The ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 (ZB631KL)) is the latest model in the ASUS ZenFone Max Series. The series brings a balanced user experience in terms of performance as well as a high-capacity battery without breaking the bank. Those are the reasons why early this year’s ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 has been well received by the users.
Aiming to achieve the same success as its predecessor, the new ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 follows the same formula but with improvements across the board.
What’s in the box
- ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
- Transparent TPU case
- 5V2A charger
- micro USB cable
The package we got here is actually for Indonesia market. Malaysian users will get wired earphones in the box.
Slimmer and Lighter
The new Max Pro M2 has a new design. It looks a lot more elegant than its predecessor’s utilitarian design. However, do take note that sacrifices must be made in order to keep the device cost in check. The rear panel despite having a glass impression, in fact, is a multi-layer-coated acrylic. Aesthetically, it looks magnificent as the unique coating reflects the light differently, at the same time, it is also a fingerprint magnet.
Phones that look ultra fancy on photos usually doesn’t mean it will look that way in your everyday use.
The change of chassis material and design allows ASUS to come up with a slimmer and lighter phone while keeping the same battery capacity.
While some might prefer the previous mixed aluminium and plastic chassis over the new fancy plastic back, but at the end of the day, consumers would just put on a phone case. The included transparent TPU case is perfect for showcasing the design and protecting the phone at the same time.
On a side note, we’re still getting the triple slot – dual nano SIM and microSD tray.
Notched Display & Corning Gorilla Glass 6
One of the key updates for the Max Pro M2 is no other than the new display. The IPS LCD panel has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio with a notch. Whether if you hate the notch or not is another story but we can’t deny the viewing experience on a display with 90% screen-to-body ratio is immersive.
While it is still a 1080p resolution display, colour reproduction has been improved compared to the previous generation. We suspect it shares the same panel quality as the ZenFone 5.
It is also worth to mention that the front glass is Corning Gorilla Glass 6, making this one of the very few smartphones to have such high-quality glass panel at this price point.
No USB-C and AC WiFi
2019 is just around the corner and I just can’t figure out why companies still wouldn’t fully adopt USB-C connector. Their answer would always be “consumers who purchase devices at this price point are used to micro USB.” In my point of view, that is the reason why micro USB won’t die off. This logic is exactly the same as why the blue VGA cables are still everywhere.
The lack of dual-band AC WiFi module means the phone can only support the regular 2.4GHz WiFi frequency which is technically limited to somewhere around 200~300Mbps (theoretical maximum speed). For normal usage, the user won’t feel any difference in terms of WiFi speed, just that after all the recent Internet speed increment, user device should follow suit by supporting it.
Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX
On the bright side, at least the phone comes with Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX technology to enjoy high definition BT audio streams.
If you’re one of those who blasts YouTube videos at maximum volume on public transport, please don’t do it with this phone. Just like its predecessor, the 5-magnet speakers with NXP 9874 smart amplifier is genuinely loud. ASUS claimed that they have further improved the sound quality with the Max Pro M2, personally, I can’t really tell them apart because it is not easy to audition this kind of speakers and they sound pretty decent, to begin with.
New Camera & Updated App
Our previous experience with the ZenFone Max Pro M1’s camera has not been 100% satisfactory. The camera hardware was subpar and paired with an inept Qualcomm camera app.
This time, although ASUS is still using the Qualcomm camera app, albeit with modifications done to it to support AI features, the camera sensor has received an upgrade to Sony IMX486 sensor. The interface has been refined and looks more like a finished product instead of a half-baked student’s project. The app now seems more responsive, not sure what kind of modification they have done to it but as long as it provides a good user experience, it will change how a user perceives the phone’s camera performance.
As for the image quality, colour me impressed that ASUS has finally got it right for the Max series. The image looks sharper and colours seem to be more vivid right out of the camera. The ISO noise is now looking a lot more natural compared to the previous phone.
More comparison between Max Pro M1 and Max Pro M2
It just shows that a good sensor is worth more than numerous firmware updates to improve the photo quality. Some users don’t even bother to upgrade the firmware, fearing that it could deteriorate the battery life and performance.
HDR quality is more like a hit or miss thing. Honestly, I was hoping it could achieve something similar to ZenFone 5’s performance.
“Stock” Android 8.1 Oreo
Again, ASUS has excluded ZenUI from the Max Pro series and went for Stock Android instead. Do keep in mind this is just “Stock” Android, not the Android One program where Google would handle all the OS update patches. What that means, ASUS basically took the AOSP and install into the phone alongside with some custom apps, minus skins. So ASUS still have to be responsible for all the future updates.
Honestly speaking, I would still call that as custom skin because which Stock Android comes with Facebook preloaded? (You can only disable, not uninstall) Don’t even get me started with the Qualcomm camera app instead of Google Camera.
I understand the reason why ASUS would release such a phone with “Stock” Android. Back in the days where many reviewers and Android purist out there has been bashing third-party skins because the skins were badly optimised and hardware back then are not powerful enough to meet all the bloat features made by OEMs. However, ASUS, it is 2018 now. We have plenty of high-performance SoCs and not to mention that your ZenUI 5.0 now comes with a lot of useful features without bogging down the phone.
At this point, I may sound very dissatisfied with ASUS’s decision for going to the lightweight Android OS route. To be honest, I don’t actually hate it. I just felt they wasted their time working on yet another version of Android OS for the sake of those blind Android purist. Else the easiest way is just working with Google on Android One or straight up use ZenUI.
Snapdragon 660 & 4GB/6GB RAM
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
- 4x Kryo 260 @ 1.95GHz
- 4x Kryo 260 @ 1.8GHz
- Adreno 512 @ 850MHz
- 4GB LPDDR4X RAM
- 64GB eMMC 5.1 internal storage
Without further ado, let’s jump straight into the benchmarks.
If you were to compare it to the benchmarks of the other smartphones with SD660, you might find the ZenFone Max Pro M2 to be slightly lower than them. The reason is simple – the Max Pro M2’s SD660 is clocked at 1.95GHz instead of 2.20GHz. According to Qualcomm’s spec sheet, they are indeed providing the SoC at two different clock speeds to meet different OEM’s requirements.
Other than affecting the benchmark results, it doesn’t really bother our day to day use. I mean would you notice few milliseconds difference in app launch? I guess no.
Even our gaming test with PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9 and Honkai Impact 3 has been smooth sailing. To be honest, the GPU clock speed is still the same as the faster SD660 because the GPU is still the same Adreno 512 @ 850MHz. With that being said, the bottleneck of mobile gaming graphics is more on the restriction of the GPU department instead of CPU.
The built-in 5,000 mAh battery is AMAZING. The battery life on the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is simply amazing. It is also the reason why ASUS opted for a downclocked SD660 – to maximise the battery life without compromising on the user experience.
I inserted my primary SIM card into the phone and used it as a mobile hotspot for my other devices including work phone and laptop. Since my work phone doesn’t have a SIM card in it, I constantly need to have the hotspot turned on whenever I’m out in the field. Even after a full day of usage, I could still return to home with 40% battery left. That is the very definition of “bye bye power bank”.
Charging of that massive 5,000 mAh battery is a nightmare. The phone doesn’t support any of those fast charging technologies and it relies solely on the 10W (5V2A) charger to juice up the phone. Charging from 10% to 90% would take roughly 2 hours, so always remember to charge the phone because last-minute charging won’t help you go anywhere.
Before we wrap up this review, let’s talk about the price. Malaysians will receive 2 SKUs and they will be priced at:
- 4GB + 64GB ~ RM859
- 6GB + 64GB ~ RM999
That is a really good price. The Max Pro M1 was priced RM849 and RM999 for the exact same configuration. Just that Max Pro M1 has a more affordable 3GB + 32GB variant at RM799. I’m worrying that ASUS axing the 3GB + 32GB might affect how consumers see the device. Incoming comments – “Wah, become expensive already after popular and successful.”
Still, I believe the 3GB+32GB model should be gone by now because it doesn’t really align well with the overall user experience.
At the end of the day, ASUS has done a splendid job in upgrading the Max Pro to what it is right now. It really does bring great value to users who are looking for the best battery life without sacrificing the rest of the phone features.