Maze Blade Review: Premium Design Without A Premium Price

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Maze is a smartphone OEM that seems to be a completely new brand making an attempt to enter an extremely competitive industry, and it's done so with one device so far, at least for phones that it's launched. The Maze Blade is the debut device from Maze, having also announced the Alpha, and with the Blade Maze is aiming squarely at the budget market, having referred to this phone as the "Budget Killer." After initial impressions, the Maze Blade definitely has some pretty nice details about it, whether or not it's a budget killer though depends on who well it stacks up to the competition. One of the first things you'll notice is that it has an excellent screen. It might only be Full HD but the sharpness and clarity of the picture quality was really good, and the design of the device overall is another great element to it that should appreciated. It's not hard to see though that the Maze Blade has perhaps taken some inspiration from a different phone, being that it looks pretty similar to the Xperia Z Premium with that metal finish, squared off design and slightly rounded corners. Even the buttons look similar. Nevertheless, the phone looks good, though it does have some pretty big bezels and not everyone will be a fan. Let's take a closer look at the Blade and see what it has to offer.

Specs

Through and through, the Maze Blade is a budget or entry-level device. It has mostly low-end specs but these days even low-end devices are pretty decent especially when compared to low-end devices from just a few years ago. It has a 5.5-inch Full HD screen with a pretty crisp and sharp-looking panel, it's powered by a MediaTek 6753 processor which is paired with an ARM Mali-T720 MP3 graphics processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage space. The good news is that although 32GB isn't that much these days, the Blade also has support for expandable storage through a microSD card if needed. It's dual SIM, comes with a 3,000mAh battery, and it supports Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. For the cameras, the Blade is working with a 13-megapixel main camera with autofocus, LED flash, and digital image stabilization on the back, while the secondary camera on the front has an 8-megapixel sensor for selfies and video chat. It also has a fingerprint sensor on the front that doubles as a home button, and it supports micro USB and has a single bottom-facing speaker, with Android 6.0 Marshmallow for the software.

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In The Box

Maze is probably the one Chinese brand that you won't see packing the device with a few extras to sweeten the deal. Inside you'll find the phone on top with no screen protector already applied and under that you have just the quick start guide, the charger wall adapter, and the charging cable. Then of course you also have the SIM card ejector tool and that's it.

Hardware & Design

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The design is probably one of the best things about the Blade. It's got an elegant style to it that is immediately eye catching, even if it is heavily inspired by a two-year old Sony flagship. The overall design is pretty minimalistic with clean lines and some chamfered edges for just a little bit more of a sleek look to it, and of course the mirrored back doesn't hurt either. Though, depending on how you feel about fingerprints and smudges and wiping down your device pretty constantly, you may feel differently about the mirrored finish on the back. That said it shouldn't take away from the fact that it's still pretty stylish. It just means it will need to be cleaned more.

On the front of the device, you can find the home button/fingerprint sensor at the bottom, with the earpiece and camera at the top. The phone does have some pretty thick bezels as well. On the right of the phone you have the round power button, the volume up and volume down button, and the smart button at the bottom that looks like just a dedicated camera button but thanks to the smart button feature in settings it can actually be configured to launch quite a few things. Over on the left side of the device you have just the SIM card slot, on the bottom is the one speaker the device carries as well as the micro USB charging port, and up top you have the 3.5mm audio port for plugging in headphones. On the back, the top left corner houses the main camera and LED flash, and the middle has the Maze logo. There are also capacitive keys in the bottom bezel instead of using on-screen nav buttons, and the back button and recents buttons are actually on the correct sides which seems to be the opposite on many devices that are similar to this one.

Display

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As stated earlier the display is definitely one of the better parts about this phone. For an entry level device the Full HD screen is actually quite good and I was very surprised at how clear and sharp the picture was. It definitely feels like the display was a main focus for Maze with this phone. As far as color reproduction, it seems that Maze has hit the nail pretty much on the head here. Color are vivid and the screen doesn't seem too warm or cool, though it is worth noting that if you do feel the color temperature needs to be adjusted, you can tweak these settings from the LiveDisplay option found in the main settings menu. Here you can adjust the color temperature to your liking but you can also tweak the display mode so the color temperature adjust automatically to a fixed setting based on time of day. There is also an option below those two that will let you calibrate the screen colors if you feel it's needed.

Colors and sharpness aside, the screen gets plenty bright and was easy enough to see in direct light outside, and the touch responsiveness is quite good as well, with there being no issues in regards to lag or anything like that when using the display. Overall, the Maze Blade has a pretty good quality screen and most consumers who are looking to spend within this range for a phone shouldn't be disappointed.

Performance

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Overall performance was pretty good with little to no issue handling most task and functions even when there were multiple apps open. Moving around the phone menus was a pretty smooth feeling and I never had any crashes or freezing when using any of the apps or features of the phone. It does just fine for web browsing and other tasks, but where it starts to lose composure a little is with games. Having tried out the new Injustice 2 on it, there was quite a bit of noticeable lag going on. The nice thing at least is that the graphics quality seemed pretty good and probably looked a little bit better due to the sharpness of the display, but if you're someone who wants a phone that plays the more demanding games with high-end graphics and without lag issues, the Maze Blade may not be for you. It should be able to handle casual games just fine and even games with better graphics will still play, but they won't play as smoothly and that is something that you may want to take into consideration if graphics is something you want top-quality of.

Fingerprint Sensor

These types of sensors on less costly devices tend to be far from excellent, but that doesn't mean they have to be absolutely terrible. In this case, the fingerprint sensor on the Maze Blade did ok, and certainly had a better recognition response than that of the OUKIETL K6000 Plus. That said it still had some issues with recognition every now and then, though for the most part it would unlock when pressed without issue. Beyond that it also unlocked pretty quickly so there wasn't too much to worry about in regards to using the fingerprint sensor as an unlock tool.

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Sound

The audio on the Maze Blade was ok but it certainly wasn't stellar. It was pretty clear though and didn't sound crackly or too tinny when played at higher volumes. With the speaker being on the bottom though it's easy to cover up, and this might be an issue for users with bigger hands as it can muffle the sound a bit when playing a game or watching a video, meaning you'll have to cup your hands a bit more which should even help the sound a bit. There's also just the option of plugging in or connecting headphones or a speaker, but if you don't have those things on you and you'll be using the device audio, don't expect it to blow you away. It might not disappoint you, but it probably won't wow you.

Phone Calls & Network

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Being another unlocked GSM device the Maze Blade will work with a variety of different networks around the globe, but which networks is the question that many will be asking themselves and at what speeds. The supported frequencies are listed below, so it may work for GSM networks here in the US at 2G and 3G speeds, but not 4G LTE.

2G: 850/900/1800/1900
3G: 900/2100
4G LTE: 800/900/1800/2100/2600

Benchmarks

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As to be expected the Maze Blade got some pretty low scores and this is one instance where the benchmarks are a little more accurate or reflective of real-world use, at least in the case of the graphics benchmark as it didn't handle Injustice 2 all that well, and it got a pretty low score in 3DMark. For the benchmarks, we ran the Maze Blade through 3DMark for the graphics, Geekbench 4, and AnTuTu. If you're interested in seeing any of the benchmark results, you can find them in the images just below.

Battery Life

For only a 3,000mAh battery the Maze Blade did pretty good with battery life. It was able to last throughout the day without any problems and although I did have to charge it every night as I wouldn't make it through another full day if I didn't, it had a respectable screen-on time. I would usually use the Blade for about 6 and a half hours or so with screen-on time before it would need to be plugged in, though when we ran it through the battery benchmark it got 7 hours and 17 minutes of screen-on time, so anyone who isn't as heavy a user as I am would probably be closer to this mark. Many smartphones out there have a battery with a similar capacity and don't have this good of battery life, so this is another area where the Maze Blade shines.

Software

Similar to the OUKITEL K6000 Plus, you won't find much extra in the feature or settings of the software, but you will find some stuff that won't be in stock Android devices, like a large set of different gestures for unlocking the screen and launching apps, display color temperature adjustment, and even device shut off and power on times set to a schedule, if that' something you want. Under the gesture settings you can find gesture wake options to launch apps or shortcuts to features in an app from the lock screen when drawing a letter or swiping a certain direction on the display. There's also a set of smart motion gesture options which allow for things like flipping the device over to mute it, or picking it up to answer a phone call. One of the cooler gesture features is the gesture option you can enable. With this, I was able to wave my hand over the device when viewing pictures in the gallery and it cycles through photos. Doing the same motion cycles through music tracks if listening to music.

As mentioned before there's the smart button feature of the device, and although this is a mix of the hardware and the software when it comes to the feature, with this you can long press the smart button to launch an app if you want. Further down in the settings menu you can find the one-handed operation if you have smaller hands, though the only thing this modifies is the dialer. You also have a fingerprint app lock. If you're worried about device privacy, then you may find this feature to be a welcomed addition as it can help keep prying eyes out of certain apps if you're letting someone else use your phone. There are a couple of other software benefits to this device that could be useful, such as the Turbo Download option. If you download a lot of apps, or other types of files like documents for work, then this will help you speed up those downloads so they don't take as long as it pulls data during the download over the Wi-Fi network and the cellular network so the time is optimized. One thing I did notice that I was rather fond of was the native LED notification settings. Though there wasn't a whole lot I could do with these If enabled, you can adjust the color of the LED light when notifications for unread MMS messages are present. By default the color is set to blue, but you can also change it to red or green if you prefer either of those colors. The same set of colors will show up for missed calls, battery low, and battery full.

Camera

When comparing the camera to other entry-level devices, the features of the camera are pretty on par with devices in this price range. You only have two picture modes, including standard photo mode and panorama mode, but you do have a few options to play with in the settings if you hit the gear button. Once in the camera app settings there are options for adjusting the white balance, the exposure, and a few other things like brightness and whether or not you want the anti-flicker option enabled. There are also options for color effects, and scene mode that will adjust some of these settings for you automatically. For example, you can set the scene mode to night, sunset, party, or portrait just to name a few. When it comes to the actual picture quality. It's actually better than expected, and it seems it might be better than the OUKITEL K6000 Plus which is the other phone we've been reviewing at the same time as the Blade for the past week or so. Low-light shots seemed to be ok here too, and it felt like there was just a tad bit more detail in the images from this camera sensor. There is also an HDR mode which is nice if you take a lot of pictures that tend to have a lot of bright and vivid colors, though one drawback is that it seems it takes a while for the focus to set in and for the camera to actually take the picture. This slower speed for capturing the photos will set the camera back some in being a suitable camera for those that want something a little more fitting as their main camera replacement the majority of the time. For anyone looking at an entry-level device though or those consumers who care less about the camera, the Maze Blade should provide more than sufficient images.

The Good

Really nice screen especially for the cost

Nice design. Phone looks pretty good

Better than expected camera

Fingerprint sensor was accurate and worked most of the time with little issue

Pretty good battery life

The Bad

Performance was less than ideal for games and there was some lag here and there

The sound could have been a lot better

Huge bezels

No NFC for mobile payments

No USB Type-C

Only on Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Wrap Up

For their first smartphone on the market, Maze did pretty well. The Blade is a stylish phone that any entry-level device consumer should be happy to have. It has its drawbacks, sure, but for those drawbacks it has a lot that Maze got right too.

Should you buy the Maze Blade?

If you're not looking for the most high-end phone and you're more concerned with getting a good value, then yes, the Maze Blade is a smartphone you should buy. While design isn't the most important factor, it doesn't hurt to have a phone that looks nice, and the design is even better when the device functions properly and offer some decent features.

Buy The Maze Blade

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Justin has written for Android Headlines since 2012 and currently adopts a Editor role with a specific focus on mobile gaming and game-streaming services. Prior to the move to Android Headlines Justin spent almost eight years working directly within the wireless industry. Contact him at [email protected]

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