The Meizu M1 Note is a 5.5 inch Android smartphone that the company hopes will make an impact on regions both in and outside of China. Officially unveiled at the end of last year the m1 Note can be characterized as an affordable take on the phablet space with a MediaTek MT6752 chipset powering a heavily customized Flyme UI that tries to carve out its own interpretation of what a large Android smartphone can be. Currently available in China for $1100RMB or (approximately $177 USD), Mobile Geeks find the Meizu m1 Note to be a phablet very much worthy of consideration for those on a budget.
Meizu m1 Note: Technical Overview
The 5.5 inch space is one where we see increasing competition from virtually all quarters, with big hitters Apple and Samsung playing for keeps with the new iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 devices. The increasing acceptance of larger devices with mainstream consumers means that the segment we used to refer to as ‘Phablets’, is now more accurately recognized as the upper edge of the mainstream smartphone spectrum.
Meizu have created a small family of devices that include the MX4 and MX4 Pro which arrived towards the end of last year. Both featured metal alloy body designs that brought plenty of class to the Meizu product line. Both the MX4 and MX4 Pro command considerably higher prices than the m1 Note. Being designed with price firmly in mind the Meizu m1 Note carries a similar design ethos as its siblings but in a larger frame that is based firmly on plastic. It has a 13MP camera sensor from Samsung as opposed to the 20.7MP Sony sensors on the MX4 and MX4 Pro. The MediaTek MT6752 processor and its 2GB of RAM however, do a good job at keeping things snappy, and the Full HD IGZO LCD display from Sharp looks impressive.
Update: Nicole shot a video review after a few weeks of use:
Take a look at the specs in full:
Meizu m1 Note: Full Specifications
- 5.5 Inch IGZO LCD Display
- 1080 x 1920 pixels (403 ppi)
- Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- Mediatek MT6752 processor
- Octa-core 1.7 GHz (Cortex-A53)
- Mali-T760 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB / 32GB Storage
- Dual Micro SIM
- 13MP Rear Camera w/dual-LED
- 5MP Front Camera
- GSM / HSPA / LTE Cat 4
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 150.7mm x 75.2mm x 8.9 mm
- 145 grams
- Non-removable 3140 mAh Battery
- Android OS, v4.4.4 (KitKat)
- Flyme 4.0 UI
Meizu m1 Note, Solid Plastic-based Design and Build
The Meizu m1 Note as I mentioned earlier, eschews the metal alloy frame that we found on the company’s more expensive designs, opting instead to use plastic for the majority of the chassis. The device uses a single piece of pretty rugged, tough plastic as the back shell. The shell curves around at the edges to meet with the front display, making a very simplistic and not unattractive look. Despite the use of plastic the m1 Note manages to pull it all off without appearing overtly cheap or ‘cost down’. It also keeps aesthetic parity with its more expensive brethren – or at least at a glance it does.
The plastic shell is not removable (except for repairs perhaps) and is held solidly in place by two tiny screws on the base of the handset, positioned either side of the USB 2.0 port. In terms of button placement we have a power button on the top right edge which is in keeping with previous Meizu designs and the volume rocker on the upper left-side edge. Personally I would prefer the power button to be located on either of the side edges, a design decision that I feel would be beneficial to device this long. Accessing the power button while holding the m1 Note with one hand will be virtually impossible for all but the largest of paws.
The plastic shell has a glossy finish but the white version we acquired managed to avoid fingerprints surprisingly well. The rear camera is placed in the center at the top, with its dual LED flash located below. The Meizu logo is discreetly emblazoned on the lower portion of the device’s rear and joined by the words ‘Designed by Meizu Made in China’ – just in case there was any misunderstanding on those two points.
As with the majority of phones coming out of China in recent years, the m1 Note supports dual Micro SIM cards. These are accessed via a small tray that resides on the right edge. The tray actually seems to peek out above the chassis that holds it and needs a pin (included) to pop it out. Only one of the two slots supports 4G however.
The audio jack is on the top edge in the left corner with a single audio speaker on the bottom left edge, made visible by a grill that consists of three small holes.
The in-hand feel of the Meizu could be described as slightly slippery due to the slick finish of the plastic used, so if you are prone to dropping phones, be aware. The overall feel is one of quality. The balance of the m1 Note is very good, the weight is reasonable at only 145 grams and despite being a large smartphone, it felt right at home in my jeans pocket. The 5.5 inch screen is larger than my everyday smartphone, the iconic Xiaomi Mi3, but the larger m1 Note manages to remain around the same weight.
Meizu m1 Note Gallery
Meizu m1 Note vs iPhone 6 Plus
If we make a comparison to the iPhone 6 Plus, which needs 158mm of length to deal with its 5.5 inch display, the m1 Note is doing well to provide the same size screen in only 150.7mm. The Meizu is giving you 72.9% screen-to-body ratio, compared to the iPhone 6 Plus at 67.8%. Here are a few comparison images of the m1 Note sitting next to the much more expensive iPhone 6 Plus, just for for the sake of interest.
Single Capacitive Button Navigation?
Several Mainland Chinese devices have been criticized at times for giving more than a nod in the direction of Apple when it comes to design philosophy. Xiaomi have arguably made a killing from producing well made, well marketed Apple-inspired handsets. Anyone who has used a Meizu device will also feel that Apple have been a pivotal source of ‘inspiration’, not least by the decision to use a single, circular hardware navigation button on the lower bezel. They even flat out say so in their press events…so there is no missing their inner Apple Fanboy.
Since Android 4.0 we have seen Google propagate the notion of on-screen navigation buttons, but what we see here from Meizu is something quite unique, having on screen navigation buttons appear within apps, but offering a single, circular, capacitive ‘home’ button on the lower front edge. Meizu have used the same approach on all of their most recent Android devices, and I understand their desire to take a different approach from the competition, but can’t help feeling that the really smart move would have been to offer the ability to use either the full set of three hardware buttons, a single hardware button, or non at all. OnePlus are currently the only vendor to have implemented hardware and on-screen navigation options and I applaud them for it.
It takes a bit of getting used to, but if you just don’t like it, you can choose to return to the traditional on screen Android navigation buttons. Meizu has opted for the single ‘navigation nipple’ (lol…I’m not sure what they are officially calling it) by default, but have no fear you can get rid of it in the settings.
A Full HD IGZO Display That Doesn’t Belong on a $170 Phone
The displays we encounter in the year 2015 really are impressive compared to what we had to deal with just a few years ago. Manufactured by Japanese display maker Sharp, the 5.5 inch, 1920 x 1080 display on the m1 Note is great, a fact that resonates even more when you consider the price bracket it occupies. The 403ppi pixel density is impressively clear and crisp, the viewing angles are very good and the colors look vibrant and accurate. The black levels can suffer just a bit at the brightest settings but probably not by enough to really cause annoyance.
The display has a luminosity of 450cd/m2 which makes it a pretty bright screen. The display sports Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and can be quite reflective in bright outdoor situations, but there’s enough brightness under the hood to make the device totally useable on a bright, sunny day.
We wouldn’t really expect the m1 Note to fair well in a head to head comparison with Samsung’s AMOLED offerings for example – in my mind the cream of the current crop still, but factor in the issue of price, and you have to take your hat off to Meizu. This is a very good, very responsive capacitive touchscreen display.
Solid MediaTek Octa-core Performance
We’ve reviewed enough devices that use MediaTek’s Octa-core smartphone processors to have a good handle of what to expect from the Meizu m1 Note. MediaTek solutions have typically been seen as bringing capable, if not exceptional performance at affordable price points. In truth the overall performance you get with the Meizu m1 Note is ahead of most other MediaTek-based devices I have used. This fact shouldn’t be too surprising seeing as its the uses the latest SoC in MediaTek’s armory. The MT6752 is an ARM Cortext-A53 Octa Core chip clocked at 1.7GHz that packs a Mali-T760 GPU – this essentially one of MediaTek’s most powerful 4G-capable processors.
The Taiwanese chip design company markets the MT6752 as being designed for the ‘super-mid’ smartphone market, a term that indicates they are somewhat content to exist on a tier below Qualcomm, Nvidia and perhaps Samsung. In truth however, the performance of the MT6572 is not really so far behind its competitors, making it a very solid choice for manufacturers like Meizu who have devices that compete in the low to mid-range segment.
Meizu m1 Note: Benchmark Comparison
|Meizu m1 Note (MT6752)||Meizu MX4 Pro (Exynos 5430)||Gionee Elife S5.5 (MT6592)||Sony Xperia Z2 (Snapdragon 801)||ASUS Zenfone 6 (Intel Atom Z2580)|
|GFX Bench T-Rex||15fps||25.8fps||10.9fps||26.9fps||9.1fps|
|Geekbench 3.0 - Single-Core||808||993||443||756||559|
|Geekbench 3.0 - Multi-Core||3973||3367||2411||2374||1264|
|3DMark – Ice Storm||10693||18192||6964||18753||8041|
Check out the numbers above and you will see that the MT6572 beats previous generation MT6592 devices by a solid margin in all but one benchmark. Against the Exynos 5430 that we find in the more expensive Meizu MX4 Pro we find that it compares reasonably well in all tests except those that relate to graphics processing, an area where both Samsung and Qualcomm retain a substantial lead. If we also bring Intel’s Z2580 SoC in to the equation – a very affordable processor that Asus and others adopted for much of 2014 – it is evident that MediaTek’s MT6572 is streets ahead by some distance.
Overall the MT6572 platform is coupled with a solid 2GB of RAM and performs admirably in all tests and also in real life. The UI feels snappy and slick, except for some slow down and just a touch of lag app when engaging in some of the most vigorous app switching. All the gaming apps we tried played smoothly and looked great with no detectable issues driving the pixels of the m1 Note’s Full HD display. The benchmark numbers prove that the m1 Note can hold its own, with plenty of horsepower under the hood.
A Camera that Punches Above Its Weight
More expensive Meizu devices have followed the path of Xiaomi, OnePlus and others to use Sony Exmor sensors that are largely regarded as some of the best around. The m1 Note however integrates a 13MP Samsung sensor that has an aperture size of F2.2, fast auto-focus, Dual LED flash and a 300 degree panoramic lens. The 13MP sensor itself is capable of snapping 4208 x 3120 pixel pics at a 4:3 ratio while the video function will record 1080p footage at 30fps.
In terms of modes and features there’s plenty going on. Modes include Auto, Manual, Beauty, Panorama, Light field (a refocus app), Scan (for QR and bar-codes), and Slow-motion. Manual mode offers settings controls for shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation and focus. The app itself is well designed, responsive and default settings allow you take a snap by pressing either of the volume rocker buttons. One nice touch is the ability to have a gauge around the on-screen snap button, a kind of semi-circle that uses the gyroscope sensor to show you how level the shot is.
In mildly dark conditions like the inside of a bar or a night-time street scene, the m1 Note performs admirably taking shots that are vibrant and without graininess, harnessing as much light as it can. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the 5MP front camera, which quickly becomes grainy in dim conditions.
If you have a decent sunny day outdoors, the m1 Note will do a fantastic job at taking 13MP shots with reasonably low noise and detailed image reproduction. The HDR function helps to brighten things further while also adding high detail. You need to keep turning it on however as it will default to ‘HDR off’ when you open the app again.
Considering the price range the m1 Note occupies you would have to be pretty mean to have any issues with the device’s camera. The auto-focus is fast but can be a bit hit and miss at times, but if you persevere you can definitely take some decent photos with this device. The camera setup here really quite impressive, especially at this price point. Check out the full gallery below for examples of what this baby is capable of:
Meizu m1 Note Photo Gallery
The Flyme UI Experience
The first thing I want to say about the Flyme software implemented on the Meizu m1 Note is that I really like it. It’s not perfect or without issues, but it is pretty well designed in terms of function and aesthetics. The Meizu design team have clearly worked hard to create something that they can call their own, something that looks modern without trying too hard to be fancy.
The device that were given for review is essentially the retail version available in China right now. This is apparent as you open the App Center app which is almost apologetic in telling you that it is currently only available in Chinese, but that other languages are in the pipeline. Clearly Meizu have not yet managed to prepare themselves for an all out assault on Western markets, but it should be on the way soon. Meanwhile, its actually easy enough to figure out most of what is going on through basic intuition.
The default keyboard was somewhat clunky and deserving of a minor rant. The letters on the keyboard are permanently shown as capitalized regardless of whether they are or not. Holding down keys will not bring up a number, even though the number is displayed in the corner, so you end up clicking the number button on the bottom left which takes you to a dialer style layout. All deeply annoying, but easily remedied by downloading a different keyboard.
When it comes to pre-installed apps the Flyme 4.0 experience has you covered with almost everything you might need. You have a camera app, music, clock, browser, video, downloads, calculator, calendar, gallery, email, recorder, memo pad, documents explorer and more. The automatic upgrade app will make sure you have the latest version of the Flyme UI while a Security Center App will help you keep the system healthy. The apps are well crafted with a clear emphasis on simplicity. Nothing is cluttered or overly complex. It’s all very well implemented.
Dragging down anywhere on the screen will yield the notification bar which includes five settings icons displayed across the top (defaults are Wifi, 4G Connectivity, Bluetooth, Brightness and Mute). I like the fact that you get access by dragging down from anywhere, a great idea for larger devices where the upper screen edge is that bit further away. If you want to access the full array of fourteen setting icons, you can have easy access by tapping the box on the top right corner. The placement of said icons can be modified by holding down an icon.
Quick access to recent apps via the App Manager is simple with a swipe up from the lower edge of the screen. From there you can choose to close them individually by swiping up, hold down to lock them in place. To retrieve system memory you can kill them all by swiping down. It’s very slick, simple and frankly a real improvement on many of the less customized, vanilla Android style handsets coming out of China.
The devices’ full array of settings are of course accessed by the Settings icon which takes you to a customized area with icons listed along the left. It may be a bit awkward at first to get familiar with the icons and assert which ones take you to which settings group, but have no fear, Android 4.4.4 is there in rich abundance.
I’ve not always been a fan of ‘Tap to Wake’ as I tend to end up photos of my arse and several phantom calls to my buddy Aaron, but I know many will be happy to see it well implemented here. One unique feature certainly worthy of a mention is Meizu’s Smart Touch, which places a small navigation dot placed on the mid right side of the screen at all times. It’s kind of like a small joystick and allows you to quickly move through recent apps and other areas of the OS with a bunch specific gestures. See below:
When it comes to Google apps, you will have to install apps like Gmail, Drive, Youtube and Chrome yourself, which isn’t an issues as the m1 Note thankfully arrives with Google Play installed.
Overall I am impressed with what Meizu have achieved with the Flyme 4.0 UI experience. I recall Nicole was impressed with Flyme when she reviewed the MX4 Pro a few months ago, and it’s great to see that the full version of the UI has made its way here on the m1 Note. Meizu is clearly one of a growing number of Chinese device manufacturers that understand that custom software design is a vital stage where a company can massively differentiate and impress. Flyme 4.0, as a result, is a very likeable and well designed Android UI.
Frankly Average Audio
If the Meizu has one chink in its armor, it would be the integrated audio it offers. The single speaker is located on the lower edge of the device and in all honesty, it is not really capable of doing anything remotely spectacular. Forget HTC and their leading Beats Audio technology, the m1 Note is a galaxy away from that and it fact fails to really stand up against competing entry-level devices that on the whole, probably do better.
The audio quality gets pretty distorted and fuzzy at anything near full volume levels, and to be honest the volume levels are not very loud. The device does support noise reduction technology if you have the right Meizu headphones, but alas the retail box we received did not contain any such headphones. If you have tried them, please let us know your opinions in the comments below.
Stunning Battery Life Again
The Meizu m1 Note is fitted with a non-removable 3,140 mAh battery which is technically not really such a large capacity for a phablet. The 6 inch Huawei Mate 7 is not physically so much larger, but squeezes in a massive 4,100 mAh cell for example. Having said all that, the m1 Note eeks out a very impressive score of 14 hours and16 minutes during the Laptop Mag Battery Informant 2.3 app with the power settings on ‘performance’ and a screen brightness of around 70%.
In everyday usage the m1 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, much in keeping with what we saw on the MX4 Pro.
Final Thoughts: A Great Smartphone at an Attractive Price Point
The Meizu m1 Note can currently be had for ¥1,099 in China which is around $177 USD, but right now it will probably cost you closer to $260-$270 to obtain it outside of China through a third party retailer. That still makes it a very good deal. It has good performance, a great screen, a very decent camera and an Android experience that deserves plenty of praise.
There are plenty of competing devices out there from Xiaomi and ASUS to name only two that spring immediately to mind that are also offering great phablets at great prices, but the m1 Note must still be a contender in this space. It is a really good phone that I would heartily recommend to anyone looking for a an affordable 5.5 inch Android smartphone.