The Asus Zenfone Max doesn't make a promise it can't keep. It's a true endurance champ, thanks to a massive 5,000mAh battery and longevity-driven design and hardware choices. The Snapdragon 410 chipset is one such compromise and perhaps the spot on the Max's spec sheet that's decidedly below par.
Yet, it may very well be thanks to it that the Zenfone Max scored a 121-hour endurance rating, with some 20 hours of web browsing, and close to 16 hours of video playback. Qualcomm's lower midranger may not be quick, but it sure is frugal.
The display is 720p and it gets stretched a little too thin on a 5.5-inch diagonal, but this sort of pixel density also requires less processing and battery power. And the panel is actually very good, with excellent brightness and contrast, though it does struggle in the sun. Imaging is okay on the Max too - the cameras are not great, but they are usable and are in fact pretty good for the price.
First and foremost, no Zenfone Max purchase will be undisputed unless you've checked out and dismissed Asus' own lineup, perhaps a little too diverse for its own good. An Atom-powered Zenfone 2 will give you miles better performance, the Selfie has a 13MP front-facing camera with a flash, some have FullHD displays, but none is a match for endurance.
An obvious rival, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is more powerful (by a long stretch, regardless of which version you get) and has a FullHD display, but is no match for battery life. Add the Redmi Note 3's metal build and fingerprint scanner and this becomes a bout the Max can only power its way through.
Lenovo has the Vibe K4 Note in the same price bracket as the Zenfone Max, give or take. The K4 Note has a FulHD display, a fingerprint sensor, and superior build, not to mention it's significantly lighter. Again, the Max has longevity on its side.
The Samsung Galaxy J7 is a bit more expensive than the Zenfone Max, it has an AMOLED display and, believe it or not, beats the Max at video playback times. Far from Asus' phablet in the other battery disciplines, the J7 is a better performer and multi-tasker, whether it's Snapdragon 615 or Exynos 7580 ticking inside.
The Zenfone Max's strengths are clear: if a big screen, long battery life, and reasonable price is where you put your priorities, you're likely to struggle finding a better offer from an established manufacturer than the Zenfone Max. If you have room to maneuver on either of those, other devices may deliver more speed and dynamic performance. In the end though, the choice between a jet fighter and a tanker aircraft is not one you make every day.