The Samsung Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel are great Android phones. At about $700, they’re also expensive. So what if you’re someone who goes for value, someone who just wants decent performance at a decent price?
Meizu M3 Note
Superb battery life; easily affords more than two days of chatting and browsing between charges. If you don’t need lots of storage, you can use the microSD slot for a second SIM card.
Fat body with less spirit than you’d hope. The main camera is just average; stay away if you only make your memories with a smartphone. Ships with outdated Lollipop version of Android.
You’ve got a few options. Xiaomi, for sure. OnePlus, if you can get one. Huawei’s Honor 5X if you’re on a budget. And now, the Meizu M3 Note, a big phone (or phablet, if you prefer the antiquated term), that goes for about $170.
You might remember Meizu from the Ubuntu Phones project slowly coming to market. The company started shipping phones in 2008, and wants to be among China’s top five vendors soon. It’s already got a high-end handset, the PRO 5, and wants to break into the budget market with the M series, which offers acceptable specs at a reasonable price. The M3 Note sports a 1 GHz octa-core 64-bit processor and just 2 or 3GM of RAM. But it’s got the power to handle your day-to-day needs. And memory is no problem. The handset offers 16 or 32GB of internal storage and a microSD slot to add up to another 128 gigs.
Mr. Big Stuff
Compared to the iPhone 7 Plus, the M3 Note’s aluminum body is slightly shorter and just a bit thicker. The huge 4,100 mAh battery offers twice the life the iPhone. You’ll get more than two days with normal use, even if you’re pushing your phone hard. I like the shape more than other fat phones, mostly because it has a flat aluminum body with rounded corners. My only critique is the front lacks character.
The M3 Note lasts more than two days with normal use.
The 5.5-inch IPS LCD display is Full HD with 403-ppi resolution, and covered with Gorilla Glass 3. The screen offers good colors and deep blacks, but it isn’t terribly bright outdoors. Below the screen sits one Samsung-style oval home button with a fingerprint sensor. This is one of the peculiar features of this phone is that it doesn’t offer capacitive keys on either side of the home button—since I’m coming from an iPhone, I love this part. For instance, while using the Galaxy S7 Edge, I kept wrongly pressing the back key or the multitasking keys while just using the phone with one hand. It was annoying hated it every single time. To go back in an app on the M3 Note, you just tap the home button. To exit the app, you give the home button a regular press. The multitasking window itself is accessible with a simple swipe from the bottom of an open app. That same gesture is how you access the multi-window feature; you pick two open apps to run simultaneously on the screen.
Like every other Meizu smartphone, the M3 Note too comes with the company’s Flyme skin that runs on top of the old Android 5.1 Lollipop. It’s clean and smooth, and one of the most likable Android customizations I’ve seen, despite the older version of Google’s OS. You get the standard Android gestures—double-tap the screen to wake, slide upward to unlock, swipe down to see notifications—plus some more characteristic ones. While listening to music, sliding horizontally skips to the next song or restarts the song you’re playing. Drawing eight letters on the screen will activate one of your preferred apps. Just like any other phone, the Do Not Disturb mode can be scheduled or manually activated, but I also love the feature that lets you program times for the phone to automatically shutdown and reboot.
It’s good for casual photography, but I don’t recommended you make it your primary shooter.
In the middle of the back cover sits that big eye of the main camera. The 13-megapixel sensor can shoot decent pictures outdoors even in moderate light conditions, but can’t operate at its best indoors and in low light. The f/2.2 aperture isn’t great for low-light pictures, which are often noisy and can suffer from lack of detail and white balance flaws. The focus is quick and accurate, though, and the shutter’s response is very reactive. There are your standard filters and shooting modes, including a mode to capture real-life GIFs. Overall, the M3 Note is good for casual photography, but I don’t recommended you make it your primary shooter.
If battery life and a good value are chief among your concerns, the Meizu M3 Note is a good buy. Sure it lacks a premium hardware features and runs older software. But at this price, I can’t think of a better machine than this.