Meizu M3 Max full review

Meizu makes decent but affordable Android phones, and its Meizu M3 Max will appeal to those looking for a large-screen phone on a budget. The M3 Max is currently available on Amazon in white from £244 and in black from £298. Also see: Best Chinese phone and Best dual-SIM phone

Meizu advises that you to buy via Amazon UK rather than a Chinese importer such as Geekbuying (current price £177.90), partly because the Amazon products are shipped from within Europe so you won't have to pay import duty, and partly because these sites are not official partners of Meizu so won't necessarily offer the same level of customer service.

We've certainly had no problems with the likes of Geekbuying and GearBest, however, and the prices are cheaper - even with the addition of import duty for products shipped from China. How this is calculated depends on the value written on the paperwork, and when we received our package containing the M3 Max and MX6 (review coming soon) we were hit with a bill for £95.51 from DHL. Although that is for two phones, it’s still a fair bit more than the usual £20- to £30 we’re charged, so should certainly be factored into the overall cost of the phone before you buy. We’ve rounded up some of the pros and cons of buying Chinese tech in our grey-market tech buying advice.

Meizu M3 Max review

Meizu M3 Max review: Design and build

Meizu phones are well-made, good-looking phones, but they don’t stand out for having a distinctive design of their own. The M3 Max looks a bit like an iPhone 6s Plus, but with an elongated rather than circular home button. For many users that won’t be a bad thing. Also see: Best phones 2016

It’s very difficult to fault this phone’s design. Although it’s large at 163.4x81.6mm with a 6in panel it has reasonably slim bezels on the left- and right edges and is thin at 7.9mm, which makes it easier to hold. We still found it impossible to reach the far corner of the screen with a thumb, and the phone is pretty weighty at 189g, so two-handed use is a must. A huge plus point of this extra size and weight is a high-capacity battery, which is rated at 4100mAh.

We really missed the One-handed mode of Xiaomi phones here, able to shrink down the displayed screen to a more manageable size, but we did find a SmartTouch option in the Settings that allows you to place onscreen a button that works with various gestures. By default a tap takes you back a step, sliding up takes you to the Home screen and sliding down pulls down the notification bar at the top of the screen. Sliding left and right lets you switch between tasks.

When you become familiar with SmartTouch it can be useful, although at the same time you’ll also need to become familiar with the Home button. And we have to say it’s not for us. With no back or multitasking buttons on either side of the physical home button you must tap it gently to go back, and a little harder to go to the Home screen - but not too hard as it’ll send the screen into standby mode. To access the multitasking menu you slide up from the bottom of the screen, but not directly above the home button. We found this out entirely by mistake.

Meizu M3 Max review

The other thing to say about this Home button is that it is also an mTouch fingerprint scanner. In our experience it works well, so no complaints there.

In other respects the design is fairly standard, although that’s not to say bad. It feels as though it will withstand the perils of daily use with no issue, with a reasonably clean metal rear (including a completely flush camera) and chiselled edges that flow smoothly into the 2.5D glass covering the white plastic front. There are no sharp edges, no rough bits, no creaks, cracks or gaping holes - absolutely nothing here that would cause concern.

Unusually the headphone jack is found on the bottom of the handset rather than at the top, but to be fair at least it has one. Also here is Micro-USB for charging, a mic and five small holes that allow audio to pass through from the phone’s mono speaker. A slot-loading SIM tray sits on the upper left edge, and here you can opt to insert two SIMs or one SIM and a microSD card. With 64GB of storage built-in the need to choose between a second SIM or expandable storage shouldn’t be too frustrating an issue.

Meizu M3 Max review

The screen is decent. We’ve already touched on its size, which is well suited to multimedia - watching videos in any case, if not gaming (see performance below). It’s a full-HD IPS panel, which is reasonably bright (Meizu claims 450cd/m2) and with realistic colours and great viewing angles.

The Meizu M3 Max is available in four colour options: rose gold, silver, grey and gold. We’ve reviewed the silver model here. Also see: Best Android phones 2016

Meizu M3 Max review: Core performance and hardware

Running the show here is a MediaTek MT6755M (aka the Helio P10) processor, Mali-T860 GPU and 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM. This is an octa-core processor, comprising eight Cortex-A53 cores with four at 1GHz for efficiency and four at 1.8GHz for power.

It’s certainly capable enough for day to day use, but the Meizu M3 Max’s performance in our gaming benchmarks leaves something to be desired. We found navigation of the smartphone fluid, with apps launching quickly and little signs of lag. In truth, our only real hesitation came from our inexperience of Flyme OS.

We’ve seen this Helio P10 chip before in the Elephone P9000, Ulefone Future, Vernee Mars, Sony Xperia XA and Meizu’s own M3 Note. The Elephone, Ulefone and Vernee each come with 4GB of RAM, which puts the M3 Max at a slight disadvantage, although its 3GB is an improvement on the 2GB inside the M3 Note and Sony Xperia XA.

We’ve charted our various benchmark results below, but to suffice to say none of these phones particularly stand out in the group for performance. If anything the two Meizus stand out for their lower gaming framerates in GFXBench. Also see: What's the fastest phone?

There’s actually very little difference in the specifications of the Note and the Max, with the phone reviewed here offering a slightly larger (6in versus 5.5in) IPS display and an extra gig of RAM. It’s a ittle slimmer but heavier, and performance is only a little improved. 

As in the M3 Note there’s a generous 4100mAh battery. It’s not removable and neither does it support wireless charging, but Meizu does offer its own fast-charging tech, mCharge. It says this is able to charge the battery by 45 percent in just 30 minutes, which could get you through the best part of a day’s use. Exactly how long it will last you depends entirely on you usage - some will get two days, but if that large screen is left switched on for much of the time you’ll be reaching for a power bank before the end of day two. Also see: Best phone under £300

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