Back at MWC we got a chance to see the 2018 range of the Asus Zenfone series. While the Zenfone 5 line up marks the upper end of the range, the Max series is the company’s bread and butter in India. The Zenfone Max Pro M1 is the latest in the line. Built specifically for India, we’ve had a bit of time with the phone and here’s what we think.
ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1) specifications
- 5.99-inch (2160×1080 pixels) Full HD+ 18:9 2.5D curved glass display with 1500:1 contrast ratio, 85% NTSC color gamut, 450 nits brightness
- 1.8GHz Octa-Core Snapdragon 636 14nm Mobile Platform with Adreno 509 GPU
- 3GB RAM with 32GB storage, 4GB /6GB RAM with 64GB storage, expandable memory up to 2TB with microSD
- Android 8.1 (Oreo)
- Dual SIM (nano + nano)
- 13MP / 16MP rear camera with LED Flash, PDAF, 1.12μm pixel size, f/2.2 aperture, secondary 5MP camera
- 8MP / 16MP front-facing camera with soft LED flash, f/2.2 aperture
- Fingerprint sensor, Face unlock
- 3.5mm audio jack, 5-magnet speaker, NXP Smart Amp
- Dimensions: 159x 76x 8.46mm; Weight: 180g
- Dual 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 5, GPS + GLONASS
- 5000mAh battery
The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 has jumped head on to the 18:9 bandwagon and packs a large 5.99-inch screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Looked at head-on, the phone has small bezels on the side and not entirely insignificant bezels at the top and bottom. Built as an affordable handset, the phone certainly hasn’t adopted a notch like the rest of the phones in the series.
Up at the top is a 8MP front-facing camera along with a soft LED flash for selfies. The right side of the handset has the volume rocker and power button. Both the buttons have sufficient give and are very easy to reach out displaying good ergonomics. Meanwhile, on the left, you’ll find two SIM card slots as well as a microSD slot for storage expansion.
The display itself is one of the best in the category. In fact, we’d rate it as a step above the Redmi Note 5 series in terms of viewing angles and color saturation. Asus says that it goes as high as 450 nits and we had no trouble at all viewing it outdoors in Delhi summer sunlight.
The back of Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is finished in soft-touch metal and has a fingerprint scanner in the center. At the top, left corner is the dual camera module as well as the LED flash. There are plastic end caps at the top and bottom to assist antenna performance.
The dual camera array includes a 13MP wide-angle camera and an additional 5MP camera that is used for capturing depth information. The camera app is essentially the same as the Snapdragon camera app and has an array of options available. Quick sample shots reveal a decent level of detail. We’ve been told that the phone is due to get a software update shortly that will improve camera quality further.
As it stands, it is not a bad performer at all. We would rate the Redmi Note 5 slightly further ahead. What the Redmi Note 5 doesn’t have though is the secondary camera. The bokeh works alright and edge detection isn’t quite the best but we’ll need more time to test that out so we would recommend that you wait for the full review.
The entire body gently curves along the sides and fits very comfortably in the palm. There is a slight pillow like edge and the phone ‘puffs’ out a bit more under the screen in an effort to reduce bezels while still giving it space to squeeze in a max sized 5000 mAh battery and components. The result is a phone that is very well balanced and comfortable to hold despite the moderate heft given the gigantic battery inside. The bottom edge has the 3.5mm audio jack as well as the microUSB port. The latter is disappointing but not unexpected given the price band that the phone competes in.
The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is powered by a stock build of Android. Gone is Zen UI and we couldn’t be happier for it. Asus had built some great apps for their interface and those are available via the Play Store but we like the freedom that comes from the lack of pre-loaded apps that can’t be removed. The only unnecessary preload is the Pay2Go app that works as a payment wallet but that’s about it. It is possible to disable it but not to uninstall it. The handset runs on Android 8.1.0 with the February security update. We had a chat with Asus and they confirmed that the handset does not support Project Treble and is not a part of the Android One effort but they are still committed to long-term updates and support.
Admittedly, we’ve spent only a brief amount of time with the phone but so far, we are more than satisfied with the performance on offer. This is the same chipset as the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The Snapdragon 636 is a veritable performance powerhouse and it shows. Be it benchmarks or games, the phone has chugged through everything we’ve thrown it. Paired with the 4GB of RAM and you have enough headroom for multitasking. We’ll test this out further in our review but as it stands, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 could be one of the best performing devices in the sub Rs. 20,000 category. Check out the benchmark scores here.
The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 goes head-on against the Redmi Note 5 Pro and if our early impressions are anything to go by, easily manages to hold its own. In fact, there are some areas where we would rate the handset superior to the Note 5.
The screen on the Zenfone displays better viewing angles and marginally better color saturation. Additionally, the 5000 mAh battery can’t be beaten. Paired with the Snapdragon 636 processor, users can easily expect well over a full day of heavy use. The phone starts at Rs. 10,999 for the 3GB RAM with 32GB storage version and the phone will be available exclusively from Flipkart starting from May 3rd. We should have our full review of the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 up shortly. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions reach out to us here or on our social channels.