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ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 vs. Huawei Nova 3i: Battle of the budget contenders

By James Lu - 7 Oct 2018

Benchmark Performance, Imaging, Battery life, and Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

The ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor. The 636 is an octa-core processor built on a 14nm manufacturing process. There are actually multiple variants of the Max Pro M1 available, one with 3GB RAM, one with 4GB, and one with a whopping 6GB RAM. Unfortunately, the version available in Singapore, and the one we have for review, is the lowest-end 3GB model.

The Huawei Nova 3i is powered by Huawei's new Kirin 710 processor. This octa-core SoC is built on a 12nm manufacturing process and comprises of 4x Cortex A73 at 2.2GHz and 4x Cortex A53 at 1.7GHz. 

  ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Huawei Nova 3i Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus Xiaomi Mi A2
  ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Huawei Nova 3i Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus Xiaomi Mi A2
Launch SRP
  • From S$348
  • From S$398
  • From S$299
  • From S$369
Operating system
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.2
  • MIUI 9.5 based on Android 7.1.2
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
  • HiSilicon Kirin 710
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core 2.0GHz Cortex-A53
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM (Singapore variant)
  • 4GB (Singapore version)
Display
  • 5.99-inch / 2,160 x 1,080 pixels (~404ppi) / 18:9 aspect ratio / IPS LCD
  • 6.3-inch / 2,340 x 1,080 pixels (~409ppi) / 19.5:9 aspect ratio / IPS LCD
  • 5.99-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio / IPS / 2,160 x 1,080 pixels
  • 5.99-inch / 1,080 x 2,160 pixels (~403 ppi) / LTPS IPS LCD
Camera
  • Rear: 13-megapixel, f/2.2, 25mm (wide), 1.12µm, PDAF + 5-megapixel, f/2.4, 1.12µm, depth sensor
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1.0µm
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.2 PDAF, + 2-megapixel depth sensor
  • Front: 24-megapixel, f/2.0 + 2-megapixel depth sensor
  • - Rear: 12-megapixel (f/2.2, 1.25 μm), phase detection autofocus, dual-LED dual-tone flash
  • - Front: 5-megapixel
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel (f/1.75) and 20-megapixel (f/1.75), PDAF, Super Pixel pixel-binning
  • Front: 20-megapixel (f/2.2), Super Pixel pixel-binning
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi direct, GPS, AGPS, micro-USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi direct, GPS, AGPS, micro-USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS and Beidou positioning, FM radio, IR blaster, micro-USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band, WiFi Direct, Bluetooth 5.0 A2DP/LE, GPS/A-GPS/GLONASS/BDS, USB Type-C 2.0
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage
  • Expandable up to 512GB (via microSD)
  • 128GB internal storage
  • Expandable up to 256GB (via microSD)
  • 64GB internal storage (Singapore variant)
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 64GB (Singapore version), non-expandable
Battery
  • 5,000mAh
  • 3,340mAh
  • 4,000mAh
  • 3,000 mAh
Dimensions
  • 159 x 76 x 8.5 mm
  • 157.6 x 75.2 x 7.6 mm
  • 159 x 76 x 8.1mm
  • 158.7 x 75.4 x 7.3 mm
Weight
  • 180g
  • 169g
  • 180g
  • 166g

SunSpider Javascript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is in delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. 

Both phones were a little disappointing on this benchmark, scoring slower than both the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660-powered Mi A2, and the 625-powered Redmi 5 Plus. Actual browser experience on both phones was fairly good, although I did notice some occasional lagginess on the Nova 3i.

 

Basemark OS II

Basemark OS II is an all-in-one benchmarking tool that measures overall performance through a comprehensive suite of tests including system, internal and external memory, graphics, web browsing, and CPU consumption.

Surprisingly the Kirin 710 and Snapdragon 636 were very close on this benchmark, although both were quite a bit behind the Snapdragon 660.

 

3DMark Sling Shot

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We're running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.

We saw similar results in this benchmark with the Max Pro M1 and Nova 3i again scoring very similarly. Once again however, the Mi A2 was way ahead.

 

 

Imaging - ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1

The Max Pro M1 uses a dual rear camera setup comprising of a 13-megapixel, f/2.2 wide-angle lens paired with a 5-megapixel f/2.4 lens. As with many entry and mid-range phones, the secondary lens doesn't really do anything, and is only there to collect depth information for Portrait mode. The rear camera uses an Omnivision 16880 imaging sensor.

Overall image quality isn't too bad, although there is some noticeable processing if you zoom in closer. The camera also really struggles to auto-focus in low-light environments. 

  

 

Huawei Nova 3i

The Nova 3i uses a similar dual-camera setup pairing a main 16-megapixel, f/2.2 lens with a 2-megapixel lens that only collects depth information. Surprisingly, the front camera is actually superior, using a 24-megapixel f/2 lens paired with the same 2-megapixel depth sensor lens. 

Like Huawei's flagship phones, the Nova 3i's camera is AI-assisted, and includes image recognition that will enhance your pictures. For example, if it detects you're looking at food, it will make colors more vivid to make the food look more enticing, or if it detects a face it will automatically activate Portrait settings. It can even distinguish between single portraits and group portraits.

The Nova 3i also includes a multitude of shooting modes, including light painting, long exposure, time-lapse, pro mode, night mode, slow-motion, HDR, and Artist mode (which applies really trippy filters in real time).

Image quality is quite good, with good color reproduction and reasonably sharp details throughout. Although, like the Max Pro M1, if you zoom in, there is noticeable processing. Auto-focus on the Nova 3i, however, is fairly fast, even in low light.

 

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

The Max Pro M1 has a massive 5,000mAh battery, while the Huawei Nova 3i has a more conservative 3,340mAh unit. The M1 showed off what it can do with that extra battery capacity, however, as it lasted 11 hours and 38 minutes in our video looping benchmark test. The Nova 3i lasted 8 hours and 32 minutes.

Neither phone is equipped with either wireless charging or fast charging, so it takes a while to charge them. Even if you connect a fast charging power adaptor, you'll only get a maximum power transfer of 10W on either phone. The Nova 3i took just under two hours to charge from empty to full, while the Max Pro M1 took a whopping three hours to fully charge.

 

Conclusion

When shopping for an entry-level phone, you're really looking for the best value for money. Both of these phones offer good value, but it's the Huawei Nova 3i that really stands out. While it's a bit more expensive than the Max Pro M1, it looks a lot more high-end with its 19.5:9 aspect ratio display, thin bezels, and eye-catching metal and glass design. The Nova 3i doesn't look that different from Huawei's $1,000 flagship phones, whereas the mostly plastic build of the Max Pro M1 just screams "entry-level."

Both phones have reasonably capable cameras, but the Nova 3i also includes a number of useful AI features and an extensive range of shooting modes.

The one area where the Max Pro M1 wins is battery life, where it lasted over three hours longer in our video looping benchmark. That's long enough to watch an entire movie! Considering the Max Pro M1's key feature is battery life though, it would have been really nice to see fast charging enabled on it.

Compared to Xiaomi's Mi A2, both the Max Pro M1 and Nova 3i beat it in terms of battery life, and both also include expandable storage and a headphone jack, which the Mi A2 lacks. The Mi A2 has a slightly better processor, but it isn't that much better. Its aluminum unibody design also looks a little dated, especially when compared to the more modern metal and glass design of the Nova 3i.

Overall, if battery life is your main concern the Max Pro M1 is worth a closer look, but if you're looking for the best value for money, and you want a phone that doesn't look or feel anything like a budget phone, the Huawei Nova 3i is your best choice.

Our Final Ratings
Huawei Nova 3i

Click for detailed results break-down.

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1

Click for detailed results break-down.

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