“Both the ZenFone Max (M1) and Lite (L1) are sub-Rs 8k offerings, and aim to steal the market share from Xiaomi”

The Taiwanese handset maker – ASUS has been in the reckoning ever since the brand launched the ZenFone Max Pro (M1) (review) in India. However, the brand has been absent from the burgeoning budget segment in the country this year. Until now that is. Today, the phonemaker has gone ahead and launched the ZenFone Max (M1), which was announced earlier this year in February at the Mobile World Congress. Alongside, the company has also launched the brand-new ZenFone Lite (L1), which is more like a toned-down variant of the Max (M1). Both these smartphones landed at our labs and here’s what we make of them basis our initial experience.

ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) UFI 0001

Speaking of retail packaging, both the M1 and L1 come with standard colourful ASUS boxes with branding all around. Removing the top sheath, you get a paper envelope containing the documentation and a SIM-ejector tool. Underneath it, you will find the smartphone wrapped in a plastic sheet. Lastly, you’ll find the wall charger and a micro-USB cable. There aren’t any bundled earphones, though considering these are budget-centric offerings, we aren’t complaining much.

ASUS ZenFone Lite (L1) UFI 0001

In terms of aesthetics, both the ZenFone Lite (L1) and ZenFone Max (M1) come with unibody polycarbonate make. The loudspeaker grille and the micro-USB port can be found on the bottom, whereas the top edge is home to the 3.5mm audio jack. On the right spine, you will find the volume buttons as well as the power key. On the left is the SIM tray, which can accept a pair of SIMs along with a memory card of up to 256GB. Moving on to the rear panel, you’ll find some differences in the handsets. While the ZenFone Max (M1) has the camera module in the top left corner and fingerprint scanner with ASUS branding towards the centre, the ZenFone Lite (L1) shares the same layout, but misses out on the fingerprint scanner and relies on face unlock for security.

In the display department, both smartphones feature 5.45-inch IPS panels with 18:9 aspect ratios and screen resolutions of 1,440 x 720 pixels. The display quality is quite good with sharp text and good viewing angles, however we found the brightness to be on a lower side even on the maximum setting. ASUS has also included an option to allow users to scale the apps to fit the 18:9 aspect ratio and adjust the layout of the navigation buttons. Speaking of which, the handsets boot Android 8.1 Oreo-based ZenUI 5.0. The brand has kept the bloatware to the minimum and that reflects in the overall performance.

With regards to the performance, both the ASUS ZenFone Lite (L1) and Max (M1) come equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC. The former is being offered with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, whereas the latter comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. In our brief stint with both handsets, they managed to run all apps, stream videos on YouTube and jump between apps quite smoothly. That said, the ZenUI animations seemed quite slow, giving an impression that the phones itself are slower.

ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) UFI 0004

For imaging, both the ZenFone Lite (L1) and Max (M1) come equipped with 13-megapixel shooters on the rear panel. However, in terms of selfies, the L1 ships with a 5-megapixel sensor and the M1 sports an 8-megapixel camera. ASUS has equipped the cameras with its acclaimed PixelMaster technology and offers features like HDR, beauty and software-enabled portrait mode. Initial shots taken on both smartphones were decent and even the low-light imaging managed to surprise us a bit since the noise issue is not as glaring. However, the depth-of-field effect isn’t that impressive, considering the edges of the subject are softened.

ASUS has priced the ZenFone Lite (L1) and Max (M1) at introductory prices of Rs 5,999 and Rs 7,499, respectively. At this price point, we must admit that these two find a way into our recommendation list of best smartphones in the sub-Rs 8,000 segment in the country. That’s not to say that they won’t be facing any competition. While the L1 will be up against the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi 6A (review) and Realme C1 (first impressions), the M1 will be challenged by the Xiaomi Redmi 6 (review) and the recently-launched Lenovo K9 (first impressions).

Photos by Raj Rout