The New Asus Zenfone Max Review (May 2016)

  • Display

  • Build Quality

  • Performance

  • Camera

  • Value for Money

Good 4.7

When it comes to budget devices, Asus has done an incredible job with their Zenfone Max device, that packs 5000 mAh battery life and incredible features under just Rs.10,000. And just after 5 months of release, they have brought customized upgrade to a ‘specially made for India’ Zenfone Max, that packs more storage, more horsepower and promises better performance.

Following is the review of all new Asus Zenfone Max that comes with octa-core processor & the variants of 2GB & 3GB of RAM.

You might also want to read: 10 Smartphones with 3GB RAM under just Rs.15,000!

New Asus Zenfone Max Review ( ZC550KL-6A072IN)

Physical Appearance & Build Quality

The new Zenfone Max comes in 2 new colors – Orange and Blue, and it is also available in existing white and black colors. The contrast metallic ring is stronger and looks much better with this new orange color that I have received, and the etching on the back cover provides a much-needed grip for this big device

There are not many changes at the front side, as you get speakers on the top along with sensors, and the physical capacitive keys at the bottom followed by the glossy black metallic plate.

The orange color at black looks very uncommon to other colors in smartphones, and can easily become a style statement for some. The camera with dual-LED flash pops out at the top side of the back cover along with a mic, whereas big speaker panel is on the bottom side.

Zenfone Max has 3.5mm jack on the top to plug in your favorite set of headphones, and on the bottom, you have a mic and microUSB port for charging. The micro-USB port can be used to reverse charge any other device, meaning you can use this smartphone as a power bank, something we have already seen work great in original Zenfone Max.

The left side has no ports,  whereas the right side has the power button and volume rockers, that gives nice tactile feedback and feels solid to use.

The back cover is surprisingly thin yet feels sturdy, and is easy to remove from the body. The battery, however, is not removable, just like the last generation. You will find 2 SIM card slots on the top, with a microUSB slim slot for expanding storage up to 64GB.

Display

The display is still 1280×720 HD, but the pixel density is now 3 20PPI compared to 267PPI in the last generation.

Watching movies or playing games on this big screen is an awesome experience. The display is an IPS panel, making it easy to look at from any angle, and the color reproduction is quite impressive for the sub-10K device. The images look colorful and vibrant on this screen, making it easier for eyes to use for a long time.

DSCN9450

The text rendering on this device is quite sharp at the highest zoom, which makes it a great device for prolonged reading on a browser or kindle ebooks.

Performance

The device now comes with Octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor, twice as much faster than the previous generation Max and 32GB storage are on board to store much more photos, movies, and music. The RAM is now beefed up to 3GB, but you can still buy the base version with 2GB memory.

Talking about performance, this all new Zenfone Max scored over 37,000 in Antutu Benchmark, and 651 in Geekbench for single core performance & 2869 for the multi-core. This shows the new device is 60-70% as much faster compared to original Zenfone Max. The single core performance is theoretically close to Samsung Galaxy S4, but the multi-core performance is almost between Oneplus One & Samsung Galaxy S5, which are twice and thrice as much expensive devices as of now.

This performance would get even better with the 3GB RAM variant, but the price difference is significant in that case.

Browsing

Browsing on this device is very fluent, and you can browse a number of tabs of Chrome at the same time, without compromising any performance. The features like Kinetic Scrolling & Pinch to Zoom are very responsive, making the overall browsing experience very productive.

Gaming on Zenfone Max was a great experience, thanks to the Adreno 405 GPU coupled with the new high-performance hardware. We played some mid-level games for prolonged times and experience nominal warmness. The frame rates were solid, even for the multiplayer games on Wi-Fi, and load times have significantly increased compared to the previous generation of Zenfone Max.

Camera

With so many phones we have tested so far, the camera app from the Zenfone series offers the most customization and stylizations, especially since the Zenfone Zoom launch. The camera app lets you take great pictures by offering pre-set formats like smiles, miniature ( the depth of field effect) , slow motion and so much more.  The most useful of all is a super-resolution that packs much more pixels per photograph, making it crystal clear even on the highest zoom.

The 13 MP rear camera has f/2.0 aperture and comes with fastest 0.03 laser autofocus technology. The 5P largan lens in the Max is well-known for its precision, and also Toshiba BSI high sensitivity sensor, to capture images even in shaky situations.

The quality of pictures in outdoor has improved, whereas, for the indoor, you have to switch to a low light mode to take better pictures.

The videos can be recorded in 1080 Full HD, that produce really nice effects even indoors. You can tweak the focus during the recording, which is quite amazing. You can also use the manual mode controls provided with the default camera app, in the video as well, so for camera & filming enthusiasts, this is nothing less than a treat.

The 5MP front camera still struggles to take good photos in low light, however, it takes better selfies with the beatification filter on. The front camera has 85-degree wide angle to pack as many friends as you can in a perfect selfie. The front camera is good enough for video calling, and selfies, but I did not find any improvements here compared to original Zenfone Max.

Following are some of the sample photos taken by the all new Zenfone Max.

Click here for Super Resolution photo sample in low light  – Indoor

Music & Movies

The biggest benefit of a 5.5 inch IPS display is always going to media consumption, be it a music video or watching movies.

With the increased specifications, you can watch videos in 1080P Full HD and even 4K resolutions without any stutter or lag.

The sound quality on this device is decent, with loud and crisp sounds that are good enough to be heard across the room. The vocals are impressive compared to other devices I have, whereas the bass is on the average side. The bass gets better when you use the earphones, and will depend on the quality of earphone  itself.

The earphones are not provided in the box, but with my Sennheiser HD180 headphones, I enjoyed listening to music on Zenfone Max.

I have already discussed the well designed ZenUI and a great set of pre-installed apps that comes with it in Original Zenfone Max Review, which you can watch here.

Battery Life

The non-removable 5000 mAh battery on this thing is massive in every manner. It can provide you up to 38 days of standby time, and 3 days long battery life on a single charge.

You can watch up to 22 hours of videos, user the browser for straight 32 hours on Wi-Fi or talk 37.6 hours on 3g talk time. These claims from Asus are hard to test in first two days we have used this device, but based on our current usage, we can easily relate to these figures are being true.

Since last 2 days, I am casually using this device for testing, playing games and downloading on WiFi, and I still have 68% of battery left. Impressive, isn’t it?

It takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to charge this device, which should have been provided with fast charging technology considering the battery size.

And like I have mentioned before you can use this phone as a power bank to charge other devices, a feature more useful for friends around you unless you carry two devices.

Verdict

This upgrade to original Zenfone Max has come way too early. But considering the significant changes Asus has done with this device, it has become one solidly built budget smartphone under Rs.10,000 with most features.

There are very hardly one or two good smartphones in that budget I could recommend, and nothing that offers so much storage space along with massive battery as much as the new Zenfone Max. For the price of Rs.9,999, I will highly recommend going for the 2GB variant of this smartphone for the increased performance and improved the camera. And if you are looking for the extra performance juice, the 3GB RAM version would cost at Rs.12,999.

Amol Wagh

Author of Game Marketing Book: Market Your Indie Game Like A Pro! 7 years of Tech Blogging & Digital Marketing. Co-founder at Dotline Inc & a Gamer. Follow me on Twitter @amolwagh, @amol.wagh