The low- to mid-tier smartphone segment is undeniably the most keenly contested. Both the sub-MYR1,000 and MYR1,000-MYR1,300 price brackets see plenty of players vying for a slice of the pie. With folks like Xiaomi making a comeback in a big way, it was time for ASUS to bring its A-game. The good news is, the Taiwanese tech giant has and then some. If the just-launched ZenFone Max Pro (M1) is any indication, the company is dead serious about winning.
It’s impossible to mention the ZenFone Max Pro without labelling it a “Redmi Note 5 killer,” because frankly these two are the Federer-Nadal rivalry of the generation. Both solid propositions, it’s going to boil down to brand affinity and personal preference when “making the choice.”
As mentioned earlier, the ZenFone Max range is an oddball in the ZenFone line-up. ASUS thinks this decoupling is for the better, as it gives it room to be agile and experiment without affecting its flagship line in case things turn sour. But turning sour it hasn’t, so far at least. The ZenFone Max’s proposition is clear: ultimate battery life.
Using long battery life as a foundation, ASUS then added a fingerprint sensor to the second generation, and now upping the game entirely with the latest generation.
I’d like to not make a sweeping conclusion, but the ZenFone Max Pro is what it is. A winner. There you go, the quickest ever hands-on first impressions post.
So, I’ve been using the device for about two weeks, and I’ve found that it delivers for the most part. What I tend to forget is its price. At MYR699 (or MYR599 if you will, if you had purchased during the flash sales), it’s unbelievable how much kit ASUS has stuffed into this metal package.
Specs at a glance
So, let’s quickly go through the technical specs. Under the hood, it’s secretly a ZenFone 5, which makes it all the more impressive. You’ll get a 5.99-inch FHD+ display, the powerful but frugal octa-core Snapdragon 636 with Adreno 509 GPU, and up to 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
In total, there are three configurations available including 4GB RAM + 64 storage and 6GB RAM + 64GB of storage.
The variant I’m reviewing is the 3GB RAM + 32GB of storage version with a 13MP + 5MP f/2.0 dual-camera set-up on the rear and an 8MP selfie unit.
There’s a triple slot tray for those of you who run dual nano-SIMs and a microSD card. Definitely a huge plus.
The device owes its massive stamina to the humongous inbuilt 5,000mAh cell and the benefit of running stock Android. It’s incredible how ASUS has managed to again squeeze a big capacity battery into a slim and light body, something it achieved with the ZenFone 3 Zoom in the past.
ASUS is pretty serious about gaming bit, positioning the ZenFone Max Pro as a “limitless gaming” device. Sure, it’s no Razer Phone or Black Shark, but the Snapdragon isn’t shabby at all, plus the livewire nature of the device puts it in good stead.
In case you’re unaware, ASUS has a partnership with Garena, where buyers of the ZenFone Max Pro get to redeem in-game goodies in the Battleroyal-type “Free Fire” game worth MYR80.
While I prepare a full-on review, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what I like about the phone, and what I don’t.
First, the good. I like the build of the phone. It’s not typically what you’ll find for MYR700. There’s a solidness about it in the hand, and it’s certainly looks and feels more expensive than it is.
Next up, its crown jewels: battery life. When ASUS said the ZenFone Max Pro delivers “massive stamina,” it wasn’t kidding. I mean we’re talking 42 hours of 3G talktime, up to 19.5 hours of YouTube or up to 12 hours of gaming. It’s impressive no matter how you look at it. And here’s a realworld account of what the device delivers. It’s been a day and more with close to 4 hours of screen on time, and I still have 40 percent juice left. It’s fantastic.
I also appreciate the performance. The Snapdragon 636 is no slouch and although I’m reviewing the base model with 3GB RAM, for the most part, it’s absolutely lag-free and responsive.
For stock Android fans, you’ll appreciate the clean, fuss-free Android experience. You lose some of the little tweaks that makes ZenUI “nice” but nonetheless it’s a fresh change. Besides, you’ll get updates quicker than everyone else and that’s a great thing.
Perhaps the best part of the device’s attraction is its price. At MYR699, it’s a no-brainer, and it undercuts its closest rival by 100 bucks. Plus, if you take part in Lazada’s flash sales, you can pick one up for just MYR599. That’s nuts.
On the downside of things, if I were to nitpick, it would be in the camera department. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad camera. The main dual-camera shooter is more than decent in good light, with generally responsive autofocus. As expected, things get challenging when shooting in low light conditions with typical more laggy autofocus and softer images. The selfie camera is also expectedly average.
Check the sample photos in the next page.
Overall, the ZenFone Max Pro is as solid as they come. ASUS has a winner in its hands and it will be interesting to see how the market and the competition reacts to this.
Pricing and availability
The ZenFone Max Pro is available now in various configurations:
- 3GB RAM + 32GB storage – MYR699
- 4GB RAM + 64GB storage – MYR849
- 6GB RAM + 64GB storage – MYR999 (expected in July)
The 3GB RAM + 32GB storage model is offered for MYR599 as part of Lazada’s flash sales on 1, 5, 12, 19, 26 June 2018. Later, it will be offered for MYR649 during Lazada’s July flash sales.
Next, the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage model will be offered at a reduced MYR799 price as a pre-order promo.