ASUS ZenFone Max M2 Gaming Review

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ASUS’ ZenFone Max Pro M2 proved to be a respectable budget gaming machine, can the ZenFone Max M2 say the same?

About a month ago we checked out the gaming capabilities of the ZenFone Max Pro M2. Today we’ll be taking a look at its little brother, the ZenFone Max M2. Does it carry the same value for money in gaming that the Pro M2 provides? Let’s find out in our ZenFone Max M2 gaming review.

A smartphone’s gaming performance might be focused mostly on its CPU and GPU prowess but you also have to take into account other factors such as its display and audio capabilities. After all, what is a smartphone that can game great but cannot provide an immersive experience, right? That’s why, while not overly important, display and audio quality still has bearing to overall gaming experience.

Display

The ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 is rocking a 6.3-inch 19:9 aspect ratio HD+ (1520 x 720) IPS display. We got a decrease in resolution from the Full HD+ of the Max Pro M2. This means, more stretched pixels and less sharpness overall. Having such a tall aspect ratio does have its advantages though.

Since we have a lot more screen real estate, we get a more immersive experience. This is especially evident with games that have cinematics, cut-scenes, and whatnot. Sadly, the large display’s advantage gets canceled out by the low resolution. Still, the 6.3-inch HD+ screen will satisfy your gaming needs, though we won’t blame you for wanting more.

Audio

The Max M2 has a similar speaker layout as its more powerful Pro M2 brethren. Sadly, that also means it’s plagued by the hiccups this setup provides such as hollow sounds, no noticeable lows, and only decent mids and highs. It can still go really loud though without losing too much clarity, which is the only good thing about the speakers.

Another caveat is the speaker size, it’s small enough to be easily blocked by your fingers when gaming, effectively rendering the smartphone mute. So, again, we recommend placing the speaker at the upper right when the phone is held in landscape. This won’t be much of an issue for gamers who aren’t too particular with the audio of their devices. Yet it will hamper overall experience for games with great soundtracks.

General Performance

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 CPU with an Adreno 506 GPU, another common low-end combo. To fully test its capabilities, we subjected it to synthetic benchmarks and multiple gaming sessions. We used AnTuTu to assess overall performance and to stress test the device and 3D Mark as well as Geekbench 4 to check GPU performance. Here are the results. Note that 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme tests are geared more towards high-end devices while Ice Storm Extreme is geared towards lower-end ones.

  • AnTuTu — 103,644
  • Geekbench 4 — 3,891 (Compute Benchmark)
  • 3D Mark — 513 (Sling Shot Extreme – Open GL ES .31), 542 (Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan), 8,913 (Ice Storm Extreme)


These are expected yet respectable numbers for a low-end device.

As for the stress test, we noticed some erratic fluctuations in performance during the 15-minute run. The M2’s CPU performance dropped jumps back and forth from 60-100% during the entire test. Despite the erratic behavior, the results are actually acceptable as AnTuTu’s stress test doesn’t reflect real-world circumstances, since you can rarely push your device to the brink. This means we can assume that performance fluctuation can only go as low as around 70% during heavy gaming, which is actually pretty okay.

We also tested CPU throttling by using the CPU Throttling Test app for 15-minutes. Based on the test the M2 dropped to just 93% of its CPU performance. Half of the eight cores were at maximum clock speeds at all times, rarely going down. So it’s safe to say that the M2 can maintain peak performance during heavy loads.

Gaming Performance

zenfone max m2 gaming review

Alright, onto the juicy part — Gaming Performance. To test out how the Max M2 handles gaming, we used GameBench on 9 different games. To get proper metrics we played these titles for 15-30 minutes each. We opted to keep graphics settings of games to maximum, those that allowed it. The Max M2 can handle light games such as Homescapes and Candy Crush smoothly and without a problem. However, it begins to falter at some medium to heavy games. As we can see with the low numbers on titles like Life After and Armello.

Even so, the poor performance on the heavier games can easily be remedied by lowering graphics quality. This means that the device can manage heavy games, at their lowest graphical settings. There were instances when games, such as PUBG Mobile and Ark, that did not allow us to change the graphics settings, locking us to its lowest option or with little wiggle room. Even then though, these games didn’t reach playable frame rates. Still, the Max M2 showed promise in playing heavier games. Although, we recommend keeping everything at the bare minimum to at least reach playable frame rates.

Gaming Battery Life

zenfone max m2 gaming review

What the M2 lacks in gaming performance, it more than makes up for in battery life. After all, it is boasting a 4,000mAh battery, which on paper is no slouch. Thankfully, it performed admirably and as expected on this regard. The device can easily log 6-15 hours of continuous gameplay based on GameBench’s metrics.

Even at the more demanding titles such as Life After and PUBG Mobile, it garnered 6 Hours and 42 Minutes and 6 Hours and 14 Minutes of estimated game time, respectively. Those are amazing numbers, to say the least. Remember, these titles have a lot of graphical options and at the higher settings, it can take a toll on battery life.

Vs. ZenFone Max Pro M2

For those of you who are undecided whether to spend a bit more to get the better specc’d Max Pro M2 or settle for just the M2 for gaming, here’s a comparison between the two.

Gaming Performance

zenfone max m2 gaming review

We opted to exclude the benchmark scores of the lighter games as these will guarantee similar results since both devices can easily run them smoothly. So, we focused on the more demanding and heavy titles. The difference in performance varies depending on the game. For titles without the option of lowering graphics quality, such as Mortal Kombat and Asphalt 9, the scores of the M2 and the Pro M2 aren’t too far apart or even similar.

There is, however, a slight gap in games such as Life After and PUBG Mobile. Take note, while the numbers depicted on the graph aren’t too far apart, the graphics settings are a bit higher on the Max Pro M2. This means, that if both devices were to play at the same low settings, the Pro will arguably perform better. Sadly, we no longer have a Max Pro M2 on hand, so we opted to use previously recorded data. Despite the slight gaps, the performance of the two isn’t that far apart.

Gaming Battery Life

zenfone max m2 gaming review

Both devices ace this portion of our benchmarks, garnering game times between 6 to 15 hours. Although, it varies per game, which we found quite odd. There are titles such as Mobile Legends and Mortal Kombat where the M2 performed better than the Pro M2, despite its smaller 4,000mAh battery. Either way, when it comes to long gaming sessions, both of these devices won’t disappoint.

Thermals

zenfone max m2 gaming review

To check out the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s thermals, we used GameBench’s metrics for battery temps and manually checked peak temperatures with AnTuTu’s checker. As reflected with the fluctuations we noticed earlier during AnTuTu’s stress test, the thermals of the M2 is at normal levels and won’t reach points of throttling.

The highest recorded temperature of its battery is at 41°, while for the CPU it’s at 47.2°. External temps were kept at a minimum as we only left slight heating around the fingerprint area. The only time we felt uncomfortable heat is when we played outside in the sun. Then again, that will always be the case in any device. So overall, the Max M2 has very good thermals.

Verdict

zenfone max m2 gaming review

The ZenFone Max M2 definitely packs a punch despite being in the lower-end spectrum. It has great thermals, a long battery life, and respectable performance. The display will leave you wanting more but thankfully it still provides an immersive experience. The only caveat is audio, as it’s plagued by the same loud yet lacking speaker setup of the Max Pro M2.

Yet, despite that fact, the ZenFone Max M2 can hold its own when it comes to gaming. Even more so when you compare it to the Php 4,000 (~$77) more expensive Max Pro M2. At Php 8,995 (~$175), this machine provides long gaming sessions with the performance to boot.

Specs

SpecificationASUS ZenFone Max M2
Display6.3-inch HD+ IPS display @ 1520 x 720px
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 632 1.8GHz octa-core
GPUAdreno 506
RAM3GB RAM
Storage32GB, expandable up to 2TB via microSD
Rear CameraDual 13MP + 2MP f/1.8 rear camera w/ PDAF, LED Flash
Front Camera8MP f/2.0 w/ soft light LED Flash
SIMDual-nano
Connectivity4G VoLTE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2
GPSGPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
Security- Fingerprint Scanner
- Face Unlock
OSAndroid 8.0 Oreo
Battery4,000mAh battery with fast charging
PricingMidnight Black/Space Blue -- Php 8,995 (~$175)

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