Meizu M3 Note review: Connectivity and other features
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. See all smartphone reviews.
Meizu M3 Note review: 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 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) below. 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. Also see: Best camera phones 2016.
Meizu M3 Note review: 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. (That Smart Touch floating button just doesn’t cut it for us.)
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. Also see: Best Chinese phones 2016.
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 wakeup.
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.
Read next: Best new phones coming in 2016.
Meizu M3 Note: Specs
- 5.5in full-HD (1920x1080, 403ppi) LTPS display
- Android 5.1 with Flyme 5.1 UI
- octa-core (4x 1.8GHz A53, 4x 1GHz A53) Helio P10 processor
- Mali-T860 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB storage
- 13Mp, f/2.2 rear camera with PDAF and two-tone flash
- 5Mp, f/2.0 front camera
- dual-SIM dual-standby (2x nano or 1x nano plus microSD up to 128GB)
- FDD-LTE bands 1800/2100/2600MHz
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.0
- GPS + GLONASS
- fingerprint scanner
- 4100mAh battery (claimed two-day life), non-removable
- charges over Micro-USB
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- performance: Geekbench 3: 785 (single-core), 2710 (multi-core)
- GFXBench: 13fps (T-Rex), 5.3fps (Manhattan)
- AnTuTu 3D: 39,886
- JetStream: 22.809
Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide