Designed to Impress
The moment to see the handset, you would undoubtedly be pleased with how the phone looks. With a perky design, and use of copious amounts of metal the phone seems quite premium with its brushed finish on the back. The feel of the phone is also quite good with its curved sides enabling a great in-hand feel. From the back, the phone will also remind of a HTC phone or a newer device like the OnePlus 3 in terms of design and the way the camera has been laid-out on.
The back panel of the handset is also embedded with slight chrome like stripe on the top and bottom that fosters an elegant look, which is shared with same on the fingerprint sensor as well. All in all, Zenfone 3 Max is quite nice to look at and I have no doubts about that.
The camera that sits right at the center of the back panel accompanied with the LED flash and laser auto-focus module also has chrome like bezel finish that complements the over all aspects of the handset.
Aiding the fine build and design, the Zenfone 3 Max comes with a contoured 2.5D glass touch screen which seamlessly sinks into the metallic frame of the device. The button arrangement is also quite logical as on the right side of the panel there is the power button and volume rockers, where as the left side has a dedicated SIM tray that is removable with a pin. At the bottom is the USB port embedded precisely, just besides the speaker grill, at the same time the top has a 3.5mm jack port embedded in the panel.
The device gets a 5.5-inch full HD IPS display that expels good vibrant colours with 450nits brightness under all light conditions along with a noteworthy 73 percent screen to body ratio, for less bulk and more display. Compared to some of the other phones in the market, the screen does appear to be slightly washed out, but it isn’t a horrible screen.
Basic performer, not a dazzler
While there are no complains on how the phone looks or about the build quality, what really matters on any device is how good is the hardware and how well does it sync with the interface of the phone. Well, powering this device is the 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 CPU that is clocked at 1.4GHz and powering the graphics in the handset is the Adreno 505 paired with 3GB RAM. Now, this is the same hardware package which powers the Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime, so it is kind of overpriced for what you’re getting.
That being said, the phone does perform decent in basic day-to-day tasks as it is backed with good speed, but you do get a sense of the software not optimized to its fullest potential, as it took time for the phone to open the phone menu and on dialling a number, it almost took a pause of few seconds, before the calling menu popped up. Furthermore, while playing a game like Need for Speed: No Limits, the phone preformed reasonably, with not many major drops in frame, though it didn’t dazzle.
Multitasking on the phone was adequate and while running heavy duty apps in the background you got a feeling that the phone was behaving in a sluggish manner. Thankfully on the storage front, the phone gets 32GB of on-board storage and there’s a microSD card slot which can be used to expand the memory to all the way up to 128GB.
Cameras on handset’s these days can be the key selling point of the device and almost all companies try insuring a good sensor at the back and Asus too has tried doing the same. The back panel of the phone comes with a 16-megapixel camera that captures decent images in high resolution without a shutter lag – be it daylight or close up shots, however, in night time it stumbles.
The camera is paired with a Tri-Tech auto-focus technology which is a combination of laser auto-focus, phase detect auto focus and a contrast detection system. It instantly tracks and focuses the subject for better images and also has a three-axis electronic image stabilizer (EIS) that helps in capturing handheld videos as steady as possible. The HDR mode too clicks decent images and has up to 4 times the dynamic range that helps enhance the brightness by up to 400 percent. The Super Resolution on the other hand can combine simultaneous shots at a 64-megapixel resolution.
The front 8-megapixel front camera also has a few tricks built under its software that can help you get nice selfies and accompanies other modes like Beautification, Auto, Night, HDR Pro, Effect, Low Light and Time Lapse. The image quality overall was also quite good and usable for handsome selfies.
Clearly, this phone doesn’t have a camera that’s in the same league as the new iPhone or the Google Pixel, but it isn’t the worst thing on the planet at the same time.
Ugly and irritating software
All manufactures have their own UI in their handsets and so does Asus. Powered by the Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the Zenfome 3 Max comes skinned with ZenUI 3.0, which according to Asus is intelligently incorporated that brings up all the apps you need and for that matter when you need it. It also gets some gesture controls that open the app, even when the screen is off. The fingerprint sensor too, integrates seamlessly with third party apps that aids in providing great security.
But the problem is that Asus overloads the phone with a plethora of duplicate apps which just doesn’t make for a very user friendly phone. If you’re a power user, then the good news is that it is possible to get rid of the many duplicate apps which aren’t even as good as the basic Android variants that Google provides.
The battery of is the most crucial aspect of a phone and on a handset with a 5.5-inch screen, expecting the phone to survive through the day would be a big deal, but here apparently with the high capacity 4100mAh battery, the ZenFone 3 Max just lets you keep going by offering up to 38 days of standby time. Everyone wants a device that lets you play games, watch videos and talk endlessly without having to worry about the phones battery. (For how much time could you use it on a single charge? How many hours? How much time did it take for the phone to get charges?) The best part I liked here is that it offers so much so that you could literally double up the phones potential and use it as a power bank to charge other devices. In fact, the battery prospects are so good that it comes with a Super Saving mode, which is pre-configured to maximize every last milliampere and turning on the mode you can extend the phone to last another 30 hours on standby time even on 10 percent battery.
Should you buy it?
In this flooded smartphone market, if you look at the ZenFone 3 Max, then you look at it with a view that it has a lot of potential, but basic hardware and poor software basically straddle its potential. The phone sure looks up-market and feels premium, which is a good think but its performance is also quiet rudimentary at the same time. Certainly, the hardware could’ve been tuned in a better way to the software, but not many companies have proven that ability and that also includes a luminary like Samsung. Overall, it is a boring phone which has rather decent battery life, nothing more, nothing less; there certainly are better phones in the market.