Asus zenfone 4 max review: not a shining example of a good budget phone

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The hãng asus ZenFone 4 Max is one of the longest-lasting budget phones available, but a dated design and user interface keep it from standing out.

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ByAdam Ismailpublished 11 October 17

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The hãng asus ZenFone 4 Max is one of the longest-lasting budget phones available, but a dated design & user interface keep it from standing out.


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Speaking of carriers, the ZenFone 4 Max is one of a few new phones stateside launching with dual SIM capability. You can have service active on both SIM cards simultaneously, but only one at a time can utilize LTE data. The tray also includes a microSD slot, supporting cards of up lớn 256GB for additional storage.


Battery: asus does it again

If you"re interested in the ZenFone 4 Max, the battery is probably the reason why. Hãng asus has shown prowess in this department, with the company"s ZenFone 3 Zoom currently ranking as the longest-lasting điện thoại we"ve ever tested. So how does the newcomer compare?


The ZenFone 4 Max uses an identically sized 5,000-mAh battery as the ZenFone 3 Zoom & lasted an epic 15 hours and 19 minutes on our Tom"s Guide Battery Test, which consists of continuous website surfing over T-Mobile"s LTE network. That"s exactly an hour và a half shorter than the ZenFone 3 Zoom, though 31 minutes longer than the long-lasting moto E4 Plus.

More than 15 hours of battery life is nothing lớn sneeze at, not when the average điện thoại thông minh lasts 9:40 on our test. & the ZenFone 4 Max costs $130 less than the ZenFone 3 Zoom, which is not a bad trade-off for budget-minded smartphone shoppers.

The ZenFone 4 Max lasted an epic 15 hours và 19 minutes on the Tom"s Guide Battery Test.

The ZenFone 4 Max has some other battery tricks up its sleeve, too. The included PowerMaster app provides tools and diagnostics khổng lồ squeeze even more longevity out of a charge while monitoring battery health. The phone allows for reverse charging through a packaged USB on-the-go cable, meaning you can vị trí cao nhất off your headphones, smartwatch or other sản phẩm điện thoại device using the ZenFone as an external nguồn pack.

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Asus has thrown in an optional setting that the company claims will slow the battery"s degradation over time, doubling its life span. However, when you turn on this feature, asus warns that it will diminish the device"s battery life per charge. The ZenFone 4 Max also supports fast charging exclusively through the stock adapter, providing 3 hours of talk time in 15 minutes.

Design: Dated, even for a budget phone

As impressive as its battery is, the ZenFone 4 Max is as visually forgettable as android phones come. If looking only at the front, you could mistake this phone for so many other large, unassuming slabs of metal and glass. With big bezels, a rectangular fingerprint sensor/home button & mirrored capacitive navigation keys, this hãng asus handset could have been built by any company, at any point in the last five years. It"s almost offensively boring.


Turn the phone over, and things brighten up a bit. The ZenFone 4 Max is made predominantly of metal, và the backside is a clean hunk of aluminum with breaks near the top and bottom. On our almost-blue Deepsea đen unit, these strips are a lighter, glossier shade of indigo and are recessed beneath the metal. It"s a nice effect that provides a much-needed dash of personality.

With big bezels, a rectangular fingerprint sensor/home button và mirrored capacitive navigation keys, this hãng asus is almost offensively boring.


Display: A mediocre but bright display

Like many other phones at this price range, the ZenFone 4 Max features a 720p LCD display. This one is 5.5 inches large and, unsurprisingly, looks quite blurry at that size.

As a result, this is a mediocre display, even for a budget phone. When I watched the trailer for Blade Runner 2049, the panel exhibited a slightly cool tint & was a little washed-out overall. Viewing at off-center angles produces a noticeable màu sắc shift, and the low resolution makes it impossible to ignore some of the jagged edges around certain aspects of the user interface.


On paper, results were similarly mixed. The ZenFone 4 Max replicates 103.6 percent of the sRGB màu sắc gamut, a result that pales in comparison khổng lồ that of the xe máy E4 Plus & its LCD screen, at 125 percent. However, ZenFone 4 Max"s màu sắc accuracy is on par with that of the best smartphones, as this device registered a Delta-E rating of 0.30. (Numbers closer to lớn 0 are better.) The Motorola barely edges the Max out, at 0.27.

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Fortunately, the ZenFone"s display also gets pretty bright. The ZenFone 4 Max delivered a peak brightness of 461 nits, comfortably surpassing the 433-nit average. This may not be the best panel we"ve seen in this highly competitive segment, but the ZenFone"s screen has its advantages.

Camera: A different take on dual lenses

Toting dual cameras is nice, but it"s what you vị with them that really matters. Asus has taken this lesson lớn heart with the ZenFone 4 Max, providing the camera with two lenses: one 13-megapixel shooter with an f/2.0 aperture và electronic image stabilization, và a wide-angle lens with a 120-degree field-of-view, rated at 5-MP.

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Wide-angle lens

Thankfully, the standard lens is a more consistent performer. Lượt thích so many other solid budget-phone cameras, the ZenFone"s rear shooter won"t let you down on a sunny day. It"s relatively speedy to lớn focus, & it captures photos quickly, so long as the scene is well-lit. Snapping a bunch of exposures in quick succession can slow the camera down, causing the tiện ích to hang for a second or two, but this wasn"t the case in most scenarios. The HDR results were typical — which is to say, your mileage will vary depending on the scene.

In this shot of a dreary afternoon in New York, we see how the ZenFone 4 Max"s camera compares khổng lồ the $229 ZTE Blade V8 Pro"s 13-MP shooter. Right away, you"ll notice the greens in the ZTE shot pop, while the asus did a better job of bringing out the red in the stone & brick. However, the ZenFone heavily blurred the left edge of the frame, while the Blade V8 Pro managed a crisp exposure throughout.

Asus has included a wealth of shooting modes with the ZenFone 4 Max, including a Pro interface with a suite of manual controls & a Panorama option. But we"ll focus on two: Super Resolution & Beauty.

Super Resolution mode almost works like HDR, in that it takes multiple exposures and combines them with post-processing. The result is one 52-MP image that is unquestionably more detailed than what you"d achieve normally, though whether it"s necessarily better is a matter of taste. In the comparison below, we see that while the Super Resolution shot is crisper, it lacks the depth of field present in the same shot using tự động mode.

Beauty mode softens skin tone and diminishes blemishes và can be used on both the front and rear cameras. I tested it with the 8-MP selfie cam, and although it certainly smoothed things over, the final product is almost alien-like (not to mention, much warmer).

Performance: Great if you don"t game

The ZenFone 4 Max is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chipset that"s tuned for efficiency rather than speed. It comes with 3GB of RAM & 32GB of internal storage. That"s not necessarily class-leading for the money, but it is pretty good. The $200 Huawei Honor 6X beats it with a more powerful processor, while the base $180 configuration of the xe máy E4 Plus is inferior in all three categories.

So we weren"t surprised lớn find Asus" hardware outperform Motorola"s in testing. The ZenFone 4 Max produced a score of 2,528 in Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance. When our attention turned to 3 chiều graphics crunching, the phone delivered a 3d Mark Ice Storm Unlimited result of 9,506. The moto E4 Plus managed scores of only 1,891 and 6,646, respectively.

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We drove a few laps in a pair of pocket racing games lớn see how those numbers translated to the world of actual gaming. Real Racing 3 performed smoothly enough, with the phone"s Adreno 505 GPU keeping the kích hoạt moving at a reasonable video with responsive controls. However, the handset didn"t handle the newer Asphalt Nitro as well, and a chuggy frame rate made the experience frustrating.

If you stay away from demanding apps, the ZenFone 4 Max is a competent performer. Exploring the world in Google Maps, streaming đoạn clip in YouTube và juggling tabs in Chrome didn"t slow the phone down.

Software: A disappointing custom interface

Although the ZenFone 4 Max runs game android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box, it also employs Asus" ZenUI custom interface, one of the more pronounced departures from Google"s operating system out there. The company probably would have been better off simply leaving game android alone.

ZenUI feels lượt thích a step back — aesthetically và functionally. It"s cluttered và convoluted, particularly when you reveal the mess of giant quick-toggles tucked in the notification shade. Text in the Settings menu as well as in a few of the system apps is unnecessarily big by default, và inconsistent throughout the interface. There are too many options for everything, & they don"t always appear where you"d expect them. Và although asus generously provides a variety of themes lớn customize your trang chủ screen (for a fee), I haven"t found a single one that didn"t look gaudy or obnoxious.

ZenUI feels like a step back — aesthetically and functionally.

Maybe you"ll prefer Asus" style. But when so much of app android was already fine as it was, ZenUI"s modifications just come off as change for change"s sake, without adding value.

Bottom Line

The cheapest ZenFone 4 is a perfectly serviceable điện thoại thông minh with great battery life and dual cameras, all for $200. Unfortunately for Asus, other drawbacks make this phone difficult to recommend over the budget competition.

ZTE"s $200 Blade V8 Pro also has dual cameras, but adds a portrait mode, a full-HD display and, most importantly, a much better processor. The $180 xe máy E4 Plus edges the ZenFone 4 Max in price, but offers about the same battery life & a greatly improved software experience. And if you trade up khổng lồ the slightly more expensive moto G5 Plus, you"ll have our favorite điện thoại cảm ứng for under $250.

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On paper, there"s no doubt the ZenFone 4 Max packs solid value. If you"re interested in long battery life or wide-angle photography, this phone is immediately worth consideration. But the performance & display are only adequate, & the design và software are positively drab. You could argue that no device at $200 is particularly glamorous, but the ZenFone 4 Max could desperately use a surprise or two.