Things have not been this exciting in the mid-range smartphone segment for quite some time now. We finally have someone challenging Xiaomi's dominance in the India market, and it's Asus. With a track record of overpricing its smartphones to the extent that it becomes counter-productive, Asus surely is trying to turn a new page with its Zenfone Max Pro M1, which is so competitively priced that it has the mid-range king Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro sweating bullets.
Both Zenfone Max Pro M1 and Redmi Note 5 Pro are trying to target India's fastest growing smartphone segement, the segment that took Xiaomi from being a Chinese smartphone start-up to a brand with the biggest market share in the country.
In the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, we have a mid-range smartphone with the latest Snapdragon 636 chipset, a FullView 1080p display, a dual camera setup, massive 5,000mAh battery, and stock Android 8.1 Oreo. While these specifications seem good on paper, it remains to be seen how they size up against the Redmi Note 5 Pro in day-to-day usage.
Here is a head-to-head comparison of the two devices that will go against each other for the top spot of the Indian mid-range segment.
Both devices offer 18:9 IPS LCD displays with FullHD+ resolution of 2160x1080 pixels. While both devices sport screens measuring 5.99 inches, the Redmi Note 5 Pro pips the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 by a very marginal difference in terms of screen to body ratio. Another factor working in favour of Xiaomi's mid-range leader is presence of Corning Gorilla Glass protection.
But the latest Asus offering gets the upper hand when it comes to display output. Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 puts Qualcomm's technologies to use for better contrast ratio and sunlight legibility. As a result, colours come out looking better on the screen of the new Zenfone.
And this is where the competition gets interesting. Both Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 and Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro run the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 SoC under the hood. Now something about this processor - it features the same custom Kryo cores that Qualcomm uses in its top-slotted 8-series chipsets. In other words, you get flagship-grade performance from mid-range devices.
Now the two devices differ in the memory options that they offer. The Redmi Note 5 Pro offers 4GB or 6GB of RAM, coupled with 64GB of internal storage which can be expanded to 256 GB. The Zenfone Max Pro M1 comes with either 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM, or 64GB storage which comes coupled with 4GB or 6GB of RAM. The storage on the Zenfone can be further expanded to 2TB via a dedicated microSD card slot.
What could work in favour of the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 is the presence of a lower-priced 3GB variant with Snapdragon 636 in the line-up. This could help Asus gain a foothold in the lower mid-range segment, which again is held by Xiaomi with its cheaper Redmi devices.
We are in the age of dual cameras, and the Zenfone Max Pro M1 and the Redmi Note 5 Pro conform to this trend. The primary camera setup on the 3GB and 4GB variants of Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 features 13MP+5MP sensors, while the 6GB variant will come with an upgraded 16MP+5MP dual camera setup. The same on Redmi Note 5 Pro is a 12MP+5MP setup. The primary camera on the Zenfone is an 8MP shooter which will be bumped too 16MP on the 6GB variant when it is launched. The selfie shooter on the Redmi Note 5 Pro is a 20MP camera.
In the optics department, Redmi Note 5 Pro takes the cake with its machine learning-enabled camera which can improve its imaging abilities with continued usage. The f/2.2 aperture and 1.25um pixel result in better images than you would expect from a device in this price point. While the Zenfone Max Pro M1 could easily outperform cameras on some smartphones in the mid-range segment, it doesn't come close to what the one on Redmi Note 5 Pro can dish out.
Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 has got expectations running high on account of the stock Android experience it promises. While not part of the Android One programme, the latest Asus offering does come with vanilla Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box. And we have been promised timely updates for Android P and Android Q when they come.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with Android 7.1.1 Nougat with MIUI 9 on top. While MIUI is one of the most loved custom UIs out there, the slow update cycles Xiaomi follows with it sometimes get annoying. Also, it's anything but stock Android. Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 might lose its stock Android advantage, though, if and when Xiaomi brings the Mi A2 with Android One affiliations later this year.
Price and availability
The 3GB variant of Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 costs Rs 10,999, whereas the 4GB variant has been priced at Rs 12,999. The 6GB variant will be available a few weeks later for a price of Rs 14,999. On the other hand, the 4GB variant of Redmi Note 5 Pro now costs Rs 14,999 and the 6GB variant costs Rs 16,999 after a Rs 1000 price hike.
While both are available at Flipkart, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is available only through flash sales. Pre-orders for the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 began last week and as expected the phone is also going out of stock pretty quick, even during the pre-order sales. The next sale for the Max Pro will be conducted on May 10.