Asus ZenFone 3 Max Review - Long Battery Life In Style!

The Asus ZenFone 3 Max is one of the must check entry-midrange smartphone in the sub PHP 10K SRP today. Why? Like what most handset maker wants, this device appears to have all the ingredients needed to make it great. As a matter of fact, we were very impressed initially on how slim / stylish it looks for a phone with decent specs and over 4,000 mAh of large battery capacity.
Asus ZenFone 3 Max review!
Asus ZenFone 3 Max review!

So, what we did is check this handset, used it as one of our main phones recently. Here's our review.

For the review part 1: Asus ZenFone 3 Max Unboxing And Second Impressions - Too Good To Resist?

Display Quality

5 points of touch present!
5 points of touch present!

Sporting a rightly sized 5.2 inch HD IPS screen at 282 ppi, the screen of the Max is just okay at this price point. It has average amount of detail and sharpness and beautiful viewing angles due to its 2.5D curved glass. Colors are generous and beautiful for most, but it might lack the pop or might looks slightly washed to some picky eyes.

To avoid eye-soreness while reading in the dark, its has a Bluelight filter option embedded in its software. There's just no color adjustment like what's found with the older ZenFone 2 models. 


Lastly, it has a standard 5 points of multitouch for a great typing / swiping experience.

Audio Quality

The speaker at the back
The speaker at the back

The speaker found at the back of the Max is average. It's quite crisp and detailed just like what we heard from other lower-tier ZenFones in the past. However, its usual at the back speaker placement may block the sound once placed on spots with flat surface. Fortunately, the speaker still sounded fine most of the time even if there's minimal distortion on max loudness.

There's just some minor audible distortions on high volume levels and some tracks, but its tolerable (mostly fine actually) for most.

For the headphone audio out, it is decent sounding and less bassy compared with the original ZenFone 2. As a result, the tunes coming out of your headphones sounded more balanced and easier on the ears. It isn't just as detailed compared with most HiFi ready smartphones, but at least clarity is good, soundstage has average presentation, and it isn't as distorted compared with older phones.

The microphone is quite good, there's one at the upper back part of the camera and there's another one below the phone. It's great for calls and decent (still noisy, but not that noisy) for recording videos with sound and etc. for this price point.


Battery Life

Battery bench score and power saving modes of ZenFone 3 Max
Battery bench score and power saving modes of ZenFone 3 Max

Coming from 5,000 mAh battery of the older ZenFone Max, the newer ZenFone 3 Max has a noticeably smaller battery capacity at 4,130 mAh. Don't get us wrong, any battery capacity that's above the 4,000 mAh mark is still considered as big. The reason why Asus opted to use a smaller battery capacity is to make it fit in its much slimmer and sleeker frame.
To be fair, this is one of the slimmest affordable phone today with this big battery capacity.
How did it perform in real life? Well, we're satisfied. Considering that still got a score of over 13 hours at PC Mark work battery test, that still makes this phone one of the best performing at this price point this year. In real life usage, I recorded a screen time of 11 hours which is darn impressive for a phone this slim and affordable.

On top of that, Asus included a good type of battery saving app to push its battery limits further. Charging time is around 2 hours and 45 mins which is decent for a phone with a battery this large.


Note: It has a reverse charging mode via OTG that's useful in case you forgot to bring your powerbank.

Camera

The 13 MP main camera behind
The 13 MP main camera behind

The ZenFone 3 Max is equipped with a 13 MP f/2.2 w/ AF and LED flash at the back and a 5 MP w/ f/2.0 aperture camera in front. We're used to seeing this with the older ZenFone 2 series with few differences.
The main camera software
The main camera software

At the back, the 13 MP main camera found with this phone is capable of doing the usual HDR, beautify, super resolution, lowlight mode, night mode, filters, selfie, panorama, and time lapse. However, the useful manual mode and depth of field mode found with the older ZenFone Max are gone.

Fortunately, Asus was able to maintain its speed of shooting which is arguably faster now. Then even with the lack of laser auto focus, its AF speed is still incredibly fast. Only the image saving time of less than a second delay didn't change. For macros, you'll have to be at least 4 inches near to shoot images that can create good blurs occasionally.
The Zen 3 Max maintained its speedy focus even with the lack of laser auto focus!
For the picture quality, its stills taken using the main camera are fairly decent as long your are in a proper lighting condition. The Asus signature warm slightly yellowish colors are still there, has decent dynamic range, and there's minimal noise.

If HDR is used properly, it works with rich color tone. If not, there will be grains and your images might even look soft and washed at the same time. In low-light, the night mode or lowlight mode can be useful to brighten things up, but expect it that it'll be grainy. As much as possible, use the flash at night where it can mostly correct the colors to product decent night shots.

Rear Camera Samples

Bright daylight shot
Bright daylight shot
HDR when it works, it brings mode details on the right side of the image
HDR when it works, it brings mode details on the right side of the image
It showed pretty good color balance and details here
It showed pretty good color balance and details here
Good background blur, but the flower is softer than expected
Good background blur, but the flower is softer than expected
Random indoor in dim-light, acceptable!
Random indoor in dim-light, acceptable!
Struggles at night
Struggles at night
Flash to the rescue!

For selfies, the modes of its 5 MP camera are understandably fewer, but hey it can do HDR, beautify, night mode, lowlight mode, filters, and even time lapse. It just don't have any type of AF, but its shutter and saving speed is quite quick.

For the picture quality, it is only good in daylight and if you have steady hands. When used properly, it can shoot selfies with average details and its beautify mode can do blurs nicely. However, there are still times that it'll overexpose your background and it'll be noisy especially in challenging light conditions.

Selfie Samples

Daylight selfie with beautify
Daylight selfie with beautify
Indoor selfie in harsh lighting condition
Indoor selfie in harsh lighting condition

For videos, it can do up to 1080p recordings with decent up to 30 fps. It also has a special feature where you can use the video stabilization for steadier recordings, but i'll tone down the resolution to 720p. In front, it has an up to 720p recording capability.

Performance

Benchmark scores
Benchmark scores

Packing a new type of quad core chip called the 1.25 GHz 64 Bit MT6737T by MediaTek paired with Mali T720 GPU and 3 GB of RAM, many are wondering on how it performs. Is it slower than the MT6753 octa core processor? On our benchmarks, it revealed at it is as fast as the MT6753 octa core chip with an Antutu score of almost 40K.

It isn't still a powerhouse, but this phone is a capable one. It can still run most of your everyday task with ease like Facebook, Instagram, and etc. As a matter of fact, due to its upgraded 3 GB of RAM, it can even load more apps in the background compared with the older Max. Another notable upgrade is it now has a bigger 32 GB of storage so you can now install more apps and put more files.


In gaming, we tested NBA's 2K17 here. It can load it on all low settings with player on high mode. It was playable, but expect frame drops and stutters at times. Then it even has a "Game Genie" that can do minimal boost in performance while in-game.
The UI of this phone
The UI of this phone

Running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS w/ ZenUI, the Zen 3 Max has most of the usual feature found with Zen devices. We enjoyed that its snappy, rarely stutters, and has a lot of customization included. It just has the usual Asus bloats that some users may not want to have.
Fingerprint scanner options
Fingerprint scanner options

The fingerprint reader isn't as fast as the regular ZenFone 3, but it still works finely. It even has an option for shortcuts like using it as a shutter button, launch the camera app, and answer incoming calls.

For connectivity in WiFi, LTE, and Bluetooth, we didn't experienced anything unusual during our time with it. There are even times that we are using it as a WiFi hotspot and it just works with ease. For calls and SMS, signals are decent as well. The like what we stated above, there's OTG capability that you can use for storage, charging, and etc.

Pros - Sleek and slim build, battery life is still big, snappy performance, otg is present, fingerprint scanner Cons - Smaller battery if your are coming from the old ZenFone Max, no manual camera and depth of field mode, selfie camera is soft, usual bloats


Verdict

Our time with the Asus ZenFone 3 Max is enjoyable. We love how Asus managed to put the big battery capacity in this slim and stylish frame. Plus it now has a speedier chip, more RAM, bigger storage, and fingerprint scanner included against its predecessor. As a whole, it is still an upgrade over the old Max even if it has a smaller screen and battery life.

GIZ Rating: 4/5 Stars
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