Meizu has put together a pretty good package at an affordable price in the M5s.
The Meizu M5s is the latest "budget" smartphone from the Chinese manufacturer, and it comes in at under $100 USD (when converted from Chinese Yuan). Smartphones in this price range typically aren't that spectacular, and lack a lot of the bells and whistles. Meizu has opted to put in some pretty decent specs in the M5s, and also keep with their trademark metal build. Which is a bit unbelievable for its price. So are there any hidden surprises in the Meizu M5s? Let's find out.
Meizu has slapped a 5.2-inch 1280x720 resolution display on the M5s. With it being a 720p resolution panel, you're looking at about 282 pixels per inch. The screen takes up about 69.4% of the front of the device. Inside, we have the MediaTek MT6753 processor which is an octa-core chipset clocked at 1.3GHz. This is paired with the Mali-T720MP2 GPU and 3GB of RAM. The M5s comes stock with 32GB of internal storage and there is a micro SD card slot inside for adding even more storage if needed.
The Meizu M5s has a 13-megapixel camera on the back, with phase detection autofocus and dual LED flash. It also sports an aperture of f/2.2. The front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel shooter at f/2.0. There's a 3000mAh power pack embedded to keep the Meizu M5s going all day long, and it's running on Android 6.0 with Flyme OS 5.2. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack included here, but no NFC. There is also Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, and we do also have a fingerprint sensor (which is also the home button). Finally, Meizu offers the M5s in Gray, Silver, Champagne Gold and Rose Gold.
In the Box
In the box, you'll find the Meizu M5s on top of course. Below that you'll find some paperwork, a SIM ejection tool, a wall adapter and a micro USB to USB-A cable used for syncing and/or charging your M5s. So there's really no surprises in the box here.
There's no doubt about it, when it comes to smartphones in this price range, the Meizu M5s has the best build quality. Most smartphones at this price point are usually made of plastic, or faux metal. But Meizu has opted for a full metal unibody design here on the Meizu M5s which is great to see. On previous Meizu smartphones, they had been using a camera bump, like a lot of other manufacturers, but with the M5s, they opted to make it flush with the back of the device and make it a bit thicker for a larger battery. Which is something that we definitely do not mind seeing.
When it comes to the design here on the M5s, it does resemble other Meizu smartphones, and that's not a bad thing. On the back you'll see the camera is smack dab in the middle of the device, towards the top. There's also the dual LED flash below it, and you'll see two antenna bands at the top and bottom of the device. Now while it would look even cleaner without these, they do still look fairly minimal. On the right side, you'll find the volume rocker with the power button below it. The left side houses the SIM card and micro SD card slot. It's a hybrid tray so you can go dual SIM or micro SD and SIM card, but not both. The bottom has the speaker on the right side of the micro USB port and the microphone on the left. At the top you'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, something you don't see on every smartphone these days.
The Meizu M5s definitely feels great in the hand. It's thick, but not too thick, and despite it being metal it does have a decent amount of grip to it. Now it is still a tad bit slippery, but not as bad as some other metal smartphones on the market right now. With the display being a 5.2-inch measurement, the smartphone is still fairly small, so you are able to use it with one hand, and be able to reach the volume rocker and power button without having to readjust your hand.
There are a few things we'd change about the hardware here, but nothing that's a deal breaker. The biggest one here being the fact that Meizu used a micro USB port as opposed to a USB-C port. While most other smartphones are going USB-C, it would have been great to see Meizu follow along, but again this is not a deal breaker. Otherwise, hardware is pretty impressive when you consider the price point of the M5s.
Let's start this section off a bit different than usual. I had been using the Meizu M5s for about a week before I started writing this review. I thought that the display was a 1080p panel, before I looked up the specs to start writing this review. So the fact that this is actually a 720p display is pretty impressive. It shows that this display is actually pretty sharp, and looks great, which it does. It is an IPS LCD display, so it's not as sharp outdoors as something with an AMOLED display, but it does still work quite nicely outside. The color temperature seems to be right on target on the M5s, for those that happen to care about that.
Smartphones this cheap typically come with a sub-par digitizer, as many manufacturers think that's an area where they can save some cash. But, the digitizer on the Meizu M5s is actually top notch. For those that unaware, the digitizer is basically what sites below the screen and tells the system that you touched the display and where you touched it. So if you touch your display and nothing happens, it may not be because the phone is slow, but because the digitizer is slow. Luckily, that's not an issue on the M5s.
An octa-core 1.3GHz processor along with 3GB of RAM doesn't sound high-end, and well that's because it isn't. The Meizu M5s has what many would consider a "slow" processor, and that's true. Even though it is crazy to think that a chipset clocked at 1.3GHz is "slow" in a smartphone. However, it is fast enough to do most general tasks. If you are browsing through Twitter, Instagram or any of your other favorite apps, it's more than enough. Where things start to become a problem is actually when it comes to gaming. It can handle some gaming, but not all. Intensive games aren't going to bode well on the M5s, but that is to be expected.
Now on the subject of RAM, 3GB is still plenty. While many high-end smartphones are coming out with 4GB or even 6GB of RAM included, that's way more than you actually need. 3GB of RAM will be enough for mostly everyone, unless you're planning on doing some virtual reality. During our testing, we found that 3GB of RAM was enough to keep apps in memory without having to have them redrawn later on when we opened them. We never ran out of RAM, nor had to close down everything to free some RAM and get better performance on the device.
As has been the case for about three years now with other phones, Meizu has placed a fingerprint sensor on the M5s, and it doubles as the physical home button. The fingerprint sensor continues to be lightning quick and accurate, which is no surprise coming from Meizu. Over the years, and the many, many reviews we've done on their products, we've found that their sensors are some of the best in the business, just behind Huawei who has the fastest fingerprint sensors currently. The sensor unlocks pretty instantly, within a second or two and was very accurate, we only noticed it not recognize our fingerprint a handful of times throughout a week of using the phone. That's pretty incredible when you think about it.
Now the fingerprint sensor is part of the home button which is called mTouch. The home button is actually a back button as well. So you press the button to go home, and touch it to go back. This keeps the front of the M5s and other Meizu smartphones looking nice and clean by having one button instead of a physical button and two more capacitive keys. Definitely cool from a design perspective. But usability is the real issue, and luckily it works well here. As is always the case with smartphones that change the flow of things, it does take a few days to get used too, but once you get used to it, it's pretty easy to use.
Phone Calls & Network
Meizu sells the M5s in Europe and in Asia, we have been testing the M5s in the US, but we also took it on a recent trip to Beijing so we were able to use it on T-Mobile USA and China Unicom. In the US, it worked about as we had expected, giving us up to HSPA+ speeds, no 4G LTE connectivity, which is typically how things go with smartphones that are not made specifically for the US. In China, we were able to get 4G LTE on China Unicom during our trip, and the speeds were pretty good. We had no real issues with Internet speeds whether on mobile or on Wi-Fi. You can see the bands it supports below.
GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900
3G 900, 1900, 2100
LTE 1800, 2100, 2600
TD-LTE 2300, 2600
When it came to phone calls, while the Meizu M5s does not support HD Voice or VoLTE, it does give you crystal clear voice, which is always important. We were able to call people with ease and not have any of our calls drop, nor did users on the other end have trouble hearing us. So for those that still make phone calls, there's nothing to worry about here.
Meizu has added a speaker to the bottom of the M5s. It's located on the right side of the micro USB port, with the left side just being a microphone, even though it looks like a speaker. This is done to make it look symmetrical, and is actually a pretty common practice among smartphones today. The speaker on the Meizu M5s is nothing to get too excited about. It is nice and loud, but it's not going to win any awards for the audio that it outputs. The speaker surprisingly doesn't sound tinny at all, which is definitely a good thing. Meizu has also kept the 3.5mm headphone jack here, which is nice to see, and that is located at the top of the device.
On the Meizu M5s, we ran AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4, to see just how well the internal hardware would do. And on AnTuTu, it scored a 35,924. Over on Geekbench 4, it picked up scores of 599 in the single-core test and a 1678 in the multi-score test while on 3D Mark it scored a 197. Now yes, these scores are quite low, but we also have to remember the hardware that is inside the Meizu M5s. We can't expect it to put up scores close to the Galaxy S8, or even the LG G5 from last year, when it has a slower processor and less RAM. So given the internals here, the Meizu M5s actually performed quite well.
There's a pretty hefty 3000mAh battery inside the Meizu M5s here. Which may seem like a standard sized battery these days, but remember that this is sporting a 1.3GHz processor and a 720p display, which is a recipe for great battery life. And that is definitely the case here with the Meizu M5s. It'll last you all day long and then some. Now unfortunately, due to the way that Meizu reports battery stats in Flyme, we don't have any screenshots of the full battery cycle, you can only see the last 3 hours, 6 hours or 12 hours. It's a bit unfortunate, but it does still give you a good idea of how good or bad the battery might be. And in our case, it's pretty darn good.
When it comes to charging, Meizu has their mCharge technology included, which can charge the Meizu M5s from 0 to 56% in about 30 minutes. However, this only works with the included charger. So if you do not use the included charger, you won't see charging speeds that are that fast, unfortunately. During our testing, we weren't using the included charger (since it's an EU charger and we're in the US), but it still charged somewhat fast with a regular charger.
At the time of reviewing the Meizu M5s, it's running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with Flyme 5.2.13 and the January 5th, 2017 security patch. Now yes, that security patch is a couple of months old, but it is still a "recent" patch, so that's a good thing. However, it is unfortunate that it is still running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, when Android 7.0 Nougat has been out and available for nearly 8 months now. With Flyme being such a heavy skin, it does take Meizu a bit of time to incorporate it into their software and make sure everything is working, but that's still some pretty old software.
Meizu's Flyme OS is actually a pretty colorful skin. It's one of my favorite skins in the Android world, despite it still having a few issues. The biggest issue is the fact that it still does not show Gmail notifications properly. Now this isn't exclusive to Flyme, we've seen this with other Chinese smartphones (including Xiaomi's smartphones with MIUI). What happens is the subject and the sender of the email in your notification is shown in black lettering, which makes it almost impossible to read in the notification shade. While the rest of that notification is shown in white or light gray. It should be a simple fix, but it's something that has been part of Flyme for a few years now.
Onto the good of Flyme, though. Flyme, like many other Android skins out there, does have themes available. So you can download or use the existing themes to really customize your Meizu M5s. Now the theming engine isn't as robust as what you see on the Galaxy S8 or LG G6, it basically just these wallpaper and home screen icons. But it is a nice feature to have. Smart Touch is a rather cool feature, although it's hard to say how many people would find it useful. It basically adds a white dot onto your home screen, and by swiping in different directions you can do different tasks. For example, swiping down will open the notification shade. Swiping up will exit the app and go to the home screen and swiping left and right you can jump between your open apps. It's an interesting feature, but maybe not a popular one.
Flyme, as always is full of features. Many of which are ones that not everyone will use, but it is nice to have it available. Flyme, as expected, works well on the Meizu M5s. While it looks like it is a pretty heavy skin, it's actually not all that heavy. Considering an octa-core 1.3GHz processor with 3GB of RAM can run it quite smoothly.
Now it's time to talk about the most important aspect of any smartphone, the camera. Before we jump into the pictures and picture quality, let's talk about the camera experience. Meizu has always had a pretty decent camera app on their smartphones. It's pretty minimal while still offering a great deal of features for their users. In the viewfinder, and this setup seems to be pretty common among most smartphones these days, you'll find the mode selector, shutter button and gallery shortcut on the right side (when holding in landscape) and a few quick setting shortcuts on the left side. This includes things like filters, timer, and switching to the other camera. The modes included on the Meizu M5s camera are Auto, Manual, Video, Beauty, Panorama, Light Field, Slow-mo, Scan, Macro and GIF. The GIF mode is definitely a fun one to use. Now the scanning mode is also nice to have included, as it allows you to quickly scan a QR Code without opening another app. While QR Codes aren't that popular in the western side of the world, it's still hugely popular in Asia, where Meizu's biggest markets are.
One of the downsides we do have to mention here with the Meizu M5s camera, and we do think this can be fixed with a software update, is the fact that if you use the camera in other apps, the camera stops working until you do a restart. For instance, if you try to use the camera in Instagram, or Twitter or Snapchat to take a photo, it will act like it has taken it (but it actually hasn't) and then the camera will stay black. If you open the camera app, it'll tell you that the camera is busy. The only way to get around this is by taking pictures in the camera app and then sharing it on other social media networks. It's a bit of a nuisance, but that's what has to be done for now.
When it comes to the picture quality of the Meizu M5s' camera, it's actually a bit surprising, and that's in a good way. The camera takes some stunning pictures, considering the price of this phone and the fact that there is no laser autofocus - it does have phase detection autofocus though - the shutter is very fast and it focuses quickly. Color reproduction on the M5s is pretty good. The pictures aren't overly saturated like some other cameras - namely Samsung's smartphones - and the camera even performs somewhat decent in low-light. We took the M5s on a recent trip to Beijing and it performed pretty well. The camera even took some good shots outside at night, which is again, impressive for a camera on a smartphone in this price range. You can see all of the pictures we took with the Meizu M5s, unedited and in full resolution in the Flickr gallery below.
Not IP68 water-resistant
The Meizu M5s is a capable smartphone. It's not the fastest, or the most high-end smartphone, but it is a more than capable smartphone. This is a smartphone that is aimed at those looking for a smartphone that can do things like check your email, browse social media a bit and most importantly make calls, while lasting them all day long. And the Meizu M5s excels at all of those tasks.
Should I buy the Meizu M5s?
Meizu's M5s is priced at 999 Yuan (or RMB), which converted comes out to about €135 or $145 USD, putting it in the same place as the Moto G4 Play from last year. And the Meizu M5s definitely gives the Moto G4 Play a run for its money. The M5s is a great smartphone to pick up, if you're not a heavy user, it will work perfectly for everything you want to do with this smartphone. And for $145, it's hard to pass it up.