- Packs many features to differentiate itself from the crowd
- Premium feel, many camera modes, a large battery to boot
THE market today isn’t short of mid-range smartphones and while many acknowledge it as a crowded space, some smartphone makers are still trying their best to target discerning buyers, as it’s arguably the largest addressable segment of the market.
One such company that is known for targeting such a segment is AsusTek Computer Inc, a Taiwanese-based player that just recently introduced the Asus ZenFone Max Plus (M1).
But how does one compete in such a competitive market? Asus’ answer is simple: Pack as much features as it can into a small, well-designed package, equipped with a mega-large battery, and bait consumers by offering it at an affordable price of RM899.
So how does it stand out from the rest of the crowd?
Design and build
Off the bat, one can see that the Max Plus is a pretty solidly built phone. The bezels are well rounded and the thickness – only 8.9mm – lends a good finish to the phone, especially when holding it with one hand.
The Max Plus sports a 5.7-inch IPS panel in an 18:9 aspect ratio configuration, a 5.2-inch body and weighs 160g. A point to note though: The Max Plus display does come with two variations; one has an FHD resolution of 2,160 x 1,080 resolution while the other – which was my test phone – has a reduced 1,440 x 720 resolution.
Processing power comes courtesy of a 1.5GHz MediaTek octa-core processor, a Mali T860 GPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The front camera comes in at 16MP at an f/2.0 aperture while the rear camera has two lenses; the first is a main camera with the same specs as the front but is equipped with phase detection auto focus; the wide camera is an 8MP, 120 wide angle lens.
Charging is via micro USB, and the unit is powered by a hefty 4,130mAH battery. The Max Plus has a rear fingerprint sensor and a three-card slot; two for the SIM cards and one for an SD slot. The Max Plus comes in three colour options – Deepsea black, Sunlight gold, Azure Silver (test phone).
But of all the specs, the key features that stand out for me – given that it’s a midranger – are: the 18:9 aspect ratio display; and the dual-camera lens setup.
Smartphones these days are all adopting an 18:9 ratio and while I do believe that is the future of displays, not all apps today can take advantage of that aspect ratio as yet, and there will be some that can’t. Still somewhat future-proofing the Zenfone Max with an 18:9 ratio is a good move for the Asus, IMHO.
The dual-camera setup is Asus’ attempt to give the most bang for your buck for a mid-ranger. Competing brands such as the Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo are also getting in the game but at current, not at these prices as yet. More about the camera later.
On the top, there is still the headphone jack. At the bottom, there is a single grill for a single speaker. Battery charging comes courtesy of a micro USB setup so those hoping for a midranger to break the mould by providing USB C quick/ fast charging will be disappointed.
One good selling point for the Zenfone Max is that it comes equipped with dual SIM holders with an individual SD Card slot. This means that you can operate with two SIMs and not have to bother swapping out your memory extension should you find yourself having to use two lines on your Max Plus.
Overall, the Zenfone Max is consistent with the best traditions of many of the mid-rangers in the market today. Personally, I’ve become so used to a larger phone today that I find the form factor at 5.2-inch a tad small, but this is really a personal choice. My advice would be to get a good feel of it at a store before you buy.
Next page: Sound, camera and staying power