For those that aren't familiar with Meizu, the M5c would be a great place to start.
Meizu is a really well-known brand both inside and outside of China as it's one of China's bigger manufacturers, and one of Meizu's latest devices is the M5c, which we've been able to spend some time with over the last week or so to see how it stacks up. If there's one thing that seems to be consistent with Meizu and its smartphones it's that a lot of them look similar in design. That said the M5c looks pretty good and it's due in part to its minimalistic design. The M5c is an entry-level device but you wouldn't necessarily know it just by looking at it. Even using it has felt like a much more enjoyable experience than many of the other entry-level phones that we've been able to test. Let's take a closer look at the M5c and see how good of a device Meizu has produced this time around.
The Meizu M5c is a humble device that isn't packed with the latest and greatest, but the phone had no issues with running smoothly. It's powered by a MediaTek 6737 Quad-Core processor, and it's paired with a Mali-T720 MP1 GPU for the graphics processing. It has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage space, which isn't exactly a lot these days but it's important to remember that this is an entry-level phone. The good news is that if 16GB isn't enough the M5c does support expandable storage via a microSD card and it supports cards that are up to 128GB in size, so you'll be able to have plenty of space.
The Meizu M5c is working with a 3,000mAh battery which is more than enough to carry it through the day, in fact we got quite a bit out of it, which we'll get into a bit later in the battery section. For the screen the Meizu M5c is working with a 5-inch display and it carries a resolution of 720p, so it's not the most sharp picture quality but it does the job and does it quite well. It supports Dual Nano SIM cards so it can be used internationally while still keeping your normal SIM card in it, and it also comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. It's also running Flyme OS 6 which is based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
In The Box
In the box is a pretty bare experience. You have the phone, the charger, the quick start guide, the SIM ejector tool, and that's it. No earbuds or cases or screen protectors like with a lot of the other Chinese brand OEMs. This isn't a bad thing as it's mostly common with a lot of other device brands, but it is always nice when a few extras are thrown in.
Hardware & Design
The build quality of the Meizu M5c is actually quite nice and it doesn't feel cheap at all. It isn't made of metal so it doesn't have an exceptional premium feel to it, but it still feels nice in the hand when holding it and it's comfortable to hold for longer periods of time. The body is made from a polycarbonate material, which helps with the grip as it's less slick than a phone made with metal or glass. It also keeps the phone from feeling too hot in the hand during moments of more extreme use, like when gaming or watching high-quality videos. It also has a good weight to it so I never really experienced and feelings of fatigue from holding the phone for too long which has been an issue with past devices, particularly those that come with massive batteries.
The M5c has a pretty simplistic look to it which is part of its charm. The power button and volume up and down buttons are both on the right side of the device, while the SIM card tray is located on the left side. On the bottom you have the micro USB charging port as well as the single loudspeaker and the microphone for picking your voice. Up on the top Meizu has placed the 3.5mm audio port for headphones, and on the front of the device there's just the mBack button which acts as a home button and a back button. On the back you'll find the rear camera and the LED flash, but no fingerprint sensor as the M5c does not have one. Overall the M5c has a nice design and it could easily pass for a more premium device thanks to its style.
The display was an area where I wasn't sure that I was going to be satisfied with what was on offer, but after extended use it really isn't all that bad. The screen does get plenty bright and it's fairly responsive to interaction with no problems regarding the my finger presses. Normally with inexpensive devices the digitizer can have an issue or two, but Meizu seems to have used a really nice Digitizer here because there were no issues that we experienced. If there's one issue that is present, and it's really a minor one, it's that it seems much more noticeable that this is only a 720p screen when the brightness is on a lower setting.
With some phones the screen can be a little bit on the warm or cool side and often in those times there's no way to adjust things. While I don't feel that the M5c is either a little too warm or a little too cool, the option is present in Display Settings to adjust the screen's color temperature if needed. There's also an option to change the font size between small, normal, medium, large, and extra large options just in case you need the words to be easier to see. This is a great feature add for someone who might not have the best vision. Overall the Meizu M5c has a pretty decent display here and especially considering the price range of the phone that Meizu is going for. Color accuracy looks pretty good and picture clarity is decent as well. For the most part, there was no disappointment and most users will likely feel the same.
Despite having just 2GB of RAM the Meizu M5c actually performed quite well in most situations. I did happen to notice some lag when browsing the Play Store (which doesn't normally come installed on the device I might add, and had to be sideloaded) but other than that most of the experience when using the phone felt pretty smooth. Multitasking was not bad and it didn't seem to lock up or crash, so the user experience is certainly a stable one. To test out the performance a little more we played Never Gone, which is a newer game on Android that has some pretty awesome visuals for attacks and special effects, as well as some really nice anime-style art for the character graphics. It's a pretty graphics intensive game and the M5c seemed to handle it just fine, which was quite the surprise for me personally as I half expected it to be jittery during gameplay. On the contrary though, that wasn't the case at all. Overall there weren't really any issues that we had with the performance. It's not the absolute most buttery smooth user experience you'll have of any phone, and it certainly would perform better with some higher-quality specs, but unless you're a true power user who only wants the best of the best, the M5c would probably suit you just fine for an everyday device.
Every phone has its drawbacks, and this is where the M5c seems to fall short. The audio quality was really not that great and even when my hand wasn't covering the speaker, which was almost all of the time, the audio still sounded muffled and far away. This was disappointing as everything so far had been pretty good when using the phone, then during gameplay and listening to music I noticed the audio quality was a little lacking. I can't say I'm too surprised as this is a budget device of sorts and there has to be a compromise somewhere to keep the price low, but I was hoping it would be a little bit better. That being said, those who aren't listening to a ton of music or other types of audio through the loudspeaker probably won't notice or won't care, so the lack of a decent speaker may not make or break the decision on this device for some.
Phone Calls & Network
The Meizu M5c is an unlocked GSM device which means it can be used in more than just China, and it supports Dual SIM which makes it great for travelers. Unlike most Chinese smartphones we review from some of the lesser-known brands, the Meizu M5c actually supports some of the same bands that are supported by T-Mobile and AT&T when it comes to 4G LTE connections, so you should be able to use the M5c for 2G, 3G, and 4G on both those networks as well as other GSM networks in the U.S. I have Project Fi so the Meizu M5c would not support my SIM card, but you can view the supported frequencies below.
2G: Bands 2/3/5/8
3G: Bands 1/2/5/8
4G TD-LTE: Bands 38/40
4G FDD-LTE: Bands 1/3/5/7/8/20
As the Meizu M5c is an entry-level phone, it comes with entry-level specs, and as such it wasn't expected to perform extremely well in the benchmarks. That said this is really only when comparing the device to top-end phones. For its class it felt like it performed just fine during use, though there was a bit of lag when using things like the Play Store as mentioned above. For the benchmark tests we ran the M5c through AnTuTu, Geekbench 4, and 3DMark for the graphics, and if you're interested you can view the results of the benchmark tests in the gallery just below.
Battery life on the M5c is quite amazing. For just a 3,000 mAh battery it scored better than some devices would that have a slightly higher battery capacity. Perhaps this is due in part to the 720p display and the lower-powered processor, but whatever the case is the M5c will do just fine and then some for those who need a long-lasting battery so they can use their phone throughout the day without worrying it might die on them. During our time of use we got about 8-9 hours of screen on time with it and on average it would last about two days before needing a recharge. We also ran it through the PCMark battery benchmark test to mimic on-screen time and this resulted in 9 hours and 6 minutes exactly, so it was right on par with what we got with actual use. That said everyone uses their devices differently so your mileage may vary here, which is worth keeping in mind. Another thing to note is that the M5c has built-in battery saving features to help cut down on power consumption and extend the battery life even more if you need to implement it.
The software was quite the different experience for me as I'm not used to Meizu's Flyme OS, so things were naturally quite a bit of a change from stock Android or even any of the other UI skins from other brands. Flyme OS looks a lot like iOS and the phone doesn't initially have Google's services and apps package available, but you can sideload the apps package so you get things like the Play Store, which allows you to then install any other apps you want including Gmail, games, or whatever else your heart desires. The biggest changes with Flyme OS are really the different visual styles throughout the system, but there are some nice little additions that you likely won't find elsewhere. The mBack button for example is a pretty nice touch that most people would likely really appreciate. While not extensive, the mBack button acts as more than just your home button as you have a couple of different shortcut actions applied to it. With a double tap you can use it to either launch the camera, play music from the lock screen, or have no response at all if you don't want the double tap to be there. You can also set it to hide and reveal the keyboard if you simply tap it once while typing. There's also an option where you can slightly adjust the visual appearance of the Flyme Classic Style option, which changes the look of small things like the spacing between the app icons, as well as the appearance of the phone, messages, and more.
The phone also features a game mode and something called kid space, which more or less lets you set parameters for the device should a kid have access to it, like enabling an option which locks the phone when the battery gets low so kids don't spend too much time using the phone. These are all located under the accessibility settings and under the lab header in that menu. There are a few different interaction options that can be played with as well and these add some nice little enhancements to the way that the phone works. For example, you can easily open up the task manager by swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen, or use different gestures to wake the device and have it launch certain apps when drawing various characters. The most useful for me personally though was the smart touch button, which you can toggle on or off at your leisure. This is a small little button which has different actions based on how you interact with it. A simple tap can be used to go back one page, while a double tap will allow you to either shift the screen, open the notification shade, lock the screen, or even launch the task manager.
You can also set interactions for when you slide up on the SmartTouch button, as well as when you slide down on it, or slide left or right. The button can also be moved and placed anywhere you want it on screen if you long press it, and it doesn't just sit on the edge. It can actually be placed directly in the middle if you want it there. You have a varied set of different quick settings in the notification shade but unfortunately it doesn't look like you can move these around or order them any way you like, so you're stuck with what's there and in the order that they come in. If you've never used Flyme OS before it will definitely be a bit of a shock, but it's actually pretty nice once you get used to where everything is. Flyme also features a native theme option like many of today's more popular UI skins from other brands, so if you don't like the look of the icons or the backdrop etc., you can enter the theme menu and choose something you like and there are tons of options. Of course you could also just install a third-party launcher once you have the Play Store installed and add themes and icon packs to adjust the style as well.
Picture quality isn't the strongest element of the M5c but it's not too bad either. Images came out ok in most cases and color reproduction was mostly spot on. If there was one area of the camera that the M5c wasn't particularly that great it's zooming in on subjects before snapping the photo. Anytime I zoomed in to take a picture of something it seems that the sharpness and the image quality just wasn't as good as it's been on some other phones. That said the phone did seem to do ok with lighting in most cases and didn't let subjects get too washed out if there was more light than usual.
At first the camera might seem like a basic setup but a little poking around with the different options that are immediately visible reveals more that meets the eye. Initially you have just the normal photo mode, video mode, and a beauty mode for pictures, and on the left side of the UI you'll find options like HDR, the settings for the camera, the flash button and an option to apply color filter effects before the image is taken. At first this seems pretty standard as these options are found in a lot of different Chinese-brand smartphones, but there is one button on the UI in standard photo mode that opens up some more camera modes including panorama, time lapse, GIF, and even a scanner. What was a surprise to see is that the Meizu M5c actually has a pro mode as well. With pro mode you can adjust the ISO, the white balance, the exposure compensation, the contrast, and the saturation, letting you have a little more control over how the pictures look when they come out. Overall the Meizu M5c has a pretty decent camera for its range and that should be even more apparent when you compare it to different phones that are in the same tier.
Flyme OS feels lightweight and easy to use after some adjustment to the differences
Camera has a pro mode available
The SmartTouch button was extremely useful
The mBack button adds another element of accessibility
Camera quality was pretty decent for an 8-megapixel sensor
Long-lasting battery life
Supports most US network frequencies for GSM carriers
Good build quality
Nice, minimalist phone design
No fingerprint sensor
Sound quality was not great
Camera quality when zoomed in could have been better
Meizu isn't typically a brand you'll see in the US as the phones aren't generally sold here, but Meizu is a pretty well-known brand and is one of China's better ones at that. The M5c is Meizu's latest device, and it doesn't cost too much to get into which is even better for the quality of the experience that you're getting. For those that aren't familiar with Meizu, the M5c would be a great place to start.
Should you buy the Meizu M5c?
That really all depends on if you can actually get a hold of it. Since Meizu phones aren't always sold in the US it might not be easy to find, but if you can find it being sold in the US regardless of the retailer, then it's definitely a device you should consider if you're in the market for a new phone or a backup phone as it has a lot to offer at the lower cost that Meizu is going to be asking for it. Then again if you're someone who wants a really high-powered device, then the M5c may not cut it.