Meizu has just released their new flagship smartphone, the MX4 Pro. It’s 5.5 inches with a 2K+ display running an Octa-Core Exynos Processor. With all the specification boxes checked off, the big question is how good Flyme 4.0 is, and will this Chinese handset play nice when using it in global markets. That’s just one of the things we’re going to look at in this in-depth review.
The Meizu MX4 Pro feels solid in your hand and comes with a spec sheet that can go toe to toe with any other high-end smartphone around. A 2K+ display means it sports a resolution of 2560x1536p and has a Negative LCD display. This is going to be a new term for many, so we’ll dive into that a bit later in the review.
- 5.5 inch 2K+ NEGA LCD 2,560 x 1,536 pixels (543 ppi)
- Samsung Exynos 5430 Octacore
- 4 ARM Cortex-A15 at 2 GHz 4 A7 low power cores at .5 GHz
- ARM Mali-T628
- 3 GB RAM
- 16, 32 or 64 GB
- No MicroSD slot
- 20.7 MP Sony Exmor Rear Camera
- 5MP Front Facing Camera
- Fingerprint Sensor – mTouch
- Android 4.4 KitKat – Flyme 4.1
- NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi ac, LTE
- 3350 mAh Battery
- 158 grams
If you’d like to see a video review instead of doing all of this boring reading we’ve got it all detailed below. (really Nicole?! All that effort writing the review and you’re telling people to just watch the video?!)
Design – Simple, Clean & Elegant
With a metal frame and matte polymer back cover, the MX4 Pro has a slight curve, so it sits well in your hand. The curve is new and it reminds me a little of the curve on the LG G3, if you’ve held that in your hand before.
It weighs in at a hefty 158g and measures 9mm in thickness. These aren’t specs that are going to impress when we’re seeing phones like the Gionee eLife S5.5 (5.5mm thick, 133gm). However, the weight and depth of the phone are well received because it feels well balanced in the hand. This has helped by the killer software tweaks they’ve included, which we’ll get into later.
The MX4 Pro is a lot of display since we’ve got a bezel that is only 2.8mm at the edges, which gives you 76.5% of screen real estate.
The first thing a lot of people are saying about this, in the comments of my unboxing and initial hands on, is that this the MX4 Pro has some similar design characteristics compared to an iPhone 6. The truth is, I agree, but the kicker is the MX4 Pro takes its design elements from the MX4, which was released a few days before the iPhone 6. What is even more interesting is the curve of the phone, which gives it a great hand feeling. This is pointed out by Meizu as an upgrade on the MX3. My point is that though there are some similarities the MX4 Pro is walking to the beat of its own design drum.
Here are some comparison photos of the iPhone 6+ vs the Meizu MX4 Pro, we’ve got an entire article dedicated to this topic if you’re really keen on learning more.
The top corner does have a similar look and feel to the iPhone 6, but it’s not a bad thing, and it’s not enough of a feature for me to think this is an iPhone 6-inspired handset. If you think so, I’d love to hear some specifics about why in the comment section below.
mTouch – Finger Print Reader Adds a Physical Home Button for the First time
Fingerprint readers are being added left, right and center to handsets, and they do, in fact, work to add security and save time to unlock your device. Whether it works or not is the caveat to that whole statement. If it doesn’t work well, I won’t use it at all because that type of malfunction will cause me to overreact, throwing my phone into the wall… It’s happened, I have low patience for those types of glitches.
So how has mTouch fared? Fantastic, until I got to Taiwan and it was much more hot an humid then Beijing. My guess is my fingers got fatter, or the moisture from the humidity just played havoc. Luckily, you can scan up to 10 fingers, so I scanned it again and I haven’t had any problems since. I’ve got 8 scans – both my index fingers and thumbs.
You can place your finger on the touch pad on any direction. Just make sure, when you’re scanning your prints, that you’re getting the sides of your finger, and from a few different angles.
mTouch wasn’t immediately intuitive. I had to talk to a product manager to get it working. When the display is completely off, you have to press and hold. When the display is lit up, you simply place your finger on the scanner, you don’t press down. Simple enough when you know, but without instructions we were scratching our heads for a minute or two.
The technology behind mTouch comes from TrustZone, baked into the Samsung Exynos processor to take charge of analyzing the fingerprint data. In theory, hackers should not be able to gain access to your phone through this sensor.
In the first half of 2015 you’ll be able to use mTouch to make purchases with AliPay (if you don’t know, it’s the Chinese equivalent of PayPal). The service will be called mPay. WeChat is also jumping on board this verification bandwagon so you’ll be able to gain access to your messenger with entering a password (if you’ve enabled that feature – many people haven’t, or don’t know its there).
Display – 2K+: It’s Nice But Not Outstanding
The display is 5.5 inches with a 2K+ resolution, which translates to 2,560×1,536p. Meizu claims that it is “better than normal 2K”, and even though the + makes me want to punch someone, technically it is currently the highest resolution display available on a smartphone. Is it enough for them to be bragging about it? No, the win isn’t by a lot.
That doesn’t mean that the display isn’t nice, it boasts an impressive 546 PPI and comes with a decent maximum brightness of 450 nits. We also have “2048 levels of brilliance control”. That’s how many levels of brightness it offers when you adjust the display.
Viewing angles are good and the lowest setting is so low that you won’t be blinded if you’re looking at your phone in the dark before bed.
If you told me it was 1080p, I’d believe you. It doesn’t have the same “wow” factor as the Quad HD display on the LG G3. There is nothing wrong with it, it looks great. It’s nice and bright, with great viewing angles… but it just doesn’t feel like it has an insane resolution.
Performance – Octa-Core Goodness in All it’s Glory
Meizu hasn’t compromised in the benchmarking race. The Exynos 5430 is very close to the top of the pile, and the 3 GB of RAM makes sure that you’re device is future-proof when it comes to apps.
Taking a closer look at the Samsung Exynos 5430 processor – it is the same processor found in the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. It is also the world’s first 20 nm high-k metal gate (HKMG) chipset. The Exynos 5430 is based off ARMs big.LITTLE technology, 4 ARM Cortex-A15 at 2.0Ghz and 4 power efficient Cortex-A7 cores at 1.5Ghz. ARM’s big.LITTLE configuration means that the 5430 can decide whether to use each cluster separately or together, depending on what you’re doing with your handset. Looking at the systems graphics, we’ve got a hexa-core ARM Mali-T628.
Flyme 4 feels fast and responsive and so far there has only been one or two slow responses… but that may or may not be because I got my handset at the launch event and not on December 6th, when it will be released. Regardless this isn’t a handset that I feel is going to hiccup when you’ve got 10 apps running and then get a phone call and your alarm goes off.
The benchmarks don’t clock it as the fastest phone on the market in every category, but it is near the top of the pile. And in the benchmarks that matter for daily use, like Vellamo HTML, the web browsing benchmark, it clearly blows its competition out of the water. In the benchmark, when comparing score, the LG G3 scored a smidgen below.
Meizu MX4 Pro: Benchmark Comparison
|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||25.8fps||10.9fps||26.9fps||9.1fps|
|3DMark – Ice Storm||18192||6964||18753||8041|
I ran a few more benchmarks for your analytic pleasure.
Camera – Wow… these came from a Chinese phone?
At Mobile Geeks we review a lot of Chinese phones. Many of them are cheap and cheerful, some are solid mid-range. But the feature that sets apart any phone that’s aiming for the top is the camera (and battery life… and display). What we have on the MX4 Pro is the same old 20.7MP Sony IMX220 sensor with f/2.2 aperture found in the Sony Xperia line-up (Z1 all the way through to Z3). We’ve heard, however, that Sony is going to stop using this sensor, which is why Meizu is sporting it. Regardless of how they got it, it is one of the best Exmor lenses Sony makes, and it is found on their flagship smartphones. We admit we loved the photos on the Xperia line, and we are equally impressed by the shooter on the MX4 PRO.
The front camera of the phone is becoming increasingly as important as the rear, and Meizu has included a 5 MP front shooter, which has auto-focus and 1080p video recording.
This is my first Meizu, so many things are new to me. The camera interface is simple and has been co-developed with Tessera’s FotoNation. As you would expect, it offers several modes: Auto, Manual, Beauty, Panorama, Light Field (which just combines several shots taken at different focal lengths), Night, Scan (for barcodes and QR codes), Slow Motion and Microspur.
Sound – Connectors Even An Audiophile Can Love
Meizu was originally an MP3 maker, and they were known for their quality audio experience. Ever since they entered the smartphone market they have always gone that extra mile to give great quality audio.
Using your phone as a music player is becoming pretty standard and the MX4 Pro has Hi-Fi audio capability. Or… wait for it… “Retina Sound”. The high end audio comes thanks to the ES9018K2M 32-bit DAC (which has a high signal-to-noise ratio), a Texas Instruments’ OPA1612 amplifier (with its high cut-off frequency and ultra-low distortion), plus high-end capacitors and resistors to enable Meizu’s patent-pending passive filter technology.
When at full volume, the sound is tiny, but I have been using the handset to play music when I get ready in the morning and it has no problem filling my kitchen (it’s not huge, admittedly) with enough sound, and I’ve only got it at about 40%. When falling asleep, the volume can go down very low while still being clear and audible. In terms of adjustment levels, these are extremely customizable.
Meizu didn’t give us their new HD ear buds, but we do have another pair from them that we have taken for a spin. It’s very good for a pair of earbuds that you’d get for free with your phone… but in this case you don’t get them for free. They are 129 CNY or $20… but if you’re looking at quality on a $20 purchase… I’d say go for it.
Is it worthy of the title “Retina Sound”? It sounds good, and if they need a special term to qualify that, fine. I’d say it’s on par with what Sony is pushing on their Xperia line-up, which is also excellent sound. They are even doing the same thing where they offer more premium features if you get their headset.
Since there is quite a bit of sound technology included in the MX4, we’ve got a list of it all here:
- ESS ES9018K2M decoder of the Emperor
- TI OPA1612 op-amp chip benchmark level
- Passive filtering techniques
- Ceramics film capacitors
- Precision, low temperature drift resistor
- Whole circuit symmetrical design
Connectivity – A Chinese Phone with LTE not just for China!
Local connectivity is covered by dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac with DLNA, so sharing media (photos, videos, music) from DLNA-enabled storage devices, or pushing content from your phone to a DLNA-compatible TV or music player, is a synch.
Bluetooth 4.0 is also on board with A2DP. The microUSB 2.0 port supports USB host so you can attach USB flash drives or connect peripherals. You can also stream your display via the Wi-Di (Wireless Display) feature that is also known as Miracast.
GPS and GLONASS support is enabled, as well as NFC, which was absent in the 5-inch edition.
Call quality was average. The speaker is loud and clear, but I wouldn’t call it the best audio I’ve heard on a call. To a landline I was described as “clear and loud enough, but I sounded a bit small”. Still trying to figure that one out, my guess would be that I sounded tinny.
Flyme 4: Android’s Best Foot Forward
A common complaint about Chinese smartphones is that they can’t do Software. There is nothing about the Flyme 4 UI that sits on top of Android 4.4 that is cheap, buggy or lacking in functionality. Flyme 4 is packed with smart, well thought out features that I wish were available on some of my other Android smartphones.
Flyme doesn’t have an app drawer like most Android handsets. It is more similar to iOS in terms of only providing home screens. Apart from that, the flat icons are very Lollipop and it feels like Android. And since it is, you can skin it with a launcher if you want. That’s the beauty of it.
What has me wanting to move onto this handset is in fact the software (the hardware is great, but I am truly impressed by the software). Meizu has made some very clever additions to ensure anyone can navigate the UI single-handedly. You can swipe down from anywhere on the home screen (that’s not an app icon) and the notification bar will be pulled down. If you are in the settings menu and one of the items you want to select is at the top, have no fear – you can keep pulling and it will make the top of the list within thumb’s reach.
The App Manager on Flyme 4.0 is also slick. It pulls up from the left or right-hand side of the bottom of the display, and shows you everything that is open or has recently been opened. You can scroll through from left to right. A single swipe up will close an app, or swiping down on a single app will close them all. If you want to close all the apps apart from a few, you can hold and press to lock an app. You unlock it the same way.
The home button, in addition to acting as a finger print sensor, also acts as a back button. Swipe up or down on it and you’ll go back to the previous page. Keep swiping up/down and you’ll end up in a rotation of places you’ve previously been on your phone.
If you don’t want to interact with navigation through a physical button, Meizu has included a smart button. It floats on the screen just under your right thumb. You can swipe left to go back, and right to go forward, in terms of places you’ve recently been on your phone.
Additionally, you can swipe down to pull down the notification bar. On things you should take note of: if you’re using the smart button, the on screen back button will disappear from the applications. This caused me great confusion when I was initially playing around with the handset.
The home row at the bottom will allow you to raise to 4 icons (some of the Chinese ROMs have 5). There is a phone finder, which will help you locate you phone, should it be stolen. Guest mode is also available, as well as VPN, if you need one for business… or getting around the Great Chinese Firewall.
Meizu has a few apps they’ve preloaded: the voice recorder, notes, paint app, email and calendar. They are all very functional. The painter app has some amazing art preloaded, whether or not you can actually create art like this isn’t possible for me to test. But it does seem to have a decent amount of versatility.
Meizu offers a global edition, which is so much more user friendly then getting a standard Chinese handset. I don’t mind playing around with stuff, but Xiaomi’s UI just isn’t clever enough to inspire me to fiddle around with settings every time maps won’t work. Actually, scrap maps – every time something Google Play-related messes up. Oppo’s handsets for the global market are amazing, but Oppo’s devices aren’t cheap. Meizu is offering specs while remaining price competitive.
Gestures – Over done? Or Useful?
There are quite a few options for Gestures on the MX4 Pro; a fan favorite is on board with double tap to wake up. From a turned-off screen, you can also swipe up to unlock, down to get the notification cards, and you can also have 8 unique gestures that can be customized to open any app of your choosing.
They work. Pretty much every time. This is the point of gestures. There is the odd time that I’ll have to redo, and the delay for opening the app is reasonable. The first time you start playing with them you will think: “Did it register? let me ju…..” and the app will open.
Chinese Language Sections – A Deal Breaker?
Meizu is a Chinese company that makes phones primarily for China. They have international versions for select markets, which is why we’re doing a review. It comes loaded with Google Play, so you’ll be able to download every app you would be able to get your hands on in any other region.
Having said that, there are a few sections of the phone that are all in Chinese, and it warns you this is going to happen before you get there. Themes and the Flyme Store are all in Chinese. Is this going to stop you from buying apps and games in Chinese… the truth is that it’s likely. But if you have Google Play you won’t even care that this is a chore to use.
The themes, however, are a bigger deal. Android is about customization, and Flyme 4 is about customization on top of Android. Not being able to easily customize this goes against the very point of Android. This section is easier to understand; free is clearly labeled free and you can sign up for a Flyme account easily, if you’d like to pay for apps.
So not a deal breaker, as long as you’re willing to use your common sense and intuition to get around.
Battery Life – A Web browsing Beast!
This section isn’t as straight forward as I initially had thought when I shot the video. I since have a few things to add. At Mobile Geeks we have a lot of respect for Avram over at Laptop Magazine… and because of this we ran the Laptop Magazine battery test. It’s a combination of browsing and video, and gives you a decent idea of what your actual use of the Android device might be. We got 13:55 hours, which is huge! I ran the test on performance mode, which is even more impressive.
Let me talk a bit about my actual device usage. When using performance mode, my device isn’t on when I wake up in the morning. So it doesn’t give me a full 24 hours. If I’m in power saving mode, I can make it to the office to charge and it will survive my morning commute (for those who know me, the one where I take the train… not the one where I ride my bike and don’t use it at all).
At idol, the phone performs admirably, leaving it overnight (not plugged in) will only drop 3 or 4 percent. I’ve had devices (I’m looking at you LG G3) that ate 45% at idol overnight. Some devices are better at standby than others. This is one of those devices. If you are a light user, I could see you make it past the 2-day mark.
There is, however, one thing that I did find a little concerning, the battery life performance when just using Wifi is so much stronger than 3G. I will have to do some more testing on this to find out if it is just normal power drain issues when the network is spotty, or if it is really a connectivity issue with battery life. My unit is also pre-production, so I’m unsure if this is a factor that could be at play. If you have any thoughts or comments on this, let’s start a discussion in the comments. It’s something that I’m wondering about.
Price – A Flagship Smartphone minus the Price tag
Price-wise we’re coming in under where flagship smartphones with similar specifications come in. The 16GB, 32GB and 64GB flavors will cost CN¥2,499 ($410), CN¥2,699 ($440) and CN¥3,099 ($510), respectively.
The Verdict – Meet Nicole’s New Handset!
This is my first Meizu device and I have to admit… I’m impressed. The phone isn’t light and thin, but that might be why it just feels like a solid tank; a phone that will live through the battle that is my daily gadget-abusing life. It has all-day battery life, a display you can see outside, good enough sound that you can enjoy a video or song with friends when you need to, DLNA, WiDi, NFC & LTE, so when you need to share media with things around you, that’s also no problem.
What impressed me most was how clever the software was. I do wish they included the settings in the navigation bar. It seems absurd they have omitted it. Apart from that, I like Flyme 4.1. I’m usually one who needs my app drawer, so only time will tell just how cluttered and chaotic my panels will get.
The only thing that is going to keep this phone from being a success is its distribution network. Yes, you’ll be able to head over to Meizu’s site to pick one up (when it becomes available late December or early January in global markets – December 6th in China).
You’ve also got distributors like EFox-Shop, which are selling it globally and into Germany. But you’re not going to pick up any of the business from carriers offering subsidies on handsets. You’d want to at least go for the 32GB, so you’re looking at $440, which is much cheaper than buying a flagship handset outright, but it’s not cheaper then a subsidized one.
But I digress… this was the wrap up. You know the Pros but what are the Cons? The display is great, but is 2K+ overkill? Maybe, I don’t find it has the “wowW factor that the LG G3 has, and I would rather have the extra battery life anyways. The fingerprint reader could also be a little more accurate, as every few times I have to give it a second go, which is annoying. And the Settings should be in the notification bar, it’s stupid that it’s not. All in all, I’d say those are some pretty minor issues. For now I’m going to call the Meizu MX4 Pro my Smartphone of choice.
Leave me a comment if you want a follow up review or have any questions.