Asus Zenfone Max M2 hands-on review

GSMArena team, 13 February 2019.

Software

The ZenFone Max M2 comes with stock Android 8.1 Oreo. Our review unit was still running the October 1 security patch, which means ASUS is now four months behind on simply the security patches, let alone Android 9 Pie, which is still M.I.A. This isn't Android One, so there are no guarantees of timely software updates, or getting updates at all. While ASUS does release an update every now and then, it's the lack of timeliness and consistency that's the issue.

Asus Zenfone Max M2 ZB633KL review

Software-wise, there really isn't a lot to talk about. If you've ever used stock Android Oreo in the past, you already know what to expect. To ASUS's credit, even though this isn't Android One, the company has left the OS build more or less untouched. There are some custom features, such as the double tap to turn off and wake the display, and a mode that keeps the screen on while you're looking at it but apart from that the UI is unapologetically stock Android. For those who appreciate it, this would be the perfect device.

Launcher - Asus Zenfone Max M2 ZB633KL review Launcher - Asus Zenfone Max M2 ZB633KL review Launcher - Asus Zenfone Max M2 ZB633KL review
Launcher

Having said that, while the UI is clean, it's also littered with minor issues everywhere. The battery percentage icon still gets truncated at the bottom. This was an issue we pointed out in our Max Pro M2 review back in December and exists even on the Max M2. There are also other issues, such as the icons in the status bar all being weirdly different sizes. One time the Bluetooth icon decided to stay on even after Bluetooth was disabled and the phone had to be restarted to get rid of it. The UI still doesn't look good when you reduce the size from the settings, and some apps develop weird alignment issues, such as the Camera. All of this just points to lack of attention to detail and polish in the UI, which coupled with the slow update cycle means you will be stuck with these issues for months before seeing a fix. Assuming they actually notice any of it.

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UI screenshots

Speaking of bloatware, while there isn't a ton of it on the device, ASUS does force Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram on you. As you'd expect, you cannot uninstall these apps. Considering the privacy allegations surrounding the company, we think it would be wise if ASUS looked for other partners for its side income. Shipping your phone with Facebook bloatware is not a good look for any company in 2019.

Performance

The ZenFone Max M2 is the first device we have tested that runs on the new Snapdragon 632 chipset. Performance-wise, the phone is decent, but it is slower than both the more expensive Max Pro M2 and last year's Max M1.

Asus Zenfone Max M2 ZB633KL review

Fortunately, this difference isn't hugely noticeable in everyday use, at least now when the phone is fairly new. Over time, the more powerful devices should feel noticeably better with more demanding apps but it will be a while before that's an issue.

Gaming performance was adequate. Playing a few rounds of PUBG at the lowest graphical setting resulted in a perfectly playable experience. It's no ROG Phone but for the sort of games people usually play it has enough power.

The phone does fall short when it comes to multimedia performance. Although the display is pretty large, the low resolution makes videos appear a bit soft. The loudspeaker quality is also not great, with about 50% volume sounding decent but beyond that, it becomes a bit unpleasant. Fortunately, the phone does still have a standard headphone jack so you can just plug those in without needing a dongle. Or you can use a Bluetooth headset and the phone does support aptX, aptX HD and LDAC.

On a side note, the phone does support the appropriate Widevine DRM for HD playback in video streaming apps. However, Netflix does not yet support HD playback on this device and at the end of the day, regardless of what DRM version you support, it depends upon the streaming service to enable HD playback on your particular phone's model.

GeekBench 4.1 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Realme U1
    6004
  • Realme 2 Pro
    5531
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    5411
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    5169
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro
    4910
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    4744
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    4625
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    4388
  • Realme 2
    3881
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    2434

GeekBench 4.1 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    1650
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    1617
  • Realme U1
    1567
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    1465
  • Realme 2 Pro
    1462
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro
    1340
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    1257
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    881
  • Realme 2
    790
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    667

AnTuTu 7

Higher is better

  • Realme U1
    144436
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    139075
  • Realme 2 Pro
    132958
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    130927
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    124039
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro
    115509
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    103243
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    77964
  • Realme 2
    75434
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    57845

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Realme U1
    22
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    22
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    22
  • Realme 2 Pro
    21
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    20
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro
    16
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    10
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    9.9
  • Realme 2
    9.3
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    7

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    21
  • Realme U1
    20
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    19
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    19
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    19
  • Realme 2 Pro
    18
  • Realme 2
    16
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro
    15
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    14
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    9.4

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    15
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    15
  • Realme 2 Pro
    14
  • Realme U1
    13
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    13
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro
    10
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    6.9
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    6.5
  • Realme 2
    6.1
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    4.6

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    14
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    14
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    13
  • Realme U1
    12
  • Realme 2 Pro
    12
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    12
  • Realme 2
    12
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    9.9
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro
    9.7
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    6.1

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    21378
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    21201
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    19320
  • Realme U1
    17290
  • Realme 2 Pro
    14576
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    11449
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    7606
  • Realme 2
    6703

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Realme U1
    2307
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    2260
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    2240
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2
    1993
  • Realme 2 Pro
    1911
  • ASUS ZenFone Max Pro
    1893
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    1708
  • Realme 2
    1039
  • ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) (ZB556KL)
    895

3DMark SSE 3.1 Unlimited

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    1409
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    1380
  • Realme 2 Pro
    1291
  • Realme U1
    1133
  • ASUS ZenFone Max M2
    579
  • Realme 2
    497

Reader comments

  • dinesh

superb phone and lowest price rate better camara superb display nad wonderful notch system front camara better with led flash total allover this price rate is compare other phone asus zenfone max m2 seriosly head off this phone in low price rate

  • Anono

This phone exist just to prey on clueless customers who think they got the Max Pro M2 with lower price than Max Pro M1.And with no Max Pro M1 or M2 phone to compare, they just accept the phone's shortcomings as is.

  • Gary

Asus has the most confusing phone names