Review: ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1
Best budget phone in India?
Now is a very good time to be a person looking for a budget smartphone in India. A segment that was once dominated by Xiaomi and Motorola now has added competition from the likes of ASUS, RealMe, Nokia etc. But as we all know, more options mean higher indecisiveness. Here to help you decide, welcome to our ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 review.
Asus has had great phones in the past, but the pricing has usually been higher than expected. All of that changed with the Zenfone Max Pro, by not only serving as another option but actually going head to head with the current market leaders.
The phone has a premium yet simple design. The back is made out of metal, which is a little slippery to hold. I would recommend getting a case if you are clumsy. There’s a fingerprint scanner in the center and the cameras are located vertically on the corner. Definitely not a head-turning device. It’s available in a Grey color variant also.
The display on the front is a 6-inch FHD+ LCD panel. Yes, the aspect ratio is 18:9, like most 2018 phones. The display is fine, good brightness, just that the vividness could be a little higher. Maybe, my expectations are spoilt by using high-end flagships with AMOLED displays. The white reproduction was a little yellow.
Most apps scale properly to this aspect ratio now, which was a problem with some of the earlier phones with tall displays.
The phone performs smoothly most of the time. Regular day to day usage of social media, texting, photography etc. will not slow down the phone. It is definitely one of the most responsive phones you can get for the price. I even tried pushing the phone to its limits by playing Asphalt 8 for a while, and the performance was better than I expected. Very few frame drops. The Snapdragon 636 at the heart of this phone provides a very good balance between performance and battery life. If your expectations are reasonably within the price segment, then the performance will not disappoint.
Heating issues were also hardly present, except when updating or heavy gaming.
The powerful performance can also be attributed to the clean software.
The big talking point of this phone was getting a stock Android experience at a very reasonable price tag. None of the previously mentioned competitors provide a stock Android experience, save for Nokia. Asus still calls this ZenUI, but the changes are very few. You get some additional gesture support, Face Unlock(which works very well) and a few ASUS pre-installed apps. Everything else is pretty clean. And that reflects in the regular usage of the phone. Currently, the phone is on Android 8.1 and is guaranteed to get 2 years of updates.
Having no unnecessary skin means that the processing can be used for actual performance. Such differences are evident when compared to the other phones in this price bracket.
One of the places where cost-cutting is a little more evident is the camera segment. When it comes to the camera, ASUS phones performed quite well in the past. But not this time. For basic on the go snapping and document scanning, you will be fine. But, we found it to be generally mediocre. The Camera UI on this device is very outdated. Also, dynamic range and clarity were a little lesser than what we’d like. Even the pro mode and panorama options are missing. Here, have a look at a few other photo samples.
Though, the portrait mode on this phone was decent enough. Video recording on this device is above average. Notably, the phone supports 4k recording as well.
The camera app is the reference app on Snapdragon devices, which ASUS doesn’t seem to have touched a lot. Even sideloading Google camera doesn’t work properly.
Have a look at these camera samples:
Along with a fairly efficient processor, you also get a giant 5000mAh battery inside. ASUS has done a great job in fitting a giant battery in such a slim form factor. The battery life, as expected was way above average. Killing this phone in a day was very difficult when I wanted to test the charging speeds, which by the way takes around two and a half hours to reach 100 percent. Not the fastest, but considering the battery size, I’ll take it! The screen on time was about 50 percent higher than what I’d get on a standard smartphone. Light users can expect a single charge to last for two days.
However, I need to mention that the battery life isn’t all that much higher than the Redmi Note 5, which has a 4,000 mAh battery.
Let’s quickly cover all the small stuff, before we wrap up. The built quality and buttons are great, but the back catches smudges easily. There’s a complementary free 100GB Google Drive storage for one year. The Speaker and headphone output are decent, and you also get a MaxBox to amplify and direct the audio towards you. The front camera also has a flash. The fingerprint scanner is slightly slow, but it is supposed to get faster in one of the upcoming updates. I would have also liked this phone to have a USB Type C connector. Looking at how this phone is futuristic with its display, software, and battery, I see this becoming an issue after a few years.
UPDATE: The MaxBox broke within a month of use.
Summing it all up, the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 is a solid budget offering, with great performance and exceptional battery life. For anyone looking for a good budget offering with a clean android experience, this is one of the best that’s there!
The closest competition is the RedMi Note 5 from Xiaomi. Without getting into extreme details, both phones are pretty similar in their functioning and price points, and the differentiating factor will be your Software preference.