At the launch event, Asus claimed that the Max Pro M2 was created after listening to the feedback from fans and tech reviewers.
Now, this is a great way of selling the product and makes it sort of relatable. But the budget smartphone category is a war zone and the biggest competitor that the M2 goes against is the Xiaomi Note 6 Pro, which retails for ₹13,999.
Yes, the M2 undercuts the mighty Note by ₹1,000 and offers a beefier processor and some other bits that this budget segment isn’t used to. So, has Asus really listened to us? Or is that just marketing faf? Why don’t you decide at the end of the review.
Stepping into this end of the budget with a Gorilla Glass 6 is quite commendable as the closest phone that comes with the latest glass is the OnePlus that costs significantly more. In terms of design, the Pro M2 feels slightly chunky in the hand and despite the glass back, the unit is surprisingly lightweight.
The curved back makes it a joy to hold and it sits flush in the hand without any sharp edges protruding into your palm. The Wave design reminds you of the beautiful Asus ZenBooks and it looks classy, not over the top. It does have a fair bit of chin at the bottom and Asus claims that the notch on the Pro M2 is the smallest full-function unit and has everything, including an LED notification light.
The camera module at the back doesn’t protrude out of the casing and the phone sits flat on a table without the wobbling usually associated with phones that have protruding cam modules. The fingerprint sensor is in the right place as well and is recessed enough to let your finger find it easily.
Although it doesn’t look like a phone that comes in at under ₹15K, that glass back does attract a lot of fingerprints and at the end of a gaming session or just regular browsing, the back has a smorgasbord of fingerprints and smudges. Asus does provide a translucent cover in the box, which is standard and does a fair job of protecting the phone.
The 6.26in FHD+ display gets plenty bright and boasts 450nits with a 94% NTSC colour gamut. It’s not the brightest we’ve seen, the Xiaomi Note 6 Pro has the edge over on this one, but the Asus beats it when it comes to retaining colours.
The display on the Asus manages colours quite well and there is some depth here rather than the display on the Xiaomi. The phone also has an option of having the ‘Ambient Display’ on, which turns the display on when you receive notifications. You can change the font and the display size, but there’s no option to resize the icons like you would get on a OnePlus. The icons are spaced out and take up quite an amount of the display, which I think is quite odd. Having the option to arrange them and resize them to the user’s taste would be nice.
Standard options of Warm, Cool and Default is all you get in terms of changing the colour temperature of the display, unlike the crazy colour wheel you get with the Xiaomi.
The 12+5MP unit comes with a Sony IMX486 image sensor with an F1.8 aperture and 1.25μm pixel size. It clicks pretty good pictures during the day and night time shots don’t frazzle it either especially when you consider the price. It takes some great looking portrait shots and isn’t slow at it either.
When compared to the Note 6 Pro, the Asus comes up on top, scoring high on its ability to shoot some crisp portraits and night shots, although the Xiaomi does a slightly better job of handling exposure. The Asus although is super-quick at point-and-shoot and generally is just a faster snapper.
The camera has a Pro mode too and funky filters that are quite strong when compared to the more subtle spread that Xiaomi offers. Things like ‘Negative’ ‘Solarize’ and others kind of give the old-school vibe. There’s also no exposure slider to tinker with while clicking pictures, you are left at the mercy of the software or you’ve got to use the Pro mode. But the Asus gets it right most of the time.
The ZenFone Max Pro M2 also features a beauty mode that softens any skin blemishes and makes you look quite dolled up, but nothing too horrific, which is quite nice. It is decent enough for some selfies, although features like ‘Group Selfie’ mode from Xiaomi are a bonus to have when they work well. You can record videos in 4K, which come out well, but shaky, because the Asus doesn’t support stabilization at 4K. Full HD and below give you the option of EIS, which is quite needed. There are no fancy bits like time-lapse or slow-mo mode either.
Performance and UI
The Snapdragon 660 feels like a proper upgrade. It is backed up by 4GBs of RAM in our review unit (max is 6GB) and it feels quite quick. The stock Oreo UI makes the Asus quite responsive too and there’s absolutely no stutter. Apps open quick and even videos on YouTube load faster than the rest of the competition.
The supporting Adreno 512 handles games like Asphalt 9 Legends quite well and other games like Metal Madness can also be played on max graphic settings without a hitch. PUBG too hardly struggles on the Max Pro M2 and there’s very little to complain about on the performance side of things.
You get your usual features that come with Android Oreo and Asus hasn’t added any bloatware of their own to the M2 Pro either. Even your images are handled by the stock Google Photos app. We wish every phone manufacturer went this route, but something that’s sorely missed are proper gestures that allow you to navigate. At the time of writing, the only gestures you can enable are tap twice to wake the screen up and tap twice again to switch it off.
Battery Life and Audio
The party trick of the Asus, except for the snappier processor, is the massive 5000mAh battery life. It absolutely trumps the competition when it comes to longevity and the phone lasts for a solid 2 days of regular use. The problem is - there’s no fast charging and it takes almost 2 hours or more sometimes for the phone to fully charge. But wait, there’s another problem too - no USB Type C. I thought you listened to us Asus...
It’s okay though, because you can’t have everything at this price. But you certainly can have some killer audio. The 5-magnet loudspeaker gets quite loud, much louder than the Note 6 Pro at least and doesn’t distort much either. Sure it isn’t going to produce audiophile quality sound, but for what it is, it is brilliant.
Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 Verdict
Asus has hit a home run with the Max Pro M2. It undercuts the competition and offers better hardware and a stock experience that’s clean and snappy. That 5000mAh battery also is a huge advantage especially if you consume a lot of media on your smartphone. You also get 100GB of Google storage on the purchase and that is quite a deal for those who run out of email space often.
The only other phone that undercuts the Pro M2 is the RealMe U1, but even that doesn’t offer the kind of value the Asus provides. If you’re on a tight budget and want a no-frills phone that gets the basics right, you can’t do better than the Max Pro M2.