Asus Zenfone 3S Max (ZC521TL): Review

Asus Zenfone 3s MaxIt has been 3 months since the launch of Asus Zenfone 3 Max smartphone and an incremental update was due. The Zenfone Max series of smartphones have always been about delivering the maximum possible battery life without making too many compromises. On that note, Asus has launched the Asus Zenfone 3S Max smartphone today in India. Fortunately, we were given a chance to have a preview of the device prior to its official launch. So is this device a powerhouse with its 5000mAh battery or just a gimmick? Do give a read to our review to find out.

Look and Feel

Asus Zenfone 3s Max
The Asus Zenfone 3 was a complete design overhaul for the Zenfone series of smartphones. And the since then we have seen similar design aesthetics in Zenfone series of smartphones. The Zenfone 3s Max comes with a unibody design with a fair use of metal and plastic. The front has a 2.5D curved glass display that blends with the edges of the smartphone, and below that is a fingerprint sensor. Make a note that the fingerprint sensor is not an active scanner. Asus is done away with capacitive navigation keys and finally shifted towards on-screen keys. The device has slim bezels and rounded edges and makes the device feel good to hold in hand. On the left side you have a hybrid SIM slot and on the right side, you have the volume rocker and power buttons. The 3.5mm jack is at the top and a micro-USB port at the bottom.

What’s under the hood?

5.2-inch HD IPS display | Octa-core MediaTek MT6750 processor | Mali T860MP2 | 3GB RAM | 32GB Storage | Android 7.0 (Nougat) | Asus ZenUI 3.0 | 13MP rear camera | 8MP front-facing camera | Fingerprint sensor | 4G VoLTE | 5000mAh battery

Performance

Asus Zenfone 3s Max
The Asus Zenfone 3s Max is powered by a Mediatek MT6750 processor backed by 3GB of RAM. Although the processor is a mid-range processor and we have some better processors powering the devices that fall in same price bracket. Considering the hardware specifications we didn’t expect much in terms of performance from this device, but it’s still capable enough to handle basic tasks well.

Asus Zenfone 3s Max
Overall the performance is just satisfactory and while regular UI operation remains smooth for the most part. We tried to play some graphics intensive games like Need for Speed: No Limits, Asphalt 8 and N.O.V.A 3, and the performance was just fine. But we would have preferred a Qualcomm processor here which offers much better performance at an equivalent level.

Software and UI

Asus Zenfone 3s Max is the first Nougat running device from Asus. The device runs on Android 7.0 out of the box with the new version of the company’s proprietary ZenUI 3.0 on top of it. The device is much less bloated this time and offers a striking balance between performance and experience. Asus has cut down the number of preinstalled apps but we still have around 14-15 unwanted apps. Unfortunately, only a handful of these can be uninstalled and while you can disable most others. The UI performance is not consistent, at times it runs smooth and at times it lags a lot. Even while running the device is performance mode there is not much improvement.

Asus Zenfone 3s Max

So let’s talk about what we loved about ZenUI 3.0:

  • Android Nougat brings the ability to multi-task with the multi-window feature.
  • The all-new Theme Store from which users can download free as well as paid themes, wallpapers, icons, and ringtones.
  • You can change the DPI of the device, which makes plenty of sense and lets you view more content on the same screen.
  • ZenMotion Motion Gestures: For instance to silence a cellular call just town the device face down.

Camera

Asus Zenfone 3s Max
The camera specifications for Asus Zenfone 3S Max might look good on paper with a 13MP rear-facing camera with Phase Detection Auto Focus and an 8MP front facing camera with 85-degree wide angle lens. But the camera is a letdown to this device. Even in bright daylight the photographs were a bit washed out and lack details. Although the rear camera is equipped with PDAF but it’s hard to lock focus on an object. But once the camera is able to lock focus, the images turned out to be just fine. The front camera is nothing special that manages to click detailed selfies outdoors and just about okay ones indoors.

What’s Good?

  • The Build and design of the device is premium and makes the device feel good to hold in hand.
  • The massive 5000mAh battery is insane and delivers over 5 hours of Screen-on-time.
  • Android Nougat.

What’s BAD?

  • The fingerprint sensor on this device is not an active scanner, one has to wake the screen to enable the sensor. And the fingerprint sensor is inaccurate and I preferred to not to use it to unlock my device.
  • The rear 13MP camera is the letdown of the device.
  • The device is powered by a MediaTek MT6750 processor which yet another bottleneck for the device.
  • Although Asus have cut down on the number of preinstalled apps, but still we have over 14-15 preinstalled apps and only handful of them can be uninstalled.
  • The gaming performance is mediocre.
  • The device takes around 3-3.5 hours to charge from 0-100% which is not acceptable.

Our take on the Asus Zenfone 3s Max

Asus Zenfone 3s Max
The Asus Zenfone 3s Max is a good smartphone with great battery life. The device being powered by a mediocre Mediatek processor fails to impress the masses with its performance. With a low-resolution display and slow fingerprint scanner, the device fails to impress. But on the positive side, great build quality, Android Nougat out of the box and a massive 5000mAh battery could be a selling point. But for the price of INR 14,999 there is no point one would buy this device over the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 or the Motorola Moto G4 Plus. The competition in sub 15k price range is tough and with a 720p display, a mediocre processor and poor camera the device does not stand out from the rest.

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