ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 review: ZenFone 3 Max upgraded in all ways that matter!

Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Among the most popular smartphone models sold by ASUS are their ZenFone Max devices. They come with generous batteries that are created to offer plenty of autonomy. A few months ago, we tested the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max, and we were not happy with what it had to offer. We thought it provided less value than the first ASUS ZenFone Max. Many users had similar criticism and, as a result, ASUS listened and released a new and improved ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5. This smartphone is a revision of the previous model and promises to fix the biggest complaints people had. Is this new version a solid upgrade over its predecessor? Read this review and find out:

What is the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 good at?

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 (ZC553KL) smartphone is good at:

  • Keeping you away from the power socket for two days in a row between charges
  • Multitasking and good web browsing experiences
  • Looking better than most smartphones with the same price tag

Where To Buy

Pros and cons

Here are the best things about the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 (ZC553KL):

  • The hardware is better than that of the previous model - ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL)
  • The performance and the camera experience are much better than that of the previous model
  • It offers a fingerprint sensor for enhanced security
  • It has a large battery (4100 mAh) which offers plenty of autonomy
  • It has good build quality and a metallic body
  • It has a 5.5 inch screen, which is both large and small enough to please most users
  • You get to use and enjoy Android 7.1.1 Nougat

There are also a few not so positive things about it:

  • If you want a gaming smartphone, it is not a great choice
  • There is no Gorilla Glass protecting the screen
  • The smartphone is a bit pricier than it should be
Product Rated
4/5

Verdict

The very first ASUS ZenFone Max smartphone (ZC550KL) was a model that we appreciated greatly. Then came the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL) which was a bit of a disappointment in our view. This was also confirmed by user feedback and, as a result, ASUS decided to take action and release ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 (ZC553KL). This revision is a great upgrade in many ways that matter: the processor, the camera, and the performance that it offers. If you want to buy a smartphone from the ZenFone Max family, ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 (ZC553KL) is the one to choose. The only important downside is the price, which could have been slightly smaller. However, the winter sales will be here soon and we expect ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 to be available at great prices, making it a must-buy in its niche.

Hardware specifications and packaging

ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5, also known as ASUS ZC553KL by its factory name, arrives in a box that is made from white cardboard. It is soft to the touch and looks good. On the top, there is an illustration of the smartphone that shows what it looks like both from its front and from its rear side. Near this illustration, you can also see that the smartphone is called Zenfone 3 Max 5.5.

On the sides you will find information about this smartphone and some of its most important characteristics. Turn the box bottom up, and you will find detailed information about the exact smartphone model, the IMEI code, serial number and so on.

Inside the package, you will find the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 sitting on top of a paper tray. Underneath it, there is the power charger with a detachable USB to micro USB cable, a micro USB to USB OTG cable that you can use to charge other devices from your smartphone’s battery, a pin for ejecting the SIM tray, the warranty card, and the user manual. Unfortunately, there are no earphones included.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 is available in four different color variations: Sand Gold, Titanium Gray, Glacier Silver, and Rose Pink. These are the same colors that we have seen for the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max, with one exception: Rose Pink is found only on the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5. The model that we tested was the Titanium Gray one.

As the name implies, ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 has a 5.5 inch screen. This is one of the main differences between this model and the smaller ASUS ZenFone 3 Max, which has a 5.2 inch display. ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 offers a Full HD resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels and uses IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology, which means that the viewing angles are very wide and the colors should be close to natural. The front side of the smartphone, including the display, is protected by 2.5D contoured glass.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 uses a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon octa-core 430 processor running at 1.4GHz. For video rendering, the smartphone relies on an Adreno 505 video chip that runs at 450MHz and which has support for DirectX 12.1 and OpenGL 3.2. In comparison, ASUS ZenFone 3 Max offers a quad-core MediaTek processor running at 1.25 GHz and a Mali-T720MP2 video chip (with support for DirectX 9.3 and OpenGL 3.1). When it comes to processing power, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 is definitely an improvement over its predecessor.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 also comes with 32GB of internal flash storage space, and 2 or 3GB of LPDDR3 memory, depending on the exact version that you buy. It is also worth noting that you can always expand the storage capacity of the smartphone by adding a microSD card of up to 128 GB. The microSD card is inserted instead of the secondary SIM, which means you will have to choose between having more storage space or being able to use the smartphone with two SIM cards simultaneously. You cannot have them both. Note that the model that we tested had 3 GB of RAM.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 offers a rear camera with a 16 megapixels sensor and an aperture of f/2.0. The camera benefits from a fast laser autofocus sensor, it can shoot pictures with HDR, and it can take advantage of the built-in Dual-LED flash in low light environments. On the front side of the smartphone, you also get a selfie camera with a resolution of 8 megapixels and a f/2.2 aperture.

If you are curious about the connectivity options that you get, ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 offers a Bluetooth 4.1 chip and a wireless network card that can connect only to 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi networks using the 802.11 b/g/n wireless standards. What that means is that you will not be able to connect to wireless networks that are broadcast over the 5GHz radio frequency.

This smartphone is a Dual SIM device, and it supports 4G LTE connections. However, if you use it in Dual SIM mode, only one SIM card can connect and use 3G and 4G LTE networks. The secondary SIM card can use the only 2G. Furthermore, the smartphone uses a Dual SIM Dual Standby implementation, which means that both SIM cards are active in standby, but when you take a call on one of them, the other becomes inactive.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 also includes a variety of sensors: proximity, ambient light sensor, gyro sensor, e-compass, fingerprint scanner, accelerator, and a laser sensor.

The battery is an essential part of any smartphone, and it is even more so in the case of the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5. This model brags about having a large capacity of 4100 mAh (non-removable). It is the same battery that is found on the previous ASUS ZenFone 3 Max.

Having a 5.5 inch screen, the smartphone is also a bit larger than its predecessor. This one is 5.96 inches (151.4 mm) in length, 3 inches (76.24 mm) wide and 0.33 inches (8.3 mm) thick. It weighs 6.17 ounces, which is 175 grams in the metric system.

If you want to see more details about the official specifications of this smartphone, visit this page: ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 - Tech Specs.

Unpacking the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 was a pleasant experience, and our first impressions were positive. Unlike its smaller brother, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max, the 5.5 model has a larger display, and its hardware specifications are better, which is a welcome change, desired by many users.

Design and build quality

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 is designed both for ease of use and good looks. Although it has many similarities with the previous model, ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 also has some design characteristics of its own. For example, the body is built from metal, and you do not often see this on budget smartphones. With the sole exception of the screen, which is covered in 2.5D contoured glass, all else is covered by the metallic frame of the smartphone.

On the front side of the smartphone, besides the large screen, you can find the ear speaker and the front camera at the top, and the default Android buttons at the bottom. Unlike on the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max, the 5.5 model uses capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Recent apps. As a side note, we always prefer having these buttons separate from the screen.

The back of the smartphone is all-metal. On the lower area there is a dark gray ASUS logo, and towards the top, there are the fingerprint sensor, the camera, and its aids: the Dual LED flash and the autofocus laser sensor. The fingerprint sensor has a rectangular shape and is slightly sunken inside the body of the phone, making it easy to find.

The edges of the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 are rounded, and they are home to all the usual parts that are found on Android smartphones. On the bottom edge, there is the micro USB port, the loudspeaker grille and a small pin hole where the microphone is found.

On the top edge, there’s an audio jack and a small pin hole for the secondary microphone. On the right edge, towards the top, there are the power button and the volume rocker. On the left edge, you have the SIM tray. A nice detail is the fact that the side buttons have a different texture from the rest of the body, and that makes it easy to identify them.

Although the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 is a budget smartphone, it looks good, and it has a solid build quality. We like its design, and the fact that it feels sturdy and reliable.

If you would like to read more about the smartphone experience offered by ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5, its camera, bundled apps, and performance in benchmarks, read the second page of this review.