ASUS Zenfone Max M1 hands-on

To be hailed the “battery king” forces one to fill in royally great shoes. But that’s what’s ASUS has put its new premium budget smartphone, the ASUS Zenfone Max M1, a sub-P9,000 beast that’s beefed with a 4,000mAh battery.

Does it live up to its hype? We took ASUS’ new phone for a quick spin and laid out our thoughts in the hands-on first impression post as follows.

Design

Few will turn heads at the design of the ASUS Zenfone Max M1. You won’t be at fault if you thought this was yet another iPhone clone, what with the pronounced antenna bands at its top and bottom as well as the vertical dual camera setup.

ASUS Zenfone Max M1 Hands-on: A rightful battery king?

The ASUS Zenfone sports an unassuming design. // Photo: Tech Rejects/Armando Dela Cruz

I personally don’t mind. I’ve always looked to ASUS for function, not fashion. But seeing this design on a Max, the company’s line of rugged, less design-savvy phones, it leaves me with the takeaway that ASUS, for the most part, is listening. They’re making smart moves on which bandwagons to jump on, chiefly the 18:9 screen ratio and the spot-on placement of the fingerprint sensor.

Specifications

ASUS Zenfone Max M1 Hands-on: A rightful battery king?

The Zenfone Max M1 boasts pretty decent internals. // Photo: Tech Rejects/Armando Dela Cruz

We don’t want to bore you with spec-talk, but for a phone sold at its price, the Max M1 is packed with some pretty noteworthy features. For starters, it ships with Android 8.0 out of the box, with a thin coat of ZenUI on top. This means a non-bloated, mostly smooth Android experience, which is always good in our book. It’s also powered by a reliable processor, decent memory-plus-storage combo, and sports a very good-looking display. This makes the Max M1, in short, a pretty sensible choice should you need a budget smartphone with great capabilities.

Full disclosure: I tried playing PUBG Mobile on this, and surprisingly, the game was playable at Low-Resolution settings.

Check out the spec sheet below; it’s a pretty promising list, and per our brief time with the phone (as of this writing), the experience checks out.

ASUS Zenfone Max M1 Specs
Operating System Android 8.0 Oreo
Display 5.5-inch Full HD+ (2160 x 1080) IPS
18:9 aspect ratio
2.5D arc glass panel
Bluelight filter
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
64-bit octa-core CPU (8 x Kryo 260 cores)
Adreno 509 GPU
14nm FinFET technology
RAM RAM 3GB LPDDR3
Storage 32 GB
Supports microSD card up to 2TB
Support Apps to SD card
Google Drive: 100GB free space (1 year)
Front Camera 13MP Camera, F2.2 aperture 85˚ wide-viewing angle
LED flash
Fix Focus
Rear Camera Dual Cameras (8MP Camera, F2.0 aperture / 13MP Camera)
120˚ wide-viewing angle
Auto Focus
0.03-second laser auto-focus
LED flash
Instant cameras switching
Battery 4000mAh Lithium (non-removable)
Dimensions 147.3 x 70.9 x 8.7 mm
Weight 150 g
Colors Metallic finish: Galaxy Black/Sunlight Gold/Ruby Red

Hardware

Hardware is a valid concern for phones at this price point. Luckily, the ASUS Zenfone Max M1 delivers with a—mostly—satisfying experience on the hardware front. At 5.5″, it’s pretty comfortable to hold and use over long periods of time. It’s also not too heavy, considering the internals ASUS has stuffed in here.

ASUS Zenfone Max M1 Hands-on: A rightful battery king?

Sadly, for a “battery king”, it doesn’t support USB Type-C. // Photo: Tech Rejects/Armando Dela Cruz

Our unit, which comes with a metallic finish and Galaxy Black color, at first glance, looks great, certainly above and beyond its price point. The finish is lovely but greatly prone to fingerprint smudges. It’s not that big a deal, but if you’re someone who’s phased by such things, you’d be happy to know that ASUS threw in a clear silicone case in the box.

But my primary quibble is with ASUS’ choice of port. Instead of going with a newer, much-faster USB type-C, the Max M1 sports a microUSB port. An odd choice, especially for a phone poised as the “battery king”.

Cameras

The ASUS Zenfone Max M1 is equipped with decent camera systems on both its front and rear. We’ve taken a few pictures with it, and they’re all, sadly, pretty underwhelming. That’s code for “not bad, but not great either”. But for people who are not super particular about taking pictures, the cameras on the Max M1 should serve well.

ASUS Zenfone Max M1 Hands-on: A rightful battery king?

The ASUS Zenfone Max M1’s cameras do not produce the best photos, but they’re packed with fun and playful features. // Photo: Tech Rejects/Armando Dela Cruz

What’s more, the Camera App brings with it a host of fun, playful features. Such is the wide-angle feature, which allows users to quickly switch between wide-angle to standard modes. The wide-angle feature yields some pretty stunning results too.

Battery

Battery life is perhaps the most crucial aspect of the Max M1. The main takeaway here is the same for every phone marketed as incredibly battery-efficient. It’s not like that their marketing claims are false, it’s just not reflective of real-world usage.

For us, we’ve received the unit brand-new at 60% battery. I did all my daily activities on the phone, which was mainly emails, social media, multimedia streaming, and some mild gaming. The battery, two days later, has yet to exhaust as I type this hands-on first impressions post. It currently sits at 6%.

Far from the 41-day standby time that ASUS promises, but we’ll take it. The 4,000 mAh here was spent well.

ASUS Zenfone Max M1 Hands-on: A rightful battery king?

The Zenfone Max M1 isn’t exactly rightful for the title “battery king”, but it’s pretty close. // Photo: Tech Rejects/Armando Dela Cruz

Conclusion

Is the ASUS Zenfone Max M1 deserving of its title? Short answer: I don’t think so.

But if you’re to take away anything from this post, don’t let it be that. Let it be that the ASUS Zenfone Max M1 is a great, promising budget smartphone that will no doubt be a hit for a lot of users. It’s robust, considerably fashionable, and—best of all!—affordable.

The ASUS Zenfone Max M1 is now available in the Philippines at ASUS concept stores, kiosks, and authorized reseller stores. It retails for Php 8,995.

If you’re interested in getting it, ASUS has come up with a list of stores where you can get it.