The Meizu M2 Note—Does Budget Price Mean Budget Performance?

Part 3 of the Review: Performance and Battery Life

The Meizu m2 note - what’s it like in day-to-day use?

The Meizu m2 note is a solidly-built, beautiful phone with a gorgeous screen at an attractive price point. Flyme OS 4, Meizu’s custom Android firmware, also sports a good-looking (if rather unoriginal) user interface, along with having some interesting and genuinely useful tweaks and features.

In Part 1 of this review series, we looked at the m2 note’s design, build quality, and overall hardware package. In Part 2, we took a good look at Flyme OS in general, looking at the differences between how we generally know Android to be and what Meizu has built on top of it.

Here in Part 3, we’ll be taking a look at what it’s like to use the Meizu m2 note as a daily driver.

Before we get started, let’s do a quick recap of the Meizu m2 note’s specs:

  • 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

** Out of the box, the Flyme OS version my m2 note had was version 4.5.2I. As I was writing this series of review articles, it received two more firmware updates, version on December 18, then version on December 26. These are important details, since each firmware update fixed specific issues and affected performance in a few ways, as we’ll see over the course of this article.

Interface fluidity and responsiveness: Initially, I had some issues with using Flyme in general: It would go from fluid to not-just-occasionally stuttery as I went swiping from screen-to-screen and switching from app-to-app. The first firmware update fixed all of that, ensuring that everything operated smoothly, save for the some occasional jank as I switched between apps, but even that was rare. When it does happen, it simply served as a reminder that this is a budget phone, and that I, quite frankly, shouldn’t expect the buttery smoothness of a higher-specced phone here.

Flyme is fluid and responsive — most of the time

Tapping or pressing the mBack button — the lone hardware button on the front face of the m2 note — delivers mixed results in terms of responsiveness: the taps that take you back one step within the app are — for the most part — instantaneous; the hard presses on the mBack button that take you straight out to the home screen will oftentimes be instantaneous, sometimes giving you a delay of a few milliseconds to a second before having any effect, and occasionally ignoring your button press altogether, needing you to repeat the action to get the desired result.

In my experience, the m2 note is smooth and fluid most of the time, but it will occasionally tell you that “uh, I just remembered that I’m a budget phone, hang on a second”. I can live with that, I guess.

Applications and Multimedia: the great news is that the m2 note handled just about every application I threw at it very well. Apps opened promptly and performed with nary an issue even with more performance intensive activities, such as streaming HD videos on YouTube, or viewing HD podcast episodes on Pocket Casts, switching to other apps while having it play in the background, then switching back and bringing it up again. That’s pretty good.

I have to note that I experienced some issues with a couple of apps, namely Facebook Messenger and Timely. Whenever a chat head would pop up, it would rapidly flicker when on-screen — definitely not normal. Timely also has issues when the screen is turned off: sometimes alarms wouldn’t sound despite being set, and countdown timers would sound off minutes after the set time. Since I haven’t experienced these issues on my other Android devices, I’m going to go ahead and assume this has to do with Flyme bugging out with these specific apps. OneNote’s “Floatie” (a floating icon which looks and functions the same as Messenger’s chat heads) doesn’t have this issue, nor do other alarm and countdown apps I’ve used.

Long story short, the Meizu m2 note can handle the vast majority of apps you use with ease, but will on some rare occasions bug out on a few select apps.

Gaming performance is a different story, though. I tested a variety of games from several simple puzzlers, platformers, and racing games, and got results that were inconsistent and all over the board: performance was sometimes great, mostly good enough, then unexpectedly bad for some games.

Gaming on the m2 note is a mostly average, occasionally frustrating experience

Simple games like Dots, Pac-Man 256, and Beneath the Lighthouse ran without issue, and games such as Cytus, Horizon Chase, Cordy, and Sonic Dash were very smooth. Others, like Lara Croft Go and Land Sliders showed minimal jank, though it didn’t really interfere with gameplay. Oddly enough, the m2 note completely struggled to run Crossy Road, of all possible games — unless you turned off “shadows” in the game’s settings, the game would lag, stutter, delay, and occasionally ignore your input. Worse still, other games that I’ve purchased, such as the Sonic 4 games, refused to run at all, showing a black screen on launch and throwing me back out to the home screen after a second.

The Meizu m2 note is a solid, speedy performer that lends itself well to mobile productivity and content consumption, but its mobile gaming experience is disappointing

It also didn’t seem to matter much if I had my battery set on “Balance mode” or “High Performance”; the games that were janky stayed janky, and those that refused to launch still refused to launch. I’m not entirely sure if these are issues with the phone’s specific hardware, firmware, or the individual game’s hardware compatibility and software optimization (since several of the games I tested were built with Unity, and some of them performed well, while others not so much).

Whatever the case may be, the long and short of it is that the Meizu m2 note is a solid, speedy performer that lends itself well to mobile productivity and content consumption, but it will inevitably disappoint when it comes to the overall mobile gaming experience, and that’s with the already tempered expectations for a budget phone.

Battery Life: battery life is one of the most important things for a mobile user today, directly impacting how long and how useful — in this particular case — a smartphone can be, as well as how good the experience it provides can be.

Battery life is primarily determined by three things:

  1. The battery’s capacity: The Meizu m2 note has a fairly generous 3,100 mAh battery.
  2. The device’s chipset: Mediatek MT6753; rather average in terms of power consumption — not bad, but not exactly the most efficient either.
  3. The firmware: the m2 note runs Flyme 4.x built atop Android 5.1. A phone’s firmware plays an important role in managing how apps behave on your phone and how much power they can be allowed to consume, even when you aren’t using them (or your phone, even) at the moment.

Of the above three factors, the third is where a manufacturer has the most influence on whether their device’s battery life can be very good or really bad.

Meizu’s Flyme 4 is is built on Android Lollipop (version 5.x) which is known for having battery drain issues. These issues have mostly been resolved in Android Marshmallow (version 6.x), along with some additional tweaks and features that result in stellar battery life for the devices that have them.

The problem is that there is no word from Meizu as to when they’ll be releasing a version of their Flyme OS that will be based on Android 6; even the beta version of Flyme OS version 5 that’s already available for other Meizu handsets is still based on Android Lollipop, though the company claims that tweaks have been made to improve battery life.

Here’s the thing: battery life was actually pretty good on the m2 note with Flyme 4. On the average, I could get a day and a half of battery life out of it before charging — this includes a few short calls and some text messaging, reading and browsing the Internet on either WI-FI or mobile data, and a few quick, casual gaming sessions.

The most recent firmware update — Flyme version — made good battery life on the m2 note a thing of the past. Now it can barely get through a day on one charge, which is a significant difference and a disappointing development. Just how bad is it?

Meizu messed up, and what used to be very good battery life is now abysmally bad. The question is: when will they fix it?

Looking at the Battery Consumption screen in Settings > Battery, “Phone Standby” now consumes an average of 25%-40% of my battery life, whereas it didn’t even appear in the list prior to the firmware update. Overnight, I now lose anywhere between 25%-50% of battery life, when previously it only went as high as 20% on some occasions (which was primarily the Facebook app’s fault, and even then, it could easily be resolved by hibernating the app after use). I sent a couple of emails to Meizu about this issue, but I’ve yet to hear back from them.

Meizu screwed up, and what used to be surprisingly good battery life is now abysmal on my m2 note. The question is, when will they fix it? I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be soon, maybe within the month. This is based on the two rather speedy updates that my phone received within my first month of ownership, which I’ve not ever experienced with any of my previous devices, not with HTC, Sony, or even the Nexus series of devices.

For now, I’m willing to give Meizu the benefit of the doubt, and just wait and see how things turn out. Until that time, though, I wouldn’t recommend updating to Flyme if you want your m2 note to have reasonably good battery life; stay on the previous version of the firmware.

Overall, the Meizu m2 note’s performance is a mixed bag — outside of gaming, it can handle just about everything you can throw at it quite well, which is more than fair and reasonably par for the course for a budget phone.

Blame the firmware: The Meizu m2 note’s battery drain is real

The battery life as it currently is brings it down a bit more, since it wasn’t like that to begin with, and it certainly doesn’t have to stay that bad, depending on how soon Meizu chooses to deal with it.

In its current state, most people will get just a day off one charge before having to plug it back in, much less under heavy usage. I’ll update this review if the next firmware update rolls out and resolves this problem.

So, back to the question: “does budget price mean budget performance?” For now, yes, but it doesn’t have to be that way, if Meizu just decides to get serious about getting — and keeping — the kinks out of future iterations of Flyme; we’ll just have to wait and see.

In the next part of this series of review articles, I’ll be taking a look at mobile photography with the Meizu m2 note. Can Meizu pull off some budget phone magic and bring it back with a good camera? That’s what we’ll look at in Part 4 of the Review: The Camera — Read it now!

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