ASUS ZENFONE 3 MAX ZC520TL

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What has Hãng Asus done khổng lồ justify that 80 percent bump in price over the original ZenFone Max? More importantly, has the company done enough?

Anirudh RegidiNov 09, 2016 15:37:16 IST







From the moment Hãng Asus announced its ZenFone 3 lineup in India way baông chồng in August, I was worried. Hãng Asus appeared lớn be charging a premium for decidedly mid-range specs & it was with that fear at the baông chồng of my mind that I approached the new ZenFone 3 Max.

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This phone is the successor to lớn Asus’ own ZenFone Max. The Max gets its name from the humongous battery it packs in. The original Max came with a 5,000mAh battery while this new ZenFone 3 Max packs in a smaller 4,100mAh unit though. The ZenFone Max was also a decidedly budget điện thoại thông minh with a starting price of just Rs 9,999.

There are two units of the ZenFone 3 Max available. The first is a 5.2-inch variant with a MediaTek chip and 5.2-inch screen that costs Rs 13,999. The other is a 5.5-inch variant with a Snapdragon 430 for Rs 17,999. The smaller one is called the ZenFone 3 Max 5.2 và the larger one the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5.

The ZenFone 3 Max we received for đánh giá is the 5.5-inch Mã Sản Phẩm.

So what has Hãng Asus done to lớn justify that 80 percent bump in price over the original? More importantly, has the company done enough?

Build and Design: 7/10

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There’s nothing much khổng lồ say about the thiết kế. All smartphones look largely the same these days and the ZenFone 3 Max is no different.

You get a White, rectangular slab of a phone with 2.5 chiều glass on the front. The back panel is made of metal & there are two plastic panels at the top và bottom khổng lồ allow for wireless connectivity.

The buttons on the front face are capacitive, but are not backlit, making them a little difficult khổng lồ use in the dark. The upper half of the front portion features the earpiece speaker, front camera unit & ambient light sensor. An LED is embedded under the surface of the front panel as well & it serves as a notification LED.

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The rear features the camera and fingerprint sensor, both of which are aligned to lớn the centre-line at the baông xã. A dual-LED flash & laser focus-assist sensor grace the sides of the camera unit.

Given that the baông xã panel is made of an aluminium alloy, the phone gets bonus points for build quality. The finish isn’t very good, however. The border where the metal meets plastic is rough, as is the transition from glass to lớn metal on the sides.

That said, the build unique is leagues better than the cheap, plasticky feel of the original ZenFone Max.

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The dimensions are also great. The phone is just 8.3mm thichồng and weighs 175g. The iPhone 7 Plus, by comparison, is 7.3milimet thiông xã. The ZenFone 3 Max also has a much better screen-to-toàn thân ratio of 73 percent as opposed to lớn the iPhone 7 Plus’ 65 percent.

The phone feels nice khổng lồ hold, if a touch too slippery and it’s way more pocketable than many phones with the same screen size. The buttons are also nice và clicky, which I like.

I’m personally not in favour of a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, but I can’t really doông chồng points for a personal preference of that nature.

Features: 7/10

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The feature-set for this phone is very confusing. You get 3GB RAM, 32GB of storage, an expansion slot that supports microSD cards up to 128GB in kích thước, a massive sầu 4,100mAh battery, a Full HD 5.5-inch display that’s actually not bad và a 16MP rear camera unit.

Countering this very reasonable spec sheet is an entry-màn chơi Snapdragon 430 processor and a mono speaker.

As you’ll see in the performance section, the SoC ruins what could have been a great phone.

The star of the show is the battery, however, which can be even be used to lớn juice other devices via an OTG cable. Asus claims that the ZenFone 3 Max can provide 1.5A of current for charging, which is quite commendable.

Display: 7.5/10

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The phone’s display is as confusing as the specs of the device. At 5.5-inches and Full HD (1920x1080) resolution, the kích cỡ of the screen và px density is quite nice. You’ll need a higher resolution for VR, but at this price, that’s asking for too much.

Colour reproduction is also good enough và you won’t have sầu any complaints unless you place it side-by-side with something like an iPhone. In such a scenario, you’ll notice that the Max’s screen is on the cooler side (tending khổng lồ blue).

My real complaint with the screen is with its brightness. Hãng Asus claims lớn be using a 400nit screen (nit being a measure of brightness) và while it should be adequate for reading in bright light, it isn’t.

The screen is fine indoors, but in bright sunlight, I was always left wishing that I could boost the brightness just that little bit more.

Software: 8/10

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The phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with ZenUI on top. Android’s core functionality remains unchanged — you can still access Google Now và use Now on Tap, for example — & Hãng Asus adds layers of functionality & kiến thiết on top of it.

Again, this is my personal preference, but I lượt thích a stock Android experience as opposed to lớn a custom one, especially if it’s not done well. To its credit, Asus’ interference with stoông xã Android is minimal. You get a bunch of new icons, a completely new phối of animations (which I didn’t like because they were too slow) và other little touches like notification bubbles on tiện ích icons.

You can also tải về themes from Asus’ Themes store, which is nice.

You’ll find a plethora of new options in the settings thực đơn. These help customise the Android experience khổng lồ your taste & let you add or remove software features. You can enable settings that will let you take photos with the fingerprint sensor (or double-tap to wake the camera). You can also enable touch-screen functionality that lets you draw on the screen to lớn open specific apps.

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Other functionality such as double-tap khổng lồ wake or sleep, motion gestures lượt thích placing the phone on your ear khổng lồ answer a điện thoại tư vấn và even a glove mode lớn increase the sensitivity of the screen can be enabled or disabled at will.

By mặc định, most of these gestures và features are disabled & I just wish the opposite were true. I know too many people who’re too intimidated by the settings thực đơn to bother going into it.

An interesting addition is the GameGenie ứng dụng. Think of it as a Steam overlay or the DVR bar in Windows 10. You can keep GameGenie as a persistent inhỏ when gaming & tap on it anytime khổng lồ stream your screen on something like Twitch or YouTube. You can also use it to lớn quickly access a browser lớn look up something online.

It’s thoughtful of Asus to lớn not force these features on you & let you decide whether you want something or not. However, it might have been better if Hãng Asus had simply enabled some of the more useful features by mặc định.

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One feature that I rely heavily upon, raise-to-wake, is absent. Double-tap almost makes up for it though. Almost.

Performance: 4/10

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Great software needs to lớn be paired with great hardware and that’s the one thing Hãng Asus failed khổng lồ do. While everything else falls inkhổng lồ the “good” or “not bad” category, Asus’ decision lớn go with a SnapLong 430 SoC falls inkhổng lồ the “terrible” category.

The phone feels sluggish at all times. There’s a kind of hesitancy to the UI. You tap on something & then wait half a second for the phone khổng lồ process the input. Opening apps, tabs, the multi-tasking thực đơn, the notification drawer, they’re all slow và jittery.

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Even YouTube doesn’t run smoothly on this phone at HD resolutions and randomly freezes while viewing.

Switching khổng lồ performance mode under Power Saving options noticeably speeds up some actions, but the overall experience is still a juddery one. Animations are rarely smooth and there’s a perceptible lag khổng lồ everything.

On a phone under Rs 10,000, the performance might be acceptable. On a phone going for twice that amount, it’s not.

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Making things worse is the fact that there is no phone in the market today that carries such an abysmal SoC at this price. The Redmi Note 3, which starts at Rs 9,999, packs in a SnapLong 650. The older Nexus 5X packs gets a Snaprồng 808. Phones like the Vibe X3, Xperia XA and even the Mokhổng lồ X Play paông chồng in better specs than this one.

If you think about it, the Rs 6,999 Redmi 3S packs in a Snaprồng 430. That phone sells for a third of the price of this ZenFone 3 Max. The Rs 8,999 Redmày 3S Prime offers almost the same specs as the ZenFone 3 Max. Let that just sink in for a bit.

In terms of value, the only phone I can think of that’s worse than the ZenFone 3 Max is the iPhone 5S, which released in 2013.

All of this is still not as bad as the typing experience. I"m not bragging, but I bởi type very fast on a phone. With the ZenFone 3, there are times when the keyboard just freezes up và I have to lớn stop typing till the words catch up. This happens with third-các buổi party keyboards lượt thích Swiftkey as well. It"s not a very frequent occurrence, but it does happen & when it does, it"s very frustrating.

Benchmark figures also bear this out, indicating performance that is on par with some of the lowest performing devices in our charts.

To its credit, the phone doesn’t seem to lớn heat up much, only getting noticeably warm under heavy load and camera use. If only Hãng Asus had seen fit khổng lồ include a Snaprồng 650 or equivalent SoC, it would have sầu been the perfect complement lớn the rest of the device.

The speaker’s performance is just about acceptable. It’s a mono-speaker and not very loud, but it’s loud enough to be useful. In fact, the speaker is like the display, it’s not bad, but it needs that little bit more oomph.

Camera: 6.5 / 10

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The camera unit on the device has a lot going for it on paper. The rear camera is a 16MP. f/2.0 unit with PDAF và Laser-assist focussing. It also features EIS (not as good as OIS), a super resolution mode, HDR, low-light mode, etc. Hãng Asus also claims that the camera can focus in 0.03 seconds.

In real-life, however, the camera isn’t that impressive. The camera does focus and meter quickly & consistently, but nowhere near the claimed 0.03 second tốc độ. I would estimate that the camera takes a good half second lớn one second to establish focus. Focussing is about as fast as on an iPhone 6s Plus, but without the seeming fluidity of the iPhone’s camera.

Images are noticeably washed out and lacking in detail. They look all right on the phone’s screen, but zoom in even slightly and all you’ll see is a painting rather than a photo lớn. Competing phones lượt thích the Redmày Note 3 and Nexus 5X produce relatively better images.

HDR và night mode also didn’t vì much lớn help shots that required them. While images in HDR did show more dynamic range, the washed out colours remained.

Night mode is supposed to lớn reduce the resolution of the image & enhance light sensitivity while toning down noise, và it seems lớn vị that, but the results aren’t worth mentioning. The camera also struggles very hard to focus in low-light.

The Super Resolution mode was also disappointing.

Frankly, I preferred the tự động hóa modes to both low-light và HDR modes because the increased contrast in that mode serves to offset the washed out images a bit.

Battery: 9/10

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Battery life is impressive, the only good thing about this phone I’d say.

My daily driver is an iPhone 6s Plus, which packs in a 2,750mAh battery & lasts me a full day of use. My daily use consists of at least 2-3 hours of video clip playbaông xã (I have sầu a long commute), a couple of calls, dozens of e-mail, 50+ messages (sometimes more) and at least 2-4 hours spent browsing the website.

Where the iPhone lasted me a full workday (about 16 hours), at mặc định settings, the Zenfone 3 Max lasted over 30 hours, and that’s after charging my iPhone by 10 percent with the OTG charging feature on the Max.

Our standard PCMark battery chạy thử failed khổng lồ run on the phone so I can’t tell you, objectively, how it compares khổng lồ the competition. I can however say that no phone, barring the original ZenFone Max và the Redmày Note 3, has ever smoked my iPhone in the battery life department. The fact that the ZenFone 3 Max can bởi vì it is testament to its capabilities.

I do have sầu one complaint about the battery and that’s to lớn do with its charging rate. Charging is extremely slow with the bundled charger & I only saw the battery go from 3 percent khổng lồ 40 percent in 2 hours. My iPhone goes from 0-100 in 2 hours and I thought that was slow.

Verdict & price in India

I can’t for the life of me figure out why Hãng Asus has priced the ZenFone 3 Max as they did. I appreciate the battery life và the build chất lượng at this asking price of Rs 17,999, but that sluggish SoC completely ruins the experience for me. The camera is also lack-lustre.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the Redngươi Note 3, and that device sells for about Rs 5,000 lớn Rs 7,000 less than the ZenFone 3 Max. It also offers a massive sầu performance bump, a better camera and the same battery life. Why would anyone in their right minds pichồng a ZenFone 3 Max over the Redmi chú ý 3, at the current pricing?

I wouldn’t.

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