Notebookcheck

Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC520TL Smartphone Review

Florian Wimmer (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 01/09/2017

Long battery life, limited performance. Asus' ZenFone 3 Max aims to impress with its high-capacity battery and satisfy all runtime-junkies. However, they will have to make compromises in other aspects as our test shows.

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For the original German review, see here.

Even cheap smartphones should now also convey some premium-range feeling. Since this cannot be implemented everywhere for logical reasons, the manufacturers concentrate on individual aspects such as good cameras, high performance or long battery life as in our review sample’s case, Asus' ZenFone 3 Max ZC520TL. It is priced at around 200 Euros (~$210) and has a screen diagonal of 5.2 inches and a 15.6-watt hour battery, which is quite impressive. The former Asus' ZenFone Max was a 5.5-inch handset, which allowed incorporating an even larger battery.

LG has also specialized in affordable devices, each having  one outstanding feature in its X series. LG's X Power is the handset with the largest battery here. Samsung's Galaxy J5Huawei's Y6 II Compact, and Honor's 5C are also in the same price range, but they have a "standard" capacity battery.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL (Zenfone Series)
Graphics adapter
Memory
3072 MB 
Display
5.2 inch 16:9, 1280x720 pixel 282 PPI, capacitive touchscreen, IPS, glossy: yes
Storage
32 GB eMMC Flash, 32 GB 
, 23 GB free
Connections
1 USB 2.0, Card Reader: micro-SD max. 32 GB, 1 Fingerprint Reader, Brightness Sensor, Sensors: accelerometer, proximity meter, compass, USB OTG
Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, GSM (850/​900/​1800/​1900), UMTS (850/​900/​1900/​2100), LTE (B1/​B2/​B3/​B5/​B7/​B8/​B20); bandwidth (download/​upload): 150Mbps/​50Mbps (LTE); SAR rate: 0.59 W/kg (head), 0.86 W/kg (body), Dual SIM, LTE, GPS
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 8.55 x 149.5 x 73.7 ( = 0.34 x 5.89 x 2.9 in)
Battery
15.6 Wh, 4100 mAh Lithium-Ion, Battery runtime (according to manufacturer): 30 h
Operating System
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Camera
Primary Camera: 13 MPix AF, LED flash, videos @1080p/​30fps
Secondary Camera: 5 MPix
Additional features
Speakers: rear-sided speaker, Keyboard: virtual keyboard, SIM tool, charger, USB cable, USB OTG adapter, ZenCircle, Photocollage, ZenSync, Mobile Manager, 12 Months Warranty, FM radio, fanless
Weight
148 g ( = 5.22 oz / 0.33 pounds), Power Supply: 48 g ( = 1.69 oz / 0.11 pounds)
Price
219 Euro

 

Case

Compared with the bulkier predecessor, the ZenFone 3 Max is now much slimmer and at a height of 8.55 millimeters (~0.3 in), no longer stands out from the masses of mid-range smartphones. LG's X Power is even slimmer, even though it is equipped with an equally sized battery. The weight of 148 grams (~5.2 oz) has also been reduced by over 50 grams (~1.8 oz) compared with the predecessor. Even if the ZenFone Max was a 5.5-inch device, the weight loss is impressive.

The casing is metal, and the glass that is lightly curved at the edges covers the front. The design is round and ergonomic, but it does not stand out from other mid-range smartphones. The colors are also traditional: Silver with a white front, dark-gray with a black front or completely gold.

Pressure on the front is seen slightly in the liquid crystals, but the casing is very rigid and cannot be twisted otherwise. The antenna stripes on the rear are lowered into the casing and the resulting edges are obvious but not unpleasant. Transitions can also be felt between the glass and the metal bezel on the front, and they could feel rather rough. Overall, the quality impression is slightly above category standard; only the metal casing distinguishes our review sample from many equally priced devices.

Size Comparison

Connectivity

3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage capacity are decent and the comparison devices cannot compete with that. They have only 2 GB of RAM and 16 of storage to offer. The huge battery can also be used as a mobile power bank, i.e. friends' devices can be recharged, for example. Data sharing with external storage devices is just possible.

Two SIM cards are supported, but the user will have to choose either a second SIM card or a micro-SD card. An FM radio is also installed.

Left: SIM slot
Left: SIM slot
Right: Volume control, standby button
Right: Volume control, standby button
Upper edge: 3.5-mm headset jack
Upper edge: 3.5-mm headset jack
Lower edge: USB port, microphone
Lower edge: USB port, microphone

Software

We performed a system update during our test. However, the Android version remained at 6.0. The security patches are dated August, which is already quite old. Asus has adapted the user interface's appearance with its ZenUI 3.0. The system looks rounder, more colorful and has larger buttons. The modifications are mainly on the surface. The system memory is locked, and Android can only be loaded after entering the correct PIN.

Asus provides animated widgets for the lock screen. The smartphone can be customized with themes and an overlay that enables optimizing the performance or searching for information regarding the game while playing it. Some apps for photo editing are also preloaded. Basically, this could have been omitted since corresponding, mostly free apps can also be found in the Play Store.

Communication and GPS

The ZenFone 3 Max supports LTE Cat.4 and comes with four bands in both the GSM and UMTS networks, as well as seven bands in the LTE network. This is quite impressive since most competitors offer less. However, connecting the smartphone to a network outside of Europe could get difficult. The reception in an urban area via the well-developed Vodafone network was good, and we usually had at least 3/4 of the signal indoors.

The user will have to be satisfied with the 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi standards. Consequently, browsing in the 5 GHz network is not possible. Users who have a fast 802.11ac network at home will not be able to utilize it either. Data is transferred at speeds that are normal for an 802.11n device, but more would have also been possible here too.

Networking
iperf3 Client (receive) TCP 1 m 4M x10
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
Mali-T720 MP2, MT6737, 32 GB eMMC Flash
47.4 MBit/s ∼100%
LG X Power K220
Mali-T720 MP2, MT6735, 16 GB eMMC Flash
47.1 MBit/s ∼99% -1%
iperf3 Client (transmit) TCP 1 m 4M x10
LG X Power K220
Mali-T720 MP2, MT6735, 16 GB eMMC Flash
53.5 MBit/s ∼100% +8%
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
Mali-T720 MP2, MT6737, 32 GB eMMC Flash
49.7 MBit/s ∼93%
GPS test indoors
GPS test indoors
GPS test outdoors
GPS test outdoors

The GPS/GLONASS module could not track us indoors, but we were located quickly with an accuracy of 3 meters (~10 ft) outdoors.

We take Asus' ZenFone 3 Max alongside Garmin's Edge 500 professional navigation system, developed specifically for cyclists, on a bike ride. The professional device had a bad day in the crossing area; we have seen considerably more accurate route data from the system. The ZenFone recorded our route fairly accurately. Some dropouts occurred while crossing the bridge, but the ZenFone traced our route relatively accurately otherwise. Thus, it can definitely be recommended for non-professional navigating.

GPS Asus ZenFone 3 Max – Overview
GPS Asus ZenFone 3 Max – Overview
GPS Asus ZenFone 3 Max – Crossing
GPS Asus ZenFone 3 Max – Crossing
GPS Asus ZenFone 3 Max – Bridge
GPS Asus ZenFone 3 Max – Bridge
GPS Garmin Edge 500 – Overview
GPS Garmin Edge 500 – Overview
GPS Garmin Edge 500 – Crossing
GPS Garmin Edge 500 – Crossing
GPS Garmin Edge 500 – Bridge
GPS Garmin Edge 500 – Bridge

Telephone and Call Quality

Phone app
Phone app

Asus has redesigned the phone app, but it still functions very much like Google's standard app. The keypad opens when the app is launched, the recently called and incoming phone numbers are displayed at the top. Contacts, favorites, and groups can be accessed via tabs, and numbers can be easily blocked.

The call quality is acceptable. The earpiece transmits the contact's voice quite clearly, but not excessively loud. On the other hand, the microphone's voice transmission is rather tinny. The contact sounded slightly muffled via hands-free mode, and the microphone transmitted even more noise to the contact. Overall, it is possible to make relatively intelligible calls using Asus' ZenFone 3 Max, but its call quality will not win any awards.

Cameras

Front-facing camera photo
Front-facing camera photo

Asus' ZenFone 3 Max is exactly on category average with a 13-megapixel camera on the rear and 5-megapixels on the front. Nothing has changed compared with the predecessor, at least in terms of megapixel count. It has actually been slimmed down: The laser auto-focus and dual-LED flash found in the predecessor have been omitted here.

We tested the rear-facing camera on an afternoon walk. Since the sun was already setting, the scenario was quite demanding. The primary camera in Asus' ZenFone 3 Max hardly convinces here: Barely any outlines are visible in dark areas, color surfaces look blotchy, and the photo is overall relatively blurry. The camera in Samsung's Galaxy S7 presents its much higher quality here. Hardly any outlines in dark areas are visible in very high-contrast photos, such as our candlelight test shots. At least the flames are not overexposed. The colors, however, look much too cool here.

The rear-facing camera records videos at a maximum of 1080p at 30 frames per second. The quality is good here. The exposure adapts very quickly, and releasing the auto-focus manually, which is also fast, helps when photographing nearby objects. The color reproduction is decent and the image sharpness is good.

The front-facing camera shoots decent photos at a maximum of 5 megapixels. The dynamics could be a bit higher in dark areas and a slight color noise is also visible. However, the front-facing camera is overall satisfactory.

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

The primary camera in Asus' ZenFone 3 Max produces decent photos that are relatively sharp under defined light conditions in the test lab. The blurred edges of text are noticed on a red background, but then the edges are too sharp on a green background. The photos also look quite dark here.

A look at the color chart also confirms this. Many color tones are too dark and yellow tones are too bright compared to the reference color space.

Photographed reference card
Photographed reference card
Reference card details
Reference card details
Screenshot of ColorChecker colors. Original colors are displayed in the lower half of each patch.
Screenshot of ColorChecker colors. Original colors are displayed in the lower half of each patch.

Accessories and Warranty

In addition to the power supply and USB cable, a USB OTG adapter that, for example, allows connecting another device via USB for charging or connecting an external storage device, is found in the box of Asus' ZenFone 3 Max. A SIM tool for the slot is also included.

Some general accessories for Zenphones are listed on Asus' website, but product-specific accessories are only available for the premium models. The ZenFone 3 Max is unfortunately not one of them.

The warranty period is limited to only 12 months.

Input Devices and Handling

The ZenUI keyboard developed by Asus is preset. Personally, we like the more basic GBoard by Google with fewer double assignments and larger keys. However, it first has to be downloaded from Google's Play Store. Asus only preloads its proprietary keyboard app. However, it also allows fast typing and offers many input modes.

The fingerprint scanner is situated on the rear. It allows unlocking the smartphone quickly and it can be used for waking up the smartphone from standby. The sensor can also be used for taking pictures, launching the camera or accepting calls.

Asus has also installed a gesture and touch control called ZenMotion. It allows waking up the smartphone via double-tap or launching apps by inputting letters on a turned off smartphone. However, activating it is rather complicated since it is not enough to turn the slider to "on" in the settings menu. The item itself has to be tapped and the individual gestures have to be enabled manually.

The volume control and standby button are readily accessible and their roughened surface make them easy to feel. They have an accurate pressure point.

Keyboard portrait mode
Keyboard portrait mode
Keyboard landscape mode
Keyboard landscape mode

Display

Subpixel grid
Subpixel grid

A 720p-resolution screen is standard in this category, and only Honor's 5C stands out with its Full HD panel here. The screen's average brightness of 474 cd/m² is quite bright, even though the predecessor offered a much higher brightness. The illumination of 85% is not very homogeneous: A difference of over 70 cd/m² is measured between the darkest and the brightest area in maximum brightness. This is visible on large color surfaces when looking closely.

431
cd/m²
500
cd/m²
476
cd/m²
434
cd/m²
507
cd/m²
476
cd/m²
464
cd/m²
502
cd/m²
479
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 507 cd/m² Average: 474.3 cd/m² Minimum: 12.77 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 85 %
Center on Battery: 507 cd/m²
Contrast: 957:1 (Black: 0.53 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 4.7 | - Ø
ΔE Greyscale 4.8 | - Ø
Gamma: 2.25
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
IPS, 1280x720, 5.2
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
IPS, 1280x720, 5.5
Honor 5C
IPS, 1920x1080, 5.2
Huawei Y6 II Compact
IPS, 1280x720, 5
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
AMOLED, 1280x720, 5.2
LG X Power K220
IPS, 1280x720, 5.3
Screen
-1%
-9%
-24%
3%
4%
Brightness
474
566
19%
498
5%
487
3%
291
-39%
352
-26%
Brightness Distribution
85
84
-1%
93
9%
92
8%
96
13%
85
0%
Black Level *
0.53
0.57
-8%
0.49
8%
0.9
-70%
0.2
62%
Contrast
957
1028
7%
1051
10%
546
-43%
1905
99%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
4.7
4.2
11%
6.2
-32%
6.6
-40%
4.7
-0%
7.3
-55%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
4.8
6.3
-31%
7.4
-54%
4.9
-2%
3
37%
7.4
-54%
Gamma
2.25 107%
2.39 100%
2.28 105%
2.12 113%
2.03 118%
2.26 106%
CCT
6441 101%
6614 98%
8664 75%
7090 92%
6291 103%
8417 77%

* ... smaller is better

Screen Flickering / PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)

To dim the screen, some notebooks will simply cycle the backlight on and off in rapid succession - a method called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) . This cycling frequency should ideally be undetectable to the human eye. If said frequency is too low, users with sensitive eyes may experience strain or headaches or even notice the flickering altogether.
Screen flickering / PWM not detected

In comparison: 57 % of all tested devices do not use PWM to dim the display. If PWM was detected, an average of 6577 (minimum: 43 - maximum: 142900) Hz was measured.

The black level of 0.53 cd/m² is acceptable, but LG's X Power can display much blacker areas with 0.2 cd/m², not to mention the AMOLED panel in Samsung's Galaxy J5. The contrast ratio of 957:1 is rather mediocre. We did not ascertain any image flickering due to pulse width modulation.

The screen's color accuracy is satisfactory when compared with the sRGB reference color space. However, the color space coverage is only just below 85%. A very light greenish tint can be seen in brighter grayscale levels when looking closely. A blue light filter (a warmer white balance) with 5 levels is also present.

CalMAN ColorChecker
CalMAN ColorChecker
CalMAN Colorspace
CalMAN Colorspace
CalMAN Grayscale
CalMAN Grayscale
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps

Display Response Times

Display response times show how fast the screen is able to change from one color to the next. Slow response times can lead to afterimages and can cause moving objects to appear blurry (ghosting). Gamers of fast-paced 3D titles should pay special attention to fast response times.
       Response Time Black to White
44 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 11 ms rise
↘ 33 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.8 (minimum) to 240 (maximum) ms. » 97 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is worse than the average of all tested devices (26.7 ms).
       Response Time 50% Grey to 80% Grey
72 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 32 ms rise
↘ 40 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.9 (minimum) to 636 (maximum) ms. » 97 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is worse than the average of all tested devices (42.8 ms).

Although the screen is quite bright, it has problems defying reflections in bright surroundings outdoors. The ambient light sensor does a good job, but it is nevertheless difficult to recognize something on the smartphone in bright sunlight.

The viewing angles are good, and the image is clearly visible from all sides. The camera is more sensitive to the slight color shifts than the human eye.

Outdoors - minimum brightness
Outdoors - minimum brightness
Outdoors - medium brightness
Outdoors - medium brightness
Outdoors - maximum brightness
Outdoors - maximum brightness
Outdoors - ambient light sensor
Outdoors - ambient light sensor
Viewing angles
Viewing angles
 
 
 

Performance

The SoC in our review sample is MediaTek's MT6737. It is built in the 28-nanometer process and has four CPU cores based on the 64-bit capable Cortex A53 architecture. It clocks at 1.25 GHz. Although it is an entry-level SoC, it always ensured smooth navigation in, for example, Blackview's A8 Max. We cannot say this is always true for Asus' ZenFone 3 Max. Stutters or waiting times occurred time and again. They were not dramatic, but Asus' ZenFone 3 Max did not convey a quite as smooth impression as most competing devices. We assume that this is due to the Asus' modified interface. An update could eliminate this.

The processor part of the SoC is roughly on par with the comparison devices in the benchmarks. Only Honor's 5C with its upper mid-range SoC has a clear lead.

The graphics unit in Asus' ZenFone 3 Max is an ARM Mali-T720 MP2 that clocks at 650 MHz and supports OpenGL ES 3.1, which is a slightly older version. The performance in the benchmarks fluctuates and is usually slightly below that of comparable devices.

AnTuTu Benchmark v6 - Total Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
30365 Points ∼13%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
26169 Points ∼11% -14%
Honor 5C
53143 Points ∼23% +75%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
33786 Points ∼15% +11%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
27232 Points ∼12% -10%
LG X Power K220
30432 Points ∼13% 0%
Geekbench 4.0
64 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
1362 Points ∼5%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
1581 Points ∼6% +16%
LG X Power K220
1506 Points ∼5% +11%
64 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
569 Points ∼10%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
549 Points ∼10% -4%
LG X Power K220
560 Points ∼10% -2%
3DMark
2560x1440 Sling Shot Extreme (ES 3.1) Physics (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
699 Points ∼23%
Honor 5C
1418 Points ∼47% +103%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
873 Points ∼29% +25%
LG X Power K220
854 Points ∼28% +22%
2560x1440 Sling Shot Extreme (ES 3.1) Graphics (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
83 Points ∼2%
Honor 5C
317 Points ∼6% +282%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
100 Points ∼2% +20%
LG X Power K220
102 Points ∼2% +23%
2560x1440 Sling Shot Extreme (ES 3.1) (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
103 Points ∼3%
Honor 5C
383 Points ∼10% +272%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
124 Points ∼3% +20%
LG X Power K220
127 Points ∼3% +23%
2560x1440 Sling Shot OpenGL ES 3.0 Physics (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
741 Points ∼25%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
719 Points ∼24% -3%
Honor 5C
1418 Points ∼47% +91%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
826 Points ∼27% +11%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
709 Points ∼24% -4%
LG X Power K220
860 Points ∼29% +16%
2560x1440 Sling Shot OpenGL ES 3.0 Graphics (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
128 Points ∼2%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
42 Points ∼1% -67%
Honor 5C
480 Points ∼6% +275%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
167 Points ∼2% +30%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
42 Points ∼1% -67%
LG X Power K220
165 Points ∼2% +29%
2560x1440 Sling Shot OpenGL ES 3.0 (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
157 Points ∼3%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
53 Points ∼1% -66%
Honor 5C
563 Points ∼11% +259%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
203 Points ∼4% +29%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
53 Points ∼1% -66%
LG X Power K220
201 Points ∼4% +28%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Physics (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
7298 Points ∼10%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
9043 Points ∼13% +24%
Honor 5C
13588 Points ∼19% +86%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
9393 Points ∼13% +29%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
9022 Points ∼13% +24%
LG X Power K220
10103 Points ∼14% +38%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
3369 Points ∼1%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
3767 Points ∼1% +12%
Honor 5C
11319 Points ∼2% +236%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
4296 Points ∼1% +28%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
3838 Points ∼1% +14%
LG X Power K220
4330 Points ∼1% +29%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
3827 Points ∼2%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
4328 Points ∼2% +13%
Honor 5C
11755 Points ∼6% +207%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
4885 Points ∼2% +28%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
4400 Points ∼2% +15%
LG X Power K220
4960 Points ∼3% +30%
GFXBench (DX / GLBenchmark) 2.7
1920x1080 T-Rex HD Offscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
5.9 fps ∼0%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
5.2 fps ∼0% -12%
Honor 5C
19 fps ∼1% +222%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
8.4 fps ∼1% +42%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
5.2 fps ∼0% -12%
LG X Power K220
8.4 fps ∼1% +42%
T-Rex HD Onscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
10 fps ∼2%
Honor 5C
20 fps ∼4% +100%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
15 fps ∼3% +50%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
9.7 fps ∼2% -3%
LG X Power K220
15 fps ∼3% +50%
GFXBench 3.0
off screen Manhattan Offscreen OGL (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
2.2 fps ∼0%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
3.8 fps ∼1% +73%
Honor 5C
7.9 fps ∼1% +259%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
2.8 fps ∼1% +27%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
1.8 fps ∼0% -18%
LG X Power K220
3.1 fps ∼1% +41%
on screen Manhattan Onscreen OGL (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
4.7 fps ∼1%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
1.8 fps ∼0% -62%
Honor 5C
8.4 fps ∼2% +79%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
6.1 fps ∼2% +30%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
3.8 fps ∼1% -19%
LG X Power K220
6.6 fps ∼2% +40%
GFXBench 3.1
off screen Manhattan ES 3.1 Offscreen (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
1.4 fps ∼0%
Honor 5C
4.5 fps ∼1% +221%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
1.7 fps ∼0% +21%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
fps ∼0% -100%
LG X Power K220
2 fps ∼0% +43%
on screen Manhattan ES 3.1 Onscreen (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
3.4 fps ∼2%
Honor 5C
4.9 fps ∼3% +44%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
4.1 fps ∼2% +21%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
fps ∼0% -100%
LG X Power K220
4.1 fps ∼2% +21%
PCMark for Android - Work performance score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
2517 Points ∼30%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
3691 Points ∼44% +47%
Honor 5C
5120 Points ∼62% +103%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
3400 Points ∼41% +35%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
4126 Points ∼50% +64%
LG X Power K220
3759 Points ∼45% +49%
BaseMark OS II
Web (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
703 Points ∼46%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
544 Points ∼35% -23%
Honor 5C
707 Points ∼46% +1%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
10 Points ∼1% -99%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
551 Points ∼36% -22%
LG X Power K220
10 Points ∼1% -99%
Graphics (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
210 Points ∼2%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
317 Points ∼4% +51%
Honor 5C
814 Points ∼9% +288%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
283 Points ∼3% +35%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
312 Points ∼4% +49%
LG X Power K220
290 Points ∼3% +38%
Memory (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
780 Points ∼18%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
797 Points ∼18% +2%
Honor 5C
1504 Points ∼34% +93%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
571 Points ∼13% -27%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
643 Points ∼15% -18%
LG X Power K220
521 Points ∼12% -33%
System (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
1041 Points ∼16%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
1088 Points ∼17% +5%
Honor 5C
2600 Points ∼40% +150%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
1093 Points ∼17% +5%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
1060 Points ∼16% +2%
LG X Power K220
1092 Points ∼17% +5%
Overall (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
588 Points ∼16%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
622 Points ∼16% +6%
Honor 5C
1225 Points ∼32% +108%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
203 Points ∼5% -65%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
585 Points ∼15% -1%
LG X Power K220
200 Points ∼5% -66%

Legend

 
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL Mediatek MT6737, ARM Mali-T720 MP2, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 MSM8916, Qualcomm Adreno 306, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Honor 5C HiSilicon Kirin 650, ARM Mali-T830 MP2, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Huawei Y6 II Compact Mediatek MT6735, ARM Mali-T720 MP2, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016 Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 MSM8916, Qualcomm Adreno 306, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
LG X Power K220 Mediatek MT6735, ARM Mali-T720 MP2, 16 GB eMMC Flash

Asus' ZenFone 3 Max lags slightly behind comparable devices in browsing performance. The distance varies depending on the benchmark. We looked at some sophisticated HTML5 websites for testing purposes. One of them stopped loading and the animation in others stuttered. The experience using higher-performance smartphones is considerably better.

The computing power will be enough for occasional checking of emails or reading the news.

Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
2534 Points ∼5%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
2685 Points ∼5% +6%
Honor 5C
4188 Points ∼8% +65%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
2805 Points ∼6% +11%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
2730 Points ∼6% +8%
LG X Power K220
2657 Points ∼5% +5%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
14983 ms * ∼25%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
13524.7 ms * ∼23% +10%
Honor 5C
9111.2 ms * ∼15% +39%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
13234 ms * ∼22% +12%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
13046 ms * ∼22% +13%
LG X Power K220
13196 ms * ∼22% +12%
WebXPRT 2015 - Overall Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
35 Points ∼5%
Honor 5C
73 Points ∼10% +109%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
50 Points ∼7% +43%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
47 Points ∼6% +34%
JetStream 1.1 - 1.1 Total Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
16.471 Points ∼5%
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
17.533 Points ∼5% +6%
Honor 5C
27.934 Points ∼8% +70%
Huawei Y6 II Compact
18.304 Points ∼5% +11%
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
16.8 Points ∼5% +2%
LG X Power K220
18.133 Points ∼5% +10%

* ... smaller is better

The ZenFone 3 Max did a good job in accessing the Toshiba Exceria Pro M401 reference memory card, but did not come close to the very fast access rates of Samsung's Galaxy J5. The micro-SD card can be formatted as an internal storage. However, we did not discover a possibility of moving apps to the SD card when it is used as a memory card.

The review sample is midfield in terms of accessing the internal storage.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TLAsus ZenFone Max ZC550KLHonor 5CHuawei Y6 II CompactSamsung Galaxy J5 2016LG X Power K220
AndroBench 3-5
-41%
54%
7%
25%
-20%
Sequential Write 256KB SDCard
29.59
18.93
-36%
24.21
-18%
17.12
-42%
46.61
58%
18.17
-39%
Sequential Read 256KB SDCard
47.67
38.43
-19%
51.93
9%
31.57
-34%
79.83
67%
32.08
-33%
Random Write 4KB
9.1
3.6
-60%
15.7
73%
15.5
70%
11.6
27%
7.32
-20%
Random Read 4KB
20.9
9.1
-56%
61.7
195%
23
10%
21
0%
18.78
-10%
Sequential Write 256KB
65.15
31.1
-52%
75.5
16%
75
15%
72
11%
43.74
-33%
Sequential Read 256KB
174.2
130.6
-25%
263
51%
211
21%
147
-16%
196.81
13%

Games

The graphics unit cannot render games such as "Asphalt 8" smoothly even in low details. Visible stutters are seen in high details. This might also be due to the fact that Asus fades in an overlay during the game, which probably also draws on performance (small gamepad in the upper left of the screenshots).

More basic games, such as "Angry Birds" can be played on the smartphone without any issues. Users who play 3D-games with high graphics requirements will have to opt for a higher-performance smartphone.

Control via touchscreen and position sensor was very accurate in all games in our tests.

"Asphalt 8: Airborne"
"Asphalt 8: Airborne"
"Dead Trigger 2"
"Dead Trigger 2"
Asphalt 8: Airborne
 SettingsValue
 high15 fps
 very low28 fps
Dead Trigger 2
 SettingsValue
 high27 fps

Emissions

GFXBench battery test
GFXBench battery test

Temperature

A slight temperature increase is noticed during load with a maximum temperature of 40.4 °C (~105 °F), but it is not unpleasant and it is also very much limited to one area. The idle load temperature is hardly felt.

We check whether the system can maintain its performance with the GFXBench battery test. We can give a positive report - the frame rates fluctuate only slightly and are on roughly the same level as at the beginning after thirty runs.

Max. Load
 36.8 °C37 °C40.4 °C 
 36.9 °C36.1 °C40.3 °C 
 36.1 °C35.8 °C39.2 °C 
Maximum: 40.4 °C
Average: 37.6 °C
33.5 °C34.2 °C35.3 °C
34 °C34 °C35.5 °C
33.9 °C33.7 °C33.6 °C
Maximum: 35.5 °C
Average: 34.2 °C
Power Supply (max.)  29.9 °C | Room Temperature 21.4 °C | Voltcraft IR-260
Heatmap front
Heatmap front
Heatmap rear
Heatmap rear

Speaker

Pink Noise speaker test
Pink Noise speaker test

The speaker in Asus' ZenFone 3 Max is situated on the rear and muffles audibly when the smartphone is placed on a table. In fact, not much sound is heard at all. The sound can be adapted in several preset profiles via the audio assistant. Furthermore, a button for an outdoor mode appears when changing the volume via the volume control. It increases the high tones and supposedly increases intelligibility in the outdoors.

This does not contribute to the speaker's already relatively thin and treble-heavy sound. At least the other profiles provide a somewhat more balanced sound. Smart mode selects the suitable profile automatically. Overall, the sound is not very convincing. Although it is fairly loud, it does not present audible basses and is very treble-heavy.

The 3.5-mm jack and Bluetooth provide a balanced audio signal.

dB(A) 0102030405060708090Deep BassMiddle BassHigh BassLower RangeMidsHigher MidsLower HighsMid HighsUpper HighsSuper Highs2031.6412525.4413125.335.44032.930.55033.633.36331.627.78028.429.61002727.512520.824.21602229.220021.326.725020.834.731521.242.940019.44950019.555.363017.760.880017.967.4100017.874.8125017.379.1160017.479200016.777.3250017.276.2315018.274.1400017.973.5500017.676.6630017.775.4800017.8781000017.9791250018.166.51600018.258.6SPL3088N1.368.5median 17.9Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TLmedian 67.4Delta1.316.631.653.425.432.925.33032.937.233.640.631.640.428.432.42729.220.823.82222.521.327.720.834.621.240.619.448.919.55517.760.417.969.217.874.917.380.117.477.116.773.717.27518.275.517.974.217.674.917.778.717.882.717.97718.166.818.264.83088.51.371.5median 17.9LG X Power K220median 69.21.315.537.727.732.437.722.330.631.322.326.529.131.726.52931.4262932.337.239.432.32927.736.22924.627.628.624.623.223.425.423.228.321.821.328.330.823.223.330.834.52422.534.537.222.922.437.242.126.921.342.147.428.218.447.456.236.117.556.262.641.517.562.670.848.617.270.875.853.716.875.872.450.217.372.470.548.117.470.568.146.716.668.167.245.117.367.268.547.217.668.570.949.417.670.974.953.217.774.976.554.417.476.576.354.717.776.365.242.617.965.251.330.718.151.346.826.118.146.884.162.229.884.156.714.71.356.7median 65.2Samsung Galaxy J5 2016median 42.6median 17.7median 65.213.911.21.613.9hearing rangehide median Pink Noise
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (88.04 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 36.6% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (9.8% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(±) | higher mids - on average 9.7% higher than median
(±) | linearity of mids is average (9.6% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(±) | higher highs - on average 8.7% higher than median
(+) | highs are linear (3.3% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(-) | overall sound is not linear (32.3% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 83% of all tested devices in this class were better, 8% similar, 9% worse
» The best had a delta of 14%, average was 26%, worst was 44%
Compared to all devices tested
» 91% of all tested devices were better, 4% similar, 5% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 22%, worst was 53%

LG X Power K220 audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (88.5 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 39.4% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (9.1% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(±) | reduced mids - on average 9% lower than median
(±) | linearity of mids is average (11.2% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(±) | higher highs - on average 7.7% higher than median
(+) | highs are linear (4.8% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(-) | overall sound is not linear (31.3% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 79% of all tested devices in this class were better, 6% similar, 15% worse
» The best had a delta of 14%, average was 26%, worst was 44%
Compared to all devices tested
» 89% of all tested devices were better, 3% similar, 8% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 22%, worst was 53%

Samsung Galaxy J5 2016 audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (84.09 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 32.6% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (7.1% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(±) | higher mids - on average 7.6% higher than median
(±) | linearity of mids is average (10.9% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(±) | higher highs - on average 6.1% higher than median
(+) | highs are linear (6.5% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(-) | overall sound is not linear (30.3% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 75% of all tested devices in this class were better, 7% similar, 18% worse
» The best had a delta of 14%, average was 26%, worst was 44%
Compared to all devices tested
» 87% of all tested devices were better, 4% similar, 9% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 22%, worst was 53%

Frequency diagram in comparison (checkboxes above can be turned on/off!)

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The power consumption is relatively high and only its minimum idle consumption can match that of other devices. However, Asus' ZenFone 3 Max already consumes more power than the comparison devices during light load. As much as 6.59 watts can be reached during maximum load. Samsung's Galaxy J5 does not need half as much here.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.06 / 0.39 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 0.74 / 2.04 / 2.22 Watt
Load midlight 5.57 / 6.59 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
4100 mAh
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
5000 mAh
Honor 5C
3000 mAh
Huawei Y6 II Compact
2200 mAh
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
3100 mAh
LG X Power K220
4100 mAh
Power Consumption
-9%
8%
28%
38%
28%
Idle Minimum *
0.74
1.15
-55%
0.89
-20%
0.57
23%
0.61
18%
0.64
14%
Idle Average *
2.04
2.09
-2%
2.07
-1%
1.53
25%
1.41
31%
1.3
36%
Idle Maximum *
2.22
2.17
2%
2.15
3%
1.6
28%
1.51
32%
1.34
40%
Load Average *
5.57
5.38
3%
3.46
38%
2.82
49%
2.56
54%
4.18
25%
Load Maximum *
6.59
6.08
8%
5.18
21%
5.69
14%
3.1
53%
4.87
26%

* ... smaller is better

Battery Runtime

Thus, the good battery life is mainly due to the high-capacity battery. The battery can provide 4100 mAh or 15.6-watt hours. This allows our review sample to last 13:34 hours in the Wi-Fi test. LG's X Power with an equally sized battery, however, achieves 16:27 hours thanks to its considerably lower consumption.

Nevertheless, the runtime of Asus' ZenFone 3 Max is impressive and is easily enough for two workdays when games are not played. When the smartphone is not used frequently, it might have to be reconnected to an outlet after four days. Super savings mode extends the battery life when it gets tight. Asus' ZenFone 3 Max does not support a Quick Charge feature.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
24h 22min
WiFi Surfing v1.3
13h 34min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
14h 05min
Load (maximum brightness)
5h 01min
Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL
4100 mAh
Asus ZenFone Max ZC550KL
5000 mAh
Honor 5C
3000 mAh
Huawei Y6 II Compact
2200 mAh
Samsung Galaxy J5 2016
3100 mAh
LG X Power K220
4100 mAh
Battery Runtime
18%
-34%
-22%
0%
21%
Reader / Idle
1462
997
-32%
1175
-20%
1599
9%
H.264
845
602
-29%
682
-19%
658
-22%
WiFi v1.3
814
959
18%
584
-28%
623
-23%
643
-21%
987
21%
Load
301
156
-48%
222
-26%
402
34%
365
21%

Pros

+ solid, slim metal casing
+ good memory configuration
+ USB OTG
+ dual-SIM
+ relatively fast GPS
+ low temperatures
+ very good battery life
+ low power consumption
+ relatively bright screen without bluish tint

Cons

- 12-month warranty only
- outdated security patches
- some awkward software
- clashing speaker
- tinny microphone sound
- occasional low performance

Verdict

In review: Asus ZenFone 3 Max. Review sample courtesy of Asus Germany.
In review: Asus ZenFone 3 Max. Review sample courtesy of Asus Germany.

Asus' ZenFone 3 Max keeps its most important promise: Its battery life is really extremely long. As pleasing as this is, we have to say that LG's X Power even surpasses this runtime. We like the review sample's casing; it is very high-quality for this price range, but it does not stand out from the masses of smartphones. More positive qualities are found in the decent screen, low idle power consumption and low temperature development.

We did not like the performance as much. The device is rather slower than its competitors in all aspects. Perhaps this is due to Asus' ZenUI interface? The device is only conditionally suitable for 3D games, but more sophisticated websites could also be a problem.

The ZenFone 3 Max offers a good memory configuration for this price range, can handle two SIM cards, and is light and slim. The handset will be a good deal for anyone mainly focusing on battery life.

Compared with its direct predecessor, the ZenFone Max, our review sample does many things better, but it has lost some of its runtime. Asus' ZenFone 3 Max is a successful update and seen on its own, it is primarily suitable for runtime-junkies. Everyone else will have to make compromises in camera, speaker, and call quality. But this is not unusual in this price range.

Asus Zenfone 3 Max ZC520TL - 01/02/2017 v6
Florian Wimmer

Chassis
87%
Keyboard
64 / 75 → 85%
Pointing Device
91%
Connectivity
36 / 60 → 61%
Weight
93%
Battery
96%
Display
84%
Games Performance
6 / 63 → 10%
Application Performance
29 / 70 → 41%
Temperature
90%
Noise
100%
Audio
48 / 91 → 53%
Camera
65%
Average
68%
81%
Smartphone - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC520TL Smartphone Review
Florian Wimmer, 2017-01- 9 (Update: 2017-01-11)