Lately, Asus has been quite particular in launching several devices hitting the mid-range market specifically in India. Though that thought process comes up with different tags such as Laser, Max, Selfie. That being said there's not something new which can be a called a refresh at least here in 2017. However, that statement might be pulled out as the company recently announced the new "Asus Zenfone 3S Max." The crown jewel of this device is that it comes with Android Nougat pre-installed, which makes a striking marketing appeal in their alley. Having said that the "Zenfone Max" series has been quite popular among the users in the country due to the massive battery capacities. We have reviewed the late Zenfone Max(Snapdragon 615) & new Zenfone 3 Max earlier, where the battery labels have successfully classified our thoughts in a good sense. So does the new Asus Zenfone 3S Max signifies itself from its predecessors; when it comes to a quarterly refresh cycle as of 2017? Let's find that out through our in-depth Asus Zenfone 3S Max ZC521TL Review.
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max ZC521TL Review - Think Twice.
Design & Built:
Well just like the previous Asus Zenfone 3 Max(ZC553KL) design, the new Zenfone 3S Max(ZC521TL) follows a similar footprint as the material used here is almost the same. Sure the unibody design looks good, but at the same time, it is a dust magnet. Other than that the device feels compact, while a little heavy considering the 5000mAh battery which is thoughtful. A mid-range device cannot look good and be lightweight at the same time, fair enough right? Otherwise, the company would need to chase through the pricing. I like how it is designed and built, but your taste may vary. Though the most prominent change the company has made from the past is the introduction of a physical home button on the front, which doubles as a fingerprint reader. Speaking of the camera, there isn't any unnecessary camera sensor bump, so don't worry about the wobbling after laying the device on any flat surface. On the front, you would be greeted with On-Screen buttons, which sort of provide haptic feedback. So finally this review will not include that there are no backlit buttons on this device, haha.
On the flipside, the front glass panel is gorgeous; I am not speaking about the display. Since 720p HD display isn't good at least in 2017, come on Asus. The glass panel on the front curves on the edges giving it the look and feel of a 2.5D panel. Speaking of which the network antennas have been situated around the edges, that is why you will not notice any ugly borders on the back. Rest of the I/O ports are right, whereas the only disappointment is the hybrid sim slot. The Asus Zenfone 3S Max is available in two different colors - Black and Sand Gold(True to its name). On a side note, the earphones that come inside the box are quite reliable.
Processing Power & Statistics:
If we speak about the Zenfone Max generation considering the Zenfone 3 Max to 3S Max, there is a drop in performance. However, that trade off is reflected respectively if we compare the pricing of these two devices. The Zenfone 3S Max runs on a 1.5 GHz Mediatek MT6750 processor which gets backed by 3GB RAM. So the performance was decent when it came to day to day use, though when it came to gaming it struggled a bit and a considerate amount of heating got observed. That been said, it is a VoLTE device and would efficiently handle Reliance JIO's network. The Zenfone 3S Max comes with 32GB of internal storage and expansion is available up to 2TB. Though technically speaking the performance of this device did not quite impressed me, and In my opinion, the transition from Zenfone 3 Max to 3S Max was not up to the mark.
Camera Performance and Review:
So the Zenfone 3S Max has a 13MP Camera on the rear and an 8MP sensor on the front. Speaking of which both cameras are average, there's nothing spectacular to talk about other than the manual mode. There's also a Yellow/Blue tint which I have observed while you fire up the rear camera, though it was an issue with my unit; but when I received a replacement, everything was good. The dual tone LED flash is also present on the back, which does its usual job. The manual mode in any smartphones produced by Asus is a blessing given to users. It just amps up any conventional camera to it's greatest possible extent, considering that you have tweaked the right settings. Though the photos were decent enough, but their quality kept my inner self, hesitating. Focusing was not on point, and a fair amount of noise gets observed during low lighting conditions. I feel that the company has taken the cost cutting point regarding camera performance quite seriously. It can satisfy your social media needs, but other than that don't expect anything else.
Overall Software & User Interface:
Asus Zenfone 3S Max is the company's first device to run Android Nougat 7.0 having the look and feel of the same old Zen UI. Speaking of which it runs on ZenUI 3.0 with all the glorious bloatware, it seems as if Asus is trying to compete with Google regarding providing core apps. Though the user experience gets a boost due to a snappy interface and overall performance, even the top tiers smartphones by Asus have not received this update yet. The Mobile Manager & Game Genie app integration throughout the apps might come in handy, but they seem annoying at some point of time. The only thing which I felt using was the Zenfit app from the amount of bloatware thrown on the device, it was a decent experience using this app. That is the reason why whenever I setup any new Asus device, I first download, Google now launcher & Gboard for a much cleaner experience. Since I feel Asus is trying to provide a lot here on this device, but that approach has let them forget to provide those resources on a clean basis due which you see a lot of junk. The main reason for this is competition.
The signature gestures made their way here, whereas the fingerprint scanner provided almost 70% accuracy. Though the overall experience felt snappy, it felt on the undercooked side. I said that because there's one thing which makes this device go nuts and unstable, it will be uploaded shortly on our youtube channel. Asus you better update the software on this device, it is mighty unpredictable.
Battery Life & Reception:
Even though the software was not stable, the battery life on this device was quite good. I was getting almost a day of battery backup with heavy usage. Whereas nearly one and a half day of battery backup on moderate usage. Though if you compare the same on the previous Zenfone 3 Max, surprisingly I was getting a similar battery backup. So honestly speaking it is quite hard to answer; whether why did Asus went ahead and announced this device just for the sake of the "5000 mAh" battery tag.
ASUS Zenfone 3 Max ZC521TL Review: Final Verdict
I have never had mixed conclusions about a device while writing a review or judging my last opinion, because using the Zenfone 3S Max felt like a gamble due to the presence of strong competitors in the budget segment. The Asus Zenfone 3S Max retails for Rs. 14,999 INR, well such a pricing seems arrogant after using the device for nearly a month. If you are spending Rs.15000 from your pocket, you should better join the Moto G5 Plus, Honor 6X or even the Redmi Note 4 league. However, if Asus is your way to go, the original "Zenfone 3 Max" is already a beautiful device though you have to consider extending your budget a bit. So that is all we had to say about our Asus Zenfone 3S Max ZC521TL Review, make sure you are subscribed to our Youtube channel to be the first to know when its video review drops.
Links to buy:
ASUS Zenfone 3 Max ZC521TL Review Video:
Also Read: Asus Zenfone 3 Laser Review.