Asus ZenFone 3s Max quick review: Doesn’t compromise on battery, doesn’t compromise on looks

The original ZenFone Max, from Asus, came with a whopping 5,000mAh battery. It was, however, made of plastic. A compromise that you could still live with, at that time. Its successor, the ZenFone 3 Max, meanwhile, came with a full-metal body. But, it crammed a smaller 4,100mAh battery inside. A compromise that you could still live with, at that time.

“In terms of design, there is always a dilemma. I can also put a 5,000mAh battery inside this phone (the ZenFone 3 Max) but then the phone will be a lot thicker. This is not what we wanted. Finally we decided, if we sacrifice the battery a little bit (still, you can achieve more than one day if you are a light user on the ZenFone 3 Max) then maybe this could be a good combination,” Peter Chang who is region head, South Asia and country manager for Asus India, explained to me, not long ago.

Clearly, the Max range from Asus has (always) been about one or the other compromise, for better or for worse. With the ZenFone 3s Max, however, Asus is looking to shed that status quo. The ZenFone 3s Max, as a result, doesn’t compromise on battery capacity. It doesn’t compromise on premium looks as well.


The ZenFone 3s Max (ZC521TL) — when you look at its spec sheet – looks like a connecting link between the 5.2-inch ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL) and the 5.5-inch ZenFone 3 Max (ZC553KL).

The ZenFone 3s Max, like the ZenFone 3 Max, comes with an almost all-metal body. It is slim (8.85mm) and weighs in at just 175 gram, which is a rare feat for an Asus ZenFone. But, the ZenFone 3 Max was (also) on very similar lines. Asus has also managed to get the bezels right, so much so that the ZenFone 3s Max boasts of a pretty impressive 75 per cent screen-to-body ratio.

Asus ZenFone 3s Max (ZC521TL): Big on battery, dash of Nougat Asus ZenFone 3s Max (ZC521TL): Big on battery, dash of Nougat Asus ZenFone 3s Max (ZC521TL): Big on battery, dash of Nougat

Asus ZenFone 3s Max (ZC521TL): Big on battery, dash of Nougat

The underlying principle may be the same, but Asus’ new phone is a different phone altogether, especially if you were to talk about its looks, and looks alone. Unlike the ZenFone 3 Max, the ZenFone 3s Max looks a lot more original, even with its kind of, sort of dated design elements. The biggest difference, perhaps, is the positioning of the fingerprint scanner. It now lies on the front, and also doubles as a home button. Asus claims, it can unlock the phone in just 0.5 seconds. It’s safe to say that it lives up to the company’s claims (well, almost). The phone, also comes with on-screen navigation keys this time round. Both these aspects are in sharp contradiction to how things were in case of the ZenFone 3 Max. The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner on-board the phone was slow and definitely one of the most inaccurate ones around. Also, it came with physical capacitive keys on the bottom of the display which were non-backlit.

The Max range from Asus has (always) been about one or the other compromise, for better or for worse. With the ZenFone 3s Max, however, Asus is looking to shed that status quo

It really helps that the ZenFone 3s Max is an equally well-built smartphone. Gradual curves and rounded corners form the epicenter and help ergonomics; while 2.5D curved glass on the front looks pleasing to the eyes. But, it’s an all-metal phone. It’s not the slipperiest phones in the world, but you’ll have to get used to all that extra smoothness on-board. The power button and the volume rocker on the right are well-built and offer good tactile feedback. A hybrid card slot meanwhile rests on the left. The phone comes with a bottom-firing mono speaker.

The ZenFone 3s Max comes with a 5.2-inch 720p screen that is bright (enough) but colours seem a little washed out. A problem that plagued the ZenFone 3 Max as well. Even though the screen of the ZenFone 3s Max gets effectively bright, colours aren’t the most accurate. They seem dull and lifeless, lacking in contrast. There’s also no option to manually tinker with the phone’s colour saturation.

The phone is powered by a 1.5GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6750 processor clubbed with Mali T860 GPU and 3GB RAM. It comes with 32GB of internal memory which is further expandable by up to 2TB via a hybrid microSD card slot. The dualSIM phone runs Android Nougat-based ZenUI 3.0 and supports 4G LTE (VoLTE-ready) and USB OTG.

The user interface is heavily bloated, but thankfully receives all the key Android Nougat features like multi-window support, a revamped drop-down notification menu, improved battery management and more. Although there’s some heavy skinning, Asus has stuck with the good-old formula of ease-of-use and some thoughtful customisations through its UI which is nice. Virtually every aspect of Google’s Android OS gets a fresh coat of paint, but it’s mostly for the good.

The ZenUI on-board the ZenFone 3 Max isn’t the smoothest of UIs around, however. The phone seems to be lacking in necessary optimisation which results in frequent lags and delays while navigating between home screens and opening and closing of apps. Also, the phone’s loaded with unwanted apps, some of which can’t be uninstalled. The fact that some of these (Asus proprietary) apps keep updating by the millisecond and keep asking for permission to do this and do that, all the time, can be frustrating.

The main USP of the ZenFone 3s Max, however, is said to be its 5,000 mAh battery which is rated to deliver “up to 34 days of 4G standby time, 28 hours talk-time on 3G and 25 hours of web browsing over WiFi on single charge,” according to the company. While we reserve our final verdict on it for a later time, you must know the phone lasted for up to 16 hours (dropping to below 20 per cent) in our continuous battery loop test, which in a word is fantastic.

The ZenFone 3s Max, in addition, also supports reverse charging and can be used as a portable power bank to charge other gadgets.

The phone comes with a 13-megapixel rear camera with dualLED flash and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera.

Asus is yet to announce pricing for the ZenFone 3s Max. Pricing is what will make or break this smartphone. This is because the ZenFone 3s Max, when you look at it, seems more like a part (and parcel) of the ever expanding crowd of affordable big battery phones in the market. It doesn’t seem all that new. Which is why, pricing will — as mentioned earlier — make or break this smartphone. Note that the original ZenFone 3 Max is available in two versions: ZC520TL with 5.2-inch 720p display for Rs 12,999 and ZC553KL with 5.5-inch 1080p display for Rs 17,999. If Asus prices the ZenFone 3s Max somewhere in the middle, it will still be expensive for what it’s worth. If Asus prices it higher, well, it got to be kidding me. Phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and Lenovo’s K6 Note are good battery-centric phones in and around this price segment. Asus, however, has one ace up its sleeve. Just like the ZenFone 3 Max, the ZenFone 3s Max will also be available for buying from both online and offline channels.

Taken from:India today


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