Telstra Tough Max 3 review
Quick verdict: Telstra's latest update to its "tradie" phone provides a decent level of durability, but its performance is just mediocre.
- Highly durable
- Glass screen protector included
- Good battery life
- Mediocre performance
- Old Android version
- Camera is ordinary
1080 x 2160px
16MP + 5MP
Finder rated as Average vs similar phones
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
There's not a lot of competition in the rugged phone space. There are feature phones like the Nokia 800 Tough, for example, but if you want an actual smartphone, the general advice is to buy something nice and then cover it with a chunky protective case. However, this can add considerable bulk and often affect key features.
It's been years since Telstra last updated its line of "Tough Max" phones, no doubt hindered by the fact that its primary supplier of phones ZTE was almost shut down by a US embargo.
The Telstra Tough Max 3 is another ZTE-produced phone, albeit at a slightly higher price point than you'd normally expect out of the bargain phone builder. If you want to get technical, it's the ZTE T86, although it doesn't appear that ZTE sells it in too many other markets internationally under other names.
Its promise lies naturally in its durable nature, and there's plenty to like here if you're a tradie or just terminally clumsy with your phone. However, at this price point, if you're even slightly more careful, there are better options to consider.
- 5.65-inch display
- Included glass screen protector
- Rear fingerprint sensor
- Dual lens
- Camera shots are average
- Snapdragon 665 is as mid-range as it gets
- Older Android version
- Nicely durable
- 3,920mAh battery gives good performance for a mid-range phone
- Rugged – but that's about it
Should you buy it?
The Telstra Tough Max 3 is very much a niche product, especially within its price category. You just don't see much in the way of heavy-duty water resistance at this kind of price point, or particularly rugged builds either.
However, what you're paying for is just that rugged nature, and the reality is that the highly competitive mid-range segment has moved on a touch in recent times. For the same money, you could get the same level of performance with a much better camera, for a start, or better performance, or more guaranteed software updates. That's quite the tradeoff for most regular consumers.
If you want a tough phone, you don't have a lot of other choices. Nokia's excellent Nokia 800 Tough is considerably cheaper, but that's just a simple feature phone with an even worse camera than the Telstra Tough Max 3.
At this kind of price point, however, you do have other alternative choices that trade camera quality and performance for rugged build quality. Consider phones such as the Realme XT, Realme 5 Pro, Huawei P30 Lite or Google Pixel 3a in this price bracket.