“We compare three of the hottest phablets out in the market right now to see who comes out on top”
The first mobile phone was developed by a senior engineer at Motorola in the year 1973 and the device weighed a staggering 1.1kg. Fast forward 50 years into the age of internet and the landscape of the mobile industry has changed drastically multiple times. While the need to minimise the size and weight of mobile phone to make them more portable was the number one priority a decade or so ago, the onset of smartphones changed the way consumers used their devices. Now-a-days, smartphones aren’t just devices which can store some 30 odd contacts and give you the freedom of making calls from your balcony, but full-fledged means to consume media, play games and do things that were only thought possible in a James Bond movie of yesteryears. While 4.7-inch to 5.5-inch is what most users consider the ideal size for a smartphone, there are many who prefer a larger display which is why today we’ll be comparing the top-end variant of the Xiaomi Mi Max (review), ASUS Zenfone Ultra (first impressions) and the Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro to see which phablet comes out on top. A strange bunch to compare you think? The thing is, these three phones are priced quite differently, but the interesting bit is that they offer similar specs, apart from featuring 6-inch or higher displays. Let’s see how they stack up…
Design and Display
Starting with the most affordable of the lot, the Xiaomi Mi Max is encased in a metal chassis which coupled with the 2.5D curved screen upfront lends a premium feel. Owing to the massive 6.4-inch display and the metal casing, it is a little slippery. The phone sports an IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, putting the pixel density at 344ppi. Taking a look at Samsung’s contender, the A9 Pro is a blend of metal and glass and sports a 6-inch Super AMOLED full HD display with a pixel density of 367ppi. Shifting the focus to the ASUS Zenfone 3 Ultra, the device is packaged in an all metal shell with the biggest display of the lot which comes at 6.8-inch. The IPS LCD panel of the smartphone is full HD which puts the pixel density at 324ppi.
Right off the bat, the display on the Samsung A9 pro will be marginally sharper and vivid than the Mi Max and the ASUS Zenfone 3 Ultra owing to the Super AMOLED panel and slightly shorter screen. The glass blend in the construction of the device should provide for a better grip compared to the metal design offered by its competition. Protecting the screen of the Xiaomi Mi Max is a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 which falls inferior to the Gorilla Glass 4 protection offered by the A9 Pro and the Zenfone 3 Ultra.
All three smartphones sport similar specs when pitched against each other. Driving the three devices is a Snapdragon 652 processor which features four high-performance Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 1.8GHz and four low-performance Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.4GHz. As the processor powering these devices is similar, there shouldn’t be any difference in the real-time performance of the phones. In terms of RAM, each of the three phones is equipped with 4 gigs of RAM therefore the slightest edge a smartphone might have over its competition could only be due to better software optimisation.
Camera, Storage and Battery
The wait is over for shutterbugs as the next agenda on the list is to compare the cameras offered by the three devices. Starting off with the Xiaomi Mi Max, the device bears a pair of 16MP and 5MP sensors on the back and the front respectively. The rear-facing camera is aided by a dual-colour LED flash for low-light photography. The Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro on the other hand, offers users a 16MP primary camera and an 8MP selfie shooter with a standard LED flash present at the back. The Zenfone 3 Ultra however, takes the cake with its 23MP primary sensor and 8MP selfie shooter with an LED flash module besides the primary sensor. While the primary cameras on the A9 Pro and the Zenfone 3 Ultra feature OIS, the same is absent on the Mi Max so if camera is your priority, going with either the A9 Pro or the Zenfone 3 Ultra might be your best bet.
For storage the Xiaomi Mi Max offers users 128GB of internal memory which can be expanded by another 128GB using a microSD card. The Galaxy A9 Pro features 32GB of on board storage as well but lets you bump it up to 256GB using a microSD card. The Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra gives users 64GB of storage to play with which can be expanded up to 128GB via a microSD card.
All three phones feature beastly battery units with the Xiaomi Mi Max packing a 4,850mAh unit while the Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra features a 4,600mAh unit. The Galaxy A9 Pro destroys the competition with its beefier 5,000mAh unit.
Software and Connectivity
Software is one of the key differentiators between the three phones, as they all use Android Marshmallow but with different flavours. Xiaomi’s take on Android is MIUI 8 which is a feature-rich option for those who are into theming their devices. The custom platform comes with built-in support for theme store and a great security utility as well, not to mention tons of other useful features that take your usage to a different level. The Zenfone 3 Ultra on the other hand, features ASUS’s proprietary Zen UI 3.0 which offers an intuitive UI for those willing to use it…. but the flipside is that it comes crammed with lots of bloatware. TouchWiz on Samsung’s Galaxy A9 Pro is another utility rich option and comes with its own pros and cons. Since, software is a purely subjective matter, users will have to decide which one suits their needs the best.
On the connectivity front, all three phones feature dual-SIM support, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, mobile hotspot, Bluetooth, and A-GPS. For charging and data transfer, the Mi Max and the A9 Pro use micro-USB 2.0 ports where as the ASUS Zenfone 3 Ultra uses a USB Type-C port.
Pricing and Conclusion
The Xiaomi Mi Max 128GB variant will set buyers Rs 19,990 back where as the Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro costs almost double the price of the Mi Max at Rs 32,490. The ASUS Zenfone 3 is the costliest of the trio and users will have to shell out Rs 49,990 for the device. Taking into account that all three devices come equipped with the same processor and RAM, if you are a buyer on a budget, the Mi Max is your best bet as it will offer you the same performance at a much lower price point. If you don’t mind spending a bit more, the Galaxy A9 Pro with its ergonomic glass and metallic build will be a better option considering it comes with a nicer display and a better camera setup than the Xiaomi Mi Max. If you are floating in money and camera is your primary focus (pun intended), the ASUS Zenfone 3 Ultra shouldn’t disappoint you.