Review: Maze Alpha smartphone – a budget Xiaomi lookalike with some useful features
Although it doesn’t match up to premium smartphones, the Alpha’s almost bezel-free design, long battery life, crisp screen resolution and low price make it a good choice for those on a tight budget
You know times in the smartphone industry are changing when Xiaomi, once widely accused by Western media of ripping off Apple’s hardware and software, is seeing its pioneering bezel-less Mi Mix being copied by other Chinese companies.
This year has seen the release of many blatant Mi Mix clones (some, such as Doogee, didn’t even bother hiding the fact, naming its device the Mix as well). The most impressive of these is the Alpha, manufactured by new Shenzhen company Maze.
Design and hardware
The Maze Alpha, just like the Xiaomi Mi Mix, is a boxy device with virtually no bezels around three sides of the display, giving the illusion that the screen stretches from edge to edge.
Little things betray the Alpha’s budget roots, though, such as the bottom bezel being significantly larger than the Mi Mix’s, and a plastic frame that doesn’t feel as nice in the hand as the Mi Mix’s ceramic body.
The star of the show here is the display, and there are two ways to look at the Alpha’s. In a vacuum, the colour vibrancy and overall brightness level of the Alpha can’t compare to a flagship Samsung or LG device, and the edge-to-edge illusion is slightly inferior to the Mi Mix’s offering due to the larger chin and thicker frame. But then you consider the Alpha’s price – US$180, with frequent discounts that knock it down to about US$160 – and it becomes almost impossible to nitpick about the screen: it still has a crisp 1,080p resolution, and the screen-to-body ratio still stomps all over the iPhone 7.
Software and features
In terms of internals, the Alpha has the standard budget Chinese set-up of the Helio P25 processor paired with 4GB of RAM. This is more than enough to run apps such as Facebook and Instagram, but I had trouble slicing and cutting videos via the Power Director app (which I do with ease on the Samsung Galaxy S8).
In a pleasant surprise, the Alpha runs stock Android with no bloat whatsoever. It may be the older 7.0 version of Nougat instead of the 7.1.1, but all the useful features such as the split-screen mode and quick app switching work fine.
Performance and battery life
While the Alpha should offer enough power for the average user to surf the web, message and send emails, it’s also an excellent media consumption device, thanks to the large screen and a single, bottom-firing loudspeaker that pumps out solid sound. The 4,000 mAh battery life will easily last an entire day.
There’s a dual-camera set-up on the back, but I (along with other tech writers) suspect the secondary lens is there just for looks. There’s really no way of proving this without breaking open the device, but I conducted several test shots with a piece of tape covering the secondary camera and found no difference in image quality.
I also ran a hardware test with a third-party app, and it was unable to detect the second camera.
Otherwise, the photos captured by the Alpha are solid for a budget device. As expected, the camera is virtually useless in low-light situations, but use it during the day with good sunlight and images will turn out fine.
From a tech journalist’s perspective, it’s hard to give a glowing endorsement to such an imitative device, but seen through the eyes of the consumer, the Maze Alpha offers a flagship design trend at less than a third of the price of big brands – making it a superb value proposition.
Dimensions: 159.8mm x 82.5mm x 8.1mm
Weight: 225 grams
Display: 6-inch, 1,080p IPS LCD
Battery: 4,000 mAh
OS version reviewed: Android 7.0
Processor: MediaTek Helip P25
Cameras: 13-megapixel rear lens with 5-megapixel secondary dual camera; 5-megapixel front-facing camera
Memory: 64GB/4GB RAM