A lot of people buy phones in India that are priced between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000. No wonder it is a highly competitive category for smartphone manufacturers. Earlier this year, Asus decided to play the game with the biggies of this segment with the Zenfone Max Pro M1. The smartphone had almost everything consumers were demanding – capable hardware, a stock Android experience and an outlandishly big battery – all at a price that undercut the segment leaders by a huge margin. But then new phones came in, competition intensified. Now Asus is hoping to reassert its presence with the Zenfone Max Pro M2, a phone launched at a price of Rs 12,999.
Similar to the old phone, the new one makes big claims on paper. Asus has replaced the Snapdragon 636 chipset that we saw in the Pro M1 with slightly more powerful Snapdragon 660. This processor is paired with stock Android and oodles of RAM in the Pro M2, something that should set the heart of Android purists racing.
At the same time, the Pro M2 also gets a more rounded design. The base version of the Pro M2 with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage costs Rs 12,999 while the variant with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage sells for Rs 14,999. There’s another higher-end variant with 6GB RAM and 64GB storage that comes with a price tag of Rs 16,999.
The Max Pro M1 was one of the dullest looking phones in its category, especially when Realme, Honor and Nokia all started coming out with phones that had glossy bodies and glass covers. Asus now joins the trend. The Max Pro M2 comes with a super glossy rear panel. The back of the phone tries to imitate the more premium Zenfone 5z, with a vertically stacked dual camera layout and LED flash positioned under the lenses in a clever fashion so as to resemble a triple camera setup. The fingerprint sensor stays in the usual and easy-to-reach centre position, with the Asus branding resting under it.
The glossy finish that you see on the Max Pro M2 is courtesy a highly polished polycarbonate — a fancy word for plastic — that’s designed to reflect light in several striking angles. Now, this may sound too gaudy. But in reality, it is not. The light reflects in a classy way – unlike the kaleidoscopic gradients that are becoming a norm on most Android phones. Unarguably, this is a phone that will draw attention when your friends see it. One niggle I have — and I have that with all phones that come with glossy finish — is that the phone is prone to show scratches and smudges. Chances are you will be keeping the Max Pro M2 in a case.
The phone has usual buttons and ports, including the 3.5mm headphone. Unlike some other phones in the market that now have USB-C port, this one comes with a micro USB port. I believe Asus should have gone for the USB-C port.
The front is rather conventional for a late 2018 smartphone – a large narrow bezel display with a notch on top and a noticeable chin at the bottom. What’s interesting is that the earpiece sits on the top edge and also houses a tiny notification LED – a useful feature that’s disappearing fast from phones. One key highlight here is the Gorilla Glass 6. In phones under Rs 15,000, you don’t get it. The latest Gorilla Glass is supposedly stronger than the widely used Gorilla Glass 3, so it’s nice to see it in the Max Pro M2.
I wish Asus could have done something about that thick chin of the phone. Honor has managed to minimise the bottom bezel on the similarly priced 8X cleverly. Nonetheless, the Max Pro M2 is a handsome smartphone and I will not mind flaunting; if flaunting is my thing.
With a notched display these days, phone manufacturers are putting 6-inch+ screens in a phone that has a regular size. In the Zenfone Max Pro M2 Asus puts a large 6.3-inch IPS LCD display, which has a FullHD+ resolution. Compared to the old Max Pro M1, the display on the new one is vastly improved.
The front is rather conventional for a late 2018 smartphone – a large narrow bezel display with a notch on top and a noticeable chin at the bottom
The screen can show more vibrant colours and clearly has more contrast. Brightness is sufficiently high too, and I was able to read emails or see my Facebook feed easily even in direct sunlight. Viewing angles are sufficiently wide. Weirdly, Asus doesn’t offer a software solution to hide the notch, but most fullscreen apps leave out the area around the notch by default.
The Max Pro series from Asus has always been about delivering high performance. The Max Pro M1 was a fine example. Asus wants to continue the trend with the Max Pro M2. Underneath the hood lies an octa-core Snapdragon 660 chipset paired with either 3GB, 4GB or 6GB of RAM. Consumers get to choose from either 32GB or 64GB of storage, with an option to expand it up to 2TB. Asus has been proudly boasting about a stock Android experience this time as well.
As good as it looks on paper, it also proves its mettle in the real world equally well. The stock Android interface is smooth and lag-free. Apps open faster while jumping between a couple of them isn’t a bother for the Max Pro M2. There’s a beauty in the way stock Android handles daily errands. The Snapdragon 660 may be a bit old but inside the Max Pro M2, it can easily handle titles such as PUBG MOBILE and Asphalt 9 with utmost smoothness when graphics settings on medium.
The only bit I don’t like about the phone is that it comes with the Android Oreo and not the latest Android 9 Pie. Ideally, Asus should have launched the phone with the Android 9 Pie. That said, the company has promised that the Max Pro M2 will be upgraded to the Android 9 Pie in January 2019.