When it comes to smartphones, India is a price sensitive market, with a majority of users looking to buy one in the Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 price bracket. This is the reason why the segment is oversaturated with a lot of options. Earlier this year, Asus surprised everyone with the Zenfone Max Pro M1, offering a dual-camera setup at the rear, a 5,000mAh battery and near-stock Android OS with prices starting at Rs 10,999. Now, eight months later, the company has launched its successor, the Zenfone Max Pro M2.
With prices starting at Rs 12,999 for base model with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, and going up to Rs 16,999 for 6GB RAM with 64GB storage variant, the Zenfone Max Pro M2 brings all the goodness from its predecessor, along with nifty upgrades. The smartphone is available to purchase exclusively via Flipkart, and there are a bunch of instant discounts, cashbacks and no cost EMI options available too. The Zenfone Max Pro closely competes with the likes of Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro, Realme 2 Pro and Honor 8X, to name a few. I’ve been using the smartphone for a while now, and here’s my review.
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 specifications
|Features||Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2|
|Display||6.26-inch FHD+, 2280x1080pixels, 19.5:9 aspect ratio|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 octa-core|
|RAM||3GB/ 4GB / 6GB|
|Memory||32GB / 64GB (dedicated microSD card slot, expandable up to 256GB)|
|Rear Camera||12-megapixel (f/1.8) + 5-megapixel (f/2.4)|
|Front Camera||13-megapixel (f/2.0)|
|Security||Fingerprint scanner, Face Unlock|
|Android OS||Stock Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Price||Starts at Rs 12,999, available via Flipkart|
Design and display: Premium, sleek and lightweight
The Zenfone Max Pro M1 featured a dull and boring metal design. However, with the likes of Honor, Nokia and Realme upping their game in this department, Asus is now offering a laminated plastic back panel, while looks and feels significantly better than its predecessor. It does offer a premium look, differentiating from some of its rivals. The frame is made from plastic and has a shiny paint job.
One of the highlights of the Zenfone Max-series has always been its massive battery, and the same is the case here. The Max Pro M2 comes with a 5,000mAh battery, and despite that, it has a very sleek and slim profile. It is also lightweight at the same time thanks to the plastic build, and you’ve got to hold it to believe it.
The back is curved towards the edges, which offers a perfect grip while holding the smartphone, but it gets slippery if you have sweaty palms. Thankfully, Asus has bundled a silicon case inside the box, and while it adds a bit of bulk, it does ensure you get a proper grip, and protects your phone from accidental drops.
Up front, you have a 6.26-inch full HD+ display that runs at a resolution of 2280x1080pixels. The screen is crisp and bright, offering good color reproduction and sunlight legibility. And while the Zenfone Max Pro M1 included an 18:9 aspect ratio display, it’s successor comes with a notched display, and an aspect ratio of 19:9.
You still get a thick chin at the bottom, and the side bezels, while slim, are visible. The notch, unlike most other smartphones, isn’t wide, which is a good thing, as it leaves enough space for four notification icons on each side. It houses a 13-megapixel front camera, an LED flash and the sensors. The earpiece sits above the notch in a thin strip. Sadly, unlike other manufacturers, Asus hasn’t given any provision to hide the notch. The good part is, the notch doesn’t become an obstruction when playing games and videos.
Watch: Asus Zenfone 5Z First Look
Cameras: Better sensor, but quality?
The Max Pro M2 comes with a dual-camera setup at the back, with a 12-megapixel primary snapper (Sony IMX486 sensor) with f/1.8 aperture and 1.25m size sensor. The second is a 5-megapixel depth sensor for adding DSLR-like bokeh effects to your photos. Sure, Asus has fitted a better sensor, but what about the quality?
Naturally, I would expect the camera to perform better than the predecessor, and some of its competitors. There is an improvement, but not by a lot. Close-up shots look good, and it is able to capture details properly. In this shot below, you can see the shiny surface of those petals, and even the dust particles as you zoom in a bit. Colors and background blurring looks good too.
While the above shot was taken indoors, the one below is an outdoor shot. It does a good job to keep the flower in focus, the background blur is good too, however, the colors look a little off.
Low-light performance is better, thanks to the wider aperture lens. You can still see some grain, but considering the amount of lights that you have in the scene, the camera is doing a good job in keeping it properly exposed, while keeping the lens flare at minimum.
But I’m disappointed with the portrait mode, and outdoor shots to an extent. The below shot was taken around 2:30PM in the afternoon under ample lighting conditions. Still, the photo looks a little under exposed. In the post-processing, you can see that the photo is sharp and has clarity, but the colors are a bit off.
Switch to the portrait mode, and while it does a good job in blurring the background, the edge detection isn’t perfect at all. You do get to control the amount of blur while clicking a photo, but sadly, you cannot reduce or increase the blur level after the photo is shot. Other manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Samsung and Oppo let you do that within the gallery app.
The Snapdragon 660 SoC also opens up 4K video recording at 30fps, and the quality looks decent. Of course, due to lack of OIS and EIS, video appears quite jerky, especially if you are shooting while walking.
Lastly, the smartphone also comes with a 13-megapixel selfie snapper with f/2.0 aperture. The camera is decent, but I’m not too impressed. Even a sub Rs 7,000 phone comes with AI portrait mode, but the Zenfone Max Pro M2 lacks it. Secondly, the selfies shot using the front camera are a bit washed out, have a greenish tint, and don’t capture colors accurately. Even the skin tones look off, and this is despite beauty mode turned off.
Battery life: Full marathon, and beyond
Just like its predecessor, the Zenfone Max Pro M2 offers a killer battery life. I had three email accounts in sync, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp account, and was primarily using Vodafone connection for calls, and Reliance Jio for 4G. In office, I was latched on to a Wi-Fi network.
The 5,000mAh battery lasts two days on a full charge, offering a screen on-time-of over seven hours. It was interesting to see the battery drop very little while playing high end games. I had brightness set to 60 percent, and was connected to Wi-Fi network while playing Asphalt 9: Legends at high graphics settings. When I started playing, the phone had 65 percent battery, and after 28 minutes, the battery barely dropped to 59 percent, which was impressive.
Asus has bundled a 5V-2A (10W) standard charger, which fully charges the battery in about two hours and 18 minutes. The charging speed is not bad, but if it could do a quick boost from 0 to 50 percent or so in 30 minutes, that would be a good upgrade. Maybe we could expect something in the future Zenfone Max series.
Software and performance: Clean and fluid
The smartphone runs Android 8.1 Oreo out-of-the-box with October 2018 security patch, which is a little disappointing. I would have at least expected the November patch. Asus has also promised that it is working on Android 9 Pie update, which will be rolled out in the Q1 2019, and it remains to be seen if it can deliver on the promise.
Being a near-stock Android UI, you get all Google apps pre-installed such as Sheets, YouTube, Maps, Calendar, Drive, Duo, Docs, Photos, Slides and Keep Notes. From Asus’ side, the company has added three apps – FM Radio, Calculator, and Sound Recorder, along with third-party apps including Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. Sadly, you can only disable these apps, and there is no option to uninstall if you want to.
When it comes to performance, the Zenfone Max Pro M2 is smooth. Our review unit came with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage. Together with the Snapdragon 660 SoC and the light skin, the Zenfone Max Pro M2 offers a good performance, be it using day-to-day apps, multi-tasking with a few apps open in the background or while playing games. The apps are quite snappy with their load times. Even on Chrome, with seven tabs open, switching between them was completely effortless.
Even when it comes to gaming, casual games such as Monument Valley ran without any hiccups. Asphalt 9: Legends ran smoothly on default settings, and but slight stutter is seen when you switch to high graphics mode. But the game is completely playable, and I had no issues winning the multiplayer races. It’s just that the Adreno 512 GPU isn’t capable enough for the smoothest rendering of graphics on Android.
I also played PUBG Mobile at medium settings, and in a couple of games (out of 12), I was able to win the Chicken Dinner. However, I did come across moments where the framerate just skipped a couple of seconds at times.
Lastly, for security, there is a fingerprint scanner at the back, and it is quick in unlocking the smartphone. There is also support for face unlock, and while it is not as fast as Oppo, OnePlus and Honor devices, it is still pretty quick, even in low-light scenarios.
Verdict: Should you buy the Zenfone Max Pro M2?
The Zenfone Max Pro M1 marked a change in strategy for Asus by going online only, offering stock Android and better specifications than the competition. The Zenfone Max Pro M2 continues from where the Zenfone Max M1 left off, bringing hardware upgrades that matter, while keeping in sync with the latest trends.
The design is much better, sleeker, and it has got the looks too. The battery life is excellent, exactly what you would expect from the smartphone, and the performance is snappy too. Asus is also promising quicker software updates, and so far, it has delivered timely updates with the Zenfone Max M1. My only wish is that Asus should work towards improving the camera performance. If you are in the market looking for an all-round smartphone under Rs 15,000 range, I’d recommend the Zenfone Max Pro M2.
There are other options like the Motorola One Power, which also comes with stock Android and 5,000mAh battery that you can consider. There is also Xiaomi Mi A2 which comes with stock Android, a dual-camera setup at the back and more.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro is another good option. It comes with a slightly less powerful chipset, but has better cameras, and there are a lot of camera options such as studio lighting with portrait mode, and effects too. And then you have the Realme 2 Pro as well, which comes with a waterdrop style notch, and up to 8GB RAM and 128GB storage.