When Asus launched the ZenFone Max Pro M1 earlier this year, it took the smartphone community in India by surprise since such a feature packed phone at such a competitive price wasn’t expected. The Redmi Note 5 Pro used to be the king of the hill and the Max Pro M1 became the outlaw to challenge it. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 comes in three different variants – 3GB, 4GB and 6GB RAM variants. All these variants have different storage capacities to offer and in this review, we will take a look at the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 6GB RAM model. Let’s see how it fairs out and if it is worth the Rs. 14,999 that it costs.
In the box
The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 comes with the same stuff that its other siblings come with. You get the following things in the retail box.
- Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 handset
- Warranty and other documentation
- USB type-A to micro USB data/charging cable
- SIM ejector tool
- MaxBox Amplifier
The MaxBox amplifier is just an echo amplifier for the phone that is made out of cardboard and has magnets to keep this whole thing together.
Design & Build
The 6GB RAM version of the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 isn’t any different from its other variants. It still has the same body, appearance and feel to it and all that has changed is the amount of RAM you get in the phone. The phone has a polycarbonate body which might make it a bit odd considering the competitors have metal to offer at the same/similar price but it seems Asus has dumped metal for polycarbonate in order to save a few bucks. But the polycarbonate build doesn’t mean it feels cheap and flimsy. The phone is actually built very well and comes in different colors – Grey and Black.
The front of the phone has a 5.99-inch Full HD+ display and above the display, you will see the earpiece, the front camera and a bunch of sensors are hidden underneath the front panel. Turning the phone around will reveal the familiar dual camera set up along with the fingerprint sensor. The back and the front both are relatively clean with no branding that does not blend into the color of the phone.
On the right side of the phone, you have the volume rocker along with the power, lock and unlock button. The left is relatively empty with just a SIM card and a microSD combo slot placed on the side. Looking at the bottom will reveal that the phone has a micro USB port along with a 3.5mm audio port and both of these feel weird since it is 2018 and micro USB should not be a thing anymore and the 3.5mm audio hack because most of the manufacturers out there are hell-bent on killing it.
The bottom also houses the speaker, the microphone along with the other things mentioned above and the top of the phone is essentially empty with nothing important to mention. The phone, even though it has a polycarbonate body, still feels good in the hand and the build is solid too.
As mentioned above, the phone has a 5.99-inch full HD+ display and this display is using an IPS panel and has a resolution of 1080 x 2160 pixels. The display has an aspect ratio of 18:9 and the pixel density boils down to around 404 ppi which are quite good. The IPS panel used on the phone can display colors well and has good contrast. It can work fine under sunlight and can get as bright as 450 nits which is a decent amount of brightness for a phone in this price range. The display has a contrast ratio of 1500:1 and covers 85% of the NTSC color gamut.
Asus has done a great job with the display here and unlike some of their older phones, the display on this thing is gorgeous. But things aren’t golden everywhere when it comes to the display on the phone. Asus has skimped on the Gorilla Glass and the phone doesn’t come with any type of scratch protection glass on the display. It is suggested that you get a nice tempered glass for your ZenFone Max Pro M1 if you’re planning to get this thing.
Camera & Imaging
The ZenFone Max Pro M1 (6GB) comes with a 16MP + 5MP camera setup which is different from what you get on the 3GB and 4GB RAM variant of the phone – 13MP + 5MP. Even the front camera has been bumped up from 8MP to 16MP. There is a noticeable difference in the camera and the images when you compare it with older variants of the phone.
Dual Camera Setup – 16MP + 5MP
The rear camera setup on the 6GB version can take sharper photos with more details and vibrancy. Asus has also tweaked the image processing algorithm in order to get rid of the over-saturation that used to happen on the 3GB and 4GB versions of the phone. The colors are more accurate and the images look better. That said, the phone still can’t compete with players like Redmi Note 5 Pro and its camera results.
The portrait photos taken on the phone are a hit or miss depending on the conditions where the portrait mode is being used. Asus can make some software tweaks to fix it but until then, the portrait mode will be mediocre on this phone. The edge detection is a major issue when it comes to portrait mode and then again, a software update from Asus might fix it.
Selfie Camera – 16MP
After all this talk about the rear camera, we should switch to the new 16MP selfie camera which is an improvement over the 8MP sensor that is provided in the 3GB and 4GB RAM versions. More pixels mean more details in an image and this actually shows when you take selfies with this new sensor. Don’t expect flagship-level performance though. The 16MP sensor can take better photos as compared to the 8MP sensor but it still performs with mediocrity.
What Asus missed out on the camera hardware is what they try to cover with the Camera app on the phone. This is one of the best camera apps you will find on an Android smartphone and the reason for that is it comes with a lot of options and customizations. The camera app can shoot 2160p videos at 30fps which is a huge factor for a phone in this price range. Thankfully, the app does not try to copy the iOS camera app and does its own thing which is appreciated. I just wish the software was bundled with a more powerful camera hardware because the software sometimes lags behind in low light which is something that depends on the hardware.
Performance – Day-to-day apps and Gaming
One of the many reasons why the smartphones like ZenFone Max Pro M1 and Redmi Note 5 Pro sell like hot cakes is due to the fact that they bring a lot of value and performance in a low price. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 and it is coupled with 6GB RAM which is the same amount of RAM that the OnePlus 6’s base model has. But does the extra RAM make the performance better or is it just there to make you feel good about the amount of RAM your phone has?
General application performance
Well, that depends on a lot of factors which also include the storage speeds that the phone has. Phones with faster storage will perform better just like an SSD on a PC. Everything opens and works faster on faster storage. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 6GB uses the same eMMC 5.1 flash storage that its younger siblings have which means the data transfer rates will be the same as other variants but what makes the difference here is the amount of free RAM that the phone has.
Since a major chunk of RAM is free on the 6GB model, the phone and the Android system doesn’t have to do the time-consuming tasks of dumping memory while transferring new data which makes the phone relatively faster than its siblings. Apps open faster, the phone boots faster and while this is all happening, you might compare the performance with the other 3GB and 4GB RAM siblings and you will find out that the difference isn’t much. But keep in mind that the phone has enough real estate to handle a lot of apps in the memory so it can handle a lot of apps open at the same time unlike the 3GB RAM and 4GB RAM versions.
For gamers, the loading times don’t matter much but what matters is the fact that their phones can produce good fps when it comes to gaming. The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (6GB) has the Snapdragon 636 as mentioned above along with an Adreno 509 GPU. Now, having the new chip and a new GPU for processing makes a huge difference because the Snapdragon 636 is 40% faster as compared to the Snapdragon 630 while the Adreno 509 brings 10% better performance to the whole thing.
Also, keep in mind that the phone runs on almost Stock Android 8.1 right now with no skin or bloat to affect its performance which adds up to the performance. The gist of all this is that the phone performs extremely well as compared to its siblings with less RAM. The difference isn’t much but let’s compare it with PUBG.
The 3GB and 4GB version of Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 used to run PUBG at low graphics while the 6GB RAM version, having extra real estate to handle things can run PUBG at medium graphics. This is good news because as the game is updated and optimized, the performance will become better. Other games like Shadowgun Legends and Tekken also performed better on the 6GB variant.
I’m not a benchmarks person because they can easily be manipulated but for people who prefer numbers over explanations, the 6GB version scored:
- AnTuTu: 115341
- Geekbench 4:
- Single core: 1341
- Multi-core: 4825
- 3D Mark:
- Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES3.1: 938
- Sling Shot Extreme Vulkan: 759
The performance number based on benchmarks are better than what the Redmi Note 5 Pro has to offer with its 6GB RAM and 64 GB variant with the same RAM and same storage. Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 takes advantage of stock Android and performs better.
Software and User Interface/Experience
Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 dumps the ZenUI skin for stock Android and I would personally like to thank Asus for doing that. The stock Android 8.1 Oreo comes with the basic Google and Asus apps along with some other bloat that can be removed easily. The phone remains snappy no matter what you’re running in the background but yes occasional stutters can be noticed. These stutters happen rarely and don’t really affect the user experience at all. The phone comes loaded with Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger which can be uninstalled if you prefer not using these apps.
Stock Android + Gestures + Face Unlock
Asus has managed to include a bunch of cool and useful gestures on the phone. The double tap to sleep and wake gesture is present along with gestures to draw letters in order to open apps. Some of these gestures can prove itself to be really useful. The Face Unlock feature is also present on the phone but you should not expect it to be either fast or accurate all the time. Its a hit or miss and you can expect it to miss out completely when you’re using it in low light. Even my OnePlus 6 fails with face unlock in low light so don’t feel bad about the feature not working properly. It’s added as a gimmick and shouldn’t be used instead of the fingerprint sensor.
Connectivity and Battery Life
The phone supports dual SIM along with a dedicated micro SD card thanks to the SIM tray and motherboard that Asus thoughtfully designed for the phone. You can have dual SIM cards in the slot along with an SD card to expand the phone’s storage up to 2TP. One thing that Asus should have provided with the phone is a USB Type-C port instead of the micro USB port. But it is understandable why Asus went for a micro USB port. The USB type-C at this price point would have used a USB 2.0 interface which hardly would have made any difference.
Zenfone Max Pro M1 also supports dual 4G VoLTE which means you can either use two Jio SIM cards with the phone or get another VoLTE SIM card when other network providers launch it in the future. This is a welcome feature for sure and on the WiFi side, the phone supports the 802.11b/g/n standard which is great.
The massive 5000mAh battery on the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is such a blessing. The phone has unbeatable battery life in the segment thanks to the huge battery and the fact that the phone runs on stock Android. It can easily give you a battery life of about 48 hours under regular usage and even if you use the phone for gaming and other resource-heavy purposes, the battery will last you one full day and it will still have more than 20% of the juice left. You can expect a screen on time of 7-8 hours easily from the phone.
Asus has lived up to the Max tier of their ZenFones which they usually launch to provide people with a better battery. But older Max variants used to skimp on a lot of things like a good processor, good amount of RAM but things are different with this phone. Charging the phone with the included 5V/2A charger takes forever. The phone can charge from 10-100% in under two and a half hours but consider the fact that with such a massive amount of battery, you don’t need to charge it that often, the charging time is something users can deal with.
I like what Asus has been doing with its smartphone this year. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 with 6GB RAM is a great example that the company has finally understood that people will instantly buy smartphones from good companies if they come with a great performance per rupee value. The Zenfone Max Pro M1 with 6GB RAM does exactly that.
While it is not perfect due to the polycarbonate body, the lack of Gorilla Glass or better camera, it covers everything with the performance and battery life that it provides. If you are someone who wants to buy a smartphone for raw utility and performance purpose, go for the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 with 6GB RAM. It gives you the ability to run apps without the fear of the phone lagging or not being able to handle what you use along with the amazing battery life that it has. It can perform and game without running out of juice every so often. But, if you want a smartphone for its camera, you should look elsewhere because the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (6GB) isn’t the best camera smartphone out there.