Almost two years ago when I went to Uttarakhand Himalayas for 14 days to document the Nanda Devi Rajjat Yatra, I was carrying my old love Nokia C7 phone with me (as a phone companion only, my camera gears were altogether different). I loved that phone for its toughness and camera quality. The phone had a 1200mAh battery and the Sonilex power bank that I carried on the trip had a 3600mAh battery, theoretically enough to charge my phone three times. Last year when I got a ASUS ZenFone2 Laser, it had a 3000mAh battery.
Now last month I received new ZenFone Max for review and when I opened the box six days after receiving it, the message said that the phone had been in the box in the power on mode ever since it left ASUS India office. The phone was actually on and the power meter on the phone indicated that it still had 33 percent battery, sufficient for stand-by time of 13 days. Rough calculation indicates that fully charged phone would have been sufficient for stand-by duration of around 33 days. Now thats tremendous. The ZenFone Max comes with a massive 5000mAh battery.
Having said that, fact is that the phone we are discussing here is the upgraded version of the ZenFone Max which was already lunched early this year with the same battery. Actually, one thing that phone exceeded all expectations was for its battery life. With smartphones now almost 18 hour companion for many of us in a typical 24 hour time, battery life is something we always crave for. And, undoubtedly ZenFone Max was among early trendsetters in this regard with a few other companies too coming out with similar powerful batteries.
The new ZenFone Max has few other upgrades as well. Though default lower version still comes with a 2GB RAM (you have to shell out another 3,000 Rs for a 3GB RAM model) the internal storage has been just doubled to 32 GB from 16 GB. The base model of new ZenFone Max costs Rs 9,999 and the 3GB RAM model for Rs 12,999. The difference in price seems rather too steep just for additional GB of RAM. The new Max also comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 Octa-Core processor whereas the initial launch had a Quad Core Snapdragon 410 Soc processor. Snapdragon 615 Soc is now a normal feature in this segment. That would have compromised some of its battery strength as the better processor consumes more of battery, but still the 5KmAh battery is strong enough to give a powerful performance. Another upgrade has been on the OS. ZenFone Max originally came with Android Lollipop. The upgraded max comes with Android Marshmallow 6.0. Hence there is change in the appearance with few of the Marshmallow’s apps marking their presence.
To launch an upgraded phone in just under five months at the same price (Rs, 9,999) for the basic model would have certainly needed some guts. But then many other specifications are the same- such as camera, 5.5 inch screen, screen resolution (720 x 1280), dimension, weight and even look & feel. Phone has a descent look. Although it is slightly bigger and heavier than my ZenFone2 Laser but still comfortable enough to hold. Plastic back cover has a leathered texture and there is a metallic rim all around which gives it a premium feel and a solid build. All buttons (power and volume) are on the right side. Micro-USB slot it at the bottom and audio jack socket on the top. It has two 4G SIM slots and a micro SD card slot for an expandable memory upto 64 GB. That means you can effectively carry almost 96Gb space with you; almost as too many ASUS ZenUI controlled Apps consume a lot of space and many people find that an irritant. You always have a app or two updating in your phone’s backyard. But on the battery front backed by Android M 6.0.1 and ASUS ZenUI, the new ZenFone Max includes advanced features to satisfy power users. The Power Saver mode helps users manage and extend the battery life even more. With five battery modes and two smart switches that users can configure to make their own battery optimisation settings and help the battery last even longer.
On the core functions, I found the calling quality and the browsing experience on the phone very satisfying. I have found 4G browsing on my ZenFone2 Laser also very satisfying and same has to be the case with ZenFone Max as well. There is change in colours as well. The initial ZenFone Max was launched in two colours- Black and White. But white is gone this time around and with black come two other colours- orange and blue. Orange colour really make it look more chic and fashionable.
While talking about the battery, it isn’t replaceable. It means, your phone and the battery are going live the same life-span. Secondly, the charging time for the battery is far too much than expected in these running times. The reason is the charger. The same 5.2v charger for a 3000mAh battery phone and a 5000mAh battery phone simply won’t work.
For me as a traveler and a photographer, a descent camera with a powerful battery life is just something one can ask for. Added to it is a processor good enough for multitasking when you need to check mails and also reply to comments on your latest blog post and in the end watch a small film in the night in the confines of your tent as well. You can easily have a couple of days small trip to a countryside with a single charge. And you can still have some battery left to lend some power to your friends with Samsungs and iPhones from you Max. Yea, ZenFone Max can be used as a power bank as well and the phone actually comes with a OTG cable for this purpose. I am not reviewing the camera functionalities as they are the same as in earlier ASUS phones (read reviews of ASUS ZenFone2 Laser and ASUS ZenFone Zoom) and I have found them quite upto the mark this time as well with ZenFone Max. But there is slight change in the camera app making it more friendly with better control options.
Overall, it is a very descent smartphone without being too heavy on the pocket. But it needs to be wary of its competitors as things are moving very fast in this segment. Besides the battery, the camera and the processor, a quick upgradation of other features will be key to remain competitive. But remember, its the battery which it will be remembered for.