Meizu M3 Note

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

We’ve been look­ing for­ward to test­ing a Meizu phone for a while and, al­though the M3 Note is im­pres­sive for the money, it’s not a patch on the sim­i­lar Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. We weight up the pros and cons of the Meizu M3 Note, and put it head to head against the Redmi Note 3.

Price

Our M3 Note was supplied by GearBest, which charges £142.50 with free ship­ping to the UK. (Note that you may have to pay im­port duty.) Con­versely, GearBest stocks the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 for £116, which of­fers even bet­ter value still.

These are both Chi­nese phones and, as such, you’ll find some pre­in­stalled Chi­nese-lan­guage apps (all of which can be unin­stalled) and in our ex­pe­ri­ence you will get some no­ti­fi­ca­tions you can’t read. This isn’t a ma­jor is­sue, since you can still pre­in­stall any English­language apps you wish to use, but you will need to in­stall Google Play first. Of all the Chi­nese phones we have tested, it’s fair to say the Xiaomi and Meizu are the least well adapted for UK con­sumers (which is fair enough, since they aren’t of­fi­cially sold here). How­ever, they’re also among the nicest.

De­sign

Given its sub-£150 price, the M3 Note has a great build. It’s crafted from 6000-se­ries alu­minium al­loy, with a uni­body de­sign that feels tough and well-made. A 2.5D glass screen lies flush, as does the rear camera sen­sor, and rounded edges make the phablet feel rel­a­tively com­fort­able in the hand, given its size.

It still feels a lit­tle chunky, though, at 8.2mm and 163g, but this we can for­give given the gen­er­ous 4100mAh bat­tery (long run­time is a huge plus point) and large 5.5in Full-HD screen. It’s a few mil­lime­tres taller than the Redmi Note 3, which puts its fingerprint scanner on the rear, whereas here it’s built into the phys­i­cal home button.

There are no back or re­cents but­tons, though, which we found in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to get our heads around, and a fea­ture of iPhones that we strongly dis­like. It is pos­si­ble to ac­ti­vate a Smart Touch float­ing button that can be cus­tomised to of­fer these op­tions, but it’s re­ally not the same thing.

Aside from this you’ll find ev­ery­thing where you would ex­pect, from the power button and vol­ume rocker on the right edge to the Dual-SIM tray on the left and head­phone jack on top. One area the Meizu gets one up on the Xiaomi is with the bot­tom-fac­ing speak­ers (the Redmi places this on the rear), with two grilles sit­ting ei­ther side of the Mi­cro-USB port. Full-HD panels of this size aren’t overly com­mon in bud­get phones, and even bud­get Chi­nese ph­ablets will of­ten spec­ify only HD screens. It matches the Redmi Note 3 with a 1920x1080-pixel res­o­lu­tion, which equates to a crystal clear 403ppi. Bright­ness is pretty good at 450cd/m2, colours re­al­is­tic and view­ing an­gles good. It’s not an edge-to-edge screen, but the side bezels are slim. In com­mon with the Redmi Note 3 you’ll see a thin black line border­ing the screen.

Per­for­mance

Meizu fits its M3 Note with an octa-core He­lio P10 pro­ces­sor, 2GB of RAM and a Mali-T860 GPU. This com­bi­na­tion isn’t as fast as the Xiaomi’s He­lio X10 and Pow­erVR Rogue G2600 GPU, ei­ther on pa­per or in our bench­marks, al­though the Meizu feels pretty nippy in real-world use with­out any par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able lag.

Our only slight ir­ri­ta­tion was the pop-up that ap­peared ev­ery time we opened a new app for the first time, al­though tech­ni­cally this is a good thing be­cause it en­sures that you deal with app per­mis­sions prop­erly.

We ran both phones through our usual bench­marks and found

per­for­mance from the Meizu M3 Note that will be fine for most users In terms of gen­eral pro­cess­ing per­for­mance it man­aged 2710 points in the multi-core com­po­nent of Geek­bench 3, and 39,886 points in AnTuTu 3D.

For graph­ics we run GFXBench, and here the Meizu recorded 13fps in T-Rex and 5.3fps in Man­hat­tan. This is noth­ing to get ex­cited about, and sug­gests the Note won’t han­dle any­thing too in­tense on the gam­ing front. How­ever, its large screen is ideal for watch­ing video, and the Meizu is more than ca­pa­ble of this.

JetStream is used to test JavaScript per­for­mance, and here the M3 Note recorded 22.809. Again, not a bril­liant score, but not at all bad for a bud­get An­droid phone.

Where this phone re­ally stands out is in bat­tery life. Meizu claims two-day life from the 4100mAh non-re­mov­able bat­tery, and we wouldn’t sug­gest oth­er­wise – the bat­tery per­cent­age in­di­ca­tor doesn’t budge. At 92 per­cent (hav­ing used the phone all morn­ing) it re­ported 42 hours 20 min­utes re­main­ing, so you’re un­likely to need to carry a power bank here. Our only gripe is that this huge bat­tery doesn’t sup­port fast charge, so you will want to leave it for a full overnight charge.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 has a 4000mAh bat­tery, so the two should be fairly sim­i­lar in terms of per­for­mance. In the Geek­bench 3 bat­tery life test we recorded eight hours 29 min­utes with a score of 5093 points from the Meizu. It isn’t the best we’ve seen but it is very good.

For stor­age you get 16GB built in, and given the price of this phone it’s dif­fi­cult to com­plain. With only Google Play in­stalled we found we had 9.16GB of that 16GB avail­able. Un­like the Xiaomi, Meizu does pro­vide a mi­croSD slot, al­though adding one means you will need to sac­ri­fice the Dual-SIM func­tion­al­ity, since it shares the same slot as the sec­ond SIM. With­out a mi­croSD card the M3 Note will ac­cept two Nano-SIMs, which is handy if you want a sin­gle phone for work and play, or are go­ing abroad and wish to use a lo­cal SIM.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

While the Meizu will ac­cept two SIMs, it’s im­por­tant to note that nei­ther slot sup­ports the 800MHz 4G LTE band in the UK. This rules out O2 cus­tomers and those of other mo­bile op­er­a­tors who pig­gy­back its net­work, such as Gif­f­gaff. These peo­ple will still be able to get 3G on the M3 Note, but won’t ben­e­fit from the Wi-Fi-like speeds of LTE for brows­ing. This is also true of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, and when buy­ing from China you should al­ways check whether a phone is sup­ported by your net­work.

We’ve al­ready men­tioned that the Meizu M3 Note has a fingerprint scanner, and we were im­pressed by how fast it op­er­ates and how easily it recog­nises your fin­ger. We like the Xiaomi’s rear-mounted ap­proach, where it falls nat­u­rally un­der your fin­ger when you pick up the phone, but here you don’t even re­ally need to think about it.

Aside from the fact there’s no sup­port for NFC, con­nec­tiv­ity op­tions are fairly stan­dard. You get 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS. Xiaomi takes the lead here, though, with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and an IR blaster.

Cam­eras

In com­mon with its Xiaomi ri­val, the Meizu M3 Note fea­tures a 5Mp, f/2.0 front camera and a 13Mp, f/2.2 rear camera with PDAF and a two-tone flash. It can record 1080p video from ei­ther camera, al­though it isn’t im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous how to JetStream en­ter video mode and we found the re­sult­ing footage rather jerky.

That’s be­cause, as we’ll come to next, this phone is pre­in­stalled with the Flyme 2.1 UI, a cus­tom over­lay for An­droid 5.1 Lol­lipop. The camera app is one of the places you’ll re­ally no­tice the dif­fer­ence from stan­dard An­droid, al­though it

seems to have many of the same op­tions. The vol­ume rocker can act as a ded­i­cated shut­ter button, while hold­ing down the cap­ture button op­er­ates a burst mode. Camera modes in­clude Auto, Man­ual, Video, Beauty, Panorama, Light field, Slow video, Macro and, in­ter­est­ingly, Gif.

You can see a cou­ple of our test shots of the St Pan­cras Re­nais­sance Ho­tel (shot from our sev­enth-floor of­fice roof ter­race) above and on page 37. The first is shot in Auto mode and the sec­ond with HDR. The pho­tos look pretty good on the phone it­self, but viewed at full size on a PC the lack of im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion is ob­vi­ous and a huge of de­tail has been lost from the im­mense blur­ring. HDR mode im­proves thing in­fin­itely, but this cer­tainly isn’t a phone we’d rec­om­mend for its camera and, again, the Xiaomi out­shines it.

Soft­ware

As we men­tioned, the Meizu M3 Note runs Flyme 2.1 OS, which is a cus­tom version of (old) An­droid Lol­lipop 5.1. Many of the apps that come pre­in­stalled are Chi­nese, but you can unin­stall any­thing that isn’t shown on the first home screen, which is, in­ci­den­tally, also your app tray in an­other un­happy iPhone sim­i­lar­ity, though this we can deal with bet­ter than the miss­ing back and re­cent but­tons.

There are apps for ev­ery­thing you might ex­pect to see from Google on a stan­dard An­droid phone, from a Map app to an ac­tual App Store, which means you will dou­ble up if you also want to in­stall Google’s apps. It’s the same story with the Xiaomi phone, by the way, al­though it’s not as easy to unin­stall the pre­in­stalled Chi­nese apps on that phone and we in­stead had to hide some of them away in a folder.

At this point it’s im­port to note that Google Play is not pre­in­stalled (al­though in our case when bought from GearBest it was and later stopped work­ing, lead­ing us to re­sort to a fac­tory re­set). How­ever, in­stalling Google Play is as sim­ple as launch­ing the App Store on the M3 Note, search­ing for Google In­staller and in­stalling it. Then click Open and again tap In­stall. When you at­tempt to launch Google Play you’ll be prompted to add your Google ac­count de­tails.

Some things have moved around in the Set­tings menu, which con­fused us at first but we sus­pect you would be­come ac­cus­tomed to this fairly quickly. For ex­am­ple, Stor­age is found un­der About phone (makes sense, we guess), and it’s in here that you’ll find the backup and re­store or fac­tory re­set op­tions.

You’ll also find some ad­di­tional op­tions in the Set­tings menu, such as do not dis­turb- and easy modes, plus a per­son­al­i­sa­tion menu that lets you play around with themes, wall­pa­pers and fonts. Var­i­ous cus­tomis­able ges­tures, such as the abil­ity to wake the phone with a dou­ble-tap or draw a let­ter on­screen to wake the phone and launch an app of your choice, are found un­der Ac­ces­si­bil­ity, Ges­ture wake up.

Hold­ing down the home button can also ac­ti­vate Smart Voice, which we guess is a bit like Siri, ex­cept it’s Chi­nese and didn’t un­der­stand what we were say­ing to it.

Ver­dict

The Meizu M3 Note is a great phone, with out­stand­ing bat­tery life and a nice metal uni­body de­sign, but it isn’t a patch on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, which is faster and comes with a bet­ter camera, more up-to­date soft­ware and a cheaper price tag. That said, it’s dif­fi­cult for us to rec­om­mend to UK users (par­tic­u­larly novice UK users) the M3 Note over other bud­get Chi­nese smart­phones we’ve tested, given that Google Play is not pre­in­stalled and so much of it has not been adapted from Chi­nese. Marie Brewis

Auto set­tings

GFXBench Man­hat­tan

GFXBench T-Rex

Geek­bench 3

HDR

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