Having more things to choose from is always preferable, even though it can get confusing at times. This is true with almost anything that a person would like to acquire. On that note, there are a plethora of choices when it comes to smartphones right from the budget segment to the expensive high-end category.
Recently, Asus and HMD Global launched smartphones in the more affordable lower mid-range category – Zenfone Max Pro M1 and Nokia 6.1 (or Nokia 6 2018) – respectively. Possibly the best aspect about the two phones is they look absolutely distinguishable but offer similar performances. And so, it is time to see which phone deserves your money more.
ASUS ZENFONE MAX PRO M1 – SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: Snapdragon 636 octa-core processor, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, Adreno 509 GPU
Display: IPS LCD 5.99-inch, Full HD+ (1080 x 2160 pixels) resolution
Operating System: Pure Android Oreo 8.1
Camera: Dual camera with 13 MP + 5 MP primary & secondary lenses with f2.2 & f2.4 aperture respectively, PDAF, HDR, Bokeh mode. 8 MP front camera with f2.2 aperture
Battery: 5,000 mAh supports fast charging with 10w charger (included)
NOKIA 6.1 – SPECIFICATIONS
Processor: Snapdragon 630 octa-core processor, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, Adreno 508 GPU
Display: IPS LCD 5.5-inch, Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) resolution
Operating System: Pure Android Oreo 8.0.0
Camera: 16 MP lens with f2.0 aperture, Zeiss optics, PDAF, HDR. 8 MP front camera with f2.0 aperture
Battery: 3,000 mAh battery with Turbo charge (18w)
DESIGN & BUILD QUALITY
Zenfone Max Pro M1 – One of the best looking devices in its segment and sturdier to hold than most other handsets in its class and beyond, the M1 is quite flawless in this regard. Sure, we would have loved its backside to be completely devoid of any visible divisions, but we are nitpicking here really.
The M1 is less slippery to hold and has no camera hump at the back as it is a bit thick due to the 5,000 mAh battery. There’s nothing striking as such about the phone’s design, it just grows on you with each passing day. It is a simple, yet, very neat design making the phone look smart.
Nokia 6.1 – If the M1 is simple and smart, the Nokia 6 (2018) is stylish and appealing. While both handsets have highly impressive build quality and fit-n-finish, their respective executions are quite opposite. The M1 is understated in its appearance whereas the Nokia 6 is flashy and more easily noticeable in the crowd.
Secondly, all four sides of the N6.1 are flat rather than curvy like in the case of the M1. Still, the Nokia remains more slippery to hold and needs a more conscious effort to keep the grip firm. It is quite a beautiful design made possible by the copper finishing given to all the edges on the phone (including the outlining of the camera setup as well as that of the fingerprint sensor at the back).
And though we are not really sure which one of them would take the fall better, the N6.1 does appear a bit more fragile in case it gets dropped, probably for the fear of messing up the beautiful copper finish with the smallest fall on a hard surface.
DISPLAY, SOFTWARE & UI
The display unit, in itself, has become an integral part of the overall design of a smartphone. The days of a typical rectangular screen are slowly, but seemingly, getting over as more and more phone manufacturers are adopting the full-screen display. Many of them are trying their best to create a complete sync between the curves of the bodywork and the display unit itself.
What is common in the display of M1 and N6.1? Both units are IPS LCD panels delivering Full HD resolution (Full HD+ in the case of the M1, to be more precise) that deliver vibrant and realistic color reproduction. There is virtually nothing to complain about out of either of the display panels.
What is different in the display of M1 and N6.1? The size – the M1’s display measures 5.99 inches while that of the N6.1 measures 5.5 inches. Secondly, the display of the M1 appears more up-market with the curvy corners and 18:9 aspect ratio. Comparatively, the display of the N6.1 is typically rectangular shaped with sharp corners. Not that this design choice adversely affects or enhances the display quality in either phone, it’s just that the M1 tends to look more modern.
As far as the quality of the display is concerned, we would go with both the phones as they both deliver rich and vibrant colours with decent sunlight visibility.
Regarding the operating system, the M1 and the N6.1 are equally good here in the sense that both get the latest and the pure Android Oreo. However, the Nokia has a small edge in this department as it comes under Google’s Android One program, which means, the N6.1 will get regular and the fastest OS updates from Google for the next 3 years at least. This is true for any phone that comes under the Android One program.
The usability and the operating nature of both the phones is quite similar, of course. The menus are similar and any animations and transitions from one screen to another have the same feel in both the phones. There are usual native icons for communication and internet browsing (Chrome) present on the Home screen. One swipe up on the Home screen brings up the App Drawer.
PERFORMANCE including Gaming
This is where things become a bit different, not majorly by far, but noticeable enough at times. The N6.1 is powered by the Snapdragon 630 which is like a step lower from M1’s Snapdragon 636. Just to give you all a small brief about the Snapdragon 636, it is Qualcomm’s latest mid-range processor designed to be more power efficient (meaning better battery life). Performance wise, there may not be a perceptible difference from the Snapdragon 630.
On that note, there’s nothing to choose between the N6.1 and the M1 when it comes to normal daily usage and indulging in typical tasks like messaging and chatting through various apps, browsing social media websites and the internet (including YouTube). Both phones perform quite flawlessly with random moments of stutters here and there but that’s nothing to complain about really.
Also, elaborating a bit on using social media apps – navigating through them is mostly a smooth experience with irregular occurrences of momentary lags. Overall, the experience is quite satisfying.
Coming to Gaming – The M1 operates with a slight edge over the Nokia 6.1. For example, there’s a touch more refinement when playing a game like the Asphalt 8 (car racing) on the M1. It seems that M1’s Adreno 509 GPU along with the 636 processor is slightly better at handling the graphic requirements of a typical modern 3D game.
Secondly, the overall gameplay experience, especially from the viewing perspective, is also better on the M1 given that it has a bigger screen, so any game feels a bit grander on the Zenfone.
Security – Both phones come with a fingerprint sensor at the back; additionally, the M1 also provides a face recognition system. The Face recognition system works fine almost all the time (it either struggles badly or fails completely in low light conditions) and it is a fairly simple implementation in the sense that while the user is required to keep his/her eyes opened for the tech to work, it doesn’t require the user to look at the front camera.
(Edit) After the OS updated to Oreo 8.1 in the Nokia 6.1, the Face recognition feature has become available and in functionality, it is completely similar to how it works in the M1 as far as the execution is concerned. However, the N6.1’s face recognition works better in lowlight conditions (but it doesn’t work in too dark or completely dark areas).
Secondly, we are a bit disappointed with the fingerprint sensor on both the phones. It does work most of the times, but there are regular instances when the user is forced to touch the sensor multiple times to unlock the phone. In fact, the N6.1 has more such instances.
Zenfone Max Pro M1 – Dual camera with 13 MP + 5 MP primary & secondary lenses with f2.2 & f2.4 aperture respectively, PDAF, HDR, Bokeh mode. 8 MP front camera with f2.2 aperture.
Nokia 6.1 – 16 MP lens with f2.0 aperture, Zeiss optics, PDAF, HDR. 8 MP front camera with f2.0 aperture.
Below are a few camera samples from the M1.
Below are a few camera samples from the N6.1.
Observations are that the M1’s camera manages to keep the White Balance to the slightly warmer side, which is how it looks and feels in reality in the presence of sunlight. The Nokia 6.1 isn’t really bad but the M1 is closer to reality. Also, the M1 does marginally better than the N6.1 in terms retaining the details of various objects in an image. Lastly, we found the M1 creating better HDR outputs as the shadowy or darker areas are generally better exposed. Weirdly enough, the HDR samples from the Nokia 6.1 appear a bit darker compared to their non-HDR images – shadowy areas are even darker while some areas under light appear brighter. It seems that the HDR algorithm in the N6.1 isn’t quite well tuned (even though the M1 HDR samples are nothing too impressive either).
The M1 comes equipped with an impressive 5,000 mAh battery while the N6.1 is also not too bad with the 3,000 mAh unit. Interestingly enough, each of these batteries is better than the other in one aspect.
Clearly, the M1 remains unmatched when it comes to the overall battery life compared to pretty much any phone in its segment with a runtime that stretches quite comfortably to 2 days in normal usage (without any heavy camera usage, negligible time spent on video watching etc.). The N6.1 too goes up to 1 and a half days without much trouble. When it comes to heavy usage, depending on individual to individual, the battery life can be drastically reduced in both the phones.
However, the N6.1 is better than the M1 when it comes to charging. While both phones support fast charging, the M1’s 10w charger is mostly for the namesake. The phone takes more than 2 hours and 30 minutes to charge completely while it is charged up to 50% in about 50 minutes time. On the other hand, the N6.1 charges to around 40% in 30 minutes (with an 18w charger) and reaches the 100% mark in about 1 and a half hours which is much lower than what the M1 can manage.
As usual, there’s no bad phone as such in this comparison. Both the M1 and the N6.1 are worthy purchases, however, the M1 tends to lead the new Nokia 6 in pretty much every aspect. These are the highlights out of this review:
– The M1 comes across a bit better in terms of design and sturdiness.
– The M1, with its larger 5.99-inch display, gives a grander experience especially in gaming.
– The M1 feels a tad better than the N6.1 given that it holds a slight edge in terms of graphic-heavy games, even though both the phones are quite identical when it comes to normal tasking.
– The M1, once again, is slightly ahead of the N6.1 when it comes to the camera. Colours and the White Balance are more realistic while the HDR output is logically correct as well from the M1’s camera.
– The M1 gives a longer battery life as expected, but the N6.1 charges to 100% much faster.
Please understand that while the M1 appears a better device in all categories, that doesn’t mean that the N6.1 is bad. It’s just that the Nokia is good, but the M1 is better. Also, as far as the design is concerned, we are certain that many people would prefer the more flashy style statement of the N6.1 compared to the simpler appearance of the M1.
Yet, none can deny the price difference between the two handsets – the M1 is priced at Rs 12,999 (4 GB RAM/64 GB storage variant) while the N6.1 is priced at Rs 18,999 for the same specification. That is a huge difference of Rs 6,000 which simply can’t be ignored and, combined with its positive points, tends to swing our verdict in favor of the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 quite convincingly.
Let us know in the comment section below which phone out of the Zenfone Max Pro M1 and the Nokia 6.1 you would like to buy and why.