Meizu Pro 5 Review

Positives
  • Unibody metal design
  • Great battery life
  • Dual SIM
  • Micro SD card for expansion
  • USB Type C
  • Fast Charge
  • Fast performance
  • Vibrant Display
  • HiFi Audio
  • Fingerprint reader
Negatives
  • Poor low light photos
  • Limited LTE band
  • MicroSD card takes up 2nd SIM card slot

We first start reviewing Meizu handsets over a year ago, and for the price point they have consistently delivered high quality handsets for budget prices. In this short time that’s we’ve been following them they’ve climbed to the number 3 spot in terms of sales in China.  The Meizu Pro 5 is the best handset they’ve built to date and it’s only an iteration better than their previous releases.

Design

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Clean lines, round corners and a great in hand feeling is what you can expect when you pick up the Pro 5, it’s all metal uni-body design is a significant improvement since Meizu has typically released smartphones made of the same plastic as the iPhone C.

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The Meizu Pro 5 has a combination of a silky matte finish and polished accents makes this feel and look refined.  If we take a look around the device we have the power button and volume rocker separated by a sleek polished devision. The buttons feel solid and offer solid feedback, on the top of the handset is the headphone jack and on the left we have the dual SIM tray with the option to convert one of the slots to expandable memory.  At the bottom we have the speakers that are easily covered when gaming in portrait and the USB Type C connector.

On the front we have a 5MP front facing selfie camera and a single navigation button, there are no on screen buttons and no additional hardware keys.  The single button is recessed and acts as a touchpad, finger print sensor and physical button you can press. It has the same glass finish as the display but is separated by a sharp slopped boarder.  The home button acts as a back button with a light tap, or if the display is off you can use it to sleep/wake the phone with a long press. The button itself feels quite premium until you press it and then it doesn’t offer great feedback and sounds a bit budget.  This is the only thing about the entire device which doesn’t scream premium.

Hardware

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At 5.7 inches the Mezui Pro 5 is a larger device that isn’t as pocket friendly but a pleasure to consume content on. Under the hood we have a Samsung Exynos 7420 running at 2.1Ghz. When it comes to storage and RAM, if you get 3GB you’ll get 32 GB of storage, 4GB of RAM yields 64 GB. You can expand the storage via microSD by up to 128 GB, but with the second SIM slot doubling as the microSD card slot, so you’ll have to decide if you want 2 SIMs or lots of storage.

Specifications

Display 5.7-inch AMOLED display 1920 x 1080 resolution 386 ppi
Processor 2.1 GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos 7420 Mali-T760MP8 GPU
RAM 3/4 GB (depending on storage option)
Storage 32/64 GB expandable via microSD card up to 128 GB
Camera 21 MP rear camera with laser autofocus 5 MP front-facing camera
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Bluetooth 4.1 GPS + GLONASS NFC USB Type-C 1.0
Battery 3,050 mAh
Software Android 5.1 Lollipop
Dimensions 156.7 x 78 x 7.5 mm 168 grams

Display – AMOLED & Gorgeous

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Some might criticize the Pro 5 for being too low resolution offering only Full HD at 1920 x 1080, but the AMOLED display offers sharp text, bright vibrant colors and wide viewing angles. Colors are bright, vibrant, saturated and full of contrast. We also have a 2.5D glass panel that has a very subtle curve along the edges. I could take it or leave it, if it dropped the price I’d be willing to forgo this feature. It seems to be turning up on so many handsets and each time I read it on the spec sheet I go “Oh yeah”. Is this something you guys look for in handsets? Should I be more stoked?

Performance

The Meizu Pro 5 is powered by Samsung’s high end flagship processor an octa-core Exynos 7420 processor, clocked at 2.1 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T760MP8 GPU, and 3 or 4 GB of RAM depending on your choice of storage. Samsung has done a great job with this generation of processor, it’s power efficient and packs and unapologetic graphics punch.

Ice Storm Unlimited – 26214
Browser 5744
Geekbench 3 Single Core – 1537
Geekbench 3 MultiCore – 5526
AnTuTu v6 84326

Connectivity

The Pro 5 comes with a standard suite of connectivity options NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with GLONASS and LTE. Seeing as this is a Chinese brand going global, they aren’t covering all LTE bands, TD-LTE (band 38/39/40/41), FDD-LTE (band 1/3/7) and TD-SCDMA (band 34/39) networks, along with GSM and WCDMA, of course. In Germany carriers use with 3 or 7, so Germany has full LTE coverage. In the US TMobile isn’t so lucky, so you’ll only get HSPA+ which is fast, but it’s not LTE.

In terms of sensors the Pro 5 packs quite a few, Hall Effect sensor, Gravity sensor, IR proximity sensor, Gyroscope, Ambient light sensor, Touch sensor & Digital compass.

Sound – HiFi Audio

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If you need to share media with a friend the single speaker at the bottom is loud enough, the sound quality isn’t that bad either. The problem is if you’re holding the phone in landscape sharing a YouTube video the placement makes it easy to cover if you cup the bottom of the phone. This will be a bigger problem if you’re gaming, which you’ll see in the video when I play Asphalt 8.

The truth is most people aren’t listening to much media over the speaker of their handset, I tend to play podcasts in my kitchen or when I’m getting ready, but mostly I connect to a Bluetooth speaker or I’m on the go and using headphones. If you’re big on listening to music over headphones, the Pro 5 also comes with built-in Hi-Fi audio, which delivers a much better audio experience. You’re getting dedicated hardware, ESS ES9018K2M & TI OPA1612 alongside passive filter technology, 4 pairs of NXP high current transistors, a solo amp circuit, ceramic film capacitor and high-precision low-temperature-drift resistor.

Finger Print Sensor

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The Pro 5 comes with a fingerprint scanner embedded into the physical home button. It uses a tap and hold setup process similar to what is seen from the likes of Samsung and Apple. It is fast fairly reliable 1 out of every 10 attempts would fail, which is enough for you to notice, but not bad enough to make it unusable or overly frustrating.

Camera – Struggles in Low Light

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The Meizu Pro 5 comes with a 21 MP rear camera with phase detection and laser auto focus. Meizu uses a Sony sensor and they do a pretty good job with it as well. Image processing in Chinese smartphone makers us usually their downfall, but when I tested the MX4 Pro against the Z3 which both had the same sensor, Meizu did a better job.

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Like with most handsets in good lighting you get great photos, they have plenty of color, detail, and are nice and sharp. HDR is hidden a menu down, but it does a nice job of brightening up the image without making it looking over processed.

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.

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 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 or bar shots, don’t expect your fast moving friends to be in focus, but the photos will be usable. The HDR mode was ok, but it doesn’t pack the same punch as most flagship devices would. It essentially just sharpened the photo and saturated things noticeable…I liked it as a filter.

Flyme 4.5 – Smart UI but Takes Getting Used To

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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., so you’ll have to download them yourself.

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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 the home button.

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.

Meizu pre-installs 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.

Battery Life

The Pro 5 comes with an ample 3,050 mAh battery which provides solid all day battery life. On screen-on time was consistently over 4:20 hours mark even with a lot of gaming, watching YouTube & local videos, messaging, social media and streaming SoundCloud would get me into the next day.     The battery life is so solid that consistent charging patterns, like charging every night stop becoming a ritual. Why this works is the Pro 5 comes with fast charging capabilities via Meizu’s mCharge 2.0 technology, which gets you 65% in 30 minutes.

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The Verdict

Meizu is known for delivering great build quality devices at aggressive price points, the Pro 5 is the best phone that they’ve ever built, but it sacrifices the budget price tag. The all metal build and flagship level Samsung Exynos processor have driven up the price tag to $500, but if you’re not used to Meizu’s budget price tags, the specifications, build and battery life make this handset worth looking at.

The all metal build makes, Exynos processor 4GB of RAM makes this device future proof. The question that I have been asking myself is the M2 Note is the same polycarbonate as the iPhone C, it’s smaller at 5.5 inches but it’s $150 running a MediaTek OctaCore processor. It doesn’t have the same gaming punch, but Flyme OS is very well tuned so system naviagation isn’t an issue. So if you’re after the bigger processor you have to ask yourself what multitasking or tasks you actually need it for. Also, you can buy 3 M2 Note’s for the price of 1 Pro 5, compared to other flagship devices it is 20% cheaper, I just have a hard time swallowing a higher price tag when I know you’re getting comparable camera, display and battery life.

Rating
Design / 7.5
Camera / 7.5
Sound / 8
Performance / 8.5
Battery Life / 9
Software / 8
Price / 7.2
Editor's Choice / 8
Hardware / 8
Display / 8
Meizu Pro 5

The Meizu Pro 5 has unibody metal design, great battery life, Dual SIM, expandable memory alongside premium features like a flagship Exynos processor USB Type C, fast charge HiFi Autio and a finger print scanner. Against flagship devices it has a competitive price tag of $500. The Pro 5 also has some compromises with a camera that struggles in low light no LTE on some US carriers and you have to give up one SIM card slot if you want the expandable memory.
If you’re thinking of picking it up, you won’t be disappointed, but there are a lot of great phones for $500 and below. Looking at Meizu’s own line a little bit smaller you’ll get the same camera, comparable battery life but lacking a flagship processor and unibody metal design.

8.0
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