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Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Unboxing And First Impressions - The Midrange All Rounder You Need?

The original variant of the Asus ZenFone 3 Max is good and affordable, but it may lack the speed and efficiency that most demanding users needs. Fortunately, Asus created a revised variant with key improvements all over, the Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL.
Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Unboxing And First Impressions
Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL in the flesh!

It's bigger at 5.5 inch with sharper FHD resolution, has the more efficient 64 bit Snapdragon 430 octa core chip, larger RAM option, and better back and front cameras.

Note: We have the 2 GB RAM model here (Asus will only release the 3 GB / 4 GB RAM variant in PH) so let's start with this review.

Disclaimer: This Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL is a loaner unit from Asus Philippines for an honest review.

Asus ZenFone 3 Max (ZC553KL) Specs

Display: 5.5 Inch FHD IPS 1920 x 1080 resolution w/ 2.5D curved glass w/ scratch resistance at 401 ppi
CPU: 1.4 GHz 64 Bit Snapdragon 430 octa core processor
GPU: Adreno 505
RAM: 3 GB / 4 GB
ROM: 32 GB expandable storage via micro SD card slot
Back Camera: 16 MP f/2.0 w/ Tri-tech AF, 720p video stabilization, and dual tone LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8 MP f/2.2 w/ wide angle lens
Battery: 4,100 mAh
OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow w/ ZenUI 3.0
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, FM Radio, GPS, A GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM (hybrid)
Sensors: Accelerator, compass, gyroscope, proximity, hall, light
Others: Fingerprint sensor, Colors: sand gold, glacier silver, titanium gray, rose gold
Dimensions: 151.4 x 76.24 x 8.3 mm
Weight: 175 g
Price: Under PHP 12K

Unboxing / Accessories

Here's the box!
Here's the box!

Like the original Zen 3 Max, this handset comes with identical packaging with basic info and image of the device.

The packaging includes a faster charging 2A charger (Not quick charge though), micro USB to regular USB long charging cables, in ear monitors w/ mic + eartips sizes (small, medium, large), OTG cable, and SIM ejector tool.
The rest of the inclusions inside the box
The rest of the inclusions inside the box

It's a pretty nice package that most will be contented with. Adding a case would make it better, but we are fine with it considering its price.

Build Quality / Design

Beautiful curves all over!
Beautiful curves all over!

The ZC553KL reminded us of both the Zen 3 Laser and the smaller Zen 3 Max. It flaunts the mostly metal unibody like construction with minimal curvy plastic parts the top and below. It feels premium, well machined that won't break or bend easy, that even has nice textured buttons and shiny antenna lines.
The ZC553KL reminded us of both the Zen 3 Laser and the smaller Zen 3 Max, which is a great thing!
On top, the 5.5 inch FHD screen has a layer of 2.5D curved glass which isn't prone to fingerprint smudges due to its oleophobic coating. However, there's no mention of Gorilla Glass protection so better install some sort of screen protector or tempered glass to prevent scratches and other types of damages.
View on top showing 3.5 mm jack
View on top showing 3.5 mm jack
Mic, micro USB charging port, and single speaker below
Mic, micro USB charging port, and single speaker below
Ejectable SIM slot at left
Ejectable SIM slot at left
Power button and volume rocker at right
Power button and volume rocker at right

In terms of design, this ranks among the most stylish phone at this price point. Its really slim (doesn't even have protruding cameras), proper iPhone inspired curves all over (including the 2.5D glass), very slim bezels, and semi-glittery paint finish.

This handset is also great in the hands as it doesn't have sharp edges and has proper curves. It's just slippery at times, but still manageable as long as you have proper grip.

Initial findings

1. We enjoyed the its bigger 5.5 inch screen with sharper FHD resolution much better than the regular Zen 3 Max with 5.2 inch screen.
2. Again, Asus did a good job in making a premium looking phone in the midrange segment. It's really refined and beautiful all over.
3. Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL has some minor stutters in opening and closing apps. Hopefully, that won't be the case with the 3 GB RAM retail unit that'll arrive here this December
4. It's 16 MP main camera is fully loaded on paper that has an f/2.0 lens w/ Tri-tech AF, 4 Axis OIS, Axis EIS and dual tone LED flash. In front, it is also now bigger at 8 MP coming from 5 MP. Initially, we like the results much better now.
5. It has LED notification on top, the fingerprint scanner works faster than the Zen 3 Max w/ 5.2 inch screen, and has OTG w/ reverse charging option.

Camera teaser

Less grains in dim light
Bright enough even at night using HDR Pro! (Acceptable grains)
8 MP wide angle selfie sample

As of the moment

So far, we think that Asus was able to fix most of the issues we found from the smaller ZenFone 3 Max. The Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL feels and looks better, has a more capable chip, and improved cameras. Initially, we think that this is poised to be the best entry-midrange Asus offering before the year ends.

For our full review: Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - Bigger And Better!
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