Affordable good quality smartphones are becoming more and more common, but knowing which ones are actually good quality and don’t have any major compromises is a little harder to find. The M2 Note was released only a few months after the M1 Note, I love the excitement that they didn’t want to wait to refine the design and it’s even $50 cheaper. Meizu has been a long favorite here at Mobile Geeks so we’re excited to dive in and let you know the good the bad and the great.
What’s Under the Hood – Specifications
The Meizu M2 Note is 5.5 inches with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 on an IGZO LCD panel from Sharp which is amazing quality and well above it’s price point. Powering this phablet we’ve got a 64-bit octa-core processor by MediaTek the MT6783 running at 1.3Ghz along side a Mali-T720 MP3 GPU with 2GB of RAM. It’s dual SIM 4G LTE with the option to use the 2nd slot for expandable storage via MicroSD card. The camera offers 13 megapixels on the rear and 5 megapixel on the front. It runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Meizu’s Flyme 4.5 with a 3100mAh battery.
- 5.5-inch, 1,080 x 1,920 resolution, IGZO display (403ppi)
- 1.3GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor
- 2GB RAM, Mali-T720 MP3 GPU
- 13-megapixel primary camera, 5MP front camera
- 16GB/32GB internal storage (expandable up to 128GB)
- 4G, dual-SIM, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, USB OTG
- Android 5.1 Lollipop with Flyme UI 4.5
- 150.9 x 75.2 x 8.7 mm
- 149 grams
- 3,100mAh battery
- Grey, White, Blue, Pink
Design – Feels Good in the Hand
Made from a single piece of polycarbonate plastic the M2 Note doesn’t feel budget, the in hand feel is similar to the way the iPhone 5C feels (which has to one of the best built plastic phones on the market). The sides of the phone are rounded and sloped which gives the handset a very comfortable feeling and it’s simple design gives it a sleek profile.
The power button can be found on the left hand side of the phone which I’ve always found takes a bit of getting used to since you have to power up with your index finger if you’re a righty. I’m used to have phones with the power button on the right so I can hit it with my thumb. Though if you’re familiar with the M1 Note it’s change position from the top of the device to the side. This is a step up since reaching the power button on the top isn’t easy with phones this big. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the left hand power button, but it seems to be the popular location for this seasons Chinese handsets.
The physical home button acts as a back button if you tap on it, if you press it you’ll head back home. You quickly get used to this.
Weighing in at 149 grams the device is well balanced making it possible to use with one hand if you’re paws are big enough.
The grey version that we have for review has a matte finish, the white, blue and pink editions are all glossy. If you’re going to choose, I’d go for the finish that is a fingerprint magnet.
Display – The Full HD IGZO is Great!
Display and Camera are the two things that usually cause me to turn my nose up at a budget device. The display on the M2 Note is great, it’s brilliant, bright, crisp and clear. You don’t expect to see an IGZO display on a budget device…period. It also has a luminosity of 450cd/m2 which makes it a pretty bright screen. Sunlight visibility isn’t an issue and color temperature seems neutral, though you can adjust it in settings if you find it a little cool (or warm).
Connectivity – Dual SIM is Good
If you’re ever on the road and pick up a 2nd SIM for data you’ll know how great it is not loose out on your home number. Though one of the issues with budget handsets over premium ones that are dual SIM is that only one of the SIMs offers data, meaning that you’ll have to move your home SIM to voice and text only. This is a pain because if you’re not using your phone on the road and want to pull from 2 different data plans you’ll have to physically move the SIMs around…which is a huge pain.
One issue that I did come across with connectivity is that the GPS wasn’t that accurate. I was using it to navigate to dinner here in Taipei and the alley’s are tightly packed, so 50m off can take you down the wrong road. I made it there eventually, but I was disappointed in how long it took to track. Only a few hours earlier I was using the Oppo R7 to navigate around with similar conditions and found 0 issue.
Meizu M2 Note vs M1 Note – The perfect Iteration
It’s only been a few months since the M1 Note was released, so it’s interesting the changes that they’ve made to its successor. The biggest is the processor, it’s the MT6753 at 1.3Ghz on the M2 Note which is about 25% slower than the MT6752 at 1.7Ghz on the M1 Note. Gameplay is still solid and we haven’t noticed any big difference in the UI performance. It’s thinner 8.7mm compared to 8.9 but it’s a little heavier 149grams compared to 145grams. As I mentioned in the design section the power button has moved from the top to the left hand side of the phone.
A physical home button has also been added, this is a big step up from the integrated circle on the M1 Note. It’s more like the MX4 Pro which we loved. It actually feels a little bit like a trackpad, which we know it isn’t, but that doesn’t stop us from swiping left and right using it.
Between the two devices there is no doubt that that I would choose the M2 Note, the performance hit in the benchmarks doesn’t affect the day to day interactions with the UI. The M2 Note feels polished with the same stand up camera as the M1 Note and it’s $170, the M1 Note has dropped down from $225 to $200 over the past 2 months, so I’m sure we can expect the M2 Note to do the same.
Flyme 4.5 – Smart UI but Takes Getting Used To
If you’ve used Flyme OS before they’ll be no surprises, if you’ve never used a Meizu before there are quite a few shortcuts that make using the device a whole lot easier. Like many Chinese phones it doesn’t come with an App drawer, so everything is on your homescreen, so if you can’t find something you have to go digging through folders. The other issue we should address right off the bat is that since this is a Chinese handset it doesn’t come with all the Google bells and whistles. This isn’t like getting a Chinese edition of a ZTE like the Axon which doesn’t even come with Google Play installed. Here you only get a handful of Google services pre-installed, the Play Store, Maps, Google Now and Google settings are installed but you’re missing Chrome, YouTube, Google+, Photos, Hangouts, etc., will have to be downloaded.
Navigating the handset does require you to know a few things. To access all the open or most recent apps you swipe up from the bottom to see your multitasking tray. To go back you tap
Meizu has it’s own store, the AppCenter and Personalize which let you download lots of stuff including new skins for your phone. Sound good? The catch is it’s all in Chinese. Even if you don’t get any extra packs there are still a lot of personalization options built in, the UI displays Flyme icons but you can switch back to regular Google Icons. The settings menu is sleek, I like the little touches they’ve added, you can pull to the right to see a list rather than just icons, you can also pull the whole thing down and it will stay so that you can use one hand to navigate.
The m2 note comes pre-installed with the TouchPal keyboard, in addition to the default Google keyboard. One issue I’m having, on occasion it covers up the send row in Facebook Messenger so I have to bit back to access it. This doesn’t happen every time, but it made me switch back to the default Google keyboard. The good thing about Android, is that you can customize it any way you like.
Smart Touch is another way to navigate your handset, it’s a floating button which is customizable. Interactions can be swapped out but by default it’s set to click to go back, slide up will take you to the homescreen, a swipe down will bring down the notification bar. We like that it’s highly customizable, it’s opacity can even be tweaked.
Flyme loves swiping as a form of launching apps, from the lockscreen you can swipe right or left to launch specific apps of your choosing. It’s called “Slide Rightward in Lockscreen” which is just bad English, which is something you’ll occasionally come across in the menus.
One thing that took me a little getting used to using the home button as a navigation button. You don’t have home, back and menu navigation keys, the physical home button acts as a mini touchpad on top of being a real button. If you tap it, you’ll go back while physically pressing the button will bring to the home screen. To multitask and see the last apps that you had opened swipe up from the bottom of the display. Just swipe up on the app to up on an individual app to close them all grab one and swipe down.
It took me a while to get the hang of Flyme, admittedly the Meizu Fanboy’s were pretty unhappy with some of my complaints in previous reviews when I didn’t intuit how to get something done. And that’s the big problem with Flyme, once you get it, it seems simple, but as a Smartphone reviewer I had to look stuff up, I couldn’t just figure it out after a week of use. By the way, I’m not alone in this Daniil who does the German reviews and Stew who reviewed the M1 Note both missed some pretty basic UI tricks. So be warned there is a slight learning curve to this forked version of Android.
The other software issue that you’ll come across is that Google’s services and are incomplete and aren’t seamlessly integrated into the UI. As you can see in the video I had some issues with Google Games which produced an error that was just annoying, it didn’t actually stop me from playing any games. I also wasn’t able to add more than one Google account.
Sound – A disappointing Single Speaker
Audio is not a strong suit for the M2 Note. It’s not quite loud enough and when cranked up it is a little distorted. My morning routine is bringing my phone around listening to music. My new morning routine was pairing my phone with a speaker and bringing that along for the ride as well…good thing my apartment is small. The position of the speaker is on the bottom which when gaming I covered up frequently, not a huge fan over all of the sound quality. The audio quality on the call however wasn’t an issue, I could hear clearly the person on the other end and they could hear me.
Camera – 13MP that punches above it’s weight class
13MP is a decent amount of pixels for any Smartphone camera, the question that it comes down to for me is how good is their software algorithm for processing the data. In the case of Meizu, they’ve done a stand up job. You don’t expect such good quality photos from a device that’s this budget. The camera is always the thing that sets the flagships apart, but what we have here isn’t bad at all and something I would expect from a device that’s twice the price.
The camera app has Auto, Manual, Beauty, Panorama, Lightfield, Scan and Slowmotion. The Auto mode features auto focus/auto exposure, but you can separate the focus and exposure points if you want more control. The Manual mode brings up onscreen controls for focus, ISO, exposure compensation and shutter speed which you can adjust via a slider. The Beauty mode lets you enhance eyes, slim faces, and smoothen and whiten skin. The Lightfield mode is similar to the Lumia Refocus tool. It lets you snap a photo and adjust the focus point later. This mode actually works really well, creating realistic depth-of-field and bokeh effects. The Scan tool is basically a QR code scanner.
I did find that that when you tapped to select focus the exposure swing was huge. This is one of the things that I look for when testing Smartphone cameras. If it has a reasonable amount of brightening or darkening of the photo, this is good. If there is a huge difference and the photo goes black or totally over exposed, the camera will make you a little crazy trying to snap a decent pic. When you do get it, it does look good, but this is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to what I consider to be a good camera.
If you’re looking for HDR you’ll have to go into settings, where you’ll also find the timer, gridlines and a level gauge. On the viewfinder, you’ll also see a filter icon, which brings up a range of live filters you can apply.
The Meizu M2 note has one of the better cameras we’ve seen on any budget Smartphone. The photos are sharp with natural color. It focuses decently fast and when things are well lit the level of detail you can find in the photos is excellent. When it comes to low light bar shots, don’t expect your fast moving friends to be in focus, but the photos will be usable. The HDR mode was ok, it didn’t pack the same punch as most flagship devices would. It essentially just sharpened the photo and saturated things noticable…I liked it as a filter. The dual-tone LED flash wasn’t great either, I found it hit or miss on if it did a good job. Generally I don’t use the flash so this isn’t a real deal breaker for me. However, I don’t usually bust out the flash opting for HDR, but since that’s not top notch it could eventually be an issue. The front facing camera is a little grainy in low light, but generally it takes an ok photo.
Performance – It’ll do.
The Meizu M2 note comes with a MediaTek MT6753 Octa-Core processor running at 1.3GHz with 2GB or RAM and a Mali T720-MP3 GPU . When looking at navigating through the device, it was smooth, fast and I never felt like I was waiting for the hadset to catch up..I also never saw it stutter o lag once. Gaming wasn’t a problem, the only issue with opening large games like Airborne 8 was that it took ages to open. Large apps take longer to open, compared to the M1 note it’s about 25% slower, but that’s a benchmark numbers game. Actually UI performance is the same. If you’re wondering how hot the phone got after 5 minutes of gameplay, it wasn’t warm at all, still rather cool apart from where the battery sits, but that was only warm not hot.
In everyday usage the M2 Note will give you a full day of use and more, even if you are a heavy user. Average users will should expect around two days on a single charge. The slight down side, arguably, is that as a non-removable battery you cannot replace it as it eventually and inevitably degrades over time. That aside, Meizu has once again come up with a very strong contender when it comes to battery life.
A Great Smartphone with an Aggressive Price Point
It’s hard to believe that you can pick this phone up for $170, the build quality is solid, the display is stunning, the camera is decent and it has solid all day battery life. If you’re looking for a sub $200 handset you won’t be disappointed. When buying budget devices there are usually one or two pretty big compromises. The M2 Note has “would you rather” moment. Google Play services aren’t polished, but it’s not broken, just poorly executed. Large Apps take a while to open up. The GPS could be more accurate and the speaker quality is poor. All in all these are pretty minor flaws in the grand scheme of things.