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8/19/2019

The Best Budget Smartphone to Buy Review?

Asus gave us an alternative to Xiaomi’s entry-level Redmi phones with the launch of ZenFone Max M1, as well as the ZenFone Lite L1, just a couple of months ago. And now the company is out to completely take over the budget segment. Asus ZenFone Max M2 is already out now, and brings along plenty of notable changes.

The ZenFone Max M2 (starts at Rs 9,999) might have a familiar feel to it, but it has grown up in terms of the user experience, and is sticking its head out of the entry-level segment. The smartphone is now powered by a Snapdragon 600-series chipset, features dual rear-cameras, a metal back, and also a massive battery, which sees Asus label it as the “most powerful and feature-laden” in its price bracket.

Asus ZenFone Max M2 beautiful

Well, those are some towering claims and I really wanted to put the ZenFone Max M2 to the test. Asus loaned us the black variant of this smartphone and I’ve been using it as a daily driver for the past week, so let’s see if it’s a befitting upgrade or not?
ZenFone Max M2: Specifications

Before we step ahead and share my experience with the ZenFone Max M2, let’s take a quick peek at the specifications table for the device:
Dimensions    158.41 x 76.28 x 7.7 mm
Weight    160 grams
Display    6.26-inch HD+ IPS LCD
Processor    Snapdragon 632
RAM    3/4GB
Internal Storage    32/64GB
Rear Cameras    13MP (f/1.8) + 2MP
Front Camera    8MP (f/2.0)
Operating System    Android 8.1 Oreo
Battery    4,000mAh
Sensors    Rear-mounted fingerprint, Accelerator, E-Compass, Proximity, Ambient light sensor, Gyroscope
Connectivity    WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, 3.5mm audio jack
Colors    Blue and Black
ZenFone Max M2: What’s in the Box

Asus still seems to be figuring out the vibe of its budget smartphone packaging and has grown up from the bland gray and blue aesthetic. The ZenFone Max M2 comes packed inside a slick black cardboard box, which you can slide out to gain access to all the contents listed down below:

    ZenFone Max M2 (Black)
    10W charging adapter
    microUSB charging cable
    SIM ejector tool
    Clear silicone case
    User Manual & leaflets

It’s good to see Asus include a silicone case within the box as there’s no Gorilla Glass 6 protection on board here as is the case with the ZenFone Max Pro M2.
ZenFone Max M2: Design and Build

Right off the bat, when you take the ZenFone Max M2 out of the box, you will see that the smartphone holds an uncanny resemblance to the ZenFone Max Pro M1, in terms of the rear design. The placement of the dual cameras, the fingerprint scanner, and even the location of the Asus branding are identical.
ZenFone Max M2 vs ZenFone Max Pro M1
ZenFone Max Pro M1 (left) vs ZenFone Max M2 (right)

While the ZenFone Max M1 featured the same polycarbonate build with a metallic finish, it did have its own persona, but the ZenFone Max M2 seems like Asus simply took a tried-and-tested design (ahem! Xiaomi, you know what I’m saying, right?) and simply added a new display and internals to it. However, if you put ZenFone Max M2 next to its predecessor then you’ll see that it’s much larger insize.

    The design of ZenFone Max M2 is bland and unexciting but it’s quite good for a budget phone in this price segment.

The ZenFone Max M2 justifies the much-popular “Max” label with a huge 4,000mAh battery but you’ll be surprised at how light the smartphone feels in daily use – just like I am. The device feels extremely light and is just comfortable to hold, thanks to its soft and curved edges. It’s a pleasure to use the ZenFone Max M2 and the metallic finish too feels good against your palm, without attracting many fingerprints.

Zenfone Max M2 build

The smartphone has certainly grown in size over its predecessor, which was super handy and allowed one-handed use, and it makes reachability an issue on the device. While the power button (which is textured and I love that!) and volume buttons may be within reach, I did find it a bit difficult to access the notifications and quick toggles. The fingerprint scanner placed at the center on the rear is okay-ish. It’s not the fastest I’ve seen but it gets the job done.

This is a sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone and even though the build might be nearly all-plastic with the metal back being the exception, the buttons feel good and are quite clicky. Finally, coming to the port selection, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top and a microUSB charging port on the bottom. No, we’ve not moved to USB Type-C ports on budget phones yet and won’t for some time.
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3.5mm audio jack
microUSB port
power and volume buttons
ZenFone Max M2: Display

Another important aspect of the design this year is the inclusion of a notched display on Asus’ budget smartphones. The ZenFone Max M2 comes with a massive 6.26-inch HD+ IPS LCD screen that holds the notch (comes with its own problems), which is slightly larger than the notch we’ve seen on ZenFone Max Pro M2. I, however, would’ve loved to see a waterdrop notch on this upgraded ZenFone Max lineup.
ZenFone Max M2 notch
ZenFone Max M2 chin

The notch on this smartphone includes a deep-seated earpiece at the center, which also hides a notification LED, a selfie camera, and a soft LED flash to help you illuminate the scenes in low-light conditions. There’s also a huge chin at the bottom – as it the case in most budget phones – without any branding, but I don’t mind it and have got used to it.

Delving into the display specs, the 6.26-inch screen here has a 1520×720 pixels resolution, a 19:9 aspect ratio, an 88.8 percent screen-to-body ratio, and a 2.5D curved glass finish to round it all up. Unlike its Pro sibling, the display doesn’t come with the latest Gorilla Glass 6 protection on top and you may want to take better care of the device by using a screen protector and silicone case.

ZenFone Max M2 display

The screen looks pretty competent in most lighting conditions. It doesn’t matter if you’re using the device indoors or in broad daylight, the screen is easily legible and the color reproduction is pretty standard for a budget phone – which you can tweak based on your liking from the settings. I didn’t come across any display issues over the past week and appreciate the Smart Screen, Night Light, and ambient display features.
ZenFone Max M2: User Interface

The software department is also where the ZenFone Max M2 brings a notable upgrade (or downgrade, depending on the user) over its predecessor and I, for one, absolutely am in favor of it. The ZenFone Max M2 comes with stock Android on board, instead of the company’s proprietary ZenUI 5.0 that came loaded in its predecessor.

zenfone max m2 software

The ZenFone Max M2 runs Android 8.1 Oreo out-of-the-box, which definitely is a little disappointing for a smartphone launching months after Android Pie went official and is offering a pure experience. Asus, however, vows to deliver the Pie update by the end of January 2019, which should come as a relief.

Opting for a clean and bloat-free experience on its budget smartphones seemed to have worked for Asus earlier this year and the company is sticking to its guns with its newest lineup. It may, however, be a setback for users who like custom Android skins like MIUI and EMUI for the myriad of add-on features. Asus has not made any tweaks to the clean experience and it’s the way I prefer it. Of course, you are very likely to find third-party apps to add the features you might miss from Zen UI.

ZenFone Max M2 notch problem

I, however, think that the company seems to be having a tough time with optimizing the Oreo stock UI for the notch cutout as the icons – the network bars and call profile icons – usually aren’t visible fully, and a portion of those are hidden under the notch itself. It surely comes as a huge distraction, with added frustration, but it’s nothing a future OTA update cannot fix.

There’s also a positive thing I would like to point out. Asus seems to be listening to the users, taking their feedback into account as a minor change to the camera UI has been introduced to further simplify the experience. The UI is still a bit intimidating, with HDR, Pro and even a night mode toggle buried in the top bar, and that makes changing to those modes a bit sluggish.

zenfone max m2 camera

Overall, the software experience is simplistic and one surely cannot go wrong with a stock Android interface.
ZenFone Max M2: Performance

The Asus ZenFone Max M2 is the second smartphone to be powered by a Snapdragon 632 chipset to arrive in India, and it’s a notable upgrade over the 400-series chipsets that are seen in as most sub-Rs 10,000 phones. It’s coupled with two RAM and internal storage configurations, i.e a 3GB+32GB variant and a higher-end 4GB+64GB variant.

I’ve been using the lower-end variant of the ZenFone Max M2 for the past week and my experience has been quite breezy, with almost no stutters or lag across the board. It could be credited to the stock Android experience and no bloatware on board. The device can handle most task thrown at it comfortably, with multitasking and RAM management never being of any concern.

The 3GB RAM is enough and doesn’t seem to be creating a bottleneck in daily use, but I expect the 4GB RAM to offer an even fluid experience. The ZenFone Max M2 doesn’t get very hot while using or charging, which is surely a plus.

Turning our attention togaming performance on the ZenFone Max M2, which is critical these days, all thanks to the popularity of PUBG Mobile, I found the phone to stand its ground and extend a more than satisfactory experience. I have adopted a slightly different approach than the typical chatter about how different games perform on this smartphone and provide a better insight into FPS and RAM usage.

I started off my gaming analysis with casual, not-so-taxing games including Supercell’s latest release Brawl Stars and my personal favorite Guns of Boom. Both the multiplayer games, as per GameBench, didn’t block a ton of RAM and offered a stable 58fps and 30fps throughout. I tried bumping up Guns of Boom up to 60fps but noticed multiple frame drops during my fights, so I had to turn it back to 30fps for a smoother experience.

I then moved on to the heavier and more taxing games including Asphalt Extreme and PUBG Mobile, of course. I only completed a couple of laps on the former to know that I really am not that good at racing games, and that 30fps and 600MB of RAM usage is needed to smoothly run this title.

PUBG Mobile, on the other hand, is a lot more demanding. Even though it takes the low setting by default, the ZenFone Max M2 was able to handle the title at medium graphics without affecting the fun multiplayer experience. I got a stable 25fps during a match, with about 700MB RAM usage and a battery drain of 14 percent an hour – which sounds decent enough.

One could notice minor jitters and frame drops on both of these games, but it doesn’t hamper the overall experience in any way.
ZenFone Max M2: Benchmarks

While the performance has been pretty great for me over the past week, here’s a quick peek at the benchmark scores for those interested in numbers. I first ran Geekbench 4 benchmarks, with single and multi-core scores standing at 1257 and 4809 respectively.

I then moved on to AnTuTu Benchmark but was unable to download the companion 3D Bench, which was shown as incompatible for the phone. I’m not entirely sure what the issue there was as sideloading the APK allowed me to run the benchmark app without any hiccups. You can check out a screenshot of the scores right here:

zenfone max m2 benchmarks

These scores are higher than those we’ve seen on the Honor 8C, which I’d reviewed last month, even though both the devices are powered by the Snapdragon 632 chipset. The higher scores of the ZenFone Max M2 show that its performance of this smartphone should be more optimized but I didn’t notice any significant difference in daily use.
ZenFone Max M2: Cameras

Asus ZenFone Max M2 comes equipped with a dual rear camera module, which packs a 13MP (f/1.8) primary camera with a 1.12micron pixel size, paired with a secondary 2MP depth sensor. The rear camera module comes with PDAF, as well as EIS support. There’s also an 8MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture, and 1.12-micron pixel size on board.

ZenFone Max M2 camera performance

While that does sound exciting, the cameras on the ZenFone Max M2 are pretty average. We expect them to get better with time as Asus will be rolling out support for AI scene and object recognition with upcoming updates. Overall, the pictures captured using this smartphone are a little oversaturated, lack detail, blows out the highlights, and the camera app has issues with focus and completely stops working at times, which can become frustrating really soon.

Well, for an in-depth take on the ZenFone Max M2 cameras, you can check out all the samples and my experience down below:
ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Daylight Photos

The daylight photos captured using the ZenFone Max M2 are pretty decent and that’s all. They have good color reproduction, offers you enough detail to meet the social media needs, and looks quite crisp when viewed on this smartphone’s HD screen. The dynamic range isn’t that great and one shouldn’t expect Redmi-grade captures. All your photos, though, may not come out as expected as the Max M2 has some problems with locking focus.
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ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Low-light Photos

The low-light performance of the ZenFone Max M2 is quite good and I really like how the dual rear-cameras can capture a ton of light, and bring out the colours even in quite dim conditions. The images do look to be a tad bit on the softer side but it can be fixed via an OTA update. Check out the tiger, timepiece and the lamp perspective picture attached below to see what I’m saying:
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ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Selfies

The 8MP selfie camera on board is decent enough for its price. You shouldn’t be expecting much from the ZenFone Max M2 in this department as the selfies look good in daylight, as well as low-light conditions. There’s a decent amount of detail, good color reproduction but the camera suffers from overexposure and soft photos in artificial lighting.
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ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Portrait Mode

ZenFone Max M2 offers portrait mode photography via both the front and rear camera. It offers good edge detection and background separation, while adding a decent amount of blur to the shot, but I noticed a considerable amount of softening on the edges. The photos also seem to lack detail in some cases, while the camera shines in others. The portrait mode is works in low-light conditions as well.
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ZenFone Max M2 Camera Samples: Videos

Like its elder brother, the ZenFone Max M2 is capable of recording videos of up to 4K resolution and it’s awesome to see Asus include the same in this budget smartphone. If you take a look at the 4K sample recording below, you will see that the color reproduction and sharpness are good but there’s stabilization being used here. The EIS kicks in during 1080p video recording.

As for the videos captured in 1080p, well, this is where the EIS on board comes into play and the recording instantly looks a lot smoother. The colors and sharpness are all intact her as well, and Asus has really done a great job to offer you stabilization at this price point. Check out the 1080p video recording here:

ZenFone Max M2: Audio and Telephony

Like most smartphone these days, Asus has also included only a single bottom-firing speaker on the ZenFone Max M2 and the output is really loud and clear. Just like the ZenFone Max Pro M2, the smartphone also comes with a 5-magnet speaker and the NXP SmartAmp technology in tow and it makes a ton of difference.

The speaker output is super loud when compared to other smartphones in its price range and offers a balanced sound, with good treble, vocal clarity, but low bass, which may not be enough to please most users. The smartphone offers 15 volume steps, which is pretty decent, and the music output is pretty loud, in my opinion, even at 50-60 percent.

zenfone max m2 audio

The 3.5mm headphone jack at the top is also said to offer better sound quality and it was evident in my daily usage, but found it to be dependent on the earphones I was using as well, which is a given.

Coming to the telephony part, well, the earpiece on the ZenFone Max M2 also gets quite loud and the audio quality is pretty decent. The call quality has regularly been great and the callers were able to hear me clearly, with low background noise.
ZenFone Max M2: Connectivity

Most phone brands nowadays are starting to understand what the consumer really wants out of their smartphones and Asus knows it well. This is the reason the company has also included a triple-slot tray on the left edge, allowing you to use 2 micro-SIM cards and one microSD card (storage expandable up to 2TB) at the same time.

I have been using both of my SIM cards, Reliance Jio and Airtel, with Asus ZenFone Max M2 for the past week and I believe there wasn’t any time when I faced an issue with the connectivity. The network bars were always standing tall and the VoLTE icons for both of my SIMs reassured me of the dual VoLTE connectivity on board. The reception is also good and you won’t face any issues in this department.

ZenFone Max M2 connectivity

Further, you get the regular set of connectivity options including Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS, GLONASS, and more. There’s no NFC or other higher-end connectivity options on board.

Just like its elder brother, the ZenFone Max M2 also doesn’t pack in support for 5GHz wireless connectivity and can only connect to 2.4GHz networks. This indicates that you won’t be able to achieve high network speeds and that’s a bit disappointing. Otherwise, I didn’t face any connection issues and got consistent download/upload speeds at home, as well as the Beebom office.
ZenFone Max M2: Battery Life

The battery, usually a big factor in the device’s weight, doesn’t add to the bulk despite the big capacity. Itis obviously one of the main highlights of ZenFone Max M2. The phone includes a massive 4,000mAh battery pack and it easily lasts the entire day on a single charge. I wasn’t able to burn through the battery completely even after a long and tiring day at work.

The ZenFone Max M2 usually delivered five-six hours of screen-on time while I was using the smartphone, which saw me talking on the phone, enjoying videos on YouTube to and from the office, sneaking in a game or PUBG Mobile and more. I usually witnessed the device with 20-30 percent charge left even after the heavy workload, which is impressive, to say the least.

Talking about the charging aspect of the ZenFone Max M2, Asus has bundled a 10W (5V, 2A) charger in the box and it enables fast charging on this smartphone. It’s not as fast as something like Quick Charge 3.0 but it’s decent enough for the price point.

The ZenFone Max M2 goes from being totally dead to 50 percent charge in under an hour, which is okay if you plug the phone in time before going out. It takes the device about 2 hours and 37 minutes to get fully juiced up, I’m really happy with the battery life on the ZenFone Max M2 and it justifies the Max moniker.

ZenFone Max M2 charger
ZenFone Max M2: Pros and Cons

Finally, we have made it to the verdict section of the ZenFone Max M2 review and if you want to know whether it’s a smartphone worth buying, then there’s no thinking twice since my answer is surely a big fat – GO FOR IT!! Asus ZenFone Max M2 not just retains the essence of its predecessor, as well as the Max series, but also brings along a ton of considerable improvements.

The ZenFone Max M2 (starts at Rs 9,999) features a well-known aesthetic, that has now been paired with a massive display with a not-so-massive notch.

The choice to offer a stock Android experience, with almost no bloatware and ads over its proprietary ZenUI is also noteworthy for users looking to buy a reliable budget smartphone in the sub-Rs 10,000 price segment.

Like its elder brother, the ZenFone Max M2 is also out here to kill its closest Redmi rival, the Redmi 5 (starts at Rs 9,990) and Redmi Note 5 (starts at Rs 10,999), which already didn’t sell too well in the market. I’d pick ZenFone Max M2 over those two any day for the larger and better display, huge battery, and stock UI.

    It’s probably the smartphone to buy if you’re on a strict Rs 10,000 budget.

However, if you have a little leeway in your spending budget and won’t mind doling out a couple thousand bucks extra, then there are endless possibilities for the user in the mid-budget segment. You can certainly go for ZenFone Max M2’s elder brother, ZenFone Max Pro M2 (starts at Rs 12,999), which is an awesome device, or you can pick between the Redmi Note 6 Pro (starts at Rs 13,999) and the Realme U1 (starts at Rs 11,999) as well.
PROS:

        Extremely light

    Not a fingerprint magnet
    Good daily performance
    PUBG Mobile runs smoothly
    Stock Android experience
    Pretty loud speaker
    Long-lasting battery

CONS:

    Average cameras
    Unoptimized notch
    Slow charging

SEE ALSO: Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review: The Best Budget Smartphone to Buy?
Asus ZenFone Max M2 Review: The Best Phone Under Rs 10,000?

To round everything up, one could obviously see that Asus ZenFone Max M2 is not only a worthy upgrade over its predecessor, but can be yet another ZenFone smartphone to pose a tough fight to the Redmi phones.

The ZenFone Max M2 is no longer a compact and teensy smartphone but sports a well-known aesthetic, a modern notched display, a pure and stock Android experience, and massive battery. These are all the features that should be enough to convince you that ZenFone Max M2 is a powerhouse but the cameras are yet again a compromise here, something which Xiaomi never seems to have. Asus recently launched the ZenFone Max Pro M2 and it looks like the perfect candidate for the crown of the best budget smartphone. Compared to its predecessor, the ZenFone Max Pro M1, which was a very popular smartphone, the Max Pro M2 (starts at Rs. 12,999) not only seems to fix its flaws, it also seems to bring upgrades that make it a great budget smartphone. Having said that, the question here is, is the ZenFone Max Pro M2 as good as it seems? Well, this is our ZenFone Max Pro M2 review, so let’s find out.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review
ZenFone Max Pro M2 Specifications
Dimensions    157.9 x 75.5 x 8.5 mm
Weight    170 grams
Display    6.26-inch Full-HD+ IPS LCD
Gorilla Glass 6
Processor    Snapdragon 660
RAM    up to 6GB
Storage    64GB, expandable up to 2TB
Rear Cameras    12MP + 5MP
EIS, 4K
Front Camera    13MP (f/2.0) with flash
Operating System    Android 8.1 Oreo
Battery    5,000mAh
5V 2A Charger
Connectivity    rear-mounted fingerprint, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, 3.5mm audio jack
What’s In the Box

Here’s what you get the ZenFone Max Pro M2 box:

    ZenFone Max Pro M2 (duh!)
    USB-A to microUSB cable
    5V 2A charging adapter
    SIM ejector tool
    Clear silicon case
    Leaflets and documentation

Design and Build Quality

First off, the dull, bland design from the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is gone. The Max Pro M2 features a premium glass-like finish on the back and it certainly looks great. It is plastic but the finish here gives the phone a very premium look and feel.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review 1

So, it’s nice but there’s one problem. Even though the back here is not glass, it behaves like glass. What I mean is, the back here is very prone to scratches. Look at the scratches on our unit here. It’s insane… even the glass backed phones we have don’t have as many scratches as the Max Pro M2 does. I think this is the reason Asus bundles a case with the phone. Anyway, the back here has the dual camera setup and the fingerprint scanner, which in my usage, has been fast and accurate, so no problems there.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

The scratch-prone back apart, I love this new design. Plus, I like how lightweight this phone is, especially when you factor in the massive 5,000 mAh battery. Let’s compare the Max Pro M2’s weight with other phones. The Motorola One Power too has a 5,000 mAh battery, but that weighs in at 205 grams, while the M2 weighs in at 170 grams. It’s impressive that the M2 is lighter than a lot of phones that have smaller batteries.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Moving on to the front, there are changes here as well. The ZenFone Max Pro M2 comes with the notch and I know a lot of you guys don’t like this. I mean, as I’ve said previously, I think a teardrop notch is the best implementation of the notch, but at least the notch on the Max Pro M2 is not as huge as the one on the Redmi Note 6 Pro.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Apart from that, there are the usual buttons, the microUSB port (ya, no USB-C!), and the headphone jack.

    So, overall, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 looks good and features all the basics you need. I know, the back is very scratch prone but it’s not a big deal, at least that’s what I think.

Display

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 features a 6.26” IPS LCD display and it’s not just larger, the display here is better than the display on the ZenFone Max Pro M1. The color accuracy, the brightness and basically, everything else looks better on the M2 display.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Take a look at the whites on the Max Pro M1 display and the Max Pro M2.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

So, the display here is good and on par with the good displays in the competition, like the Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro. Yes, the Realme 2 Pro’s display is brighter, but apart from that, the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s display is on par and pretty good.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Apart from the great display, the Max Pro M2 is also the only phone so far to feature a Gorilla Glass 6 in this price range. Now, Gorilla Glass 6 is supposed to bring better drop protection, right? And that’s what the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s ads suggest, so I tested it out. I dropped the phone 3 times to see if the Gorilla Glass 6 holds up. Well, the good news is, the display of the Max Pro M2 is fine and there aren’t even any major scratches. So yes, Gorilla Glass 6 on the ZenFone Max Pro M2 should be fine against usual drops and kudos to Asus really for bringing Gorilla Glass 6 in a segment filled with Gorilla Glass 3 phones.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Also, if you are wondering, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 features the Widevine L1 license, which means you will be able to watch HD videos on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review
Cameras

One of the complaints I had with the ZenFone Max Pro M1 was its average cameras. Well, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 fixes that. Let’s talk about the rear cameras in the ZenFone Max Pro M2 first.

    Rear Cameras

The phone comes with a 12MP plus 5MP dual camera setup on the back but don’t be fooled by these numbers. I know it seems like a downgrade from the 6GB variant of the Max Pro M1 which had a 16MP camera, but trust me, the cameras on the Max Pro M2 are a lot better. Just take a look at these photos.

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The ZenFone Max Pro M2 takes photos that are sharp and high on detail, especially when there is good light. Some photos turn out a bit oversaturated, but I don’t think this is an issue. Even the portrait mode photos in good light have nice details and decent edge detection. Yes, the colors can be a little off at times, but it’s not a huge problem. When it comes to low light, the Max Pro M2 takes decent photos, but sometimes the photos aren’t as sharp as I’d like and sometimes noise creeps in.

Compared to the Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro cameras, it’s a tough call in good light. Look at these photos. All the phones are good here, but I just find the details in the ZenFone Max Pro M2 photo slightly better than the competition, although I like the colors more in the Note 6 Pro photos. So ya, it’s really close. When it comes to low light photos, the Max Pro M2 and Realme 2 Pro do well enough, but the Redmi Note 6 Pro photos are just sharper and they have less noise.
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
ZenFone Max Pro M2

    Videos

When it comes to videos, the Max Pro M2 comes with 4K support, which is something a lot of budget phones miss out on, so that’s good. Here’s a 4K video shot from the phone. As you can see, the video quality here is pretty nice, with the colors looking good and things looking sharp. Yes, the stability is not very good, and that’s because EIS here kicks in at 1080p.

Well, I also recorded a 1080p video, and it’s definitely more stable than the 4K video. However, when I compared the 1080p video from the ZenFone Max Pro M2, the Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro, I found that the Note 6 Pro and Realme 2 Pro capture videos that are way more stable. It’s surprising really, because all these phones have EIS. I hope Asus makes the 1080p videos more stable in future updates.

    Front Camera

Coming to the front cameras, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 takes some decent selfies, when there’s good light. As you can see in the selfies below, the photos in good lighting have good detail and colors. However, things aren’t as good in low light. The selfies in low light generally turn out to be soft.
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When compared to the Redmi Note 6 Pro and Realme 2 Pro, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 compares well in good lighting but not so much in low light. And if you are wondering, yes, there’s no portrait mode on the front yet, but Asus is bringing that in an update soon.

    Overall, the cameras on the ZenFone Max Pro M2, especially the rear cameras are improved and way better, and while they might not be the best when compared to the competition, they get close and that’s good enough for a budget smartphone.

Performance

The ZenFone Max Pro brings a great upgrade from the ZenFone Max Pro M1 when it comes to the processor. The Max Pro M2 comes with a Snapdragon 660, which is the most powerful processor in this price range. In benchmarks, the Max Pro M2 obviously beats the Snapdragon 636 phones out there like the Note 6 Pro, the Nokia 7.1, and the Moto One Power.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

When compared to phones with the Snapdragon 660, like the Realme 2 Pro and the Mi A2, the scores of the M2 are more similar to the Realme 2 Pro, and that’s because just like the Realme Phone, the high-performance cores on the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s Snapdragon 660 are clocked at 1.95GHz instead of the regular 2.2GHz.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Well, to be honest, the lower clock speed isn’t something I really care about because in my usage, the phone has been performing really well. Things have been smooth, be it during day to day tasks or during multitasking. We have the 4GB variant of the phone here, so things should be even better in the 6GB variant.

When it comes to gaming performance, the phone handles games like PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 really well. The phone sets PUBG’s graphics settings at Medium by default and on that setting, the gameplay is smooth and almost flawless. I tried playing the game at high graphics, and while things were mostly fine, there was some stutter and lag at times, so ya, I’d recommend you to stick to medium.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

    Overall, the performance on the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is top notch, no pun intended. It’s just the best performance a phone can offer at this price.

Software

The ZenFone Max Pro M2, like the ZenFone Max Pro M1, comes with stock Android on-board and that’s great because stock Android was one of the highlights of the ZenFone Max Pro M1. For those who are confused, while the phone does come with stock Android, it’s not an Android One phone. Well, there’s Android 8.1 Oreo here, and while I was disappointed about it, Asus announced that they will roll out the Android Pie update next month, so that’s promising.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Anyway, the stock Android experience here has a few changes. There are a few Asus apps here, along with the Facebook app and the Asus camera app. Anyway, it’s not a lot and people actually use some of these apps (like voice recorder, FM Radio etc.), so I wouldn’t call it bloatware. There are also additional features like a few gestures (not navigation gestures, gestures like double tap to unlock) and face unlock, which works pretty fast most of the time.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

While everything’s fine, the stock Android Oreo experience does not seem well optimized for the notch. We all know that Google brought notch support with Android Pie, so it’s not surprising but this is something Asus must have fixed. So, what happens is, in different apps, the notch just marginally overlaps in the top area of the interface. I am not explaining it good enough, so take a look:
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ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

I know, it’s not a major issue but I just find this a little annoying, especially while playing games. Plus there’s no way to force apps to use the full screen, or hide the notch, so ya, there are a few issues in the ZenFone Max Pro M2. Well, let’s hope Asus fixes this soon.

    Overall, stock Android is something that matters to me. I just prefer stock Android here. If you ask me to choose between the really bad ColorOS on the Realme phones, the ad-ridden MIUI on the Xiaomi phones , and stock Android on the Max Pro M2. I will always prefer the stock Android experience on the ZenFone Max Pro M2.

Battery

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 comes with the same massive 5,000 mAh battery from the Max Pro M1 and while the screen is a bit larger than the M1, the battery performs pretty much the same as the M1.

So, in my usage, the Max Pro M2 easily lasted me for a couple of days on medium usage. Generally, starting the day at 100%, I would end the day at around 50-60% even on a little extensive usage and that is just really good. The battery performance is something that really impressed me in the M1 and it impresses me yet again in the M2.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

When it comes to charging, Asus bundled the 5V 2A charger in the box and in our first impressions video, a lot of you were confused if this is a fast charger or not. Well, the phone does show “rapidly charging” with the in-box 10W charger plugged in, which I think is a QuickCharge 1.0 charger, so it is fast charging the phone, but it’s just not as fast as Quick Charge 4.0, or even 3.0.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Anyway, so the in-box charger takes 2 hours and 50 minutes to charge the Max Pro M2 from 10 to 100%, which is fine. I mean, the Note 6 Pro and Realme 2 Pro take around 2 hours to go from 10 to 100%, but they also have smaller batteries. So, this is the price you’ll have to pay for the larger battery.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

I also tried out an 18W fast charger with the Max Pro M2 and it took the same amount of time, that is 2 hours 50 minutes, so I guess this the maximum charging speed you can get.
Audio

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 brings improvements from the ZenFone Max Pro M1 on the audio front as well. First off, the speaker here is better. The Max Pro M2 comes with 5-magnet speaker for louder, deeper and less distorted sound quality and NXP SmartAmp technology. Now, all of that is tech mumbo jumbo, but the speakers here are definitely louder than the Max Pro M1 and the likes of the Redmi Note 6 Pro. While the quality here isn’t the best or as great as the Note 6 Pro, it’s decent enough for a budget phone.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 also brings better sound quality through the headphone jack. A lot of people have complained about the ZenFone Max Pro M1’s average sound quality with the headphone jack, so I am glad Asus has fixed it with the ZenFone Max Pro M2. I tried my Sony MDR-XB55 in-ear headphones with both the M2 and the M1, and it was clear that the sound quality from the Max Pro M2 is just way better. The sound is louder, clearer and the quality is a lot better. So, it’s definitely better than the Max Pro M1.
Connectivity

On the connectivity front, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 features most of the basics but there are a few things missing, which might disappoint a few users. First of all, there’s WLAN 802.11 b/g/n, which means the phone only supports 2.4GHz WiFi networks. Yes, like Max Pro M1, there’s no support for 5GHz WiFi networks and while this is a little disappointing., if you are wondering if it’s a huge issue, you can check out our article on the same.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

Other than that, there’s Bluetooth 5.0, expandable storage up to 2TB, dual SIM with dual 4G VoLTE support, and there are the usual sensors like accelerator, e-compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and gyroscope.
ZenFone Max Pro M2: Should you Buy It?
Pros:

    Premium looking design
    Vibrant display
    Great performance
    Amazing battery life
    Decent cameras
    Stock Android
    Good speakers
    Gorilla Glass 6

Cons:

    No portrait mode in front camera
    Average video stability in 1080p
    Scratch prone back
    Software issues with the notch
    No 5GHz WiFi support

Okay, that was pretty much it when it comes to our ZenFone Max Pro M2 review/ Now, coming to the verdict. Is the ZenFone Max Pro M2 the best budget phone smartphone to buy? Well, yes! The ZenFone Max Pro M2, which starts at Rs. 12,999 is a phone I will be recommending to a lot of people and that’s because this is just the best all around budget phone out there.

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

The changes on the design front make the Max Pro M2 a great looking smartphone. The cameras, while not the best, are good enough for the price and the Snapdragon 660 makes up for a really fast and smooth experience. Plus, like the ZenFone Max Pro M1, the stock Android experience is great and the battery is just impressive. It’s not perfect. The back is very scratch prone, there are software issues with the notch and there’s still no 5GHz support. But are these deal breakers? Definitely not!

ZenFone Max Pro M2 Review

When it comes to the competition, there’s the Redmi Note 6 Pro (starts at Rs. 13,999) with slightly better cameras, but it has a slower processor, an inferior design, and a smaller battery. There’s also the Realme 2 Pro (starts at Rs. 13,990) and Realme U1 (starts at Rs. 11,999), and they both have the trendy teardrop notch designs and great performance, but I cannot live with ColorOS. There are a lot of other phones here like the Nokia 6.1 plus (Rs. 15,990), the Motorola One Power (Rs. 15,999), the Honor 8X (starting at Rs. 14,999) and more, but they all fail to match the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s all around capabilities.

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