Meizu MX3 - Review

The Meizu MX2 has been around for about a year now, so time for a new phone. Here comes Meizu’s latest creation: the Meizu MX3. It’s an Android 4.2.1 based smartphone powered by an Exynos 5410 processor containing 8 cores of awesome. Interested to learn more about it? Let’s check it out!

1. What’s in the box?
2. Unboxing
3. Design
4. Screen
5. Operating system
6. Performance
7. Web browser
8. Organizer
9. Music
10. Gallery and video
11. Camera
12. Call quality
13. Battery
14. Conclusion

Read in German

• Meizu MX3 (obviously)
• Micro-USB cable
• USB wall charger
• Small tool to open the back cover
• English and Chinese user manual
• Warranty booklet

The MX3 comes in a beautiful gift box which you may not directly identify as the box of a smartphone. You directly get the feeling you’re about to unpack a high quality product. Opening the box reveals a smaller ‘box’ in the form of a book, like the previous MX-series models. A UK/HK USB wall charger is also included. In the ‘book’, you will find some of the product features described on the first pages. On the last page, you will find your brand new MX3. There’s a separate compartment containing the small tool to open the back cover and the micro-USB cable.

When you first see the MX3, especially if you’re used to Meizu’s previous phones, you will think it’s gigantic. And that’s no surprise with a 5.1 inch screen. Meizu continues the design of the MX2 on the MX3. So you will only find the signature round home button (which has been copied by various manufacturers), speaker and camera on the front panel. When investigating more closely, you will also find various sensors at the top part. Meizu did their best to keep the front panel clean and simple, and this really pays off. You’re never disturbed by the front panel. Meizu also managed to keep the screen borders very small like on the MX2. On the back you will find the camera and the single speaker. The back cover is not made using the dual-moulding technique anymore which will be a relief to some but a disappointment to others. But luckily for the disappointed ones, the physical buttons are still made using this technique, perhaps as a reminder to previous MX-series phones. The camera flash and lens are not part of the back cover anymore, which will prevent dust. Overall it can be said the MX3 feels comfortable and sturdy in your hand. The physical buttons give proper feedback and are easy to press. Not a slight sign of quality issues can be found.

The MX3 boasts a whopping 5.1 inch screen with a resolution of 1800x1080 pixels. This translates into a PPI of 412. It’s manufactured by Sharp. The colour reproduction is extremely accurate and this also includes the whites and the blacks. Although not being an AMOLED screen, the blacks are one of the best ever seen on a smartphone. Very slight backlight bleeding is visible on the lower edge, but this is hardly noticeable. It’s probably caused by the breathing LED home button. Outdoor visibility is among the best in the MX3’s class. The MX3 offers perfect viewing angles in every direction. The contrast ratio is 1000:1 and the maximum brightness is 450cd/m2. Meizu also did a great job on the automatic brightness sensor. During our tests, it always adjusted to the right brightness amount at any occasion and we never found it interfering.

Meizu released their latest version of Flyme, Flyme 3.0, to bundle it with their MX3. It’s now based on Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean, an upgrade from Android 4.1.1 which was bundled with Flyme 2.4. With Flyme 3.0, one can still hardly tell it is based on Android due to the deep customisations Meizu applied, like on previous versions of Flyme. The main changes Meizu applied in Flyme 3.0 are improvements to allow better one-hand usage and simplifying the graphics. Like with previous versions of Flyme, English, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Russian and Hebrew languages are supported. With the language set to English, some Chinese is still shown in settings and weather app. We believe Meizu will fix this in future updates.

When pressing the power button, you will notice Meizu has overhauled the lockscreen. It no longer features shortcuts to open the dialer or messaging app. Sliding up from the bottom unlocks the phone.

The homescreen still lacks an app drawer, but Meizu added a more than welcome feature of scrollable homescreen pages. On previous versions of Flyme, you were limited to a fixed 4x4 grid, which could lead to dozens of homescreen pages if you had installed a large amount of apps and widgets. The multitasking tray is no longer opened by double-tapping the home button but by sliding up from below the screen. It now also allows you to add custom apps to it in a side menu.

Except for the theme, not much has changed in the messaging and phone apps. They offer all functions you should expect from them, like threaded message view and the possibility to view contacts by account (both Google and Flyme). In the contact app, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media contacts can be linked to contacts, if the particular app is installed. The data that can be added to a contact is endless, including addresses, IM accounts and other notes. Call logs are integrated into the phone app. Landscape support is available in the messaging app. If you add a media file to a SMS, it will automatically turn into a MMS. When digging deeper into the settings of the messaging app, you will find a service called ‘Flyme Messages’. This is a service which allows you to send free messages to other Flyme devices.

The settings app has been completely revamped for Flyme 3.0. It now features a sidebar with shortcuts to all settings functions. The settings are now also better categorised by function. However, Meizu still chose to leave out some functions in the settings app, so one must still open Developer Options to get all functions. Some new functions are the possibility to set the spacing of the famous SmartBar and select which apps are allowed to show notifications. Of course settings for NFC (on supported models) are now also available.

A point of improvement is still the Flyme keyboard. It still lacks international dictionaries and feedback options. Typing on it feels a little uncomfortable and typing mistakes will be made. The good news is you can install many third party keyboards.

Despite the weird screen aspect ratio, app compatibility seems no problem. Of all apps we tested, none were showing issues with the resolution. In fact, we find the screen resolution helpful sometimes due to the lower screen height. This greatly helps with one handed usability.

The Meizu MX3 comes packed with a octa-core Exynos 5410 processor, which can also be found in the Samsung Galaxy S4. It contains 4 Cortex A15 cores clocked at 1.6GHz and 4 Cortex A7 cores clocked at 1.2GHz. The processor automatically chooses between them depending on needed performance. Graphics are provided by the IT PowerVR SGX544MP3 tri-core GPU clocked at 533MHz. Unlike with previous Meizu MX-series phones, it’s not possible anymore to limit the CPU speed. Performance throughout the operation system is very good, and one shall not experience a single hint of lag while using it. Benchmarks are a little disappointing, but the MX3 handles really well in real-world situations. Games like Asphalt 8, Gangstar Vegas, Modern Combat 4 and Real Racing 3 can be played without a problem. This also shows off in the benchmarks; the score for Epic Citadel is very good, while the score in AnTuTu is a little disappointing:

3DMark (Ice Storm Unlimited): 9360
AnTuTu: 24297
Epic Citadel (Ultra High Quality): 47FPS
Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core Score): 1736
NenaMark2: 59.5FPS
Quadrant Standard: 7594
Vellamo (HTML5): 1637

The MX3 comes in a variety of storage capacities: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. It should be noted that the storage capacity cannot be extended with micro-SD cards and the 16GB model does not support NFC. About 5GB is used by system files, so the 16GB version will be a little tight on storage for most users. The MX3 has 2GB of RAM, like Meizu’s previous phone, the MX2. Flyme 3.0 uses a little more resources compared to Flyme 2.4, but there’s still plenty of free RAM available.

The web browser on the MX3 has not changed much compared to previous versions of Flyme. It still works fast and responsive; pinching and scrolling is extremely smooth. Pages load fairly quickly too. One can open a maximum of 15 tabs, and can swipe to close them. The interface while browsing webpages is minimal and does not interfere with the experience. Flash and HTML5 video can be played within the browser.

Of course, organizer features are available in the MX3. The calendar allows you to create events in different accounts. It offers sorting by daily, weekly and monthly view. It’s a pleasure to work with the calendar and it’s very clear to look at. The calculator offers all usual functions, but also an interesting one: it allows you to scale it down, so you can use other apps. We really like this Sony Small App-like feature, and wish Meizu could also add it to other apps.

The note app allows you to create sticky notes in several colours. This can be handy if you want to maintain different categories of notes. You can also create to-do lists and add sound recordings and illustrations to your notes. With the clock app, you can set alarms, set a timer or use the stopwatch. The alarms can be fully customised for each entry: you can manually set the ringtone, volume and enable or disable the snooze function. Last but not least, the recorder app is a simple but useful app which allows you to make sound recordings in simple and clean interface.

Meizu’s devices were originally known for their outstanding sound quality, but this has got to the background with their MX-series phones. With the MX3, Meizu puts their focus back on sound quality, and this pays off. The music player has been updated and now supports a Coverflow-like function on its main screen. Songs can be sorted by alphabet, artist, album and recently added. One can also create playlists if desired. Lyrics can be viewed in the Now playing screen. One can also set a timer and the equalizer here. The only thing missing is a homescreen widget. Audiophiles will love this music player, since it supports the FLAC, APE, AAC, MKA, OGG, MP3, MIDI, M4A, AMR and WAV audio formats. For the users of the Meizu EP20, EP20S or EP21 earphones, a Dirac HD Sound option is available which greatly improves the sound quality via these earphones. Its Wolfson audio chip helps even further with this. This audio chip delivers outstanding sound quality at the hardware side. One can really hear this via professional grade headphones. But the speaker is not able to fully cope with this high end audio hardware. It has a good clarity and volume, but is no improvement over the MX2 and is on par with other brands, not better. However, the sound quality via earphones has certainly improved compared to previous Meizu phones. But one must keep in mind that despite the slightly disappointing speaker, Meizu is still ahead of its competitors thanks to the improved audio hardware.

The gallery app has not changed much compared to Flyme 2.4, except pictures are now categorised under date. It offers all basic functions you’d expect from a gallery app, but also a couple of picture editing options. The only picture editing feature that appears at first is the possibility to crop pictures. However, press the ‘Edit’ button and you’re taken into a different menu where you can add 12 different effects to your pictures and set the brightness, contrast, hue, blur and vignette.

Unlike the gallery app, the video app is very simple and only has basic functions. It supports MP4, 3GP, MOV, MKV, AVI, FLV, MPEG, M2TS and TS video files. We tried a 1080P test video, and it played flawlessly.

Meizu has packed the MX3 with a 8 megapixel camera with F/2.0 aperture on the back, and a 2 megapixel camera on the front. Both cameras are manufactured by Sony and support video recording in 1080P. The rear camera offers strong colour reproduction, and takes extremely good quality pictures in daylight. But it suffers from a famous Sony problem: the pictures are slightly noisy. This appears to be no big deal in daylight, but in indoor and night situations this becomes more visible. Pictures taken in these situations are on par with other smartphones of its class, but nowhere outstanding. White balance is perfect and so is the contrast. The macro function is really good and allows sharp pictures to be taken, even when very close to the object. We hope Meizu is able to do some noise reducing optimisations in future firmwares. Video recording is of decent quality, but this goes at the price of a high storage consumption of about 10MB/s due to a whopping bitrate of 100Mbps. Lowering the recording resolution of course lowers the storage consumption.

The camera app allows you to add real-time effects to pictures. We found there are more effects in the camera app than the gallery app. An interesting one is LOMO, which adds the famous analogue photo effect to your pictures. It’s possible to set the ISO and white balance value manually. A panoramic function is also available which allows you to take wide pictures of landscapes or skylines for example. Oh, and you can take pictures with the virtual shutter button, volume key and via a gesture.

Click here for some test pictures

Since the MX3 has the same radio hardware as the MX2, but with antenna design improvements, the reception is superb. The same goes for the in-call quality. The earpiece provides natural sounding voices and they are clearly hearable. Also, no distortion is hearable, even at full volume. At the other end of the line, we were also clearly hearable. A record function is available in the calling menu. You can also take notes within the calling screen. If this not enough for you? Just press the home button and you can fully use the phone while during the call.

With the MX3, Meizu decided to power it with a 2400mAh Sony battery. Meizu claims a 2G standby time of 429 hours and 3G standby time of 393 hours. 40 hours is claimed for audio playback, 10 hours for WiFi internet access and 7 for video playback. Talk time should be 14 hours on 3G and 12 hours on 2G. Real life testing turns out that the MX3 can easily last through the day, even with pretty heavy usage.

The MX3 is Meizu’s first phone with a ‘large’ screen and latest effort on trying to deliver an outstanding phone. Meizu did pretty well on both sides. The MX3 is certainly the most handable large screen phone at the moment and certainly contains the wow factor of previous Meizu handsets. Meizu ironed out most quirks of previous MX-series models, like the heat issue for example. With Flyme 3.0, Meizu is ready to take on the new generation of smartphones.

The screen of the MX3 is one of the best ever seen on a smartphone, just like the performance. Sound quality has improved compared to previous MX-series models, and audiophiles will love the MX3. But not so much for the external speaker. Perhaps it’s because we have the speaker of the Meizu M8 in our memory, but the sound that the external speaker produces is nowhere close to outstanding, unlike the rest of the phone. Another remark is the lack of international languages except English, Russian and Hebrew, but this should be easy to overcome for most users.

All in all, the MX3 is one large package of awesome. It’s true that we 2 remarks, but these should be easy to live with, especially when looking at its competitors. Speaking of competitors, the MX3 easily fits in the category of Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z1, HTC One and LG G2. But not its price. At only 2499RMB (€300, 410USD) for the 16GB model, it’s more than €250 (345USD) cheaper compared to its competitors. Count up €100 for taxes and you still save €150 (205USD) and get the enjoyment of owning something exclusive. And that’s we believe Meizu is about: high quality, exclusive smartphones at a fair price.

Software version of reviewed unit: Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean; Flyme OS 3.0.2 (I11324)

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