Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 Hands-On: Refining the Formula
December 12, 2018 Andrew Cheng

The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 offered a lot of value for the money, and it’s one of the most interesting smartphones you can get for under RM1,000 when it was released earlier this year. Now, we have its successor, the ZenFone Max Pro M2.

Sporting a faster processor, a more elegant design, and the same 5,000mAh battery capacity, the Max Pro M2 brings quite a number of upgrades while retaining an affordable price tag. But does it improve upon the M1’s weaknesses? Let’s find out.

The most noticeable difference between the Max Pro M2 and its predecessor is the phone’s sleeker-looking design. Now sporting a glossy frame and reflective back panel, it looks a lot more modern than the M1. The only downside to this, of course, is the fact that the M2 now has a polycarbonate construction instead of metal.

However, although metal sounds more appealing than polycarbonate, I definitely prefer the Max Pro M2’s design language. Despite its “cheaper” build material, it still feels plenty solid in my hands.

But if you’re not a fan of notches, you won’t like the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s new display. Now sporting a 6.26-inch 2280 x 1080 IPS display, the M2 has a…reasonably small notch at the top of the screen. The bottom bezel, on the other hand, is quite sizeable.

Looking beyond the notch and bottom bezel, the Max Pro M2’s display looks pretty good. It’s a bright panel with punchy colours, and it looks sharp enough despite its 1080p resolution. Battery life is one of the main appeals of the M2, so the 1080p resolution will help with the phone’s battery life.

Featuring a large 5,000mAh battery, I’m positive the Max Pro M2 can return excellent battery life – I’m pleasantly surprised at how light the phone is too. Tipping the scales at only 175g, it’s even lighter than its predecessor.

Besides that, you should see a boost in performance with the Max Pro M2 as well. Compared to its predecessor’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 chipset, the Snapdragon 660 SoC powering the M2 is more capable with a higher clock speed and better GPU. I haven’t been able to run any mobile games on the M2, but based on my previous experience with other Snapdragon 660 devices, it should be quite enjoyable to game on.

What about the software experience of the Max Pro M2? Well, it’s decent. Running on a very stock version of Android, the phone feels fast and zippy with minimal bloatware. These are good qualities, but it remains to be seen if the M2 has any glaring software issues. After all, the Max Pro M1 didn’t have the best software experience.

Last but not least is the Max Pro M2’s camera performance. On the back, it has a 12MP f/1.8 + 5MP f/2.4 dual camera system, and the selfie camera is a 13MP f/2.0 shooter. Overall, the performance of rear cameras seem to be reasonably good: shots are properly exposed, and it can capture decent amount of details.

However, I only managed to snap some pictures with the M2 in daytime condition. More often than not, the camera performance of smartphones – especially affordable ones – takes a dive when shooting under less than ideal lighting. Hopefully, the M2 doesn’t fall into the same category.

The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2’s main strength lies in its large battery capacity and affordable price tag. Retailing from only RM859 for the 64GB model with 4GB of RAM (complete with a microSD card slot), it offers great value for money. If you want more RAM, the 64GB variant with 6GB of RAM goes for RM999.

Considering the feature set of the ZenFone Max Pro M2 and its asking price, it’s quite a compelling smartphone. But it’s only really worth considering if it can overcome its predecessor’s shortcomings, which include average camera performance and finicky software experience.

If the Max Pro M2 shows improvement in these two areas, it would be one of the most compelling phones in the sub-RM1,000 price point. Of course, only a full review of the phone can shed some light on this.