In last few years, Xiaomi captured the entry-level smartphone market in India with every other brand slowly receding away from the competition. Now almost after a year of silence, Asus is trying to regain that space in the entry-level smartphone Market by introducing the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 which is priced aggressively with good hardware at Rs. 10,999 for the 3GB RAM + 32GB storage variant. This is our review of the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 after using it as our primary device for two weeks. Let’s see how worthy the device is and how it fares with the competition?

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 - ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 Review: Back with a bang

ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) specifications

  • 6.0-inch Full HD+ (2160×1080 pixels) 18:9 2.5D curved glass display
  • 1.8GHz Octa-Core Snapdragon 636 Mobile Platform with Adreno 509 GPU
  • 3GB RAM + 32GB storage, expandable up to 2TB with microSD
  • Android 8.1 (Oreo)
  • Dual SIM + dedicated MicroSD slot, Fingerprint sensor, Face unlock, 5-magnet speaker, NXP Smart Amp
  • 13MP rear camera with LED Flash, PDAF, 1.12μm pixel size, f/2.2 aperture +  5MP secondary camera
  • 8MP front-shooter with soft LED flash, f/2.2 aperture
  • 3.5mm audio jack,
  • Dimensions: 159x 76x 8.46mm; Weight: 180g
  • 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS + GLONASS
  • 5000mAh battery with fast charging

Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 Design and Build Quality

In terms of design and build quality, Zenfone Max Pro M1 looks like a premium device though the design is not different from other popular devices in this price range. The phone is available in Grey & Midnight Black color options though our review unit is the Midnight Black one. Honestly, this Midnight Black color looks nearer to dark navy blue than black.  It comes with an Aluminium frame with a metal back plate with a shiny finish which unfortunately is a fingerprint magnet and slippery. After using it for some time, you can see the smudges on the back plate which needs to be cleaned. Thanks to 5000 mAh battery, the phone appears slight heavy yet it is lighter compared to earlier Zenfone Max with same 5000 mAh battery. Thanks to 6.0 inch 18:9 display, it’s not suitable for one hand operation though you can hold it easily with one hand.

Volume rocker & power buttons are on right side, while the Sim tray with dual sim card slot and a dedicated microSD card slot is on the other side. At the bottom, you get the microUSB port, 3.5mm Audio Jack, and speaker grill. The fingerprint sensor placed at the rear is easily accessible.

Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 Software

Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes with stock Android 8.1 (Oreo) operating system and marks a departure from Asus ZenUI. We at Androidpure are always biased towards stock Android and hence it is a good change in our opinion. You can feel the difference while using the device with no issues in terms of performance except some random lags sometimes associated with the camera app. There were no crashes or forced close of any apps. This also results in lesser bloatware which wasn’t the norm till the last device from Asus. You still get Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Go2Pay pre-installed which can’t be uninstalled. Some other apps include Voice Recorder, Calculator, and FM Radio. The company has also promised to deliver updates till Android Q which adds more value to the device in long-term usage.

Obviously, the shift to stock Android by ditching the ZenUI may be missed by some users accustomed to some useful features of ZenUI such as the different battery saving modes (which does work), Some gestures like double tap to wake etc., but we believe stock Android offers better user experience and it seems the company thinks the same as it ditched the ZenUI.  Asus emphasized on face unlock feature with the device, but it didn’t work for us at all. Hopefully, they can fix it with an update.

Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 Performance, Battery life

Zenfone Max Pro M1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 Octa-core processor which also powered the popular Redmi Note 5 Pro which is priced higher. We reviewed the with 3GB of RAM + 32GB storage variant though you can also get the 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM variant. As we said above, the performance was smooth except the occasional issue with the camera app. The 18:9 Full HD+ display is good and offers great viewing angles. The video playback was impressive with good color reproduction, brightness, and contrast. Many apps still need to adjust to 18:9 display and hence some videos may not use the full 18:9 screen but that’s not a device issue.

In terms of gaming, you can easily play high-end graphics intensive games such as Asphalt 8 without any lag or heating issue. The audio output from the speakers is pretty good if you are not in a loud environment. There were no issues with Voice calls and it worked well with VoLTE calls too.

If you look at the benchmark scores, it beats almost every device in this price range thanks to Snapdragon 636. The phone scored 113449 points in Antutu benchmark tests which is far ahead of any other device in this price bracket. The only device which can match this score is Redmi Note 5 Pro which comes with the same processor but is priced higher.

The fingerprint sensor placed on the rear is easily accessible but is slow to unlock compared to many other devices, though accurate.

The phone is backed by 5000 mAh battery and you can easily use the device for two days without charging, under average or moderate usage. For heavy usage with gaming or higher camera usage, it easily lasts for one and half day. Still, we found the standby battery performance is not that good if you compare it with devices such as Redmi Note 5. The charging time is about 2.5 hrs with the 10W charger which is good if you consider the 5000 mAh battery capacity.

Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 Camera

Asus features a dual camera module at rear consisting of a 13MP  primary sensor + 5MP depth sensor while on the front, there’s an 8MP snapper with LED flash for selfie & video calls. We used the device to take shots under different lighting conditions and were impressed with the dual camera performance. It did produce some good shots with good color reproduction that look natural with details. The macro shots came out pretty good with nice details but obviously, the longer shots came with a bit of noise and fewer details.   Shots taken with low light or during the night came out just fine if you compared with any other device in the same price range and showed much better details. Yet they are far from the low light camera performance of some expensive devices. The front camera did produce good selfies, decent enough for sharing on social media with beauty mode.

The major issue that Asus needs to fix is the camera app which is a barebones app with simple options like enabling flash hidden deeper into settings. Often it takes sometime before the focus can be locked which is annoying sometimes. It should be replaced by “Google Camera” app instead which offers better features and works great. You will definitely miss the Asus old camera app that came with ZenUI and includes manual mode too in most of the devices. Now, you don’t have a Manual or professional mode.

Check out the camera samples taken under different lighting conditions from both the front and rear camera.

Conclusion

With Zenfone Max Pro M1, Asus is aiming to regain the entry-level market under Rs. 15,000 and appears to have almost everything right including aggressive pricing, except few issues mentioned above. With Zenfone Max Pro M1, Asus is making the comeback with a bang which offers good 18:9 FHD+ display powered by one of the best mid-range SOC Snapdragon 636 and runs on Stock Android with guaranteed upgrades till Android P. It also offers great battery life and good dual camera at rear. Overall, it gives you the maximum value for your money. With this launch, Asus is seriously looking to give tough competition to Xiaomi smartphones which rule the entry-level category in India till Rs. 15,000. Welcome Back Asus.

Pros:

  • Stock Android with future Updates Guaranteed
  • Good Build and Design
  • Dual camera
  • Good Display and Performance
  • Aggressive Pricing
  • Big Battery
  • Dedicated MicroSD Slot

Cons:

  • Face Unlock not working at all
  • Slow Fingerprint
  • bad Camera App
  • Low standby battery life
  • No Battery Saving modes
  • No Earphones in the Box
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