When you’re taking on the budget segment, how do you beat Xiaomi at its own game? That’s the question Asus must have pondered earlier last year, finally opting to take a page out of Xiaomi’s playbook. The result—the ZenFone Max Pro M1—was a sleeper hit for Asus, wowing customers all around with its massive battery, strong performance and bloat-free stock Android experience.
And so it is with the successor, the ZenFone Max Pro M2, which builds on the solid software and battery foundations of its predecessor, refining the overall experience along the way with newer hardware, a more contemporary design and improved cameras. All these benefits come without a significant bump up in pricing, making the ZenFone Max Pro M2 one of the top options you should consider in the sub-15K segment.
Ayes – What the ZenFone Max Pro M2 Gets Right
Design: It hasn’t been that long since the ZenFone Max Pro M1 launched, but the ZenFone Max Pro M2 looks almost nothing like it, forgoing the aluminum back for a panel made of a glossy plastic that looks and feels close enough to glass that it could fool the average customer into thinking this is a glass rear. The curved back lets the M2 sit comfortably in the hand, although you will notice that the gloss attracts a lot of fingerprints and you’re better off using the included case. What’s impressive is that there’s Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection on the front, a first for its price segment, and that the unit is impressively light for a phone that packs in a massive 5000mAh battery.
Performance: Alongside the battery, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chip feels like a serious upgrade, and the unit we tested came with 4GB of memory and felt plenty fast in everyday use. The stock Android Oreo UI keeps things super responsive and lag-free, and the Adreno 512 graphics handle games like Asphalt 9 and PUBG with nary a struggle. Absolutely nothing to complain on the performance end—Asus has punched well above its weight class with its choice of chip.
Stock Android: Like the ZenFone Max Pro M1, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 arrives with Android 8.1 Oreo and little else, no added bloatware nor a glut of partner apps unlike many other brands. It’s a little dated to be shipping with Android Oreo, but Asus has committed to rolling out the Android Pie update in January. The thing with stock Android is that it can get a little too… basic.
Android purists will get to experience Android the way Google intended, no surprises. But most folks moving from a heavily OEM-skinned device will notice a lot of software tricks missing from stock Android, plus there just aren’t a lot of settings or gesture controls for you to play around with, including the lack of one to hide the notch, for instance. Plus, since it isn’t part of the Android One program, you’re at Asus’ mercy on rolling out security patches and OS updates. This is one of those cases where, while we prefer stock for its performance benefits, it’ll come down to personal preference on whether you’re okay with trading off some useful software features.
Battery Life: Easily the headlining feature for this phone, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 ships with a massive 5000mAh battery and handily outclasses others in its class, lasting a solid two days of regular use - active Whatsapp/Telegram accounts, Twitter and email throughout the day, a couple of hours of streaming music and the odd casual game. All this without any performance throttling or over-the-top aggressive battery saving tactics is quite the feat. Asus includes a 10W charger in the box, but there is no support for fast charging, so you can expect long charging times, to the tune of nearly 2.5 hours for a full charge. Oh, and Asus is still on the microUSB bandwagon, so there’s that.
Nays – Where the Max Pro M2 Could Have Done Better
Display: Coupled with the notched display and relatively thin side bezels, the M2 manages to pack in a noticeably bigger 6.26-inch display into a similar-sized form factor as the M1. The notch is among the smaller full-function units (including a notification LED) we’ve seen and doesn’t take up too much space, but there’s a fair bit of a chin at the bottom of the display. Oddly enough, Asus doesn’t allow notch-haters to hide the notch. Where the display scores well on brightness and clarity, it falls behind slightly on color performance, and the automatic contrast adjustment—a feature which adjusts the display brightness based on the content being displayed—is a tad over-aggressive in its execution and gets mildly annoying.
Cameras: Asus claims to have improved the imaging capabilities of the ZenFone Max Pro M2 and that’s true for the most part, with photos and selfies offering good dynamic range and details in well-lit situations. Rear portraits are average at best, with inconsistent separation between the subject and the background. Low light photos end up being hit-or-miss, sometimes the M2 gets the exposure and colors right and loses out on sharpness and at other times it struggles all round. Asus hasn’t brought in the AI enhancements from its ZenUI-based phones, so maybe all of these issues are just a software update away from being fixed, but until then, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 fares poorly compared to its peers.
Competition: The ZenFone Max Pro M2 launches in dangerous territory, with the Xiaomi Mi A2 offering a more refined software experience and a significantly better camera. If stock isn’t to your taste, there’s the Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro to consider as well, both of which edge ahead with better cameras. Where the M2 pulls ahead is courtesy its big battery, and if battery is a key criterion, the Max Pro M2 is a solid bet.
- Size and Weight: 157.9 x 75.5 x 8.5 mm, 175g
- Storage: 32/64GB, support for up to 2TB microSD plus 100GB Google Drive storage (1 year)
- Display: 6.26’’ Full HD+ IPS LCD with Gorilla Glass 6
- Memory: 3/4/6GB LPPDDR4x
- Chip: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 with Adreno 512 graphics
- Camera – Rear: 12 MP f/1.8 with 5MP depth sensing
- Camera – Front: 13 MP f/2.0
- Slots: dual nano-SIM plus dedicated microSD
- Battery: 5000mAh
- OS: Stock Android 8.1 Oreo
- Price: Rs. 12,999 (3GB/32GB), Rs. 14,999 (4GB/64GB), Rs. 16,999 (6GB/64GB)