Just last month we reviewed Asus Zenfone 3 Max and now we already have an upgrade over the Zenfone 3 Max smartphone with us in the form of Zenfone 3s Max. Zenfone Max series of smartphones are popular with consumers who prefer longer battery life over everything else in a smartphone. Asus has managed to produce some great devices in this series such as first generation of Zenfone Max (Read Review) followed by an upgraded Zenfone Max (Read Review) few months later and Zenfone 3 Max. All these devices offered great battery life with decent specs at an affordable price. Zenfone 3s Max is priced at Rs. 14,999.
The company is now back with its next generation with Zenfone 3s Max promising much longer battery life with decent specs, better design and back to bigger battery of 5,000 mAh capacity. This review is based on our experience with the review unit of Zenfone 3 Max, as our primary smartphone for a week. The variant that we tested came with Model No. ASUS_X00GD( ZC521TL) Gold color.
Zenfone 3S Max Technical Specifications
- Display: 5.2 inch 720p HD, 2.5D glass display
- CPU : 1.5 GHz Octa-core Mediatek MT6750 Processor
- GPU: Mali T860
- RAM : 3 GB
- Storage: 32 GB, expandable up to 2 TB with microSD
- OS: Android 7.0 Nougat with Zen UI 3.0
- Misc: Hybrid Dual SIM, FM Radio, Fingerprint sensor
- Camera: 13 MP main rear camera with dual-tone LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, 5P Largan Lens and a 8 MP front-shooter, 85-degree field of view
- Weight: 175 gm, 8.85 mm thick
- Connectivity : 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
- Battery : 5000 mAh (embedded)
Design and Build Quality
With Zenfone 3 series, Asus migrated the design & build quality of the smartphone drastically giving it a much-needed premium design. We saw that change with Zenfone 3 Max which looked premium and is followed even with Zenfone 3s Max. The device looks better in terms of design and build with an all metal build, with small curves at the sides. For the first time on a ASUS smartphone, we have a physical home button on the front which also embeds the fingerprint sensor. Thanks to 5.2 inch display size, the device feels compact to hold and is good for one-handed operation. The main camera is seamlessly integrated at back with negligible bulge along with LED flash. Antenna lines are visible along the bottom.
The Power & Volume rockers buttons on same side place and look great with concentric circles design on them. Dual Sim card with Hybrid SIM tray is on the other side. In spite of 5,000 mAh battery, it doesn’t feel heavy to hold at 175 grams though the first generation of Zenfone Max weighs more than 200 grams with 5000 mAh battery. IN another first, the device comes with On Screen navigation buttons in addition to home button instead of physical capacitive touch menu buttons.
Speaker grills are placed at the bottom of the device which is better placement except in cases of playing games when your hand may cover them resulting in low sound. For every other case, this speaker placement results in better sound levels. The battery at the back is non-removable.
Display, Performance and Benchmarks
The phone sports 5.2 inch 720p HD display with 2.5D curved glass. The display looks decent, produces sharp pictures with contrast and brightness even under direct sunlight. The visibility under direct sunlight is good enough for normal usage. We expected a full HD display as was the case with the last variant, but this one comes with just a HD display.
Zenfone 3s Max is powered by1.5 GHz Octa-core Mediatek MT6750 Processor with 3 GB of RAM. As you know, Mediatek MT6750 Processor is one of the recently launched entry-level processor and it reflects in performance of the device in spite of 3 GB of RAM. The performance of the device is better than the earlier Zenfone Max variants, yet it lacks punch and feel sluggish at times considering the price range.
The device managed to score only 39,000+ on Antutu benchmark, which is just average if you consider devices in the similar price range. LeEco Le 2 managed to score much more in the range of 60,000+ which is priced lower than Zenfone 3 Max. When we played some heavy games like Asphalt 8 on it simultaneously with other games and using other apps on phone, we did feel a bit of lag or frame drops at random after continuous usage for more than 15-20 minutes.
The graphics details in the games and HD videos is decent enough thanks to the HD display. There was a bit of heating of the device while playing intensive games, multitasking or using the device for too long or in any other scenario.
We didn’t face any issues with the general day-to-day performance or any UI lags or crashes while we tested the device for almost a week. It comes with 32 GB internal storage with support for MicroSD cards using the Hybrid SIM slot. There is no dedicated microsd slot which may be a bad thing for many users. It also supports USB OTG and hence you can use an external USB storage to add more capacity to the device on the go.
The call quality during voice calls was pretty clear without any issues. The dialer app also gives you an option to record calls without installing any additional app or rooting the device.
The sound coming out from speakers is loud and more than any device that we have tested in the mid range category.
JIO VOLTE network
The device worked flawlessly with Jio network calls and we didn’t face any issue. You may remember that the earlier variant i.e. Zenfone 3 Max faced problems in receiving calls on JIO network as the Phone app crashed and the UI restarts.
The phone comes with 13 MP main rear camera with dual-tone LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, 5P Largan Lens and a 8 MP front-shooter with f/2.2 aperture & 85-degree field of view for selfies. We tested the camera under different lighting conditions and found that it produces better pictures under normal lighting conditions compared to earlier variants in spite of being a 13 MP camera sensor. It uses the Sony IMX258 sensor. The earlier variant came with a 16 MP main camera sensor. The amount of noise is much less in low light images.
Once again, the camera app comes with loads of modes such as Low Light mode, Selfie mode, night mode, super resolution mode, HDR mode, Panorama mode and much more just like most of the ASUS smartphones. It also comes with a manual mode which lets you adjust different camera settings on your own. If you are a professional photographer or geeky enough to play with those settings, it can produce some good shots.
The front 8 MP camera produced some good selfies with “Face Beauty mode”. and wide viewing angle. Once again, you need good lighting conditions for those selfies to actually look good. The selfies are just decent enough to use them on social media channels.
Checkout the images below taken under different light conditions and different modes. Click on the images to enlarge to original full size image. Click on the images for full resolution images on Flickr.
ASUS Zenfone 3 Max comes with 5,000 mAh embedded battery and offers excellent battery performance. We tested the device with 4G LTE connection always on in addition to second sim for voice calls. Even with heavy use, we were able to keep it away from charger for almost two days easily. During our normal usage, it lasted for more than two days. We even used the device as hotspot for nearly 7 hours a day and still it lasted for almost one full and half day which is awesome.
We did miss the fast charging support and it takes about 4 hours 30 minutes to fully charge the device.
The fingerprint sensor is embedded in the front home button and is used to answer incoming calls, launch Camera app, or take a picture. The fingerprint sensor is not fast enough compared to others and even it is not so accurate but better than the previous variant. The only drawback with the front home button here is, the fingerprint sensor won’t work unless the display is ON. When your display is off, you need to press the home button first and then only it can read your fingerprint which is odd. We expect the fingerprint sensor to work without pressing the home button.
Apart from that, we also expect a fingerprint sensor to offer more customisation option such as ability to use different finger for opening different apps or using different fingers to call pre-configured numbers. Just in case if you are wondering that it is even possible now, then you can check the Coolpad Note 3 Lite Review which offers all these features with fingerprint sensor.
Operating System and UI
The Zenfone Max is powered by Android 7.0 Nougat operating system out of the box with ASUS’ own user interface, ZenUI 3.0 on top of it. Thanks to ZenUI, you won’t feel any difference even if you have earlier never used a smartphone with Android 7.0 Nougat. Yet, the performance of the device is much smoother than earlier variants and even some additional options are available in the UI which were not available before, thanks to Nougat.
It comes with Power saving modes such as the ultra saving mode, optimized mode or customized mode for battery which actually work. You can get a better battery life if you switch to one of these modes.
As usual bloatware is pre-installed which is lesser compared to earlier variants,still we feel to get rid of these pre-loaded bloatware. The good thing though, ASUS lets you uninstall any or all the bloatware pretty easily without the need to root the device.
Asus ZenFone 3s Max offers a great combination of Awesome battery life along with great design & build and Android 7.0 Nougat operating system. The awesome battery life performance makes it a great device in the mid range category which though offers competitive smartphones with similar battery life such as Redmi Note 4 which comes with a 4000 mAh battery and similar design & build. But looking at the price of Rs. 14,999 it faces some stiff competition from other brands, but consider the fact that it is available through offline channels too and hence may be a good buy for offline stores where options such as Redmi Note 4 is not available.
Editors Note:Review is edited after the price announcement.