Asus Zenfone Max Review: The Smartphone that Lasts for Days

Here's my review of the Asus Zenfone Max smartphone

So I got the new Asus Zenfone Max since its official local launch that was held in Cebu a few weeks ago. It was released in the Philippines side by side with the photography-centered Asus Zenfone Zoom, bearing a price tag of just Php8,495. It's main selling point? The massive 5,000mAh battery pack that sits inside it keeping the lights on. Asus claims this phone to last for days on a single charge, a feature or power that is rarely seen from other well-known smartphone brands. And I was out and tested it myself to see if Asus was true to their promise.

asus zenfone max 5

Of course Asus was not the first in the wild to release a handset with this big of a battery, if I remember it right Gionee was the first tech company to hit this big-batt category. However, Asus did not just copy the idea of stuffing in a huge battery pack inside this Zenfone Max. There is really more to that that makes this new device to stand out.

Design and Packaging

The box that Asus Zenfone Max comes in is typical of the Zenfone smartphones we have seen in the recent past. Box design is not far from those previous iterations and is easily recognized that this is a Zenfone device, and with the big Zenfone Max naming on the front side it is also not that hard to immediately know which of the Zenfone it is. Sliding out the outer cardboard and the device itself will greet the owner, then the rest of the content are kept underneath it.

Asus Zenfone Max in the box

In the box, the Asus Zenfone Max is packed with the standard wall charger, USB to microUSB cable, USB OTG connector, a pair of ZenEar, earbuds and some paperworks. Additionally, the Max is currently available in two different color options, one in black with faux leather touch on the back and another in white with smooth finish on the back cover as well. Both with bronze accent on the sides which looks metallic, but its plastic. Talking about the back cover too, I still notice some curve on the edges and that makes the device comfortable to hold or pick up from the flat surface, however it is not as curve as the Zenfone 2 and that's because of the large battery, I think.

A Breath of Fresh Air

asus zenfone max 6

Yes it's a like a breath of fresh air the first time I laid my eyes on the Zenfone Max and that's because a lot of familiar buttons and keys have been relocated compared to the Zenfone 2, Laser, Selfie and even the Deluxe Edition, which I really liked. Take for example the image above which shows the back panel of the Max, as you can see it has just the 13MP main camera equipped with Laser Autofocus and Dual Tone LED flash sitting next to it, and the other thing that's new here is the volume rocker has been removed.

asus zenfone max 7 The Zenfone branding is still located at the bottom part and the speaker grills right below it.

asus zenfone max 4

The volume rocker and power/lock key have been moved to the part of a device where I want them to be, on the right side. Being here, it is now much easier for me to lock and wake up the smartphone with just one hand and one finger, yes I can still use the double-tap-to-wake-up functionality of the Zenfone Max but I still prefer using the physical key to do it. Of course with the volume keys now on this side, I can easily adjust the volume and put my phone on silent mode with my right thumb, I also use these keys for taking photos with the back and front cameras.

asus zenfone max 12

As you may have already figured out by now, I like the way Asus redesigned the ZenFone Max. It still has the Zenfone touch all over it. Once you see it and touch it, especially if you have used a Zenfone before, you will immediately notice that you are still looking at and holding a new Zenfone device. with some minor yet noticeable changes, which to me are very likeable.

Due to having the largest 5,000mAh battery, the Asus Zenfone Max is also the heaviest and probably the thickest Zenfone device ever. Coming in at 202 grams and 10.6mm thickness, these are probably the things you will not like about this Zenfone Max. I immediately felt its weight and bulk just a few minutes after I started watching my favorite TV series with it while holding it with my left hand, which I never felt with my other Zenfone 2 smartphone. However, the 5000mAh battery pack is a true monster here, I can definitely forgive this part of the Max.

Software, Features and Performance

The Asus Zenfone Max is running on Android 5.0 Lollipop with Asus ZenUI on top. Asus has confirmed that this is one of the Zenfone devices to get the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update this second quarter of the year.

When it comes to software performance, the Zenfone Max is pretty fast and smooth despite only having a mid-range quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor. During my first couple of weeks with this smartphone, everything was smooth, thanks to its big 2GB of RAM. Navigation, screen transition, internet browsing, game playing, and camera use, everything was smooth. But after a month of having the phone, sometimes the Max would lag especially when launching the camera and taking some photos, also double tap to wake up functionality sometimes do not respond at all or taking so long to unlock the device. When this happens, I would simply clear the cache and power cycle the Zenfone Max to fix and it works all of the time. By sometimes, I mean about once or twice a week.

The camera side of the Max is also stuffed with a lot yet great camera software features, like the Manual Mode, Beautification, Time-Lapse, Automatic, Low-Light, Super Resolution and many others which you, if you love taking photos and videos using a smartphone, will definitely appreciate them all. Too bad there is no optical image stabilization, so when I record a video, my hands are shaky by default and so is the clip.

I can also say that the Zenfone Max also comes pre-installed with so many apps that I do not need nor want all the time, and that's a bit disappointing as they still eat memory and power even if they just sit there. Thankfully though, Asus allows them to be uninstalled or disabled which is a great help in saving more space and battery life in the process. Auto Start Manager is a great Asus built-in app, that lets you allow or disallow an app from keep on running in the background, I use this for saving memory, battery and data all the time.

I have received a couple of updates since I got the Zenfone Max in January, and every update I got made the phone better and better. For example, when I first started using the camera, I noticed some noise in the screen and photos especially when trying to take pictures in low-light condition. But now, I do not see them anymore unless I really take a super closer look at the images.

I am not a gamer type of smartphone user, but I do play some not-so-basic and not-so-demanding mobile games like Clash of Clans, Temple Run, Dead Trigger 2 and Need for Speed. When I play these games on my Zenfone 2 smartphone, the device would become warm and sometime hot on the back depending on the duration. However, with the Zenfone Max I was surprised to realize that it does not even get warm even when playing the Dead Trigger 2 for hours. That's an additional life to the battery.

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This is the Antutu Benchmark test I did on the Zenfone Max. I used the latest version of the Antutu app here.

The Battery and its Promise

Like I mentioned above, the battery is the highlighted feature of the Zenfone Max. Again, it has 5000mAh capacity and it promises to last for days on a single charge. In fact here's what Asus claims about this handset.

  • 38 days on standby mode
  • 37.5 hours of 3G talktime
  • 32.5 hours WiFi browsing
  • 22.6 hours of video playback

On my very first two days with this Asus Zenfone Max, I immediately felt its power. See my screenshot below showing how long the phone's battery life did last.

It's been 42 hours since full charge. All-day data and all-night WiFi, on Facebook most of the online time, downloaded a...

Posted by Robert Villamor on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

It took me three days to fully drain the battery life on my Asus Zenfone Max, and yes I really felt the promise of Asus there. Even up until today, I still use my Zenfone Max as my main phone as it really lasts for days before I have to look for a charger and power supply again. However, it is important to note that the life of the battery will really depend on how heavy or light you use your phone, that's a given factor there, but if you switch to this phone from any other device that has lesser capacity, you will definitely feel the difference.

Right now I recharge my Zenfone Max on an average of every two days. Most of the time I am out of the house working at the office and all I do with my phone when I am out is constantly checking my Facebook account almost every 30 minutes using data connection, play endless runner game like Temple Run 2 or Alto's Adventure and when I am at home I check my other social media accounts and a couple of YouTube videos before going to sleep. And now I am getting used to the Zenfone Max's battery life and am now having a hard time switching back to my original Zenfone 2 smartphone.

With Asus Zenfone Max, I am always confident that running out of battery in the middle of the day or outing or quick hang out with friends is not going to be an issue. And that's what I really love about the Zenfone Max, I hope that Asus will extend this 5000mAh feature to other and future of their flagship devices.

There is one more feature this battery offers that I really don't see from other devices, and that's its ability to become a powerbank to other devices. Yes, you heard that right, or probably you are already aware of it. The Zenfone Max, through its USB OTG support can charge your other devices, another feature that every Zenfone Max user must be proud of.

Now one of the down turns of having this massive battery pack, in addition to the thickness and heavyness, is the charging time. Unfortunately the Zenfone Max does not support fast charging technology (for now). From 0% to 100%, that will take you 5 hours, assuming you don't use the device while being charged. But actually, 5 hours is nothing compare to the number of hours you save away from the power wall during the phone's up time.

Last but not least, the Camera Capability

Being a Zenfone device, Max is also loaded with camera-related features I mentioned above, and quality of photos it produces is another feature to be boasted about. Thanks to Asus's own PixelMaster technology, the 13MP+5MP camera combination on the Max is capable of capturing up to 400% more light than the usual camera found on smartphones today. Even capturing photos in dark environment makes the pictures brighter and clearer. And when you take photos in well-lit environment, the pictures are just stunning. See some photos and videos below I have taken using the Zenfone Max and it's up to you to judge how good or bad this phone is in mobile photography division.

Asus Zenfone Max specs:

  • 5.5″ HD IPS display
  • 1280 x 720 resolution, 267 ppi
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • Supports microSD card up to 64GB
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with ZenUI 2.0
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS
  • Dual-SIM
  • 3G
  • 4G LTE
  • 77.5 x 156 x 10.55mm
  • 202 grams
  • Black or White
  • 3000mAh battery (li-po)
  • Php8,495
The Asus Zenfone Max is now available for purchase for just Php8,495 at any Asus-authorized retails stores and kiosks nationwide.

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