Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1Asus is following a radically disruptive approach with its new Asus Zenfone Max Pro. At this moment there are too many smartphones and brands like Lenovo, Xiaomi, Honor, Motorola, Coolpad, Samsung, Vivo, Oppo; and all offer smartphones with similar specs to garner the attention of prospective customers. But none of them seem to fall apart and mimic to be a perfect mid-range smartphone. And none of the above mentioned smartphones matter, its just Xiaomi! Xiaomi! everywhere. And why not? They are the only ones that are offering full VFM smartphones, with a humongous battery, great camera module, modern display and a sturdy build quality. And all of it under 15K Indian Rupees. That seems impressive, but why is that from past 2 years Xiaomi is ruling the mid-range smartphone segment?

It was Asus that gave hard time with Zenfone line of smartphones untill Zenfone 3 came. And since then Asus is away figuring out what could be the best approach to dethrone Xiaomi. After staying away from Indian mid-range smartphone market for more than a year, Asus has put all their cards making a smartphone that has all what users ask for in a budget smartphone. To make that happen Asus has launched the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, and again they have managed to somehow mess up with the naming convention all over again. Keeping that aside, we have been using the Asus Zenfone Max Pro for more than a month now while it was in pre-release software for the initial 10 days and later a stable build arrived which is the same as pre-installed in the retail units. Here’s a piece of a ton of words about our experience with the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 and is it a viable Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro alternative?

The Design and Build

When it comes to design, Asus hasn’t really deployed too much innovation and really kept a basic design for the Asus Zenfone. There is nothing particularly flashy about the Zenfone Max Pro design, but that’s not the USP of the device anyhow. There are no screen notches or any other extra-ordinary trick under its sleeves. While most smartphone makers are trying to woo their potential buyers with so-called “unique” design features, the Asus Zenfone Max has taken the traditional route and comes in a metallic unibody design with matte finished back. Although despite a matte finish, we found the back to be prone to fingerprints and smudges that made us wipe it at least a couple of times a day.

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1A smartphone does not have anything flashy on the outside it does not mean the device does not feel good in hand, In fact it does feel good. The smartphone feels solid, and it even feels reassuring in your hands. At the back, you’ll find a neatly packed dual-rear camera setup on the top left corner. The Zenfone Max’s dual rear camera setup is more subtle and cleaner design, whereas on the Redmi Note 5 Pro is protruding and looks chunky.

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What’s Inside?

  • 5.99-inch (2160×1080 pixels) Full-View IPS 18:9 2.5D curved glass display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 64-bit octa-core CPU (8 x Kryo 260 cores) | Adreno 509 GPU
  • 3GB RAM with 32GB storage | 4GB RAM with 64GB storage (expandable memory up to 256GB with microSD)
  • Android 8.0 (Oreo)
  • Dual SIM (nano + nano) | MicroSD Card Slot
  • 13MP rear camera | F2.2 | 80 degree view angle | PDAF || 5MP Secondary camera
  • 8MP front-facing camera | F2.0 | 85.5-degree view angle
  • Fingerprint sensor | Face unlock
  • 5-magnet speaker | NXP Smart Amp
  • 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4GHz + 5GHz), Bluetooth 5, GPS + GLONASS
  • 5000mAh battery

We too did unbox the device a few weeks ago, do check it out.

Performance

The Zenfone Max Pro M1 is powered by Snapdragon 636 octa-core processor which is the same processor shared by Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. This makes the latest Asus smartphone the second device in the market to be powered by this Kyro technology-based chipset. The 14nm chipset apparently offers a 50-percent jump in performance over Snapdragon 625 because it uses Qualcomm’s custom Kryo cores to efficiently push more power.

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1The Snapdragon 636 processor is no joke and is the best processor that you could get in this price segment. The performance on the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is top-notch and hands down better than the Redmi Note 5 Pro all thanks to a best in class processor and Vanilla Android. We have been using the 3GB RAM variant, and all high-end games run smooth. We did encounter some app crashes, but after the latest update, the day-to-day performance feels immaculate too. We faced no issues in performing our routine tasks and there was no delay or frame-freezing or heating up issue whatsoever during our time with the smartphone.

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 BenchmarksAs the name suggests the “Max” in the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is an indicator of a humongous battery which has been a standout feature of the Max line of smartphones from Asus. The device houses a 5000mAh of battery which on paper should last at least 1.5x more, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’m not saying the battery backup is bad, it’s just that a few other smartphones in the market manage to offer similar battery life with a smaller capacity battery in a smaller body frame. The phone comes with a bundled 2A/10W charger for fast charging that charges the battery from zero to 100 percent in under three hours.

To boost the audio experience the Max Pro M1 comes with a Max Box accessory, which passively amplifies the audio without any electronics. It’s made out of plain vanilla cardboard and a magnetic mechanism to mount smartphone. The Max Box amplifies audio based on precision acoustics. While it’s gimmicky, it’s bundled free and music enthusiasts won’t complain.

The Vanilla Android Experience

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1The Zenfone Max Pro is the first smartphone from Asus to ship with stock Android Oreo instead of the company’s proprietary ZenUI skin. Although the Max Pro M1 isn’t running pure Android nor it is part of Android One program. And the Max Pro M1 comes with several pre-installed apps including Snapdragon Camera. Asus has also added a few extra options such as Zenmotion gestures (double tap to wake, off-screen gestures).

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Asus Zenfone Max Pro Stock AndroidTalking about our experience with the software, it has been a mixed bag for us. The pre-released software had tons of issues which made us believe that Asus had surely messed up with the software, but as further updates arrived, the software became more refined and almost all bugs seemed to be killed. The pure stock UI is great with not much to play with. The only thing that we did’nt like about the Max Pro M1’s software was that there are still a lot of rough edges that need to be polished. For example, the haptic feedbac motor is inconsistent and it manages to miss vibrations sometimes and otherwise vibrates too harsh, the fingerprint sensor is not as fast as compared to the compedition and we know it can be made better with future OTA’s. And last but not the least- the Snapdragon camera. We’ll talk more about the Snapdragon Camera in the next section but the only thing that needs to be highlighted is that this camera app is really buggy with 2014ish UI.

You Camera You Loose

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1The Asus Zenfone Max Pro sports a dual camera setup at the back with a 13MP primary camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 5MP secondary camera for depth sensing. The camera module is a decent one and looks fine on paper. In broad daylight, the smartphone manages to take some great shots. It manages to capture a large amount of detail and most shots are quite vibrant. The sharpness is hit-or-miss and there are quite a few focus issues. In low light conditions, the camera captures a lot of noise and the details get a little fuzzy.

The image samples are just average and nothing remarkable, and the camera is somewhat good in bright daylight. But as soon as the sun sets. the camera module fails to capture anything except noise. The dual camera module enables the smartphone to capture pictures with Bokeh effect, and the camera can perfectly make out which object is in the foreground and which one is in the background, but the results are inconsistent and most of the times I have seen rough edges and incomplete bokeh effects. The front-facing 8MP shooter with an f/2.0 aperture manages to capture some really good selfies. There’s a good amount of detail and the colors and exposure are just right.

Snapgragon CameraThe camera hardware is quite reasonable for the price, but the camera software is sloppy and still feels like work in progress. The device comes equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon camera app that is said to be user friendly, but IMO the camera app is really buggy with a lot of confusing menu settings and an outdated UI. The view finder is also not perfectly aligned with the camera’s viewfinder plaeholder and there are a lot of other minior issues. I would suggesst you to download any other third party camera application, such as Open Camera which would resolve all these above mentioned camera UI and performance issues.

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ION Verdict

THe Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is a well though off device with the aim to check all the 5 pillars that make up a perfect smartphone-The Display, Build, Software, Camera and Battery. Asus has been away from Indian mid range smartphone market for more than a year now and a lot has happened over the last 365 days, The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 happened and now the Redmi Note 5 Pro. These 2 generation of smartphones from Xiaomi managed to capture the mid-range smartphone throne as there was no right contendor to give them head to head compedition. Now when Asus is back in the game, and over a year of thoughtprocess, Asus have tried to bring a perfect smartphone. The device manages to spot a great looking display and that too notch-free, a sturdy build quality and a humongous battery that can last 1.5x more than similar priced smarphones. The only thing that does go wrong with the device is the software experience and the camera setup on this device. Although this is not somthing that cannot be fixed over time with OTA’s but we have to wait and see When and How these issues can be fixed.

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1The Zenfone Max Pro M1 competes directly with the XIaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro and seems like Redmi Note 5 was used as a reference design in manufacturing the Max Pro M1. No doubt that both the smartphones share similar hardware, build and design. But the only differenciating factor is the OS and camera hardware. So if you are a Stock Android guy that you should definately buy the Max Pro M1 instead of the Xiaomi MiA1 and save a couple of thousand bucks. And if camera is your priority then I would suggest you to get the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is all about having a Vanilla Android experience, great build quality and a humongous battery to back the device.

What’s Good?

  • Rock Solid Build Quality
  • Stock Android
  • Great Notch-Free Display
  • Price

What’s Bad?

  • Average camera performance
  • Average battery life
  • OS needs optimisation
  • Snapdragon Camera Appis really buggy
  • No USB Type-C
  • Below Average Fingerprint Sensor

The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is available in Deepsea Black and Meteor Silver color variants exclusively at Flipkrt.com. The 3GB RAM with 32GB storage version is priced at INR 10,999 for and the 4GB RAM with 64GB storage version costs INR 12,999.

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