Meizu M3 Note – Looks the part but can the pieces keep up?

Meizu. That’s not a name that we’ve seen often in South Africa in relation to smartphones and based on what we’ve seen from the Meizu M3 Note that’s a shame. This mid-range handset from the Chinese company counts the likes of Xiaomi as its closest competition. It’s certainly got the looks to take the Apple of China on but does it have the stamina? Let’s find out.

Taking a look

The M3 Note from Meizu looks better than you’d expect a handset from a Chinese company, particularly one as unknown (in South Africa), to look. The company has gone for a premium feel, with an aluminium body wrapping around the device. From a certain angle the M3 Note bears some resemblance to Apple’s most recent efforts, particularly around the vented base where the charging port lives. And the single, hard-to-get-used-to front button, which doubles as a fingerprint sensor. Remind you of anything?

Elsewhere, the phone is pretty stock. There’s a camera and flash arrangement in the rear centre of the phone, the volume rocker and power button are on the left and there’s space for a dual SIM card arrangement. Or you could use a microSD and drop the spare SIM, if you like. Competent design, but nothing too special.

Cracking the shell

Okay, we didn’t actually crack the phone open. We have to give these things back at the end of the day but we did take a look under the hood. The M3 Note features a 5.5in HD display, one which is bright and clear enough for extended daily use, no matter what your chosen task is. YouTube, social media, instant messaging… doesn’t matter. It all looks good.

It’s powered by a MediaTek 6755M Helio P10 processor, an octa-core processor consisting of a 1.8GHz quad and a 1.0GHz quad. A Mali T860 GPU does the lifting for graphics and there is 2GB of RAM space for loading your apps into memory. We had the 16GB storage model for review but there’s also a 32GB option on the market. A 13MP/5MP camera combo is part and parcel and while these two are good enough for on-the-go work, we’ve seen several smartphone cameras that outperform them at this price bracket. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is one of these. This will become important later.

Then there’s the battery, arguably the highlight of the phone. That’s because it’s a 4,100mAh monster, which is overkill for a phone like this. It’ll keep you going for at least a day if you’re constantly fiddling, watching and listening, while more normal usage will see your time between wall connections lengthen quite a bit.

Not what we were expecting

You’d think that featuring an octa-core processor would be a sign that the M3 Note would be fairly powerful, as far as mid-range devices go. We thought so too so it was unusual to note that, on Geekbench 4 (which was a right bugger to download), the handset only achieved a single core score of 719. Multi-core was 2,112, which was about 600 points less than the average for the phone we’ve seen reported elsewhere. It is possible that the processors were operating in standard rather than high-performance mode during the test and this does put the performance of the device in line, more or less, with the LG G3. That’s not so bad, right?

AnTuTu was where the phone fared a little better. It didn’t crack the top 50 (you need to get close to or over 100,000 points for that) but the Meizu M3 Note did scoop up an overall score of 46,088. Not right up the with the other performance artists but not a terrible result for a phone that will cost you less than R4,000. Obviously, though, we would have liked to have seen more power in action. Especially since we’ve seen cheaper phones with comparable results (hint: It’s the Redmi Note 3 again).

Flyme to the moon

The only truly major complaint we have is with the Flyme OS skin that comes installed as a standard. Flyme is covering up Android 5.1, which is getting on a bit, but it’s also customised to the point that you’re restricted to Meizu’s app store out of the box. It’s possible to download some of the apps that you’re used to but access to the Google Play Store is what you’re really after. Getting access to that… takes some doing.

We had to format the handset back to factory defaults to get a download prompt that would allow the installation of the Play Store and associated services. It’s not onerous, if you know that it needs to be done, but if you had no idea… yeah, using the handset sans Google’s full set of apps could be frustrating.

Verdict

Meizu’s effort here is a good one but it’s up against come stiff competition. Specifically, Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 3, which comes in with better specs, better overall performance, a newer, less-annoying version of Android, and a better price. If we were forced to pick, it would be a no-brainer. The M3 Note isn’t a bad phone, it’s just that there are better options available. Don’t let a single phone from the brand sour you on the company, however, as we’ve also spent a little time with the Meizu Pro 6. That one is a whole other story. Stay tuned.

Good

  • Battery will last you
  • Good build, good looks

Bad

  • Lacking in power
  • Flyme OS requires tinkering before everything works
  • Competition is tighter than you'd think
7.1

Good

Stuff South Africa's online editor and print assistant editor, Brett Venter has churned out more words on more titles than most journalists will in a career. He's kind of shy.

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