ASUS India had first announced the Zenfone Max at the ASUS ZenFestival in August last year. However, it went on sale only in January 2016. This device’s USP was its massive 5000mAh battery under the hood with relatively good specifications, priced at Rs 9,999. The response for this smartphone has been so incredible in the Indian market that it became the best seller for ASUS India in the calendar year so far, hence they have repackaged the device with better internals and have relaunched a ‘better’ phone on March 23, 2016. Since last month, we have been using the ‘better’ Zenfone Max (2GB RAM variant) and hence we bring you the ASUS Zenfone Max review.
The new ASUS Zenfone Max comes in two variants – one has 2GB RAM and another has 3GB RAM, but both comes with 32GB ROM as base internal storage. They are priced at Rs 9,999 and Rs 12,999, respectively. Also, the old model is now selling in the country for Rs 8,999. Anyway, check out our review now.
ASUS Zenfone Max Review : Hardware & Build Quality
Lets go through the specifications of the new Zenfone Max, in case you’re not up to date. It has a 5.5-inch HD IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. It packs in an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor clocked at 1.5 GHz and comes with a Adreno 405 GPU. It has 2 / 3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage that can be expanded up to 64 GB. It rocks a 13 megapixel rear camera along with a 5 megapixel front-facing camera. The Max runs on Zen UI 2.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS. It supports 4G LTE on both SIM cards and packs in a whopping 5000mAh battery.
It has a solid build and comes with an ergonomic design. It is certainly on the heavier side but does feel quite comfortable to grip and hold for long periods. Looking at the front topside, we find the 5 megapixel front shooter on the left side followed by the earpiece on the middle and ASUS branding below it. Then, we have the 5.5-inch HD IPS display. Below the display, we get the three shiny capacitive buttons followed by a shiny reflective bezel. We get the volume rocker and power/unlock button on the right and there is nothing on the left. At bottom, we just have the microUSB port and primary microphone and on top left we get the 3.5 mm audio jack. Turning the phone, we have the 13 megapixel rear shooter followed by Real Tone flash and Laser Auto Focus on either sides. It is followed by another ASUS branding in the middle, Zenfone badge at the bottom along with the speaker holes. If we open up the matte finish back cover (available in Black, Orange, Blue and White colors), the main attraction of this phone aka the 5000mAh Li-Polymer battery is seen but unfortunately, it is not removable. Also, We get the Dual SIM and microSD card slots above the battery. A rim made up of chrome runs around the body of the phone which is 10.55 mm thick and weighs 202 grams.
ASUS Zenfone Max Review : Battery
Lets address the USP of the phone first. The Zenfone Max packs in a massive 5000 mAh battery under the hood. It is made up of Lithium-Polymer and you cannot remove it, although the back panel (now available in many colors) is removable. The battery takes about 4 hours to completely charge from 0-100%. If you consider standby time, you can forget the charger for more than 7 days as the UI is well optimized and there is negligible battery leak. However, as we use our smartphones a lot and hence with heavy usage, the phone will serve you around 2 days (most of the times) with about 10-12 hours of SoT (Screen on Time).
The Zen UI comes with a lot of Power management options. We get different battery modes that includes Performance, Normal, Power saving, Super saving and Customized. You can also auto schedule between any of these modes in terms of battery level or time schedule. Check out some of the screenshots of the battery usage, power management UI and more below.
ASUS Zenfone Max Review : Display
The Max comes with more than a ‘decent’ 5.5-inch display that has a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. The pixel density is on the lower side with just 267 PPI but it does not feel that way. The color reproduction, brightness and contrast ratio is quite good but looking at the display in bright sunlight is a bit of an issue. However, it is a big immersive display and you will end up consuming a lot of content on it. It may not feature a Corning Gorilla Glass, which is present in the previous Zenfone Max but certainly does come with a protective glass (unknown brand), which makes the touch experience very smooth. Also, putting a HD display instead of a Full HD panel makes complete sense, since we want a smartphone with “good battery life”.
ASUS Zenfone Max Review : Performance & Gaming
The Zenfone Max is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset that is clocked at 1.5 GHz. It comes with 2 or 3 GB RAM along with Adreno 405 GPU. As we all know, the Snapdragon 615 is ‘infamous’ for ‘overheating’ but there is no ‘heating issue’ here, whatsoever. It handles day-to-day tasks very well with zero to negligible lag. If you’re multitasking with several apps in the background, it lags a bit and drops a frame here and there but that’s normal in a Rs 10,000 device. Calling capability of this phone is very good and sound from the earpiece is clear and crisp. The speakers situated at the back is quite loud and clear, and if you put on a headphone, it will not disappoint you either.
Again, it is not a smartphone meant for gaming, however it does a pretty good job with casual and mid level games but does struggle with high graphics intensive games. In short, if you’re a casual gamer, it will suffice your need but if you’re a hardcore gamer, please look elsewhere.
ASUS Zenfone Max Review : Camera
This Max also rocks a 13 megapixel primary rear shooter that comes with f/2.0 aperture but only does a ‘satisfactory’ job, once again. There is no change in this department over the previous product. However, the satisfaction is limited to outdoors and natural lighting only. When you’re indoors or in low-light, the camera simply disappoints. Outdoor shots are quite natural and vivid but color saturation is on the higher side (usual scene on ASUS smartphones). Low-light images are filled with grain/noise and even the Laser Auto Focus cannot focus properly sometimes. You can use the Real Tone (Dual tone) flash that comes with the camera and get some desirable and usable shots. Also, as usual the HDR mode rocks in this ASUS product as well. Coming to video recording, it can shoot Full HD (1080p) videos but we would not suggest you to get the Zenfone Max, if you’re into mobile videography. It is average and we do not blame ASUS since the company doesn’t expect their customer to purchase the mobile for shooting videos. Although, you won’t have any issue occasionally shooting with it.
Coming to the 5 megapixel front-facing shooter, it again comes with f/2.0 aperture and a 85-degree wide-angle lens. Hence, selfies and group selfies are great outdoors but it is not good in low-light.
ASUS Zenfone Max Review : Camera samples
Check out the unedited camera samples taken in various lighting conditions below.
ASUS Zenfone Max Review : Software & Connectivity
The most differentiating factor between the latest Zenfone Max and the previous Zenfone Max is the software. It still runs on the in-house Zen UI 2.0 skin but now on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow instead of Lollipop. It is a heavily customized UI which comes with a lot of in-house apps and bloatware. The number of pre-installed apps is too damn high according to our liking, in spite of the 32 GB of onboard storage. However, Zen UI is smooth and the UI does not lag. It is very well optimized as well. We can add up to 7 home screens and there is customizable quick settings menu which comes with smart savings, reading mode, one hand operation, WiFi hotspot, Glove mode along with the usual quick settings toggle. We find default shortcuts in the first row, which are interchangeable or can be replaced.
Talking about connectivity, it supports 4G LTE and that works on both the SIM cards. It supports LTE – Band 1/3/38/39/40/41. The phone supports USB OTG and external memory via microSD card, you can add up to 64 GB. It also has the usual WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS as well.
ASUS Zenfone Max Review : Final Verdict
The new ASUS Zenfone Max has a lot of things going for it. The 5000 mAh battery still remains unchallenged in this price range. It gets a new processor that does not ‘heat up’. There are 2GB and 3GB RAM options as well and the base internal storage gets a bump up to 32GB. One of the best things about it would be its software since it runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow but most of its competitors are stuck with Lollipop. However, it still comes with a ‘mediocre camera’ and also loses the Corning Gorilla Glass protection.
We would suggest this smartphone to people who are absolutely not willing to compromise on the battery life whatsoever. Also, one more plus point is that it can be purchased offline from ASUS Exclusive Stores and other retail outlets across the country, if you’re not comfortable buying online. In case you would like to purchase it from Flipkart, it costs Rs 9,999 for the 2GB RAM variant whereas the 3GB RAM model costs Rs 12,999.