Tech 22 Jun
Since last few years Max series from Asus has carved its own niche. These phones are preferred by users who need a really long battery life and a decent performance. The only reason why these phones didn’t work maybe was because of the bloatware laden laggy Zen-UI. Another thing that Asus was guilty of was incorrect pricing.
However, taking a cue from the success of Xiaomi’s Redmi series smartphones, the Taiwanese company launched a smartphone with probably the most-weird name, Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1. Keep aside the name, the M1 has a lot of things going in its favor. On paper it looks like a perfect 2018 budget Android device which has a large display with 18:9 aspect ratio, a 5000 mAh battery, a more than decent processor, and most importantly near stock android experience. However, to see how the Zenfone Pro M1 performs in real life scenario, read the detailed review below.
76 x 159 x 8.46 mm
5.99 inches - 2160x1080 px
In the box you get:
- Asus Zenfone Pro M1
- User manuals
- Sim ejector tool
- Standard Micro USB charging cable
- A 5V/2A charging brick
- And MaxBox (a cardboard box that boosts audio from phones speakers)
SAR Value of Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 is 0.549 W/kg@1g (Head) and 1.340 W/kG@1g (body)
The phone feels good and sturdy right out of the box. It is heavy enough to give you a reassuring feeling. Although the phone is slightly larger than normal. It comes with the display sized at 5.99-inch diagonally and with bezels at top and bottom making single-handed operation difficult.
The front of the phone is devoid of any buttons, in fact, all we have the front facing speakers, front firing earpiece, and other sensors. On the right of the device, we have a volume rocker and a power button. The power button has Asus’s concentric circular texture that helps in differentiating it with the volume button. The buttons feel sturdy and give a good tactile feedback. On the left, we have a triple slot sim tray made out of metal that houses a micro SD card and two Nano sim cards. A 3.5mm audio jack, a micro USB charging port, and bottom firing speakers are located at the bottom of the handset while on the back we have a vertical dual rear camera setup, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and Asus branding.
Asus has ensured that the design of the phone is kept subtle. We have the midnight black color variant and the phone looks elegant in its all black avatar. The phone has an aluminum back plate with plastic covers on top and bottom. It has rounded corners and edges and thankfully it is non-slippery.
The dual camera setup is non-protruding and sits flush with the body of the device. The fingerprint sensor is easily reachable and works most of the time. Although it was not the most accurate initially however after OTA updates we never faced any issues. Unlike a few other mid-budget segment devices, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 does not come with any earphones, screen protector or a case in the box.
We are quite happy with the overall build quality and design of the Zenfone Max Pro M1. It is one of the sturdiest phones around. Though it’s a bit on the heavier side, that’s mostly due to the large 5000 mAh battery pack. A USB Type C could've been better, however, we cant be expecting too many things at this budget
The Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 clocked at 1.86 GHz and is available in multiple variants based on storage and RAM. There are 3GB/32GB, 4GB/64 GB and a 6GB/64GB storage variant, which has not yet started retailing till now. We are reviewing the 3GB/32GB storage variant.
No surprise that Asus is using the same processor that powers its main competitor the Redmi Note 5 Pro and while the Zenfone Max Pro M1 is priced at Rs. 10,999 the Xiaomi phone with the same processor is priced at Rs. 14,999, it, however, comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage.
The 6-inch display on Max Pro M1 comes with 18:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 1080*2160 pixels. The phone has a quite sharp display and produces vibrant colors. The display although was not best but was usable outdoors.
Asus is using stock Android for the Zenfone Pro M1. Although it’s not a part of the Android One program, however, this is a pleasant change since the earlier Zen UI was highly cluttered and full of bloatware. The vanilla Android offers smooth performance, is fast and zippy too. This will indeed be liked by Android purists and Asus loyalists both.
The phone runs on Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box and has received a few updates already during our review period. Apart from Google Suite, there are a very few third-party apps that come pre-installed like Facebook, Instagram and Asus’s Go2Pay. While you may or may not need these but you cant uninstall them either. Asus has claimed that the phone will be supported with software updates till Android Q.
Even though we tested the 3GB RAM variant, gaming on Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 was a breeze. We never faced any lags or hiccups. Thanks to the Snapdragon 636 chipset, the phone is able to handle almost everything thrown at it.
This highlights the fact that if the UI is well optimized, you really do not need 6GB or 8GB of RAM on a phone.
For the ones who love to compare phones basis benchmark scores, here are the scores of Asus Zenfone Max Pri M1 on top two benchmarking apps. Remember, benchmarks don’t always tell you the true story about the performance of devices and should be just considered as an additional parameter, not as a basis of selection.
The battery on this phone is its USP and with regular calls and more than average multimedia usage, it easily could last a day and a half. During our testing, we found that the phone still had almost 15% battery around noon the next day. People with moderate usage can expect more backup from this 5000 mAh battery. The charger supplied with the phone does not mention “Qualcomm Quick charge” however was able to charge the phone fully in about 3 hours.
Though the bottom firing speaker on the phone is loud enough, although the audio wasn’t the crispiest at the top volume level. Asus has included a sound amplifying MaxBox made out of cardboard, with the device which doubles up as a phone stand as well. This MaxBox does considerably increase the volume, however, isn’t much help since it is tedious to watch videos in landscape mode.
If at all there is any weak link in Asus Zenfone Max Po M1, it is in the camera section. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel dual camera setup with f/2.2 and f/2.0 aperture at the back and an 8-megapixel selfie camera with 5P lens, f/2.0 aperture, and 85-degree field of view.
The camera struggles to focus correctly and quickly. It was a bigger disappointment, however, a couple of updates have improved the camera performance ever so slightly still, it does not stand anywhere near even the Redmi Note 5’s camera performance.
Photos, in general, look ok with ample lighting however with unfavorable lighting conditions considerable noise can be noticed. Edge detection is not up to the mark and BOKEH effect is a hit and miss game too.
The camera app creates a lot of confusion due to the layout. Single hand operation of the camera is quite impossible until and unless you just want to use it as point and shoot camera. It has a Pro-photography mode however you can’t find that under modes on the left-hand sides. Instead, all the options are under camera settings on the left, separately. For every action, you need to take at least 2-3 steps extra which is irritating most of the times.
Images clicked from the front camera, only under proper lighting are decent, else looks like images taken directly from a web camera. For shooting videos there are a ton of options available most of them are obsolete and adds to the confusion. While shooting videos as well the camera loses focus regularly.
Though there have been a few improvements in the camera UI and performance, the app needs an overhaul including the default fonts too.
After having used so many Asus devices, we can say finally Asus has got the pricing vs configuration correct. The phone outperforms the competition easily however wherever it fails, it does so miserably. The company had announced a 6GB variant during the launch still there is no information regarding its availability. Also, Asus while competing with Xiaomi has picked up the worst thing from the competition, that Flash Sales. If the company really wants to sell the Max Pro M1 that it should improve the camera performance and ditch the flash sales. The phone has everything in it to be a top seller.
We give Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 a 3.5 of 5 mainly because of the poor camera performance