ASUS ZenFone Max Pro 3GB Review

Currently there are two versions of the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro here in the Philippines. I assume you already know the differences between them by now both in terms of specs and local pricing. So the one I am reviewing here is the 3GB RAM with 32GB internal storage version, locally priced at only Php9,995.

In case you missed it, I have previously posted my unboxing of this device. You can check the post through this link. I even made a separate post sharing my first 24-hour experience with this phone's massive 5000mAh battery pack, that one is published here. There I talk more about how long the phone took to get fully charged, activities I used it with, and how long the battery life lasted me on a single charge. 

But if you still wonder what the differences are between these two versions of ZenFone Max Pro, only the camera configurations, RAM, and storage are the answer, the rest is basically the same, even the processor.  This one that I have here offers 13MP + 5MP dual rear camera setup with front facing shooter at 8MP, the other one which has 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage, has 16MP + 5MP on the back and the same 8MP selfie shooter.

Pricing? We are looking at Php9,995 versus Php12,995 SRPs for these two devices.

Having those said, let's begin with the review. 

Design and Software

Taking the phone right out of the box, the ZenFone Max Pro reminds me of other ZenFones that I have used and reviewed such as the ZenFone 3 Zoom, ZenFone Live and a couple of ZenFone Max's from the previous generation, mainly because they share the same design template including the color which is the deepsea black. The only difference I noticed immediately is the vertically aligned dual camera on the back and the handset's size or dimensions. It is much bigger of course, and the display is much more immersive, thanks to its 6.0-inch Full HD+ display with 18:9 aspect ratio. Side bezels are the thinnest while top and bottom chins are noticeably thicker.

Even the overall "thickness" of the phone's profile is surprisingly not bothering. Because you know, smartphones with larger batteries tend to get thicker and heavier as we have seen in the past. But for the case of this ZenFone Max Pro, it is surprisingly slimmer and lighter than I previously anticipated. It's because this is the second time I experienced a phone that houses a large 5000mAh battery, the first one being the original ZenFone Max, it was really thicker and heavier.

The rounded corners of the phone add better grip experience to it which is always a nice touch that ASUS has been providing to almost all of its devices for years now. In addition to that, the front panel which is made of glass also sports rounded or curved edges and that give the phone a more premium look and feel. The overall feel of the phone is pretty solid both front and back. And speaking of the back panel, it is made of a metallic material, not aluminum though but still metal. Except for the upper and lower portion of it, which are made of plastic.

And as for its software, I am happy to report that it runs on a pure version of Android 8.1 Oreo. This means it does not have additional ASUS-exclusive ZenUI interface on top of it. Now this is a good news for mostly every Zen fan. It has tons of advantages and few disadvantages compared to other ZenUI equipped ZenFone smartphones. I guess on of the downsides of this one here is its camera department which is  a bit slow (will discuss more below). On the upside though, the software does not come with unnecessary apps and bloatware anymore, so users save more space right out of the box and time deleting or deactivating those applications that mostly are not useful for many users. It is the cleanest version of Android OS on a smartphone, I guess is what I am trying to say here.

The Battery

As mentioned, it is packed with a massive 5000mAh battery. Not only the weight and dimensions are the main issues with phones with big batteries, charging time as well. But ASUS made sure to address that one too on this device even though they are putting very competitive price tags on each of these phones - by adding a fast charging technology. ASUS claims this phone to be capable of charging from 0% to 100% in just 2 hours and 43 minutes. In my "24-hour battery experience" post (link above), I made sure to monitor this claim. And yes, I can personally say that the phone delivers that promise.

And did you know that apart from having a long-lasting battery life, this smartphone also doubles as a powerbank? Yes, that's right. Just like all the Max series from ASUS before, you can use this phone to charge other devices too. You just have to use a USB OTG cable adapter to take advantage of this cool feature. The only tiny problem is, unlike some latest ZenFone Max models, the packaging of this Max Pro does not come with a free USB OTG dongle.

Not included in the photo, but it does come with free silicon clear/soft case as well
The Processor

One of the highlights or main selling points of the ZenFone Max Pro is its Snapdragon 636 processor with Adreno 509 GPU right out of the box. It is an exciting part of the specs about this phone since it is the same processor  found on the more expensive and higher end ZenFone 5 smartphone. And for that, ASUS  is also marketing this device as a budget gaming Android smartphone. Paired that processor with 3GB RAM, a huge battery pack, and large 1080p display, your gaming on-the-go needs are all covered for a price tag that does not hurt the pocket.

Now if you have been reading my blog or at least some of my previous smartphone reviews, you already know that I am not a gaming type of person in terms of mobile platform. I do play some very good and famous games, but not really much and not the likes of Fortnite, PUBG Mobile, Mobile Legends, RPGs. I love Asphalt series though, which is kind of a demanding game in terms of processor and graphics power. So needless to say, despite having problems downloading the game into this phone as discussed in my battery experience post, I was finally able to play the Asphalt 9: Legends on this ZenFone Max Pro. And so far, I am very happy with the phone's performance when it comes to playing that game, everything has been smooth and fast.

When it comes to my daily smartphone usage, most of the time I use one for checking and updating my social media accounts, I barely make calls nor do text messages, Facebook has always been my means of communications to friends and family. Also, during my free time, I do a lot of video streaming either on YouTube or Netflix. Now with the Snapdragon 636 and 3GB RAM on the ZenFone Max Pro, switching between apps has never been better since the day I got my hands on the device. Apps' performance is always at their best, never experienced lags, delays, or even sudden freezing. The only time my experience is affected is when I am in a place where data or wifi connection is not-so-good.

I heard some users are having issues with the phone's data and wifi connection functionality. Personally though, I have never experienced any problem with the data. When it is very slow or no connection at all, I always blame it to the data connectivity in the area where I am at and that is actually the real case most of the time. Now for WiFi, streaming wise and downloading regular small-sized apps, everything is buttery smooth too. The only time I had a problem with the WiFi was when I was trying to download the Asphalt 9 which has a 1.5GB file size straight from the Google Play app store. But then again I was not so sure if the problem was coming from my DSL connection, Google Play Store (perhaps because its large file of 1.5GB) or from the device itself.

So far, the Android version and processor's performance on this device has been really really good. Snappy, quick, and smooth. Except for the camera software, which I think needs a lot of improvement over software update.

The camera

Being a blogger myself, and personally, one of the things I really require of a smartphone these days is the ability to produce great photo and video quality. ASUS itself has been famous for providing one of the best smartphone cameras in the mobile photography scene ever since the ZenFone 2 series was launched a few years ago. Whenever you ask smartphone users which brands provide the best camera quality on mobile devices, ASUS is always one of the mentioned brands.

But for the ZenFone Max Pro, it appears that the camera is not that great compared to other ZenFone devices. Even for its sub Php10K price tag, though it provides good quality of photos and videos, I think it could still produce much better qualities when tweaked a little bit. Also, I am thinking maybe the reason for this is because the phone uses a stock version of Android's camera and not ASUS' own camera software with PixelMaster technology.

So what's my main issue with the ZenFon Max Pro's camera? It's kind of hard to capture photos with moving objects, many times if not most, I end up getting a blurry image of moving objects. Whether those are hand, hair, or body movements, especially in low-light environment, the outcome end up the same.

TIP: Be very still when taking photos using this phone. Do not move away the phone as soon you finish clicking on the shutter, give it at least a second before doing so, or else the photo might get blurred. 

However for well-lit scenarios, the phone's dual rear camera and 8MP selfie perform well and are able to produce photos and videos with better color reproduction.

As mentioned, the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro has dual rear camera. Main shooter pegged at 13MP with the secondary at 5MP which provides dept of field functionality for shooting images. This is best used for capturing portrait photos where you'd like the background blurred to add more life to it image. With this phone, before you take the shot using the "depth effect" feature, you have the option to adjust how blurry you would like the background be through the adjust bar shown on the screen when you tap to focus. It is not as good as like many other mid-range and high-end smartphones around though, but still able to deliver the job of blurring the background. Just don't zoom in to the edges of your main subject or you will see the blur leaks in some part of the edges or are not blurred at all. See a couple sample of photos below for you to check.

Below are some sample photos I took using the camera's Auto mode. All photos are cropped and unedited. What you see here is the exact quality of photos taken by the phone.

Night shot with almost no light source
Night shot with artificial light source
Night shot with little artificial light source
The display

The phone's 6.0-inch display with Full HD+ or 2160 x 1080 resolution is great for its price point. It's very bright and has no issues being used outdoor even in broad daylight. Watching movies or series on Netflix has always been great, the same thing for videos on YouTube as well. I also have to say that the audio on this device is really good and loud. Audio distortion both when when used with earphones or the built-in stereo speaker is barely noticeable even when the volume switched in full blast. The speaker is very loud and crisp as well.

With this phone I also tried recording some video clips (to be uploaded on my YouTube channel soon) and I was surprised  of how good the microphone is on this device. It picks up and records voices really good and the video sounds good too when watched on the device. For users who would like to start vlogging on a budget, this is one of the devices you may want to consider for its microphone is good. Just be advised though that the video mode of the phone both in rear and front cameras don't have live beautification functionality which I think is present on some ZenFone devices.

Face Unlock and Fingerprint Scanner

Those two of the security and privacy features you can take advantage of on the ZenFone Max Pro. Both are really usable and reliable most of the time. I am not a fan of Face Unlock feature on any devices, I don't really use it until this is the only option I have. But for the sake of this review, I registered my face with the phone. And the result? In well-lit places such as malls, outside during daylight or at the office, it works perfectly well with a very rare instances of failing. It is capable of near-instantly unlocking the phone. But in low-light environment, it is still functional though but starts to struggle.

The fingerprint scanner on the other hand, is not one of the fastest I have tried, and sometimes it fails to recognize my fingerprint. But it is way more reliable than the Face Unlock when it comes to effectively working regardless of the condition.

Final thoughts

For its price tag of just Php9,995, I would say that the ZenFone Max Pro is one of the best choices we currently have on the local market within this price range, especially if you are looking for a phone with great display resolution and size, great audio both with use of earphones or the built-in speaker, and most of all great processing power and a battery life that will last you the longest unplugged. The overall build feels  and looks premium as well. Camera is okay for the most part but don't expect too  much.

Where to buy? 

As of posting, the 4GB version (16MP + 5MP dual rear camera) can be purchased at all ASUS stores nationwide for that same price mentioned above, while the 3GB variant (13MP + 5MP dual rear camera) is available at select ASUS  kiosks and concept stores and on Lazada store also for the same price.
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