Wednesday, November 14, 2018
MobileTechPinoy

ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 Review: Buy It for the Battery, Get Much More

While all eyes are on the ASUS ROG Phone, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 will likely sell a whole lot better. Not only is it significantly more affordable, but it also promises long battery life and great imaging for about Php10k. Does it deliver on that promise though? Well, ASUS Philippines was kind enough to lend me the 3GB/32GB variant for review and here are my findings. But first, let’s take a look at the specs as they would appear on paper.

ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 Specs

DISPLAYTypeIPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size5.99 inches, 92.1 cm2 (~76.2% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution1080 x 2160 pixels, 18:9 ratio (~404 ppi density)
MultitouchYes
PLATFORMOSAndroid 8.1 (Oreo)
ChipsetQualcomm SDM636 Snapdragon 636 (14 nm)
CPUOcta-core 1.8 GHz Kryo 260
GPUAdreno 509
MEMORYRAM3/4GB
ROM32/64GB
Expandable?microSD, up to 512 GB (dedicated slot)
CAMERAPrimary13 MP, f/2.2, 25mm, PDAF
5 MP, f/2.4, depth sensor
LED flash, HDR, panorama
Secondary8 MP, f/2.2, 26mm
CONNECTIVITYNetworkHSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE Cat4 150/50 Mbps
WLANWi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth5.0, A2DP, LE
GPSYes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
FM RadioNo
USBmicroUSB 2.0, USB On-The-Go
BATTERYmAhNon-removable Li-Po 5000 mAh battery
MISCSensorsFingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, proximity, compass, gyroscope, ambient light sensor
ColorsMeteor Silver, Deepsea Black
Body159 x 76 x 8.5 mm (6.26 x 2.99 x 0.33 in)
180 g (6.35 oz)
Front glass, aluminum body
Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
PricePhp9,995 for 3GB+32GB
Php12,995 for 4GB+64GB

What’s in the Box?

As big as the Zenfone Max Pro is, I’ve seen smaller phones come in larger boxes. Surprisingly though, it comes with a little more than the usual retail package.

  • Handset
  • Clear soft case
  • SIM ejector tool
  • In-ear headset with in-line mic
  • Replacement buds for in-ear headset
  • Micro USB to USB cable
  • 2A output wall charger
  • User’s guide
  • Warranty card

So yeah, most of that is the norm, but the clear soft case is a nice extra that lets you skip on that inevitable extra purchase.

Build Quality and Design

While there’s nothing about the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro’s design that we haven’t seen already in 2018, it’s still very much a modern smartphone. The 5.99 inch screen and its 18:9 aspect ratio allow it to achieve a higher screen-to-body ratio.

At a quick glance, you might mistake it for an iPhone sans a home button due to its rounded edges and corners. It’s slightly thicker and heavier than other smartphones of this screen size. However, you’ll hardly mind since it’s housing a massive 5,000mAh battery and the weight and handling becomes a non-issue after a few minutes with the phone.

Display

The Zenfone Max Pro M1 sports a 5.99 inch FHD+ (1080 x 2160) IPS display with a pixel density of 404ppi and if you’re not a fan of notched displays, I’m happy to report that it doesn’t have one. As expected of this panel type, you’re getting great brightness, color reproduction, and viewing angles. Contrast leaves just a slight bit to be desired though. It’s not that bad, although it isn’t that good either.

Software and UI

The ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 runs Android Oreo 8.1 out of the box that looks looks really close to stock. Unlike ASUS’ cartoony ZenUI, this iteration is much easier on the eyes in my opinion although that could be subjective. The advantage of this though is there isn’t a lot of extra bloat to bog the UX down.

Benchmarks and Performance

Thanks to a capable Snapdragon 636 SoC, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 is able to handle just about any app you could throw at it from the Play Store with its eight¬†1.8 GHz Kryo 260 cores. Of course, it isn’t a top-tier SoC by any means, but you’ll rarely feel like the device is lacking in the performance department. Still, here are some benchmark scores to give you an idea of how well it performs:

  • Antutu – 112,326
  • Geekbench CPU
    • Single Core – 1,325
    • Multi-core – 4,849
  • Geekbench Compute – 4,605
  • PCMark Work 2.0 – 6,062

Connectivity

The aforementioned Snapdragon 636 SoC affords the Zenfone Max Pro M1 with up to 4G/LTE data connectivity, with support for the LTE 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, and 40 bands. You also get WiFi a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 5.0. Unfortunately, you’re only getting a micro USB 2.0 port instead of Type-C.

Camera

Just because the Zenfone Max Pro emphasizes battery performance doesn’t mean ASUS forgot about anything else, particularly the cameras. In this case, the phone comes with a dual rear camera setup (13mp+5mp) and LED flash. You get all the normal camera modes you’d expect from most smartphones: Auto, HDR, Panorama, and Night mode. However, you also get a few extra that you might not often see: Sports, Landscape, Flowers, Backlight, Sunset, Beach, and even Snow! Unfortunately, the samples below have been heavily down-sized. Please check out the album on Facebook for higher quality versions.

And of course, that second camera affords it another mode: Depth effect. Otherwise known among iPhone users as portrait mode, it uses the second camera to capture depth information to simulate a blurred background while keeping the subject in focus. The Zenfone Max Pro M1 achieves this well enough, without that distinctive cutout effect that’s immediately apparent on lower end dual camera implementations.

The selfie camera is where they had to cut corners though. You’re only getting an 8mp fixed focus shooter, although interestingly it too has a portrait mode to achieve blurred backgrounds despite only having one camera to do it with.

Gaming

It would be far-fetched to expect a phone priced at under Php10k to perform well as a gaming platform and you’d mostly be right. The Adreno 509 GPU gives the Zenfone Max Pro just enough oomph to play any game out there but the graphics will be far from perfect. There’ll be significant frame drops here and there and you’ll never be able to max out the details on the higher end games. Still, most casual users will be satisfied with the Max Pro M1’s gaming prowess.

Multimedia

The wider 18:9 aspect ratio offers a unique viewing experience at times as a lot of movies are shot in wider than 16:9 aspect ratios. However, since most other video content is shot in 16:9, you’ll end up with pillar-boxing (black bars on the sides) a lot of times.

Audio will be a slightly better experience, especially if you prefer to listen using the loudspeakers a lot as the ones on the Zenfone Max Pro M1 are particularly loud with minimal distortion at max volume. Of course, if you go for a headset, you’ll be happy to know the 3.5mm headset jack is alive and well on this phone.

If you like to download your media rather than stream them though, you’ll quickly find that the 22GB available storage from the advertised 32GB is too limited. Thankfully, there’s a dedicated micro SD slot if that ever becomes a problem.

Battery Life

This being a Zenfone Max phone, you’d expect it to get great results in this section of the review. You won’t be disappointed. I ran it on GFXBench’s T-Rex battery life test, which loops the test 30x and measures how much is depleted then translates that into overall battery life. Based on the results, you can use the Zenfone Max Pro M1 for about 9.5 hours of straight gaming. For normal everyday applications, I was able to make it last roughly 2 and a half days before I ever had to charge.

So Should You Buy It?

If you’re buying the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1, it’s for the battery life. And you won’t be disappointed. Its 5,000mAh battery will give you more than a couple of day’s worth of up time and 9.5 hours of gaming time. However, it manages to over-deliver as well, packing a decent screen and cameras for a better all-around experience. Sure, the Zenfone Max Pro isn’t perfect, but ASUS cut off just the right corners so it never feels like a compromise.

About The Author

Back when I started MobileTechPinoy in 2012, phablets weren't a thing yet. I enjoyed the stares I got from iPhone owners whenever I whipped out my Samsung Galaxy Note at the time. I'm much more budget-conscious these days though and am perfectly fine with using phones from any of our locally brands.