Asus Zenfone Max review: The ‘Power Bank’ Android

Smartphones have already transformed our lives. But one thing that is yet to be transformed in these mobile devices is their short battery life. You might have heard or even used some of the initially developed cellphone models that didn’t require a charger at least for a couple of days. These were some of the bulky devices. And as the technology evolved, it brought some slim, and even ultra-slim, mobile devices. Their thickness reduced to even about 0.5mm but that adversely affected their battery life. While many smartphone manufacturers are implicitly working on enhancing the battery life on their offerings, mass results are yet to be claimed. But in the meanwhile, Asus emerged as one of the early developers with its Zenfone Max. This is the company’s newest affordable smartphone from the Zenfone range that gained immense popularity in the recent past. It not only has an affordable price but a large-size battery that can even rule out some power banks.

We chose to test the Asus Zenfone Max on our benchmarks following its launch in India earlier this month. So here begins our in-depth review.

Asus Zenfone Max

What’s in the Box

The Asus Zenfone Max (ZC550KL) is available in India with a price tag of Rs. 9,999. At this cost, the company offers the handset along with some in-box content.

These content include an AC adapter, data cable and a USB OTG (USB On-the-Go) cable. The box also has a user guide and a warranty certificate.

Asus Zenfone Max with in-box content

The quality of the in-box content is as good as the build of the Zenfone Max. We especially like to praise the presence of the USB OTG cable that can help charging other devices. Of course, you can read that functionality in detail later in this review.

Design

Asus is already one of the smartphone makers that use high-grade plastic on their smartphones. The Zenfone Max comes from the same segment. It has a decent build that does not have metal, but feels quite solid in hand.

The front of the Zenfone Max has a design that inherited from the previous Zenfone flagships. There is a metal-finish chin on the bottom, just below the three silver-colored touch sensitive buttons for back, home and recent apps operations. There is Asus branding on top, underlining an earpiece and a secondary camera sensor. A notification LED light and a couple of sensors — proximity and ambient light — are hidden under the jet black finish of the front panel. Besides, there is a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection on top that protects from minor scratches and resists smudges.

Unlike the Zenfone 2 range, the Zenfone Max does not have a rear-facing volume rocker. But you can of course, reduce or increase volume levels by using a unified volume key from the right. A power/lock key is also available on the right.

Asus Zenfone Max with volume rocker and power/lock keys on right

On the bottom, there is a microUSB port and a pinhole microphone.

Asus Zenfone Max with a microUSB port and a primary microphone on bottom

The top side of the Zenfone Max has a 3.5mm jack for audio output.

Asus Zenfone Max with 3.5mm jack on top

Asus hasn’t only changed the button placement on the new Zenfone model but has also provided an all-new back panel. This new panel has a faux-leather finish that we saw on many Samsung Galaxy devices in the past. There is an Asus logo at the centre and a Zenfone brand name on the bottom. A primary camera sensor as well as dual-LED flash, laser autofocus module and a secondary microphone are also available on the rear side.

Asus Zenfone Max with faux leather back panel

The back panel is removable though you can’t bring out the giant battery pack. Once the panel is removed, you can find a microSD card slot and two SIM card slots. The smartphone accepts microSIM card slots.

Asus Zenfone Max with a microSD card slot and two SIM card slots on rear

The presence of a large, 5,000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery on the Zenfone Max increases its weight to little over 200 grams. But there isn’t any visible mark of the massive battery pack as the smartphone maintains a thickness of 10.55mm, along with a height of 156mm and a width of 77.5mm.

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Camera

Affordable smartphones nowadays have large-enough camera sensors to capture subjects in detail. But Asus is trying to convince the audience with not merely some large camera sensors but also through its proprietary technology.

The Asus Zenfone Max has a 13-megapixel Toshiba camera sensor on the rear with the company’s PixelMaster technology and F2.0-aperture lens. There is also a laser autofocus integration that helps the 5-piece Largan lens to lock focus in 0.03 seconds. A 5-megapixel camera sensor is available on the front along with wide-angle, 85-degree lens.

Asus Zenfone Max with 13-megapixel primary camera sensor along with laser autofocus technology

Asus has provided its custom Camera app on the smartphone. The app is the same that debuted on the flagship Zenfone 2 last year, and comes preloaded with modes such as Auto, Manual, HDR, Beautification, Super Resolution, Low Light, Night, Depth of Field among others. Also, it supports touch-to-focus functionality to lock focus on a subject or object in a frame with a one-tap gesture on the screen. You can additionally record videos using the same app.

Asus Zenfone Max with a proprietary Camera app

We tested camera capabilities of the Zenfone Max by capturing shots under different environments. The smartphone didn’t lag in producing vivid colors. Likewise, it maintained sharpness even in some of our macro shots. The built-in technology helps deliver enhanced results without any additional efforts. You can also use the preloaded beautification settings to capture some of your best selfies.

Asus Zenfone Max camera samples

Apart from the splendid performance in still shots, the Zenfone Max is a decent option for recording videos as well. It offers 1080p video recording support at 30fps frame rate. The secondary microphone helps to capture detailed audio in video clips. We observed the lack of optical image stabilisation (OIS), but this could be ignored considering the affordable price.

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In Depth

We’ve mentioned the design and camera capabilities of the Asus Zenfone Max in the last two sections. And here, we are digging out all its pros and cons.

The Zenfone Max features a 5.5-inch IPS display with 1280 x 720 (HD) resolution and 267ppi pixel density. The display panel has multi-touch support. Although the default settings on the smartphone deliver a decent viewing experience, Asus has bundled its Splendid app to let you manually adjust color temperature. You can also enable Bluelight filter from the same app to comfortably read books for long hours. We haven’t experienced any lag while viewing on-screen content under bright sunlight and viewing angles were appeared to be quite close to the Zenfone 2.

Asus Zenfone Max with 5.5-inch HD display

While you might be expecting the latest Android version, the Zenfone Max presently runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system. There is an option to receive future firmware updates through over-the-air (OTA) channel. Also, the Taiwanese giant is likely to offer an update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow in the coming future.

Asus Zenfone Max runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system

On top of Android Lollipop, the smartphone has Asus’ ZenUI. This is the proprietary interface by the company to counter Xiaomi’s MIUI and is similar to Cyanogen OS on some fronts. For instance, you can wake the smartphone with a double-tap gesture as well as replace any of the existing app icons or transition effects as per your preference. There is also a Themes app to offer you a collection of themes with personalisation options. The company has provided a lock screen that has a clock widget with weather update option. Once unlocked, there is a homescreen for app shortcuts, folders and widgets and an app drawer. You can categorise app icons or can even bundle multiple icons in a single folder right within the drawer.

Asus Zenfone Max comes preloaded with ZenUI

The ZenUI additionally brings some pre-installed apps on the Zenfone Max. There is Asus Mobile Manager that works similar to Security app on MIUI and provides you a single place to access power saver, data usage monitor and virus scanner. In addition, there is Auto-Start Manager that allows you to deny auto-start of any particular app on your smartphone to extend its battery life. The smartphone also comes with a pre-installed MyAsus app to let you connect with the support team or use ZenTalk forum for any technical support.

ZenUI brings Mobile Manager and MyAsus apps

The proprietary interface offers a custom experience for telephony and messaging as well. The smartphone has a Phone app with a smart dialler and a Messaging app with Asus Keyboard integration. As there is dual-SIM support, you can choose any one of your SIM networks to dial a number or to send a text message. We haven’t noticed any issue while making calls and sending text messages throughout our testing. The built-in LTE Category 4 technology had additionally enhanced network presence on our 4G connection.

Asus Zenfone Max with proprietary telephony and messaging

The Zenfone Max has an Asus File Manager app to let you access your files in the local storage. You can also use the app to view content from a microSD card or even from an external media device such as pen drive or a thumb drive. Further, there is Asus WebStorage access to let you store and read content directly from a cloud storage. This works with an Asus account.

Asus Zenfone Max with File Manager and Asus WebStorage

For web browsing, there are three web browser apps, including Google Chrome, Puffin and a proprietary Browser. These three web browsers have multi-tabbing support, and can open almost any website without any lag. Moreover, the 4G connectivity option enables fast web browsing experience.

Asus has provided its Music app to enable music playback on the Zenfone Max. Also, there is Google Play Music and Play Movies apps that are enough to fulfill your multimedia desires. All these apps support most of the audio and video formats. The built-in speaker and the large display panel are sufficient enough to accomplish the job. We haven’t observed any issue while playing music and videos on the Zenfone Max throughout our testing.

To test the performance of the Zenfone Max, we installed some of the popular benchmark apps. The smartphone resulted 25,641 on AnTuTu version 6.0.1, 52.9fps on NenaMark version 2.4, 13,293 on Quadrant Standard Edition version 2.1.1, 844 on Vellamo (Metal) version 3.2.

Asus Zenfone Max benchmark results

Apart from using the benchmark apps, we tested the performance by the Zenfone Max by playing some games. The smartphone has enough caliber to support most of the regular games such as Minion Rush, Subway Surfers and Temple Run 2. However, if you’re looking to play game titles like Need For Speed: Most Wanted or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, you may feel some lag. But notably, the smartphone does not generate much heat even when using its resources intensively.

The 5,000mAh battery of the Zenfone Max is its USP. It has been designed to enhance the battery life on the smartphone. Asus claims that the battery has enough power to deliver you over 38 days of standby time on a single charge. We found that the smartphone works without requiring a charger for about four days. This is quite big. Also, there is an option to use the smartphone as a power bank.

We tested the power bank functionality by using the provided USB OTG cable and charged a 5,200mAh battery-equipped power bank to almost its entire capacity. Of course, you can use the functionality to charge your one of your secondary or primary smartphone or a tablet.

Asus Zenfone Max can charge even a power bank

The Asus Zenfone Max has a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916) chipset with a 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex A53 CPU and 400MHz Adreno 306 GPU. There is 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 16GB on-board flash memory, which offers 10.48GB user-accessible storage. The smartphone does have a microSD card slot to let you expand the built-in storage by up to 128GB. On the connectivity front, there is Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS and a microUSB port with USB OTG support. The smartphone has accelerometer, ambient light, magnetic field, orientation and proximity sensors.

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Features

Competitors

Asus Zenfone Max

Conclusion

The Asus Zenfone Max (ZC550KL) is an energetic device. It not only offers you the complete smartness of an Android device but also works as a power bank. Moreover, if the battery is your prime concern, then the Zenfone Max should be your choice.

Turn to the next page to know Asus Zenfone Max specifications.

Specifications

ModelAsus Zenfone Max (ZC550KL)
Display5.5-inch IPS display
Resolution1280 x 720 pixels
Memory16GB; expandable via microSD card slot
RAM2GB
OSAndroid 5.0 Lollipop OS
UIZenUI
Camera13MP AF primary camera with dual LED flash and laser autofocus, 5MP FF secondary camera
VideoYes, 1080p (full-HD) @ up to 30fps
SensorsAccelerometer, Ambient Light sensor, Gyroscope, Magnetic Field, Proximity sensor
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916)
CPU1.2GHz quad-core ARM Cortex A53
GPUAdreno 306 GPU
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, A-GPS, MicroUSB
Battery5,000mAh