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First published on 2018.06.10 | Updated on 2018.06.22

ASUS has finally brought their newest addition to the lineup of their #BatteryKing series – the ZenFone Max Pro M1. We’ve got some time to play with the phone during the FragFest event held at SM North EDSA Cyberzone last June 9-10, as well as with ASUS themselves, and here’s what we’ve thought of it.


Design Impressions

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The ZenFone Max series is known for their hefty battery packs, which the company endorses being ideal for those who are always on-the-go or for those who want to do more from their smartphones. With that said, the design of this new ZenFone Max stays the same just like its predecessors – no glass backs, no eccentric signature Zen design, just plain matte-like finish made by the aluminum alloy material.

Photo: Bryan Snow/AMG

And while this phone sports a hefty 5000mAh battery pack inside, ASUS has managed to keep this phone slim, making it easier to hold and grip from both edges. The sides just contain the conventional buttons such as volume rockers and power button (right) and a dual SIM card + microSD slot tray (left).



SIM Tray (left), Volume and Power Buttons (right) [Photo: Bryan Snow/AMG]

Its 6-inch Full HD+ 18:9 IPS display is one of the best thing on this smartphone. While it’s not an OLED, it still got good colors, it’s bright, and isn’t notched at all, although we can’t complain about the top and bottom bezels as a result. The Full HD+ resolution is already enough for this, since the phone’s main objective, after all, is to prolong battery life.

Photo: Bryan Snow/AMG

On the bottom part, there’s the usual set of ports and speakers, and unfortunately, this one still uses the old-school microUSB port from years ago. Other than that, there’s a headphone jack, a microphone hole, and a mono speaker grille which can be blocked easily when holding the phone. We’ll give it a further test once we receive our review unit for further evaluation.

We can’t remove the connected cable, though – you’ll know what happen. (Photo: Bryan Snow/AMG)

We also got a chance to mingle with some of its bio-metric security options, such as the rear-mounted fingerprint reader. It’s placed just right, and is reachable exactly by the index or middle finger which you use to secure your phone with. Another point is that the camera is placed away from it, so there’s no smudges on the camera lenses in the event of opening your smartphone after all. Also, it’s quite fast at around 0.3-0.5 seconds.

Photo: Bryan Snow/AMG

ASUS also boasts its Face Recognition feature, and we tried it out as well (although we didn’t obtained photos on it), and it works, although on first tries it seems to be unresponsive and requiring you to wake the screen first before pointing the phone to your face. It’s quite fast, but I still want to use the fingerprint scanner the most. They previously released a software update to fix it and we’ll see if that claim is true on our full review.


Performance and Software

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Photo: Bryan Snow/AMG

The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is a little bit special compared to the other ZenFone Max-series smartphones out there, since it runs a pure version of Android Oreo 8.1 out-of-the-box. As a result, the phone is buttery-smooth and fluid, and a contributing factor is that it being paired up with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 636 processor and 3GB of RAM. ASUS also claims that this phone is faster than most of the similarly-spec’d smartphones on this price range.

Yay for Pure Android! (Photo: Bryan Snow/AMG)

PUBG Mobile, a known resource-intensive game on smartphones, runs smoothly on this phone. However, you’ll not want it to raise up really high, as it will experience some dips in frames, especially when going on clashes with many players. With that said, we expect this phone to run lighter games smoothly.

PUBG Mobile, the new game benchmark for mobile phones

Camera

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ASUS is only offering the 3GB/32GB variant here in the country, and in that note, the camera configuration of the unit that we’ve tested is perhaps a 13MP + 5MP dual rear camera. While dual cams tend to promise better image quality (in most cases), we weren’t satisfied of what our initial shots resulted from it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to take it off for a spin outside the event area to take better photos. Here are the raw samples from the rear camera:

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Back Camera (Sample 1)
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Back Camera (Sample 1)
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Back Camera (Sample 2)
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Back Camera (Sample 2)

Notice the grain and a huge amount of noise. This is in pure Auto without any modifications and zooming done. It may not be that good because of the warm lighting effect there, but comparing it to other phones which we usually use to take photos with the same lighting situation, this rear camera performs a little bit worse than expected. We might take the phone for a full review sometime soon, so stay tuned for that.

On the other hand, the front selfie camera is an 8-megapixel, which in our opinion, captures good selfie shots. Here are some raw samples:

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Front Camera (Sample 1)
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Front Camera (Sample 1)
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Front Camera (Sample 2)
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Front Camera (Sample 2)

There’s also the portrait selfie mode, which in our opinion, does a good job on blurring out the background, but not blurring out the edges, especially some crucial ones like ears. Here are some raw samples:

Portrait Selfie Mode (Sample 1)
Portrait Selfie Mode (Sample 1)
Portrait Selfie Mode (Sample 2)
Portrait Selfie Mode (Sample 2)
Portrait Selfie Mode (Sample 3)
Portrait Selfie Mode (Sample 3)

Specifications and Features

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Model:ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 Specs
Display:6-inch Full HD+ IPS LCD display; 18:9 aspect ratio (1080 x 2160 resolution), ~402 ppi, 77% screen to body ratio
CPU/SoC:Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 Octa-core @ 1.8GHz
GPU:Adreno 509
RAM:3GB / 4GB / 6GB
ROM/Storage:32GB / 64GB (expandable via microSD, dedicated slot)
Rear Cameras:3GB: 13-megapixel main and 5-megapixel secondary with PDAF, LED flash
4GB/6GB: 16-megapixel main and 5-megapixel secondary with PDAF, LED flash
Front Camera:3GB/4GB: 8-megapixel LED flash
6GB: 16-megapixel with LED flash
Battery:5000mAh non-removable battery with 10W fast charging support
Connectivity:Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth 4.2
microUSB 2.0, USB On-The-Go (OTG)
3.5mm headphone jack
Network Bands:4G/LTE, 3G (HSDPA), 2G (GSM)
SIM Slot:Dual SIM
Sensors:Fingerprint sensor (rear), GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, ambient light sensor
OS/Software:Android Oreo 8.1
Dimensions & Weight:Size: 159 x 76 x 8.5 mm (6.26 x 2.99 x 0.33 in)
Weight: 180 g (6.35 oz)
Colors:Black, Gray
Protection / IP Rating:IP Rating: N/A
Other Features:NXP Smart Amplifier

Conclusion

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With its enormous battery life and a really compelling specs, it could nail its budget category.

ASUS is targeting gamers and users who are on-the-go on the most times of their daily lives with this smartphone. With its enormous battery life and a really compelling specs, it could nail its budget category.

If the compromises we’ve saw is actually isolated to us, there would be nothing to be considered as a dealbreaker, after all.

However, we’ll go and test the device as soon as we receive our review unit for further evaluation. Stay tuned for that!


Pricing and Availability

The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is available in Black and Gray colors and is now available for pre-order exclusively on Lazada for PhP9,995 (3GB/32GB variant). Pre-orders will start on June 9th until the 25th, and will be bundled by a brand new JBL Clip 2 Speaker worth PhP3,099.00.