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ASUS Zenfone Max Review

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The sub10k smartphone segment has really warmed up in the last eighteen months or so. Many companies have started pushing for reliable, premium looking handsets in this price segment, after striving for improved performance and screens earlier on. Now, Asus is out with its second Zenfone Max. As the name suggests, it is big on the battery front, but also a lot other up its sleeves, so, let’s see if it’s worth your bucks or not.

The ASUS Zenfone Max (ZC550KL) follows a familiar look we saw on the Zenfone Zoom. The front, marked by an aluminium chin with three capacitive touch keys — BAck, Home, Recent Apps list — above it, right below the screen; the screen has the ASUS logo, ear-speaker grille and the 5 MP front-facing camera. The sides are nicely polished in smokey Gold colur that goes well with the rest of the body. The right sidepanel locates the volume rockers and Power/ lock key, both of which feel tactile and convenient in terms of placement. At the bottom, you have the microUSB 2.0 port, primary mic; while the top gets the 3.5mm headset jack. Coming to the embossed leather back, you have the 13 MP camera surrounded by the secondary mic,  laser focus and dual tone LED flash, whhile the Zenfone logo sits near the loudspeaker towards the bottom. The phone feels quite heavy, but isn’t very slippery due to its etched leather and curved edges. ASUS seems to have done a good job with how the device looks, with no creeks and no cheap screws in sight.

Zenfone MAx

Coming to the phone’s display, it sports an HD (1280×720) IPS panel that does a pretty decent job for Web browsing. Its contrast levels appear better than earlier ASUS phones in this price range, but overall sharpness isn’t very impressive. All in all, the 5.5-inch screen is more or less on par with good screens in this segment, and gets the job done.

The device sports a huge 5,000 mAh battery unit, so much so, you can even charge another microUSB-supporting device with it via a converter charger. The phone’s battery life, one of the USPs of it, doesn’t disappoint. It lasted more than 36 hours with moderate to heavy use and two days comfortably with light usage. With brightness at 30% and a single SIM card slot, its standby time went a little over a week. The bundled higher capacity charger can charge the device in nearly four hours.

Talking about the camera, this is where, I think, the smartphone struggles a bit. The 13 MP camera can take okay shots in daylight, but struggles to focus and capture in time even with decent lighting. The camera can take detailed shots, but it over-sharpens and gives grainy images in HDR. The camera app has many modes to choose from like depth of field, low light, panorama, GIF animation, and even full manual mode.

The phone’s call quality and network reception are both top notch. I also didn’t see too many glitches with WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth functionality.

The Zenfone MAx runs on Android 6.0 with ASUS’s own ZenUI on top. It is equipped with Snapdragon 615 chipset (1.5 GHz octa core processor, Adreno 405 GPU) along with 2 GB of RAM. I found the phone to be an okay performer in day to day tasks, and capable of running some apps and games without too much trouble but other heavier ones with noticeable stuttering. Apart from occasional stuttering in Settings and several ASUS apps, it is not laggy. ZenUI is surely one of the most feature-rich Android OEM skins out there. It has plenty of features and tweaks in place to satisfy most users. From support for icon packs, changing icon size, homescreen and Menu launcher style, theme store, to new iOS-like search feature (by swiping down while on a homescreen. ASUS’s apps like Phone calling, messaging and music player are actually simple yet have loads of useful options. You Can double tap to wake or lock the screen, and it works really well. There is also a one-handed mode (you can switch it on from Settings and trigger it by hitting the home button thrice), which makes a lot of sense considering the size and weight of the device. But what ZenUI still lacks is being aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It hasn’t really been toned down from the last time we tried it and probably won’t be in the near future, but the theme store looks better and has more variety to choose from now. This 32 GB dual SIM (micro + micro) model comes with about 24.1 GB of available space, which you can expand using a microSD card.

ASUS Zenfone Max

Wrapping our review up, the new Zenfone Max scores well on a lot of fronts — great and reliable battery life, good screen, decent design and looks — but has its flaws with a sub-par camera. So, we can say that the Zenfone Max is a worthy contendor if you’re looking for a smartphone at Rs. 10,000 today.

Student. I also write a bit about phones, apps, and stuff here and there. Almost nobody.

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