Asus entered the smartphone market back in 2014 with its Zenfone 4, Zenfone 5, and Zenfone 6 handsets. Not to be confused with the Zenfone 5 launched in 2018. The first wave of smartphone was named after the screen size. For instance, the Zenfone 4 had a 4-inch display, whereas the Zenfone 5 came with a 5-inch screen, and so on. In contrast, the last year’s Zenfone 5 name was a nod to its iteration. Confusing names aside, the Taiwanese company is quite good at delivering quality handsets at a budget price, and the Zenfone Max (M2) is no exception. There’s nothing we can do about its terrible name, so let’s just appreciate the fact that it undercuts the current budget champion Redmi Note 6 Pro by cutting a few corners. But is this trade-off worth it?
Design And Build
The Zenfone Max (M2) features a metal body design. No points for creativity, as the handset looks exactly like the Redmi Note 6 Pro. The placement of vertically stacked dual cameras, fingerprint sensor, and seams where metal back meets the plastic frame, is identical in these phones.
Overall, the phones design is as outdated as the Redmi 6 Pro. However, I will go easy on the Zenfone Max (M2) since it is cheaper among the two. Moreover, the Zenfone Max (M2) has a more refined design. Its display fits snugly on the phone’s shell. In Redmi Note 6 Pro’s case, the display panel awkwardly sticks out from the body.
Weighing in at 160 grams, the Zenfone Max (M2) is significantly lighter compared to the Redmi Note 6 Pro, which tips the scales at 182 grams. And despite lacking the heft, Asus’ phone is every bit as sturdy as its competitor.
The phone sports a 6.26-inch IPS panel with almost 81 percent screen-to-body ratio. The screen delivers rich colors and wide viewing angles. It is bright enough to retain legibility under direct sunlight. But, loses points when it comes to the screen resolution. The 6.26-inch display packs in 1520 x 720 pixels, which translates to the pixel density of around 270 ppi. It is definitely a letdown compared to Redmi Note 6 Pro’s Full HD screen.
Like most budget phones, the Zenfone Max (M2) features an ugly notch. It is slightly wider than the one on the Zenfone Max Pro (M2) but smaller when put up against the Redmi Note 6 Pro.
Asus’ Android customization never received any love from the consumers. Thankfully, the Taiwanese brand takes user feedback quite seriously. For Zenfone Max (M2), Asus has ditched its ZenUI in favor of stock Android. As a result, you get vanilla Android experience.
The Zeonfone Max (M2) ships Android 8.1 Oreo. The Stock UI is a good news for Android purists. You get interface like how it is envisioned by Google. Unfortunately, the search-engine giant isn’t that great when it comes to software design. The default Android icon design is still incoherent. Especially, the app folders look terrible. I also miss some useful features such as the app vault and notification filter from my previous phone – the Redmi Note 6 Pro.
At the core, the Zenfone Max (M2) features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 632 SoC (System on Chip). This chipset is based on 14 nm fabrication process. It comprises of four Kryo 250 Gold cores and four Kryo 250 Silver threads. Working with the onboard 3 GB RAM, this processor offers enough power to deliver a pleasant experience.
You are unlikely to run into stutter or lag while performing routine tasks. The Adreno 506 GPU handles casual games without an issue. However, the Snapdragon 632’s limitations do show up when playing power hungry games such as the PUBG mobile. For starters, you can only play on Smooth and Balanced settings. The phone doesn’t support HD option, so HDR is out of question. And you can get high frame rates only when you choose the smooth graphics option. In synthetic benchmarks, the Snapdragon 632 performs a notch below the Redmi Note 6 Pro’s Snapdragon 636 chip.
Asus has been kind enough not to axe our beloved 3.5 mm audio jack. This effectively meant that I could enjoy music with the earphones I already own. The sound output is decent since you can’t expect any fancy DAC chip at this price point. The phone also has a mono loudspeaker, which is good enough for watching random YouTube videos.
Asus’ camera UI has plenty of rough edges. The shutter button has visible jagged edges. Moreover, instead of a simple still and video toggle button, the phone offers a drop-down menu with two options, which is counter-intuitive.
Moving onto the optics, it is good to see how dual cameras have become standard on budget phones. The Zenfone Max (M2) comprises of a 13 MP camera with a 2 MP depth sensor. It captures excellent images in daylight. But then, there’s hardly any phone that fails to impress in proper lighting conditions.
Things get a bit tricky in low light. The phone can produce good low-light images, but only if you have steady hands. When the light is not ideal, the phone requires you to hold the phone steady for over a second. If you fail to do that, you end up with blurry pictures.
The Zenfone Max (M2) records Full HD videos at 30 fps. The resulting clips are quite impressive. Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) does a good job of delivering jitter free videos. The amount of detail is also quite good. What’s more, this budget device even supports 4K video recording.
For selfies, you get an 8 MP camera with an LED flash. It is a fixed-focus module. It doesn’t even have a wide-angle lens for group selfies. But it has beauty mode that can make my Om Puri like skin appear like Katrina Kaif.
The Zenfone Max (M2) comes with dual SIM support. Both slots are compatible with 4G VoLTE. Asus has also thrown-in a dedicated microSD card slot, so you don’t have to choose between a secondary SIM and additional storage. The cellular reception was quite flake, but that’s perfectly normal for Airtel in Hyderabad.
This handset packs-in a 4,000 mAh battery. The phone comes bundled with a 10 W charger. The phone uses the old microUSB port. On a single charger, the Zenfone Max (M2) easily lasts you for over a day. In a YouTube video loop test, the device lasted for over 12 hours and half an hour before switching off.
Asus makes a strong case for the Zenfone Max (M2) with its aggressive pricing. The device has a solid build quality. It also performs well in its class. The 3 GB RAM variant costs Rs 10,000, which makes for a great choice. There’s also a 4 GB RAM variant, which is pegged at Rs 11,000. While this one isn’t a bad deal either, it comes too close to Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 6 (4 GB model) priced at Rs 13,0000. I know that the Rs 2,000 difference is quite significant for most buyers, but that additional investment is totally worth it as Xiaomi’s phone offers a better screen and more powerful processor.
Design and Build Quality8.0/10
Value For Money9.0/10
What Is Good?
- Sturdy build quality
- Bloat-free Android experience
- Long battery life
What Is Bad?
- Lacks Full HD screen
- No fast charging support