Like its immediate predecessor the Zenfone 3 Max, the Asus Zenfone 4 Max Pro is a phone that prioritises battery life over other concerns though this time around they’ve added several enhancements with the most important being that it packs an even larger 5,000mAh battery. The clincher is that they have managed to do so with marginal tradeoffs in size and weight.
The Zenfone 4 Max Pro is actually slightly larger, thicker and just 6g heavier at 181g than the Zenfone 3 Max while boasting of significantly longer endurance time. The aesthetics remain broadly similar to the rest of the Zenfone series with rounded edges, a unibody aluminium casing and a subtle pair of chromed antenna bands running across the upper and bottom edges of the phone. The left side comes with a triple (dual SIM and microSD) card slot while the right sports a volume rocker and power button inset in a subtly machined recess in the side trim to guide your digits. The top sports a 3.5mm audio jack while the base of the phone comes with a micro USB port for charging and docking duties flanked by a pair of speaker grilles.
The front of the phone is the area of most contention. While it has extremely slim side bezels, the 5.5-inch display is a step backwards from its predecessor the Zenfone 3 Max as it comes only with HD resolution while its predecessor had a Full HD display. This odd retrograde step is presumably to extend the phone’s battery life even further but it is certainly an unusual design choice for a successor design. Plonked just above the 5.5-inch HD display is a 16-MP selfie camera with a dedicated LED flash and an F/2.0 aperture. The base of the display comes with a physical back and menu keys along with a non-clicky home button that also doubles as a fingerprint reader.
The rear of the phone is a smooth swath of burnished metal bar the two aforementioned antenna bands and – surprise – a dual rear camera array which consists of a primary rear 16-MP sensor with an F/2.0 aperture and a secondary 5-MP camera with an F/2.2 wide angle lens. Like many other dual camera setups, the rear camera primarily uses the first larger camera for most of the grunt work and defaults to the secondary wide angle camera for wide angle shots.
Build quality is otherwise sturdy and relatively fingerprint resistant and while it is a bit heavier than its predecessor, the added heft makes it more reassuring to hold. Of note is that they’ve added quite a few extra bits of kit to go with the phone including a bundled pair of earphones with additional ear buds, an OTG USB adaptor, the obligatory charger and USB cable and they even toss in a free transparent silicone casing too which goes quite aways towards justifying the RM100 price increase.
Performance and Camera
Under the hood, the Zenfone 4 Max Pro is an almost dead ringer for the Zenfone 3 Max. It has a similar Snapdragon 430 1.4GHz octacore processor as well as similar amounts of RAM and storage in the form of 3GB RAM and 32GB of expandable storage though as a consolation the Zenfone 4 Max Pro runs the latest Android Nougat 7.1.1 along with their Zen UI user interface that has been trimmed of quite a bit of bloatware.
There are still quite a bit of Asus centric apps lying around like their ZenTalk for customer support, a dedicated weather app, their WebStorage app and a Mobile Manager app to handle memory and storage clean-up but it’s a lot neater than before. There’s also a theme manager where you can swap the look of your backgrounds to something that suits your fancy more.
The drop in screen resolution is a bit of a downer, especially for prolific movie watchers but the commensurate increases in battery life from not having to push pixels on a 1080P display have given the Zenfone 4 Max Pro quite a bit more battery life from its predecessor. Fortunately, colours remain punchy and the screen is perfectly serviceable for day to day use and the odd YouTube video or two on the go. Legibility under sunlight is acceptable with an outdoor mode if you’re out under direct sunlight
The speaker is loud though unremarkable with flat sound staging and somewhat tinny bass. The lone mono speaker is also somewhat prone to getting blocked by your digits when held in landscape mode.
When put through its paces, the phone nearly matches its predecessor the Zenfone 3 Max in performance on account of a mostly similar hardware setup. In Antutu it scored 44,945 points. In terms of productivity, it scored 3,672 points in PCMark versus its predecessors 3,360 points. In 3D Mark Slingshot it ran at a lower 296 points which isn’t far from its predecessor which clocked in at 293 points. In GeekBench, the Zenfone 4 Max Pro scored a single core score of 661 and a multicore score of 2,504 which are modest increases from its predecessor. It’s perplexing as to why they did not at use a Snapdragon 625 processor seeing as it’s becoming the mainstay on the rest of their ZenFone 4 line; presumably this again boils to keeping costs down.
The modest clean-up in terms of bloatware offered some improvement in terms of getting about and the phone was relatively serviceable for daily use. Web browsing was, for the most part, smooth bar resource-intensive websites where it encountered a few seconds of lag, it offered relatively smooth video streaming and a generally pleasant experience puttering about Google Docs and the like. Gaming on Clash Royale and Asphalt 8 was a smooth affair on account of the lower resolution display. Pixel peepers will likely frown but the pragmatic choice of a 720P display on the Zenfone 4 Max Pro means that it still does the job and does so for a longer time. The phone likely won’t be in pole position anytime soon but it will get the job done.
The rear dual camera is the biggest upgrade on the Zenfone 4 Max Pro with a 16-MP camera and an additional secondary 5-MP camera riding shotgun for wide-angle shots. On top of the obligatory auto mode it has the ability to create short animated GIFs, a time lapse video mode, a panorama shot mode, a Super Resolution mode that stacks multiple shots together to create a single high resolution image, a Beauty mode to improve skintone and remove blemishes in live subjects and a Pro mode.
The Pro mode allows you to tweak ISO, exposure value and white balance. Unlike its predecessor, the Zenfone 4 Max Pro has significantly less settings and modes to tinker around with which may disappoint the more hands-on folk though on the bright side, pun notwithstanding, HDR mode is now set as an automatic feature by default in the UI rather than as a separate camera mode altogether. The front selfie camera has the biggest bump up with a 16-MP sensor with an F/2.0 aperture versus its predecessor’s 8-MP F/2.2 camera.
Performance on the rear camera is serviceable with the auto HDR mode helping to, for the most part, bring backlit shots as well as scenery and subjects in more challenging lighting conditions appear in a more presentable fashion. The phone eschews laser autofocus which appeared on the previous model so it occasionally struggles to focus on subjects. The lack of optical image stabilisation also means you will need a fairly steady hand to get good shots with this. Colours are alright with the primary rear camera though they seem somewhat washed out when you default to the wide angle camera in review plus there is some distortion around the edges.
Selfies are markedly better with the dedicated flash over its immediate predecessor and you can generally get pretty good self portraits shots with this though not to the level of its sibling Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro. For taking snaps for general social media use – food shots, remembering where you parked your car and maybe the odd wefie or two, the phone does a pretty good job but it’s not going to help win you any Pulitzer prizes anytime soon. Videos are capped at 1080p for both the front and the rear camera and are unexceptional, requiring a steady hand for judder free footage.
Price, Battery and Conclusion
The Zenfone 4 Max Pro has a 5,000mAh battery that’s large enough to power it through a good three or four days of light to moderate use which is plenty by current standards. Even with us plugging away at it with a fairly heavy workload, it still had enough endurance to last short of two days before needing a charge. It does have another trick up its sleeve though as it supports reverse charging so you effectively have a powerbank that can make calls, browse Facebook and play Candy Crush. Its exceptional endurance also means it can see use as a portable hotspot if you’re overseas and toting a ton of connected hardware.
The official price tag of RM1,099 does raise eyebrows as it’s RM100 more than its predecessor was in its heyday which was last year, mind with marginal improvements in hardware . Granted, the phone does have an upgraded front camera and a rear dual camera array along with a larger battery battery but the downgrading of its display while retaining an otherwise similar processor and storage capacity to the previous model is truly a perplexing design decision. The provision of the free casing, the OTG charger and headphones goes some way to helping justify the price tag but that downgrade to a 720P display on the Zenfone 4 Max Pro may be a deal breaker for some. If you’re currently looking for a phone that will keep on going when even the largest, most powerful flagships have given up the ghost, you’ll find this worth your while though if you’re looking for a phone with better performance, you may need to set your sights on another phone.
What We Liked Immense battery life, good build quality, front facing LED flash, pretty good selfies
What We Didn’t Average specifications, fiddly rear camera, middling 720P display
We Say The Zenfone 4 Max Pro delivers amazing battery life though it’s otherwise middling specifications make it a tough sell in a market replete with keener priced and better specced competitors.
Display 5.5-inch, 1,280 x 720 pixels, 267ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor 1.4GHz
Memory 3GB RAM/ 32GB storage
Camera 16-MP w/ F/2.0 and 5-MP w/ F/2.2 wide angle lens and LED flash (rear) / 16-MP w/ F/2.0 and LED flash (front)
Size/Weight 154 x 76.9 x 8.9 mm /181g
* Review unit courtesy of Asus Malaysia