Asus, one of the most popular brands out there in the Indian market. The company makes premium laptops, Gaming laptops(RoG), High-end routers, Smartphones and more. In the smartphone world, especially in India, the company had a lot of success with its first-gen budget devices like Zenfone 5, 4, and 6. But, gradually the Indian smartphone market was taken up by companies like Xiaomi, Motorola, Honor, and Nokia. But, now the company has made a comeback to the Indian market with a bang this year with two smartphones- the Zenfone Max Pro M1, a budget device and Zenfone 5Z, a flagship smartphone. Here, I will be reviewing the Zenfone Max Pro M1 (4GB variant). So, let’s dive deep in and find out if it’s worth your money.
The Zenfone Max Pro M1 is pretty tall device and has some weight(180gms) to it, the device feels pretty solid in the hand. The device looks like it is made for Indians and comes with an 18:9 aspect ratio display up front, which is becoming a norm these days and also the Redmi Note 5 Pro houses the same 18:9 display. There are very thin bezels at the sides of the device and the bezels at the bottom and the top are slightly big and are noticeable easily. At the top, you will find the 8MP selfie camera along with with a selfie flash, and the usual set of sensors, LED notification, and earpiece. At the rear, to the left of the dual cameras along with an LED flash is located and the fingerprint scanner is placed at the center of the device along with the Asus logo.
The volume rockers are located at the right side of the device and are having good tactile an clicky. Below the volume rocker is the power button which is also having great feedback on click. To the left of the device, there is the SIM card tray, which can take in 2 nano-SIM and a microSD card up to 2TB. The 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker grill which is pretty loud, and the micro USB port, I wish it was a Type-C port.
Overall, the device feels very solid in the hand and it is made up of an aluminum casing and provides rigidity and strength the smartphone. The back of the device is a fingerprint magnet and it is always good to use the TUP case that comes in the box or any other case/skin of your choice.
The Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes with a big 5.99-inch (1080 x 2160 pixels) Full HD+ 19:9 2.5D curved glass IPS display and there is no protection like Gorilla Glass or the Dragon Trail Glass. So, it is better to always to have a Tempered Glass or a simple screen protector as the display might scratch easily with key chains or coins in the pocket. The display is pretty good and it has good color reproduction, contrast and also the outdoor readability is pretty good with this. Watching a movie or binge-watching a series is going be a great experience.
The smartphone is powered by an Octa-core Snapdragon 636 clocked at 1.8Ghz and Adreno 509 GPU. It comes in three variants- 3GB RAM + 32GB storage, 4GB RAM + 64GB storage, and 6GB RAM + 64GB storage with all three variants supporting external storage up to 2TB. For the review, I have used the 4GB variant.
The day to day performance was pretty snappy for the first three weeks in my case and later on, the phone started to slow down a little, apps were taking their own time to load. I had installed around 170-180 apps installed, a few movies and shows downloads on Netflix, Amazon Prime on my unit and the storage was almost full(90% used out of 64GB), maybe that was too much for it to handle? Anyway, I just removed a few of the apps that I was not used frequently and the phone was back to the normal state.
If you’re a casual user then the 4GB variant will be more than sufficient and snappy enough for you. But, if you’re a heavy user who just wants to download apps, movies, songs, and more, I’d say going for the 6GB variant will be a better option. The multitasking and the RAM is also pretty great the device, thanks to the near-stock Android. Browsing on Chrome with multiple tabs open and switching between apps was not an issue with this device. The day-to-day performance was pretty smooth and I didn’t encounter any app crash or any random reboot during my 50 days of testing. Coming to the gaming performance, I could easily play high-end games like Asphalt 9, PUBG without any hiccups. And, you can easily play casual games like Color Switch, Candy Crush, Hill Climb Racing and many more without any lag.
Coming, to the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, it is placed pretty neatly at the place where all the users can reach easily. It may be not the fastest fingerprint scanner in the world but, gets the job done and works 9/10 times without any issues.
Even though this is not an Android One smartphone, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes with near-stock Android experience. Out-of-the-box, it is running on the Android 8.1 Oreo and the company has promised future Android upgrade as well as the monthly security patch along with some bug fixes. The presence of the Stockish Android will only attract a lot of people, as the previous Zenfone series came with the Zen UI which bought in a tonne of bloatware apps and also the Zen UI tend to slow down after a few days of usage. With the near Stock Android look, Asus brings in just 20 apps out-of-the-box and also users can claim 100GB free Google Drive storage when they first boot up the device.
The device comes pre-loaded with apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger apps which most of the users would download anyway. But, there is an app called Go2Pay Wallet, which is similar to the PayTM app and can be used for recharges and this app can’t be uninstalled. Other built-in apps include FM Radio, Sound Recorder, Calculator, and few other Google apps which can’t be considered as bloat. The device also got support for face to unlock with an update after it was launched and this feature works out 8/10 times in my experience. Also, it is not as fast as the one on OnePlus 3.
The device also supports gestures, which the company calls as “Zen Motion” which comes with Double-tap to turn on and off the screen, swipe up to wake up when the device is in the idle state. Apart from these, Asus has also added off-screen gesture for opening up apps by drawing W, S, e, C, Z, and V. You can also set the apps/functions which you want to open when you draw this on screen.
Overall, the Software experience is pretty good and I was pretty happy with the performance over the period. I hope Asus keeps their promise pushing regular security patches and Android upgrade at least for 2 years.
The smartphone packs in a dual 13MP+5MP camera setup with a single LED flash, f/2.2 wide-aperture lens. The photos taken in the default camera app are somewhat Good to Okish- the images are sharp and look good on screen but lack details and are slightly oversaturated. The rear camera also comes with support for Depth Mode, which is portrait mode and takes good shots in well-lit conditions and also acceptable portrait shots during the night.
But, the camera performance can be improved by installing the GCam, once you use the GCam app, there is no seeing backward. The images were taken from the ported GCAm looks way better than the image taken on the Stock camera and also GCam captures more details and color. During the night, the camera performance is just average as on the other smartphone in this price segment- they are just lacking details and sharpness.
The rear camera can record videos up to 4K- which is good to see on a budget smartphone. However, there is due to the lack of stabilization on the phone, the video performance is just Okish. While recording at Full HD there is support for EIS(Electronic Image Stabilization) and the results are pretty much same and it won’t make much of a difference.
At the front, this variant of Max Pro M1 sports an 8MP front selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture, OV8856 sensor, 83-degree wide-angle, soft LED flash. The camera also supports modes like portrait and Selfie panorama. The selfies taken on this camera are pretty good and will have a good amount of detail and color reproduction. The portrait mode also works well during the daylight and the selfie camera produces Okish results when the lights go off. However, with the help of the soft LED flash, one can get a good looking selfie. Also, as with the case of the rear camera, here too using the GCam port will get some better results, even for portraits. For video calling purposes the camera is pretty good and you won’t face any issue with it.
To wrap up, I would rate the camera 6/10 with the Stock camera app and 8/10 when used with GCam port.
Battery and Charging
Moving on the battery segment, the phone packs in a massive 5,000mAh battery and also comes with support for a fast charge as well as reverse charging via OTG. With my daily usage which includes a lot of push notifications, using apps like Facebook, WhatsApp Instagram for a long duration, an hour of the call and watching few videos on Youtube, Hotstar, etc, I could end my day with around at least 20% battery left. I was consistently getting 6-7hrs of Screen on Time during my testing period. Coming to the charging- the device does support fast charging but, it is not as fast as the one on OnePlus. With the bundled 10W charger, It will take 30 minutes from 0-30 and an hour to go from 0-60 and to go from 0-100 it takes a little over 2hours and 15minutes to fill in the massive battery. Even for a heavy user, this phone should be able to provide one-day full battery life without having to charge in the middle.
If you’re in the market to get a budget smartphone, the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is one of the best smartphones you can get even today. For what you pay- you will get Stockish Android experience, Guaranteed updates from Asus, Big battery, overall good performance. The camera is slightly on the lower side but, it can be fixed by using the GCam app instead.
Pricing and offers during the Flipkart Big Billion Days (Oct 10 – 14, 2018)
- Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 – 3GB+32GB – INR 10,999
- Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 – 4GB+64GB – INR 12,999
- Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 – 6GB+64GB – INR 14,999
Pricing Update (July 2019)
- Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 – 3+32GB @ INR 7,999
- Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 – 4+64GB @ INR 8,999
- Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 – 6+64GB @ INR 11,999