Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - The smartphone that can end all your battery woes but for a slight premium

Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - The smartphone that can end all your battery woes but for a slight premium

Asus has been delivering phones with huge battery life with their ZenFone Max series. For 2016, the company has launched ZenFone 3 Max with a battery capacity of 4100 mAh. The smartphone is priced at Rs. 17999. We have the ZenFone 3 Max for review today with the model number ZC553KL which is a 5.5 inch display variant with a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC. There is another variant available which sports a 5.2 inch display, is slightly cheaper and uses a MediaTek SoC other than inferior camera specs. Let us find out how the larger sibling performs in our in-depth review.

You can buy Asus ZenFone 3 Max - ZC553KL in Grey color here.
You can buy Asus ZenFone 3 Max - ZC553KL in Silver color here.


Asus ZenFone 3 Max has a very pretty design which has been crafted keeping minimalism and simplicity in mind. It does not boast of chamfered edges nor is too hep by any means. But the beauty of the device lies in the lack of complexity in the industrial design. The front of the smartphone houses the normal sensors and loudspeaker at the top as well as the touch capacitive buttons at the bottom which are clearly marked in silver. The unibody metal design of the frame curves at the edges to give a smooth grip on the device. The metallic back shines through as well. The curvy edges do make the smartphone slippery but since the battery is larger than normal 5.5 inch devices, this phone tends to be slightly thicker, which in turn helps balance out the loss in the grip. The back houses the camera, dual tone LED flash, laser autofocus and a fingerprint sensor. The antenna lines are still there at the top and bottom and they shine when reflected under light. The phone has the 3.5 mm audio jack intact and the metallic volume rocker and power buttons provide decent tactile feedback. There is no USB-C type port yet but the phone can reverse charge your other devices. The phone houses a hybrid dual SIM slot which we never prefer over pure dual SIM slots. A mono speaker grille at the bottom edge completes the device. We are impressed with how much more Asus has been able to do to the design even by keeping it sweet and simple.

Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - The smartphone that can end all your battery woes but for a slight premium


ZenFone 3 Max has a 5.5 inch full HD display. It is powered by 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 Octa-core SoC. The processor gets pushed by 3 GB RAM and the phone has an internal memory of 32 GB which is expandable up to 128 GB via a microSD card. The rear camera is a PixelMaster camera with 16 Megapixels resolution while the front camera is again a PixelMaster camera with 8 Megapixels resolution. We are seeing bundle of phones with dual rear cameras now but Asus has still not jumped on to that boat as yet. The battery capacity on the device is 4100 mAh, it supports 4G connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, FM radio, GPS and runs Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 layered with ZenUI 3.0 on top of it. VoLTE is still a sort of a mixup with some reviewers pointing out the fact that the phone has lost its VoLTE support with the latest update hence we would not be able to tell you for sure if it has VoLTE or not as separate units with separate firmware updates would have a different status.


The phone has a very sharp and bright display and we could not find any shortcoming with it. The viewing angles are pretty deep and the blacks are thick and dark. You would enjoy watching Youtube videos and playing games on this device for the natural processing of colors by the display. However, we feel that mobile display technology has now reached a point of saturation and we rarely find a smartphone which does not have a near perfect display and ZenFone 3 Max is no exception to the rule. Just to kick back things a little, we found that the brightness of the display changes at discrete levels rather than with a smooth transition, even without drastic change in the ambient light, thereby reducing some of the easiness on the eyes. This is most noticeable after opening or closing the camera app. The display is fairly usable under direct sunlight provided you use your face as a shadow but in case you look sideways at the display under sunlight, it behaves like a mirror and you just can't use it.

Operating system

The phone runs Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 with ZenUI 3.0 layered on top of it. The operating system retains some of its goodies like ZenMotion touch and motion gestures as well as one hand mode. There is a Theme app which allows you to change the entire look and feel of your device, it is a good thing to have on your device but we find that giving it a separate spot in the Settings app is like going a little overboard with the idea, after all people who do change the themes of their devices are the ones who would root their device when they receive it first up. A little known gesture on ZenFone 3 Max is the one where you can swipe down a little at the middle of any home screen to get to a search screen much like iPhone and Honor devices. We found it quite buggy on the ZenFone 3 Max and it messed up quite a lot by appearing at times and not appearing at others. And as is completely normal nature with Asus smartphones by now, the phone does have a lot of bloatware though thankfully not as much as some of the previous Asus devices we reviewed had. You have AudioWizard, Do It Later, Laser Ruler, MiniMovie, PhotoCollage, Mobile Manager, Puffin, Share Link, ZenCircle and ZenTalk to name a few. We have never ever used any of these apps and can't seem to find a reason to think why would anyone else do as well.


The first pain we had with the device is that the camera app is slow to open, it just takes a momentary pause to show all the buttons. However, the camera app has a wide variety of options and settings to choose from, the ability to set white balance, ISO, HDR mode and loads of other features. We clicked a few pictures from the rear camera and here they are.

Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - The smartphone that can end all your battery woes but for a slight premium

Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - The smartphone that can end all your battery woes but for a slight premium

Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - The smartphone that can end all your battery woes but for a slight premium

Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - The smartphone that can end all your battery woes but for a slight premium

The pictures clicked from the ZenFone 3 Max rear camera are decent but do not maintain absolute natural colors. This means to say that a lot of image post processing takes place inside the device and that tends to change the image dynamics from what actually what you see naturally with your eyes. Noise also starts seeping in as the ambient light starts going down. The 16 Megapixels rear camera captures the details well but could have done way better with the color processing. As you can see in all the images above, the basic colors red, blue and green are all a bit overblown while the others seem washed away. Autofocusing is fast though and so is the shutter speed.


Zenfone 3 Max works smoothly through most of the tasks including light gaming, but does give an occasional hiccup while opening apps. Multitasking is fast too but not extraordinary. The phone did not heat up much for the time we used it. The loudspeaker is decent and fairly loud, though again, not extraordinary. However, due to the usage of a mono speaker, the sound very clearly gets delivered from a singular side while using the phone in landscape mode thus losing a bit of the immersive quality. We believe 5.5 inch smartphones should have stereo speakers as standard now as smaller devices can still cope up with a single speaker system without the users feeling the sound coming out from a single direction but larger sized devices don't. We found the fingerprint sensor to be a bit sluggish too, waking the device at times and not doing so at others. We even felt the need to lift back the finger to trigger unlocking the smartphone.


The 4100 mAh battery ran for around 1.5 days with medium to heavy usage which we are impressed with, and you can stretch it up to 2 days with careful use. For our money, anything that does not require to be recharged twice a day with medium to heavy usage is impressive. In fact, we feel that a battery capable of running 1.5 days again causes some pain for users who like to charge up to 100% and then use up the battery completely as it disturbs their daily cycle quite a bit. The phone also has reverse charging capability through the provided OTG cable. But sadly, there is no fast charging option available.

Asus ZenFone 3 Max ZC553KL Review - The smartphone that can end all your battery woes but for a slight premium


3 stars


- Excellent battery
- Minimalistic yet attractive design
- Sharp display
- Fair performance


- Slightly overpriced
- Hybrid SIM slot
- Sluggish fingerprint sensor
- Unrealistic color processing by the rear camera
- Unstable auto brightness
- No fast charging
- No stereo speakers
- Bloatware


Asus has tried to deliver an all round performer with ZenFone 3 Max and they have succeeded a bit though not completely. The battery life is great and the phone's design appeals. The smartphone also performs decently. However, there are some glaring mistakes which might turn into deal breakers for a few buyers. ZenFone 3 Max is priced around Rs. 3000 higher than what we feel would have been highly appropriate. The hybrid SIM slot tends to take away the pleasure of using two SIMs as well as a microSD card. Moreover, a function that is used almost the whole day, like a fingerprint sensor needs to perform extraordinarily and just can't be sluggish. Apart from this, the auto brightness level seems to jump up and down at the drop of a hat. And of course, there is the usual Asus bloatware. But then, why would anyone buy this phone? The USP of ZenFone 3 Max lies in its battery and if a large battery is something that excites you the most, then the slight premium Asus is charging for the phone should not bother you. However, having said that, do keep watching for Coolpad Cool 1, which has some mouthwatering specifications including a similar 4000 mAh battery, a dual rear camera setup and 4 GB RAM and to be available only for Rs. 13999. At this price point and with these specifications, Cool 1 has the ability to create a large number of problems for a large number of phones and their manufacturers.

You can buy Asus ZenFone 3 Max - ZC553KL in Grey color here.
You can buy Asus ZenFone 3 Max - ZC553KL in Silver color here.

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