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ASUS ZenFone 3 Max review: Battery capacity isn't everything

By Liu Hongzuo - 4 Oct 2016
Launch SRP: S$248

ASUS ZenFone 3 Max review: Benchmark Performance, Camera Performance, Battery Performance, Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max uses an entry-level MediaTek MT6737 quad-core processor clocked at 1.25GHz. On the processor is a Mali-T720 GPU. Our review unit has 16GB internal storage, which means our model contains 2GB RAM. We’ll compare it to older ZenFone units (like the preceding ZenFone Max), and other low-priced alternatives.

Test phones compared
  ASUS ZenFone 3 Max ASUS ZenFone 3 ASUS ZenFone Max Leagoo Shark 1 Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
  ASUS ZenFone 3 Max ASUS ZenFone 3 ASUS ZenFone Max Leagoo Shark 1 Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
Launch SRP
  • From S$248
  • From S$498
  • From S$249
  • From S$399
  • From S$299
  • Up to 4G LTE
Operating system
  • Android 6.0 with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
  • Android 6.0 with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with ASUS ZenUI
  • Leagoo OS 1.1. based on Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • Android 5.1.1 with MIUI 7
  • MediaTek MT6737 quad-core, 1.25GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core, 2.0GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core 1.2GHz
  • MediaTek MTK6753 octa-core 1.3GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 hexa-core 1.8GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 2GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 5.2-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (~401 ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels / IPS
  • 6-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / LTPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / IPS
  • Rear: 13-megapixel, f/2.2, Super Resolution, Backlight (Super HDR)
  • Front: 5-megapixel, f/2.2
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, TriTech AutoFocus, 4-axis OIS
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/2.0
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with f/2.0 aperture, laser autofocus, dual-color Real Tone Flash and PixelMaster technology
  • Front: 5-megapixel with f/2.0 aperture, wide-angle 88 ˚ lens, autofocus and PixelMaster technology
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with f/2.0 aperture and dual-tone LED flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel with LED flash
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with 5-element lens, f/2.0, 78° wide-angle lens and a two-tone flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel with f/2.0 and face recognition
Audio Support
  • Dual microphone with noise cancellation
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, USB OTG, Wi-Fi Direct
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, USB 2.0 Type-C, Wi-Fi Direct
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR + A2DP, GPS, GLONASS, AGPS & BDS
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct
  • GPS, AGPS, GLONASS and BeiDou positioning
Storage Type
  • 16GB storage (expandable via microSD)
  • 64GB storage (expandable via microSD to 2TB)
  • 16GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 16GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 4,100 mAh
  • 3,000 mAh
  • 5,000mAh
  • 6,300mAh
  • 4,050mAh
  • 149.5 x 73.7 x 8.55 mm
  • 152.59 x 77.38 x 7.69 mm
  • 156 x 77.5 x 5.2 ~ 10.55mm
  • 158.6 x 82.8 x 8.5mm
  • 150 x 76 x 8.65mm
  • 148g
  • 155g
  • 202g
  • 240.9g
  • 164g



Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O, and 3D graphics performance. The ZenFone 3 Max has an average performance on paper, with some disappointing results - the Redmi Note 3 actually beats the ZenFone 3 Max by a large margin despite sitting in the same price bracket.


3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

3DMark Ice Storm is designed to test the gaming capabilities of a device, putting its GPU through a rigorous OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering with high quality textures and post-processing effects. The Unlimited version of the benchmark disables v-sync, display scaling and other OS factors, making it ideal for chipset comparison.Since all the recent flagship smartphones max out the scores for the Standard and Extreme tests, we will only be comparing results for Ice Storm Unlimited.

While it's been established that the phone has entry-level performance, we're pleased with how it beats the preceding ZenFone Max. However, it still has one of the lowest scores compared to its rivals.

For your own reference, the ZenFone 3 Max scored 177 for the 3DMark Sling Shot benchmark – we're still gathering companion results for this new benchmark, but as with 3DMark results, the higher the score, the better.


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 at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. Seem like the ZenFone 3 Max managed a decent showing here, but not by a large margin.

For your reference, the ZenFone 3 Max scored 19.328 for the JetStream benchmark – again, this is a new  test where we're gathering test data, so we'll be a while more before we can transition. But as usual, the higher the score the better.

Generally speaking, the ZenFone 3 Max doesn’t have the smoothest user experience.  It struggles with basic navigation and app loading occasionally times, while running flawlessly otherwise. To play the devil’s advocate, the ZenFone 3 Max is built entirely around delivering a long-lasting uptime, making raw performance less of a key feature for this smartphone.


Camera Performance

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max uses a 13-megapixel PixelMaster camera on the rear. It has an f/2.2 aperture lens. They’ve also included a bunch of features. Backlight (Super HDR) mode is a fancy name for High Dynamic Range shooting. Super Resolution mode is far more interesting – in one tap, the phone shoots multiple shots simultaneously before digitally stitching it for a single photograph with 52-megapixel detail. We’ve included one Super Resolution shot of our usual Auto mode testing, just for kicks.

Auto mode. Click to view full-resolution image.

From the test image, we can see that the camera is capable of good color and contrast reproduction. Sharpness and noise are the bigger issues here, unfortunately, with the noise grain interfering with the details across all of the figurines. As such, the phone’s camera is functional at best, but it does look more impressive than expected on the phone display.

Super Resolution mode. Click to view full-resolution image.

The only noticeable difference between an Auto mode shot and the Super Resolution mode shot was the significantly reduced noise grain. There isn’t much more you can tell with the naked eye.


Battery performance

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes 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 results look nothing like a phone with a 4,100mAh battery; in factm it's considerably less than the outgoing ZenFone Max’s 5,000mAh battery. Previously, we reported that the old model was able to clock in more than 19 hours of uptime. The ZenFone 3 Max managed a modest uptime of just 460 minutes, which is slightly better than what the Sony Xperia X managed (it only has a 2,600mAh battery and is a mid-range product). Even the ZenFone 3 clocked a better battery mileage of 720 minutes. The ZenFone 3 Max is therefore not as power efficient as the others.

This isn’t the first time where a phone had a larger-than-average battery capacity with disappointing battery life – take a look at this Leagoo Shark 1 and you’d agree. If anything, we observe that phones that pack an entry-level MediaTek processor seemed to penalize a phone’s battery life adversely. Interestingly, the older ZenFone Max used an up-to-date entry-level Qualcomm processor.

Leagoo did not release their battery's discharge voltage, and hence we have no number to determine how efficient it is at consuming power over time.

As the power consumption figures above reveal, clearly, the ZenFone 3 Max is sipping way too power, and thus the overall poor battery performance. Combining these above factors, our Portability Index agrees with us that even the heavier and thicker ZenFone Max from last year is more worth your time than carrying around the new ZenFone 3 Max, despite the fact the newcomer is sleeker and lighter. For those who aren't too familiar with our Portability Index, it factors key attributes such as battery life uptime, physical dimensions and weight into consideration to bring about the below ratios:-

It’s worth noting that our battery test really pushes the phone to its limit with maximum brightness and volume. When the ZenFone 3 Max was sleeping and untouched for three days, it still had 85% battery left. Your real world usage may vary, but our battery test tells us it’s nowhere as efficient as the ZenFone 3, which had a smaller battery capacity but far better battery uptime.



The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max will have a tough time measuring up to its own past model and rivals. For an extra S$50, you get a 1080p display and better battery life with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, but the same price will net you the older ZenFone Max that comes with a larger battery capacity and significantly longer battery life - exactly what we expect out of a "Max" class ZenFone product.

Given the flexibility of Android OS customization, most of its software packaged features can be replaced with other apps on the Google Play store, while the rest would be better off deleted in favor of precious internal storage. The phone’s real-world performance makes it a harder sell than it really needs to be.  The ZenFone 3 Max has several nice aspects like the good design and build quality, a fingerprint sensor, USB OTG functionality, and its accompanying larger battery capacity. However, the choice to use Mediatek processors has stripped the phone's potential considerably. After all, who would knowingly get an underperforming device when other options won't suffer this aspect?

If you simply want a phone, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max is definitely usable and at S$248 for a pretty phone, it helps to make it marketable. However, most discerning phone enthusiasts would likely pass this up for other alternatives.

On a side note, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max really helps to emphasize how great the base model ASUS ZenFone 3 really is. At just S$200 more, you get a significantly faster and smoother phone with better battery life, higher-tier hardware, and a 1080p resolution display. This base model punches above its weight, and this keeps us excited about the performance of the premium ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe.

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  • Design 9
  • Features 7.5
  • User-Friendliness 7.5
  • Performance 4
  • Value 6
The Good
Premium design
Fingerprint sensor
Attractive UI
The Bad
720p screen
Excessive bloatware
Underwhelming battery life
Lethargic performance
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