The Bottom Line

Pros

Fast, fluid, and clean interface
Manual camera controls
Bright and vivid display
Solid build quality

Cons

Lackluster speaker
Design is far from unique
Software is uninspired and lacks customization

Bottom Line

The Meizu M1 Note stays true to its formula, providing a device with excellent specifications for an affordable price. Although, on the surface the device screams iPhone, once you get a bit deeper, you will realize that this is a decent Android device with great performance.

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As amazing as high-end flagship devices are, there is an increasing demand for high quality, yet affordable, smartphones in the market. Gone are the days when a low price point for a smartphone was indicative of a compromise in build quality or specifications, with various OEMs jumping in with a variety of options in this segment. While bigger names like Motorola certainly play this field, a great number of these low-price, high-quality offerings come from lesser known entities, mostly out of China. One such company is Meizu, and today we’re going to be taking a closer look at one of their latest devices that fits this bill, in our full review of the Meizu M1 Note!

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There’s no avoiding it, this phone is clearly inspired by Apple’s iPhone series, both on the hardware and software design front. The M1 Note features a unibody glossy polycarbonate design, with Meizu’s signature home button up front, which may look like what we get with the iPhone, but is capacitive in nature. The color of choice, white in the case of this review unit, is found on the back and wraps around its sides.

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Up top is the power button and the headphone jack, and on the bottom you’ll find the speaker grill and the microUSB port. A dual-SIM card slow and volume rocker can be found on the right and light sides, respectively. The buttons share the same materials as the back of the device, though they are raised just enough to make them easy to locate. The buttons also offer a solid tactile feedback, with a button press covering a lot of ground.

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The glossy plastic back is aesthetically rather plain and simplistic, with only the camera and dual-tone flash to be found, accompanied by the Meizu logo at the bottom, followed by a tag, “Designed by Meizu. Made in China.” It’s also worth noting that the back is non-removable, so there is no access to the battery. The curve on the back along the sides which is a result of the wraparound design contributes to the grip, with the glossy plastic not as slippery as one would expect at first glance. The 5.5-inch M1 Note doesn’t share the same impressive screen-to-body-ratio as its flagship counterparts, and as such, does fall just outside the realm of a very comfortable handling experience though.

The curve on the back along the sides, which is a result of the wraparound design, contributes to the phone’s grip, with the glossy plastic not as slippery as one would expect at first glance. The 5.5-inch M1 Note doesn’t share the same impressive screen-to-body-ratio as its flagship counterparts, and as such is a bit bigger than many folks might be comfortable with when it comes to handling experience.

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On the display front you get a 5.5-inch IGZO display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi,which is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel. This is a very bright and vivid display, with colors and text that pops. Granted, there are times when the colors are a bit warm, with a slightly yellowish hue, but that isn’t going to be too noticeable in most cases. Viewing angles are fantastic on this display as well, with the device providing a consistent picture, no matter what angle you are holding it at. You will have a great time doing just about anything on this display, including watching videos or playing games.

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Under the hood, the Meizu M1 Note packs an octa-core 64-bit MediaTek MT6752 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T760 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. While MediaTek processors haven’t received the best of reviews when compared to the Snapdragons of the world, the company is certainly catching up, as we see in the case of the M1 Note.

Navigating around the various elements of the user interface is an enjoyable experience, and opening and closing applications feels just as quick as what we see with the latest flagships. General tasks are carried out with little issue, and even gaming is handled admirably, with a few instances of slowdown only during the most graphic-intensive of sequences. Benchmark test results may not be the most impressive, as you can see below, but when it comes to real world performance, at the very least, the device feels about on par with flagships that were available last year.

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The M1 Note offers a standard suite of connectivity options, including support for 4G LTE. That said, while the device was able to connect to the AT&T network, the connection was not the most stable, and data speeds were quite slow, limiting my use to Google Hangouts and some web browsing. If you do decide to pick up this device, don’t forget to check the compatibility with your network carrier before taking the plunge.

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As mentioned, the single speaker is found at the bottom of the device. While it does get plenty loud, it lacks crispness. Using it during a call on speakerphone, or while doing anything in the portrait orientation, is fine, but things do get muffled when in landscape, as it is quite easy to cover up.

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On the battery front, the M1 Note packs a large 3,140 mAh battery, but battery life was still quite average, getting about a full day’s life with average use. Of course, the higher battery drain rate may be a result of the device having a difficulty in maintaining a network connection, so your mileage will likley vary.

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For a lot of consumers, the camera is the most important aspect when it comes to their smartphones, and the Meizu M1 Note brings a decent performer to the table, with its 13 MP rear camera with a dual LED flash, and a 5 MP front-facing unit.

The images that you get with this camera are quite good, even if it isn’t really comparable to what you’d expect from a flagship device. It definitely gets the job done, and is more than just a passable camera. What the M1 Note lacks in image quality, Meizu makes up for in the camera software. The M1 Note has a manual camera mode built in, allowing anyone who has an understanding of photography to take fantastic photos. Of course, this isn’t going to replace your DSLR, but the ability to play around with the settings lets you get just that little bit extra out of the smartphone camera experience.

It’s also important to mention that the Auto mode on the camera does allow for some really good shots when outdoors or in good lighting conditions. As expected, the quality worsens in deteriorating lighting conditions, and you will need to depend on the manual mode to properly cater a shot to your liking. Other standard camera modes are also available, such as panorama and HDR, a beauty mode, as well as the ability to shoot slow motion video. When it comes to shooting video, the quality is just about standard, with no manual controls available to you, along with the audio losing clarity even when just a few feet away from the camera.

Overall, this is more than a decent smartphone camera, and certainly not what you’d expect from a device available at this price point.

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The Meizu M1 Note is running Android 4.4.4 Kitkat, with Meizu’s Flyme OS on top. An update to Android 5.1 is expected sometime in the not-too-distant future, but no exact timeframe has been revealed just yet. Meizu’s Apple ‘inspiration’ isn’t just limited to design, making its way over to the user interface as well, noticeable in the design of the various icons, as well as in the fact that an app drawer isn’t available, leaving you dependent on folders to keep things organized.

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Starting with the lock screen, you can unlock the device with a simple tap or swipe up on the home button, or with a swipe up on the lock screen. Swiping to right or left directly opens the camera application or Quick Applications respectively.

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Going into the Settings menu, all the settings you’d expect are available, but are in different locations and with different icons. The general Android user may require some time to get used to this layout, and as such, the Flyme OS does have a learning curve to it. Of course, if things get too cumbersome, you always have the option of third party launchers available from the Google Play Store, which will help alleviate some of the UI’s issues.

Display5.5-inch IGZO
1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi
Processor1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6752
Mali-T760 GPU
RAM2 GB
Storage16 GB
Camera13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
ConnectivityHSPA, LTE Cat4 150/50 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 4.0, GPRS
SensorsAccelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Battery3,140 mAh
SoftwareFlyme OS 4.0 based on Android 4.4.4 Kitkat
Dimensions150.7 x 75.2 x 8.9 mm
145 grams
ColorsWhite, Green, Blue, PInk, Yellow

The Meizu M1 Note is available from Amazon priced at $260, but as mentioned, don’t forget to check for compatibility with your network carrier before picking one up.

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So there you have it – a closer look at the Meizu M1 Note! Meizu has really stepped up their game in this segment, offering great phones at a very affordable price point when compared to the competition. The M1 Note doesn’t do too much in terms of design and features, but it still a solid smartphone for a very aggressive price.

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