Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Smartphone Review

Around two months ago, we reviewed Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL Smartphone on this blog and today I'll be reviewing a new member of the Zenfone 3 series, Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL Smartphone which comes with a massive 4100 mAh battery and 16 Megapixel PixelMaster camera. The smartphone carries the Zenfone 3 legacy ahead with attractive appearance & bigger battery in budget-friendly price tag, this phone is priced at Rs.17,999 and comes in two Display & Memory variants; There is a 5.2" Inch Display & 2GB RAM variant & a 5.5" Inch Display & 3GB RAM variant, in this article we'll be reviewing the 5.5" Inch Display & 3GB RAM variant of Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) so without wasting time, let's begin.

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Unboxing

Asus Zenfone 3 Max comes in a small box, just like other Zenfone 3 series smartphones. It comes with standard accessories & other stuff. On opening the box, you'll find the device resting on the top, and underneath are the accessories. You get a Charging Adapter, A MicroUSB cable, An OTG cable, SIM ejecting tool and a few manuals. Asus provides good quality accessories and it was nice to see an OTG cable lying inside the box, however, I was expecting a pair of earphones like the ones which came with Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL, but they were not there. You can watch the unboxing video of Asus Zenfone 3 Max, on our YouTube channel.

Build & Design

On first look, the smartphone seems quite similar to the Zenfone 3 smartphone, but unlike Zenfone 3 which comes with a glass back, the Zenfone 3 Max comes with an aluminum back with a matte finish, which unlike Zenfone 3, is fingerprint resistant. The edges are curved, which makes holding the phone easy on hands. The front panel consists of a 2.5D contoured glass which is scratch resistant and feels good on touch. The overall appearance of the device gives it an iPhone like look which can attract a lot of eyeballs. The Top front section contains the Front Camera, Earpiece, and the Proximity sensor. There is a small notification light next to the proximity sensor. The section below the display contains three navigational keys which are touch sensitive but aren't backlit. The smartphones measure 8.3 mm in thickness and weigh 175 grams.

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The rear portion contains the Antenna cutouts which are made to look shiny. The back contains the Camera, LED flash, Laser sensor, Fingerprint sensor and the shiny Asus Logo. Thanks to the aluminum body, there are no fingerprint issues on the back this time. 

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The right side of the device contains the Volume rocker and the power button, which are again made up of shiny metal. The left side contains the Hybrid SIM slot which can house either a Micro SIM card with MicroSD card or Micro SIM card with a Nano SIM card.

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The top section of the smartphone houses the 3.5 mm audio jack along with a secondary microphone. The bottom section consists of a speaker grill, microphone, and the MicroUSB port, unlike other Asus Zenfone 3 series phones which come with USB Type-C port. Overall the smartphone looks amazing and feels elegant to hold, the materials used for construction are of high-quality & premium finish. The smartphone is still somewhat slippery, so do take care while using it.

Display & Audio

Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) packs a 5.5" Inch IPS LCD Full HD Display with 401 ppi pixel density and resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The Display is topped with 2.5D contoured glass & oleophobic coating. The body to screen ratio is 73% and the maximum brightness of the display is up to 450 nits. The viewing angles of the display are very good, you can clearly view in practically all angles. The display is quite sharp & bright, the pictures produced by the display are vivid & somewhat saturated. It comes with an inbuilt Bluelight filter which comes handy & prevents eye strain. The sunlight legibility of the display is quite good, you can easily view the display in direct sunlight. The ambient light sensor has some issues, a lot of times it was unable to detect the lighting and was not adjusting the brightness when needed. There is also a One-Handed mode which you can activate when required. 

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The loudspeaker of Asus Zenfone 3 Max is not up to the mark according to me, the volume levels are quite low when it comes to the inbuilt speaker, however when you plug in an earphone, the output is satisfactory. Unlike Asus Zenfone 3 smartphone, Zenfone 3 Max does not come bundled with earphones, you'll have to buy them separately.

Hardware Performance

I was expecting Asus to provide best in line hardware for Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) but I don't know why the processor was compromised. Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chipset which in my opinion is old school now. Clocked at 1.4 GHz with Octa-Core Cortex-A53 64-bit processor with Adreno 505 GPU, 3GB RAM, and 32GB internal storage. Since the SIM slot 2 is a hybrid slot, it can also house a MicroSD card up to 256 GB.

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The performance was decent during day-to-day usage but deteriorated during extensive gameplay & multi-tasking. Obviously, I'm blaming the processor for the all the lagging & poor performance during gaming, multitasking and when using heavy apps. I was expecting Asus Zenfone 3 Max to pack Snapdragon 625 or higher SoC, but what actually came installed was quite disappointing. Overall the performance of this device was average if you're a non-gamer & a light user, you can make Zenfone 3 Max work.

Software

Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) runs on the latest Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out-of-the-box, topped with ZenUI 3.0, which is a custom UI by Asus. The UI looks same as it was on Asus Zenfone 3 and other Zenfone 3 series smartphones. There was a lot of bloatware and unnecessary apps pre-installed on the device which cannot be uninstalled by the user, to be honest, this is really annoying and in my opinion, is one of the reasons which drive users towards rooting. The bloatware takes up a huge chunk of the device memory and what you're left with is 23-25 gigs of memory. The software works well overall, Asus has certainly improved it a lot as compared to older version of the UI, there are some new additions like Themes, Mobile Manager app, Game Genie etc. Using the Theme store, you can change the appearance of the UI, including icons, background wallpapers, and other things. The Mobile Manager app works silently in the background and tries to keep the system running smoothly with no hiccups, however, I still had some issues during multi-tasking on Zenfone 3 Max smartphone, these issues were nowhere seen on Zenfone 3 smartphone, but are clearly visible on Zenfone 3 Max smartphone. 

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The Mobile Manager app leaves an annoying toolbar in the notification shade which stays there and cannot be removed, it doesn't bother me but can be annoying for others. The Game Genie app is kinda similar to Google Play games app, it has some useful functions for gamers but again when you open any game, Game Genie floating bar opens up and can seem annoying to some people. 

Camera

Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) packs a 16 Megapixel PixelMaster 3.0 Rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, Laser Autofocus, Phase Detection Autofocus, Dual LED (Dual-tone) Flash and capability to record Full HD 1080p videos at 30 frames per second. The front camera is an 8 Megapixel camera with f/2.2 aperture. The rear camera comes with a Three-Axis EIS (electronic image stabilization) which helps stabilize videos. One thing to note here, that the stabilization only works with 720p videos. The camera interface is very similar to Zenfone 3 smartphone (since both of them run ZenUI 3.0) with all the settings at the right places. 

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The Top section contains Settings, Camera Switcher, Flash toggle. The bottom section contains Modes, Video Recording Button, Shutter Key, Manual Mode Toggle and Gallery shortcut. You can take a look at the screenshots for a better idea. 

Camera Modes

The camera interface contains lots of modes, using which you can enhance the image quality in different conditions. Below listed are some of them.

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Auto Mode: This mode automatically chooses best settings according to your surroundings & lighting conditions.
Manual Mode: Using this mode you can adjust all settings like ISO, Focus, White balance, Exposure, Shutter Speed etc.
Super Resolution Mode: This mode takes multiple images and stitches them together to form a large 65 Megapixel photo.
Low Light:  As the name states, the low light mode helps you take better pictures in low lighting conditions.
Other modes include; HDR Pro, Beautification, Selfie Mode, QR Code, Night Mode, Effect, Panorama, and Time Lapse Mode.


Image/Video Quality

The rear camera is very good at clicking pictures, it produced amazing photos under daylight with no noise & quite accurate colors. The pictures were sharp with lots of detail and natural tones, especially in broad daylight. The manual mode takes users to next level, using which you can achieve unimaginable results. There are plenty of modes to keep you going, and they'll surely awaken the budding photographer in you. Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) is very good at focusing, most of the times it focuses the subject in less than a second, which is great for a phone in this price segment. There was no shutter lag whatsoever. In low lighting, the camera produced decent photos, the noise was noticeable here but the output was still ok. The low light mode brightens up the image a bit, most of the times the images are overexposed. When the inbuilt flash is used, the output is quite good. Overall the image quality is good, especially for the phones in this price segment. Below are some of the sample images shot with Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) - You can take a look and decide for yourself.

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The video recording output is again decent, Zenfone 3 Max can shoot Full HD 1080p videos with the rear camera. When shooting 720p HD videos, you can enable Three-Axis EIS option for better stabilization. We've uploaded sample videos shot with Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL), you can watch them by visiting the below links.

Full HD 1080p Sample - Watch Here
HD 720p Sample with Stabilization - Watch Here

Both the samples were recorded using the rear camera of the smartphone. No edits were made, the samples are untouched footage.

Connectivity & Network Reception

Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) is a Dual SIM smartphone and supports 2G, 3G and 4G networks across different bands. The device does not support VoLTE at the moment but Asus has promised to support VoLTE with a future update, a friend of mine who is using Asus Zenfone 3 Max at the moment, received an OTA update a few days ago which enabled VoLTE on his handset, I haven't received such an update yet but I think most of the devices will receive it in the coming days. The connectivity options on Zenfone 3 Max include Bluetooth v4.1 with A2DP & LE, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS & BDS support, MicroUSB connector, OTG support, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Hotspot support. There is a 3.5 mm audio jack and FM radio support.

The network reception on Asus Zenfone 3 Max was good throughout, though sometimes voice calls dropped automatically but the issue was not very frequent, and it probably got fixed with the recent software update since I didn't experience any call drops after that update. I had no issues with the network, the reception was good throughout.

Benchmarks

During our tests, we ran a few popular benchmarks on Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) to see where it stands in front of the competitors. Below are some screenshots of the results which we obtained after the benchmarks were done playing with it.

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The AnTuTu score for Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) was 44025, while the score on Geekbench 3 was 640 for single core & 2052 for multi-core. The score on Quadrant was 22345

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Battery Performance

Asus Zenfone 3 Max carriers a huge 4100 mAh Li-Ion battery inside its shell, the battery is non-removable and supports fast charging. The battery performance throughout was just amazing, it easily lasted around two days with moderate usage & around 9 hours with extensive usage. The phone supports Reverse charging & comes with a Super Saving Mode which helps in keeping the phone running when the battery is super low. Asus Zenfone 3 Max is available in multiple colors; Titanium Grey, Glacier Silver & Sand Gold.

Verdict

Asus Zenfone 3 Max (ZC553KL) is very good in terms of design & appeal but somewhat disappoints when it comes to performance, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chip seems very old-school for such a device, I was expecting a better processor for a device in this price segment. The performance is manageable for a moderate user who intends to use the phone for calling, music, videos, browsing etc. but for a heavy multi-tasker & gamer, this phone will seem like a headache, the lag is noticeable, the gaming performance is very average and sometimes even poor. The rear camera is really good, especially for daylight photography and video shooting. The front camera is also very decent, it comes with beautification feature which enhances your selfies. The battery life is also very decent for a moderate user.

I'll recommend Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL to people who are either making a switch from a feature phone to smartphone, to people who are looking for a battery powerhouse which can last much longer than a regular smartphone or to people who looking for a budget friendly stylish & pocket camera type smartphone. This smartphone is perfect for people who are looking for a feature rich phone with large battery, good camera, big HD screen and decent performance. Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL is priced at Rs.17,999 in India and is available via Flipkart & Amazon India.

Buy Now

Flipkart - Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL (32GB / GREY)
Flipkart - Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL (32GB / SILVER)
Amazon - Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC553KL (32GB / GREY)

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Also Read: Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL Smartphone Review
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About Jimmie Luthra

Jim Luthra is a Third Officer in Merchant Navy and Chief Editor of The-Area51.com, He is a Blogger, Guitarist, Painter, Book Lover, Tech Geek, Basket Ball Lover, Traveller and Fitness Freak. He loves Traveling and Adeventure Sports.
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