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ASUS ZenFone Max review: The king of battery performance

By Cookie Monster - 12 Aug 2016
Launch SRP: S$249

Overview, Design & Features

The simplest way to classify the the ASUS ZenFone Max is a bumped up variant of the ZenFone Laser with a 5,000mAh battery. Yes, nearly double the battery capacity!

Overview 

Given the success of its ZenFone lineup last year, it's only natural that ASUS wants to milk the branding for all it's worth. This led to the launch of more ZenFone-branded devices such as the ZenFone Selfie, ZenFone 2 Laser, ZenFone 2 Go and the ZenFone Max. Each device has a unique proposition and the ZenFone Max focuses on a long lasting battery with more capacity than most other phones pack. Here's a quick look at the recent ZenFone models and where the ZenFone Max stands - in a nutshell, a ZenFone 2 Laser with a 5,000mAh battery:-

ASUS ZenFone Max vs. ZenFone 2 Laser vs. ZenFone Selfie
  ASUS ZenFone Max ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) ASUS ZenFone Selfie
  ASUS ZenFone Max ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) ASUS ZenFone Selfie
Launch SRP
  • From S$249
  • From S$279
  • From S$399
Operating system
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with ASUS ZenUI
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with ASUS ZenUI
  • ASUS ZenUI based on Android 5.0 Lollipop
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core 1.2GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core 1.2GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor
Built-in Memory
  • 2GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 5.5-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / IPS
Camera
  • 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, autofocus, PixelMaster and LED flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel, autofocus, PixelMaster
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with f/2.0 aperture and dual-LED Real Tone flash
  • Front: 13-megapixel with f/2.2 aperture, wide-angle 88-degree lens with dual-LED Real Tone flash
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR + A2DP, GPS, GLONASS, AGPS & BDS
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 +EDR
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Storage Type
  • 16GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 16GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 128GB
Battery
  • 5,000mAh
  • 3,000mAh
  • 3,000mAh
Dimensions
  • 156 x 77.5 x 5.2 ~ 10.55mm
  • 152.5 x 77.2 x 3.9 ~ 10.8mm
  • 156.5 x 77.2 x 10.8~3.9mm
Weight
  • 202g
  • 170g
  • 170g

 

Design & Handling 

If you've seen the other ZenFone devices, you will be familiar with the ZenFone Max's design. Depending on how you view it, sticking to the design language ensures a familiar and consistent experience if you're upgrading from a much older ZenFone device, or it can be seen as uninspiring.

You get the same touch-sensitive navigation buttons below the 5.5-inch display, which do not lit up even in the dark and is the same bug bear we had with other ZenFone devices to-date. The metallic buttons - volume controls and power - are located on the right side of the device, and are fairly easy to access though.

The rear cover of the ZenFone Max reminds us of the ZenFone Zoom although the texture feels different. Described as having "the look and feel of embossed leather", the rear cover provides enough grip to handle the 5.5-inch device with ease. It's fairly easy to remove the rear cover for accessing the dual micro-SIM card slots and microSD memory card slot. Both SIM card slots support 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity although 4G connectivity is limited to one SIM card at any point in time.

 

Overall, the handling of the ZenFone Max does not differ much from the rest of the ZenFone family except for its weight. At 202g, the ZenFone Max is one of the few phablets to breach the 200g barrier. The heft may provide a solid feel in the hands, but it will bog down your front jeans pocket. 

Display 

The ZenFone Max sports a 5.5-inch HD (1,280 x 720 pixels) IPS display which is reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The benefits of Gorilla Glass 4 include 2x more drop-damage resistance, 85% less likelihood of breakage and 2.5x more retained strength as compared to competitive glasses.

For web surfing and most normal usage scenarios, the HD resolution should suffice although the pixelation could be an issue for users who have handled devices with higher resolution displays. However, for its price tag, there is really nothing to complain about. 

Similar to all recent ZenFone devices, the ZenFone Max has a blue light filter option in its display settings. The function of the blue light filter is to make the screen less glaring when using at night and in doing so, it helps you sleep better as your eyes are less fatigued. You also can toggle between a balanced screen color mode and a vivid mode. 

There is also a range of touch gestures such as double tapping to turn on the screen, and various alphabets to launch preset apps. 

 

ZenUI on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop

The ZenFone Max is running on a two-year-old Android OS with an outdated Android security patch.

The ZenFone Max ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop and ZenUI, which is a customized Android overlay developed by ASUS - similar to HTC's Sense and Samsung's TouchWiz. You can check out the core features of the ZenUI here: 5 notable features of the ASUS ZenUI. Over the past year, ASUS has added more than 1,000 new features to the ZenUI which include ZenMotion, ZenUI launcher, Themes and SnapView. Some of the features were discussed in our review of the ZenFone 2.

With the next Android version launching soon, it is disappointing to see the ZenFone Max still running on a two-year-old Android OS. The Android security patch level is dated 21st October 2015 which is almost a year outdated! As malware attacks become more common among mobile devices, it may not be advisable to buy a device with little or no guarantee of regular software updates.

 The OS and apps take up a total of 8.18GB storage space on the ZenFone Max. You are left with about 7.75GB of available storage space although it can be increased via microSD card expansion. 

8.0
  • Design 8
  • Features 7.5
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 7.5
The Good
Ultra long battery life
Decent camera performance
Affordable
Expandable storage
The Bad
Outdated processor
HD display resolution
Navigation buttons not backlit
Only 16GB onboard storage
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