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ASUS ZenFone Max unboxing and first impressions: potent enough to be mainstream despite being battery-focussed

|January 8 2016 |Android Phones, Dual-SIM, Asus, 4G, 4G LTE, First impressions, Unboxing

“The ASUS ZenFone Max boasts a hefty build and an even heftier 5,000mAh battery”


Even Jimmy McMillan would agree when we say, that just like the rents in New York city, the number of ZenFones variants in the smartphone market is too damn high. If it's just a marketing ploy to name all the phones after their one big hit, or something else, we won’t ever know, but ASUS has made sure there’s at least one ZenFone model in the market to suit everybody’s need. There’s ASUS ZenFone Go for people looking for their first smartphone, ZenFone Selfie (camera review) for people who love taking self-portraits, ZenFone 2 Laser (review) for shutterbugs on a budget and ZenFone 6 (review) for people who love huge screens. Recently, the company announced a ZenFone for those who want their smartphones to last really long on a single charge. With a 5,000mAh battery, the ASUS ZenFone Max is the latest addition to the brand’s portfolio and has been launched exclusively via Flipkart and Amazon for Rs 9,999. We've got the phone in our labs and while it goes through our review process, here's the unboxing and our first impressions of the ASUS ZenFone Max.


The ASUS ZenFone Max comes in a rectangular white box with a slide-out cardboard cover, featuring the phone’s image and moniker on top. Inside, sits the phone atop a cardboard tray. The tray can be flipped open to reveal a micro-USB to USB cable and a 1.35A two-pin wall charger. Our review unit didn’t come with any documentation, but it should be there in the retail boxes. Also, a wired headset isn't provided.

The most obvious thing about the ASUS ZenFone Max you will notice right at first is its thickness and weight. While the company has very cleverly measured the phone at its thinnest and marketed it with a thin 5.2mm frame, the catch is that the back panel of the device is curved, and at its maximum, the smartphone is 10mm thick. To top it off, the ASUS ZenFone Max weighs a massive 200 grams, making it one of the heaviest phones we’ve seen, despite the fact that the device is crafted out of plastic and not metal. That said, the phone offers solid build quality.

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We got our hands on the white variant, and it gets the usual matte white back panel and to add a touch of flair, champagne gold trims running alongside the edges. On the rear you’ll find the primary camera module and minimal ASUS branding. The panel can be snapped off to access two micro-SIM slots and a microSD card slot.

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Upfront, you’ll see a notification LED, an earpiece, sensors, a noise cancellation microphone and the secondary camera. flanking the display on top, along with ASUS branding. Three capacitive navigation keys border the screen on the bottom. Port placement is pretty much standard, with the audio jack on the top edge, and the micro-USB port, along with the primary microphone on the bottom one. The volume rocker and power button find their way on the right spine, and have been fashioned out of metal.

Undeniably, the ASUS ZenFone Max is a slightly difficult to handle device, all thanks to the bulk. The large 5.5-inch display cancels the effect of the curve on the back, and hence the ZenFone Max just can’t be operated with a single hand. There’s nothing especially attractive about the design of the phone as well.


The display bears HD resolution, and is not one of the sharpest displays you’ll come across in this segment. That said, the screen is not reflective and the brightness is ample, so sunlight legibility shouldn’t be an issue either. Viewing angles were good and the colours looked vibrant on the display. The touch response was snappy, and over all the screen seems promising enough.

Moving from the outards to what’s inside, the ASUS ZenFone Max gets a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, working in tandem with 2GB of RAM. An Adreno 306 GPU takes care of the graphics. Our brief usage on the phone felt snappy, with no jitters, but we’d like to keep our verdict for later when we review the device properly.


Inbuilt storage is rated at 16GB, and you get about 10GB for your use. The microSD slot can accept cards of up to 64GB capacity.

The ASUS ZenFone Max runs Android Lollipop v5.0 with ZenUI on top, and as a result you’ll see icons and animations which are quite different when compared to stock Android. However, the overall UI experience remains mostly stock.

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Swiping up from the bottom on the homescreen lets you access a manager. You can re-arrange apps, change scroll animations, and get new icon packs to change the look of the UI. Apart from the default launcher, there’s a Kids Mode and Easy Mode. The app drawer gets a tool called Smart group which groups all your apps automatically according to their categories. There’s also a Themes app from the brand to let you personalise your phone.

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The phone comes loaded with a plethora of other first-party apps. There’s ASUS Mobile Manager, ASUS Support, MyASUS, ZenCircle and ZenTalk, along with AudioWizard, Splendid, MiniMovie, PhotoCollage, Share Link and ASUS WebStorage. Since the phone's camera comes with laser autofocus, an interesting app called Laser Ruler gauges distance up to 50cm. In terms of third-party apps, the ASUS ZenFone Max doesn’t get a lot apart from Clean Master, Dr. Safety, Amazon Kindle along with all apps from Google. An app called Auto-start Manager restricts apps should they restart on their own to improve battery life.

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There is motion and gesture support as well. You can shake the phone twice to take a screenshot, double tap to wake up the screen from standby and draw letters on the screen to launch specific apps. Other software features include one tap Power & Boost, One hand operation, and Bluelight Filter

The ASUS ZenFone Max gets a 13megapixel primary camera with dual-tone LED flash and laser autofocus. There’s a front camera rated at 5MP with 85-degree wide angle lens as well.

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The camera app is loaded with features and settings but the UI seems simple. There are a bunch of shooting modes like HDR, Manual, Beautification, Super Resolution, GIF Animation, Panorama, Slow motion, Time Lapse and more. The camera settings are usual, giving the user control over ISO, white balance, shutter speed, exposure and focus. The shooters seem capable, considering the specs and features but we’d like to save our say till we test them in different shooting conditions.

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The 5,000mAh battery is claimed to make the phone last for 37 hours on 3G talk time and the ZenFone Max can also be used as a power bank to charge other devices. There are a bunch of performance and power saving modes to optimise battery life. The connectivity options include 4G LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.0 and GPS.

The ZenFone Max faces tough competition in the sub- Rs 10,000 segment, from loaded offerings like the YU Yureka Plus (review), Lenovo K3 Note (review) and MEIZU m2 note (review), which offer lot of bang for the buck. However, if battery is kept as the centric parameter, there are options like the Lenovo Vibe P1m (first impressions) and Acer Liquid Z630s, both of which feature 4,000mAh batteries. While on paper, the ASUS ZenFone Max promises the longest battery life in the price segment, our in-depth review is in pipeline to determine whether or not it's worth your moolah.

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