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Today we take a close look at the ASUS Zenfone Max Plus M1 – one of the latest smartphones to join the Taiwanese electronics giant’s smartphone stable, and which distinguishes itself by being the very first ASUS smartphone sporting an 18:9 display.

Of course smartphones with 18:9 displays are nothing new, albeit not yet ubiquitous. Some competing brands like OPPO have already released their own, and we daresay other such phones are on their way as well.

So we’re curious, as we’re sure you are too, to discover what other distinctive features the Max Plus M1 sports to set it apart even further from the madding crowd – as well as whether this phone is worthy of consideration overall.

Join us as we find out!

Decently Designed

We’re glad to see that ASUS has done its homework design-wise. The firm has done its work to make sure that the Max Plus M1 draws the buyer’s eye.

That 18:9 screen – a 5.7-inch, 1080 x 2160 affair – of course has the potential to spark conversations, especially among those in the know. But the phone does boast other interesting features too that will endear it even to non-techies.

For one, design-wise, the Max Plus M1 is very much an ASUS phone. By this we mean that this phone is decently put together and feels like it should last quite a while, just like the other smartphones in ASUS’ popular lineup.

Color-wise, ASUS offers this phone in three clean and understated color choices that are relatively similar to those of its ZenFone Max brethren, save for Rose Pink – pick from Sunlight Gold, Azure Silver, and Deepsea Black.

It’s a design that fits nicely in the hand despite the phone’s size. (ASUS proclaims it as having a “5.7” full view display in a 5.2” body,” as well as having an 80% screen-to-body ratio.) There’s not much real estate up top and down below – thanks to the fact that the phone mounts virtual instead of physical keys, and the fingerprint sensor is now out back, under the dual cameras.

Overall, the Max Plus M1 gets our nod for its design. It’s balanced and relatively easy to manipulate with one hand despite the generous size of its display.

Respectable Feature Set

In terms of its feature set, the Max Plus M1 is pretty much competitive with what the competition has to offer, including other 18:9 phones. That being said, it does sport one or two key features that set it apart and that might win potential buyers over.

The first of these features is its camera setup. The phone’s main snapper set is composed of two cameras – a 16MP main one and an 8MP, 120-degree wide-angle camera to help shutterbugs exploit more extreme angles and cram more into their images than would ordinarily be possible.

This combination of this kind of camera setup and an 18:9 screen is still a relatively uncommon one as of this writing.

As for the front camera, it’s a more typical 8MP affair that’s enhanced with a selection of modes including Beauty and Selfie Panorama.

The second standout feature is the Max Plus M1’s battery, which is quite substantial at 4130mAh, and which is enhanced by software features that help manage power usage more intelligently to optimize battery life and so on.

ASUS claims up to a whopping 26-day standby time, as well as up to 13 hours of video playback and up to 21 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi.

The rest of the Max Plus M1, as mentioned, is pretty much par for the course for a phone at this level, such as its MediaTek 6750 octa-core processor, 4GB RAM, and 32GB of storage. (Not enough for you? Its three-card slide-out tray takes MicroSD cards aside from SIM cards, and there’s 100GB of free Google Drive space for a year to boot.)

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the phone still comes with Android 7.0 Nougat, but it should see an upgrade to Oreo sometime (ASUS promised to make Oreo available for its ZenFone 3 and 4 series phones last year – definitely something to look forward to). At any rate, you might be happy to know that it already does run ASUS’ latest UI, ZenUI 4.0.

Smooth Operator

We put our test Max Plus M1 through the wringer for a few days and came away happy with its smooth performance. The combination of its processor and RAM render this phone quite usable and a steady performer irrespective of what it’s asked to do.

Akin to other 18:9 phones that also have relatively compact bodies, this one we found easy to grip and use when on the go. The sizable screen is a definite boon – having more things on the screen without having to scroll is very helpful when looking at documents, images, videos and such.

It’s a testament to the design of the Max Plus M1 that users can enjoy a screen of this size without needing to put up with a chassis that’s large and thus unwieldy.

We also are satisfied with the phone’s main features. Regarding the phone’s camera set, we’re quite happy with the capacity it affords us to do more with its cameras vis-a-vis with those without wide-angle capabilities.

While some other phones’ cameras may be somewhat more capable in low-light situations, for most of what users want to do with their phone cameras, the Max Plus M1’s camera set is more than adequate. Images taken in bright light were quite satisfactory.

Lastly, we also found that the Max Plus M1’s battery life makes the grade. We weren’t able to match the outstanding usage times quoted by ASUS, but we averaged a day and a half to two days of easy to moderate usage in total per charge, which is better than our experience with many other phones nowadays.

The Verdict

18:9 smartphones are beginning to come thick and fast, and ASUS is only one of the latest brands to jump on this particular bandwagon with the Max Plus M1.

But as we found in our review, the Max Plus M1 is far from just a Johnny-come-lately: it’s a bona fide option in its own right thanks to its key features and its decent performance.

It’s definitely a phone to consider if you’re in the market for a new one.



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