Tiwanese company Asus makes a lot of ZenFones, so much so that most of us have even lost count now. It is also known to update its smartphone line-up from time to time. The company is expected to launch its fresh line-up of next-generation flagship ZenFones -- the ZenFone 3s -- on May 30, 2016 ahead of Computex 2016.
At least three new ZenFone 3s are coming. A week before that happens, the company has launched one more ZenFone. This one is an updated version of the company's ZenFone Max, a Max 2.0 if you will.
The ZenFone Max was pretty good, for the price that it came for. The ZenFone Max 2.0 seems even better, at least on paper. This is because it works to correct its shortcomings, while keeping other things well intact. It doesn't try to do too many things and keeps things simple. You can say it's a new wine in an old bottle. But, why fix something which isn't broken?
The new ZenFone Max retains the original design scheme -- and build materials -- of the outgoing ZenFone Max. They are both one and the same. Not even a touch different. This means, it's still not exactly what you call ground-breaking. It's a regular ZenFone built entirely of plastic.
The phone consists of two pieces of plastic held together by a faux pas metal frame. Essentially, it's all plastic but the carefully disguised copper frame adds some visual variety to an otherwise bland and boring smartphone. It will be available in three colour options: Black, Orange and Blue.
The back panel -- which is removable -- comes with the look and feel of faux pas embossed leather, which in reality is plastic with matte finish. Two different SIM card slots and a microSD card slot lie underneath the rear cover. The battery is non-removable.
The new ZenFone Max does not excite, especially when you look at rival phones like the Xiomi Redmi Note 3, the LeEco 1S and even the Coolpad Note 3. You absolutely have to be a fan of the typical Asus ZenFone design in order to appreciate its 'utilitarian' beauty.
The ZenFone Max comes with a 5.5-inch HD IPS display with a 1280 x 720 pixels resolution, much like the previous version. Brightness levels still leave a lot to be desired. Colours have an odd warm tinge and viewing angles are average at best.
The Max makes notable changes in terms of core hardware-specs. While the previous Max was rocking a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, the new max is powered by a 1.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor and has 32GB (as opposed to 16GB in the older version) of internal memory which is further expandable by up to 64GB via microSD card slot.
The company is offering the new ZenFone Max in 2GB RAM and 3GB RAM variants. While the 2GB RAM variant has been priced at Rs 9,999 the 3GB RAM version costs Rs 12,999.
The new Max runs Google's latest and greatest mobile operating system which is Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with the company's ZenUI on top. 4G LTE connectivity is supported. The user interface is still heavy bloated, but receives key Android Marshmallow takeaways like Now on Tap, improved memory management and more.
The new Max sports a 13-megapixel camera on the rear with f/2.0-aperture, Laser Auto Focus and a dual-LED flash along with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, much like the older Max. And just like the previous model, the new Max also offers only average camera output. The rear sensor is a mixed bag when it comes to focusing although shutter speed is pretty good. More on it in our full review.
The main USP of the ZenFone Max still remains to be its massive 5,000mAh battery which supports reverse charging. This means, the phone can be used to charge other phones (and gadgets) through an OTG cable which is supplied in the box. Sadly, the Max still doesn't support fast-charging. The original Max had fantastic battery life. The new one is carrying the same capacity battery but a more potent processor. This means, battery life should technically be different as opposed to the previous Max.
Asus is claiming up to "914.4 hours of standby time or 37.5 hours of 3G talk time or 32.5 hours of Wi-Fi web browsing or 72.9 hours of music playback or 22.6 hours of video playback." It would be interesting to see if the Max can stay true to these tall claims.
The ZenFone Max 2.0 is a definite improvement over the outgoing model. It has a better processor and Android Marshmallow. The new Max is definitely worth a second look if you're looking for an affordable phone with a big battery. For everything else, there are certainly better options. Watch this space for our full review of the new Asus ZenFone Max, in the days to come.