Asus Zenfone 3s Max Review: A Commendable Upgrade

Asus Zenfone 3 Max series was launched a couple of months back in India, though the previous Zenfone 3 Max (we tested the 5.2-inch variant) is a decent offering, Asus seems to have not settled on to it. The company is all set to launch the upgraded variant of the Zenfone 3 Max; dubbed as Zenfone 3s Max which will be launching in India in February. We managed to get a Zenfone 3s Max unit even before its official launch, and we’ve been playing with it since ten days now and here’s what we think about the latest Asus offering. The question here is, is it better than the Zenfone 3 Max? Let’s find out.

The Asus Zenfone 3s Max Build and Design: Taking a cue from its predecessor, the Zenfone 3s Max adopts some of the design languages from the original Zenfone 3 Max(5.2-inch). The curved Metal frame running around the edges makes it comfortable to hold in hands, while the plastic back panel feels slippery. It isn’t heavy though packing a massive battery unit in it. This time around we have the Fingerprint sensor embedded into the home button, unlike the earlier ZF 3 Max which had the sensor to the back.

You have the 5-megapixel selfie shooter accompanied by the usual set of sensors like ambient light and proximity and the primary earpiece along with Asus branding up front. Down below the display, you just have the home button which also dubs as the Fingerprint sensor; the device has the capacitive buttons within the screen taking up some part of the screen. To the right, you have the Volume rockers, Power on/off buttons which are tactile and give good feedback when pressed. Left side you just have the SIM card tray which can either take two SIM’s or single SIM and microSD card slot.

Flipping the device, you have the 13-megapixel rear camera along with a secondary mic for noise cancellation, and Dual LED flash with Asus branding. The microUSB port and speaker grills are present on the bottom. Up top, just the 3.5mm audio jack. The 5.2-inches 2.5D curved display makes it comfortable for single-handed usage, and the metal edges won’t hurt your hands even after using the device for a long time. Overall for a 5.2-inch device, Asus made sure it did everything right, and it sure did impress us with the design and built.

Asus Zenfone 3s Display: If you have read our Zenfone 3 Max review that we posted a while ago, you might have come across a weird issue with the screen not responding to touches, and that is one the major concerns we had with the device. Cut to the chase, now with the Zenfone 3s Max, Asus seems to have changed. The display on the Zenfone 3s Max is simply one of the best aspects; it is smooth, it is vivid and produces good colors even in broad daylight.

The 5.2-inch HD (1280 X 720) IPS display sure is an excellent improvement over the original Zenfone 3 Max. Media consumption on a 5.2-inch smartphone is advisable, but the display is simply beautiful for occasional video watching. Though we are not sure about the screen protection used, but the screen seems strong enough to withhold sudden falls once or twice. The HD 720p display in the real world is very much optimal for a 5.2-inch handset, and yet again we are impressed.

Asus Zenfone 3s Max Performance and OS: The Asus Zenfone 3s Max is powered by the MediaTek MT6750 SoC clocked at 1.51GHz coupled with Mali-T860 GPU. It packs 3GB RAM along with 32GB internal storage. When you are buying a smartphone that has it’s USP as great battery backup, you never really consider excellent performance. But proving that wrong, the Asus Zenfone 3s Max’s general day to day performance is decent at its best. The RAM management is equally good with no hint of lag in the U.I or while switching apps. As the device has 3GB of RAM, apps never ran out of memory even while gaming, and this is a good thing about the handset.

Moving along, we tested out a variety of games like Asphalt 8, Nova 3, Need for Speed Run and some casual games. Now we never really expected an excellent gaming performance, and just we expected the games started lagging and dropping frames when they are played on highest graphic settings, but they did manage to pull it off with medium and small graphic options. Casual games like subway surfers, Stick Cricket, Riptide GP ran just fine with no lags. We don’t want to blame Asus for not using a better chipset which in turn increases the cost of the handset. Instead, they chose a steady MediaTek chipset and optimized it decently for general usage.

Android 7.0 Nougat: The Zenfone 3s Max runs on Android 7.0 Nougat with the new improved Zen U.I overlaid on top. This is the first Asus smartphone to run on Android nougat out of the box, and in fact, it is one of the fewest phones to run 7.0 right out of the box, apart from Pixel series. The Android 7.0 Nougat combined with the new Zen U.I makes the user interface a delight to look at. Unlike many other Chinese U.I’s, the Zen U.I is very clean, and it’s almost near to stock, still offering many customization options like changing icon packs, changing fonts. There is a separate theme store app where you can choose the desired theme for multiple listings. In the same theme store, you will find a section to chose wallpaper and lock screen as well. There is also unread badge feature which will show the notification count from various installed applications.

 Just like previous Zenfone smartphones, the Zenfone 3s Max comes with kids mode which restricts the content and apps on the device that your kids see when it’s enabled and an easy mode for elders with basic smartphone functions. Though the handset sports just 5.2-inches, it comes with one-handed mode and motion/touch gestures. Coming to con side, like always it comes with many bloatware apps installed.

Asus Zenfone 3s Max Camera: The device comes with the same 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, and an 8-megapixel shooter up front. To put it in simple, the camera performance is the same as seen on the Zenfone 3 Max. The colors look washed out and dull when we click in good lighting conditions. Though if you patiently try, you still can get good pictures, but they will surely look flat. The focusing is one of the biggest issues with the camera; it refuses to lock the focus most of the times. Now that the daylight shots are simply dull and noisy, we guess there is no reason to talk about the low-light shots.

Coming to the front 5-megapixel shooter, the selfies clicked are decent and have good details but not a satisfactory camera if you are a selfie freak. We’ve attached the camera samples showcasing the camera performance of the Zenfone 3s Max.

Asus Zenfone 3s Max Camera Samples

Asus Zenfone 3s Max Fingerprint Sensor: The Zenfone 3s Max comes with a Fingerprint sensor embedded into the home button. To unlock the device, you need to press the home button or the power on/off button and then place your finger to unlock the device, though this takes some time to getting used to it. The Fingerprint sensor is fast enough in identifying the finger, and you can answer incoming phone calls using the Fingerprint sensor.

Asus Zenfone 3s Max Connectivity and others: It comes with 4G VoLTE support meaning you can use Jio SIM. The call quality is decent with no distortion, the WiFi reception is excellent and so is the Bluetooth connectivity. As said earlier, you can either use Single SIM and microUSB port or Dual SIM. The GPS functionality is accurate; the device was able to lock the location is just a few seconds.

Asus Zenfone 3s Max Battery: Finally the battery segment, the device packs a 5000mAh battery on board, and by the look at the device it sure did surprise us because it could pack a massive battery yet maintain a slim profile. With our kind of usage that involves casual gaming, push notifications, mobile data turned on and few phone calls, we were able to get over a day of battery life with just single charge. The overnight battery drain was very minimal thus leaving us with enough battery to pass it on to the next day as well. It would have been nice if the device had fast charge support as it takes a lot of time (3-4 hours) to charge completely up to 100%.

Verdict: So this leaves us with one question, is the new Zenfone 3s Max worth it? Well yes for its impressive battery life and incredible build quality, Android 7.0 Nougat with a decent display and quick fingerprint sensor are added bonus. But the very average camera and no fast charge support are disappointments. We only wish Asus had taken little extra care about the Camera segment.

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