Maze Alpha review

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The Maze Alpha is a big-screen phone with a budget price tag and a ‘frameless’ design that certainly represents excellent value on paper.

Available from GearBest for £146.72 ($189.99/€161.61), it’s a fraction of the price of the Xiaomi Mi Mix it copies (currently £378.40).

When buying, remember that this phone will be shipped from China, which means you’ll be liable for import duties (calculated at 20 per cent of the value on the shipping papers, plus an administration fee of around £11).

The Maze Alpha is also available from Amazon UK for £199.99, but even with import duty, GearBest has a cheaper deal.

There’s also the newer Alpha X, which has an 18:9 screen.

Labyrinth Alpha

Maze Alpha Build and Theme

The idea of ​​a bezel-less phone is a bit misleading. Even the Mi Mix 2 (which will have a review coming soon) isn’t necessarily bezel-less. Both it and this Maze Alpha have a chin, and it’s only the top, left, and right edges with continuous glass… well, sort of, since a very slim outer frame remains visible.

The chin is actually quite pronounced here, so while the Alpha appears to be mostly glass, the screen-to-body ratio is “only” 83 percent. Part of the reason for its size is the technology packed into that part of the device.

As with the Mi Mix, the selfie camera is housed in the bottom right, meaning that taking a portrait requires turning the phone upside down. Annoying, but you get used to it.

There’s also a physical home button here, which houses a fast and responsive fingerprint scanner. It’s not a button you can press as such, but it recognizes that a quick tap means you want to go back, and a longer tap means you want to go home. Meanwhile, these buttons are replicated at the bottom of the screen, along with a button for the latest news, although you can hide these by tapping the downward triangle on the left.

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The Maze is a very well built phone and you would never guess its cheap price point just by looking at it. With a metal frame and a glass front and back, it gets a premium look. Gorilla Glass should protect all that glassware, although of course it’s still possible to break it if you don’t take good care of the phone.

One thing you’ll notice right away is its weight. Even without the top bezel, this is a large phone, standing at around 16cm tall. A capacious 4000mAh battery inside adds to its bulk, and the Maze Alpha tips the scales at a whopping 227g.

It’s meant to be big, though, and the 6-inch screen – although a tad smaller than the Mi Mix’s 6.4-inch panel – comes primed for playing games, watching videos, or just over-the-top, whatever you like would like.

The screen uses IPS technology, known for its realistic colors and decent viewing angles. It is sufficiently bright and the Full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels ensures sharp text and images.

However, the aspect ratio is a standard 16:9 and not the 17:9 we see in the Mi Mix or 18:9 in newer phones like the Galaxy S8. That means the only benefit of the frameless design is that it looks cool.

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Running along the bottom edge is a single row of drilled holes on either side of the reversible USB-C connector. Behind it is a mono speaker that offers good volume but distorts at maximum settings.

There is a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top and a dual SIM tray on the left side that can alternatively hold a single nano SIM and a microSD card with a capacity of up to 256GB. There is a volume rocker and the power button on the right edge.

Flip the Alpha over and you’ll notice the dual camera protruding slightly from the top left of the body, with a single LED flash on the right. Aside from a few greasy fingerprints, however, the Maze looks nice from the rear, with a polished black appearance and a relatively small and unobtrusive company logo on the bottom. (See also: Best Chinese Phones.)

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Maze Alpha Core hardware and performance

Together with the likewise frameless Doogee Mix and the more traditionally designed Elephone P8, a Helio P25 octa-core chip runs in the Maze Alpha, here clocked at 2.5 GHz. This is built into the Mali-T880 GPU and coupled with 4GB of RAM and a very generous 64GB of internal storage. (A model with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage is also available.)

The end result is a phone that offers decent, but not top-notch, performance. It is perfectly adequate for most users as it is capable of multitasking and can handle anything they want to accomplish on the phone. In our benchmarks, it proved capable of occasional gaming and achieved mediocre performance scores overall.

Compared to the Doogee and Elephone, it performed better in our graphics tests, but didn’t fare quite as well when it came to core processing power. We’ve compared the results of all three phones in the table below.

The Maze’s battery life isn’t bad, and while most people will want to charge it every night, users could get a day and a half out of the 4000mAh battery. That sounds – and is – a very healthy capacity, but the screen traditionally causes one of the biggest drains on battery life, and here we have a 6-inch monster.

Although it doesn’t support wireless charging (a feature usually reserved for high-end smartphones and not particularly common in China), the 9V/2A battery can be charged quickly.

NFC is absent here, although you do get HotKnot. It works very similarly to NFC in phones running on MediaTek processors, but doesn’t support mobile payments.

In other respects, most connectivity bases are covered, with the Maze Alpha offering Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, GPS and GLONASS.

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Maze Alpha Cameras and Photography

While the performance is mediocre and the screen is a hit, if there’s one disappointment for the Maze Alpha, it’s the main camera. Or should we say cameras, since you get two F/2.2 lenses, one at 13Mp and the other at 5Mp.

Our problem isn’t with the level of detail they’re able to capture, which is actually pretty good, although some graininess is visible at full size, but rather the fact that the white balance seems way off. All of our recordings have a very strong bluish tint, which became even more evident when compared to the performance of its competitors. The colors are strong but not realistic at all.

Labyrinth Alpha

With HDR on, the cameras are much better at picking out shadows, but much of the color is balanced out enough that the end result looks a little washed out.

Labyrinth Alpha

Our low-light test, which doesn’t account for the single-LED flash, was an abomination. It did a terrible job of lighting the scene, so you might not realize Batman was even there unless we told you so.

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The Camera app offers Video (1080p), Photo, FaceBeauty, Blur, Mono, Panorama and Pro capture modes, and the automatic photo mode lets you apply real-time filters. The Blur preset simply blurs the outer edges of the image, with a slider to adjust the effect. It’s not great.

There’s also a 5-megapixel front camera that also supports Mono and FaceBeauty modes. Oddly enough, if you tap the More options icon at the top of the screen, all you get is a box that says No mode. (If you’re using the primary camera, this is how you access HDR.)

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Maze Alpha software

The Alpha runs a mostly stock implementation of Android 7.0 Nougat, but you’ll notice there’s no app bar, so all shortcuts are organized on the home screen (you can organize them into folders if things get cluttered).

It comes with the full suite of Google services, and you can download whatever you want from Google Play.

There’s a one-handed mode, which should make it easier to deal with the 6-inch screen, and multiple gestures are supported for the lock screen, including double-tap to wake and slide down for quick camera access.

You can take screenshots with three fingers, adjust volume with a two-finger gesture, flip the phone to mute a call, and a few others. All are disabled by default.


Labyrinth Alpha: Specifications

  • 6″ Full HD IPS display (1920 x 1080, 376 ppi, 16:9) without bezel, Gorilla Glass 4
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 2.5GHz MediaTek Helio P25 octa-core processor
  • 900MHz Mali-T880 GPU
  • 4GB RAM (6GB available)
  • 64 GB memory (128 GB available), microSD up to 256 GB
  • 13Mp + 5Mp dual camera, Samsung S5K3L8, f/2.2, single LED flash
  • 5 MP front camera
  • 4G FDD LTE 80/900/1800/2100/2600MHz
  • Dual SIM Dual Standby (2x Nano)
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • HotKnot
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • fingerprint sensor
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • USB-C
  • 4000mAh battery, 9V/2A quick charge
  • 159.8 x 82.5 x 8.1mm
  • 227g
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