ASUS ExpertBook B9

This is the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max. Earlier this year, we reviewed the original ASUS ZenFone Max that we’ve reviewed here. While that’s a great smartphone, that was released just a few months ago, there’s a big change this time around. The ZenFone 3 Max brought in some fundamental changes to its hardware and design. This ZenFone 3 Max we’re reviewing here is the ZC520TL – the 5.2-inch version.

ZenFone 3 Max

Acer Nitro 5

The packaging is pretty simple compared to its more premium sibling that I fell in love with, the ASUS ZenFone 3 – which we also reviewed here. There’s nothing really outstanding about the packaging other than it’s kept really simple and has only the necessary information displayed.

ZenFone 3 Max
PixelMaster camera, Bluetooth 4.0, 720p IPS display, supports 4G LTE and 802.11b/g/n WiFi, and has a curved 2.5D glass too.

All you need to do to unbox the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max is just slide off sleeve off and voila!

ZenFone 3 Max

The contents on the brand new ZenFone 3 Max is the same as its previous ZenFone Max – which I think is very sufficient for users.

ZenFone 3 Max
Micro USB cable, micro USB OTG cable, a charger, and SIM ejector tool.

I find it really funny that ASUS has to dedicate one special slot for the SIM ejector tool. So funny that even the SIM ejector tool looks like smiley face! There’s absolutely nothing beneath that compartment though.

ZenFone 3 Max

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Its design is something to be noted of. Compared to its predecessor, the ZenFone 3 Max is a lot thinner than before, but not to the point where it’s difficult to grab. Its rounded edges make it very pleasant to hold too. The design overall is pretty clean and sleek, and that for me is good enough.

I think it’s pretty interesting to have a fingerprint reader at the back – and it’s one feature that many smartphones around this price point should have.

ZenFone 3 Max

Right above the fingerprint reader is where the camera is found. One good thing is that the camera does sink in a little instead of being flushed flat with the back metal piece. That’s one way to reduce scratches, but it does gather some dirt around its edges.

I’d say that the ZenFone 3 Max has a pretty typical design overall, with the volume rocker and power button at the right side, and only the SIM/microSD card tray on the left.

ZenFone 3 Max

At the top is where the 3.5mm audio jack is found. Hey – at least we all don’t have to pay a premium price for a smartphone that doesn’t have an audio jack, and fork out more money for a dongle.

ZenFone 3 Max

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It has the standard smartphone connectivity – but there’s a little more that we should all know.

Apart from the usual 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and etc., the ZenFone 3 Max comes with a dual-micro SIM card slot. However, just like any other smartphones which I’ve complained before, the ZenFone 3 Max’s second SIM card slot is a microSD combo slot.

ZenFone 3 Max

I mean, sure – it’s very common for dual-SIM smartphones to share its secondary SIM card slot with the microSD card. You can only choose a second SIM card, or a microSD card. However – given that the ZenFone 3 Max has such a humongous battery capacity, I really wished that ASUS didn’t skimp out on dedicated SIM1, SIM2, and microSD card slot.

It’s meant to provide hours and hours of communication and media consumption without the need of a power bank or a charger. They got it right for the first ever ZenFone Max here, but I have no idea why they opted for the combo slot for the ZenFone 3 Max.

However on other aspects of its connectivity, the ZenFone 3 Max’s fingerprint sensor is pretty quick, sensing and unlocking at about a second or so. In terms of sensing accuracy, I give it an A+ as it’s pretty much on par with the more premium ZenFone 3.

Also, kudos to ASUS for using on-screen buttons instead of capactive buttons.

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The display is pretty decent and extremely bright. The ZenFone 3 Max has a 5.2-inch 720p IPS display. It does look like the display tends to be a little colder in temperature though.

ZenFone 3 Max

Also, did you notice the edges? That’s the curved 2.5D edges. I’m rather surprised to see 2.5D displays at this price point.

2.5D glasses as we’ve said before, makes the phone look beautiful and feels exceptionally good while using it. I’m not too sure about others though, as the community seems to be divided when it comes to 2.5D displays.

I for one am fine with it, until I apply a tempered glass screen protector on it.

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The ZenFone 3 Max features a standard 13MP sensor with f/2.2 lens with only continuous autofocus. This is not far off from the previous ZenFone Max’s 13MP sensor with f/2.0 lens, but obviously the larger aperture number on the ZenFone 3 Max will impact its low-light performance.

ZenFone 3 Max

To be honest, the camera is quite sub-par. Under low-lit conditions, the camera produces really under-exposed and noisy photos. I can only say that this image is barely acceptable even for social media usage.

ZenFone 3 Max

Is it worse than the Neffos C5’s camera that we’ve reviewed few months ago? Not really. The Neffos C5’s camera is noisy even when it’s brightly lit, and has a very noticeable cold temperature to its pictures taken. The Zenfone 3 Max has good white balance and less noise, albeit still noisy when compared to other smartphones.

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The ZenFone 3 Max is using the latest ASUS ZenUI 3.0 – which is the same as the ASUS ZenFone 3. I personally think that ZenUI 3.0 is really decent.

I spoke of the dynamic widgets and motion wallpaper on my ZenFone 3 review – and those little features really add value to the user experience. However, some of these features are unavailable on the ZenFone 3 Max because of what I presume to be hardware limitations.

ZenFone 3 Max

With that said, I think that these little missing features will affect the overall value of the ZenFone 3 Max by a lot, when its price point is taken into account.

Also, bloatware is considerably less compared to the ZenFone 3 – and they’re all removable. Better yet, some of the other ASUS’s own apps can be completely removed too, and later downloaded again from the Play Store. It’s always granularity like this that makes a power user like me satisfied.

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max is powered by a Mediatek MT6737T chipset instead of a Snapdragon as compared to its predecessor – but still powered by the same a quad-core Cortex-A53 processor, running at 1.25GHz. Complimented by a Mali-T720MP2 graphics and 3GB RAM, it can score pretty high in our benchmarks.

ZenFone 3 Max

Surprise, surprise! 46.6FPS on Epic Citadel with the highest graphic settings. It’s definitely shocking to see this much improvement compared to its previous generation. However, heat-wise it’s not really pleasant as it can go up to nearly 60℃ on the CPU. It did feel slightly uncomfortable to hold at that temperature too.

ZenFone 3 Max

Upon further testing with Vellamo, all of the 3 tests – Chrome, Metal, and Multicore – was shown to perform better on the ZenFone 3 Max compared to the previous ZenFone Max. I did not expect that changing from Snapdragon 410 chipset to Mediatek MT6737T and bumping up 0.5GHz will yield this much difference. Sure, the scores might not look far off, but the ZenFone 3 Max just feels a lot more snappier than its predecessor.

ZenFone 3 Max

Of course, with these performance improvements, how does the battery fare?

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Based on what ASUS told me, because that the ZenFone 3 Max is much smaller than its predecessor – currently a 5.2-inch device versus the previous 5.5-inch footprint – the battery size has to be decreased a little. That is from a 5,000mAh to a 4,100mAh battery. It’s quite a big drop  in battery capacity too – but is that an issue?

For me, the battery life is great – and it’s shown here on PCMark for Android. With nearly 12 hours of continuous benchmark,it’s no surprise that many people will love the ZenFone 3 Max. No wonder there’s so much love for this device!

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Then comes the charger. This is another aspect that ASUS has improved for the ZenFone 3 Max. Finally, they included a 5V 2A charger for a budget-oriented smartphone with humongous battery! I remember when I was testing the the original ZenFone Max, it took forever to charge. For the ZenFone 3 Max however, it’s actually a lot quicker.

ZenFone 3 Max

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I personally consider the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max quite a big upgrade over the its predecessor. I’ve also seen many people saying that Mediatek chipsets aren’t good, and I disagree. I’m actually surprised Mediatek’s performance and efficiency on the ZenFone 3 Max. I think with the reduced battery size, it can still last for an extensive period of time with no problems.

Now, you might have wondered why I said it’s a lackluster sequel. The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max is a great phone – that I agree. However if you’re coming from the previous 5.5-inch ZenFone Max, then there’s nothing to see here actually. Compared to the previous version, this one has a smaller battery too. Performance-wise, it isn’t much different from the previous version too.

Based on what I know, it seems like the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max’s 5.5-inch version will come to Malaysia anyway. That might worth the upgrade – as it uses a brand new Snapdragon 430 chipset.

ZenFone 3 Max

I also said “this price point” as the justification for many trade-offs made on the ZenFone 3 Max. That’s because the ZenFone 3 Max only costs RM799 – and you can get some pretty fantastic promotions over here at Lazada.

Click here to check out all the deals on Lazada! One of them even offer free tempered glass, TPU case, a selfie ststick, and ring stand for RM729 only.


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