For

  • Cheap
  • 13MP camera
  • Stock Android
  • Solid build quality

Against

  • Big and unwieldy
  • Poor general performance
  • Low-res screen
  • Ineffective Vodafone apps

The Vodafone Smart 4 Max continues the UK network's line of affordable self-branded smartphones, offering another solid 4G-ready handset for just £125.

The key difference between the Smart 4 Max and last year's Vodafone Smart 4 Power is hinted at in the name – this is a seriously large phone that fits snugly in the phablet category, if not quite the average-sized pocket.

Where previous Smart handsets have suffered is that there have always been a range of similarly priced but superior alternatives. While I'd argue that's still the case with the Vodafone Smart 4 Max, it does have a couple of notable distinguishable factors that mark it out as unique.

Vodafone Smart 4 Power review

I'll discuss those in more detail later in the review, but the Vodafone Smart 4 Max's key strength boils down to this: it's hard to name another 6-inch smartphone that's available for around £125 in the UK. Trust me, I tried, and I came up completely empty.

If you demand a Nexus 6 or Samsung Galaxy Note 4-sized screen for a quarter of the price, the Vodafone Smart 4 Max could well be your only choice.

Of course, that doesn't make it an automatic recommendation. Far from it. You should know from the outset that you'll be making a number of sacrifices in the name of that cheap super-sized display, and for this kind of money you might want to consider dropping an inch and picking up the Moto G.

Vodafone Smart 4 Max review

In the strange world of budget smartphones, the terms 'no-nonsense' and 'functional' are often considered to be positive. After all, the alternative tends to be words such as 'cheap' and 'tacky'.

The best thing I can say about the Vodafone Smart 4 Max's design, then, is that it's no-nonsense and functional, and not at all cheap or tacky. There isn't so much as a whiff of faux-metal plastic (well, apart from the camera rim), and it doesn't creak or flex when you squeeze it in your hand.

This is a solid slab of a smartphone with a plainer-than-Nexus front; flat, subtly angled and slightly shiny plastic sides; and a matte plastic rear cover that feels quite nice and grippy, whilst simultaneously attracting a surprising amount of grease and dirt.

Vodafone Smart 4 Max review

It's a heavy device at 170g (that's similar to the iPhone 6 Plus), and combined with the Smart 4 Max's chunky 164 x 83.4 x 7.9mm dimensions, you won't be slipping it into too many trouser pockets.

In fact, during a recent lengthy walk, I opted to carry the Smart 4 Max like a purse rather than put it into my usual inside jacket pocket. It felt that uncomfortable. And bear in mind that I've been lugging an LG G3 around with me of late, which isn't exactly the most petite of phones.

Still, I was impressed with how solid the Smart 4 Max is in the hand. Its volume and power keys are plastic but appreciably clicky, and both are found along the now-customary right-hand edge of the handset, just where I wanted them.

Vodafone Smart 4 Max review

Above that you get an external microSD slot, which is well tucked away behind a tight flap with a neat access nubbin. Habitual nail-biters might struggle to access this, though, as well as the similarly designed SIM card slot on the opposite edge.

You'll need to access that microSD card slot, too, as there's a fairly standard 8GB (though that's double the Vodafone Smart 4 Power) of internal storage on offer. If you really want to pile on the MP3 files or HD videos, note that you can squeeze only a relatively meagre 32GB microSD card in here.