Meizu MX6 full review

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First impressions of the MX6 from Meizu are good. On paper it's got a decent spec that includes a deca-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and out the box it's a well-made and good-looking metal handset with a design somewhere between the latest iPhone and the HTC 10 - and, oddly enough, it's available in rose gold, grey, silver and gold. Also see: Best Chinese phones and Best dual-SIM phones

At £256.99 from Amazon this is a mid-range smartphone, but the MX6 offers more for your money than phones you might find on the UK High Street. As you've probably guessed from the unfamiliar name this is a Chinese phone, but from a company well-known in its homeland.

In the past Meizu phones have reminded us of those of Xiaomi, of which it is a competitor, offering great value for money and coming preinstalled with a similarly customised Android interface that places everything on the Home screen, but with no Google apps built-in. Flyme, the OS used by the MX6, is very different to Xiaomi's MIUI, but we'll get on to that later.

In common with those phones, the MX6 did not come preinstalled with Google services. However, upon turning it on for the first time we received a notification instructing us to install them. This might be disconcerting for new users, but installation proved a painless process and within a few moments we were able to log into our Google account and start downloading apps from the Google Play store.

The addition of Google services makes this Meizu phone much easier to use than the previously reviewed Meizu M3 Note - it's only a shame they weren't preinstalled before we took it out the box. Other than installing Google services, no tinkering is required for setting up this phone for UK use, which is reassuring for a Chinese phone. Also see: Best phones 2016

Meizu MX6

Meizu MX6 review: Design and build

Our only issue with usability regards the 'mTouch' Home button on the front of the phone. It works exactly as you'd expect for a Home button with a fingerprint scanner built-in, in that you press it to be returned Home or to unlock the screen (though irritatingly for the latter you must either press it a second time or long-press to unlock it).

Our issue is with the lack of any buttons to the side of it and, unlike the recently reviewed Elephone S7 which has a similar setup, there's no option in the Settings menu to enable a navigation bar. To go back you tap the Home button, to lock the screen you long-press it, and to access the Recents menu you swipe up from the bottom of the screen (but not directly above the Home button). You can enable a Multi-window feature from the Recents menu, too, but not all apps are supported.

Meizu MX6

But while it's frustrating in use at first, this setup does enable a very clean design with no button legends below the screen. And it's largely the same on the rear, with an inoffensive Meizu logo and a small (and very Apple-esque) scrawl at the bottom that says the phone was designed by Meizu and assembled in China. We're not entirely keen on the camera bump protruding from the rear, but it's something that is becoming increasingly common on Android phones and not so drastic that the phone will rock when used on a desk. Also see: Best Android phones 2016

The overall design is very good, if similar to dozens of rival handsets, with a metal unibody and almost edge-to-edge 5.5in display. Although it's heavier than many phones of its size at 155g it feels very small for a phablet, in part due to those slim bezels and in part to the 7.25mm ultra-thin frame and curved corners and edges - it's rounded on top with 2.5D curved glass, and on the rear. In fact, it's from the side that it arguably looks most like an iPhone.

Meizu MX6

The Meizu MX6 looks very much like a smaller version of the flagship Meizu Pro 6. We haven't reviewed its predecessor, the MX5, but from what we understand the MX6 isn't a vast improvement over it. In place of an AMOLED panel with Gorilla Glass there's a TDDI in-cell display with no protection, rather than a 20.7Mp primary camera there's a 12Mp snapper, and the battery is 100mAh lower in capacity yet the phone is wider and thicker. Also see: Best phone under £300

We're not sure why Meizu has opted for a TDDI in-cell display over AMOLED, nor why it hasn't fitted Gorilla Glass and left the screen glass vulnerable. AMOLED is our favourite type of screen tech, very thin and energy-efficient with excellent contrast and saturated colours. The TDDI panel here combines usually separate screen layers and has a two-layer touch control system. It is very responsive to touch, and still offers saturated colours, good contrast and brightness (particularly at the lower end of the scale, going right down to 1 nit for easier nighttime use), but it can appear cold.

Meizu MX6

The design is otherwise mostly standard, with a USB-C port and speaker grille at the bottom, a dual-SIM tray on the left edge and a volume rocker and a power button on the right. However, you'll note that in Flyme OS this volume rocker controls only the media volume (Silent mode is accessible from the pull-down notification bar, but to adjust the volume rather than mute the phone you need to enter the Settings menu), and that the headphone jack is unusually located at the bottom of the handset. 

The MX6 is the latest mid-range Android phone from Meizu, with a good all-round specification. 

Meizu MX6 review: Core hardware and performance

The MX6 is the first in Meizu's MX family to get the Helio X20 deca-core processor, which is similar to the Helio X25 but clocked slower at 2.3GHz. It combines four Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.4GHz with four running at 1.9GHz and two Cortex-A72 cores at 2.3GHz. The Mali-T880 GPU is integrated, and it's paired with 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM. Also see: What's the fastest phone?

It's a very similar specification to that of the cheaper Elephone S7 (which happens to offer double the storage at 64GB plus the possibility of expansion through microSD). We've also seen this chip in the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 - perhaps a closer competitor but with a larger battery - and Vernee Apollo Lite. All three of these smartphones come in significantly cheaper than the Meizu MX6, but performance is reasonably similar. If anything the MX6 performed less well in our benchmarks, which may be an effect of Flyme OS. You can see how the phones ranked in the chart below.

In real-world use the Meizu feels fast, and even the camera app launches quickly. Things could be sped up with the ability to wake and unlock the screen with a single tap of the mTouch button, but we don't think you'll have any issues with navigating the handset once you're in. Games and video shouldn't present a problem either.

The Meizu MX6 comes with 32GB of storage built-in which, compared to UK phones at this price point, is very generous. However, we're disappointed to find the dual-SIM slot doesn't allow you to substitute the second SIM for a microSD card. If you need more than 32GB of storage you'll need to rely on the cloud or a separate device. See How to add storage to Android.

The battery is a non-removable model that charges over USB-C. Using a compatible charger mCharge allows the battery to fill from zero to 100 percent in 75 minutes. Its 3060mAh capacity won't last you longer than a day, though, so be ready to charge it every night.

Meizu MX6

Meizu MX6 review: Connectivity

Before buying any Chinese phone you should ensure it will work on your network. The Meizu MX6, in common with Xiaomi phones, does not support the 800MHz 4G band in the UK. It does still work on the 2100MHz and 2600MHz UK 4G bands, but all the major mobile operators hold 800MHz frequency, which means your coverage might not be as wide as it was on a previous smartphone. Also see: How to tell whether a phone is supported by your network 

We used the MX6 on the Vodafone network, and found we didn't seem to receive 4G connectivity as commonly as previously, but that connectivity was never an issue - at least not in places we could previously get online.

For O2 customers and those of any virtual mobile operators that piggyback its network (for example GiffGaff and Sky Mobile), the lack of 800MHz (aka Band 20) will be frustrating because it's the only 4G frequency held by O2. If you use any of those networks you will not receive 4G at all on the MX6, though you will still be able to get online via 3G and dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi.

Meizu MX6

The MX6 allows you to add a second SIM (both are Nano-SIMs), which could potentially allow you to use separate contracts (from separate operators) for your calls and texts, and mobile data. Or you could insert a business SIM, allowing you to make and receive business calls without having to carry a second phone.

The dual-SIM setup is dual-standby, which means either SIM can send and receive calls and texts, although you can't make a call on both SIMs at once. You will need to select only one of the SIMs for mobile data, although you can switch which is used in the Settings menu.

Meizu's MX6 also supports Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, A-GPS and GLONASS, though there is no NFC for making mobile payments.

Meizu MX6 review: Cameras

Meizu MX6

For photos the MX6 is fitted with a Sony IMX386, a 12Mp, f/2.0 camera with a six-element lens, PDAF, 1.25um large pixels and a dual-tone flash. It can record 4K video at 30fps. Also see: Best camera phone 

The camera app supports many of the usual modes, real-time filters and a countdown timer, but HDR is hidden in the Settings menu and with no auto option. That's an improvement on the Elephone S7 mind, which has no HDR mode at all.

In our experience, though, you will want to leave HDR switched on in any case. In the first of our two test images below (shot in Auto mode) the sky is completely blown out, whereas things look far more realistic with HDR switched on (second shot).

The results are fairly average, and with a reasonable amount of noise visible, particularly in low light. Shot in good light the colours, contrast and white balance are accurate, though the images aren't as sharp as we'd like.

Meizu MX6 Auto

Meizu MX6 HDR

The Meizu MX6 also has a 5Mp, f/2.0 selfie camera with a four-element lens. You get all the same options as in the main camera app, but with the addition of the ability to flip the screen to get a mirror image.

Meizu MX6 review: Software

Meizu installs Flyme 5.5 on the MX6, which is a customised version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Upon turning it on for the first time you'll be prompted to download Google services, which gives you full access to Google Play and the Android apps with which you're familiar. We chose to download Google's apps for Maps, Drive, Calendar, Music and so on. You can happily use Meizu's alternatives, although you can't uninstall them if you don't want them.

Meizu MX6

The first most obvious difference between Flyme OS and Marshmallow is the removal of the app tray. Shortcuts for all your apps are found on the multiple home screens, which is a very iOS-esque setup that you'll either love or hate. We prefer to be able to hide away the apps we need but don't frequently use for a less cluttered interface, but here to do that you'll need to create folders.

The second most obvious difference is the removal of the navigation bar - another Apple-style move. Instead you use the mTouch button as both home and back, and swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access recents. We don't like this setup, but if you're familiar with iOS you may see things differently. We have no doubt that given more time we would get used to the change.

You can also place anywhere onscreen a SmartTouch button, which in part replicates the mTouch button, but can also be used for screen hovering (which just seems to move half your apps offscreen), unfolding the notification bar, locking the screen and launching the tasking menu. On larger phones such a feature makes for easier one-handed use, though that shouldn't in itself be a great issue with the MX6.

Meizu MX6

The notification bar is also a little different. Pull this down to access customisable quick-access toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and so on, plus a screen brightness slider. 

Extra software options include an extra-large mode, the ability to set the colour temperature of the screen, and an adjustable blue light filter to protect your eyes from glare. There is support for gestures, such as the ability to double-tap to wake the screen, as well as customisable gestures that you draw onscreen in standby to wake the phone and launch a specific app.

Read next: Best new phones

Specs

Meizu MX6: Specs

  • Flyme 5.5 (based on Android Marshmallow 6.0)
  • 5.5in full-HD (1920x1080, 403ppi) full in-cell TDDI display
  • 2.3GHz Helio X20 deca-core (4x 1.4GHz Cortex-A53 + 4x 1.9GHz Cortex-A53 + 2x 2.3GHz Cortex-A72) processor
  • ARM Mali-T880 GPU
  • 4GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • mTouch fingerprint scanner
  • 12Mp, f/2.0 Sony IMX386 rear camera with six-element lens, dual-tone flash, PDAF, 1.25um large pixels, 4K video at 30fps
  • 5Mp f/2.0 front camera with four-element lens
  • dual-SIM dual-standby (2x Nano-SIM)
  • 4G FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • USB-C
  • 3060mAh battery with mCharge (charges in 75 minutes)
  • 153.6x75.2x7.25mm
  • 155g