The Meizu MX4, despite its shortcomings, proved to be a solid device, but following the release of this flagship, Meizu also launched a Pro version of the smartphone that took everything that was great about its flagship counterpart and brought it to a whole other level. With specifications and features that put this smartphone at par with most current flagships, at a more than competitive price point, this latest large form-factor smartphone from Meizu certainly has a lot to offer. Here is our in-depth review of the Meizu MX4 Pro!
The MX4 Pro retains the design language of its namesake, reminiscent of the iPhone 3GS, down to a home button found at the bottom front, only in a larger form factor, courtesy of the bigger 5.5-inch display. The size puts this device just outside the realm of comfortable one-handed use, but its ultra-thin bezels along the sides of the display certainly make a difference.
As mentioned, the MX4 Pro features a physical home button up front, that offers a great tactile feel, and also comes with an integrated fingerprint scanner. The volume rocker is found on the right side, but the power button is placed at the top, which can be a little difficult to reach, given the size of the device. Up top is also the headphone jack, while at the bottom is the microUSB port and a single speaker unit. All of this is held together with a nice silver lining via the metallic frame, and while this smartphone isn’t too flashy, it does manage to have a look of its own.
The back cover sports a nice non-glossy feel and is removable, but serves as access to the SIM slot, with the battery being non-replaceable. The smooth plastic does have a tendency to slip around in the hand, further exacerbated by the accentuated curves of the MX4 Pro. There weren’t many issues with keeping a grip on the phone, but a little extra care is definitely needed initially while trying to perform the hand gymnastics required to get around the screen. That being said, the reach required is at a minimum compared to some other large form-factor devices out there.
While there’s nothing to dislike about the MX4 Pro in terms of design, it doesn’t particularly stand out either, mostly because of its overt familiarity. Apart from its likeness to the older iPhone, the design language has largely remained the same since the MX3, made only bigger in the case of the MX4 Pro.
Luckily, the Pro moniker isn’t just to do with the larger size of the device, and shines through in other aspects as well, starting with the display. Apart from the bump in size to 5.5-inches, the IPS LCD display comes with a Quad HD resolution, but because of the aspect ratio that is slightly off kilter, the resolution is 1536p as opposed to 1440p, with pixel density of 546 ppi. The difference is not really noticeable, and while this display is a very nice performer, it is on par with other Quad HD panels out there.
Despite the muted aesthetic of the default Flyme OS theme, colors still look vibrant and stand out due to some good contrast, as well as showcasing the sharpness of the display. Viewing angles are good, and the brightness allows for great visibility even in broad daylight. I had a great experience doing anything on this display, including gaming, and the Gorilla Glass 3 panel offers good protection against scratches.
While the MX4 featured a MediaTek processor, Meizu has replaced that in favor of the Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5430 processor, backed by the Mali-T628 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. There were no issues in terms of performance, with the device flying through the various elements of the Flyme OS. Multitasking is also a breeze, despite the more minimalistic interface of the Recent Apps screen, but switching between applications was quick and easy.
My main enjoyment was from gaming here, as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was nice and smooth at the default settings. The game was still playable when the graphics performance was pushed to the maximum settings, but at normal settings, the game never missed a beat.
On the hardware front, we start off with the speaker, found at the bottom of the device. While we keep talking about how much better front-facing or side mounted speaker setups are, Meizu has managed to make the sound experience on the MX4 Pro quite compelling. Not only does it get loud, but the sound stage is robust, bringing richness and body to mids and lows, something where a lot of other speakers just aren’t up to the task. With a Hi-Fi enhancement option available in the settings, the same great audio experience is available when a pair of headphones is plugged in.
Mentioned earlier was the fact that the physical home button up front comes with an integrated fingerprint scanner. This is a press type reader, which means that all you have to do is place your finger on it. What makes this implementation so good is the fact that you can wake and unlock the phone in a single motion. Press down the button to wake the device, and continue to hold it to scan your finger and unlock the device. Meizu claims that you can go from asleep to working in about a half a second, and while we haven’t timed it, it certainly is very fast, and extremely reliable. You can also set fingerprints to unlock specific applications and other portions of the phone.
Mobile connectivity is one point of contention for those in the US. While the MX4 Pro hasn’t seen an official release in this market, it was difficult to get more than 3G connectivity on AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks. Despite featuring 4G LTE support, the bands were just not compatible, while there have been other devices from foreign markets that have worked just fine. Of course, if the MX4 Pro does officially make it to the States, a compatible version will be released at the time. That said, call quality was still more than adequate.
Unfortunately, the experience was rather uneven on the battery front, despite MX4 Pro featuring a large 3,350 mAh unit. With the mobile network connectivity problems, administering a day to day battery test was difficult, but one incident worth mentioning is that the battery managed to drain itself overnight, while connected to Wi-Fi, something that happened a couple of times, even after checking whether a background app was the culprit. The frequency of this issue has reduced, but has still happened more times than is negligible. That said, the device does manage to go through a full day of use on a single charge before going into single digits, but this is of course with high-speed internet connectivity being a contributing factor to the battery drain.
When it comes to the camera, a powerful 20.7 MP rear unit provides a very solid performance on the MX4 Pro. Keeping up with the selfie trend, the front-facing camera also sports a little more power at 5 MP.
The camera application provides a slew of different modes and settings, found by swiping side to side on the viewfinder, including panorama and slowmotion video, with a fully manual mode available as well. Settings in the auto mode include HDR, which does a pretty good job of improving color output on a shot, though without the higher saturation, this effect is essentially what Night Mode produces.
The Macro mode proved fun to use, though I found it a little odd that the Auto mode doesn’t automatically activate the macro focus, which basically allows you to focus on a close subject when the regular mode cannot. For all you selfie lovers out there, there is a Beautify Mode available that smartphones from Asian markets are known for. That said, the camera photos from the front-facing unit weren’t bad to begin with, and the Beautify Mode was a little too aggressive for my taste.
Videos can be captured in 4K resolution, and while they look good, a lack of stabilization makes shooting them a little finicky at times. As mentioned, slow motion video capture is also possible at 720p resolution at a speed of 100 fps, exported out at 25 fps.
Picture quality was actually quite good for the MX4 Pro, as details were very well captured and colors looked appealing when you could capture them correctly. I did find the exposure and the white balance in Auto mode to be a bit jumpy, needing you to be sure that what you want to capture is what you see in the viewfinder. Even in low light situations, the camera manages nice results, with HDR and Night Modes available to enhance the shot.
The only real gripe with this camera was the somewhat slow auto focusing time. The camera of the Meizu MX4 Pro may not be the absolute best comparatively, but it is far from the worst as well.
Finally, when it comes to software, we get the Flyme OS, a rather different take on Android that is a bit more simplistic than its more well known competitors. What you see is what you get in this interface, as there is no app drawer available, requiring you to use folders if you’re looking to keep things clean and organized.
You may have noticed that there are no capacitive keys available, but contextual softkeys appear on the display when required in applications, while the home button can be used to go backward. The notification drop has a host of different options available, and different panels are used to navigate through the many options in the Settings menu. The only hidden area is the Recent Apps interface, which is accessible via a swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Of course, everything is customisable via a theme engine, even if it will mostly be in Chinese for the moment. When it comes to translations, there are understandably a few holes in the text of the device, as there was obviously more room to foot many elements in Chinese characters, but not for the long form English phrases they mean. The literal translations themselves are a bit uneven.
That all said, what I like about the Flyme OS interface is that things are pretty simple. The contextual softkey bar that appears at the bottom remains one of my favorite aspects, as it helps keep the screen real estate open for media. Another bright spot was also the keyboard, which was easy to use, allowing me to type really quickly on it, with the useful functionality of just swiping down from the letters to easily get to numbers and symbols. There was nothing that was very overwhelming, and if you can keep things from getting too cluttered on the homescreens, everything should be fine.
5.5-inch IPS LCD
2560 x 1536 resolution, 546 ppi
2 GHz Exynos 5 Octa
16/32/64 GB, no microSD expansion
20.7 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
HSPA, LTE Cat4 150/50 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 4.0, GPRS
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Flyme OS 4.1 based on Android 4.4.4 Kitkat
150.1 x 77 x 9 mm
Pricing and Final Thoughts
Meizu’s current line of flagship devices is slowly making its way out of China and into other markets, though we don’t know if it will make it to the US anytime soon. When converting the price from Asia, the phone comes in at around $400, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the Western retail price would be closer to about $500 unlocked. It’s not a bad price point, but plenty of other phones in the Asian market have compelling experiences to offer and can rock similar or even lower price tags. It is also a good idea to wait because of the network connectivity problems stated above, but if you do want to get your hands on it, it is available from Amazon for $610.
So, there you have it – the Meizu MX4 Pro! The MX4 Pro serves as a great example of the growth we’re seeing out of China. Just a few weeks back at CES 2015, we got to see a few high-quality but affordable devices from Chinese companies, and that is a trend that looks to be on the rise.
Meizu is in the thick of this trend with a phablet offering that manages to be powerful but accessible at the same time. Its design choices aside, the shell is just a casing for all of the power that is found underneath. A QuadHD display, good performance, an enjoyable sound stage, and an above average camera all make the MX4 Pro a package we do hope to see more easily available in the US soon, which should also resolve the network connectivity issues I faced during my testing. It might not stand out very much, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a pretty fun and powerful phone in the Meizu MX4 Pro.