We recently reviewed the Zenfone 3 Max from Asus few days ago and Imagine our surprise when we received yet another Zenfone Max shortly after that. We were bit surprised to see another Zenfone Max in our mail box under the new name the Zenfone 3S Max.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max Review ( ZC553KL )

The Zenfone 3S Max is the latest offering from Asus in their big battery smartphones. Its claim to fame is a large 5000mAh battery, packed inside a surprisingly compact metal design smartphone.  While we have seen phones with 5000mAh battery before no one offered a phone is such a compact package with beautiful design like Asus did with the Zenfone 3S Max.

Zenfone 3S Specification

  • 5.2-inch, 1280×720 resolution IPS LCD; 2.5D curved glass
  • MediaTek MT6750 SoC, octa-core CPU (4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz + 4x Cortex-A53 @ 1GHz), Mali-T860 MP2 GPU
  • 3GB RAM; 32GB storage (expandable by up to 256GB)
  • 13 megapixel rear camera, f2.0 aperture, phase detection AF, two-tone LED flash, [email protected] video
  • 8 megapixel front camera, 720p30 video
  • 4G dual SIM, VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Mono loudspeaker
  • 5000mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat with ZenUI 3.0

Design

The Zenfone 3S Max design is quite different in terms of Design language of Zenfone 3 devices and it easily stands out in the current Asus lineup.

For starters, the front of the phone no longer has the capacitive navigation keys below the display. Instead, now there are on-screen controls but You still get a fingerprint sensor on the front, which also happens to be a physical home button. Unlike the sensor on most other Android phones, this one requires you to click on it first to activate it and only then does it scan your fingertip just like on the Samsung Smartphones.

Right above the display is the earpiece, front facing camera, light and proximity sensors, and an LED notification light. On the right of the phone there are power and volume control buttons that are easy to reach and comfortable to press. On the left is the SIM tray that can hold two SIM cards (mini + nano) or one SIM and microSD.

On the top of the phone there is a headphone jack, while the bottom has the microUSB port in the middle, microphone on the left and loudspeaker on the right.

The back of the phone has a large metal cover with a plastic lip at the bottom and another small plastic strip at the top. The camera is at the top left with a dual LED flash and microphone.

Asus Zenfone 3S Max is sized between the smaller 5.0-inch phones and the larger 5.5-inch phones.While it is generally easier to grip and use than 5.5-inch phones, it’s not a true compact phone or overly easy to work with one hand. The Build quality seems good though. Like the other Zenfones, the 3S Max feels a notch above some of its Chinese competitors when it comes to rigidity and general build quality. The display will attempt to pop out if you flex it from the back but nothing much happens after that unless you really put some muscle into it.

The gold colour brings the phone closer in looks to a dozen other Chinese smartphones on the market with roughly the same design and colour scheme.

Display

The Zenfone 3S Max has a 5.2-inch, 1280×720 resolution IPS LCD. The display isn’t the strong point of the phone. The 5.2-inch size also doesn’t do it any favours and the pixel density is just 282 PPI. Even the viewing angles are fine but not that great compared to old Zenfone we have seen. It does get bright enough outdoors, which seems to be one of the good things about the display.

Connectivity

The Zenfone 3S Max has all the basics covered in this department, even if it skips on some of the extras. The MediaTek MT6750 comes with a decent Cat-4 LTE modem, with VoLTE support and theoretical speeds of 150 mbps downlink and 50 mbps up. Having two SIM slots is also a plus, although, it is worth noting, the second one is hybrid, for a memory expansion option.

You also get Wi-Fi a/c, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and a pretty standard slew of sensors.

Battery

The main highlight of the phone is the 5000mAh battery. As it is expected, the phone has excellent battery life, with two days of standby time with over 10 hours of screen-on time. This is with the phone set to the Performance mode, where it doesn’t aggressively control the display brightness and with the Intelligent standby power optimisation disabled. This is a separate setting from Doze, which is present and works as well as it does on other Nougat devices.

Even with such a huge battery on board the Zenfone 3S Max does not have fast charging. This means it takes upwards of four hours to charge the phone with the supplied standard 10W charger.

Like the other Zenfone Max phones, the 3S can also charge another device with its battery. Unfortunately, this time Asus has chosen not to provide an OTG cable with the phone. In all honesty, however, it’s not an enormously useful feature considering how slow the charging rate is and the need to carry the OTG adaptor around with you. It is nice to know that the feature is there for your needs if you wish to use it.

Software (Android Nougat)

The Zenfone 3S Max is the first Asus phone to come with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box. Of course, there is still Asus ZenUI 3.0 skin on top, along with the usual assortment of Asus applications.

The integration of Android Nougat features along with ZenUI is pretty great.

You get the updated notification system with the option to quickly reply to incoming messages. You can also edit the quick toggles but ZenUI. What is new is the design, with a new interface for choosing the toggles, which opens within the notification menu itself instead of sending you to a separate screen as with previous versions of ZenUI. The toggles themselves look different, with a new animation and translucency effect.

You also get multi-window feature, allowing you to run two compatible apps one below the other simultaneously. Considering the size of the display, it is not an enormously useful feature though. The phone also lets you double tap the multi-tasking key to quickly switch to the previous app.

Other Nougat features include ability to change DPI setting to make UI elements smaller or larger, JIT compiler for faster app installs and updates, and Unicode 9.0 emoji set. Features such as Vulkan API, however, will not be present due to lack of hardware support.

The phone also supports motion gestures, and lets you mute the phone by flipping it over. You also get a one-hand mode that lets you quickly double tap the Home button to shrink the display size for one-handed use.

Performance

The Zenfone 3S Max is powered by MediaTek MT6750 under the hood, we never expected jaw-dropping performance. And after using the Zenfone 3s Max for some time the mediocre chipset becomes quite evident.

Except in some apps the phone consistently feels slight slow than the Zenfone Max. Opening apps has a bit of delay and scrolling can get stuttery at times. The single-core performance on MediaTek chipsets continues to be low grade even compared to the low-end Qualcomm chips and this shows in apps that are still by and large single-threaded.Most of the games we tried ran surprisingly well , better than they would on Snapdragon 430 devices with 1080p screens.

The fingerprint sensor was also great for most of the times, with it failing to recognise fingers occasionally, especially when used at some odd angles. The tips of index fingers, for example, aren’t scanned properly while saving them so they are never recognised later when you try to unlock the phone.

Camera

The Zenfone 3S Max has a 13 megapixel camera at the back with f2.0 aperture and phase detection autofocus. It can also record videos in 1080p resolution at 30fps. A two-tone dual LED flash has been provided for illumination.

The Camera application on the phone is quite comprehensive, with several modes, including a Manual mode that lets you manually control the shutter speed, white balance, ISO, and focusing. The controls are all well laid out and if you’re in the Auto mode the app will also suggest you to switch to an appropriate mode such as HDR or Night depending upon the situation and provide a quick switch at the bottom that you can just tap to switch to that mode instead of digging through the Mode menu.

At first glance the images look fine, with good colours, contrast and decent dynamic range. But overall the images are soft with little fine detail that almost look like their are out of focus. This is due to the noise reduction algorithm that aggressively blurs out the image to stamp out any noise.

The camera app has many modes but the two we ended up using the most were HDR and Low Light. The Low Light mode works by combining the output of four pixels on the sensor to create one pixel of the image. This helps reduce noise in the image but it does come at the cost of detail.

1080p video quality is decent, with a fair amount of detail and quick focusing.

Verdict

The Zenfone 3S Max is undoubtedly a good big battery budget Android Device. It has the biggest battery you can get in a device of this class that provides days of battery life without the actual device being huge in size. If that’s all you want in the phone, then the new Asus mid-ranger passed the test with flying colours.

The Phone is planned to be launched in India on 7 Feb 2017 and then only the price will be revealed for the device. Looking from the overall appeal of the device the Asus Zenfone 3S seems a great choice for most people who want to do their day to day task , and aren’t going to use heavy performance hungry apps and games. The big battery is a plus point at this will easily last you for 2 or 3 days without any hassles. For those looking for performance this might not be the phone for you. It makes a good option for anyone who is looking for a decent smartphone with extremely good battery life.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design
9
Build Quality
8
Display
8
Battery Life
9
Performance
8
Camera
8
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