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ASUS ZenFone 4 Max review: Is a big battery enough?

By James Lu - 21 Jan 2018
Prices:

Benchmark Performance, Imaging, Battery life, and Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

After briefly flirting with Mediatek for last year's ZenFone 3 Max, ASUS is back with Qualcomm this year and the ZenFone 4 Max is powered by a Snapdragon 425 quad-core processor with 3GB RAM and an Adreno 308 GPU.

  ASUS ZenFone 4 Max ASUS ZenFone 3 Max Xiaomi Mi A1 Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
  ASUS ZenFone 4 Max ASUS ZenFone 3 Max Xiaomi Mi A1 Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
Launch SRP
  • From S$258
  • From S$248
  • From S$349
  • From S$259
Latest Price
  • From S$250
  • From S$180
  • From S$220
Operating system
  • Android 7.1.1 with ASUS ZenUI
  • Android 6.0 with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
  • Android 7.1.2 Nougat
  • MIUI 8.2 based on Android 6.0.1
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 425
  • MediaTek MT6737 quad-core, 1.25GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-core 2.0GHz Cortex-A53
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core 2.0GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 4GB
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 5.2-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels (~282ppi) / IPS LCD
  • 5.2-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (~401 ppi) / IPS LCD
  • 5.5-inch / IPS / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Camera
  • Rear: Dual 16-megapixel, f/2.0 and 5-megapixel wide-angle
  • Front: 8-megapixel
  • Rear: 13-megapixel, f/2.2, Super Resolution, Backlight (Super HDR)
  • Front: 5-megapixel, f/2.2
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel (26mm, f/2.2 & 50mm, f/2.6) 2x optical zoom, phase-detection AF, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel
  • Rear: 13-megapixel BSI CMOS camera with ultra-fast 0.1s PDAF technology
  • Front: 5-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi Direct, LTE 4G Cat4 (up to 150mbps)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, USB OTG, Wi-Fi Direct
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type-C 2.0, Infrared port
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou positioning, micro-USB 2.0
Storage Type
  • 32GB storage (expandable via microSD)
  • 16GB storage (expandable via microSD)
  • 64GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 128GB
Battery
  • 4,100 mAh
  • 4,100 mAh
  • 3,080mAh
  • 4,100mAh
Dimensions
  • 150.5 x 73.3 x 8.73mm
  • 149.5 x 73.7 x 8.55 mm
  • 155.4 x 75.8 x 7.3 mm
  • 151 x 76 x 8.4mm
Weight
  • 156g
  • 148g
  • 165g
  • 165g
Network:
  • Up to 4G LTE
Audio Support
  • Dual microphone with noise cancellation

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. 

The ZenFone 4 Max isn't the snappiest phone out there, but it should be good enough for most people's browsing habits.

 

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.

The ZenFone 4 Max performed much better than last year's ZenFone 3 Max, but fell far short of the 625-powered Xiaomi Mi A1 and Redmi Note 4 (which is priced similar to ZenFone 4 Max).

 

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.

The results were similar here, with the ZenFone 4 Max beating last year's ZenFone 3 Max, but falling behind the Mi A1 and Redmi Note 4.

 

 

Imaging

While most dual camera setups pair a normal focal length lens with a telephoto lens, ASUS takes a different approach (also favored by LG on the V30+) pairing a standard focal length 16-megapixel, f/2.0 primary lens with a wide-angle 120-degree field of view 5-megapixel secondary lens. There's a slight lag when you switch between lenses, and unlike other dual camera setups, you can't zoom between focal lengths (zooming in with the wide-angle lens just digitally zooms in). 

Image quality from the main lens is decent enough for an entry-level phone, but colors are generally on the cooler side and there's noticeable processing throughout the image. On the plus side, details are actually reasonably sharp throughout the image, and the auto-focus is relatively fast and accurate.

Click for full-size image

On the other hand, the secondary camera's 5-megapixel sensor results in a huge drop in image quality and the wide-angle field of view creates a very obvious fisheye effect, so you should really only use this lens as a last resort - you're much better off standing further back and sticking to the primary lens.

Click for full-size image.

 

 

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 ZenFone 4 Max is fitted with a 4,100mAh unit, which is the same size as last year's disappointing ZenFone 3 Max. Fortunately, switching back to Qualcomm seems to have fixed any battery life issues and the 4 Max performed well in our video looping battery benchmark, lasting just over 13 hours.

ASUS is so confident of the battery life in the ZenFone 4 Max, it will let you use it to charge other devices. Having said that, if you want to charge another phone, you'll have to find a micro-USB to micro-USB/USB Type-C cable, which is pretty rare.

The ZenFone 4 Max supports fast charging but only with the supplied default power adapter. Despite running on a Qualcomm processor, it does not support Qualcomm's Quick Charge standard. Using the default adaptor, it took about four hours to charge from 0 to full, which is actually quite slow.

 

Conclusion

When I review entry-level phones, I don't expect much and I'm conscious of the fact that I'm not the target audience. But even with that in mind, and taking into consideration its affordable S$258 price tag and great battery life, the ZenFone 4 Max is hard to recommend. When even the S$150 Nokia 2 has an aluminum frame on it, there's absolutely no reason why the ZenFone 4 Max should be entirely plastic. The year old Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 costs S$1 more than the ZenFone 4 (you can actually find it much cheaper now) and boasts a full metal build, a larger, higher resolution display, a better rear camera, a more powerful processor, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity.

Even when compared to last year's ZenFone 3 Max, other than the better processor and dual rear camera (of which the secondary lens is of questionable use), it's hard to say if the ZenFone 4 Max is an upgrade at all - at least last year's ZenFone 3 Max had an aluminum build. 

If all you care about is battery life, the ZenFone 4 Max may be the phone for you (although even then, you should take a look at the Nokia 2), but if design, display, camera, performance, or features like NFC and 802.11ac Wi-Fi (which honestly should be standard on all phones by now) are at least somewhat important, look elsewhere.

5.5
  • Design 6
  • Features 5.5
  • User-Friendliness 6
  • Performance 6
  • Value 4
The Good
Great battery life
The Bad
Generic plastic build
Secondary rear camera not worth using
No ac Wi-Fi
No NFC
Fingerprint scanner doesn't double as a power button
Expensive for what you get
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