Okay, so most of the phones we’ve been reviewing as of late have been midrange to top of the line units. But there’s always plenty of action in the budget sector – most especially when phones like the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 rear their heads.
This ZenFone isn’t a brand spanking new model; an update to the older Max Pro M1, it’s one of the latest efforts from ASUS to fight back against competing smartphone makers like Xiaomi – which, thanks to great phones like the Redmi Note 5, has been really strong in this sector.
How might the Max Pro M1 do given the bareknuckle competition in this sector? Stick with us as we find out!
Standout key features
Far be it for us to poke fun at budget smartphone buyers for being fixated on specs, but it does need to be said that many firms pull up the spec list and start deleting items when it comes time to conceptualize and craft new inexpensive smartphones. So it seems like a closer look at key features and performance is a good way for us to start this particular review.
First up, let’s look at what ASUS has changed vis-a-vis the older Max Pro M1. This new one boasts 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which is as much as twice as the standard configuration. Twice as much is twice as good as far as such things go, don’t you agree?
Another key feature of the Max Pro M1 is its massive battery, which is all of 5,000mAh. In our testing period, we never got any less than 3/4th of a day out of a full charge, even when running our test unit at full tilt – really very satisfactory. Ease up on the pedal, so to speak, and you can actually go for over a day without needing to top up. The most we got, during a period of exceptionally light usage, was two days of use. A 10W charger comes standard to help you charge up rapidly (under three hours) just in case you need to do so.
Another noteworthy feature – the Max Pro M1 is apparently ASUS’ first smartphone to come with stock Android (8.1 Oreo), sans the company’s own ZenUI overlay. That being said, you’ll have to put up with a few standard apps which can’t be deleted, like Facebook and Messenger, as well as (useful) ASUS apps such as Calculator and Voice Recorder.
You’ll find a 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 octa-core processor under the hood of the Max Pro M1. Not exactly something that’ll set the world on fire, but really quite decent, especially in combination with the Max Pro M1’s 4GB of RAM. And, hey, if what you wanted to do was conserve battery life, picking up an efficient phone that won’t just blow through a full charge quickly is in your best interest.
The Max Pro M1’s display is a 5.99-inch Full HD+ 18:9 affair (no notch here, in case you’re wondering). The screen also has an oleophobic coating to help prevent greasy fingerprints from ruining your enjoyment of the phone. This is a pretty good screen even if you don’t have a budget to think of. It’s bright and clear, offers decent viewing angles, and doesn’t fade too much even when you’re outdoors.
Camera-wise, the Max Pro M1 mounts an 8MP front snapper and a dual-cam rear set consisting of 16MP and 5MP cameras. Cam performance is as you might expect from a phone in this class and which has such an imaging set – decent and actually somewhat better than a lot of the competition, but no great shakes, especially in low light and/or when you start zooming in on things.
By the way, we were a bit surprised to discover that the Max Pro M1 comes with a microUSB port and not a USB-C one. Not that microUSB is bad or anything, but we were just expecting this phone, like many other new and updated ones, to boast the latest port format. And although the phone does have two 4G SIM card slots, only one can be connected to 4G at a time; the other can only connect to 3G – those of you who want and/or need dual active 4G connections might need to look elsewhere.
Let’s start to wrap up by taking a look at the Max Pro M1’s exterior.
This isn’t a fancy-looking phone – you don’t get too much in the way of dashing or ‘of the moment’ styling or style elements like thin bezels – but we don’t think that’s too much of a problem. The Max Pro M1 is cleanly and simply styled and assembled well.
Moreover, it’s not a burden to tote or use. Phones with 6-inch or larger screens obviously tend to make their presence known in one’s pocket or bag, but this one is neither too heavy nor too hard to use (even though you’ll need to employ both hands given the sheer size of its screen).
The Max Pro M1 has a simple metallic unibody design and a matte back that’s not really too fingerprint resistant (making it necessary for you to use a case to keep your phone pristine). A centrally mounted fingerprint sensor and the aforementioned dual rear cameras, stacked vertically, take pride of place at the rear. You can get this phone in your choice of silver of black.
All in all, there’s nothing that stands out and neither is there anything to write home about, but the Max Pro M1’s is a clean and honest design that doesn’t get in the way of usability.
There you have it – the ASUS Max Pro M1 is a worthy addition to what many see as an already overcrowded sector, thanks to a few standout features. Sure, it’s no design standout, but it doesn’t really need to be one, does it? Give this one a spin for yourself if you’re in the market for a phone in this segment.