Asus has been around for a while now but it was only in 2018 that the Taiwanese major (has) finally arrived in India. With regards to smartphones. Although the company has phones like the ZenFone 5 and the ZenFone 2, affordable offerings that sort of catapulted it to fame in early 2015, no other Asus phone (has) managed to both surprise and impress buyers and critics more than the ZenFone Max Pro M1. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 came out of nowhere -- earlier in the year -- and became a runaway hit for the company in question. It is no surprise then that Asus is looking to cash in on its success and end 2018 with a bang. Enter, the ZenFone Max Pro M2.
There were many reasons why the ZenFone Max Pro M1 became as popular as it did. It was a phone that brought with it, a modern design, modern hardware, modern software, and more importantly, a sensible price tag. It was the complete package, offering almost all the bells and whistles one would require at its price point. And then some more. It was a tough challenger to the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro, another brilliantly crafted phone that (has) set new benchmarks in the affordable price segment. Call it coincidence but the ZenFone Max Pro M2 arrives just in time to take on the recently launched Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro giving buyers a viable option to look at during their next purchase.
But while the Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro is mostly a “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” affair, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is a complete overhaul to its tried and tested predecessor. In all the departments. Be it design, be it hardware, or be it software. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 was very modern for its time but it was still rough around the edges, especially in terms of look and feel. The ZenFone Max Pro M2 tries to correct all of that by bringing in an all-glass finish design that’s seemingly also durable to the T courtesy Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection which is claimed to survive 15 consecutive one-meter drops onto rough surfaces. No other phone at its price point offers Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection, so that’s a start.
The glass-like back of the ZenFone Max Pro M2 can reflect light differently depending on how you look at it. Asus calls it “wave finish” that has been created using a glossy 16-layer coating. Long story short: it looks really, really good. It’s a stark departure from the ZenFone Max Pro M1’s uninspired all-metal design. You can say that the ZenFone Max Pro M1 was sort of a prototype device, while the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is more like a finished product that has been given due time and effort on the dressing table. The same is true about its hand-hold feel as well. The phone has just the right amount of curves to make it easily manageable especially considering that this is a big 6.26-inch phone. Asus has also managed to keep the phone’s weight in check especially considering that it packs a massive 5,000mAh battery inside. Having said that, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is still a large-screen phone, and would require both your hands’ attention at all times while using it.
On the front is a notch, another aspect that makes the ZenFone Max Pro M2 as modern as they come. Like it or not. Good thing about the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is that Asus has been able to limit the size of the notch so it’s not as intrusive as some of the other phones with notch in and around its price point. You can say that this makes it a little bearable, if you’re not particularly fond of the trend. The notch, just so you know, houses the LED flash, camera, earpiece, notification LED, and ambient and proximity sensors.
Moving on, the 6.26-inch screen of the ZenFone Max Pro M2 comes with a 1080p+ resolution and tall 19:9 aspect ratio, much like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro. The quality of the panel is quite good, offering good colour reproduction and rich contrast. Brightness levels are in line with the best in the business in this price segment. The same is true about its viewing angles.
The ZenFone Max Pro M2 is a big step up from the ZenFone Max Pro M1 in terms of core hardware. Asus’ new phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor with up to 6GB RAM and up to 64GB storage which is also expandable via a dedicated micro-SD card slot. Just like its predecessor, the zenFone Max Pro M2 also runs stock Android software -- and not Asus’ in-house ZenUI -- meaning it cuts short on unwanted apps or bloatware and entails in an experience closer to what you’d expect from a Google Pixel phone. The ZenFone Max Pro M2 is not an Android One phone though, something like say the Nokia 7.1.
Coming to performance, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor clubbed with stock Android is unsurprisingly a heady concoction of speed and efficiency: a big upgrade over the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636-based ZenFone Max Pro M1. In fact, it won’t be wrong to say that the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is the most powerful phone at its price point.
The dual-SIM ZenFone Max Pro M2 runs Android 8.1 Oreo (will be updated to Android 9 Pie soon), supports 4G LTE (and VoLTE) and packs a triple card slot for two SIM cards and one micro-SD. It has a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner -- which is fairly fast and accurate -- and also supports facial recognition tech for biometric authentication. Sadly, the phone charges via micro-USB and ships with a standard 5V/2A charger in the box.
The cameras on the ZenFones Max Pro M2 are also a big upgrade on paper, and even in real-world scenarios to an extent. The ZenFone Max Pro M2 sports dual rear cameras consisting of one 12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture and another 5MP sensor with f/2.4 aperture with depth sensing. The dual rear cameras work fairly well in ideal lighting conditions, resulting in photos with good detail and mostly spot-on colours. Dynamic range is also decent in these photos. The ZenFone Max Pro M2 is also able to produce some well to-do shots in tricky light. The front-facing 13MP camera is a good upgrade over the 8MP camera on the ZenFone Max Pro M1, resulting in slightly more detailed selfies in ideal lighting.
Clearly, Asus has left no box unchecked when it comes to the ZenFone Max Pro M2. Just like the ZenFone Max Pro M1, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 has every ingredient in the book to make the likes of Xiaomi and HMD/Nokia (and Realme) nervous. Its pricing also has a lot to do with it. The ZenFone Max Pro M2 starts at Rs 12,999 for the 3GB RAM/32GB storage variant going all the way to Rs 16,999 for the top-end variant with 6GB RAM and 64GB storage. There’s also a 4GB RAM/64GB storage variant that will sell for Rs 14,999. Watch this space for our full review of the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 in the days to come.