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Asus had a good run in the year 2018. The brand managed to deliver some of the best Android smartphones in the budget, mid-range and even flagship price-point. While the budget handsets- Zenfone Max Pro M1 and Zenfone Lite 1 impressed us with their aggressive pricing and good hardware, Zenfone 5Z set new benchmarks in the value flagship category. Right before the end of the year, Asus also introduced the one-of-its-kind ROG phone that became every gamers' dream gadget in the year 2018.
- Big display
- Snappy Processor
- Big on battery
- Rear panel is a fingerprint magnet
- Average camera performance
Asus ended the year 2018 by launching a successor to the well-received Zenfone Max Pro M1. The Zenfone Max Pro M2 is another solid offering in the Indian budget smartphone landscape. The smartphone takes on Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro and offers even better on-paper specifications. Zenfone Max pro M2 packs in a beefier battery unit, speedy CPU and runs stock Android. This seems like the right recipe to win the hearts of the tech-savvy smartphone enthusiasts in the Indian market. However, as well know that on-paper specs do not always translate to best-in-class real-life performance, we tested the smartphone for over a week as our daily driver. Here's what we found out.
Design: Glossy plastic design feels less premium but is very durable
For a smartphone that comes at a starting price of Rs. 12,999, Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 looks quite appealing. It offers a smooth design layout with nothing fancy all around. The device features an all-plastic casing with a glossy rear panel. At first look, the rear panel appears to be made out of glass, however, let the looks not fool you. It is only when you hold the phone in hands that you will realize it is an all-plastic construction. Keep the Redmi Note 6 Pro or Nokia 6.1 Plus side by side and you will instantly feel the difference. Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 feels somewhat less premium in hands. However, the plastic construction doesn't affect the device's ability to resist damage. Instead, Zenfone Max Pro M2 might be one of the most durable budget smartphones in the market. The phone fell from my hands twice on a hard surface and it did not suffer any noticeable damage. The front of the handset features Corning Gorilla Glass 6 making Zenfone Max Pro M2 the most affordable handset with the latest and toughest glass from Corning.
The rear panel on ZenFone Max Pro M2 picks up fingerprints from the moment you pick up the phone. It's actually a task to keep the surface clean. We would suggest using a case with the device. The rear panel houses the primary dual-lens camera setup stacked vertically at the top left corner. There is also a fingerprint scanner mounted at the rear with ideal positioning allowing the index finger rest naturally on it. This makes it easy to unlock the device once picked up. The fingerprint lock is fairly easy to set up and it unlocks the smartphone in a jiffy.
Coming to the placement of keys and ports, the volume rockers along with the power key is placed at the right panel of the smartphone, whereas, the left panel houses the SIM card tray. The bottom panel accommodates the 3.5mm headphone hack for audio output, speaker grills and a standard microUSB port for charging and data transfers.
Beefiest battery in town but feels surprisingly lightweight
Even with a big display panel and a massive battery unit, I didn't find the device bulkier. It is somewhat easy to operate the smartphone with one hand; however, reaching the edges might need some efforts. The curved edges allow for a good grip, though, we would suggest you use a case as the glossy rear panel is slightly slippery. Overall, ZenFone Max Pro M2 features a sturdy design which might not give the most premium feel in hands but somehow looks premium due to its glossy plastic back and minimal looks.
Display: Easy on the eyes
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 sports a tall 6.3-inch full HD+ IPS display panel that has an aspect ratio of 19:9. The screen offers a resolution of 1080 x 2280 pixels and a peak brightness of 450 nits.
The display sports a mid-size notch on top which stores the front camera along with an LED flash and a couple of sensors. It also has a notification LED which glows orange when the device is being charged and green for general notifications.
The display is surrounded by thin bezels all around including the chin which allows for a maximum display surface while consuming media. Speaking about the luminance levels, the device offers optimum brightness indoors; you will experience some issues watching content on the device under direct sunlight.
You can also tweak the color temperature as per your requirement from within display settings. The IPS LCD display panel on the smartphone offers vivid color output and you will enjoy your viewing sessions on the device. The taller display offers decent viewing angles and is apt for media consumption and streaming shows and movies online. While watching videos on the device we the device didn't hiccup even once and it played along the content quite well. The big display does enhance the viewing experience.
Corning Gorilla Glass 6 at budget price-point
The display is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on top for screen protection and Asus claims that it can survive up to 15 drops from a height of 1m. This is definitely going to help in case of accidental falls. Notably, the smartphones in this price segment usually offer Corning Gorilla Glass 3/4 and we hardly come across the mid-tier devices featuring Corning Gorilla Glass 6. This adds a bonus point for users who will buy the Max Pro M2.
Camera: Dual-lens rear camera module and an improved selfie camera
Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 packs a dual-lens rear camera setup like most of the affordable smartphones available in the market. The rear camera module comprises of a 12MP primary Sony IMX486 sensor that has an aperture value of f/1.8. The camera is paired with a 5MP depth sensing secondary lens.
The camera hardware is good but the results are subpar due to the poor camera software. The autofocus and tap to focus are not at point and it affects how the camera captures the overall scene. For starters, the autofocus is quick but it is not effectively calibrated for non-human subjects. What this means is that the camera on Zenfone Max Pro M2 shows effective autofocus skills when you are framing humans; however, the results are not very satisfactory when you are capturing non-human subjects. On the other hand, the camera captures good landscape shots and pleasing bokeh shots in daylight.
Low-light Camera Performance
The camera also fails to capture real-life colors in low-lighting and also show noise. The primary lens delivers warm colors if light sources are placed close and simply fails to differentiate the color difference in light sources placed farther. The images also look washed out in low-light conditions. Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro did a better job in similar conditions.
The rear camera can record 4K UHD videos and you can also set a specific time limit to record the videos, which is a smart feature
Easy-to-use Camera Interface
The camera UI on Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 is very fluid and easy-to-use. The various modes and settings are laid out in an easy-to-use format. Besides the Auto and Night mode, the rear camera supports HDR, sports and Pro mode as well which you can access from the top left a corner of the app. You can easily navigate throughout the camera UI to access modes and fine tune the settings to get the best out of the camera
Selfie Camera Performance
Up front, the ZenFone Max Pro packs a 13MP camera that has an f/2.0 aperture and is accompanied by an LED flash. The LED flash allows us to click selfies in low-light situations. The details captured by the front camera are of good quality and it brings a noticeable improvement over its predecessor the ZenFone Max Pro M1. The picture quality during the video calling is also better as compared to its predecessor. It may not be the best selfie camera in the market but it does a pretty decent job in capturing images.
Summing up all, Asus has offered good camera hardware; however, the underlying software hampers the overall rear camera performance in real-life tests.
Perfect budget smartphone for Stock Android fans
The major highlight besides the big battery of the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is the stock Android UI. The neat UI offers a smooth user experience and is not gimmicky. If Asus manages to offer timely updates, this device can be the best affordable option or stock Android fans. Being a stock Android phone, Zenfone Max Pro M2 only offers some stock Google apps. It runs on Android 8.1 Oreo, though, the company has promised an Android Pie update for the device.
One of the badly missed features on this smartphone is the ‘hide notch' feature. Yes, there is no option to toggle the notch off or on, hence, you will have no other option than to watch videos with a notch insight
As for the hardware, you get a Snapdragon 660 chipset onboard which is combined with Adreno 512 GPU to render all the high-resolution graphics and it does a pretty good job while doing the same. Notably, the processor is powerful than what one of its major rivals the Redmi Note 6 Pro offers. The Redmi Note 6 Pro comes with a Snapdragon 636 chipset and is selling for a similar price point. So, you get a snappier Snapdragon chipset which is clubbed with 3/4/6 GB of RAM for multitasking.
Carrying out with day to day tasks is not an issue and it offers a lag-free performance throughout. No heating issues found while watching videos continuously for a longer period of time or with moderate gameplay sessions. Speaking of gaming, the device does a pretty good job in handling some graphically intensive games. PUBG, Asphalt 9 and some other game titles can be played with no or very little lag. In terms of storage, the device comes in two storage options including 32GB and 64GB and is further expandable up to 2TB via dedicated microSD card slot, which is another highlight feature of the handset.
Battery: Enough juice to help you through a day
The ZenFone Max Pro M2 houses a mammoth 5,000mAh battery unit; sadly, there is no fast charging support. This means you will need to wait a while to get the fuel back up. Speaking of the charging speed, the device takes around 2.5 hours to charge from zero to 100 percent. A lesser charge time would have been really appreciated.
In terms of backup, the big battery does hold up a bit longer than the usual batteries found on the other mid-range smartphones. Though it is not exceptional and you get a backup of one complete day with a single charge. Mind you, if you are binging on your favorite shows or movies or even getting on with your gameplay sessions you will need to plug it in again. With simple day-to-day tasks such as web-surfing, playing music and other activities the device will last for an entire day and even a bit more depending upon the screen-on-time.
ZenFone Max Pro M2 is a worthy successor to the ZenFone Max Pro M1. It is durable, runs stock Android and also offers best-in-class CPU. The smartphone also offers a dedicated microSD card slot and packs in the beefiest battery in the budget price-point. It is only the camera performance, where the smartphone failed to impress us. Competitors like Redmi Note 6 pro and Honor 8X are better camera devices in the overall camera performance. Having said that, if you are looking for a budget smartphone with long-lasting battery life, no-compromise in storage and connectivity, durable design and stock Android, Zenfone Max Pro M2 is the answer. If the camera is your top priority, you should check out the other mid-rangers such as the Redmi Note 6 Pro and Honor 8X.