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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

ZenFone 3s Max: Powerhouse Travel Phone

Unboxing the ZenFone 3s Max phone, a powerhouse for travel

As a traveler, what do you look for in the phone that you want to carry on your travels? Is it a great camera? Is it lots of storage capacity? Is it good entertainment capabilities? Or do you simply want a sturdy, good looking phone?

As a traveler, travel blogger and travel photographer, a great phone is akin to being a lifeline for me. A phone doubles up as a camera for me at many times. And it is possibly the device that I use most often to stay connected. These are the things that I usually look in a phone that I want to carry on my travels:

1) Powerful Internal Mechanics – From capturing high quality videos and photos to playing games, listening to music and watching movies and TV shows during long travels and layovers and from using the phone for all online content consumption and fulfilment to using it as my permanent travel companion, I usually put my travel phone to its fullest test. And that is why I look for phones with solid technical specs, like a great processor, high clarity full HD screen and decent RAM memory.

2) Long Lasting Battery – At most times during my travels, I find smartphones run out of battery. I do carry a battery backup, but I always yearn for more. I cannot reduce my use, but always love a device that can last longer.

3) Decent Camera – There are times during my travels that a moment goes by before I can pick up my big DSLR camera. At such times, I find a phone camera come in super handy as they are able to capture that fleeting moment. And that is why I prefer phones with good cameras so that not only do I have it for memory sake, but I can leverage it as a high quality image. Manual modes and long exposure modes are great features to have.

4) It should be Inexpensive - Contrary to most of my friends and travel companions, I prefer to carry an inexpensive phone with me on my travels so that if I lose it or drop it, it isn’t a deal breaker.

5) Dual Sim - On my international travels, I almost always keep my India number active and hence prefer a dual sim phone to allow me to use the local sim (international) in the same device.

Now, you know what I look for in my travel phone. I am always in search of a phone that keeps helping me make the most of my travels. For the last few months, I have been using the newly launched Asus Zenfone 3s Max phone and I have to say that I am seriously impressed with its technical capability, functionality, powerhouse battery and overall bang for the buck. And what’s even better is the fact that the price of the phone has been slashed to INR 12,999 in celebration of the upcoming festival season.    
   
This detailed review is based on the experience of using the Asus ZenFone 3s Max phone in many situations: from bustling city markets to remote forests and mountains.

Heavy Duty Battery
 
The first thing that I noticed about the phone is its powerhouse of a battery that allowed me to stay unplugged for days in spite of my insanely high use. This incredibly long lasting 5000 mAh battery provides upto:

1) 34 days of 4G standby time

2) 28 hours talk time on 3G

3) 25 hours of web browsing over Wi-Fi

Not only do these incredible battery specifications allow you to travel unplugged, it also allows you to leverage this battery as a power bank through its reverse charging facility. Basically, what I am trying to say is that, there is no more battery related worries especially if you going on those long mountain treks, long train journeys or simply travel in places where you can’t find the opportunity to charge your phone. It’s super saving and power saving modes even allow you to stretch this battery capability to even much longer, which comes in super handy during those emergency situations that we do see from time to time in our trips and journeys.
 
Strong battery for the Zenfone 3s Max phonePower Saver mode of Asus ZenFone 3s Max phoneLong lasting battery - perfect for long treks and trips

What I also like about the battery of the Asus ZenFone 3s Max is that in spite of the high capacity, it doesn’t add much weight to the phone. In fact, at 175 grams, the phone feels perfect in my hand and its lightweight presence is hardly felt in my hand, pocket or bag.

Stunning Camera Capabilities

Monsoon holiday in Meghalaya

While the powerhouse of a battery is definitely the top feature of the Asus ZenFone 3s Max phone, its camera capabilities are not too far behind. With a 13 megapixel PixelMaster camera and a sensor that handles apertures upto f2.0, the phone camera captures excellent details even in low light conditions.

I used the camera at day, at night, while stationary and while moving and in cold and hot conditions and I have to tell you that the camera focussed fast and clear and captured excellent details in all conditions. The Asus software in the camera app and the good camera specs work like a beautiful 1-2 combo and the results are so good that sometimes I wonder if I really need to carry my professional DSLR. And not just that, the 6 super helpful photography modes of the camera allows you to take your phone travel photography to a much higher level.

These are the 6 modes that I am referring to:

1) Super Resolution Mode

Stunning Akbar's tomb at Sikandra, Agra

This mode allows you to capture gorgeous high-resolution landscape photos that are as big as 52 megapixel. In spite of the camera having just a 13 MP camera, the phone’s special image processing technique ensures that clarity and detail are not sacrificed and noise is kept to a bare minimum.

2) Low Light Mode

Traditional fire dance at Laxmi Niwas Palace, Bikaner

The place where I have found phone cameras lack the most is in lowlight conditions. But, I was surprised at the low light capability of the Asus ZenFone 3S Max phone. Apparently, its low light mode increases the light sensitivity of the sensor by up to 400%, allowing for crisp pictures at fast shutter speeds. This means that one can easily capture those dim lit dinner events or simply any kind of night photography

3) Panoramic Mode

A feature that is found in most cameras these days, but nonetheless a super helpful feature is the wide panorama. This camera mode allows you to pan the camera to automatically capture different frames while seamlessly stitching them into one spectacular panorama shot for you.

4) Backlight HDR Mode

The insides of the luxurious Golden Chariot train

Another useful night photography mode is the backlight HDR mode, which intelligently adjusts the exposure of your frame by brightening the dark areas and lightens the bright areas. This makes for great pictures.

5) Beautification Mode

Sadhu baba snapped in his element at Orchha, Madhya Pradesh

For all those selfie lovers and portrait fanatics, this phone’s beautification mode allows you to smooth skin tones, thin cheeks, enhance eyes and other cool features that help you create an eye popping portrait or selfie.

6) Manual Mode

Trek to the living root bridges of Meghalaya, India

Long exposures, background bokeh and some DSLR like features can be replicated on mobile phones these days. Sounds fancy, but pretty easy to use. Such is the flexibility of the manual mode feature that if you have a gorilla pod for your phone, you could even try your luck at capturing the star studded skies in the mountains and the deserts.

Gorgeous Build and Design

The Asus ZenFone 3s Max phone looks slick and sleek from the outside and definitely catches the eye. From the inside, it is packed with serious power. Powered by an Octa-core processor 64-bit processor, 3 GB of RAM, a Mali T860 graphics processing unit, a LTE category 4 sub-system and a 5.2 inch high definition IPS display, using this phone is a smooth experience. Whether I am playing a game, recording a full HD video, watching HD movies, downloading content, browsing the internet or simply multi tasking through different apps on the phone, the phone is always super responsive and extremely user-friendly.

With a best in its class, 75% screen to body ratio, consuming content on it is an absolute pleasure. The in-built blue light filter is a blessing for all nocturnal users like me. Even in the audio department, the loudspeaker produces good clarity sound. The in-built Audio Wizard allows you to customize the audio settings based on your choice of music or video and hence a pretty useful feature. With good quality ear or headphones, sound quality is even better.

Oodles of Storage Space

When we travel, we tend to go berserk with clicking photos and videos and it is a shame that we have to delete some of them for lack of space. After all, each one of those photos and videos count towards our rich travel experiences and I personally hate deleting them because my phone is full.

This is where I like the Asus ZenFone 3s Max phone, which comes with an in-built 32 GB memory that is expandable upto 2 TB (Terabytes). This means no more deleting of captured travel memories. I am not just talking about one single trip, but may be many trips. I can store ebooks, music, movies, TV shows and more in addition to my travel photos and videos.

Dual Sim

When I am at home, I use only one sim, but when I am traveling outside of India, I prefer to opt for a local sim as they are much more cost-effective. For such international travels, I prefer carrying a dual sim phone instead of 2 different phones. That way, I get to leverage all the content stored in the device while staying connected (data and voice – local and roaming) on the same device. This is not an essential feature, but having it saves so many headaches for me. 

Runs on Latest Android


For Android power users like me, I love the fact that this phone runs the latest version of Android – the Nougat. This gives me a familiar interface and the best of the breed Android features. I am not usually one who likes a UI layer on top of my Android, but I kind of like the helpful features provided by the ZenUI 3.0 interface like the ZenMotion Touch Gesture and the GameGenie. Regular Android users will definitely find a lot of use for these handy features.

Verdict: Value for Money Powerhouse Travel Phone

After having using the phone on my travels and having put to the test in real life conditions, I can safely say that the Asus ZenFone 3S Max phone is great value for money and is a high power and low budget phone that packs a punch with its battery and camera. I would definitely continue to use it in my travels and I would recommend that you give it a look.

After all, it address my travel phone needs beautifully. Don’t you think so too?



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