Battery life and performance
The Zenfone Max is endowed with arguably the largest battery amongst the competition. Coming in at 4,130mAH, it even beats flagship smartphones such as the Huawei Mate 10 Pro.
Asus says that the Max Plus offers what it calls a “2x Lifespan” mode. Because the battery has a high 4,130mAH capacity, the Max Plus has this feature that virtually limits its charge to about 90%, or roughly about 3,700mAH. Asus claims that this feature is able to give users long everyday usage without compromising on the overall lifespan of the device.
It’s a well-known fact that overall battery lifespan is compromised by the heat generated when charging so in theory, this limitation seems to make sense. But in practice, it’s hard to test this as you really need to live with the Max Plus for at least six months to know.
More immediately, battery performance-wise, the Max Plus had a screen-on-time of around eight hours and 20 mins, going from 100% right down to 1%. This is a good figure in itself but I had hoped that it would breach the nine-hour mark given its large size.
In terms of real-life tests, I ran Netflix for two hours at full screen brightness and the test wasn’t as impressive going from 93% down to 63% in those two hours. My tests with the Huawei Mate 10 was much better only sapping some 15% in two hours.
When it comes to audio capabilities, I was disappointed. The single speaker may have been loud enough in terms of volume but the quality of the sound wasn’t impressive. Video sounded thin, without bass, and speech wasn’t clear due to this ‘thinness’ in sound.
Using the headphone was better but these days, with users wanting to look at quick video or audio clips, the sound does matter, and this was where I thought the Max Plus faltered.
I also found the screen resolution at 1,440 x 720 a tad disappointing. While the device was bright enough, the resolution just didn’t capture details as best it could from the FHD material it was playing.
One thing to note is that the Max Plus is based on Zen UI 4.0, which is based on Android 7 (Nougat), and not the newer Oreo version. The software features on the Max Plus are consistent with other phones in this price range although the Zen UI 4.0 may not be everyone’s favourite, the same of which could be said of Xiaomi’s MIUI or the Huawei EMUI.
Apart from this, the Max Plus performed acceptably in terms of app loading speed, and general processing. Screen swipes were OK, not the smoothest but acceptable for this range of phones.
Camera and video
The Max Plus sports many camera modes as one of its biggest selling points. According to Asus, the modes are HDR (with real-time preview), portrait mode (pic, above), beauty mode, super resolution mode, GIF animation mode, panorama mode and pro mode. On the video side, there is a feature called, Power Saving Time Lapse shooting mode.
Overall, all the modes I tried worked quite well. In general, the camera did credibly well when taking all kinds of shots. Colours and saturation were pretty balanced – not too cool nor warm. Low-light shots were not as detailed when compared to more expensive phones but that perhaps is to be expected.
Some of the aforementioned features fared generally well in my tests. There are two features that I would like to highlight: The first is the super resolution mode. Asus claims that users can create an ultra high-resolution photo that is four times that of the camera used to shoot it – 64MP for the main rear camera or front camera, 32MP for the second wide-angle rear camera.
It achieves this by using special image-processing techniques to capture and combine four photos to create a much larger single image with greater detail and less noise. This high-resolution photo has the advantage of appearing clearer on higher resolution monitors, or when printed.
This mode did work as advertised but I found the final picture a little too ‘clinical’ for more liking, as in it looked like the picture had been tampered with software. Still, it may be a preferential thing as other may not feel that way about the end products.
In the Power Saving Time Lapse shooting mode Asus claims that the phone automatically shoots frames at preset intervals which are then compiled into a stop-motion-like video.
The Max Plus is supposedly able to set a ‘power saving’ mode in time lapse shooting, which saves power by lowering the screen brightness and putting the phone into plane mode where its radios are switched off, allowing the shooting of longer time lapse videos, Asus says.
This saves battery life as this mode consumes a lot of battery power to shoot. This feature is useful if you do a lot of video shooting, so it’s worth mentioning.
At the end of the day, Asus has done reasonably well with the Max Plus package. As advertised, the smartphone maker is betting on a whole lot of features at an affordable price to ensure that it remains competitive given the fact that the sub RM1,000 market is pretty crowded.
IMHO, the Asus is a good option for those looking at this segment of the market. Still, it faces some stiff competition and it’s not clear yet how it would do in terms of acceptance among users who have a lot to choose from.
The Max Plus has some useful features but the big let-down for me was the audio quality. Other than that, users would do well to consider this as a viable option for a sub RM1,000 smartphone.
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