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Asus Zenfone 3S Max review: offers insane battery life, but let down by subpar performance
Asus, the Taiwanese smartphone brand is on a launch spree. After unveiling more than half dozen smartphones under their Zenfone 3 lineup, the company today announced yet another smartphone under the same lineup: Asus Zenfone 3S Max.
- Excellent battery life
- Feels compact in hands
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- Subpar camera
- Mediocre display
- Sluggish performance
Touted as the successor to the Zenfone 3 Max, which came out with 4000mAh battery, the 3S Max ups the ante with a 5000mAh battery and incidentally, it is the USP of the phone.
In spite of only the big battery, the Zenfone 3S Max is different from the current Zenfone 3 lineup in terms of design and processor as it comes with a front mounted fingerprint scanner and a MediaTek processor (Seriously, Asus?).
Asus sent us a review unit of the gold colored variant of the 3S Max. The phone will also be available in black color. Here's our complete review of the phone after using it extensively for more than a week.
Design: Same candybar design, but the fingerprint sensor placement is a change
The Zenfone 3S Max features the same design language as its predecessors with a metal build and compact form factor with a 5.2-inch display.
Speaking about the design of the phone, there's metal all over the phone to add premiumness to the phone. Unlike earlier Asus devices, the design balance is altered more to suit the ergonomics in the 3S Max. There's metal back, and metal rim around the sides and the edges are slightly chamfered to give a nice feel in the hands.
All together with the chamfered edges, the phone is nicely poised to fit in the hands along the small 5.2-inch display. The volume rockers and the power button are placed on the right side of the phone. At the bottom, there is a micro USB port and two speaker grills. At the top left, we have the SIM card tray with the top being left to a 3.5mm headphone jack.
To the front, below the display, we now have the fingerprint sensor located, and incidentally, this is the first Asus phone to feature a front mounted fingerprint scanner. Asus showcased the Zenfone AR with a front-facing sensor, but the phone isn't official yet. For now, the Zenfone 3S Max is the only Asus phone to feature a front-facing fingerprint scanner.
The fingerprint sensor performs very well, but it is a passive scanner, meaning that you have to press the home button or power button to use the scanner. Also, this scanner is not the fastest in unlocking the phone but gets the job done and sometimes the scanner did not even recognize our finger, which is a big letdown.
Overall, the Asus Zenfone 3S Max is just another candybar design smartphone, but the compact display size will be loved by many.
Display: A 720p display to boost the battery life, but falls behind the competition
Asus have the habit of giving a 720p display to boost up the battery life, and the same case arises with the Zenfone 3S Max as well. The company has gone with a 5.2-inch 720p IPS LCD panel, which fails to inspire confidence.
Yes, this 5.2-inch doesn't exhibit good brightness levels under bright sunlight conditions, and the viewing angles are not that great as well. The only advantage with this display is it consumes less power. We will discuss more about the battery life in the dedicated battery section below.
Performance: A major downside
For some reasons, Asus has gone with the MediaTek MT6750 SoC for the Zenfone 3S Max, which is an octa-core chip with all the eight cores clocked at 1.5GHz and the chipset is built on 28nm manufacturing process. The same chipset was previously used in phones such as Gionee S5, Oppo F1s, etc. Asus also added 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The storage can be further expanded up to 128GB via a dedicated microSD card slot.
The Asus Zenfone 3S Max does perform well in day-to-day tasks such as the calling, messaging, capturing images with the camera, etc. But, it struggles a lot if you start pushing it for graphic-intensive tasks such as playing games and even with extensive camera usage, the phone lags and gets warm at the rear side.
Switching between apps via multitasking was as painful as it gets. Also, the software is not perfectly optimized to deal with all these issues. Oh Yes, did we say that the Asus Zenfone 3S Max is the company's first phone to ship with Android Nougat on board? The user interface is buggy and so it exhibits lags most of the time.
Call quality was excellent and we did not face any call drops in our entire review period with the Tata DoCoMo SIM card. On the whole, the Zenfone 3S Max is a disappointment in terms of performance and its predecessor was much better with a Snapdragon 430 chip even though it was less powerful chip.
Software: First Zenfone to ship with Android Nougat
The Asus Zenfone 3S Max is the first smartphone from the Taiwanese brand to ship with Android Nougat on board. However, the layer is being embedded under the Zen UI 3.0. As you might be aware of the fact that Zen UI is one of the heavily customized Android skin with a lot of bloatware.
Asus has added some tweaks to the UI such as the screenshot mode in the Settings app, that allows you to take a screenshot by pressing the recent apps key when enabled. Other features such as the ZenMotion, which has options such as double to wake, double tap to turn off the screen, swipe to wake up are also present in the phone.
All the features introduced with the Android Nougat such as multi-window mode, quick switch between apps, rich notifications are present in the Zenfone 3S Max as well. Nevertheless, all these features work very well but show some sign of lags, at times.
As seen on the other Zenfone series of phones, the Asus Zenfone 3S Max also comes with several Asus apps preinstalled and they can't be uninstalled as well. It's good to see that Asus is pushing the software updates very quickly than expected, but they need to keep track of the bugs as well.
Camera: Images look great, but lacks details
The Asus Zenfone 3S Max boasts of a 13MP PixelMaster rear facing camera with support for dual tone LED flash and Phase Detection Autofocus Technology. Up front, there is a 8MP front-facing camera to look up the selfies and video calls.
The real life performance of the rear camera is pretty decent, and the images look great on the 720p screen. Sadly, when looking at the same images on our computer, we noticed the lack of details and the images tend to over expose at the edges under extreme lighting conditions.
The low light performance of the rear camera is decent as well, and the camera always captures good-looking images under good lighting conditions. Also, there is an inbuilt beautification mode for tweaking the selfies.
All in all, the camera on the Zenfone 3S Max is a decent one when viewing your pictures on the phone itself, but the actual results will disappoint you when viewing the images on a bigger screen.
Battery: Easily lasts for two days
The Asus Zenfone 3S Max comes with a 5000mAh battery, which is nearly 25 percent larger than the battery cell seen on its predecessor, Zenfone 3 Max. Boasting a standard 720p screen, the 3S Max lasts easily for two days with moderate usage and the Android Nougat based Zen UI plays a vital role as well with its Doze mode.
With complete 4G turned on, the phone eked out a battery juice of more than one and half day with a screen-on time of six and half hours. With heavy usage, the phone will offer a complete day battery life. So, Asus has got it right with the battery on the Asus Zenfone 3S Max.
Conclusion: Get it only for the battery life
The Asus Zenfone 3S Max is the company's latest attempt to take on the battery segment, and the phone fulfills the section with ease. However, the phone disappoints in every other aspect. The subpar camera, sluggish performance, mediocre display are the major letdowns for the phone.
Asus haven't revealed the price of the Zenfone 3S Max, but going by the Zenfone 3 series pricing strategy, the company will launch the phone with a higher price tag of above Rs. 15,000, and at that range, we have the Lenovo P2 with much better hardware and better battery life. Also, there are other better options such as the Honor 6X, Lenovo K6 Note, and Xiaomi Redmi Note 4.