ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Review - PHP 10K Road Warrior!

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ASUS surprised the market with an Snapdragon 636 for under 10K that has a 5,000mAh battery and stock Android 8.0! How does it perform? Let's find out!
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Review - PHP 10K Road Warrior!
The road warrior!

In our first impressions, we found the phone to perform well because of the Snapdragon 636, Adreno 509 and 3GB of RAM that pushes the 5.99 inch FHD+ display.

It is clear aimed at gamers and people who need a phone that can last through an LTE filled work day. Does this phone stack up?

Let's see in our review.


Display Quality

Large 5.99-inch display!
Large 5.99-inch display

The display is a 5.99-inch FHD+ IPS 2160 x 1080 resolution w/ 2.5D curved glass at 403 ppi. There is no mention if it is Gorilla Glass protected.

18:9 goodness!

The IPS display is bright, vibrant and sharp with good viewing angles. It has curved corners and it has no notch. The side bezels are slim and are barely there while the forehead and chin bezels are "thicc" enough that it doesn't distract or ruin the design of the front.

It doesn't have multiple color options to choose from but it does have a "smart screen on" where the screen on time is extended when the user is looking at the phone.

The display is 10 point multitouch compatible and is perfect for games and apps that require multiple simultaneous touch inputs.

Audio Quality

The single bottom firing speaker gets loud but has noticeably distorted at maximum volume. We recommend staying at 80 percent volume. At 80 percent the sound has decent details and separation. The bass is there but like the treble and mids, its a little lacking. The speaker is okay. Not great.

It has a 3.5 mm headphone jack and it comes with the standard ZenEars. The sound signature hasn't changed. It is still one of the better stock earphones with emphasis on bass. It gets loud and the sound is powerful. It is a good earphone for the casual consumer.

The are two microphones. One on top and one at the bottom. The sound quality and the noise cancellation is good. We've never had a problem where our callers had a hard time hearing us.

Battery Life

Real life performance is better than benchmark performance! LTE all-day!

This is where the Max Pro M1 shines. It is equipped with a 5,000mAh battery that pushed the PC Mark Battery benchmark to more than 12 hours! This however is inconsistent with our real world usage because the Max was able to survive for 1 day and 8 hours.

Yes, 32 hours. This was with LTE on all day except when connected to WiFi. Our daily activities were texting, calling, web surfing, e-mail, messaging, YouTube streaming and Grab/MiCab.

In fact, we would unplug at 8AM and reach home at 8PM with around 35 to 45% left in the battery.

It is equipped with a 5V, 1.5A plug that can charge from 0 to 100 percent in under 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Camera

Dual lens setup
Dual lens setup!

The Max Pro M1 has a 13MP f/2.2 OV16880 sensor + 5MP depth sensor w/ PDAF and LED flash for the primary shooter while the front facing selfie camera is a 8MP f/2.0 w/ 85.5-degree wide-angle lens and soft light LED flash.
It comes with instructions when first used. There is no Pro mode though.
It comes with instructions when first used. There is no Pro mode though.

Unfortunately these grain and artifacts are more noticeable and more pronounced in low light. The flare control or the control for bright areas is a hit and miss as well.
The features
The features

There is no Pro or Manual mode. You can probably find a third-party camera app with pro mode in the Google Play Store

There are HDR, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Flowers, Backlight modes but mostly are presets. They aren't as compelling as cameras from CloudFone Next and Huawei phones with similar price point.

As we said in our initial impressions, the camera app is rather basic with little features and gimmicks. We hope ASUS will address this in an update.

At first glance, the images from the main camera are okay in daylight. The color pops and the detail and contrast is acceptable. It is when you zoom in (even for a little bit) do you see the grain and the artifacts.

The LED flash is there but it isn't even dual tone so it can cause inaccurate color balances in some situations.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight 1
Daylight 1
Daylight 2
Daylight 2
Indoor
Indoor
Indoor close-up
Indoor close-up
Lowlight sample
Lowlight sample

The 8MP f/2.0 w/ 85.5-degree wide-angle lens and softlight LED flash selfie camera fares better than the main camera in daylight. The details, colors and contrast stand out compared to the dual rear cameras.

It isn't the best selfie shooter out there though. The low light images can produce decent detailed images but with flat colors and contrast.

There is a depth effect for both the rear and selfie camera. Surprisingly, the it can detect two faces and apply the depth effect on both even though the subjects are distanced differently towards the camera.

Like the main camera, it is rather basic with presets more than real modes. There also is no LED or screen flash.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie
Indoor selfie
Indoor selfie
Lowlight selfie
Lowlight selfie

A large surprise was that the rear camera can shoot up to 4K DCI and 4K with no choice of frame rate. The 4K is also limited to a maximum of 10 minutes per clip. This can be in tandem with LED flash.  Both rear and front cameras do not have stabilization.

The selfie camera video on the other hand can shoot up to 1080p but with out choice of frame rates with the same 10 minute time limit per clip.

The video footage from the rear camera is soft and with noticeable artefacts. It is good enough for casual videography but don't expect it to do wonders. The same can be said for the selfie camera.

Like the stills camera, the video settings is limited as well.

Performance

That performance for under PHP 10K!
That performance for under PHP 10K!

ASUS surprised the market with a sub-PHP 10K device with a Snapdragon 636 and it does mop the floor with most phones at the same price bracket because of the accompanying the stock Android OS, the Adreno 509 and the 3GB of RAM that everything on the 5.99 inch FHD+ display is smooth as butter.

Powerful performance for the price!

It does have some software bugs occasionally though. We would get intermittent interruptions with our data connections via LTE that would only be resolved by rebooting the device. We would also experience forced closures with specific apps that are yet to be fully compatible. We hope that this will be fixed in a software update.


We were able to play PUBG smoothly without problem or frame rate drops which you can see on the video above and judge for yourself.
UI
UI

We commend ASUS Philippines for using Stock Android that offers a significantly better experience and is able to save money on development costs that is passed on to the consumers.

As mentioned earlier, there are just some small bugs that can be fixed in a firmware update. Otherwise, the UI experience is simple, quick and refreshing.

There is Face Unlock and it works 4 out of 5 times. It is quick and consistent in well lit situations and struggles when there is little light source illuminating the face while the finger print sensor is quicker, more accurate and more reliable. Thus we switched to it permanently.

Extra features

Other features include Double-tap to wake and to lock the phone. Dark display gestures that launch preset applications and a jump to camera by pressing the power button twice.

There is OTG, GPS and gyroscope are present and they work accurately and responsively.

Pros - 5,000mAh battery, FHD+ display, Snapdragon 636 for under PHP 10K, Stock Android, useful added gesture shortcuts
Cons - Software is still buggy, camera could be improved, bottom firing speaker isn't the best

Verdict

The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is one of the most affordable Snapdragon 636 equipped phone with 5,000mAh battery and a FHD+ display.

It is able to push all that power and still last until the end of a long LTE filled day. Of course it will shorten if you play intensive games but no other phone can perform this powerful and last thing long; thus, we dub it the sub-10K road warrior.

The camera is not up to par with the competition, nor does it have good speaker experience but those are minor given that it can run strongly that long.

We also experienced weird bugs with the software that was remedied by rebooting the phone. It happened often enough that we noticed it. It's not bad, just a minor annoyance. We hope ASUS will fix this in a firmware update.

It isn't perfect, but it is one of the better phones at Php 10K that ASUS has released in a long time. 

We highly recommend it to people who can forgive the shortcomings of the camera, the buggy OS and the speakers.

Build/Design - 4
Display - 4
Audio - 3.75
Battery - 4.75
Camera - 3.75
Performance - 4.25
Average - 4.1/5
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