Asus Zenfone 3S Max ZC521TL Review – The POWERFUL Zenfone !

The Asus Zenfone 3S Max has been exclusively launched exclusively for India in February 2017. Last year, Asus Zenfone Max was one of the best-selling phones under the Rs.10K category, followed by mediocre Asus Zenfone 3 Max during the last quarter of the year. Asus is back with another phone in the Max series. The Asus Zenfone 3S Max, like the earlier Zenfone Max, comes with 5000 mAh battery; while the Zenfone 3 Max comes with 4100 mAh battery.

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So, today we have with us the newly released Asus Zenfone 3S Max. Before we start with the actual review, let’s go through the specs first,

Asus Zenfone 3S Max (ZC521TL) Specifications

  • Construction: Premium-crafted metal body with 2.5D contoured Glass, Slim bezel with 75% Screen-to-body ratio
  • Display : 5.2” High Definition (720p) IPS Panel, 400nits+ brightness, Built-in Bluelight filter
  • Processor: MediaTek 6750, Octa-core 64-bit processor clocked at 1.5GHz
  • GPU: Mali T860
  • Memory: 3GB RAM|32GB ROM|2TB Expandable (Micro-SD)
  • Camera: Front 8MP|Rear 13MP Camera|Full-HD video recording
  • Miscellaneous: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.0, Front-facing fingerprint sensor
  • SIM card and SD slot: Hybrid type SIM Slot
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat with ZenUI 3.0
  • Battery: 5000 mAh
  • Audio: ICEpower enhanced 5-magnet Mono Loudspeaker
  • Color: Black, Gold
  • Price: Rs.14,999/-

Asus Zenfone 3S Max ( ZC521KL) Review

The review unit at a glance:

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The unit we received was very new – it was packed in January 2017. And we happened to receive the Gold colored version. The contents of the box were,

  • Zenfone 3S Max Handset
  • USB Cable
  • Charger
  • Headphones with ear buds of various sizes
  • Hybrid SIM Tray Ejector Tool
  • Manuals

Design and Looks

The last two Asus devices I’ve reviewed i.e Asus Zenfone Laser and Max 5.5″  were Metallic Silver and White coloured; this one came with Gold Colour. Not a great fan of it, but I’ve got to admit, it does look beautiful. Its body is made up of a premium aluminum alloy that has a sandblasted matte finish. It is smooth on the rear, thanks to the metal. But the finish near the speakers of the mobile, which is a bit rougher, offsets the slipperiness, making the 3S Max a comfortable phone to hold. The front of the phone comes with contoured 2.5D Glass (not Gorilla Glass! ????), making it viable to scratches.

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The best part of the design has got to be the front facing fingerprint scanner, which is comfy and decent. The Asus 3S Max doesn’t have physical navigation buttons, and the fingerprint scanner doubles as the home button. And of course, the 5.2-inch screen, being the size most people prefer, is an obvious advantage to the design. It has a USB Cable slot in the bottom, sandwiched between speaker vents. The top has a  headphone jack and earpiece between Front Camera and Ambient Light Sensor. The Rear Camera stands to the top left and the volume rockers and power button to the right of phone making one-hand operations comfortable.

Zenfone 3S Max comes with a 5000 mAh battery but doesn’t feel heavy, and is still slim and comfortable to hold. On the flipside, there is no Gorilla Glass on the front, which at 14,000Rs, is almost a given. On a whole, though, the design of the phone is very good, and ticks almost all the right boxes.

Specifications and Software

Starting with the screen, it has a 720p IPS with 400nits+ brightness and is visible under sunlight. One can expect Ful HD Display at this price tag, but this one comes only with HD Display. Tough odds. It has Octa-core 64-bit processor clocked at 1.5GHz, with a MediaTek 6750 Processor, which is not mentioned anywhere prominent for some reason! The GPU ( Mali T860) does a good graphic processing, I felt no lag while gaming unlike the Adreno 505 in Zenfone 3 Laser. The processing is good most of the time, but the 3 gigs of RAM gets almost fully occupied with the Android OS. I guess it has something to do with apps not being very compatible with Nougat yet. This should improve with time, though.

Yeah, it comes with Android Nougat 7.0 with ZenUI 3.0. They say its ZenUI 3.0, but its UI is better than any other Zenfone 3’s ZenUI 3.0. The ZenUI is awesome with Nougat. And another highly appreciable point – Asus reduced its bloatware a little! Only a little, mind you, but a really good start! The significant change being the removal of Asus Audio Wizard Equalizer, which, luckily for me, I’ve never really liked. The Multi-Window Mode is present but only a few apps support this mode. It heats up the device a little and takes more memory, but manages to do the job. However, I don’t think this is a striking feature from Android Nougat.

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Speakers are loud, there is a mode called Outdoor Mode which makes it more louder but the output quality is bad. Moreover, the device supports VoLTE but never worked for me in reality, maybe it needs a little work around. All Zenfone 3 series I’ve reviewed had a working VoLTE but this one is an exception. They rolled out an update to fix this but my review unit seems to have missed out.

Camera

Zenfone 3S Max comes with 13 MP rear and 8 MP front camera.It comes with lots of modes Slo-Mo, GIF, Time Lapse , Auto-HDR, etc. Low light photography is bad. Focussing is good and fast. Zenfone 3S Max is a little different in the Zenfone family. It doesn’t excel much in the camera department, unlike the others. The Camera isn’t the best feature of the 3S Max,  still it runs a good daily driver for most people. On a whole, the camera is good. Do check the samples below.

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Performance

It comes with MediaTek 6750 Processor and Mali T860 GPU which run games and all applications seamlessly. Though it comes with 3 GB RAM, during our review time we faced issues like RAM getting exhausted by the system usage. Like in 3GB RAM, 2.7 GB gets filled with Android System which makes the whole device lag! ???? 4 Gigs of RAM could’ve improved the performance on a whole. On the bright side, the Nougat experience is good.

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See the free memory available is 9.2 MB, I wasn’t using any high-end apps at that time.

However, it some how got fixed. I guess its due to some bad app update or whatever. With MT 6750 processor, don’t expect awesome high-end gaming. The performance of device is ideal for people with normal to mediocre usage. If you keep using multiple apps, games and stuff, you should not expect much smooth performance. The device heats up occasionally during heavy usage and takes time to cool down, owing to the metal body on the back.

Had issues with the fingerprint sensor initially cause I was used to fingerprint sensor on the back. However, to unlock the phone you need to press the button, unlike other Zenfones. 3S Max’s fingerprint sensor is a little slow compared to other Zenfone 3 Models, but still, it isn’t a big deal.

Battery

The strong selling point of this phone is its 5000 mAh Battery. Though it takes a lot of time to charge (like 3-4 hours or even more), I still love because it gives more than 8 hours of Screen On Time and is terrific! We tried using it more and more, Zenfone 3S Max still managed to get nearly 8 hours of Screen On Time. Battery backup is excellent, but Quick Charging would have really topped it off. This feature is expected at this price range.????

We used the battery like completely all the time, sometimes we needed to charge it to take screenshots of SOT. So, 8 hours and more for mediocre to heavy usage.

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The red-marked SOT was during an issue of Nougat consuming more RAM. Check the Performance section.

Final Words:

Pros

  • Terrific Battery
  • Android Nougat
  • Form Factor

Cons

  • Bloatware
  • Overpriced
  • Mediocre Performance
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Logan Fever …. Sorry ????

Wrapping up, I highly recommend Zenfone 3S Max if you want a long lasting battery and if you’re a mediocre user.You’ll love the experience. However, at a price range of Rs.15K, this handset can be improved by providing Gorilla Glass, a better processor and other specs I’ve quoted in the review. With Xiaomi Storm taking over the market, I feel the price of Asus devices can be made little economical to boost up sales.

Zenfone 3S Max is on Flipkart with good to average reviews. I recommend you to have a glance at user reviews before you buy.