In the Indian mid-range budget smartphone segment, two devices—Asus Max Pro M1 and Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro —tower above the rest. Of these, which offers a better price-value equation?
What do you value the most in a mid-range budget smartphone? Is it a good display, decent performance with no overheating, a fine camera, or a battery that can last more than a day on a full charge? Or is it all of this and more, at a price lower than the competition? As of now, two phones appear to fit the bill. One, of course, is Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. And one that comes very close to it is Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 6GB. Or is it the other way round? We find out.
In the era of 5.5-inch smartphones, both the Max Pro M1 and Note 5 Pro, at 5.99-inch, stand out. This size appears to be just right—a slightly bigger screen leads to a better multimedia experience. Here, both phones are equally good— their design is almost similar. In the Max Pro M1, the ultra-wide 18:9 aspect ratio and a slim bezel provide for an expanded viewing area—a wider screen also makes multitasking easier; for example, two apps can easily fit side-by-side on the screen.
The all-metal body of the Max Pro M1 makes the phone look more expensive than it is. It’s powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 mobile platform, with 14nm Kryo octa-core processor. It has a 6GB RAM and 64GB storage. There are two SIM slots supporting 4G LTE/VoLTE, and a microSD slot to expand storage by up to a massive 2TB. And because it gets stock Android, there is 100GB of free Google Drive storage also.
(The Note 5 Pro has similar specifications, but its expandable storage is 128GB.)
As far as sound quality is concerned, Asus has taken the frugal innovation route. While the Max Pro M1’s five-magnet speaker boosted by the NXP amplifier delivers good sound, the company offers a unit called the Max Box, made of cardboard. Once you place the phone inside the Max Box, the volume can be enhanced by up to two times. Call it ‘jugaad’ or the more sophisticated ‘frugal innovation’, the Max Box is a low-cost solution that leads to measurable improvements.
(The Note 5 Pro delivers equally good sound, but it doesn’t have a Max Box kind of gadget.)
All previous Asus phones came with Zen user interface (UI), but the Max Pro M1 gets stock Android Oreo 8.1. The reason, according to Asus, is not because the Oreo is better, but because “buyers in this segment want Android.” Over a few days of use, I took a liking to the Oreo simply because of its friendly UI design, and also because shifting from other phones to the Max Pro M1 becomes a seamless experience—there’s no need to get used to a new UI. Another advantage of the Oreo is that Android, in general, doesn’t have bloatware—most of the installed apps you’d use anyway.
(The Note 5 Pro gets MIUI 9—a customised UI developed by Xiaomi—and is loaded with MI apps, some of which you might never use. However, in performance, MIUI 9 is almost as good as Android 8.1.)
Like some expensive smartphones, the Max Pro M1 gets the face unlock feature that lets users unlock the phone simply by looking at it. In addition, it has a rear fingerprint sensor. The hallmark of the Max Pro M1 is its huge battery, rated at 5000mAh battery, which easily lasts for a day and a half of average usage.
(The Note 5 Pro has a battery rated at 4000mAh, which also lasts more than a day, but it certainly isn’t as good as that of the Max Pro M1.)
The primary rear camera of the Max Pro M1 has a 16MP sensor, and its secondary 5MP camera is a depth-sensing unit for a more accurate bokeh effect. The front is a 16MP wide-aperture selfie camera. Both cameras click good close-up shots. The rear camera is decent even for clicking faraway objects, though not the best in business.
(The Note 5 Pro has a 12MP primary camera and a 5MP for sensing depth; its selfie camera is rated at 20MP. However, after a point, more megapixels don’t ensure a better photo quality—MP is a marketing myth. Here, the Note 5 Pro appears to have an edge, and it shoots faraway objects slightly better.)
One of the best things about the Max Pro M1 is its price-value equation—for its specifications, it’s the most affordable in its segment, at Rs 14,999; there are two colours to choose from: silver and black. However, if you want to flaunt your device, the Note 5 Pro—in black, gold, rose gold, lake blue and red—has more colour options, but is not necessarily an overall better device; it’s priced Rs 14,999.
(This is not a comparison report; the Note 5 Pro has been cited only to benchmark Max Pro M1.)