We have been reviewing some of the ZenFone devices launched by Asus in the last few months and were pretty impressed with the performance of those devices. The Zenfone 3S Max is the latest addition to the line-up which is an enhancement over the already existing Max variant. Let us see if ZenFone 3S Max is worth the upgrade in our review.
The device features a full metal body and feels premium even though it is a mid-range phone. Measuring 73.7 x 149.5 x 8.85 mm, the device is a bit hefty weighing in at 175g given the massive 5,000 mAh battery. On the front we have a 5.2 inch HD LCD screen covered with a 2.5D glass and having a 75% screen-to-body ratio. Unlike the other ZenFone models, we have fingerprint sensor embedded within the home button on the front of the device. On the back, we have main camera along with the LED flash below which there is a Asus logo. To the right, we have volume rocker and the power/lock key which have good tactile feedback . There is a hybrid sim slot on the left, a microUSB port and speaker grilles at the bottom while there is a 3.5mm audio jack at the top.
ZenFone 3S Max has display with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels which certainly is a let down given the better displays of devices in the same range. But on the positive side, the HD resolution will result in a lower battery consumption. The colors look natural and the viewing angles are good too, even in bright sunlight. The text and images looks sharp but not as good as the other ZenFone models that have better display than the 3S Max.
ZenFone 3S Max is powered by the MediaTek 6750 Octa-Core processor which has four cores clocked at up to 1.5GHz and another four clocked at up to 1GHz, paired with the Mali-T860 MP2 GPU. There is 3GB of RAM and and 32GB internal memory that can be expanded up to 2TB. The device handles all the day to day tasks easily but sometimes stutters during multi-tasking or playing some graphic intensive games. Again Asus might have decided to go with the less powerful chipset in order to provide better battery performance than the competition.
The device runs on Zen UI skin which is based on Android Nougat 7.0. ZenFone 3S Max would certainly be the only mid-range phone running on Nougat right out of the box where as all the other phones in this segment are on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with promised updates which might take few months. Asus has done a great job by implementing the latest Android version but the user experience can not be rated as great due to the Zen UI and a not so powerful processor. We have already talked about the Zen UI in our previous reviews of ZenFone devices and it is no different in this device as well. The UI comes with a lot of customizations and interestingly there are lot of bloatware too which are all pre-installed in every ZenFone device.
ZenFone 3S Max has a 13MP, f/2.0 aperture PixelMaster camera on the back which does a decent job but could have been better given how good the camera sensors are on the other ZenFone models. The focusing is fast but not consistent (no laser focus here) especially in low-lit conditions. One thing consistent across ZenFone series is the number of modes provided in the camera application. The manual mode and the low light mode are very useful in clicking some really good pictures. The 8MP camera on the front produces decent pictures as well similar to the one on ZenFone 3 Max and Laser.
The battery life of Zenfone 3 Max was great and we obviously expected this device to be better given the larger battery. The phone did not disappoint with the 5,000 mAh battery as we were able to get through 2 full days with moderate to heavy usage which includes browsing, videos, music and some gaming too. There is a Super saving mode which smartly adjusts screen brightness and other functions, closes all network functions to make device have longer standby time. All phone, SMS, and alarm functions will still work well in this mode. The charging time is around 2 hours to get the battery to 100% but you would require to do that only once in 2 days most of the times. The device supports most of the bands and also 4G VoLTE for data calling.
Zenfone 3S Max certainly is a great mid-range device with stellar battery life and build quality but the pricing and timing would pit it against devices like Redmi Note 4 and Lenovo P2 which are in the same segment but provide a better all round experience. The camera and software loaded with many apps is where ZenFone 3S Max falls short and could have been a better device. It is time Asus takes note of the unnecessary bloatware apps which are not even used by consumers and try to provide a light UI making the experience smooth.