• Display: 5.2-inch 720 x 1280 IPS
  • CPU: Quad-core 1.25 GHz Cortex-A53
  • GPU: Mali-T720MP2
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR + A2DP, WiFi, WiFi Direct
  • Storage: 32GB eMMC Flash expandable with microSD
  • Operating System: Android 6.0
  • Camera: 13MP (rear), 5MP (front)
  • Dimensions: 149.5 x 73.7 x 8.55 mm
  • Weight: 148g
  • Pros:
  • Strong battery life
  • Affordable
  • Cons:
  • Average visual sharpness
  • Benchmark Results
  • 3DMark Icestorm Unlimited: 6,895 points
  • 3DMark Slingshot: 178 points
  • PCMark: 4,295 points
  • Antutu: 40,238 points

Charge Up

As the months go by, it’s becoming clear that the market has reached saturation point. In ASUS’ case, one of it is its ZenFone Max upgrade, the ZenFone 3 Max, a midrange device that’s meant to deliver the ultimate in battery capacity.

In the box, we found the device along with its charging adapter and USB cable, as well as a USB OTG cable, warranty card and user guide. The phone itself was noticeably smaller than its predecessor, with a 5.2-inch screen that no longer shows the three main buttons when the it’s off. ASUS went with a unibody design this time, giving the device the kind of uniform look that most consumers have come to like.

Visually, we liked that entire back is now metallic, instead of the rubbery one from before. The build quality felt more solid as a result and the matte texture provided ample grip. The rounded sides and edges, combined with its smaller size, made it comfortable to hold in the hands too. ASUS ditched the back cover in this iteration, meaning that SIM cards now go into the tray on the left that’s accessible using a provided pin. We thought this move made sense, since it felt silly to have a removable cover but not a removable battery. A fingerprint sensor now occupies the back and its activation speed is good. Besides unlocking the phone, it can also be used to answer calls, or to bring up the camera app quickly, both features we used extensively.

Powered by a MediaTek MT6737M and 3GB of RAM, the ZenFone 3 Max falls more on the upper midrange category in terms of performance. The UI was quite smooth during our use and exhibited no major signs of lagging or apps crashing. There’s still some bloatware preinstalled with it, but most can be manually uninstalled if needed.

Having a 720×1280 resolution screen for its 5.2-inch display means that the ZenFone 3 Max’s screen lacks sharpness. However, it does deliver decent range of colours, as well as brightness and contrast levels, so watching videos on it was something we did a lot, especially when you consider the 4100 mAh battery it has. The large battery also allows it to be used to reverse charge other devices like a power bank, making it ideal for charging accessories like wireless headphones on the go.

CHIP CONCLUDE: Although nothing spectacular, but it presents a choice that’s got capable performance and a large battery. Since the price of premium smartphones is on the rise, this is an option worth considering for those with leaner pockets.

(previously published in issue November 2016)