ASUS is in the middle of upgrading their entire Zenfone 2 series to the Zenfone 3 series. The Zenfone series has been nothing short of iconic for them. The whole series has been a trendsetter. But off late, the Zenfone 3 series has been actually disrupted their own design and pricing paradigm. The latest series has been a concerted effort to move into the pricier premium bracket and it seems to be working. Let’s take a look at the Zenfone 3 Max that is the latest entry into this series.
The unibody metallic finish is a very good one, the whole device has a premium look and feel. ASUS has mastered the art of making phones with massive batteries without making them look bulky. The phone is very light on the hands and good to hold given the 4100 mAH battery that it comes with. The device weighs only 175g, which is very good for a big battery phone. The navigation keys are present outside the screen but the bezels look sleek, a noted departure from the earlier ZenFones that we have seen so far.
The phone feels nice to hold, if a touch too slippery and it’s way more pocketable than many phones with the same screen size
The phone has a very bright 5.5-inch LCD display which supports a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080p and has a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 protection against scratches and nicks. The colors are visibly good and bright and that makes it ideal for watching movies and extended stints of serious gaming. The visibility is better in bright light hence makes outdoor use easier on your eyes. It also comes with customary ASUS blue light filter which changes the color of the screen so the blue light won’t stress your eyes and it helps when you are using the phone during late nights too.
There are two units of the ZenFone 3 Max available. The first is a 5.2-inch variant with a MediaTek chip and 5.2-inch screen that costs Rs 13,999. The other is a 5.5-inch variant with a Snapdragon 430 for Rs 17,999. The smaller one is called the ZenFone 3 Max 5.2 and the larger one the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5. We got the 5.5 inch version to review. The buttons on the front face are capacitive, but they are not backlit, making it a tad bit difficult to use in the dark. The top of the front portion has the earpiece speaker, front camera unit and ambient light sensor.
Powering the phone is Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor coupled with 3GB of RAM. Inspite of the fact that the phone runs a very heavily loaded UI, the phone works without any stutter or lag or sluggishness. It was able to handle multi-tasking and games like Asphalt Xtreme without any issues whatsoever. The phone comes with 32GB of internal storage and can take in additional storage up to 128GB microSD card. The two SIM slots support all major 4G networks in India.
Powered by a 4,100mAH battery, the ZenFone 3 Max can comfortably run for almost two days of backup on a single charge. We were able to get it running for an average of 19 hours on very intensive and heavy use. The video loop test ran for close to 7 hours. We tried WiFi and 4G usage and the battery was able to take that beyond a day and a half.
The phone runs the 6.0 (Marshmallow) version of Android OS with ZenUI 3.0 on top of it. This is one area where ASUS needs to get better. The Zen UI skin has mind boggling amount of customization options and gets very bulky and tedious. There are too many ASUS apps that you will never need for regular use, but they cannot be uninstalled and they keep updating themselves a lot. We believe that it is now time for ASUS to take the Zen UI skin and probably make it lighter from the ground up or the users will start feeling the pinch.
The 16-megapixel camera does a very decent job with the detailing and color reproduction. The colors come out looking rich without feeling over saturated or jaded at any juncture. The close-up shots look decently clear. In some shots we noticed a little noise too, especially when it came to the landscape mode. The camera comes with a very nifty super resolution mode which combines multiple shots to produce a picture that is equivalent to the output of a 64-megapixel camera. Low-light shots look tad bit blurry and even enabling the low-light mode was not able to add any major improvement in the final image quality. The 8-megapixel snapper on the front can shoot crisp looking shots and offers beautification, HDR and time lapse mode. So, in total, the camera is good but not something that we would be writing home about. ASUS has a massive track record of producing devices with amazing cameras in the Zenfone series, but this one is not right up there though. Could have been better.
The Zenfone 3 Max is an impressive high battery phone, the design is good and feel is premium. The specifications are decent and the camera is no slouch either. The price tag of 17,999/- is where the device sets itself up for competition with the Redmi Note 3 series and other impressive phones in that bracket. In a nutshell, powerful but pricey.