Meizu M3 Note full review
We’ve been looking forward to testing a Meizu phone for a while and, although the M3 Note is impressive for the money, it’s not a patch on the similar Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. We weight up the pros and cons of the Meizu M3 Note, and put it head to head against the Redmi Note 3. Also see: Best budget smartphones 2016.
Our Meizu M3 Note was supplied by GearBest, which currently charges £142.50 with free shipping to the UK. (Note that you may have to pay import duty - see our advice on buying from China.) Conversely, GearBest stocks the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 for £116.76, which offers even better value still. Also see our Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 review, and keep your eyes out for our Xiaomi Mi Max review next week.
These are both Chinese phones and, as such, you’ll find some preinstalled Chinese-language apps (all of which can be uninstalled) and in our experience you will get some notifications you can’t read. This isn’t a major issue, since you can still preinstall any English-language apps you wish to use, but you will need to install Google Play first. Of all the Chinese phones we have tested, it’s fair to say the Xiaomi and Meizu are the least well adapted for UK consumers (which is totally fair enough, since they aren’t officially sold here). However, they’re also among the nicest…
Meizu M3 Note review: Design and build
Given its sub-£150 price, the M3 Note has a great build. It’s crafted from 6000-Series Aluminium alloy, with a unibody design that feels tough and well-made. A 2.5D glass screen lies flush, as does the rear camera sensor, and rounded edges make the phablet feel relatively comfortable in the hand, given its size.
It still feels a little chunky, though, at 8.2mm and 163g, but this we can forgive given the generous 4100mAh battery (long runtime is a huge plus point) and large 5.5in full-HD screen. It’s a few millimetres taller than the Redmi Note 3, which puts its fingerprint scanner on the rear, whereas here it’s built into the physical home button.
There are no back or recents buttons, though, which we found incredibly difficult to get our heads around, and a feature of iPhones that we strongly dislike. It is possible to activate a Smart Touch floating button that can be customised to offer these options, but it’s really not the same thing. Also see: Best Android phones 2016.
Aside from this you’ll find everything where you would expect, from the power button and volume rocker on the right edge to the dual-SIM tray on the left and headphone jack on top. One area the Meizu gets one up on the Xiaomi is with the bottom-facing speakers (the Redmi places this on the rear), with two grilles sitting either side of the Micro-USB port.
Full-HD panels of this size aren’t overly common in budget phones, and even budget Chinese phablets will often specify only HD screens. It matches the Redmi Note 3 with a 1920x1080-pixel resolution, which equates to a crystal clear 403ppi. Brightness is pretty good at 450cd/m2, colours realistic and viewing angles good. It’s not an edge-to-edge screen, but the side bezels are slim. In common with the Redmi Note 3 you’ll see a thin black line bordering the screen.
Meizu M3 Note review: Core hardware and performance
Meizu fits its M3 Note with an octa-core Helio P10 processor, 2GB of RAM and a Mali-T860 GPU. This combination isn’t as fast as the Xiaomi’s Helio X10 and PowerVR Rogue G2600 GPU, either on paper or in our benchmarks, although the Meizu feels pretty nippy in real-world use without any particularly noticeable lag. Also see: Best smartphones 2016.
Our only slight irritation was the pop-up that appeared every time we opened a new app for the first time, although technically this is a good thing because it ensures that you deal with app permissions properly.
We ran both phones through our usual benchmarks and found performance from the Meizu M3 Note that will be fine for most users. In terms of general processing performance it managed 2710 points in the multi-core component of Geekbench 3, and 39,886 points in AnTuTu 3D.
For graphics we run GFXBench, and here the Meizu recorded 13fps in T-Rex and 5.3fps in Manhattan. This is really nothing to get excited about, and suggests the Note won’t handle anything too intense on the gaming front. However, its large screen is ideal for watching video, and the Meizu is more than capable of this.
We’ve compared these results with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 in the graph below, but you can also compare the Meizu’s performance to other smartphones we’ve recently tested in our article What’s the fastest smartphone 2016?
Where this phone really stands out is in battery life. Meizu claims two-day life from the 4100mAh non-removable battery, and we wouldn’t suggest otherwise - the battery percentage indicator just doesn’t budge. At 92 percent (having used the phone all morning) it reported 42 hours 20 minutes remaining, so you’re unlikely to need to carry a power bank here. Our only gripe is that this huge battery doesn’t support fast charge, so you will want to leave it for a full overnight charge.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 has a 4000mAh battery, so the two should be fairly similar in terms of performance. In the Geekbench 3 battery life test we recorded 8 hours 29 minutes with a score of 5093 points from the Meizu. It isn't the best we've seen but it is very good.
For storage you get 16GB built in, and given the price of this phone it’s difficult to complain. With only Google Play installed we found we had 9.16GB of that 16GB available. Unlike the Xiaomi, Meizu does provide a microSD slot, although adding one means you will need to sacrifice the dual-SIM functionality, since it shares the same slot as the second SIM. Without a microSD card the M3 Note will accept two nano-SIMs, which is handy if you want a single phone for work and play, or are going abroad and wish to use a local SIM. Also see: Best dual-SIM phones 2016.