ASUS Zenfone 4 Max Pro: The One That Keeps Going
- LONG BATTERY LIFE
- Capable Performance
- Good Display
- Easy to use interface
- Dual Cameras
- Camera Performance could be better
- Slightly bulkier than other devices
ASUS is no stranger to the smartphone and technology space. The company released the very capable Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro following the amazing performer, the ASUS Zenfone 3. The Zenfone 4 Max Pro is a follow up to the first Zenfone Max which released 2 years back with amazing battery life. That doesn’t change in this iteration of the Zenfone. The Zenfone 4 Max Pro is arguably one of the longest lasting devices on the market so far. The longevity of the battery comes at a trade though. As the saying goes, nothing is for free. But, the question still remains: is it worth the trade?
Let’s be really frank; the Zenfone 4 Max Pro isn’t going to be winning any design awards. However, the simplistic design of the device belies its performance and battery life. The Zenfone 4 Max Pro comes in your typical unibody design. That said, ASUS did opt to adopt the anodised aluminum body. This choice makes the smartphone feel premium in hand and also gives it a sense of durability that many other devices in the price range seem to lack. The design choice to curve the sides makes the large phablet more palmable compared to its competitors.
The face of the device isn’t really that different from what we’ve seen in the past. The Max Pro’s comes with a 5.5-inch, 720p display. It’s also studded with the front facing, 16-meagpixel sensor and also the ambient light sensor. In addition, the face of the device is also puts the fingerprint sensor front and center flanked by capacitive back and multitasking buttons. The fingerprint sensor itself doubles as a home button which is both responsive and quick in touch response and fingerprint recognition.
The volume buttons and the power buttons are where you’d expect them to be on any android device: on the right side of the device. The hybrid SIM and microSD card slot is etched in the left side. On the bottom is the single speaker, microUSB type-B connector and the microphone. The back is brandished with the large ASUS logo and the dual 16-Megapixel and 5-Megapixel sensors which we’ll delve into in the camera section of the review.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 (8 Cores)Octa-Core @ 1.4GHz|
|Memory||32 GBExpandable with MicroSD (Up to 256GB)|
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Adreno 505|
|Display||IPS panel5.5-inch (~267 ppi)
720p HD (720×1280 pixels)
|Operating System||Android 7.0 Nougat with ZenUI 3.0|
|Battery||Non-Removable 5,000mAh Li-Ion|
|Connectivity||Dual SIMWi-Fi IEEE802.11 b/g/n
2 Way charging
|Camera||REAR:16-megapixel f/2.0 + 5-Megapixel f/2.2
1080p Full HD recording
16 Megapixel f/2.0
1080p Full HD video recoring (30fps)
The Zenfone 4 Max Pro comes out of the box with Android 7.0 Nougat. Of course, ASUS has its ZenUI 3.0 running on top of it. The ZenUI which sits atop Android has been on quite the diet since its first iterations. ASUS should be proud in making its ZenUI more feature packed but less RAM hungry. The Taiwanese manufacturer has included some thoughtful features including the ability to lock apps, cusotmise the UI with custom fonts and more in the new update to ZenUI. While other manufacturers choose to go the route of making their interface more iOS-like, ASUS has chosen to let Android shine through in their ZenUI.
The mainstay of ZenUI is the extent to which customisation is integrated into the experience. The first thing you’ll notice about the UI is the ability to theme and customise your icons, widgets, fonts and interface with a simple long press of the home screen. The ZenUI customisations start from the simple selection of fonts and font size to fully customising your experience.One of the unique features of ZenUI 3.0 is the ability to change the size of your icons. It’s not going to change the size of the grids of your interface just the icons meaning that you’ll have the same amount of icons on the screen just larger.
In addition, ZenUI also includes a theming engine. The native integration of this feature since its early iterations has ensured that the selection is extensive.You’ll definitely be able to find a theme that fits your fancies and mood WITHOUT the need to pay for it. If you’re interested in expressing yourself in your own unique way, you’ll be able to put together your own theme by downloading icon packs, custom fonts and wallpapers. With these customisation add-ons also comes the customisability of Android. Simple item such as simple widgets to changing your ringtones come within the Android framework.
Unlike some of its competition, ASUS’s ZenUI 3.0 doesn’t hold back any of its features when it comes to the Max Pro. The interface brings all the bells and whistles which come with the flagship Zenfone 4. This approach to the software is both refreshing and also the reason why the Max Pro is able to stand out from the crowd. With its simple to use and highly customisable interface, we have a device which isn’t yours simply cause you bought it, it’s yours cause you “designed” it. In addition, the fact that your having the same “flagship” experience even at a low price point makes the device even more compelling that a lot of the competition out there.
That said, the ASUS Zenfone 4 Max Pro’s ZenUI 3.0’s possible flaw comes in the way the icons and overall layout is designed. The overall aesthetic is very cartoon-y and gives a very unrefined, rough at the edges feel. While aesthetics isn’t everything, it’s hard to not feel like ASUS is being left behind in the lurches as its competition moves ahead. A little more thought into refining the overall aesthetic of the interface would have gone a long way to making the overall user experience and first impressions be more premium. That said, the UI itself with its customisability and personalisation features more than make up for it.
Benchmarks allow us to get a feel of what the device should be capable of with both the hardware and software available on the device. However, given that they don’t really guarantee the everyday performance of the device, we won’t go into much detail here. But, for those of us who like to see the raw power behind the ASUS Zenfone 4 Max Pro, here’s a glimpse at the performance.
The overall performance of the Zenfone 4 Max Pro is commendable especially at the price of RM1099 (USD$260.22). The Snapdragon 430 powering the device promises mid-range performance with the usual price tag which comes along with it. However, as is the case for any device, its performance is better indicated by the experience that we had over the week of review.
Call Quality & Connectivity
The Zenfone 4 Max Pro comes with all the essentials when it comes to mobile devices nowadays: 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz), GPS, AGPS, Glonass and BDS. That said, what’s important here is how the device performed on these connections.
The Max Pro has one of the better speakers when it comes to call quality in its range. The speaker sounded warm and lacked the tinny sound that is typical of a device skating the RM1000 line. People on the other end sounded really natural during conversations and the connectivity on the network was also far more stable than its competition. In addition, there wasn’t much heating up over long periods of talking either.
The noise cancelling microphone in the Zenfone 4 Max Pro does its work commendably. During my time using the device, there was little to no complaint from people on the other end about being inaudible. While there may have been a few times when audibility became an issue, it didn’t occur too often.
The WiFi and network connectivity of the device is good. The Zenfone Max Pro was able to get WiFi connectivity in areas where its competition was unable to. It even bested some of the previous flagships available on the market. When connected to WiFi there wasn’t any issue with the stability of the network. The Max Pro seemed to be able to hold its own when it came to smart switching between mobile data and WiFi. The Zenfone 4 Max Pro handled this better than any of the other devices in its price range. It provided a better, more stable overall experience compared to other device.
The Adreno 505 in the Zenfone Max Pro is definitely one that can handle quite a little bit of strain when it comes to graphics department. It could handle the gamut of games: from the simple, less graphics intensive ones to the super graphic intensives ones. Perhaps one of the more impressive feats of the 505 is the fact that the Max Pro stayed cool to touch over prolonged periods of time, only heating up after about 45 minutes to an hour of game play.
Over the review, I played games such as Blizzard’s Hearthstone, Need for Speed and NOVA on the Zenfone 4 Max Pro. Overall, the Max Pro was able to handle the games really well but it did begin to show its limits in more graphically intensive games.
In simple games such as Hearthstone and Pokémon Duel, the Zenfone 4 Max Pro had no issue rendering the base graphics such as card and token design. The same rang true when it came to rendering attack effects and animations. The Max Pro also remained cool to touch throughout my game play times which could last up to an hour.
The limits of the Max Pro’s Adreno 505 was more apparent when playing more graphically intensive games such as Need for Speed, Asphalt and NOVA. While graphical tearing was minimal, the overall performance of the games seem to push the limits of the Zenfone 4 Max Pro. Frame drops and stuttering would occur in situations where there was a lot to render on screen. Slower frame rates were also noticeable. That said, there wasn’t any point where the games became unplayable due to the issues. Of course, the Zenfone 4 Max Pro also heated up a lot faster under the graphical strain.
The multitasking on the Zenfone 4 Max Pro has improved immensely thanks in part due to the baked in features of Android. However, ASUS’s ZenUI 3.0 has also helped in this department.
The main new multitasking feature that stood out was the inclusion of split screen multitasking. This made it possible for me to refer to resources while writing as well as watch YouTube while going through Facebook. However, while multitasking this way is useful, my most used feature was the double tapping of the multitasking button to quickly jump between recent apps.
While multitasking software features are important, there aren’t many built into the Zenfone 4 Max Pro. However, the 3GB of RAM which it comes with definitely does allow it to multitask a lot smoother. It also doesn’t slow down when there are a number of apps running in the background.
Battery life is where the Zenfone 4 Max Pro shines the most. This device was a pain to kill in the battery department; which is a good thing. Over my week of reviewing the device, I only had to charge it about 4 times. This was with my syncing of emails, WhatsApp messages, making and taking calls and gaming. I got an average of about 1.5 days of usage on a single charge.
However, not being content with normal use, I decided to push the device as hard as I could over the course of a hectic day. I used the Max Pro for streaming Spotify over Bluetooth and GPS navigation in the car. I also used it to tether my data to my laptop and used it as my main camera. All of this was in addition to the regular usage I mentioned earlier. The results? The device only had 98% battery when I started my day at 8am; it still had 6% when I got back at 1.30a.m. That’s a whopping 18 hour day! I haven’t been able to get battery life like this from any device (even the Max Pro’s predecessor the ASUS Zenfone Max).
The Zenfone 4 Max Pro isn’t shy about this though. As I mentioned earlier, the slightly heftier design is undoubtedly due to the larger battery capacity. But then again, who wouldn’t be proud of lasting for more than 18 hours!
The display on the ASUS Zenfone Max Pro is a 5.5-inch HD 720p IPS display with a resolution of 720×1280 pixels. While it’s not the best display on the market. It gets things done; which is essential for the price range it sits in. The 720p display provides enough pixels on the device to multitask and also to enjoy your Netflix, YouTube or iflix on the go. The lower resolution of the display is also one of the factors for the longevity of the battery. The lower pixel count means that the battery can be put to better use powering the processors. That said, it is confusing why ASUS didn’t opt to go with a slightly better 1080p display.
The quality of the IPS panel is good though. The colours are reproduced are pretty accurate. The only complaint I have is that the colours are a little heavy on blues. This makes the colours seem brighter but is also more strenuous on the eyes. The cooler colour tones also means that your red and yellows may not be as accurate. The included blue light filter helps with the eye strain but you’ll need a separate app if you intend to tune the display to be more colour accurate.
ASUS went all with the dual camera modules this year in the Zenfone 4 lineup. Nearly every iteration of the Zenfone 4 series has a dual camera be it in the front or the back or both.
The Zenfone 4 Max Pro is no different. It’s camera configuration is a 16-megapixel Omnivision sensor with a 1.12µm pixel size and f/2.0 aperture. This is paired with a secondary 5-megapixel Omnivision sensor with 1.12µm pixel size and an f/2.2 aperture. The main difference between the two modules is the wider 120° field of view in the latter compare to the 80° field of view in the main 16-megapixel sensor.
The larger field of view allows for more to be captured on photo. In essence, think of it as giving you a larger canvas which allows more of what your shooting to be captured. The ability to go between the wide angle and normal viewing angles allows you to have more control of what you want to capture in your picture. However, this sensor configuration will not be able to capture those portrait pictures that are all the rage right now. The lack of a telephoto lens means that the smartphone is unable to collect the depth data needed for the portrait photos.
So how did the dual camera setup perform? To me, I would say the camera is mediocre at best. While the sensor allows up to 16-megapixels of resolution, it seems like the pictures taken are of mediocre quality when it comes to detail. Unless you’re in phenomenal lighting conditions, pictures are grainy and seem to be of a lower resolution. Zoom into the detail of the pictures reveals a very noise-ridden collection of pixels. That said, the issues with the camera quality may possibly be resolved with a software update as the noise seems to be due to post processing and not the sensor itself.
Flash photography on the Max Pro can be harsh. Its single LED flash floods the picture with a very harsh light which can be a little disorienting for subjects. However, given the right distance from the flash, the results can be quite promising.
Selfie/Front Facing Camera
The front camera of the smartphone is the same 16-megapixel omnivision sensor found on the back of the smartphone. However, unlike the previous Zenfone Max, the Max Pro comes with a “Softlight”. This is essentially a front facing LED flash. While it is a welcomed addition especially when you want to capture that selfie in the dark, the “softlight” can be really harsh and blinding.
The photos are again victim to the post processing that the software does. Aside from faces, the detail in the shots is fuzzy and noisy. It seems like the software is feathering nearby pixels to give a more artificial sharpening of the subject of the photo. This is leading to a loss of detail in the overall photo which causes backgrounds to become dull and uninspiring.
On both fronts, the lowlight performance leaves a lot to be desired. That said, overall, while I love the wide angle setup that the Max Pro has, the loss of detail and noise in the picture leave me wanting to see more on the camera front. But keeping in mind the price point it skates, it’s still out performing a lot of other cameras out there.
The ASUS Zenfone 4 Max Pro is a go to device for those who are looking for a device with amazing battery endurance and also a smartphone you can call your own. It excel in the ability to personalise and customise thanks to ZenUI 3.0. It’s main feature is undoubtedly the large 5,000 mAh battery which ensures that it outlasts nearly all of its competition. But it struggles when it comes to its camera, whether the struggle is due to software or possibly a image processing bottleneck, it will leave photo enthusiasts wanting more. That said, the price point of the Zenfone 4 Max Pro makes it a definite contender for a bang for buck device. It’s an all round performer with a few qwerks which can easily be fixed with a software update.
Also published on Medium.