Late in April, when Asus announced that it was going to launch a new smartphone, everyone thought it was going to be the Zenfone 5 that was showcased in MWC 2018. However, the Taiwanese brand surprised everyone by launching a completely new phone, the Zenfone Max Pro M1. It was promised to be a big battery, big display, and a performance-packed phone during the launch. Owing to its specifications and pricing (starts at Rs. 10,999), the Pro M1 is constantly being pitted against the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Since the latter is hard to get in flash sales, is the Zenfone Max Pro M1 worth considering? And does it hold up to the expectations set by the brand? Let’s find out.
Display, Design & Audio – Slim Build with a Bezel-Less Display!
The first thing on flipping open the phone’s packaging and revealing the phone is how tall a display the phone has. It spans 5.99-inches across and rocks an 18:9 aspect ratio. Since the front of the phone is largely occupied by the screen, there aren’t any physical buttons on the front. The fingerprint scanner, which I found a little smaller than the size of my index finger, is found on the back. As long as we are on the aspect of build design, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 is pretty tall a device and if you have small hands, it might be a bit tricky to handle. But then, the same goes for almost all the bezel-less Android phones as they measure around 6-inches on an average.
When we received the phone, we were assured by the good folks at Asus that there were going to be a couple of updates before the final launch and truly so, they did roll in. However, there were two things I was really looking for to be fixed with software updates, enabling of gestures using the fingerprint sensor and face unlocking. The latter bit has been addressed and the face unlock feature is now available in the phone. However, it was quite disappointing as the phone requires you to align your face in one particular manner to unlock. It rarely works in different alignments and positions which kind of ruins the purpose. I constantly found myself using the fingerprint sensor more and that is a bit cumbersome for a phone this size. It would have been nice if the phone had adopted something like the OnePlus 5T’s Face Unlock Assistive Lighting which allows the phone to capture the image in low-lighting. One may also argue that for its price range, we shouldn’t be comparing Asus’s Face unlock with either Oneplus or the iPhone! However, we feel that the feature needs more polishing before being useful.
The sound quality of the Zenfone Max Pro M1 is very impressive, both via speakers as well as the earphones. It definitely sounds better than the previous Zenfone phones that I have heard. Another great addition is that Asus packs in a MaxBox along with the phone which amplifies the speaker sound up to 1.5 times than normal. This is a nice freebie that is simple yet quite effective if you are into listening audio via the phone’s speaker.
So for someone looking forward to a whole-some entertainment experience, this phone won’t disappoint. The display is really good and so is the audio which offers an immersive multimedia experience.
Performance – The Zenfone Max Pro M1 Absolutely Nails it!
Underneath its hood, the Zenfone Max Pro rocks the very powerful and highly efficient Snapdragon 636 processor. This processor is the successor of the Snapdragon 625 processor which powered the Redmi Note 4 and Mi A1. With that said, the SD 636 is 15% faster and more efficient than its predecessor, so it results in an even better performance. Even the highly popular Redmi Note 5 Pro (which costs Rs. 2k more) runs on this same processor. In our tests, the phone absolutely breezed through most games, streaming videos or making calls and messaging. It did, however, show some frame drops when we run some heavy games for prolonged periods. On a normal day to day use, though, it showed no signs of lags, never froze randomly and was quite smooth in the overall operation.
The improved performance can also be attributed to the stock Android experience. This is the first smartphone by Asus to offer stock Android instead of the brand’s own ZenUI. We talked with Asus and they said that a lot of fans demanded stock Android instead of a custom UI. It is good to know that the brand is hearing its users and giving it to them. Even the updates seem to be faster owing to the same, we’ve already got two software updates since we started reviewing it. There are very minor customizations on Asus’ part, which we consider a good thing. The interface is much snappier and cleaner than the ZenUI. It comes with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box.
We used the 3GB RAM variant and achieved the above results. The phone is also available in a 4GB RAM variant which promises better multi-tasking. In terms of storage too, there are two variants, one with 32GB and the other one with 64GB. Additionally, you also get support for microSD expansion up to a massive 2TB. It has a dedicated memory card slot so you can also use 2 SIM cards and a microSD card simultaneously.
The Zenfone Max Pro M1 rocks a dual-rear camera setup comprising of a 13-megapixel and a 5-megapixel sensor. The dual setup on the back enables bokeh mode and optical zoom. Pictures from the rear camera are pretty decent in well-lit conditions. It struggles a bit in low-light though and images have a lot of noise if there is no adequate light.
One of the things that seemed a bit problematic is that manual focus takes a lot of time. There is a lot of latency after clicking on an object and the phone actually focussing on it. In some instances, it took more than 10 seconds to simply focus on an object. The same happens for auto-focus, it takes too long and often focuses on either the background or the wrong object.
There is an 8-megapixel camera on the front for clicking selfies and making video calls. Selfies turn out decent at best in outdoor conditions and were slightly disappointing indoors. On the positive side, there’s a selfie-flash which helps in brightening the selfies and it works well. Asus has done a great job in concealing the front flash under the black bezel. It almost looks like a proximity sensor.
The videos shot from the phone turn out a bit shaky but it isn’t a huge complaint as one can’t expect EIS in this price range.
Overall, the cameras on either side aren’t extraordinary but are decent enough considering their price range. If the camera is your top priority from a smartphone, the Max Pro M1 isn’t the best you can buy at this price.
One of the most important highlights of the device is its battery. The phone packs in a massive 5,000mAh battery unit! Despite rocking a mammoth of a battery underneath its shell, the phone manages to be super slim. In fact, this is the slimmest phone in the world to pack in a battery this big. With that out of the way, the phone isn’t a lazer thin one either, and you’d notice its width and weight on the very first instance you hold it. But that’s not totally a bad thing. With a weight of just (5000mAh) 180 gms, the phone feels just right to hold and the weight is evenly distributed giving it a good feel to handle. For comparison, the iPhone 8 Plus with about half of its battery weighs more than 200 gms. However, if you are coming from a super light-weight phone, this would feel slightly heavy but I would trade 2 days of battery life for a little extra weight any day.
On personal usage, the phone lasted almost 2 days consistently with average usage. For someone using the iPhone as a primary phone, it seems unreal when a phone’s battery lasts this long. If the battery is among the major things you look for in a smartphone, the Max Pro M1 has everything going for it. It is probably the best battery phone in the market currently.
One of the things I noticed is that the micro USB port is upside down for some reason. So everytime while charging the phone, you need to plug the micro USB cable inverted into the device. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack provided at the bottom of the device. All the other connectivity options including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS are available on the phone and they work fine.
Dual 4G VoLTE
The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is one of the very few phones in the market currently that supports Dual 4G VoLTE. This means you can insert two 4G VoLTE SIM cards and run it simultaneously. Most smartphones only allow a single 4G VoLTE SIM as of now and few of them are adding support soon, such as the Nokia 7 Plus. This is an additional bonus for those who desire to use two 4G VoLTE SIMs together in their phone.
Check out all the phones that support Dual 4G VoLTE in India.
Better than the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro, if you can ignore the camera performance ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The Zenfone Max Pro M1 does perform like a total champ, no doubt. But, if you are someone who takes camera performance to heart, you may be in for a slight disappointment. Apart from that if you are someone who keeps a gazillion applications in memory, the phone caps at 4GB of RAM for the top variant, whereas the Redmi Note 5 Pro does at 6GB. That being said, the Zenfone does come with a stock Android experience and that offers it an edge even with less RAM. Not to forget the offering by Asus is relatively cheaper (Rs. 13,000)than its Xiaomi counterpart (Rs. 17,000) and is more easily available *flash sale. cough*