With a fresh batch of smartphones released in the first quarter of 2019 alone, smartphones of yesteryear (read: 2018) are now rendered “old” and “not up-to-date” for today’s user demands. But are they really not good enough? Or can they still compete with newly released devices and keep up with today’s faster-paced lifestyle? These are the questions that the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 will answer in this review.
Launched mid-2018, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 brings specs and features that are still on par with the latest smartphones of the year. Plus, after several price cuts, it now comes with a price tag of that is within the budget smartphone range. As of writing, the 4GB+64GB variant is priced at P8,995 on ASUS’ official Lazada store. Meanwhile, the brand has an exclusive offer for the 3GB+32GB model on Lazada: for P8,995, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 comes with a free Max Pro Clear Case worth P699.
Design & Construction
Available in Meteor Silver and Deep Sea Black, the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 remains classic- and premium-looking. It’s matte finish and solid color are a good break from the sea of smartphones with gradient covers. Plus, the body is smudge and fingerprint-resistant, too. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is a tall phone, but easy to grip with one hand because of its sleek form factor with 8.45mm thickness. The phone also feels solid to hold thanks to its 180g weight.
In front, the 6-inch display is flanked by thin bezels on the side. The top bezels–which houses the front camera, earpiece, LED notification light, and LED flash–and the bottom is not that thick to become too cumbersome for the design and usage. At the back, the dual rear cameras sit on the upper left side, vertically aligned. Below the shooters is the LED flash. On the center is the circular fingerprint scanner and the ASUS branding.
As for the buttons and ports, you can find them on standard locations: at the bottom are the microUSB port, 3.5mm audio port, loudspeaker, and main microphone; on the left side are the dual SIM card tray; and on the right are the clicky volume rocker and power key.
Display & Multimedia
The 6-inch Full View IPS display comes with a 2160 x 1080 Full HD+ resolution and 18:9 aspect ratio. Not touting any notch of some kind, the screen gives you an uninterrupted and truly seamless viewing. The display also provides good contrast levels and great viewing angles. There will also be no problem viewing on the screen under direct sunlight as it can go bright enough for the content to be visible. Overall, viewing content on the ZenFone Max Pro M1’s screen is simply a delight.
The 5-magnet loudspeaker with PMIC internal NXP smart amplifier is loud. However, sound details can get a bit distorted when you crank the volume up. Still, the audio pairs well with the display to provide immersive viewing and playing.
The ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 touts a dual rear camera setup that consists of a 13MP or 16MP main shooter, depending on the variant you’re getting, and a 5MP secondary rear lens. The photos taken using the rear snappers are accurate in color and sharp in details. Taking macroshots and landscapes, especially in good lighting conditions, are great. Meanwhile, lowlight shots are passable for social media consumption, but a little noise is already noticeable. Too much zooming in diminishes the quality of the images. The autofocus is quite fast, though, allowing us to take moving shots with minimal blur.
The 8MP front camera produces decent selfies in good lighting. But expect a decrease in quality when taken at nighttime or low-lit places.
Video recording goes up to 4K UHD for the rear cameras; this phone also records at 1080p FHD at 30fps and 720p FHD at 60fps. The resulting clips are good, but we recommend using a tripod as there’s no stabilization feature on this device.
Finally, the camera software looks basic but still feature-packed. Built-in presets include Auto, Backlight, Beach, Candlelight, Flowers, HDR, Landscape, Night, Portrait, Snow, Sports, and Sunset. There’s also Beautify for selfies, Depth Effect for macro shots, filters, and other settings. The ZenFone Max Pro M1’s camera don’t come with a Pro Mode but it allows you to adjust the exposure, ISO, and white balance manually in the settings.
Sample photos of the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1
What we love about this phone from the get go is that it runs Pure Android, based on Android 8.1 Oreo. This eliminates much of the bloatware that commonly bogs down the performance of mobile devices. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 only comes with the standard pre-installed apps such as Google apps and ASUS utility apps like calculator, radio, and sound recorder. This results to a clean, fluid user interface–something that can be very refreshing for smartphone users.
Powering this device is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 mobile platform with 14nm 64-bit octa-core processor and a Qualcomm Adreno 509 GPU. These comes paired with a 3GB or 4GB RAM. It’s only natural to have basic tasks and navigation to run out fast and snappy. Multitasking is a breeze on this phone, and even launching graphics- and power-intensive games and apps remain lag free throughout our review. There’s a bit of heating app when playing games or running intensive, but not to the point where we became uncomfortable holding it.
The “Max” moniker of this ZenFone device in not for nothing. This device comes with either 32GB or 64GB internal storage. However, both variants has support for up to 2TB external storage via microSD. Another “Max” feature on this device is its 5000mAh, which lasted almost two days of constant use, including browsing, playing games, video and music streaming, and basic phone tasks like calling and messaging. Despite its huge battery capacity, it only took us a little over two hours in charging this device from 0 to 100.
In terms of security, the fingerprint sensor unlocks quite fast and can support up to 5 fingerprint data. However, the face unlock feature is a hit or miss affair. All the usual connectivity feature are also available: WLAN 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 5.0, Bluetooth HID, Wi-Fi direct, WiFi display, and an optional NFC. For navigation this handset has GPS, AGPS, GLO, and BDS. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 ships with built-in Accelerator, Gyroscope, E-Compass, Proximity sensor, and Ambient light sensor.
With a price tag that is now affordable, the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 remains a good option for users looking for a powerful device. Specs and feature-wise, it remains on par with newly released smartphones in the same price range. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 even offers better experience with its 5000mAh battery, up to 2TB storage expansion support, and Pure Android experience.