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ASUS ZenFone Max M2 Review - A reliable performer for the price!

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More than a month after it was first announced in the country, the ASUS ZenFone Max M2 still has one of the most competitive specs for the price.
ASUS ZenFone Max M2 Review - A reliable performer for the price!
ASUS ZenFone Max M2 review!

In our impressions, we even dubbed this phone with big screen, speedy chip, large battery capacity, and decent cameras as a respectable deal so far.

Here's our full review!

For our review part 1: ASUS ZenFone Max M2 Unboxing and First Impressions

Display Quality

Big HD+ screen
Big HD+ screen

One of the key highlights of the Max M2 is its screen. It is one of the few with a 6.3-inch big screen with 19:9 IPS screen aspect ratio at this price point. The screen-to-body ratio is also quite high for a more immersive viewing experience.


It only has an HD+ 1520 x 720 resolution at 267 ppi. Fortunately, ASUS used a good type of screen. It comes with close to accurate colors with decent contrast and good viewing angles. Blacks aren't as deep as higher-end panels, but it is still considered as respectable for the price.

You can adjust the screen color from warm to default to cool in the display settings.

Moreover, the screen brightness is quite strong. So, it has good sunlight legibility.

It also has an eye comfort mode that works like a blue light filter to protect your eyes when reading in the dark. The adaptive brightness also works quite well.

Lastly, it has the standard 10 points of touch for easy swiping and typing.

Audio Quality

Max M2 has a single down-firing speaker. It is a loud sounding single speaker. At around 70 to 80 percent loudness, audio output is quite clean with nice and crisp mids. But on max loudness, distortion is evident. It is a bit muddy there as well. For the price, Max M2's single speaker is still considered as decent.

For headphones, it has one of the loudest output at this price point. It was able to drive The problem is it isn't clean sounding. It is too warm/dark for me. Mids are a bit overpowered by the lows (bass region) as well. Highs aren't that clear too. Try to download an app that can lower the bass to make it sound better.

Bluetooth audio is fine as expected. You will need to plug your headphones to access the FM Radio.

The ear speaker for calls is mostly clear. The dual-mic for recordings are alright. Outside noise is not that strong.

Battery

Like other Max branded ASUS phones, the Max M2 has a big battery capacity. It is a at 4,000mAh to be exact. But since it has a power efficient chip and lower screen resolution, the battery life is insane.

Extra strong battery performance!

I failed to screenshot our PC Mark work battery test, but it is at 16 hours and 30 minutes. Screen time is around a little under 7 hours. You can use it from 8AM to 10PM as your main phone with a more than 30 percent left in the tank after.

It can easily last for up to 2 days under casual or light usage.

Also, there's a battery saving feature that lowers the screen brightness and will turn off some connectivity options to help you conserve more power when needed.

Charging time using the 5V/2A USB wall charger is around 2.5 hours from 0 to 100 percent. Not bad for a phone with big 4,000mAh battery capacity.

Camera

Budget dual-cam phone
Budget dual-cam phone

Behind, the Max M2 has a dual-camera setup. It comes with a 13MP f/1.8 + 2MP f/2.4 cameras with PDAF focus and LED flash.
Camera UI
Camera UI

It uses a the stock Android camera app by default. It features the HDR, usual filters, bokeh, and face beauty modes. After digging deeper to the settings, we discovered that ASUS also added a Sports mode to help you take action shots and Night mode for low light shots. 

The Max M2 even has a Pro camera mode. The Pro mode can let you manually adjust the focus, shutter speed (1/160 to 1/4s), ISO (200 to 1600), EV (-2 to +2), and white balance. It would have been better if you can adjust the shutter speed to around 8 seconds.

However, it doesn't have a grid that you can use as a guide. But still, not bad.

Autofocus speed is average. It is quick enough since it has PDAF. Focusing on subjects 3 to 2.5 inches near is possible. Photo saving time is less than a second.

Decent cameras on a budget for an ASUS phone!

Most the daylight shots we took has good details and nice colors. Color reproduction is could be punchy yet not oversaturated at times. There are very few occasions where you will get a soft looking image in daylight.

The HDR mode is far from great though. It will only make your against the light shots brighter. But, it will desaturate the colors of your images. 

It also has one of the cleanest looking bokeh mode around. The default depth effect is nice. Pushing the depth settings to the max will give your shots unnatural bokeh and bad smudgy edges.

Low light shots are also respectable. Some of our night shots even has good dynamic range, contrast, and details. Noise is evident, but it is not that bad versus the auto mode of other camera phones.

However, the Night mode is not useful. It will make the images brighter, but it will lessen the colors and dynamic range. You will also notice that the shots will have more grain.

Just use the auto mode most of the time. You may also use the flash in pitch black lighting scenes.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight 1
Daylight 1
Against the light no HDR 1
Against the light no HDR 1
Against the light no HDR 2
Against the light no HDR 2
Normal vs 100 percent crop
Normal vs 100 percent crop
Default bokeh mode
Default bokeh mode
Close-up indoor
Close-up indoor
Normal vs Night mode
Normal vs Night mode
Normal mode at night
Normal mode at night
Super dim light shot
Super dim light shot

For selfies, the 8MP f/2.0 snapper with softlight LED flash doesn't sound that impressive on paper. But, it real life it can deliver. It even has customizable face beauty mode and portrait mode.

Selfies in daylight are great. The selfie bokeh doesn't look natural. Indoor selfies are just alright. Low light selfies are respectable. Details in low light will be lesser though. But it is still decent considering that the Max M2 is a budget phone.

The softlight LED flash is usable as well.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie
Selfie with face beauty
Selfie with face beauty
Indoor selfie with face beauty and bokeh mode
Indoor selfie with face beauty and bokeh mode
Indoor dim selfie
Indoor dim selfie
Low light selfie
Low light selfie
Low light selfie flash
Low light selfie flash

Like the Max Pro M2, the Max M2 can shoot up to 4K 30fps in quality without stabilization. It made the Max M2 one of the very few with 4K video option in the under PHP 10K range. It even has EIS stabilization at 1080p 30fps mode. It is one of the best for videos with fast focus speed, great colors, and decent dynamic range for the price.

The selfie for video is not as great as the main cam. There's a huge crop and stabilization is far from great. Details and color reproduction is respectable though.

Video Samples


Performance

AnTuTu and Geekbench score of M2
AnTuTu and Geekbench score of M2

Max M2 is one of the first phones with Snapdragon 632 chip. It's a 12nm based octa-core processor with up to 1.8GHz clock speed. But it is also paired with the ageing Adreno 506 GPU.

Pretty snappy performance!

It also has 3GB RAM which helps with multitasking and 32GB storage for your apps, images, games, and other files. You can also expand its internal storage if you have a microSD card.


Actual performance is fluid considering the price. It loads apps quite fast and it can run most of the social media apps with ease. We tried few games like NBA 2K19 and PUBG Mobile. It runs NBA at medium and low settings well. It lags at high settings though.

The in-game lag is understandable for the price, but would have made the Max M2 better if its Snapdragon 632 chip has a better GPU.

But hey, the thermal management of this device is great. It gets warm if you turn the 4G on while playing games, but far from hot.

The UI

Clean near stock UI
Clean near stock UI

Our biggest issue with the Max Pro M2 is the UI. Stock Android should be great in actual performance, but the optimizations from the Max Pro M2 is not that great. There are lags and unwanted stutters always.

Fortunately, ASUS fixed that with the lower-end Max M2. It still runs with Android 8.1 Oreo OS. But a clean and well-optimized near stock version of Android. It is mostly smooth and feels quite refined as well.

It doesn't have a phone manager, but you can always download apps like that to optimize your phone further in the Google Play Store.

Moreover, given ASUS's track record, this phone might receive an OS upgrade in the near future.

Other features

The ASUS ZenFone Max M2 has a reliable fingerprint scanner at the back. It just works. 

The face unlock needs improvement though. It doesn't have the lift to wake feature and you need to press the power button first before it unlocks your phone.

Max M2 also comes with a steady 4G LTE, WiFi, and GSM signals. Bluetooth, gyroscope, GPS, and dual SIM works.

Pros - Good build, capable performance, stellar battery life, decent cameras, fast fingerprint scanner, 
Cons - Audio could be better, face unlock could be better

ASUS ZenFone Max M2 (ZB633KL) Specs

Display: 6.3-inch 2.5D curved IPS screen w/ HD+ 1520 x 720 resolution at 267 ppi
CPU: 1.8GHz 64-bit Snapdragon 632 octa-core processor
GPU: Adreno 506
RAM: 3GB
ROM: 32GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 2TB (dedicated)
Back Camera: 13MP f/1.8 + 2MP f/2.4 w/ PDAF and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8MP f/2.0 w/ softlight LED flash
Battery: 4,000mAh
OS: Android 8.1 Oreo
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11b/g/n, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.2, FM Radio, OTG, NFC, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: Fingerprint sensor, face unlock, Colors: midnight black, space blue
Dimensions: 158 x 76 x 7.7 mm
Weight: 160 g
Price: PHP 8,995

Verdict

ASUS's ZenFone Max M2 is clearly designed for those who need an affordable smartphone with strong battery life and reliable performance. It is also a phone with decent camera performance and clean near stock Android software.

We have nitpicks, but nearly everything about the Max M2 is decent for its PHP 8,995 price tag.

Do you agree with us?

Note: You can also buy the ZenFone Max M2 at Argomall online.

Build/Design - 4.25
Display - 4
Audio - 3.75
Battery - 4.5
Camera - 4.25
Performance - 4.25
Average - 4.167/5
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