[REVIEW] ASUS Announces the ZenFone 3S Max, we go hands on

Asus has been very quick in launching new phones into the Indian market lately and the company is focussed on delivering products with great battery and a premium experience. One of those devices is the Zenfone 3S Max which has the premium feel of the ZenFone 3 and a battery backup of the ZenFone Max – and hence the name. We got our hands on the ZenFone 3S Max, tore it down apart to look at its internals. Let’s see how well the device satisfies both the premium feel and battery backup without compromising with its performance.

Design

The ZenFone 3S Max features an aluminium-alloy body construction with well-rounded corners and edges. The device has 75% Screen-to-Body ratio, 8.85 mm thickness and weighs 175 grams. The phone’s back is smooth and can get on the slippery side. The back camera is located on at the top-left corner. The sim card tray (Dual SIM / Single sim + Micro SD card hybrid) is located on the right side and the volume rockers + Power button is located on the left side of the device. The buttons are well placed and clicky. It has a Power button/Fingerprint sensor located in the front. The fingerprint sensor is pretty responsive (0.5 seconds) with 360° recognition.

Display

Asus has decided to stick with a similar 5.2-inches IPS display, HD (1280 x 720  pixels, 282 PPI). It is understandable that Asus had to compromise on the display considering its price but the display leaves more to be desired as in this era of smart phone, 1080p is the base line. Otherwise, the display has good viewing angles and looks fine outdoors. The device comes with double tap to wake, and a bunch of other programmable gestures such as ‘W’ for browser, ‘S’ for camera etc. built-in.

Camera

The ZenFone 3S Max rocks a 13MP rear camera sensor which supports Phase Detection Auto-focus and full-HD video recording. It takes pretty good low light images with its f/2.0 aperture and dual LED Real-tone flash. Asus’ PixelMaster technology well enhances the images and Low Light mode pulls of surprisingly good pictures in the dark.

It has a 8MP selfie shooter that supports an 85° wide field of view. It comes with beautification mode, HDR mode, Low-light mode, and shoots Full-HD videos. Here’s a bunch of pictures taken with the ZenFone 3S Max.

The cameras are not the best out there but can definitely capture a good shot or two.

Connectivity

Flanking the bottom of the device is the micro USB port, a microphone pin-hole and the speaker. The 3.5mm headphone jack resides on the top of the device, which would’ve been preferred at the bottom for symmetry.

On the wireless side of things, the Zenfone 3 Max supports VoLTE unlike its predecessor. VoLTE is being pushed rapidly in countries like India, especially from carriers like Jio.

WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth v4.0 are present here, which we had no problems with. Unfortunately it doesn’t connect to 5GHz WiFi bands. It also includes a FM tuner, so if you’re in the mood for tuning into a nearby FM Station while travelling, this is a nice addition.

Hardware and storage

The ZenFone 3S Max packs quite a punch with an Octa-core 64-bit processor clocked at 1.5GHz, Mali T860 GPU, 3GB RAM, 32GB ROM (expandable up to 2TB which is pointless! ). Clearly storage and performance isn’t an issue. The device is generally smooth, lag free and fine with multi-tasking. It has a score of 39795 on AnTuTu Benchmark which is above average. Also, the phone doesn’t heat up much.

The device is able to handle day-to-day tasks hassle free.

Software

Fortunately, the ZenFone 3S Max ships with Android 7.0 Nougat. Unfortunately, it has a custom skin – the ZenUI. Although ZenUI has some plus points such as ZenUI Quick Find, extra customizability etc., we’d like to have seen a more stock Android – Vanilla Android experience. Bloatware cannot be removed/uninstalled from the device. You will probably need to dedicate a separate folder to hide these apps in.

Considering Asus’ track record, try not to be too optimistic about future updates. Seeing as to how heavily skinned the software is, updates will take a while to arrive.

Battery

Battery life is one aspect where the ZenFone 3S Max has most other smart phones beat. The device is fueled by a 5000 mAh battery (non-removable). Asus claims that the device has up to 34 days standby time. It also supports reverse charging that allows you to use the phone as a Power Bank. When we tested the phone out, it went down to 30% with 4G on, Pokemon GO, Location on, YouTube, Twitch, and the normal stuff – WhatsApp, Camera, Snapchat etc. Overnight, the battery drained from 30% to 24% (4G was on).

 

Considering how long it lasted under heavy use, the phone should easily go on for a couple of days. Lets not forget the fact that there are quite a few power saving options such as; power saving, super saving and customized settings. This phone is ideal for those of you who need a phone that can go a couple of days without charging or one day with extremely heavy usage.

We did a teardown of the device and it’s amazing how Asus managed to have such a large battery and still keep the phone slim.

Verdict

The ZenFone 3S Max is available in Black and Gold color. The phone might be launched at a price range of around 15,000 – 17,000 INR and is a steal for those of you who go long hours without charging your phone. Apart from the 5000 mAh battery, the phone does really well in terms of make and build quality. There is a lot of competition in the market for this price range. Motorola, Xiaomi, Oppo etc. make quite a few amazing ‘bang for buck’ devices, so make sure you’ve considered all your options before buying this phone.

What do you think of the Asus ZenFone 3S Max? Let us know in the comments below.