Reviews

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 review

Part two of the Max experiment

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The ZenFone Max Pro M1 was one of those unicorns in the smartphone realm. Not only did it have dual cameras and a massive battery, it also came with stock Android — a rarity in ASUS’ lineup.

It was priced just right, hovering around the US$ 200 sweet spot in most regions. That being said, a successor was definitely in order, and the M2 I have here might bring that magic back.

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 is certainly bigger, badder, and more of a gaming phone than the M1 was. But with a higher price tag, is it still an easy-to-recommend product, especially with all the great options in the market?

On the outside, it’s a typical ZenFone, from the solid build to the super-bright 6.3-inch 1080p LCD. New this time around is the notch that houses the front-facing camera. It’s a sore spot in an otherwise clean design, but at this point, I can no longer argue against the established trend.

Next is the move from a metal coating to a shinier material for the rear. I can’t confirm yet if it’s mostly glass or plastic, but it’s more of a fingerprint magnet than what the previous ZenFone Max models had. ASUS does include a clear case to prevent unsightly fingerprints.

On the back you’ll find the fingerprint scanner, which isn’t that fast for logging in but more reliable than its face scanning. After alternating between the two, I ended up using the fingerprint sensor more, though that’s not to say it has a major advantage.

However, what matters more is the processor this smartphone comes with. It’s a Snapdragon 660, a chipset you’d normally find on more expensive handsets. Coupled with up to 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage, its performance certainly fits the bill.

If the storage isn’t enough, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a triple-card slot inside to house two nano-SIM cards and a microSD at the same time. If you’re planning to use this as a pure gaming device, that extra space holds a lot of weight.

During day-to-day activities like taking photos, multitasking around productivity apps, and binging on Netflix, I had no qualms whatsoever. It’s comparable to what the Nokia 7 Plus and Vivo V11 can do with the same chipset, and it helps that pure Android is on board to prevent bloatware from getting in the way.

But what we really want to test is mobile games, since ASUS is promoting the ZenFone Max Pro M2 as a budget-friendly gaming device. Early impression: Performance depends on which games you play.

I tried Ragnarok M and although the phone kept cool no matter how long I played, it would throttle at certain times, leading to choppy frame rates when there was too much action happening at once. I didn’t experience this with similarly priced phones like the Pocophone F1 and Honor Play.

Things are a little different with Asphalt 9, which relies more on bursts of intense processing with short breaks in between. This allowed the ZenFone Max Pro M2 to shine more, providing really smooth gameplay without heating up.

But what’s truly impressive is the battery life. I could play either of those games for five hours straight and they would reduce the percentage to only half. That’s amazing, and at the same time expected out of a 5000mAh capacity.

Unfortunately, topping up this battery to full using the bundled charger is a royal pain. With an average of 15 percent gains every 30 minutes, it would take around 3.5 hours to reach a hundred. I tried using faster chargers but the results were practically the same.

I’m not sure if this was a cost-cutting move or an oversight; either way, it sucks to wait for the phone to charge so long between gaming sessions. It doesn’t help that I’m forced to plug in through its micro-USB port. Every other device I own made the switch to the superior USB-C.

My bigger concern is ASUS’ update plans for this phone’s aging Android 8.1 Oreo, which came out in 2017. Despite being stock in nature, it isn’t part of the Android One program, so Google won’t be able aid in pushing new software.

For reference, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is still on Oreo, with no sign of Pie this year. While having a pure Android experience is great, not having timely updates defeats some of the purpose. In some cases, I actually miss ZenUI and the attention ASUS gives to it.

On that note, my review unit had some issues with the camera app at first, but ASUS has since fixed all the bugs. The app originally called Camera App Lite would often hang or not allow me to capture a shot even when all conditions were met. It’s simply called Camera now and works quite well with its clean interface.

During my short time with the cameras, I was impressed by the dynamic range and ability to maintain sharpness under poor lighting conditions. Both the rear 12-megapixel sensor and 13-megapixel selfie shooter performed as expected out of a midrange handset — meaning they were satisfying to use — though I question the usability of the 5-megapixel depth sensor on the back.

Blurring the background and cutting out the edges of a subject weren’t strong points for the rear shooters. What I did like was the saturation and strong colors they produced. Here are some samples:

Editor’s note: This section initially stated that the camera app was buggy and felt like beta software. ASUS has since reached out and updated our unit. The camera performance is much improved now and doesn’t exhibit any of the aforementioned faults.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

With a price increase of about US$ 100, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 isn’t as affordable as it once was, although I do appreciate the improvements in multiple aspects.

The new chipset is a definite winner, and the sleeker design makes it easier to show off in public. In addition, everything that made the M1 so special is still there, from the massive battery to the bright screen.

I recommend this particular ZenFone to those who value performance and want something more out of a gaming smartphone. It may not be as fast as the Honor Play or Pocophone F1, but it’s the most well-rounded device in the entire ZenFone lineup.

Practical Smart Home

Amazon Fire TV review: Best $250 TV?

Which Fire TV is your GadgetMatch?

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Sometimes, all we need is a generic flat-screen TV to fill the void in our living space. But the thing is, you don’t need to sacrifice picture quality alongside a cheaper price tag.

From the Kindle to Echo Show, Amazon now has its own smart TVs — and by that we mean smart TVs, not just a smart TV stick you attach.

Ranging from 43 to a whopping 75-inches, which Amazon Fire TV between the Omni and the 4-series is your GadgetMatch?

Watch our Amazon Fire TV review to know more.

 

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Gaming

Lenovo Legion S7 review: Is it too slim for your liking?

A continuation of power, performance, and portability

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Legion S7
Is the Lenovo Legion S7 too slim?

Every gaming laptop out there just seems typical, complete with the RGB and the hefty design. Yes, there have been other laptops that are starting to break the mold. However, they did so while sacrificing some huge features in the process. Although, that hasn’t stopped most manufacturers like Lenovo from trying their hardest.

What we have here is the Lenovo Legion S7, with the “S” literally standing for “slim.” On paper and by design, it’s possibly one of the slimmest gaming laptops currently available. Just from the unboxing experience alone, it raises a few eyebrows design-wise and the hardware inside it. Beneath its slim chassis, there lies the beast, as they say.

But is this a gaming laptop worth considering given its potential sacrifices? Let’s find out.

Ticks all the boxes for general performance

 

Every gaming laptop brings impeccable performance for most day-to-day tasks, and the Lenovo Legion S7 is no exception. Of course, the biggest contributor to great performance lies within the hardware, and this machine certainly brings the firepower with an AMD Ryzen 9 CPU inside.

As advertised, the Legion S7 provides performance suitable for any task thrown at it. Whether you’re working on work documents or creating your next gameplay video, the laptop handles these things with relative ease. Also, you can effectively multitask on this device no problem with 32GB of RAM to support.

Now, the Legion S7 comes with Windows 10 pre-installed, which was alright. However, seeing how most people were hopping onto Windows 11 at the time, it made sense to upgrade the software first since it’s possible. In the three weeks that the laptop was tested, software issues didn’t occur so that’s a good start!

Decent competitive gaming performance

Legion S7

When talking about gaming performance, there’s two things to factor in: the GPU, and the display. For the Lenovo Legion S7, an NVIDIA RTX 3060 with a 165Hz anti-glare FHD display seems like the ideal combo for a gaming device suitable for casual and competitive gamers out there. In reality, this lived up to expectations quite well.

For casual and competitive titles, the Legion S7 provides great performance and frame rates with a smoother feel to them. Sure, a FHD display limits the full dynamic color range compared to the 4K option for this device. But when playing competitively, that hardly ever matters. Games like VALORANT and Halo Infinite felt pretty smooth and looked vibrant when playing.

Legion S7

With RTX on, some games look pretty good but with the obvious frame rate sacrifice, especially with cranked up settings. Although, unlike other RTX mobile GPUs, the frame rate sacrifice isn’t as much, which was pretty good. For example, games like Fortnite and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy had about an 8 to 10 percent drop in FPS with RTX on vs. RTX off.

Battery life is just good enough for mini breaks

Legion S7

Much like every other gaming laptop out there, this device doesn’t last particularly long when used for casual or competitive play. On average, the Legion S7 lasts about 6-7 hours just on productivity and casual gaming on the side. When cranked up to perform at competitive levels, it cuts the lifespan to just 2-3 hours, which was expected.

To its credit, the Legion S7 comes with a 230W battery pack that will nest it back to full health in at most 3 hours. With Rapid Charge Pro turned on through Lenovo Vantage, it cuts the charge time by just an hour. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s quite fast and would actually give you a short break after playing your heart out.

Some questionable design features

 

As much as the Lenovo Legion S7 boasts impressive gaming performance, there are a couple of things that hold it back from its true potential. For one, it’s quite slim and has the potential to get quite hot when playing too much. Sure, Coldfront 3.0 will do what it can to keep things cool, but it still gets warmer quite fast so it’s something worth noting.

Second is in port selection, particularly with what they gave up for this machine. Fortunately, they kept the charging port and two USB Type-A 3.0 ports at the back so nothing got in the way. However, for a gaming laptop to exclude an Ethernet port and an HDMI slot is quite alarming. 

Sure, it’s to highlight the WiFi 6 capabilities along with using the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports at the right side of the device. However, having a Gigabit Ethernet port significantly improves network performance especially for competitive play. Also, most external gaming displays still come with HDMI ports so it was a missed opportunity.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For what it’s worth, the Lenovo Legion S7 is an ideal gaming device for both casual and competitive gamers. It’s slim form factor combined with powerful hardware provides the power and portability that the Legion brand consistently delivers. With a high refresh rate display and RTX-capable GPU, it even provides a solid boost to gaming performance.

Of course, even the Legion S7 has some hits and misses in there. From questionable exclusions to just decent battery life, it fails to maximize its potential to be truly something better than before. Still, with what it has going for it as presently constructed, it’s still a great gaming device on-the-go.

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Health

Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier review: 6 months later

An affordable option for better indoor air quality

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One Sunday at a Japanese makers market, I came across the material shirasu, a natural ceramic material created using the byproducts of volcanic magma. It’s been widely used by the Japanese in construction for many years now, but because it’s a material that came from the depths of the earth, it’s also got air purifying properties.

One pamphlet about shirasu pointed out that part from food and water, a huge percentage of what humans consume is air — and that indoor pollution is worse than outdoor. We clean our produce thoroughly before cooking it, and the water we drink is filtered, so why don’t we think about cleaning the air we breathe as much?

While I came out of that market empty-handed, I remembered that I’ve been using the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier for 6 months now and its filter is due for a replacement.

I already know how dirty my apartment gets just by the sheer amount of dust bunnies my vacuum collects on a weekly basis. What I do not know is how much dirt and pollutants get trapped in the air, so I am both curious and scared to find out.

Buy the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier

What’s in the box?

Packaging is as simple as it gets. The Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier comes in a white box, with Meross’ logo and the air purifier’s picture in front.

Inside are the air purifier, a Meross 3-Stage H13 HEPA filter, as well as the installation guide, and a USB-C power adapter.

Meross says the included 3-Stage H13 HEPA filter has a pre-filter which isolates large particles such as hair and dust, and the filter itself, which catches 99.97% of particles at 0.3 microns including smoke, pollen, pet dander, and contaminated particles. The innermost layer is activated carbon, which removes odors, cooking smells, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other toxic substances.

Although not a big deal, I appreciate that it plugs in via USB-C. In case the plug needs replacing in the future, I’m confident I can find a spare cable and plug from other devices I have instead of buying a proprietary one.

Minimalist design

The air purifier from Meross has a minimalist cylindrical body. Its metal chassis makes it feel more premium — something I wouldn’t mind showing off if I didn’t have an empty corner to tuck it in. It’s also slim and doesn’t take up too much space, which makes it perfect for a small apartment like mine.

Currently it only comes in white. All my furniture are in a lighter shade of oak and bamboo giving my apartment a light and airy vibe. The purifier, albeit not a decor, doesn’t clash against the aesthetics of the apartment. It would be nice to have a dark color option though for those whose interiors have a more industrial or rustic feel.

Easy setup

Setting up the air purifier is easy peasy; so easy that I think even my boomer parents can figure it out.

You open the air purifier at the bottom to insert the filter. There are engraved guides for unlocking and locking the bottom lid.

Once the filter is in and secure, download the Meross app and set up an account. Plug the air purifier and follow the instructions on the app to connect it to your home network. That’s it, you’re all set. It works with Apple’s HomeKit, Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, too.

Buy the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier

On the Meross app and HomeKit, you can adjust the speed and power it on or off.  There is also a physical button on top of the air purifier for these same functions.

Loud and lacking

If there’s something I would have wanted on the Meross air purifier, it’s sensors. It’s as basic as it gets.

Because of the lack of sensors, it doesn’t monitor the quality of air, so adjusting the speed has to be done manually. When I open my balcony door for example, inviting more dust and pollutants into my apartment, I would turn it up to the highest setting myself.

It’s the same story when I’m cooking, and I cook a lot. Instead of automatically adjusting to get rid of the odors coming from the kitchen, I have to go into the app to turn it up.

Over the last 6 months of using the air purifier, I found myself forgetting to do this more and more, so I don’t really know how much toxic substances I could have avoided inhaling at this point.

Another pain point I’ve noticed is that the Meross Air Purifier is loud. At night I would make it a point to adjust it to the maximum speed so I wouldn’t wake up sneezing from my allergies as much. Doing so generates a whiny humming sound, which I think would bother some people.

Because I grew up in a relatively noisy city and live in New York now, I’ve learned to ignore it. The noise is a compromise I’m willing to live with because I do find myself sneezing less in the morning when it’s on high.

Replacement filter

On the Meross app, you can monitor the life of the included HEPA filter. Meross suggests replacing it every 3-6 months. I got the alert to get a new one close to 6 months after I set it up.

A replacement filter costs $25 on Amazon. On Meross’ website, they have an image of how gray dirty the filters get after a few months.

Left: Meross’ photo. Right: my HEPA filter after 6 months of use

Six months later, the included filter that I put in still has the original blue color it came in, with just a bit of dust sticking on it here and there.

This means either the air quality in my apartment isn’t as bad as others, or the air purifier doesn’t work as well as it should.

Seeing as how brand new looking my filter still is, I’ve held off on buying a replacement for now to save the $25.

Is the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier your GadgetMatch?

The Meross air purifier retails for US$ 139.99 on the Meross website and US$ 129.99 on Amazon. It’s one of the more affordable options in the market, and the cheapest one that supports HomeKit.

As long as you don’t mind the noise and the lack of sensors, the Meross air purifier will do the job. I can’t imagine living in a city like New York in the world without an air purifier. This, combined with a vacuum and some house plants that help clean and purify the air in my apartment are a must.

Buy the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier

If you control your smarthome with HomeKit and are on a strict budget, the Meross air purifier is the one to get. If you want an air purifier that monitors indoor air quality, look elsewhere or buy a separate sensor to connect to your smart home.

One day, I’ll have a home whose walls are built using shirasu so I’ll worry about air quality less. For now, the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier will have to do.

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