The Meizu M2 Note — Beautiful, on a Budget
Part 1 of the Review: The Hardware
Meizu is one of the two Chinese smartphone manufacturers (the other being Xiaomi) that I’ve been very interested in as of late. It’s difficult to not take note when it comes to talking about these two when the words great build quality, craftsmanship, and affordability almost always make appearances within the same conversations, all at once, for all of their devices (sure, there’s the striking resemblance in aesthetics to a certain other popular, fruit-themed company; but to their credit, Meizu throws in some of its own unique twists here and there).
The Meizu m2 note is no exception, despite meeting the qualifications of a “budget phone” due to its price — a beyond-reasonable P7,490 (that’s about $158, SIM-unlocked from local distributor Novo7tech), particularly when you look at what Meizu has packed into the m2 note’s slick, unapologetically plastic package. ;)
So, let’s dive right in and take a quick look at what the Meizu m2 note has to offer.
Out of the box, the m2 note comes in a clean, white package devoid of any superfluous visuals — all you get is the device’s name front-and-center on the top cover, with the stylized Meizu logo on one side of the box, which itself is bisected by an inner wall that sits inside the top and bottom halves, sporting an electric blue color.
That’s it. Clean, simple, beautifully packaged.
On opening the box, you’re greeted by the m2 note and the cute little Flyme-labeled die-cut SIM card tray ejection tool. Underneath the phone you’ll find the quick-start guide and a multilingual safety information leaflet. Underneath that initial layer, you’ll find the charger and a piece of paper-topped polystyrene foam helpfully marked “Earphone not included” in friendly, sans-serif font. Having had to cut corners somewhere; this would be an obvious first place to look.
It’s not too big of a deal — anything included in this package would have to be inexpensive, and would probably not be worth using unless you own no other earbuds or headphones in the first place. Even then, you’d still be better served looking for decent quality buds or cans within your set budget, which would almost always be better than anything most manufacturers tend to throw in with their device packages.
Next, we’ll want to take a look at the phone itself — how it looks and how it feels — but first, let’s take a quick look the internals that’ll be working behind the scenes to give us the Meizu m2 note experience.
The hardware: So, what kind of phone can you get from Meizu for under $160? Let’s take a look at what we have here.
Meizu m2 note specifications:
- 5.5-inch IGZO IPS LCD display, 1080p, at 403ppi pixel density
- Rear-facing camera: 13 Megapixels, ƒ/2.2, dual-tone LED flash
- Front-facing camera: 5 Megapixels, ƒ/2.0
- 16/32 GB internal storage; microSD slot supporting up to 128GB cards
- Flyme OS 4.5.2I running on top of Android 5.1
- Chipset: Mediatek MT6753; CPU: Octa-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A53; GPU: Mali-T720MP3
- 2GB RAM
- Non-removable 3100 mAh battery
Looking at the m2 note’s specs, it’s clear to see that while it has no illusions of being considered any higher than even just the middle-of-mid-range, it’s certainly no slouch. On paper, it looks like it can do a bit more than its categorization of being budget would like to make it look like — but does it, though? We’ll see if that holds true.
Look and Feel: the front of the m2 note comes covered with Gorilla Glass 3, with an all-black front panel with a single hardware button — which Meizu calls the “mBack” button — on the bottom-center lip, tastefully accented with a ring of silver. There’s a speaker slit placed in the top-center, flanked on the left by a notification light and on the far-right by the front-facing camera.
The non-removable back panel is made of glossy white plastic. It’s a little bit slippery, but not to the point where I’ve had to worry about having it fall out of my hands. On the top-center is the 13-megapixel shooter accompanied by the dual-tone LED flash right beneath it, and on the bottom end is the old version of the Meizu logo (the new one is a really nice, more uniform logotype, but I like this one just a little a bit better, personally) and the “Designed By Meizu, Made in China” text.
On the top you have the headphone jack and a mic, and on the bottom you have the mini-USB port in the center, flanked by a grill housing a single speaker on the right and the bottom microphone on the left. The right side of the phone is bare, save for the SIM tray, which tends to wiggle a bit whenever you graze it with your finger, which I find mildly annoying.
The volume rocker and the power/screen-lock button are on the left side of the phone, which — while certainly unusual — I’ve found that I actually like this better. I tend to tilt my phone to the left when watching videos, and this means that the volume rocker falls right on top of my thumb — so when I need to adjust the volume, I don’t have to reach and my fingers don’t have to travel over or around the screen for it (a mostly personal-habit-meets-an-odd-design-decision moment here). Lastly, there is no dedicated camera button, but that shouldn’t be surprising in a budget-class phone.
Essentially, what Meizu gives you is a thoughtfully minimal, clean piece of beautifully plastic hardware that is pleasant to look at and hold. I wish more manufacturers would follow suit and just stop shoving their ugly logos and logotypes in the user’s face (and let’s face it — with very few exceptions, if any at all, even — a lot of phone manufacturers’ branding are pretty ugly).
The m2 note is very comfortable to hold. The curved sides allow the phone to sit snugly in either of my medium-sized hands for one-handed use, or nestled across my fingers for two.
What Meizu gives you is a thoughtfully minimal, clean piece of beautifully plastic hardware that is pleasant to look at and hold.
With one-handed use, regardless of whether I’m using my left or my right, the screen lock and the volume rocker button are always comfortably within reach. The mBack button on the bottom lip is a different story: my hand naturally tends hold the phone with one thumb level with either the SIM tray panel or the volume rocker, and reaching down to tap or press the mBack button is just a little bit out of the comfortable range-of-motion of my thumb when trying to swipe down to it. It’s not too big of a deal, though; a minor shimmy here or a bit more of a stretch for my thumb’s joints there do the trick.
Two-handed use is easier, particularly the way I’m inclined to hold the phone — index fingers on the side, thumbs for input, and the rest to hold the phone securely — everything is easily within reach, and you can comfortably interact with everything you need to touch on the phone without any difficulties whatsoever.
A Sharp, Beautiful Screen: the one thing that you’ll immediately notice once you start using the m2 note is the screen — it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s got deep blacks, vivid colors, text is crisp and razor-sharp, and sunlight legibility is very good. You normally wouldn’t expect a phone at this price to have a screen this great.
By default, Meizu has auto-brightness turned on, and it works a fairly well. You can also manually set the screen brightness level by tapping the little southwest-facing arrow beneath the auto-brightness icon, and it’ll pop-up a slider to let you set it. Interestingly, if you keep the auto-brightness on and you manually adjust the brightness slider, Flyme will use that setting as a baseline for how it adjusts the brightness of the screen, along with the levels of ambient light it detects as you use the phone.
The screen is absolutely gorgeous, giving you deep blacks, vivid colors, and crisp, razor-sharp text. You normally wouldn’t expect a phone at this price to have a screen this great.
The thing about it is that this display is so bright, I’ve found turning off auto-brightness and keeping it at 30% to 40% brightness does the job for me most of the time. It’s something else!
I should note that when playing games, I’ve found that it’s just generally better to turn auto-brightness off. What happens is that particularly when you hold the phone horizontally, some parts of your hand tend to hover over the ambient light sensor, causing the m2 note to compensate and adjust the screen’s brightness level even when it isn’t actually necessary. It’s distracting and occasionally causes the game to stutter, so I just turn it off while playing.
Sound off: let’s come back to where corners have been cut: the m2 note only has one loudspeaker, and it’s average at best. It’s serviceable, but it’s not very loud, and you’ll have trouble hearing the output if there’s a lot of ambient noise where you currently are. At upwards of 80%-90% volume, you’ll also begin to notice some distortion, which can be a bit bothersome.
For the most part, this shouldn’t be an issue at all, since a good pair of headphones or in-ears should solve this problem completely (and let’s be honest, nobody likes sodcasters). A bit ironic, considering Meizu opted to not include any with the m2 note.
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