ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review: The Best Max in the Series?


Here is my review of the latest #BatteryKing smartphone from ASUS called the ZenFone Max Pro M2. As mentioned in my previous hands-on post, this particular model of ZenFone Max successor was formally launched in the Philippines in December of last year and it came in two variants, one with 6GB RAM and 64GB internal storage and another in 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. In terms of specs, design, and probably performance, the two are basically the same beast minus that 2GB RAM difference.

Now about this particular model, a lot has been upgraded and changed with this new ZenFone Max Pro M2.  It is no longer just about battery endurance, it's now about performance as well. That's because apart from sporting a huge 5000mAh battery pack and up to 6GB RAM, it is also now being powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 660 chipset, the most powerful processor ever put on a ZenFone Max to date. And comparing this latest device to last year's ZenFone Max Pro M1, which I also had the chance to try and review, we can clearly see that ASUS completely revamped the phone's aesthetics. That glossy, 3D curved and glass-looking rear cover is definitely one of my favorite new designs on this phone.

DESIGN

I have to say that this ZenFone Max Pro M2 is the most premium-looking and beautiful Max ASUS has ever created and released so far. I have used and reviewed a number of ZenFone Max smartphones for this blog before, and the moment I first saw this Max Pro M2 a couple months back, the design and build were the first things that immediately caught my attention and I could say right away that it definitely packs a real upgrade to the core.


That 3D-curved glossy acrylic design dominates the entire rear of the phone and is a head-turner when you hold it up high such as when taking photos or when its lying on its front panel display on a flat surface. Due to its "wave" finish, the reflection of light on its surface moves and dances akin to waves. Though it does look like a glass material, it is not. And the way ASUS manufactured this part of the device and those curved back sides of the phone, made the device feel more premium in the hand and easy to use with one-hand operation.

The front panel of this phone is pretty interesting as well. It is the first Max to sport a notch which as you can remember is one of the trending smartphone designs in 2018. Thankfully it is not that wide though like what we see on iPhone X and some other notch-sporting Android devices. That screen cutout is narrow enough to hold the 13MP selfie camera, LED flash, and proximity sensor.

Is the notch visible the whole time or can be hidden? Yes it is visible most of the time but only when browsing social media sites and regular websites. If you stream videos in full screen mode such as with YouTube or Netflix or even play games, the notch is automatically blacked out, which is of course very nice to know. There is no way to completely and permanently hide the notch via the display settings.

One more thing to note about this smartphone's design is the implementation of Gorilla Glass 6 protection on the front panel. In fact, apart from the ASUS ROG Phone, this is the only ASUS-made smartphone to have this latest and toughest Gorilla Glass 6. Though I would still recommend to use a screen protector on this one for added scratch protection as the review unit I have already has some hairline scratches on the display panel.


As for its ports and buttons, the Max Pro M2 still has the usual suspects. Thankfully, there is still a triple-slot SIM tray that supports up to 4G LTE connectivity as well as a microSD card up to 2TB in size. The 3.5mm audiojack is situated at the bottom together with the 5-magnet audio with NXP 9874 smart amplifier speaker, mic, and the microUSB port. We still don't have USB Type-C on this phone, though it's still okay but of course would it be much better if we already have one. Volume and power buttons are located on the right side of the phone.

Overall, the device has a solid build quality and the back cover does not look and feel cheap at all. One-hand operation is never a problem, at least for me.

DISPLAY, SOFTWARE and UI

The ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 sports a 6.3-inch Full HD+ IPS diplay with 19:9 aspect ratio display and 88% screen-to-body ratio. Its brightness can go as high as 450 nits, which is really bright and very good for daytime outdoor use. Also with the brightness, especially in full bright, there is a little touch that I have not noticed with other phones and I really like it. It works like when in full bright and then you unlock the phone, the screen does not immediately flash the screen's current brightness, there is some sort of a delay from low to full bright. This is a nice little touch as its approach is more eye-friendly especially to those who have light sensitive eyes like myself.

When it comes to the display quality, I think ASUS has done a good job in this part of this device. As far as I can remember, this version of the ZenFone Max has more vibrant and more alive color reproduction on the screen than the previous ZenFone Max devices I have ever tried. The images and texts are much sharper on this one. I have another Android phone with Full HD+ IPS display and the more I compare them side by side the more I am wanting to get this ZenFone Max Pro M2 for myself and get rid of that other phone.


The split screen feature is also new on this phone allowing users to divide the screen and open two apps simultaneously in either portrait or landscape mode, something that I have not seen in the previous Max phones also. Of course it is definitely a nice thing to have here, this gives us additional opportunity to maximize the phone's large display. To me, this is a very useful feature as I usually use this for watching YouTube videos and browsing Facebook at the same time. However, there is no way I can adjust the size of each screen. Whenever I try to do so by moving the dividing line it just goes back right in the middle. I guess it would be a lot nicer if I could adjust the screen size of an app in the split screen mode to give me more space for browsing and typing on one app while the other (most of the time is YouTube) almost running in the background. But then again it's a nice addition here knowing that it is the first time it has happened on a Max phone, perhaps we will see more in the next Max offering or if we are lucky via software update for this model.

Running the device is a stock version of Android 8.1 Oreo. That may sound an already-old version of the mobile OS to you, but don't worry as ASUS Philippines has already confirmed an Android 9 Pie update is already on its way.

PERFORMANCE

Powering the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor partnered with Adreno 512 GPU and again either 4GB or 6GB of RAM. My review unit has 6GB RAM right out of the box.

Based on my usage since having this phone a couple of weeks ago, everything has been buttery smooth and fast. I never had any problem switching from one app to another. Most of the apps I have in the background don't even have to reload, they just pop right back up on the screen as they were the last time I switched away from them. Day to day tasks are handled by the phone without any hiccups, delay or lag.

How about gaming? Sure its processor and RAM can handle games, but the I don't game that much except for the super light ones like Temple Run, Alto's Adventure, and Clash of Clans, so I really can't say much about its performance on heavy and demanding games. Though very recently, like since I started using this ZenFone Max Pro M2, I began learning how to play Mobile Legends because it feels like I am the only one who's not playing it yet. So far, the phone is capable of handling every one of those I mentioned with no lag. Heating issues? I never noticed any.

STORAGE and AUDIO

About its storage size, both the 4GB and 6GB RAM variants come with a default 64GB internal storage. At initial booth, I got around 53GB free space out of that. Storage wise, I think that's about enough space even if you play a few heavy games with more than 1GB of size each you will still have plenty more room left for photos, videos, apps and others. As for myself, I don't think I will immediately run out of space anytime soon with this one, at least based on my usage pattern. I use quite a number of apps for different purposes, but running out of storage space with a 64GB smartphone is I think one of the last things I will worry about. And in case that happens, I can just backup my photos and videos on the cloud such as via Google Photos which is free and unlimited. Or I can just purchase microSD card to solve it. Thankfully though, this device still comes with a triple-slot SIM tray, which means we have a dedicated microSD card slot. What's more is that it can hold up to 2TB of additional storage.

The audio part on this smartphone is equipped with NXP 9874 smart amplifier with 5-magnet speaker. The default speaker is really loud and clear, even for outdoor use, though not that very good when in near or full volume. Audio distortion becomes more noticeable at this point. I would say the audio sounds a lot better when using a pair of earphones or any third party wireless speakers.


CAMERA

Now let's talk about the ZenFone Max Pro M2's camera capabilities. On its back we have a dual camera setup with the main shooter sporting 12MP equipped with Sony IMX486, F1.8 aperture, and an AI Scene Detection feature that was released via software update very recently. Its secondary camera is a 5MP shooter and is mainly used for depth sensing for a much improved bokeh effect in photos and portraits. On the selfie side, there is a 13MP front facing camera with Beauty mode that can be adjusted from Low, Mid, to High.


The rear cameras offer different camera modes such as Auto, Pro, HDR, Sports, and Night. Like in the previous Max Pro M1 version, there's also live filters available in the camera like Mono, Sepia, Aqua, and more. As far as I can remember, the Pro mode is not available with the Max Pro M1 variant. But with this follow up, the Manual or Pro mode is back which gives users more freedom to customize their shots. And with it are the adjustable settings from the Shutter Speed, ISO, EV down to White Balance.


For video recording purposes, the rear camera can record up to 4K resolution at 30 frames-per-second (rear only). 1080p and 720p are also available with the same 30fps for rear and front cameras. One nice addition that ASUS included in the ZenFone Max Pro M2 for the very first time on a Max smartphone is the Electronic Image Stabilization or EIS both for the rear and front cameras. With this particular feature, we can now say goodbye to shaky videos. There is only one catch though, this EIS is automatically turned off if you record in 4K.

So how are the cameras are doing on this particular model? I am happy to report that the cameras, both for the rear and front, have been greatly improved since the Max Pro M1. Not only that the Pro mode and EIS are working as advertised, the AI Scene Detection which recognizes the subject being photographed and intelligently makes adjustments to produce the best possible photo also works perfectly fine.

Regarding the cameras, let me share with you what happened while reviewing this smartphone. When I got this unit, I immediately received a couple of updates upon turning it on for the very first time. And then a couple of days later, I was able to finally get the most recent update that came with the new AI Scene Detection feature. Now prior to this update which mostly addresses the camera functionalities, some bugs and interface enhancements, the camera quality although already quite good compared to its predecessor, was till not that satisfying to my taste. The color reproduction many times came out flat and overexposed, especially from the selfie camera. Not to mention the camera app itself crashed a couple of times when used heavily for photo and video taking. But when the latest software update was received, the overall camera quality both for video and photo has been greatly improved. Even photos taken in low light environment have been improved as well. The image composition and colors are now more vibrant and have more dynamic to it than before and most photos now require a lot less modifications using photo-editing apps like Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom Mobile. Take a look at some of the photos I captured using this phone in Auto mode below.

























Based on my experience with this device's camera, I can say that ASUS really did their homework in improving the camera quality in the Max Pro series. The EIS and AI Scene Detection are two of my favorite features of this ZenFone Max Pro M2.  That being said, I don't have anymore complaints about this phone's camera like I had with its predecessor. However, if there is one thing I would like to see in the next Max Pro installment, I guess it would be the Night Mode for capturing photos at night, similar to the Nightscape Mode in Realme 3 smartphone.

BATTERY

Of course it wouldn't be called Max under the ZenFone banner if it's battery size was not really huge. Here we are talking about a massive 5000mAh battery that is packed in this beast. With that size, ASUS promises us of about up to 23 hours of browsing time, music playback of up to 8 days, video playback of 19 hours, and stand-by time of up to 35 days on a single charge. On paper, that is absolutely incredible. The longer battery life we have on our phone, the better the experience will be most especially for people who are always on the go. With ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2, you definitely wouldn't need to bring a power bank with you in case of, you know. But how does it perform in the real world?

My smartphone lifestyle is pretty simple actually. Most of the time, especially when I am out of the house, I just usually browse social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, and then reading tech and geek blogs that I follow to get updates of what's happening in these parts of the internet. I do game, but very rarely and those games that I play are not that performance and power hungry either. And then when I get home, after updating my blogs, I just spend the rest of night watching YouTube videos and streaming on Netflix. So in terms of battery life, on average, it lasts me more than two days. That's from 100% down to just about 5% before I recharge it at home or at the office. And for that, I am glad to say that I am very happy with the ZenFone Max Pro M2's battery performance. When it comes to ZenFone Max devices, battery life has always been one of its features and performance that I am more than satisfied about.

Does it support fast charge? Up until now, sadly it does not. But it's charging time has greatly improved since the Max series' introduction into the smartphone market. At one point, I charged the Max Pro M2 from 4%  battery life. After about 3 hours, it reached 100%. One thing I noticed though everytime I charge the phone, I am not so sure about this, but it appears that the phone charges faster when the battery percent is less than 80% and then slows down a bit after reaching about 85% percent. This may not be true but that's what I tend to notice every time.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Talking about the ZenFone Max series, the Max Pro M2 offers real upgrades both from the inside and the outside. It is absolutely the best ZenFone Max to date. The new features that it now offers right out of the box will definitely be appreciated not just by the long-time ZenFone Max users but also the new ones who will give it a try. The ZenFone Max Pro M2 offers the best aesthetics, performance, and endurance from the Max series all in one package for a price that's just about right. I just can't wait how ASUS is going to dethrone this battery king in the upcoming installments.

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 specs:
  • 6.3-inch Full HD+ IPS LED Display
  • 2280 x 1080 resolution
  • 19:9 aspect ratio
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 6 
  • Octa-core Snapdragon 660 Mobile Platform processor
  • Adreno 512 GPU
  • 6GB RAM
  • 64GB internal storage
  • Dedicated microSD card support up to 2TB
  • 12MP + 5MP dual rear camera with Sony IMX486 sensor, f1.8 aperture and AI Scene Detection, EIS, secondary camera for depth sensing
  • 13MP front camera with f2.0 aperture
  • Android 8.1 Oreo (stock version), Android 9 Pie update coming soon
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, GLONASS, Beidou
  • Dual SIM
  • 4G LTE
  • Fingerprint Scanner
  • Face Recognition
  • 3.5mm audiojack
  • MicroUSB 2.0
  • 175 grams
  • 157.9 x 75.5 x 8.5mm
  • Midnight Blue, Cosmic Titanium
  • 5000mAh battery
  • Php14,995

The ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 with 6GB RAM and 64GB storage is currently available for Php14,995. The 4GB RAM variant is also available for an even more affordable price of Php12,995. Aside from ZenFone concept stores and authorized retailers nationwide, we can also buy this from ASUS Philippines' online stores on Lazada and Shopee.

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