Asus, the company which is famous for making premium laptops had never really had great success in the budget smartphone market of India which is dominated by companies like Xiaomi, Motorola, and Nokia. However, all that might change very soon as Asus has just launched their new budget offering, the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (starts at ₹10,999), and on paper it seems like a great budget device. However, does the on-paper specs of Asus ZenFone Max Pro can survive the real world usage. Well, that is what we will try to find out here as we review the Asus ZenFone Max Pro:
Before we get into the real world performance of the device, let us take the paper specs out of the way. The paper specs help in setting our expectation of the phone and it’s a great place to start the review. Also, the phone is available in multiple versions as you can see in the spec sheet. The device that we are reviewing has a 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM.
|Name||Asus ZenFone Max Pro|
|Dimensions||159 x 76 x 8.5 mm|
|Display||5.99-inch IPS LCD (1080 x 2160 pixels)|
|Processor||Qualcomm SDM636 Snapdragon 636|
|Dual camera setup - 13 MP (f/2.2) + 5 MP|
|Battery||5000 mAh battery|
|Android 8.1 (Oreo)|
|Sensors||Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, proximity sensor, compass|
|Connectivity||GSM/HSPA/LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n|
What’s In the Box
The Asus ZenFone Max Pro comes in a normal cardboard box which is not surprising seeing it is a budget device. The box can be opened with a slide out function and harbors a surprise accessory along with all the usual accessories that we have come to expect from smartphone. Anyways, here is everything that you get inside the box:
- Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1
- Sim Ejector Tool
- Charging Brick
- USB-A to micro USB Cable
- Max-box amplifier
Design and Build Quality
When it comes to design and build quality no one can hide from the fact that the Asus ZenFone Max Pro looks eerily similar to the Redmi Note 5 Pro. I mean, look at them side by side in the picture below, it’s hard to tell them apart. I understand that Asus is not the only company guilty of taking inspiration from other smartphones, however, what I don’t like is that even when inspired by the Note 5 Pro, Asus was not able to nail the build quality of the device.
The device just feels a little too big and bulky in the hands and weight is not the reason. In fact, the Asus ZenFone Max Pro weighs 1 gram less than the Redmi Note 5 Pro, still, it feels bulkier and hard to handle than the latter. It feels that Asus has not perfectly distributed the weight of the device and hence it doesn’t sit properly in hands. Handling aside, the Asus ZenFone Max Pro doesn’t even look as good as the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The back is, let’s say boring and a fingerprint magnet. It gets dirty pretty easily and it’s definitely not pleasing to the eye.
That said, not everything is bad here. The fingerprint sensor at the back is placed in just the right position and can be easily reached with one hand. I did notice that the fingerprint sensor was a little slow, but hopefully Asus will fix this with a software update.
I also really like the buttons on the ZenFone Max Pro. They are tactile and just feel nice and clicky. Then, there’s the notification LED, the headphone jack, the triple slots for two SIM cards and a microSD card, everything that I love in a budget device. I do wish that Asus included the USB-C charging port instead of the micro USB, but I guess we cannot have everything.
When it comes to the display, The Asus ZenFone Max Pro comes with a 5.99-inch Full HD+ IPS LCD display and the display has great color reproduction, good contrast, and it looks decent even in direct sunlight. I love that the fact that Asus also embraced the 18:9 form factor for its display which makes the device look more modern. You will love this device if you consume a ton of media on your smartphone. The big and bright screen that the Asus ZenFone Max Pro packs just makes everything pop.
I would have given Asus ZenFone Max Pro ten out of ten when it comes to display if not for one major problem. The display doesn’t come with Gorilla Glass protection which means that it’s going to get scratched pretty fast. The display also won’t be able to survive even the minor drops. My advice, keep this phone inside a case and install a screen protector as soon as you get this phone.
When it comes to user interface, I love what Asus has done here. Instead of going with its god-awful ZenUI which came with a ton of bloatware, for Asus ZenFone Max Pro, the company has gone with a pure stock Android experience, and I love it. What’s even better is that the phone launched with the latest Android 8.1 Oreo with the company promising regular and fast update till Android Q. Do keep in mind that, although it’s near stock Android, Asus has not tied up with Google under Android One program, so your updates will be deployed by Asus and not Google.
As it’s not Android One, the Asus ZenFone Max Pro does come with some pre-installed apps including Asus apps (a Calculator app, a sound recorder app and an FM Radio app), along with Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, which I wouldn’t call bloatware as 99% of us install those apps on your devices anyway.
Along with these apps, the Android build here comes with various cool gestures, like double tap to wake or lock the device, letter gestures to open certain apps, and more. These gestures are certainly very handy and I especially like the double tap to wake and lock gestures.
That’s not all, the device also comes with Face Unlock and in my usage, it’s not as fast as I would like but it definitely works well and is certainly a nice addition.
Overall, I am pretty impressed with what Asus has done here and the software of this phone is certainly the USP of the device for me.
The phone comes with the Octa-core Snapdragon 636 processor and has up to 6 gigs of RAM. We have the 3GB variant of the phone and in benchmark tests, the phone is on par with the Redmi Note 5 Pro, which features the same processor. But that’s just numbers, the phone performs well in real-world usage too. I have been using the ZenFone Max Pro as my primary phone and I can tell you that the performance is really good. The phone can easily handle day-to-day usage as it is pretty snappy when it comes to launching apps, switching between apps, browsing on the web, and any usual activity which perform with our smartphones.
The phone can also handle multiple apps and intensive games like PUBG like a pro. I played both PUBG and Asphalt 8 on this device and I didn’t find the phone stuttering anywhere. The only time the Asus ZenFone Max Pro stutters a bit is when you have a ton of apps open in the background, but that’s very rare, and I can live with that. Overall, the performance of the phone is on par with the best devices in its price range.
Moving on to the cameras on the ZenFone Max Pro, The phone comes with a 13MP+5MP dual camera setup with a single LED flash. I know there’s no dual LED flash but c’mon who even uses flash to take photos anymore. In the daytime, the photos captured by the ZenFone Max Pro are decent to okay-ish. I mean, the photos are sharp and nice but they lack details and the colors are a bit oversaturated and warm.
When it comes to low light photos, the ZenFone Max Pro is average, like most phones in this price range. The photos lack details and just aren’t sharp enough.
So, lets compare it with the Redmi Note 5 Pro to see how the phone performs against its biggest competitor.
As you can see, the photos from Redmi Note 5 Pro have more natural colors and more details than the ones captured with the Asus ZenFone Max Pro.
Let’s move on to portrait mode shots. In good lighting, the ZenFone Max Pro takes decent to great portrait shots and it’s pretty decent even in lowlight. I mean, take a look at the pictures below, they are so good. Seeing how it’s priced, the Asus Zenfone Max Pro delivers very good portrait shots and we love the phone for it.
The Asus ZenFone Max Pro brings the portrait mode to the front-facing 8 MP camera too. In good light, the phone can take good portrait mode shots. However, the front camera is just not good enough to handle the low light situations.
Lastly, the ZenFone Max Pro also comes with 4K video recording, which is nice to see in a budget smartphone but the performance here is below average. The videos captured by the ZenFone Max Pro aren’t very stable and the camera has problems focusing. The camera does have EIS which works at 1080p however even then it doesn’t make much of a difference. You can check out the video samples in our video review linked below (starts at 5:11). The only thing I can say here is that there’s not one person who is going to buy this phone for its video quality. That said, not many of us shoot videos with our phones, and the Asus ZenFone Max Pro pulls off where it really matters, which is the photos department.
Telephony and Audio Quality
Asus had done a good job with Asus ZenFone Max Pro when it comes to telephony. I am surprised how many phones get the most basic thing that a phone is supposed to do wrong but the Asus ZenFone Max Pro is not one of them. Calls sounded clear on both sides and even the noise cancellation of the phone is pretty impressive considering its price range.
As far as the speakers are concerned, they are bottom firing but they get pretty loud. The base isn’t very good and the treble gets a tad uncomfortably high at higher volumes, but the overall sound quality is pretty good. Also, the fact that the ZenFone Max Pro ships with a passive Max-box amplifier which makes the phone sound great is a plus in my books. If you still don’t like the sound quality, you can always put on a pair of headphones.
Asus ZenFone Max Pro also gets the connectivity right. The smartphone cannot only accommodate tow nano-SIM cards but also has a third slot for microSD card. I mean, most of the phones today make us choose between a secondary SIM and a microSD card as they offer a hybrid slot, but not Asus. With Asus ZenFone Max Pro you can use both. The phone also has a headphone jack and micro USB charging port.
When it comes to network connectivity, it supports the latest 802.11 WIFI, LTE, and HSPA Network. I have used this phone on both home and office WiFi and Vodafone 4G network and I was constantly getting good download and upload speeds. Network and connectivity shouldn’t be a problem with this phone.
ZenFone Max Pro comes with a massive 5000 mAh battery and quite expectedly, the battery performance here is just amazing. I mean, starting the day with 100% battery, the ZenFone Max Pro would barely get to around 50% by the end of the day and that’s like at midnight. I mean, the phone easily lasted me around 2 days on a single charge. I am definitely impressed.
Plus, the ZenFone Max supports fast charging and there is a 10W fast charger in the box. The phone goes from 10 to 100% in 2 hours and that is impressive. I know it sounds like a lot of time but consider that it’s a 5000 mAh battery we are talking about. If you remember our ultimate charging test video, phones with around 3000 mAh batteries take around 1 and a half hours to fully charge. So, 2 hours for 5000 mAh is actually pretty good.
Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1: The New Budget King?
Well, that was all about the ZenFone Max Pro. So, is it really the new budget king? Honestly, it’s not, but it definitely gets close. Look, the ZenFone Max Pro has a beautiful display, got great performance, brings stock Android Oreo with confirmed updates till Q, has a massive 5,000 mAh battery, and it won’t be available in an annoying flash sale. That’s a lot of positives but there are somethings that the phone gets wrong which stops us from crowning it the budget king. The cameras are ordinary, the design and build quality is a little below par, and what I hate the most is that there is no Gorilla Glass protection for the display.
So, should you buy the ZenFone Max Pro which starts at ₹10,999? Well, if you are confused between the ZenFone Max Pro and the Redmi Note 5, the ZenFone Max Pro is just better. There’s just no doubt here. In fact, the ZenFone Max Pro makes a good case against the Redmi Note 5 Pro too but falls behind when it comes to the looks and the camera and that’s the 3GB variant we are talking about. Maybe the 6GB variant with a better camera can beat the Redmi Note 5 Pro’s camera. Anyways, the answer is yes, starting at 10,999, the ZenFone Max Pro is a phone that I’ll recommend. Its pros far outweigh its cons. Plus, Flipkart is offering the “Complete Protection Plan” with the phone at just Rs. 49, which makes the deal even sweeter.
- Near Stock Android with promised update till Android Q
- 5000 mAh Battery
- Good connectivity
- Video capture is plain bad
- Bland and boring design
- No Gorilla Glass protection for the display
Buy From Flipkart: starts at ₹10,999
Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 Review: So Close to Being the Budget Champion
Asus ZenFone Max Pro is one of the best budget smartphones you can buy. If not for its below-par camera, bland design, and the absence of Gorilla Glass protection on its display, this smartphone would have been the best budget smartphone once can buy in its price segment. Even after having these shortcomings, Asus ZenFone Max Pro is our choice above the regular Redmi Note 5 which is a testament to its prowess.