Review: Asus ZenFone Max Plus (M1)

Today I’m going to review the Asus ZenFone Max Plus which is classified as a budget phone. Seeing as it goes for $299 CDN, it certainly fits into the budget category. But it didn’t perform like a budget phone by any means. In fact, it performs like a phone several levels above its weight class.

Let’s start with the display which is a very sharp and bright 5.7-inch 18:9 display which is viewable in all lighting conditions. It has a resolution of 2160 x 1080 which is way above what you would expect at this price point. Another plus is that fingerprints don’t seem to affect this phone’s display in a negative way.

Next up is the layout of the phone. The right side has the volume control and power button. The left has the SIM slot. The top has the headphone jack and the bottom has a Micro USB connector. That’s kind of odd seeing as we’re moving towards USB-C being the standard. There are speakers on the bottom as well.

In terms of key stats, here’s what the ZenFone Max Plus has under the hood:

  • Dual Sim Unlocked (one SIM supports 2/3/4G, the other SIM support 3G/2G voice)
  • Octa-core 1.5Ghz Processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB of storage (expandable up to 2TB via a MicroSD slot)
  • 8MP front camera
  • Dual rear camera with 16MP and 8MP Wide-Angle
  • Android 7.0
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11b/g/n WiFi

What’s cool about this setup is that unlike a lot of phones with dual SIM slots, this one has two slots for nano SIMs, and a separate slot for storage. That way you can fully maximize the phone’s capabilities. From a performance standpoint, it was okay. I was able to run games on it with the graphics settings cranked down a bit. But if you’re expecting Galaxy S9 or iPhone X levels of performance, you won’t get it here. Ditto for the fact that this only supports 802.11b/g/n WiFi in an age when 802.11ac is the standard. But for most people that this phone will be targeting, all of that is not going to be a problem.

The real star of the show is the camera setup. It has a dual camera setup in the rear that’s capable of 16-megapixel camera for regular shots and an 8-megapixel camera for wide-angle stills. My test shots on the trails of Rouge Park showed that it was a capable setup that worked well in a variety of lighting conditions. You can right click on any of the photos to enlarge:

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On top of that, you get a panoramic mode (click to enlarge):

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On top of that, it does a portrait mode as well as a “beauty mode” that makes your selfies look better. There’s also a 64MP mode that uses software to increase the detail of any photo taken in that mode. Shuttle lag was almost non-existent and autofocus was instant. You can run it in auto mode or take total control using the “Pro” mode.

Now when it came to videos, the ZenFone Max Plus does HD videos as evidenced by the video below:

You’ll note that the video shows that the ZenFone Max Plus was having issues with autofocus. Other than that, the video was good. The audio was clear as well as evidenced by the honking geese. But a software update to fix the autofocus issue would be welcome.

In terms of battery life, the phone was able to last a day and a half of moderate use on my part. But it does charge quickly.  It gets from zero to 20 percent within 30 minutes, while an hour of charging will get you 47 percent. A full charge takes more than two hours.

So what’s the bottom line? While not perfect, the Zenfone Max Plus from Asus does more than enough right that it merits strong consideration from you if you’re looking for a phone in  the budget end of the market. In fact considering that it has features like an 18:9 display which a lot of flagship phones don’t have, it might even be a choice for someone who’s looking upmarket. It’s another strong effort from Asus who seems to be constantly putting out phones that are going to attract attention in the marketplace.

 

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