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Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 First Impressions: Budget smartphone with Flagship features
Asus ZenFone Max Pro is priced at Rs. for the variant.
In an endeavor to win the budget and mid-range smartphone battle, Asus has today announced its ambitious ZenFone Pro Max M1 smartphone in the Indian market. The 'Made for India' Android handset is designed to take on Xiaomi's popular Redmi devices- Note 5 and Note 5 Pro in under Rs. 15,000 price-segment. The ZenFone Pro Max M1 brings some interesting specifications and run the latest Android 8.1 Oreo in its pure stock Android version, first ever on an Asus smartphone.
Asus has also partnered with Flipkart to exclusively sell the handset in the Indian market with a Complete Mobile Protection plan at an introductory price of Rs. 49.
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 will sell in two variants- 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM and 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM at Rs. 10,999 and Rs. 12,999 respectively. The company also plans to introduce a 6GB RAM variant with an upgraded dual-lens camera module in the coming months.
We tested the 3GB RAM variant of the handset and here's our first impression of Asus ZenFone Pro Max M1.
Design: Feels premium than its price-point
Asus ZenFone Pro Max M1 seems like a refined version of Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. The handset has a robust build and feels quite elegant in hands. There's no camera bulge at the rear side, and the two-tone metal chassis look downright premium and appealing. The smartphone's rear panel follows a very symmetrical look and feel where everything seems to be at its right place. The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is conveniently placed but takes its sweet time to unlock the phone. It's not as fast as other smartphones we have tested in this price-point and feels a bit sluggish.
The smooth metal chassis and rounded 2.5D glass over the FHD+ display fills most of the phone's front side. The volume rockers and power button sit on the right side, whereas the triple slot hybrid SIM card tray sits on the left side. The mono speaker unit, USB 2.0 charging port, and a microphone are placed at the bottom.
Overall, ZenFone Pro Max M1 comes across as a much premium device than its price would suggest.
Display: Crisp FHD+ screen
Asus ZenFone Pro Max M1 sports a 5.99-inch 18:9 aspect ratio screen. The display boasts a resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels and churns out a pixel density of pixels. The screen on Asus ZenFone Pro Max M1 punches vibrant colors than other smartphones in its respective price-point. The contrast ratio of 1500:1 enables slightly deeper color tones as compared to competitors, including Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro; however Xiaomi's smartphone showed better brightness levels in the similar environment. The screen on Asus ZenFone Pro Max M1 seems slightly dull in direct sunlight when kept side by side with Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. For anyone who prefers vibrant colors, Asus ZenFone Pro Max M1 is a better option.
Hardware: Snappy and Efficient SD636
Asus ZenFone Pro Max M1 is backed by the tried and tested Snapdragon 636 chipset, which is an octa-core CPU and is built on the 14nm node. The SoC features eight Kryo 260 cores in a 4 + 4 cluster also brings long Adreno 509 GPU. It is the same chipset that powered the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. In Asus ZenFone Pro Max M1, the chipset is paired with two RAM configurations- 4GB and 6GB.
The combination offers best-in-class performance where you can comfortably use the handset for everyday tasks, photo-editing, and even high-end gaming. We haven't come across any lag on ZenFone Pro Max M1 during our testing; however, we will still recommend you to wait for our comprehensive review.
Software: Android 8.1 Oreo in its pure avatar
The ZenFone Pro Max M1 marks a paradigm shift in Asus' product strategy. For years, ZenUI has been associated with Asus products as the only software skin, but with the new handset, the company is going pure Android. ZenFone Pro Max M1 ships with Android 8.1 Oreo in its stock Android version. There's no ZenUI on the new Asus device, which can be a game-changer or a deal-breaker for consumers. For us, the new stock Android UI seems like a breath of fresh air on an Asus phone. The handset feels blazing fast and there's no unwanted bloatware. If you prefer stock Android experience, you will simply love the new Asus phone. If you were a fan of Asus ZenUI, you will feel disappointed.
Besides, I believe it's a new start for an interesting fight between Asus and Xiaomi. We have the same hardware but different software approach. You can choose your device depending on your inclination towards software experience. On one side you have Asus handset with pure Android experience which you can customize as per your liking. On the other side, you have Xiaomi's MIUI, which has come out to be the best custom skin on an Android handset.
Asus has also promised to offer Google software updates for two consecutive generations. We will keep a close eye on the Asus' approach towards software updates for Zenfone Max Pro M1.
Camera: Fight of the dual-lens camera setups in under Rs. 15k
Asus is also betting big on the dual-lens camera setup on the new ZenFone Max Pro M1. The smartphone sports a 13MP+ 5MP dual-lens rear camera that can create a hardware driven bokeh effect. The review unit we are testing right now is slated to receive a software update that as per Asus will enhance the camera performance to a great extent. For now, we can say that the camera on ZenFone Max Pro M1 is pretty capable and can deliver some good shots. The camera aperture is not very bright but the sensor works on 1.12 micron pixels that enable 25% more light for brighter images.
The bigger pixel size is also said to improve the autofocus speed and prevent blurry shots. While the autofocus on Zenfone Max Pro M1 is snappy, the camera seems sluggish in the low-light environment. While taking a picture in low-light with HDR mode enabled, you need a very steady hand to get a perfect shot. The performance in daylight is at par with Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro and in some cases even better.
The bokeh effect is good and edge detection is also taken care of quite well. Now all it comes down to the fact that if Asus managed to enhance the camera performance with the due update, Zenfone Max Pro M1 will come out to be a great camera smartphone in sub Rs. 15k price-point.
We will keep a close eye on the upcoming software update and will also pit the Zenfone against Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro to find out who wins the camera battle.
Battery and Connectivity
Battery and Connectivity is another department where Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 takes a lead over its competitors. The smartphone is backed by a 5,000 mAh battery unit that is the best-in-class in this price-point. And despite a bigger battery cell, Asus has managed to keep the weight and thickness in check. We haven't completed our battery test on the phone yet, but seeing the SD636 and stock Android running the show, the 5,000 mAh battery unit will definitely last longer than the competition.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes equipped with a triple slot hybrid tray that allows you to use two nano SIM cards and one micro SD card at the same time. This is again a feature that Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 series devices fail to offer. Besides, you get all the standard connectivity features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM, Quick charging, etc.
Until now, Xiaomi has been winning the hearts in sub Rs. 15k price-segment. Today Asus has announced a product that offers slightly better on-paper specs as compared to the Redmi Note 5 series devices in similar price segment. We are eagerly waiting to test the final camera firmware on Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, as it will be the defining feature to declare the winner in the budget and mid-range smartphone category.
Not to forget, the Flipkart's new Rs. 49 Complete Mobile Protection plan on Asus handset, which makes it even more appealing.
Stay tuned for our comprehensive review of ZenFone Max Pro M1 on Gizbot.