The budget smartphone game keeps getting intense with smartphone manufacturers trying to squeeze out maximum performance from the new and updated chipsets, while also trying to perform a balancing act with above average battery life.

It’s just the first month of the year and both Lenovo and Xiaomi have already announced their new budget offerings with the Lenovo P2 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. While the P2 is the much awaited update to the Vibe P1, the Redmi Note 4 like its predecessor won our hearts and proved once again to be the budget king of smartphones in India.

But with the launch of the Asus Zenfone 3S Max, there is a new contender. The latest addition to the Zenfone 3 series, the upgraded 3S Max builds from the ranks of the Zenfone 3 Max, which was announced late last year. We reviewed the 5.5-inch variant of the device that packed in a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chipset, which not just felt underpowered but also lacked a capable camera (even for the sub Rs 13,000 price bracket). So how much has the Zenfone 3 Max improved with the 3S Max? And is it worth the Rs 14,999 price tag? Let’s find out!

Build and Design: 8/10

I had recently reviewed the Asus Zenfone 3 (5.5-inch) and the Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe as well. While the Zenfone 3 impressed with its sandwiched glass construction, I honestly found the Deluxe’s design rather boring. But as many will put it, design is subjective, which is why I tend to look for ways in which manufacturers innovate to make smartphones look unique and special.

In the case of the Asus Zenfone 3S Max, there is something special here. In short, it’s not what I expected from a budget smartphone, which will compete with the recently launched Redmi Note 4.

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To begin with, the design of the 3S Max looks and feels premium with a 2.5D glass on the front and a well-rounded, sandblasted, matte finished metal back.

Thanks to the weighty 5,000mAh battery at the back, it feels heavy and solid which adds to the premium in-hand feel.

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The front reminds me of the Zenfone 3 and the addition of the fingerprint reader on the front of the device is a move I and many others will truly appreciate. The 2.5D contoured glass gives the metallic finished bezel a premium look and also lets your finger glide onto the smartphone when you swipe-in from the edges.

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Moving to the back, I expected the usual metal back with plastic caps at the top and bottom, but Asus has implemented this in a rather unique way. Look at the smartphone from the back and you will not notice the top plastic cap at all, the one at the bottom has a really good fit and finish and maintains the rounded look and feel of the device, without looking out of place.

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While the camera has moved from top centre to top left, the plastic antenna cap at the top end has moved out of sight at the very top edge of the device. This smart move lets Asus use a whole chunk of metal for about 90 percent of the back instead of the 70 percent like on the Redmi Note 4. The finish of the camera module and the LED cut outs are polished and are much appreciated on a device priced in this range.

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The speaker grille moves from the back (where it got muffled when placed on a surface) to the bottom right that now lets you hear the output no matter what the use case (watching movies, playing games, reading, etc.)

All-in-all I was impressed by the design and build quality of the Zenfone 3S Max, which somehow managed to remain pretty slim despite that massive 5,000mAh battery on the back.

Publish date: February 7, 2017 12:32 pm| Modified date: February 7, 2017 12:56 pm

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