Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review: Is It Worth Rs.18,000?

               Back in the day after entering India, Asus had focused on bringing budget friendly devices to compliment the mid range Market. It was primarily the reason why the company progressed here in the country since they offered value for money. Ever since that, The Company has been able to build their empire in both the offline and online market. Recently they announced their Zenfone 3 series which was a complete surprise & separation from their current set of devices regarding pricing. The Company is trying to compete with Samsung and Apple if you talk about the aggressive pricing. We have already reviewed the Asus Zenfone 3(4GB Model), So have a look on the same. However remember the Max series from the Zenfone lineup? The device which comes with a humongous battery life. The "Max" tag has been one of their best attempts of bringing a device having all day battery life and so far they've done a great job. Not a long ago, They launched the Asus Zenfone Max(Snapdragon 615 Variant) which is a beast having a 5000mAh battery on-board. So continuing that path, Recently Asus Zenfone 3 Max was showcased from their newer Zenfone 3 series. The new Zenfone 3 Max comes in two different variants, Although we have the higher end model which is the Asus Zenfone 3 ZC553KL Variant. Comparing it with the older Zenfone Max, Is the 4100mAh battery and a toned down processor any better? Let's find out in my in-depth Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review: Is It Worth 18,000?

Design & Built:                 
                 If you've read my Zenfone 3 Review, You already know how premium the device feels, But again the glossy back kills that appeal. Thankfully Asus hasn't installed a glass back here on the new Zenfone 3 Max; the company has gone ahead with the conventional aluminum body design. Speaking of which the 2.5D Curved glass on the front and the aluminum metal body throughout the surface feels like a solid combo. The device has subtle curves along the edges, though you would find a somewhat sharp edge on the front glass panel, which connects the metal body via some plastic outline. The Zenfone 3 Max gives a premium appeal in hand, and one will have an uninterrupted time with the device if his/her usage period is on the long side.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review

                On the back there are antenna line cutouts, whereas the top and bottom part of the back panel has been made of plastic, Rest is made up of aluminum metal. The plastic part has been kept for a better signal reception, While it has been colored appropriately to match the metal tone. Remember the fingerprint magnet appeal of the Zenfone 3? Thankfully this design eliminates that, due to which there are hardly any smudges left on the back of the Zenfone 3 Max. The lock & Volume keys are perfectly clicky and tactile. Whereas there's a little weight to this device and you can feel it in when held, So better buy a case for protection from accidental drops. Though if you compare the Fingerprint Scanner from the Zenfone 3 & 3 Max, The scanner is in square format, It might not be as fast as Zenfone 3, but at least they've got the placement right. Also, There's no Camera sensor bump due to which the device lies properly on a flat surface. So in the design department, This has to be one of the best-designed smartphones by Asus, I mean it.

Fun Fact: Many asked me whether I had an iPhone/Pixel when I used it in public. I guess since the design seems appropriately same, It can trick few.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review

                I also wish that the speaker grills were situated at the back, As during gaming sessions or watching a video in landscape mode, The speakers get easily covered which results in muffled audio. It would've been better if they had provided stereo speakers with speaker grills on both the sides of the Micro-USB port. Also speaking of which the audio output is quite tiny from the incorporated speaker. Though Asus has provided an outdoor mode within the Software, So that the output gets doubled. But I wouldn't recommend anyone doing this as the output gets distorted on a high level. Whereas speaking about the Design department, it's available in Titanium Gray, Glacier Silver & Sand Gold colors.

Display & Visual Appeal:
 Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review
                 The Zenfone 3 Max has a 5.5inch Full HD IPS LCD Panel having a 72.3% screen to body ratio. Whereas the display panel gives out 401ppi. When it comes to the real world, The Display is real as it gets. It's sharp, Vivid, Slightly toned down but that's acceptable as long as saturation gets observed. In the bright sunlight it's visible, but can sometimes be a hit or miss, when selected the auto brightness mode as it's sometimes slow to respond. But as always you can tune up the brightness. Viewing angles are great and especially that subtle 2.5D curve helps in merging that look. Whereas when it comes to the protection, Asus has thrown a gorilla glass panel on the top. While it also comes with an oleophobic coating which helps in reducing the scratches. While below that gorgeous display is the capacitive navigation keys, which as always aren't backlit. I don't know why Asus does not incorporate backlit keys, Though if you have a hard time at night only turn on the one-handed mode, which lets you have on screen buttons for simplified navigation.

Processing Power & Statistics:
                So the new Zenfone 3 Max comprises of the Snapdragon 430 Octacore Chipset clocked at 1.4Ghz coupled with 3GB RAM & Adreno 505 GPU. If you talk about general day to day tasks, It performs like a charm. Now don't get the 3GB RAM trick you with the fact, that performance would be a breeze here, Because it isn't. The moment you start loading apps in the background or the longer any game is kept in the memory when minimized, the device start to lag a bit. By the way, this doesn't mean in anyway, that it stutters or any force closes get observed. The ZenUI has improved a lot over the past couple of years; Now it feels more snappy & you won't find any issues having the walkthrough over the interface.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review

                 If you're a heavy gamer, Then you might be disappointed as Zenfone 3 Max suffers from frame drops when you play graphic intensive games. I feel that the processor is working pretty hardcore and handles most things like a charm, But Games is certainly not a part of it. That is why when you play games for more than odd 30mins you can find the device heating up considerably, and this might piss few up. Though the heating tends to be on the medium side, You won't require keeping the smartphone aside for few moments or so. But don't let this change a thought in your mind that it's a bad device, As it isn't. I agree the fact that here a slightly underpowered processor is implemented by the company. So it can be a decent option for an average user who is a casual gamer regarding processing power. Also, I ran few benchmarks on this device and here are the results of the same with different apps:
  • Antutu: 24097.
  • Geekbench 4.0: 643/1993 (Single/Multicore)

Camera Performance & Review:
                Speaking of the numbers, the Asus Zenfone 3 Max has a 16MP PixelMaster 3.0 Rear camera with F/2.0 aperture, PDAF, Laser Autofocus 2.0 with TriTech mechanism & lastly the dual LED flash. If you switch the sides, On the front it has an 8MP Camera with F/2.2 aperture. The Rear Camera can shoot 1080p videos at 30fps, Whereas so does the front camera but at 10fps at maximum which is disappointing. Since we're through with the numbers, let's talk about its real world performance.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Camera review
                The rear camera does a decent amount of job in producing sharp images which are noise free but in bright daylight. Sometimes it over exposes the subject, but that can get easily fixed by the manual mode. Focusing and snapping speeds were impressive again in broad daylight. The shots produced by the rear sensor are good enough to suit your social media requirements. Though when the light dims, There's an entirely different story to it. Noise gets observed, and photos are at times underexposed, But that can be somewhat balanced by the inbuilt flash though get ready for some over saturated shots. Since most of these are just Software issues, Asus may provide an update in future to patch these minor flaws. Though most of the times, the Rear Camera manages to get a fabulous shot if you've got the patience to do so, I'm talking about the Manual Mode on this phone. I don't know what kind of wizardry Asus has done with this mode; The 16MP sensor manages to click excellent shots if you're familiar gambling with the ISO, Shutter speed, White balance & Manual Focus. OIS is absent, But EIS does a decent job of stabilizing a shot.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL camera review

              Though if you switch to the front 8MP unit, It's not a great camera but rather satisfiable. Does the job of taking selfies and there's nothing more than that to talk about it. Since if you start taking photos during night, You will observe a considerable amount of grain. But again it's a good camera if you're using it in daylight. The inbuilt Camera app is the best camera application I've ever used. It has plenty of modes available within the app, Although most would be satisfied with the Auto, HDR and Manual Mode itself. Hence despite all of that the Camera will be an excellent companion to your day to day activity, But don't have high Thoughts.

Overall Software & User Interface:
              The Zenfone 3 Max runs on the Asus ZenUI 3.0 built on top of Android 6.0.1, While over the past couple of years, Asus has refined the UI a lot and now it feels fast and snappy though the ever popular Bold and Big icons are always there. The launcher has been updated with performance tweaks, and due to the themes integration, you can apply virtually thousands of theme from the theme store. But I feel that is unnecessary as I hardly switched my theme, But hey that's just me. Then there's the Mobile Manager App and the Game Genie, Two new features which have a lot of interesting things going on, system wide. While as always you will find bloatware, but that's rather on the weak side with ZenUI 3.0 update. Though the ZenUI reserves about 8GB for these things, which to be honest isn't that great. I mean sure many of these apps come in handy during times, But it would've been great if an option to uninstall was provided, As you get left with the 23-24GB of storage. Though additionally Asus provides about 2 Years of 100GB storage on Google Drive and 5GB on their webstorage ecosystem. Whereas expansion is available via memory card slot upto 256GB.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review

                The mobile manager is always running 24/7 in the background, and it keeps your system running smooth by keeping ample amount of RAM properly distributed. But the fact that, it's always on the notification bar bugs me a lot. Same goes for the Game Genie app, As soon as you open up any game, The Floating toolbar opens up, However, if you love to keep your scores and get tutorials in an organized way, Game Genie is the way to go. Apart from that several other apps such as Audio Wizard and Functions such as Zenmotion and Gestures can come in handy on a long run, Since it's a big device.

Battery Life & Reception:
              Battery life, The USP of this device. The inbuilt 4100mAh battery is capable of providing a better backup running up to a full day and a half when you're moderate with usage. Though if you're a heavy user, it can last you up to 8-10hrs which is pretty nice for a device. I got about 6hrs of the screen on time with the new Zenfone 3 Max which included Gameplay, Extensive SoundCloud usage, Youtube & Writing notes, while during that the device was connected to WiFi and 4G LTE and I was still left with about 15% battery left. Sure there's a decrease in the number regarding capacity from the previous generation which is 5000mAh, But I won't bother that I'm getting an overall better-designed smartphone.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review

               Whereas speaking on the reception part, It supports 2G/3G/4G on all networks but lacks VoLTE. That can stand as a major issue due to the Reliance JIO's current market dominance in India. That been said the handset is VoLTE supported and the company has confirmed with me that VoLTE update will be available in early 2017. While my calling experience on this device was Average and sometimes worst. I had network issues on this device and many times the call got dropped automatically. Though this issue has got resolved with the recent update, I received on 19th December 2016. But I can't wait to see VoLTE running on this device as using Jio4GVoice app is just overall pathetic.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC55KL Review - Final Verdict:

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review

               If you only consider the Zenfone Max department up until now, This is certainly a welcome upgrade from the previous generation. The Zenfone 3 Max ZC55KL variant is a great device when it comes to battery life, design appeal, and overall ergonomics. But that doesn't mean that it's a great performer when it comes to the slightly underpowered Snapdragon 430 Chipset. If it had a Series 6 processor from Qualcomm then I wouldn't mind paying that price for which it gets currently sold. Speaking of which, The Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC55KL variant is now available to buy on Flipkart. So, in a nutshell, it's pocket friendly, Physically oriented and a road warrior's choice, But looking at the chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi selling Redmi 3S Prime at almost half the price with similar configuration might deviate many of us. If you're looking for buying it, links are as follows:

Flipkart: 2GB Variant.
Amazon: Silver Variant.

  • Great Design.
  •  Decent Battery Life.
  • Slightly Underpowered Processor.
  • Heats with extensive gaming.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Review Video:

Also read:  Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL Review: If It Wasn't For The Glass Back
By: Pratik Patil.

Editor-in-Chief and Founder. A curious soul who strives to make a difference in the world and make the most of life.

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