Expert Rating
3/5
Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★
Pros
  • Stylish and compact
  • Very good battery life
  • Runs Nougat out of the box
Cons
  • Sluggish at times
  • Screen isn’t full HD
  • Camera quality could be better
  • No fast charging

Stylish looks, smooth performance, and capable shooters are features that most people look for while buying a new smartphone. However, a phone is barely more than a fancy paperweight if the battery can’t keep up. And this is where battery-centric smartphones (read phones with super powerful batteries) come in. However, more often than not, these devices tend to be large and bulky. Not the new ASUS ZenFone 3S Max (first impressions).
ASUS-ZenFone-3S-Max-19With this phone, ASUS has managed to pack in a 5,000mAh battery in a compact, relatively lightweight form factor… and that sounds like music to our ears. But how does the handset fare overall? Join us as we look for the answer to that question…

Specs at a glance

Display
Size 5.2 Inch
Resolution HD (720 x 1280 pixels)
Performance
CPU Octa core, 1.5 GHz, MediaTek MT6750
RAM 3 GB
Storage
Internal memory 32 GB
External memory Up to 2 TB
Battery
Capacity 5000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
Talktime Up to 28 Hours (3G)
Camera
Primary camera 13 MP
Secondary camera 8 MP
Connectivity
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
Others
Battery Capacity 5000
Operating system Android 7.0 Nougat

The good

The 5,000mAh battery of course, is the mainstay of the ASUS ZenFone 3S Max. Before we get to that however, let us talk about what we think is the real highlight of the phone – its design. The ZenFone 3S Max rocks a 5.2-inch display covered with 2.5D curved glass. Encased in an aluminium alloy body, the handset looks rather nice with its rounded corners and curved rear. The in-hand feel is great, and looking at how compact and lightweight (175g) the phone is, you won’t be able to guess it packs such a powerful battery. 

The 3S Max has its fingerprint scanner embedded into a physical home button at the front, and offers onscreen navigation controls instead of the capacitive keys usually found on ASUS phones. This means that the 3S Max actually has two home buttons. That apart, the placement of ports and controls is standard.

ASUS-ZenFone-3S-Max-screen-41 ASUS-ZenFone-3S-Max-screen-47 ASUS-ZenFone-3S-Max-screen-46

Yet another feather in the device’s cap is the fact that it runs Android Nougat out of the box. Despite ASUS’ staple ZenUI that comes with a ton of bloatware and comes across as an overwhelming, heavy skin, you do get additional features such as Nougat’s split-window mode that allows you to run two compatible apps simultaneously. That apart, you get tons of other features such as a variety of battery saving modes, support for themes, a variety of screen off gestures and loads of customisation options.

Coming to the battery performance, the 3S Max sticks to its promise and doesn’t disappoint. With regular usage, you can eke out a couple of days from it, so even if your usage is heave, you can rest assured it’ll last you the whole day with ease. Our battery drain test lasted 16 hours, which is a great, if not exceptional result. Also, the phone boasts reverse charging, so you can use it as a power bank to charge other gadgets via an OTG adapter – always a useful feature to have.

The bad

Unfortunately, the list of negatives is a tad longer than the positives for the 3S Max. Packing a powerful battery is nice, but since the 3S Max lacks fast charging, it takes a while to juice up. Expect to charge it fully in a little over 3 and a half hours.

ASUS-ZenFone-3S-Max-22

Under the hood, the phone hides a MediaTek 6750 processor, 3 gigs of RAM and 32GB storage (about 23.5GB available). We can’t say we were impressed with the performance, as the phone lags occasionally, even when using mundane apps. We also saw some random app crashes, but it’s the sluggishness that takes the usage experience down a few notches. Intensive games like Asphalt 8 run smoothly though, and the phone doesn’t heat up a lot.

The HD resolution on the 5.2-inch screen is also a bit of a bummer. It’s bright enough, but the viewing angles aren’t that great and the colours aren’t top notch. Also, most competing smartphones in this price range offer full HD displays… so this could be another deal breaker.

ASUS-ZenFone-3S-Max-screen-17 ASUS-ZenFone-3S-Max-screen-15 ASUS-ZenFone-3S-Max-screen-16

As far as the shooters are concerned, you get a 13MP primary and an 8MP secondary shooter. The camera app is loaded to the brim with features, and you also get ASUS’ proprietary PixelMaster tech that does wonders in low light. The wizardry still works, especially in low light, but overall, the results can be a bit of a hit and miss. Daylight shots look a tad overexposed at times, lacking detail and punchiness. Close ups look good for the most part, and HDR works reasonably well too. Low light shots can be iffy as well. Here are a few samples from the primary camera.

Verdict

The ASUS ZenFone 3S Max promises exceptional battery life in a compact, premium-looking form factor, and it definitely delivers on that promise. However, it falls short of being an all rounder… failing to impress on a lot of other counts, including performance and camera image quality. Its problems are compounded when the competition is brought into the picture – devices such as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (review), the Honor 6X (review) and the Coolpad Cool1 Dual (first impressions) come across as better all rounders in the same price range. If you’re after a compact option, the Lenovo Z2 Plus (review) is also an attractive contender with its Snapdragon 820 chip, despite its niggles. In sum, the ASUS ZenFone 3S Max is a decent option if you want a premium-looking, compact daily driver with superb battery life, but if you want more, there are better options out there to consider.

Editor’s rating: 3 / 5

Pros

  • Stylish and compact
  • Very good battery life
  • Runs Nougat out of the box

Cons

  • Sluggish at times
  • Random app crashes
  • Screen isn’t full HD
  • Camera quality could be better
  • No fast charging

Photos by Raj Rout

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