Whether it’s India or China, these two countries have become ground zero for mid-range handset war, as for the last couple of months there are a number of smartphones launched in this category that just tries to disrupt the meaning of mid-range segment. As they offer some high-end specifications for a considerably affordable amount. For instance, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, LeEco Le 1s and Honor 5X. These are some of the handsets that make paying Rs 10-13K quite worthy. And with a recent introduction of Meizu M3 Note, the mid range is seeing another contender in the form of M3 Note, which is a successor to the M2 Note smartphone launched last year.
The affordable phablets are increasing by number each month, as last week LeEco announced Le 2, there upgraded phablet at just 1099 Yuan (approx. 11289.47). But the device is currently restricted to China availability only, as its same for the Meizu M3 Note, which is not yet announced for its Indian audience. The M3 Note is retailing in China for 799 Yuan (Approx. Rs 8,250) for 2GB RAM while the 3GB RAM is available for 999 Yuan (Approx. Rs 10,300). But since we have been using this device for quite a time now, thus, we bring you the detailed review of the device before it’s even announced in the country. Are you read to see how the next generation Meizu phablet performs? Well, you better be. Read on, guys.
Meizu has made a full aluminium alloy body handset, which is one of the most beautiful things you would see in this price segment. With innovative technologies being used to create the body of this smartphone, it is nothing but a marvelous piece of work. The design language is certainly familiar to what we saw on the predecessor, but the quality has been drastically improved. There are elegantly design signal bands on the rear side of the device, which also crosses the edges on both sides. The metal finishing is quite fabulous on this handset; I mean you cannot find a square corner that will ruin your handheld experience. It’s a perfectly designed handset, even for its size, you can have one-handed interaction quite easily. We have a white color variant with us, and it looks classy in hand.
Getting into specifics, on the front top, the device packs a set of sensors, earpiece and camera module. While on the front bottom is the physical button, which acts as multiple functions; first as home screen button, a fingerprint sensor (mTouch 2.1) and capacitive functions like opening recent apps and going back to the menu. I would say it’s kind of interesting, but isn’t as practical as it might be confusing for most of the users. Coming to the back, it houses a big camera module on the rear top; aligning it is the dual LED Flash. Just below the camera module is the Meizu logo branding, which looks neat as it’s embossed on the device. That’s it, nothing much important to see on the rear side, which is what I like about it. The company tries to keep it simple as possible, which is a way to achieving elegance.
Talking about the buttons & ports placements, it has certainly one of the best buttons & ports placements we have seen so far on the mid-range phablet. The power button & volume rocker keys are nicely housed on the right edge; they quite responsive. And are easily accessible as well. The right-hand side has a microSD card and SIM slot, which can be tucked hidden inside the tray. You can only access it by using SIM ejector pin. The bottom edge has a microUSB port 2.0, which is accompanied by the dual grill, where one is for speaker and other is for the microphone. We played a lot of videos and music but weren’t quite satisfied with the sound output of the speaker. The top edge houses an audio jack and a microphone. That was it in terms of ports and buttons.
The device felt quite sturdy, if there is one issue despite the metal build on the affordable handset is that they come packed with low-grade materials. Although that is not certainly the case with this Meizu smartphone. In fact, the construction on this handset feels quite solid. If given the choice between Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 & Meizu M3 Note in terms of the design and build quality I would definitely go with Meizu handset as it offers much better combination of that. Overall, I can easily say that M3 Note is currently the best-designed handset out there in this segment.
If you see the handsets launched in past couple months, you’ll notice that the standard has been improved a lot. From when a 720p display used to be a big deal in this price range, it has now jumped to 1080p display as standard. That is quite the leap in the short time frame, all thanks to the companies who are willing to go forward with aggressive pricing. You see a 1080p 5.5-inch display on the M3 Note smartphone, which is not bezel-less, but has very thin bezels. And that is sufficient to give it a great look when sitting on a desk. The display felt pretty bright up as it has a brightness level of 450 (cd/m2). Moreover, the contrast levels are pretty good. And why I’m saying that as the display looks pretty great even under the direct sunlight. Thus, meaning the sunlight legibility on this screen is pretty great.
The company states that they are using an LTPS (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Silicon) display technology instead of the IPS LCD technology, which is more conventional among the smartphone makers. This LTPS technology is said to be achieving denser displays units and thus it maybe the reason company used this technology. There is not much difference in terms of reproduction quality, but when you throw in good brightness and contrast levels, it makes up for a large difference. On top of that, the Meizu M3 Note display is covered by a 2.5D curved glass. It is not shared by the company whether it’s a Corning Gorilla Glass or not, but it certainly felt much secure than having just a coating to protect the display from scratches such as handsets like Redmi Note 3. In terms of viewing experience, it’s not much better than Redmi Note 3, though. No specific reason but it’s just is.
The display on the Meizu handset isn’t a fingerprint magnet, which is one of the things I like about it. These days most of the handsets claim that they offer anti-fingerprint coating, but that is hardly true. Overall, I would call the display on the Meizu handset to be quite impressive, which is a great companion if you’re looking forward to watching movies on your long flight or train trip to another state.
Note: We have Chinese variant of the device, which means there is no Play Store & Google Apps available on this handset.
It’s not new that companies make their own custom skins based on the Android operating system. We have seen a lot of manufacturers take this route; even some companies have taken a reverse path, such as Xiaomi, which first came up with MIUI ROM then only forayed into the devices business. Meizu, another Chinese mobile brand has their own custom Android skin, which they like to call it as Flyme OS, the M3 Note comes loaded with the latest version 5.1. We like how the interface generally feels; it is smooth to operate and makes a lot of sense in terms of intuitiveness. So, if you’re someone who prefers a fully customized Android experience on your handset, you’ll definitely like this one.
The Flyme OS is filled with lots of features such as gesture options to open certain apps from the lock screen as well as it has a double tap to wakeup feature, which absent from its competition. There is a SmartTouch feature, which enables the floating button on the device. You can customize this floating button for many operations such as back, launch task manager, go to home screen, slide down the notification bar and switch between tasks. I had this enabled most of the time of my usage and let me admit that it’s quite a convenient feature. Samsung’s premium handsets had this kind of floating button feature for a long time, but they have failed to offer such intuitive experience, which Meizu has made possible on their mid-range handset. If you’re a right-handed person, you can keep this button on the right side while left-handed users can keep it on the left side. Moving around is quite simple, just hold on to it and drag it to any corners.
As I have mentioned in the note above, it is a Chinese variant, so not many pre-installed apps we saw was familiar. In fact, we had to install the Google Play Store Apk to download some apps familiar apps to use it as our daily driver. There were some dedicated default apps for functions like a gallery, file manager, maps, music, videos, weather and more. You get all tools such as calculator, calendar, clock, memo, voice recorder, which you generally see on an Android device. After installing some apps from the curated Meizu App Store on the device and recording some clips, we were left off with 7.25GB of free space, which is not bad for a device with 16GB of internal storage and option to expand storage up to 128GB via microSD card slot. The system takes up to 3.91GB while the apps take up to 1.49GB. The file manager is quite intuitive as it organizes the files in their formats. Such as Music, Videos, Pictures, RAR, APK, Documents and Downloaded files are arranged in separate spaces.
The multitasking interface is quite good; you can smoothly switch between apps using the SmartTouch or either in the recent app menu. Note that there is no app drawer on this interface. In China, the brand offers an attractive set of features when you sign up for Flyme Account. You get free cloud storage, where you can store music, videos, and all kinds of files online. It’s quite advantageous as you don’t have to store them offline, or when you’re upgrading to new Meizu handset, then you don’t have to worry about copying all your data from the device to new, as it’s all store with Flyme account. Moreover, I think you can buy music, videos and do a lot of stuff once you sign up for the account. We didn’t get to play around with that much as we brought the device to India. It would be very much appreciative if the company brings such interactive feature to its Indian audience if they haven’t planned yet.
One more interesting feature that I’d like to point out is that once you open the dialer app, you’ll notice there is a tab named Yellow Pages. It offers contact information for airlines, hotels, banks, courier, hotlines and a lot more services that are not offered out of the box by big brands. While Yu has done something like this on Yuphoria, but that hasn’t proved quite helpful I guess. You can also check out movies running in nearest theaters and check what food joints are closed by from the dialer app. How convenient that is. There is an application on a device called ToolBox, which allows you to turn your device into a ruler, mirror, and use it to level surface or understand directions using a compass. Also, you can use it to turn on the flashlight and magnifier feature. Overall, we felt that the handset offered a great user experience.
Hardware & Performance
MediaTek is a good name when it comes to affordable computing; you’ll often see their chipset being used by many smartphone makers. Meizu uses their latest mid-range chipset Helio P10; it is one of the processors launched in Helios series, the X10 being the flagship chipset. Though, it has been touted that P10 comes quite close to X10 in terms of final performance. Well, that is a good thing for Meizu has company uses this chipset on their latest mid-range smartphone the M3 Note. It is also said to give competition to the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 Series chipsets. Coming on to the specifics, the MediaTek chipset comes with eight cores, while four of the A53 Cortex cores clocks at 1.8GHz, the other four clocks at 1.0GHz. The device comes in two variants; first one comes with 2GB of RAM & 16GB of Internal storage while the second comes with 3GB of RAM & 32GB of internal storage. Giving two options makes it easier for users to choice by their needs.
We have the 2GB RAM variant with us, which is quite good in terms of the performance, but it’s not the powerhouse you see. Even with 3GB of RAM, I don’t suppose there would be an increase in experience. The Helio P10 is a good processor, which ensures that you can do the daily tasks swiftly, like firing up Google Maps navigation quickly while riding, opening up YouTube app playing videos, such tasks can be quickly accomplished on this handset. But not switching between three games running in parallel, or even switching between ten apps, they would be slower. And you can’t argue with that for the price you’re paying. Talking about the gaming, we did some gaming on this handset as well. Played games like Riptide GP2, Dead Trigger 2 & Asphalt 8; overall it was a good gaming experience, but there were some hiccups that we experienced during gameplay of Asphalt 8, which is quite an intense graphics games. Maybe this handset is not for the intense gaming, but the fact that didn’t heat up a lot during gaming is a good indication of performance management.
The Fingerprint sensor on the device is integrated into the physical home button, its known as mTouch 2.1, which is supposed to be an upgrade form of the fingerprint sensor technology company have used in the past on their flagship devices. To give you a brief idea about it, the sensor worked nine times out of ten attempts, which is quite a great response. The best thing about it is that it’s not placed on the back side, unlike most of the smartphones these days. I prefer the fingerprint sensor on the front and if you’ve similar preference, then you’ll like the experience provided here on this handset.
These days’ companies have become conscious about offering good camera package in their handsets. And Meizu has tried to level with its competitors like Xiaomi and LeEco, which offers handsets like Redmi Note 3 and Le 1S. The rear camera module on this handset has a 13-megapixel resolution, which is said to offer one of the best 13MP results in the market. But let us inform you that it isn’t quite true. I mean the camera module can take pretty good clicks in artificial and bright lighting conditions, but not a good anywhere in terms of low light performance. If we are comparing here, 13MP module of Le 1s is quite better, and Redmi Note 3 offers one of the best camera experience in this price range. If you’re sticking with M3 Note for few other reasons, then you’re not getting a bad quality camera, but it won’t be as good as best ones.
The module uses advanced PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus) technology, which claims to offer faster focusing and capture even more details it is possible on a 13MP module. Well, the details were clear in natural and artificial light captures, as well as focusing, was quick. But there was a considerable amount of noise that can be seen on captures in all conditions while it was quite high in low-light captures. Coming to the talk of camera app interface, it is kept quite clean, but there are some flaws I though could have been prevented. Such as giving the option to switch HDR right on the main screen, instead of hiding it in settings. The app is filled with modes like Manual, Beauty, Panorama, Light Field, Slow Video, Macro, and Gif. My favorite was Gif mode, once you switch to it, you’ll see the new interface. Just click on a shutter button and you can record a six seconds clip that would be saved as the GIF. You can trim down what part you want to save. It’s quite interesting. Not many companies are offering such features.
Coming to the video recording part, the rear module is capable of recording up to 1080p content. But it isn’t what we expected of it. The quality was not good, as there was a lot of noise in the video. Moreover, when you zoom in it gets much degraded. While on the other hand the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 & LeEco Le 1s offers 4K video recording. The front-facing module is of 5-megapixel resolution, and it is decent enough. It’s nothing fancy you see in Selfie-dedicated handsets, but taking casual selfies should be fine. Again, note that you can create GIFs, Slo-Mo and use beautify while using the front facing camera.
It was about time that company learns that a battery capacity on their handset should be large in order to offer good battery life on the handset. These days brand has finally understood that and implementing those measures. That’s why the Meizu handset comes with a large 4100mAh capacity battery, which is said to be one of the high-density battery packs as the device is not bulky, unlike Gionee handsets. Now a large battery capacity is just one of the steps required to get good battery life on a smartphone. The brand has excelled in other steps as well; those are an optimized software experience as well as hardware too, in terms of power management. Earlier we have praised the battery life on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, and the Meizu M3 Note is on par with the numbers we got with Redmi Note 3. You can easily get a day’s charge on this handset with high-intensity usage. That is the least we can say about the battery life on M3 Note. The company doesn’t claim that it has a fast charging, but the charging speed is quite quick as it fully charges the 4100mAh battery from 10 to 100 percent within 3 hours.
In terms of the connectivity options, the device has a lot to offer. It supports 4G LTE connectivity, which we have been using for past couple of days, and the data speed was on par with other handsets we have used with the same SIM card. The device supports dual SIM connectivity as well as dual standby too, which is great. Those wondering whether this handset an IR blaster like its competitor Redmi Note 3, well, sorry to disappoint you but it doesn’t have the IR Blaster. As well as no NFC. Other usual connectivity options include A-GPS/GPS, Wi-Fi, GLONASS, digital compass and microUSB 2.0 port.
What I have to say about Meizu M3 Note is that it can be a killer handset if its launched in India at right pricing. The device offers an astonishing design with the sturdy build quality, and you see some interesting set of features on this handset. Of Course, we have a Chinese variant, so there might be some performance difference when it launches in India in the coming weeks. But let’s settle that it is a decently packed performer, but might I say the Flyme OS can be a difficult interface for first-time users to understand. The camera outputs might not have impressed us, but it is a good performer as well when compared to the price point it comes as there are not many handsets with such specifications in this range. The M3 Note is easily capable of being a killer smartphone at the aggressive pricing it has landed in China. Our readers who are hoping to get this handset in the coming weeks when it launches in India, we would recommend for you to wait for this handset as it can be worthwhile depending upon your choices.