The Meizu M6 Note comes packed with extra features, a fluid user experience, and a great camera.
Meizu is a highly-respected and well-known brand in China, and its recognition is well-deserved with some of the devices it puts out there for consumers. One of the upcoming devices, the Meizu M6 Note has been in our possession for the past week so we had some time to check it out before it goes on sale later this fall, and right off the bat, there was a lot to love about the phone, from its specs and features to the overall user interface. While not your typical software for Android as it features Meizu’s FlymeOS, if you’re a fan of these Chinese brand UIs then you will probably love Meizu’s take on Android, as the M6 Note features its latest version of Flyme and comes with some nifty hardware like a dual rear camera module, in addition to keeping some beloved features like the 3.5mm audio port. Let’s take a closer look at the M6 Note and see what it has to offer, and how it stacks up against devices like the Meizu M5c, a more entry-level phone that we reviewed back at the end of June.
While Meizu does make some high-end devices, it also makes devices aimed at the mid-range and entry-level markets and the M6 Note is one that sits purely in the mid-range space. It features a 5.5-inch Full-HD display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, it’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 processor, and it comes with 3GB of RAM with an Adreno 506 GPU, so it’s more than capable of handling just about any task you throw at it, at least on paper. It comes with 32GB of internal storage space which is a bit lower than most phones these days as even some budget devices are coming with 64GB of storage, but 32GB is still a fair amount of space for anyone who is an average user. In addition to the 32GB of internal storage, the device also supports expandable storage via a microSD card up to 128GB just in case the 32GB is not enough.
Another downside is that the device is only running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, well after Nougat had been released to most phones and the M6 Note isn’t even available yet. That said, hopefully Meizu has plans to release a Nougat update or even an Oreo update at some point in the near future after the device’s launch so users aren’t so far behind on software. The dual camera module on the back consists of a 12-megapixel sensor and a 5-megapixel sensor, while the front camera is a 16-megapixel sensor, so the phone should take great selfies and decent images with the main camera. It’s powered by a 4,000mAh non-removable battery and uses a microUSB charging port, so while it may not charge as fast as a device with USB Type-C, the battery capacity should last you a while. It also has a fingerprint sensor on the front and supports Bluetooth 4.2 as well as Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n.
In The Box
There’s not much in the box with the M6 Note which is a bit of a departure from most Chinese smartphone brands, but not really a departure for Meizu as it usually only packs in the essentials. That is, what you need to use the phone and keep it charged up. In the box, you’ll find the phone itself, the charging cable, power adapter, and the SIM card ejector tool, as a well as a quick start guide. It’s a simple offering but you have everything you really need.
Hardware & Design
Meizu’s phone designs are pretty good and though some will disagree and feel like things could be improved, Meizu’s M6 Note is sleek and stylish and it feels really well-made. The phone is made from all metal as it uses a full metal unibody design, complete with chamfered edges on both the front and back, and a glass display that is slightly curved (very subtly) at the edges all the way around so the glass of the display kind of melts into the edges of the body. Since the phone is made of metal, it feels more premium, though it can be a bit smooth and that means when holding it some may feel that it is a bit more slippery than if Meizu had used a polycarbonate material. Metal can also get fairly warm during intense, heavy use, though we didn’t experience that much ourselves.
Meizu’s M6 Note is sporting one speaker here, which is located on the bottom of the phone next to the charging port, while on the other side of the port is the 3.5mm headphone jack for plugging in some regular headphones. The fingerprint sensor sits just below the display on the bottom bezel, while the front camera is located to the right of the earpiece. The SIM card tray sits on the left side of the device, and power and volume buttons sit on the right side of the device. And of course, the rear dual rear camera module with LED flash is over on the back and in the top center. Meizu’s M6 Note may not be the most powerful phone out there, but it is well-designed, and it’s equipped to function really nicely, so overall, the hardware materials used are top-notch and the build quality is nothing to shake a stick at. You definitely won’t feel that this is not a premium phone when holding it.
At first glance, the display didn’t look like it was as sharp as a Full HD panel should be, or as sharp as it has been on other devices that have FHD displays. But I quickly realized that for one, the brightness was set to auto by default, and the lower brightness helped attribute the screen to looking like it had a lower resolution. Simply turning this auto brightness off and turning the brightness up a bit helped immensely. On top of that, the default skin with the default icons that Meizu has used here doesn't really do the screen resolution justice as they’re flat with somewhat muted colors. This is easily fixable as you can simply swap the home screen wallpaper out, and if you want to change the icons you can easily switch to a new theme from the ones that you can pick up from Meizu’s theme store, or you can even install something like Nova Launcher and get access to a ton of different icon packs.
As far as color reproduction is concerned, the display showed colors nicely and viewing angles were good. Responsiveness was also good as I never had any trouble with the phone lagging from any of my touch input during interactions with the device. At 5.5 inches, the screen is big but not too big, making it feel comfortable to hold but still allowing it to be quite enjoyable for things like games and watching video while on the go. It’s not Quad HD, but if you don’t need that, you definitely won’t be disappointed with what the Meizu M6 Note offers in the display department.
The M6 Note has been a solid performer over the past week or so and that’s just with 3GB of RAM and a mid-range processor. The thing is, the M6 Note is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, which is a pretty good CPU for the mid-range segment. Sure, Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 835 CPU is better, as it should be seeing as how it’s a top-tier CPU, but Qualcomm’s mid-range processors are really good too, and it’s a good thing that Meizu chose to use this CPU as it really shines through the more that you use the phone. During gameplay in games like Asphalt Streetstorm, gameplay felt rather nice and fluid and graphics were decent as well. They might have been a bit sharper with a higher-end processor but they were still pretty good. Even with the game running in the background, backing out and switching between other apps felt pretty smooth as well which was great if I ever needed to stop playing for a few moments and go do something else on the device. The M6 Note may not look like it on paper, but it’s a fairly capable phone when it comes to performing your everyday tasks and then some.
Speaking of performance, just like with every other phone review, we put the M6 Note through some benchmark tests to see how it scored in each. We ran it through AnTuTu, Geekbench 4, and then 3DMark for graphics processing. If you’re interested in seeing those scores, you can view the gallery of screenshots from those tests just below.
In spite of my suspicions, the Meizu M6 Note actually offers decent audio for having just one speaker and coming in with a price tag of under $400 (though it isn’t officially sold in the U.S.). While I wouldn't recommend turning up the volume nearly all the way, you can turn it up a pretty good amount without getting it distorted or sounding tinny or blown out. What’s more is that the speaker placement is on the top side when holding the phone in landscape mode with the fingerprint sensor facing your right hand. This made it so that I wasn’t actually covering the speaker up and I didn’t have to worry about it getting muffled, which is often a problem when I’m playing games on my Pixel in landscape mode unless I tweak the way that I’m holding the phone. Overall, sound was better than average and while not the best smartphone speaker on the market it was nice, and one that most people wouldn’t be disappointed with.
With a 4,000mAh battery, you would expect the device to last a while, and for the most part it does, though it did drain a bit faster than I thought it would. On average, I was getting about six or seven hours of screen on time, which isn’t really too bad. I was able to use it all day though as well without having to charge it back up, and I had no trouble getting through a good portion of the next day either even though I forgot to charge it one of the nights since it had been in use. Those worried about draining the battery on their devices too fast should have no issues here, as the device lasted long enough to get through the day.
Phone Calls & Network
This is an unlocked GSM phone so it should work just fine in the U.S. for 3G networks, though it’s unlikely to get any 4G connections as the LTE network frequencies that are supported by this device don’t match up with those used in the U.S. That means it’s probably not the best phone to have if you want something that is meant for a daily driver in the U.S., but it’s perfect for those who need a phone for traveling. The list of supported networks is below.
4G FDD LTE: Band 1, 20, 3, 5, 7, 8
4G TDD LTE: Band 38, 40
This was a bit of a mixed bag, as the sensor does unlock the phone pretty quickly but it had some trouble recognizing my thumb print about 30 percent of the time, despite the fact that the I deleted my print and redid it a second time, as it still seemed to have issues authorizing me about the same amount of times. This only seemed to be an issue when I put my thumb print down on the sensor with the top of my thumb facing towards to the top part of the phone, but when putting it down at an angle it didn’t have any issues at all. I thought that my issue might have been that I didn’t place my thumb down on the sensor in the way that it wasn’t recognizing it, but after my second entry ensuring that I put my thumb on the sensor this way, I ran into the same problems nearly as often. This kind of inconsistency made it less efficient to use the sensor to unlock the device as I would press my thumb down about two or three times quite often before it would unlock, and at this point, it was faster to simply slide up on the screen and then enter the PIN I created.
With FlymeOS onboard, there’s nothing boring and ordinary here about the software. Not that there is anything boring about pure Android, but OEMs like Meizu who have a fully fleshed out UI skin do tend to add in some extra stuff, not to mention the user interface looks completely different. For starters, like many other Chinese brand devices and UI skins, FlymeOS doesn’t support an app drawer with its stock skin. Instead, everything is simply laid out in the open on the home screen, similar to iOS, and this makes the apps a tad more accessible, but it might be strange and not to the liking of certain users. I like both setups, so this didn’t bother me, and it’s a nice change of pace to use this type of setup once in a while, though I did have an issue with the software that was kind of weird and didn’t pop up when I used the M5c, which is any time that I tried to swap out the wallpaper for the home screen, lock screen, or both, it would tell me that changing the wallpaper isn’t supported in this version of the software. This was extremely strange as even the T-Mobile G1, the very first Android phone, supported wallpaper swapping.
Beyond the no-app-drawer style of a home launcher, FlymeOS has a fair amount of software enhancements and extra features like gestures. One gesture lets you swipe up on the bottom edge of the home screen to open the task manager so that you can clear out any running tasks and therefore free up some RAM. Another neat feature is that if you press and hold down on the home button, you can lock the device and put it to sleep this way just as you would by pressing the power button. This felt a little more natural to me with the way I would the hold the phone and made it a little bit more convenient than reaching my thumb up the side of the device to lock the display down when I was done using it. If you want things to be a little more automatic, you can enable a feature in settings where the device will wake when you receive notifications, so you won’t even have to hit the power button or home button to bring the display up.
If you’re big on gestures, then Meizu’s software might be to your liking, as there is a number of different gestures available for waking the display and launching an application or shortcut depending on what you draw on screen, like double tapping to wake the display, or drawing a letter C to launch apps. There’s also a game mode that is supposed to optimize the user experience when on, though I didn’t notice much of a difference with this enabled or disabled. Meizu’s smart touch button has also made a return here, as it should since it’s a current feature that was available on the M5c, and this can be used for a number of gesture-like actions as well, like a single tap to back one screen, a double tap to launch the task manager, and sliding down to open the notification shade. While you can also swipe down on the home screen with a different gesture to do the same thing, it’s nice to have multiple options on how to access this. Overall, the software is a pretty good experience, though not everyone will like Meizu’s vision for Android. It does work well though, and it’s put together nicely, as well as being easy to navigate.
The camera sensor on the back may only be a 12-megapixel one, but if the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are any indication, you don’t need to have a high megapixel count for it to be a good camera. The Meizu M6 Note actually takes some really good pictures with only one or two noticeable areas that Meizu could improve a little bit, namely how much light gets taken in by the sensor as some images came up a little more washed out than I was expecting them too. For the most part though, the image quality was quite good and offered up an astounding amount of detail and sharpness, with good color reproduction in most situations. The camera was also quick to take shots and go back to being ready so I could take another if I was taking more in quick succession, meaning if the opportunity arose, I wouldn’t necessarily have to worry about missing a really good shot.
The camera also has a fair amount of customization in terms of different shooting modes or extra features, though at first glance it may look like it just has standard photo and video modes along with a beauty mode. On the contrary, though, there’s a little button with four dots on the left side of the UI, and when you tap this it brings up a handful of different shooting modes which include slo-mo, scan, panorama, makeup, time-lapse, and there’s even a GIF mode and a Pro mode which actually works quite well and is what I used for some of the shots. Back to the standard photo mode, above the button that opens up the menu of other mode options is a button for enabling HDR shots, and a button for enabling the second sensor if you want to add some depth perception to your pictures. Basically, this is for people who want to focus on one of the subjects in the picture while blurring out everything else. The software and the second sensor do a pretty good job together at adding this effect, and better than most it would seem, though this will likely work better when the main subject of focus is more in the foreground than the background. Overall, this is a pretty great camera and that should say something considering this is meant to be a mid-range device. If this is your main phone and you plan on taking a bunch of pictures with it, you won’t be disappointed.
Nice, big screen
Decent color reproduction
Pretty good audio
Fingerprint sensor was pretty quick when it worked
It has a 3.5mm audio port for plugging in headphones
Really nice build quality
Pretty decent battery life
No USB Type-C
Fingerprint sensor may have been quick but it was inconsistent, causing it to be less efficient
Doesn’t work with LTE in the U.S.
Whether you’re familiar with Meizu or not, Meizu has done something really nice with the M6 Note making it a really good mid-range offering that comes packed with extra features, a fluid user experience, and a great camera, as well as hardware that is more than capable of keeping it running throughout the day without the phone dying on you, as well as handling a fair amount of multitasking and gaming.
Should you buy the Meizu M6 Note?
That depends on if you need a device for traveling or not. While this might work for some 3G networks in the U.S., it won’t be compatible with 4G LTE which will surely turn many people off. It will work for plenty of LTE networks internationally though and with a phone this nice for under $400 it’s hard to not recommend this for travelers who may not want to bring their main phone with them when leaving the U.S. If you’re already outside of the U.S. and the M6 Note is compatible with all your networks, then this is a great smartphone that is worth the money, and should be one for you to consider.