ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 review: ZenFone 3 Max upgraded in all ways that matter! - Page 2

4 out of 5 stars

The smartphone experience on the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5

The easiest difference to spot the between the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 and the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max is that the first has a larger display. It is not only larger though, but it also has a higher resolution. The ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 has a 5.5 inches screen and a Full HD resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The display uses the IPS technology, and that helps it offer wide viewing angles and a good color reproduction, although not as good as that offered by an AMOLED display. We also found that the brightness is pretty high and that makes the screen readable even in bright light conditions.

Although slightly larger than the average smartphone, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 fits well in a regular size hand. It is also small and thin enough to fit in a pocket. The only downside when it comes to carrying it is that some people might find it a bit heavier than they would expect it to be. However, considering the large battery packed inside and the fact that it is a smartphone with a metal body, we believe ASUS did a very good job at keeping this smartphone as light as it is, weighing 6.17 ounces or 175 grams.

Regarding speed and performance, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 managed to satisfy our daily needs. Sure, it does not boast the best processor in the world or lots of RAM. However, the octa-core processor and the 3 GB of LPDDR3 RAM are enough to offer a good user experience when browsing the internet, using apps like Facebook or when multitasking in general.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 offers decent 4G LTE data transfer speeds also. The mobile internet speeds are OK, but we wished that the signal was more steady. However, that may have more to do with our mobile operator than with the smartphone itself. As far as phone calls go, we can say that the conversations we had on the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 were of good quality, and the volume was loud. However, we wished for crisper sound, that's a bit closer to our voice in real-life.

The display on the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 is OK for watching a movie or a YouTube video, but the loudspeaker is not. If you want to watch a movie or if you want to listen to music, use a pair of headphones. The loudspeaker has no bass, and it sounds too high-pitched. The good thing about it is that it does not distort sounds even at maximum levels.

You can play games on the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 but do not expect for an extraordinary experience. The video chip can run games but the video quality is going to be on the lower side and the number of frames per second will be just enough to make your favorite game playable.

One of the most important selling points of this smartphone is its large battery. With its 4100 mAh capacity, it can easily keep your smartphone running for two consecutive days. Only if you play many games on it will you have to charge it daily.

We have mixed feeling about the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5. In normal day to day activities like browsing the internet or scrolling on Facebook, it behaves admirably. We also like the quality of the screen which looks good and is useable even outdoors. We are also pleased by the autonomy you get from the large battery. However, we wished that it had a better video chip and a better loudspeaker.

The camera experience on the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 offers a better rear camera than its little brother does. It has a 16 megapixels sensor, laser autofocus, and a dual-LED flash. The photos we took with it outdoors in good light conditions are of good quality, with good color reproduction and decent contrast. In night photos, quality is not so great, but that was something we expected. Night time photos are often blurry and pixelated, but with a bit of attention and maybe with a tripod, you can get some good results. You can look at the images from the gallery below to get a better idea of what the camera found on the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 has to offer.

When it comes to video recording, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 can record clips at a maximum Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Unfortunately, the smartphone cannot stabilize the image, and that means that videos are shaky, unless you record while standing still.

Here is a sample of a video we took on a moving train, to see how the smartphone does when it has to record moving objects.

And here is a panorama that we recorded, in which you can see how the smartphone handles videos with less movement involved.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 offers a good camera experience when it comes to shooting photos and recording videos. The results are not always great but they are better than the average you get from other smartphones with a similar price tag.

Android 7.1.1 Nougat, ASUS ZenUI, and bundled apps

ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 comes with the 7.1.1 version of Android, also known as Nougat. The company modified the default user interface and added some new features and changes, in what they call ASUS ZenUI. Among the key features of the ZenUI, we would like to mention the ability to create app folders inside the app drawer, the ability to download and use themes as you like, and the option to increase the touch sensitivity when you are wearing gloves (especially useful during winter).

Besides the default apps from the Android operating system, ASUS also bundled a range of apps that the company thinks are useful for their users. Here is what apps are preinstalled on the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5:

  • Amazon Kindle - an ebook reader app which you can use to shop and read ebooks from Amazon.
  • Do It Later - helps you create and organize daily tasks, as well as set reminders, notes and other things like that.
  • Facebook - the official app of the most popular social network on Earth.
  • File Manager - an app which you can use to see and manage the files found on your smartphone.
  • FM Radio - you can use it to listen to FM radio stations. You will have to connect a pair of headphones as they act as a radio antenna.
  • Gallery - lets you browse and open the photos and videos you take with your smartphone.
  • Instagram - the mobile app of the popular photo and video-sharing social network.
  • Laser Ruler - an app that uses the laser autofocus sensor on your smartphone to help you measure small distances.
  • MiniMovie - useful if you want to create movies or slideshows using the photos that are saved on your smartphone.
  • Mobile Manager - acts as a central point for various system maintenance tasks. It gives you a quick overview of your battery and memory use, as well as quick access to the battery saving modes, to the details of your data usage, the apps that are allowed to show push notifications and so on. It also includes an antivirus powered by Avast.
  • Need for Speed No Limits - a car racing game that looks good and is entertaining, at least for a while.
  • PhotoCollage - use it to create photo collages with ease. If you are into that, you might find this app rather interesting.
  • Puffin - is a web browser that, unlike the default Google Chrome browser, also supports Adobe Flash. It might be a good idea to keep it installed if you still visit websites that use the old Flash plugin.
  • Quick Memo - a very simple app for taking quick and simple notes.
  • Service Center - offers you access to 24/7 support from ASUS.
  • SimCity - a game in which you control other people's lives. :)
  • Sound Recorder - a simple app that uses the smartphone's microphone to record sound.
  • Splendid - lets you personalize the settings of your smartphone's display.
  • Themes - a portal where you can see, download, install and apply various system themes for the ZenUI user interface.
  • Weather - an app that shows you weather forecasts, based on AccuWeather's data.
  • WebStorage - a cloud service from ASUS that offers you 5 GB of free storage space.
  • ZenCircle - a social network for ZenFone users that works by sharing smartphone created videos.
  • ZenTalk - a forum dedicated to all owners of ZenFone smartphones, which can prove quite useful.
  • ZenUI FAQ - a customer service app that provides you with in-device assistance and answers to users' frequently asked questions.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 smartphone comes with the latest Android 7.1.1 Marshmallow, and that is excellent. Although we like the ZenUI user interface, we would have appreciated if ASUS did not bundle so many apps.

Performance in benchmarks

We know now that the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 (ZC553KL) is more powerful than ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL). However, to be more thorough, we also ran a series of benchmarks. Next, you can see the results we got, and you can use them to compare the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 against the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max and any other smartphones.

The first benchmarking app that we used is Vellamo. We began with its series of tests called Multicore. These tests show how good the processor is when it has to run multiple execution threads or, in other words when it has to multitask. The 64-bit Qualcomm snapdragon 430 octa-core processor found on this smartphone managed to get 1704 points in this benchmark. That is close to what a Motorola Nexus 6 offers and is 19% better than the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL).

Then, we ran the Vellamo Metal tests, which measure the performance of the processor when running single threads. In other words, they show how the processor performs when running apps that do not know how to use multiple cores or when the performance per core is important, like in the case of games. The ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 smartphone got 1219 points, which is a similar result to that of an LG Nexus 5. It is also a result that is 32% higher than that of the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL). It is an impressive difference.

Next, we moved on to check how the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 handles games. For that, we used the GFXBench GL Benchmark app. We ran the tests called 1080p Car Chase Offscreen, 1080p Manhattan 3.1 Offscreen, and 1080p T-Rex Offscreen. We used only 1080p tests because they are all run using the same Full HD 1080p resolution, and that means it is easier to compare the smartphone's performance to others, regardless of their size or resolution.

In the 1080p Car Chase Offscreen test, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 managed to render 148.9 frames, a result that is almost identical to that of the Huawei P10 lite and close to that of an ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser.

In the 1080p Manhattan 3.1 Offscreen test, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 rendered 285.6 frames. It is a poor result, similar to that of the Huawei P10 lite, but double of what the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL) has to offer.

In the third and final video test that we run, 1080p T-Rex Offscreen, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 rendered 921 frames. This shows how the smartphone runs older games and, in this case, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 performs a lot better than its predecessor. It is close to a Motorola Nexus 6, and it is three times better than the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL).

Although the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 is not a smartphone we would recommend to gamers, it is, however, better than its predecessor, the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL). It will run games, but not at high video quality or high framerates.

Moving on to more common use cases, we also tested the performance of the ASUS ZenFone at browsing the web. To do that, we used Vellamo once more and ran its Browser test. The smartphone got a score of 2400 points, which makes it 26% faster than the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL). Once again, this is an impressive difference.

Although the mobile network coverage is not extraordinary in our geographical area, we also wanted to see how the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 would do regarding 4G speed and reliability. The measurements that we made with the Speedtest app show that this smartphone can achieve faster speeds than other similar devices, but they are not constant.

Finally, we also tested the battery life, because that is the most important feature about the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5. To see what the 4100 mAh battery can do, we used an app called PCMark. In its Work 2.0 battery life tests, the ASUS Zenfone 3 Max 5.5 managed to last for 10 hours and 37 minutes. It is a very good result, and it confirms that the smartphone can last a long time if you don't do demanding tasks on it.

The benchmarks show that the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max can handle any task and does pretty well at multitasking. It does not shine when it comes to games, but it can run them nonetheless. Although the battery life you get from it is a bit less than what you get from the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL), the screen is larger, and the performance is much better on the ZenFone 3 Max 5.5.

What is your opinion about the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5?

Now you know what the ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5 has to offer and what is our opinion about it. We definitely like it more than its predecessor. At the end of this review, we would like to know your opinion too: Do you like this revision made by ASUS? What do you think about the new ASUS ZenFone 3 Max 5.5?