I used Asus' latest Pure Android device as my daily driver for two weeks. Will it make me consider switching to Android permanently? Read on.
What's in the box
- ZenFone Max Pro with Android 8.1 Oreo
- ASUS earphone with microphone
- Micro-USB cable
- Ejector pin (SIM tray needle)
- USB power adapter
- Documentation (user guide, warranty card)
- Clear soft bumper
- 6-inch Full HD+ (2160 by 1080) 18:9 Full View IPS display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 636, 64-bit Octa-core Processor, 14nm chipset
- Adreno 509 GPU
- 3GB RAM
- 32 GB internal storage, expandable to 2TB
- 100GB free space on Google Drive for 1 year
- 13-megapixel (Regular) f-2.2 + 5-megapixel (Depth Sensing) rear camera
- 8-megapixel front camera with 85° field of view, Softlight LED flash
- 4K UHD video for the main rear camera
- 2G/3G/4G, VoLTE
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Wi-Fi direct
- GPS, AGPS, GLO, BDS
- Face Unlock & rear Fingerprint Scanner
- 5000 mAh battery
- Pure Android 8.1 Oreo
- 159 (L) x 76 (w) x 8.45 mm (T)
- 180 grams
- Triple slots: dual SIM + microSD card
The Zenfone Max Pro M1 is a stylish 6-incher with a metal body and diamond-cut edges. It's slightly longer and infinitesimally narrower than an iPhone 6s+, with just about the same thickness. Weighing 180g, the phone is hefty enough to feel solid yet light enough without feeling cheap.
The front of the phone is made of a 2.5D-curved display glass with a capacitive 10-point-multi-touch panel. The display is Full HD+ (2160 by 1080) with an aspect ratio of 18:9 and a pixel density of 404ppi. Aside from the earpiece, it also houses the 8-megapixel front shooter that has the 26mm equivalent focal length of a 35mm film camera. The camera has an 85-degree field of view, a Softlight LED flash, and enables the Face recognition unlock feature. To make room for the big screen, they had to do away with the permanent home button at the bottom. While I appreciate the screen size, I'm not sure if it was a good trade-off as its absence adds another step when navigating through apps.
The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 has all the usual buttons. The phone's built-in speaker, microUSB port, a microphone pinhole, and a 3.5mm audio jack are all crammed at the bottom of the phone, while the top is bare, save for another mic.
On the left side of the screen is its SIM drawer that houses a triple-slot tray: two slots for Nano SIMs and one dedicated to a microSD card. The opposite side is where the volume rocker is found, right above the on/off (or sleep/wake) button.
Despite how the back of the phone looks, the rear plate is not detachable, making the 5,000 mAh battery inaccessible - unless, of course, you want to void your warranty by tinkering with the phone yourself.
In the middle of the backplate is the fingerprint sensor, as well as the vertically stacked dual cameras that are all the rage these days. The main cam has a 13-megapixel sensor with an F2 aperture. It is paired with a 5-megapixel depth sensing secondary camera for portraits, as well as a Soft LED flash identical to the one found up front.
Under the hood is an octa-core Snapdragon 636 processor with a 14nm chipset, paired with an Adreno 509 GPU. This powerful combo ensures that the phone will run smoothly even with resource-intensive games.
The device we tested came with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of ROM that is expandable to 2TB (but if you do that, the expandable memory will cost more than the phone).
Out of the box, the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 was easy to set up. Basic phone operations were seamless, and the stock apps were noticeably less than those that come with other Asus phones we've had in the past. At first, I thought it was part of the Android One program, but after a brief Google search, I found out that the reason why it is spared from the usual bloatware is that it runs on Pure Android. It doesn't even have any preloaded customization options like wallpapers and the like. I really thought I was doing something wrong until I realized how much its absence made sense.
Pro tip: If you want the phone to remain pure, don't set up your device using the "set up nearby device" feature with an older Asus device because, obviously, the apps you are spared of with this phone will be re-installed with your back up files. Hassle. Factory reset. Start again.
Screen brightness is okay -- everything is still viewable even under direct sunlight, and even if I turned off the auto brightness adjust because I hate that function and do it to all phones I use.
The 6-inch screen with 18x ratio is big enough to get work done without getting cross-eyed. Worthy to note though, is that because of its size, my already long fingers still can't reach the opposite side of the screen without having to adjust my hand position. This could be a deal breaker if you're used to just using one hand.
Phone operation is smooth and the screen remains responsive even with a number of apps running in the background.
I appreciate that it's a REAL dual SIM phone. I hate those hybrid SIM trays that make you choose between using a second SIM OR expanding your memory via a microSD card.
Initial charging took me almost 3 hours (2:52.21) from 0 to 100% using the provided charger. With medium-to-heavy use of (the pre-installed) Facebook app, Chrome, YouTube, catching Pokémon, taking and editing photos and videos and the like -- that charge lasted more than 35 hours. The only problem I see with its extended battery life is that if you charge at night like I do, you will most likely run out of juice in the middle of the second day. And that could be very inconvenient if your daily routine requires you to be out all day.
The stock camera you get with the Zenfone Max Pro M1 is more than decent. It comes with many useful modes, except for PRO. But really, if you wanted a better camera, you'd probably get a different model, right? It can also shoot 4k video but does not provide additional stability - again, this is a budget phone, and there are more than enough camera-centric phones in the market, albeit at a higher price point. Coming from a phone/phones with no portrait settings, I LOVE THE PORTRAIT MODE. It's capable of producing great results with correct lighting, a steady hand, and a bit of chamba.
Design-wise, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 is sleek, but not really eye-catching. One thing I didn't like about the layout though, is how the volume rocker sits above the power button -- as instead of turning the volume down, I found myself putting the screen to sleep quite often. Another thing I noticed is that SIM icons on the screen are not labeled (eg. 1 or 2) so you're not sure which is which at the start -- although this is an OS thing not and Asus' fault.
And then there's the finger scanner. I noticed that it often doesn't read my print on the first (sometimes second, sometimes third) try. I'm not sure if this is because it is fitted with an older-build sensor, or so I read. But overall, this really isn't a biggie for me, since I prefer using a pattern or PIN to unlock the screen of my phones anyway.
Lastly, I had no problems with the phone's speakers or earpiece. Voice quality was okay, and nothing to complain about, especially given its price point. The only thing I wish it came with, but not available in our market, is the passive sound amplifier that doubles as a stand called the Max Box. That would have been cool to have.
Value / Price / Availability
The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 (ZB602KL) comes in Meteor Silver and Deepsea Black. It is exclusively available online at the Official Asus Store in Lazada and is priced at PHP 9,995.00.
The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is a solid phone, especially for one at its price point. While it is marketed as a gaming phone, it is also suitable for those looking for an affordable daily driver for business, media consumption, and casual photography. Asus is known to provide great bang for your buck, and they didn't disappoint with this one.
What we like
- Feels nice in your hand
- Value for money
- It doesn't have a hybrid SIM tray - it's a true dual SIM phone
- Huge battery
- Pure Android Rocks
What we don't like
- No permanent home button
- Not Gorilla Glass
- Power and volume rocker are too close together