Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 Pro successfully set the benchmark in India’s mid-range (sub-Rs 20K) smartphone segment, and its popularity often turns out to be challenging for brands that are not doing enough to meet that price-performance standard. But it’s been over 2 months since Xiaomi announced Redmi Note 5 Pro in India and despite its ever-present demand all across the country, people have been struggling to buy one due to limited supply.
Xiaomi has acknowledged the issue and assured to ramp up production to fix that up. But someone’s loss is always another’s gain. That said, Asus has unveiled a new smartphone called Zenfone Max Pro M1, which is being touted as a direct competitor to Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro in India. As far as few specs are concerned, it does look like one. But there are some major differences as well, courtesy of 5000mAh battery and stock Android 8.1 Oreo on Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, as opposed to 4000mAh battery and Android Nougat-based custom MIUI 9 skin on Redmi Note 5 Pro. I had a chance to use Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 before launch. Here are my first impressions of the smartphone:
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 first impressions: Display and design
Thankfully, Asus hasn’t done anything dramatically different on this front with Zenfone Max Pro M1, especially that craze about blatantly copying Apple iPhone X like notch that we see a lot these days with Chinese mid-rangers. Instead, they have opted for a pretty simple, neat-looking 18:9 display that has 2160 x 1080 pixels stretched across a 5.99-inch IPS panel, resulting in a claimed 83% screen-to-body ratio and 403 PPI pixel density.
But I have a few complaints already. One of the major ones is about the missing Corning Gorilla Glass or any type of glass protection for that matter, unlike on Redmi Note 5 Pro. Secondly, it seems to lack an oleophobic coating. That’s what makes it prone to fingerprints and smudges, which has always been a problem with phones falling under this price bracket.
Talking about the design, Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 has an aluminum back that makes it look somewhat premium and less prone to fingerprints and smudges, which plagues phones with plastic or glass back. Despite packing such a huge 5000mAh battery under the hood, it doesn’t feel too bulky either, which is impressive. Asus seems to have taken a minimalistic design approach here that makes this phone feel simple, compact and good to hold.
It measures 159 x 76 x 8.61 mm in dimensions and weighs 180 grams, which is par for the course. Additionally, at the back, there are plastic caps on top and bottom that cover antenna lines. It has rounded edges and corners that result in a firm grip. So chances of accidental drops during usage seem minimal. Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 has a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and micro USB 2.0 port at the bottom. Thankfully, it also retains a 3.5 mm headphone jack, so nothing much to complain about there.
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 first impressions: Performance, software and battery
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 octa-core SoC clocked at 1.8GHz and coupled with Adreno 509 GPU for graphics, similar to Redmi Note 5 Pro. So overall performance is expected to be on par with what we normally expect from a mid-range smartphone. And since it has eight Kryo 260 cores, which results in a good balance between performance and power efficiency, day-to-day usage wasn’t much of a problem so far. But I will tell you more about it once I am done putting it through all our performance tests.
This one also happens to be the company’s first smartphone that runs pure Android 8.1 Oreo out-of-the-box. I’ve never liked Asus ZenUI much anyway. So watching Asus part ways with its custom skin in favour of a pure Android experience with Zenfone Pro M1 is something I appreciate. But it also raises a question: Why not Android One? At least partnering with Google would have assured two years of OS upgrades. But on a positive note, it still provides a pure, stock Android experience out of the box.
Setting up the fingerprint scanner is easy. But you have to place your finger carefully for best and accurate results. During my limited usage, fingerprint unlock wasn’t as fast and accurate as I expected. Asus has promised to tune its software over the next few days, before the handset is up for grabs. The company also claims face unlock support, which wasn’t available at the time of this writing. So I couldn’t really test it. However, Asus says it will be available pretty soon with a firmware update.
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 packs a 5000mAh battery under the hood, which should comfortably last over a day with moderate to heavy usage. However, I should be able to tell our readers more about it once I am done running our standard battery tests. Unfortunately, it lacks fast charging support, which is the least anybody would have expected given such an enormous capacity it holds under the hood. Stay tuned for our full battery performance review.
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 first impressions: Camera
In order to be more inline with Redmi Note 5 Pro, Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 houses a 13MP main camera alongside a 5MP depth-sensing unit. During my initial testing, the camera was able to produce bokeh effect to some extent, but it could have been better. In-house shots couldn’t accurately capture colours and the end results were a tad washed out. But that’s not my final judgment about this camera. As I have been saying, I am still in the process of putting it through hard yards. Up front is an 8MP camera for selfies and video calls. Selfies were just fine but interestingly enough, there’s a front flash to add a bit of a light to dark environments.
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1: Early Camera Samples
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1: Early Verdict
During my initial experience with Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, I was pretty much happy with its overall offerings, especially a 5000mAh battery and pure Android Oreo software experience. It’s highly likely to last over a day, and lack of bloatware seems like an added advantage to save some battery again. I also faced no performance issues so far. The display is tall and easy to operate. However, lack of Corning Gorilla Glass protection and Oleophobic Coating could be a deal breaker for some. But as monotonous as it may sound, stay tuned for our full review soon.