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Asus Zenfone Max Pro (M2) First Look: Up-To-Date Upgrade


Asus has officially taken the wraps off their latest midrange smartphone. The immediate successor to the eight-month-old ZenFone Max Pro (M1) builds on what the first phone has firmly established, bringing in timely upgrades to the device that many loved for its pure stock Android experience, big long-lasting battery and bang-for-your-buck price.

A question that will inevitably swim into the minds of many is the differences the Zenfone Max Pro (M2) brings to the table. Asus has made a commendable effort with the Zenfone Max Pro (M1), and the hurried approach for the introduction of a successor less than a year on certainly raises some eyebrows. Here’s our first look at the Zenfone Max Pro (M2) and how it stacks up against its predecessor, which is still relatively fresh in everyone’s minds.

For all the great features that the Zenfone Max Pro (M1) offers, I think we can all agree that its design isn’t exactly one of them. The Zenfone Max Pro (M2) primarily addresses that. Sleek, shiny glass has mostly replaced the metal chassis of the first phone. While the merits of an all-glass versus all-metal phone are still up for debate for each having their supporters, the new glass look undeniably makes for a much more attractive and sexy device, one that does not look out of place while we are at the tail end of 2018.

Beyond that, the Zenfone Max Pro (M2) pretty much stays faithful to the overall blueprint look of its predecessor. The dual-rear camera lens, the fingerprint sensor, the side buttons, the SIM slot, the bottom-firing speaker outlets, the micro USB charging port, the headphone jack and even the Asus logo stick to their original positions. Over at the front, a modestly-sized notch has take precedence. Love it or hate it, it does free up some screen estate to make for a higher screen-to-body ratio. The new phone has a significantly larger 6.3-inch display than the 6-incher found on its predecessor, and yet it sports a slightly smaller overall body size. The use of Corning Gorilla Glass 6 should make for a much more durable display. You may also immediately notice the more-rounded corners of the display and narrower chin.

The display on the Zenfone Max Pro (M2) also appears to look more alive and brighter, in which you can clearly make out in the shot below. It makes the Zenfone Max Pro (M1)’s display look rather dull in comparison.

The Zenfone Max Pro (M2) is noticeably better when it comes to the feel on hand. The more lightweight feel of the device is apparent when holding them both side by side. And contrary to popular belief, the glass body doesn’t make it any more slippery. The opposite is in fact true from my own observation. The glass material tends to stick to my hand better than the metal one on the Zenfone Max Pro (M1). These two factors, combined with its tinier size, make for a far more pleasant device to hold on hand.

As both devices runs on stock Android Oreo, you aren’t going to find much difference in the software side of things. They look identical which isn’t surprising and nobody is going to complain about it. The big difference comes in the processor and chipset used. The Zenfone Max Pro (M2) runs on the more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor [The Zenfone Max Pro (M1) on the Snapdragon 636] which Asus claim results in 11% increase in overall performance as well as 33% faster graphics performance. A simple test of launching apps simultaneously on both phones corroborates that observation. Apps do launch and load noticeably faster on the Zenfone Max Pro (M2), in some cases by a fraction of a second. 

The camera app is another area where there are some minor quality of life changes. Asus has simplified things here by not only moving certain mode icons around for easier access, but also grouped settings such ISO, exposure level and white balance into a proper “Pro mode” which makes sense. The Zenfone Max Pro (M2) also introduces AI Scene Detection, an increasingly standard-issue feature in most 2018 phones but an absentee on the Zenfone Max Pro (M1). Factor in the new Sony IMX486 sensor used on the Zenfone Max Pro (M2), the phone is touted to take better pictures, something that we shall see in the full review.

(Left) Zenfone Max Pro (M2) vs (Right) Zenfone Max Pro (M1) 

One of the Zenfone Max Pro (M1)’s most important feature – its 5,000mAh battery – is rightfully retained here. This means the Zenfone Max Pro (M2) should record a similar, if not even better, battery performance, something that we will also find out as we spend more using it.

The changes and upgrades in this version 2.0 are not groundbreaking stuffs of course. Asus has elected to fix little things here and there, all the while keeping intact the core DNA of what makes the original phone desirable in the first place. Perhaps it is not at all a surprise given the short gap in release between the two phones. But put all of that together and what Asus has here is a successor phone that looks better, feels better and showing noticeable signs of performing better.

The Asus Zenfone Max Pro (M2) is now available for pre-order at Lazada Malaysia for the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage option at RM859 and Shopee for the 6GB RAM + 64GB storage option at RM999.

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