ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 review: The usurper arrives

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro

Intro

When it comes to the budget-friendly smartphone segment, Xiaomi has, without a shadow of a doubt, ruled the roost for the longest time. Recently however, it seems like many of their competitors have jumped on this segment. Inherently, there’s a large number of consumers who either won’t or aren’t able to dish out the dosh for a flagship smartphone priced more than RM2,000.

ASUS has also been hot on the heels of Xiaomi with their expansive Zenfone line and recently, they released the Zenfone Max Pro M1. Dubbed by many as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 killer. But can it unseat the reigning king?

Continue reading my review of the Zenfone Max Pro M1 to find out.

Design & Build

I hate to start a review on a sour note but my first impressions of the Zenfone Max Pro M1 left me feeling a little unimpressed. ASUS is a company that is well-known for their stunningly designed notebooks and smartphones but the Max Pro just looks boring and bland.

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro

There’s no concentric-circle pattern or even a glass back, which leaves it looking just like a simple metal slab. This is quite a shame as the Zenfone 5 that was launched alongside is a real attention grabber. It also doesn’t help that the competition is putting a lot more effort into the designs of their mid-range or budget offerings – for example the new devices from the Huawei/honor camp.

The Max Pro comes in two colour options, Meteor Silver or Deepsea Black. The review unit I received was the Deepsea Black variant and it’s actually more of a mixture of a dark blue and black depending on the angle you hold it in. The paint used on the back of the device also makes it very slippery, which is why I advise buying a case or using the one bundled in the box.

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ASUS ZenFone Max Pro

On the plus side though, the Max Pro is built like a tank. The aluminium body feels extremely sturdy and has quite a bit of heft to it. There’s no flexing or creaking either, which is always a good thing. The rounded edges make the devices quite comfortable to hold IF you can stop it from sliding around.

The Zenfone Max Pro sports a 5.99-inch Full HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. However, for some reason, it doesn’t quite feel as slim and tall as other devices with the same setup, on the contrary, it feels a little wider. Combine that with the slippery back, it is quite hard to use this device one-handed.

While the side bezels are slim, much like the Redmi Note 5, it has a fairly large “forehead” and “chin”. The way I see it, ASUS could have either reduced it a little more or actually used it to house dual front-facing speakers as both these spaces are quite empty. The “forehead” houses the 8MP selfie camera, softlight LED flash, receiver and also sensor whereas the bottom is just empty as ASUS have opted for software buttons instead. Just in case you were wondering, there’s no notch-sense here.

The features located around the phone are quite standard fare. The top has the extra noise-cancelling microphone while the bottom houses the 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB charging port (SIGH) and a single speaker. While ASUS advertises this to be a 5-magnet loudspeaker, I found the sound very inconsistent. It can get very loud but at the same time can sound hollow and there’s quite a bit of distortion.

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ASUS ZenFone Max Pro

On the left side of the Zenfone Max Pro is where the triple slot microSD and SIM tray are located. This is something I absolutely love as there’s no need to pick and choose between an extra SIM or storage. It’s super handy especially when you’re travelling. Located on the right side are the clicky and tactile volume rocker and power/lock button. The latter has a slight texture to it but I couldn’t really tell the difference. It’s spaced out enough that you won’t mistake it for the volume rocker.

Finally, on the back of the device there’s the dual camera setup and right below it is the single LED flash. Smack in the middle is the fingerprint sensor, which is great as it is very easy to reach.

However, I found performance to be inconsistent. Most times, it’s accurate and fast but there were times when I had to try at least 2-3 times before it recognised my fingerprint and at other times it would take awhile before it unlocks the device.

SUMMARY & RESULTS

Although this lowest-end variant of the Zenfone Max Pro M1, it is actually a very capable device and worth every cent. It's got a solid design, snappy performance, decent cameras and a massive battery. Overall, it might not outright "kill" the similarly specced Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 but will certainly beat it soundly on price.

4.1

The ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1 is a very affordable smartphone that comes with a few hits and misses but overall still a compelling option.

Review

  • Design & Build

  • Hardware

  • Software

  • Performance

  • Pricing & Value for Money

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  • Loves tech but loves gaming and writing more. Is on a constant journey to learn new things and being a tech writer is his current new thing.

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