actually used it for myself. And must say, Samsung has come a long way from where I last experienced it.

Galaxy On Max is a good bet by Samsung to get every aspect in a smartphone right under the Rs. 20,000 price segment. It’s a heavily competitive space and Samsung’s aggressive pricing does its best to lure confused consumers looking for a new smartphone. Samsung also promises that the On Max can click awesome pictures irrespective of the lighting conditions, a problem many other brands have tried solving in the past. A superb f/1.7 aperture and the front flash back this aspiring claim too. The phone is much more than its cameras though, it demands to be called an “all-rounder” rather than just a “camera phone”.

When I began reviewing the device, the questions which most bothered me regarding the device were: Are the cameras as good as promised? Do the initial impressions hold up after using it for long? Is it the best smartphone in this price range? So, let’s seek answers to these questions worth exploring.

Design:

Holding the On Max for the first time will immediately make you own the phone, it feels that good. A phone in this price range can’t feel any more premium. Samsung has beautifully revived its hardware design in the past couple of years. Fortunately, this improved sense of design isn’t limited to premium phones and can be felt in mid-ranged smartphones too, including the Galaxy On Max. Great job, Samsung!

Galaxy On Max features a metal back with plastic patches on both the vertical ends, the overall build is fluid and ergonomic. Just like most metal phones, it cannot resist being slippery. Even though the phone is beautifully designed, it is marred with design flaws. The biggest disappointment is its speaker position. The small speaker grill is placed on the right edge of the phone, which you would intuitively block every time you hold the phone in landscape mode. Although you can avoid placing your finger consciously, this problem could have been avoided altogether with a different, better and sensible speaker position.

Coming from a phone which has an LED notification light, I grossly missed it in the On Max. Looking at the light becomes an irreplaceable habit and an essential element of the phone using experience. I wish every phone came with one. However, since phones are largely becoming bezel-less, it seems like the notification light might sadly become an obsolete feature soon.

On Max has a physical home button which feels a tad odd while navigating, it requires a strong push as compared to a touch for other navigation buttons to traverse back and forth in the interface. It would have been great if Samsung allowed touch instead of push in the home button similar to what Motorola has done in the G5 Plus, gestures would have been an added bonus. The home button also doubles up as a fingerprint sensor which is quite quick. I noticed some discrepancies in accuracy but they might possibly be due to moist fingers which the scanner fails to detect. The capacitive buttons provided for navigation lack backlight and it somehow manages to irritate me everytime I look at the non-glowing buttons. WHY DO THEY SKIP IT?

The phone’s design resembles completely with the J7 Max. There is very little to complain about in terms of design and once you get habituated with the avoidable flaws, the On Max will seem like a perfectly designed phone.

Performance:

The overall performance of the Galaxy On Max can be rated above average at best. If you are a normal user who occasionally multi-tasks and uses heavy apps, you wouldn’t even notice any faults in the phone’s performance. However, if you are a power user, you might demand more than what the Helio P25 chipset in On Max is capable of offering. App loading times won’t blow your mind and few sporadic lags in the interface hampers the otherwise smooth experience. Gamers won’t be too impressed with the performance either, high graphic-intensive games might experience intermittent frame drops. Normal gaming is pretty seamless though. The performance isn’t bad in any way but it’s just above average and nothing extra-ordinary.

Galaxy On Max never heats up though. Even with continuous usage for a prolonged period of time, I didn’t notice any heating issues. Switching between multiple apps is smooth and won’t be a hassle given the 4GB of RAM and its efficient management.

Display:

The Samsung Galaxy On Max features a 5.7-inch display which wouldn’t feel too big at least to users who are habituated using the standard 5.5-inch phones. Since the bezels around the display are slender, the phone’s overall footprint isn’t too extensive. If we compare the height with other 5.5-inch phones in the range such as Gionee A1 and Vivo V5S, the On Max is just a notch taller. Gionee A1’s height – 154.5 cm, Vivo V5S – 153.8 cm, Samsung Galaxy On Max – 156.6 cm.

For those looking for a good multimedia experience will be impressed. The screen is big and good enough for a pleasant video watching or gaming experience. The sound output via the speaker is pretty decent for a person or two at max. It would have been great if Samsung provided stereo speakers in the phone though. Barring the position of speakers, almost everything is perfect for someone who wants this phone majorly for multimedia.

The Full HD display on the On Max can reach an appreciable level of brightness when required. The display also gets comfortably dim for night usage. Both of which are great considering we all have varied requirements at different times to which the display adapts beautifully well. However, it attracts fingerprints and smudges in plenty which will leave you wiping the display at frequent intervals.

A strange issue I noticed with On Max’s display is the reproduction of yellow colour. The bright yellow shade looks ochre yellow in almost every scenario. We identified this as a display issue because the screenshots of the evident yellow looked perfect in other devices. An issue with the colour as common as yellow might create confusion among users in many instances. Samsung needs to fix this issue ASAP. Below are a few examples of the issue.

Camera:

Galaxy On Max’s camera is by far the phone’s biggest asset, it blissfully overshadows every other aspect of the phone. Even when compared to other phones in its price range such as the Moto G5 Plus, Vivo V5s and Gionee A1, the On Max edges out each of these phones when it comes to camera performance. When it comes to low-light photography, no competition even comes close.

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The rear camera in the Galaxy On Max works like a charm in low-light conditions, all thanks to its super-wide f/1.7 aperture. For context, flagship phones such as Samsung Galaxy S8 and HTC U11 have the same aperture size. Although your hand needs to be steady while capturing night shots, the camera handles everything else pretty amicably. Pictures in daylight are very impressive too.

The 13-megapixel rear camera is backed by a dual-tone LED flash which does its job pretty well when required. Even the autofocus is very fast and aids you well while going for a quick click.

Video output from the rear camera is pretty good, it can seamlessly record Full HD videos at 30fps. The only disappointing part regarding videos is the lack of slow motion and 4K recording. Presence of both these features would have made it a perfect phone for capturing videos but nevertheless, the overall output is still quite satisfactory.

The 13-megapixel front camera is capable of clicking some really good selfies. The sensor works well in low light too as the lens has an f/1.9 aperture. When it gets too dark, you can always use the front LED flash to brighten your selfies. With my limited selfie-taking skills, I have zero complaints about the front camera, it is as impressive as the rear camera. Just like most of the phones these days, you can beautify yourself by making your face seem slimmer and changing your skin tone.

It is appreciable that Samsung hasn’t cluttered the camera interface with too many options. Using the stock camera app is pretty easy and additional options can be conveniently accessed when required. All the necessary modes such as Pro, Panorama, Night, HDR, etc. are available. A special feature known as Social Camera is exclusive for Samsung phones and is present in On Max too. It allows you to instantly share on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The feature provides you with real-time stickers and other editing tools which can be handy while posting pictures on social media.

Software and User Interface:

The most refreshing and delightful part about using a Samsung phone after so many years was the user interface. I had disliked what Samsung had done on the UI front in the past but after using the On Max, my opinions changed and how.

The Samsung Experience UI built on top of Android Nougat couldn’t have been any better. I later learned that this interface was first provided for Samsung Galaxy S7 and then came to other Galaxy devices. For someone like me who cares a lot about the software part of the phone, the new interface is a game changer. The next time I would want to buy a phone, I will at least consider Samsung just because of this reason.

The interface is neat, well organized and looks gorgeous on every front. It is buttery smooth and toppled with mild animations which enrich the user experience. The operating system is packed with all the necessary features one would expect of a phone of this stature. There is hardly anything you would miss on the software aspect.

Among the major attractions on the software front is the presence of Samsung Pay Mini in the phone. It comes pre-loaded and can be used for convenient POS transactions. However, due to lack of hardware components, there is no NFC in the On Max. This disallows using credit or debit cards with the phone. However, you can link your Samsung Pay account to your UPI as well as other online wallets such as PayTM, Freecharge, Mobikwik, etc. to make payments. 

Given that the phone has a massive 5.7-inch display, Samsung has provided a One-handed mode. Just swipe diagonally from any bottom corner and the screen size becomes small enough to be used in a single hand. This mode can also be triggered by pressing the home button thrice. Hope brands like Xiaomi learn to do this right, they currently have a weird One-hand trigger. You would need to turn on the One-handed mode in settings to be able to use the feature.

An additional security feature provided in the Galaxy On Max is face recognition. For a phone priced below 20k, the feature seems surprising, in a good way. It works decently with good accuracy. But as expected, it cannot help you unlock the device during night or in low light conditions. In such cases, you would need to unlock via an alternative authentication method. The inbuilt app lock works just as desired too, only that I didn’t like the padlock symbol inside the app icons which were protected by the app lock.

There is a dual apps feature which lets you setup two accounts for the same app on your phone. The feature will automatically show up for apps which support it. You’ll find many other shortcuts and useful features which will make your phone using experience better. Although a lot of apps come pre-installed in the phone, many of them including the complete Microsoft suite can be uninstalled.

Battery:

On a phone this size, the battery could have been considerably better. The 3300mAh battery does an average job of getting you through the day with restrained usage. If you find yourself indulging in gaming sessions or any continuous app usage, the phone might give up without even completing a full day.

Lack of a good battery could have been compensated by providing fast charging but the On Max misses out on it as well. On an average, the phone takes close to 2 hours for a full charge, which is again unimpressive.

The silver lining in terms of battery is the multiple power saver modes provided in the phone. The classic Power Saver mode and S Power Planning work well to drag the ailing battery life when required. The reserve battery feature ensures that you have some power left to make or receive few calls when the battery is almost dead.

Verdict:

So after a strenuous review, let’s find out whether the On Max manages to pull off what Samsung hoped it would.

Are the cameras as good as promised?

YES! Both the cameras, especially the rear one is as good as promised, if not even better. The overall camera performance is amazing and it is totally impressive in low light conditions. If you are looking for a phone with a brilliant camera in this price range, look no further.

Do the initial impressions hold up after using it for long?

Pretty much yes. I was as impressed with the phone as I kept discovering it as I was during the initial moments. Except a few hiccups, everything seemed good. It was a pleasant experience using this phone. It could have been better but then the battery didn’t support the cause.

Is it the best smartphone in this price range?

At Rs. 17,000, I think it is as good as any of the other smartphones in this price range, if not the best. Although the performance could have been a notch better, the phone will work just fine for a user with basic needs. A bigger battery or fast charging or the presence of both would have positioned On Max way higher among its contenders.

If you can accept the Galaxy On Max with its flaws, you’ll love what it has to offer. If not, you’ll struggle to decide whether to buy it or not. In that case, you would want to look at alternatives and see if the On Max still wins.

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Aditya Mohanty

Previously co-founded a startup called WordKrowd, an online literature platform, which explains his love for writing and reading. Thinks about startups and technologies all day long, thus got himself to Pricebaba for a stint in writing. Stories, both fictional and real excite him. Other close recipients of love from him include good movies and good food.

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