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The Mid-segment Battle: Redmi Note 5 Pro vs Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1

It is one of the most-asked questions in the market today. A person has a budget of about Rs 15,000 and wants a great smartphone. Should they go for the Redmi Note 5 Pro or the recently released Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1? This is not to say that these are the only options in this price segment – there are other worthies like the Nokia 6 (2018), the Moto G5s Plus, the Honor 9 Lite and the just-released Realme 1.

But these two are the ones that stand out because they possess perhaps the most rounded feature set in the Rs 15,000 price segment:

– 18:9 aspect displays: Check 

– New Snapdragon 636 chips: Check 

– Dual cameras: Check 

– Fingerprint scanners and Face Unlock: Check 

– Big batteries: Check 

– Good RAM/Storage combinations: Check 

All of which make the sub-Rs 15,000 smartphone battle a two horse race. Yes, there is a big price disparity between the two phones – the Zenfone starts at Rs 10,999, while the Redmi Note 5 Pro starts at Rs 14,999 (its price got bumped up by Rs 1000 recently), but take it from me, if you are looking for a mid-segment device right now without blowing a massive hole in your pocket, these two are your best options. By some distance.

But which one of the two works best for you? Here’s a really quick primer, based on my experience with the two phones:

If looks matter?

Appearance is such a personal issue but if I were to choose one of the two, I would probably go with the Zenfone Max Pro M1. At 8.05 mm, the Note 5 Pro is thinner than the 8.5 mm Zenfone Max Pro, but both devices are of almost the same length, and remarkably, even the same weight (remarkable because the Zenfone has a much bigger battery – but more of that later). I just felt that while neither design was going to turn heads, the Zenfone just looks smoother, perhaps because the cameras on its back do not protrude the way they do on the Redmi Note 5 Pro. A personal tip: go for the black versions, the antenna bands are least visible on them.

If the cameras count?

On paper, this would appear to be a close battle – the Asus device has a 13+5 megapixel camera combination on the rear, and a 8.0-megapixel selfie camera (the 6 GB version has  16+5 cameras on the back, and a 16-megapixel camera in front, but the 6 GB variant is not yet available in India, although it is expected soon), and the Redmi Note 5 Pro has a 12+5 megapixel combination on the back and a 20.0-megapixel front facing camera. In truth, however, the Redmi Note 5 Pro wins this very easily indeed – the cameras, both back and front, are just more consistent, whether it is a matter of portrait snaps or regular photographs. The Zenfone Max Pro will deliver good photographs too from time to time, but it just is not consistent enough. I found details and colours a whole lot better on the Redmi Note 5 Pro.  

What about hardware?

Ah, the good old spec sheet. And this one is a very close call. Both phones have 5.99 inch, 18:9 aspect ratio displays with full HD+ resolution. Both have Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processors and both have plenty of RAM and storage for their segments. The Redmi Note 5 Pro has 4 GB/ 64 GB and 6 GB/ 64 GB variants while the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 has  3 GB/ 32 GB, 4 GB/ 64 GB and even a 6 GB/ 128 GB variant (the last yet to be launched). In terms of storage, however, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 has the benefit of having a dedicated microSD card slot besides dual SIM slots while the Redmi Note 5 Pro will make you give up one of the two SIM card slots for a memory card. The cameras I have already discussed. Connectivity options too are more or less similar, with support for 4G (on both SIMs on the Zenfone, though), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS. This leaves us with the battery – where the Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes with a whopping 5000 mAh battery as compared to the 4000 mAh one on the Redmi Note 5 Pro. It is very close but I am just handing this to the Zenfone for the bigger battery and the dedicated microSD card slot.

And if I want great software?

It depends on what you call great software. For you will have to choose between stock Android and one of its most popular skins. You want Android with very few third party apps and a great Android update record – the Zenfone Max Pro M1 has that (it is the first Asus phone to come with stock Android) and also runs Android 8.1. The Redmi Note 5 Pro on other hand runs Xiaomi’s feature rich MIUI on top of Android 7.1. Some might wince at the version of Android but the simple fact is that Xiaomi also has a very good track record of updating its UI and let’s face it, the interface does come with some very handy features, not least of which is a very good camera application (the one on the Zenfone Max Pro takes some getting used to). I know there’s a significant stock Android fan base out there but if you ask me, I would prefer MIUI simply for the features it adds to the device. Also, Asus’ implementation of stock Android is a trifle buggy, with apps crashing occasionally. That said, the company has a great record in delivering updates so I do not expect that to last for long.

Spec Comparison: Redmi Note 5 Pro vs Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1

Which of these handles games and multiple apps better?

I found that there was very little to complain on that front in either device, as long as you stick to similar RAM/Storage combinations – I tried the 4 GB/ 64 GB variants and the results were largely similar. Most games will be handled well be the phones. And multitasking works very well indeed. Both phones heat up a little under stress, but never touch alarming levels. I found the display of the Redmi Note 5 Pro to be a little richer when it came to displaying games and graphics but the audio quality of the Zenfone seemed better, especially on headphones. Either way, you will not be disappointed.

If I am a video and/or streaming music addict?

The displays are pretty evenly matched, I think, so that would be a close call – I prefer the one on the Redmi Note 5 Pro as I found it delivering slightly more punchy colours. But in audio, I think the Zenfone has the edge, especially for those using headphones. It also comes with a special box (the MaxBox) which can amplify the sound from its loudspeaker. Honestly, I found it a little gimmicky, but it does improve output a bit.

Also read: Full Review of the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1

What about call quality?

I personally found the Redmi Note 5 Pro handling calls better (networks seemed more stable in bad connectivity areas and sound was just a little bit clearer), but the difference between it and theZenfone Max Pro M1 was not a deal breaking one. Also, those with two 4G SIM connections will prefer the Zenfone Max Pro M1. Your call. Pun intended.

Which lasts longer on a single charge?

It is a battle between a 5000 mAh battery on the Zenfone and a 4000 mAh one on the Redmi. In terms of sheer duration, the Zenfone runs out a winner – it saw off two days very easily, while the Redmi Note 5 Pro had to be nursed carefully to get that far. To be honest, both devices are absolute treats when it comes to battery life, but yes, in terms of sheer numbers, the Force is with the Zenfone Max Pro M1.

I am on a tight budget. Which one should I buy?

No brainer. Either the 3 GB/32 GB edition of the Zenfone Max Pro M1 at Rs 10,999 or its 4 GB/ 64 GB avatar at Rs 12,999. The Redmi Note 5 Pro starts at Rs 14,999. That is a substantial difference at this price point.

Budget is not an issue. I can move a few rupees this way and that. Which one should I buy?

Both phones are incredibly evenly matched, but if budget is not an issue and you are not insane about battery life and/or stock Android, I would recommend the Redmi Note 5 Pro. It just delivers a more polished experience all in all. The cameras swing it for me, really. And for Mi too.

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Nimish Dubey

Nimish Dubey has been writing on technology since 1999. He has contributed to a number of publications and websites including The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Mint, Economic Times, Outlook, and India Today. He is currently the Editorial Mentor at TechPP.com and a regular contributor to Indian Express. When not writing, he loves to read and listen to classic rock.

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