For long the battery life of Android Smartphones have been the Achilles heel. Though the shift to larger screens, media consumption, internet connectivity made phones really smart but the lack of enough juice left users in dilemma whether to save the power to last for the day or make use of the 'smart' features of the phone. When the race of Quad core/ octa core processors, number of Mega pixels in smartphone was still in market, there were few who took upon to solve the most prominent problem of smartphone usage. Gionee Marathon, ASUS Zenfone Max , Redmi Note 3 are product of such efforts. We are doing a review of more refined version of one such device from ASUS which is ASUS Zenfone 3 Max. Zenfone 3 Max was launched along with Zenfone 3 series phones and is priced for Rs 17,999/- for 5.5 inch version (the one we are reviewing here). Let's take a look into the phone and see if its worth the price and hype.
Build and Design:
The ASUS Zenfone 3 Max, definitely brings a good change in terms of design language and build quality, In fact we are glad that ASUS has listened to feedback from tech community to change on the design which was not so appealing and had lot of waste space in the devices. The Zenfone 3 over comes all those drawbacks we could point out in Zenfone 2, Zenfone Max and other Zenfone devices. The phone is easy to hold and grip, it looks sturdy thanks to its unibody aluminium chasis.
On the front we have a 5.5 inch full HD display with very thin bezels around, on the top of the display sits proximity sensor, the ear piece and 8 MP front camera, whereas at the bottom of the screen there are three capacitive buttons viz. back, home and multi tasking in same sequence from left to right. The capcitive touch buttons are non-backlit though and it can be difficult to use the phone in dark in initial days of use, until your fingers are trained for the exact position of the buttons. The front is protected by 2.5D contoured glass which makes it look more elegant and premium.
ASUS Zenfone 3 Max comes with a 5.5 inch Full HD display which produces sharp pictures and brightness is good, Auto brightness works well for most of the cases however in direct sunlight we had to manually increase the brightness to make screen readable. Around 73% screen to body ratio makes it easy to use with single hand. We watched few videos on Amazon Prime and Youtube to test the display and we were satisfied with handling of the content by the phone.
The left edge of the phone has a sim tray towards the top which can hold one Micro SIM and another Nano SIM or a micro SD card. On the right side there is a power button just above the middle point and volume rocker is placed one finger distance above the power button. All the buttons are placed ergonomically, the feedback of buttons is good as well. On the top edge of the phone there is a 3.5 mm Audio jack and a secondary mic for noise cancellation. While the bottom edge sports a mic, micro USB slot for charging and data transfer and speaker grill.
Turning the phone backwards you will see a 16 MP rear camera adored by dual tone LED flash and Laser Assist Auto Focus on both sides. Just below the Camera unit, adhering to central line there is rounded square finger print sensor which is easy to reach by the index finger. The finger print sensor is active one which wakes the phone as well so you don't have to press power button to unlock your phone. The sensor works well most of the time and is accurate but its definitely not the fastest one around.
On the bottom there is sticker with IMEI details for the phone below which you can see the ASUS branding.
Features and Specifications:
Zenfone 3 Max(ZC553KL) comes with Octacore Snapdragon 430 chipset which we feel is not the best choice looking at the price and accompanying hardware. The chipset is fine in handling normal day to day tasks but when it comes to some power intensive games the phone shows clear lags. The phone comes with a 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB storage, single band Wi-Fi b/g/n, FM radio, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, 4G support as well as VoLTE.
On software side the phone comes with Android Marshmallow with ASUS ZenUI 3.0 skin running on top of it. Still the new skin doesn't interfere much with the stock Android and you get lots of option to customize things as per your choice. However, there are still a lot of , really lot of pre-installed apps which unfortunately looks more of bloatware to us. You get few useful apps pre-installed as well such as Instagram, puffin browser, Facebook, NFS: No Limits, SimCity etc. There is a Game Genie widget as well for enhancing the gaming experience which can be activate for your chosen game and then you can close background apps to free some memory, record your game , livestream your game on YouTube or Twich.
At last the reason for the name Max, the battery of the phone has 4100 mAh of juice when fully charged. The battery lasts for more than a day easily for more than average usage for me which includes some 15-20 minutes gaming, few videos on YouTube, some browsing internet and reading Quora Feed. However if I extend the gaming session the battery drop was sharp. So we can comfortably say that with day to day usage one can even get 2 days of power but with some resource intensive tasks the battery starts draining quickly. There is a reverse charging feature too, but we don't feel its practical if you are on the move as you might want to save the fuel for yourself instead of donating it to others, nevertheless the feature is novel in its nature and can come handy in some situations.
Despite Mediocre processor, we didn't faced any major issues in day to day tasks, except sometimes while typing we felt that Keyboard was lagging a word or two. We didn't faced any overheating situation either even when the camera was used for a long time. The call quality is good, sound is crisp and clear on both sides of the call.
We have got 43680 score in Antutu Benchmarking test and Vellamo Metal Score of 1196 which is lower than even ASUS Zenfone 2. As mentioned earlier the video playback was good , at upto 1080p videos the phone handles videos quite well. The audio quality as well is pretty good with or without headsets.
The rear 16 MP camera with f/2.0 aperture produces detailed landscapes and works particularly well in daylight, however in low light the noise becomes dominant in shots taken by the phone. The lowlight mode and Night mode helps to some extent. ASUS Pixelmaster tech has been always good in terms of imaging and Zenfone 3 Max is no exception to that. Below is a slide show of shots taken by Zenfone 3 Max in various modes and conditions. Rest we leave it upto you to decide.
Here comes the tricky part and ASUS hasn't left any stone unturned to confuse us. For the Design, Build, Display, and Battery performance this device will be an easy pick. Even Camera is decent enough for the price range. So if you want to buy yourself a ASUS phone with all these qualities you can go for it, but if you are looking for some serious performance oriented smartphone then Zenfone 3 Max isn't the phone you should look at. Specially with the 17K plus price tag I would expect better performing phone based on the competitive phones present in market. Another deal breaker can be absence of Gorilla Glass protection for many.
If you can ignore on the performance aspects then the phone packages a lot in itself, at the launch price it may be bit over priced but if the prices are dropped around 2000 less than it would make lot more sense to buy this device.