As flagship smartphone technology trickles down to the lower rungs of the market, entry-level phones aren’t as basic as they used to be. Fingerprint sensors and speedy processors are now pretty easy to find in phones under the Rs. 10,000 mark.
Meizu is back with a new budget smartphone called the Meizu M5. This device is available in two versions with different amounts of RAM and storage, both priced under Rs. 10,000. In today’s test, we have the version with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, which is priced at roughly Rs. 7,000. At this price, it competes with the 2GB version of Xiaomi’s recently launched Redmi 4 (Review), which also retails at Rs. 6,999.
Let’s see how the Meizu M5 fares in comparison and whether it offers good enough value to be recommended.
Meizu M5 design and build
The Meizu M5 doesn’t have a very striking design but it still offers a comfortable grip thanks to its rounded edges and 2.5D curved-edge glass. The screen borders aren’t too thick, lending the phone a pleasing look from the front. There’s a notification LED near the front camera and the earpiece, which for some reason is placed a bit asymmetrically above the display.
The Meizu M5 has a physical home button below the screen with a fingerprint sensor built in. There aren’t any navigation buttons here, as Meizu has its own navigation scheme. A single touch of the home button takes you a step back, and the app switcher is accessed with a swipe up gesture from the bottom of the display. There’s no option to enable onscreen buttons. With no tutorial in place to show you how to actually use this navigation method, it takes some figuring it out when you first set the phone up.
The volume and power buttons are placed on the right, and they’re easy to use. The hybrid dual-SIM tray is placed on the left. The second SIM slot can accommodate a microSD card of up to 128GB if needed. Meizu claims that the M5 has an anodised metal frame inside but it isn’t visible, as the sides and back are covered by plastic. Build quality of the Meizu M5 is decent, and we didn’t encounter much flex when using this phone, though a metal build would have been nice.
The rear camera sits flush with the rest of the body. At the bottom, we have a Micro-USB port, speaker grille and headphones socket. The 5.2-inch display of the Meizu M5 has an HD resolution that doesn’t look too bad on a screen this size, but the colours are a bit dull. Touch response and viewing angles are decent, and the phone has a high maximum brightness level which makes it easy to use even under direct sunlight. In the box, you get a standard Micro-USB cable and charger.
The fingerprint sensor works but it’s not the most accurate one we’ve used. Besides unlocking the phone, you can use it for locking apps, accessing a secure folder for private files called ‘Vault’, and activating a guest mode. Overall, the Meizu M5 has a good feel to it even though it doesn’t look particularly striking. The fit and finish of the plastics is decent and ergonomics are nice.
Meizu M5 specifications and features
Under the plastic shell is an octa-core MediaTek MT6750 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. Meizu also sells a version of this phone with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage at Rs. 9,499. Benchmark performance is pretty average, and we got 40,042 points in AnTuTu and 20fps in GFXbench. Other specifications include dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, USB-OTG, and GPS. There’s no FM radio, which might be sore point for some. The phone also lacks a gyroscope sensor. The Meizu M5 supports 4G networks but according to Meizu, the phone does not support VoLTE. On the Jio network, we had to manually enter the APN for cellular data to work, but calls still didn’t go through.
The Meizu M5 runs on Meizu’s Flyme OS 5, which is based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. However, the phone doesn’t seem to have received any recent security patches from Google as the last update is from October 2016. We tried reaching out to Meizu for clarity on this and for any commitment to future Android updates, but didn’t get any conclusive response.
The custom navigation method takes some getting used to since there’s no way to enable onscreen navigation buttons. There are a bunch of customisable gestures to choose from and a feature called SmartTouch, which is like AssistiveTouch on the iPhone. Our unit didn’t have the Google Play Store preinstalled so we had to add it manually using the Hot Apps app.
The single-layered interface on the Meizu M5 runs smoothly for the most part. The Themes app lets you change the look of the phone, although we didn’t find anything of real interest here. The Security app has tools for cleaning up junk files, monitoring data usage and blocking contacts, and even a virus scanner, all in one place. The Toolbox app has features like a flashlight, mirror, compass, level, ruler and magnifier. The Meizu M5 also has its own app store, which is a bit redundant if you have the Play Store.
Meizu M5 performance, camera, and battery life
The Meizu M5 performs smoothly when you first set it up but after a few days of normal usage, we noticed slight lag when scrolling through webpages and switching between apps. It isn’t consistent but it’s definitely noticeable with daily usage. Apps don’t load very quickly. Another peculiar thing we came across was that when we signed in with our Gmail account, the standard security alert told us that we’ve signed in from a Leagoo 2.5D Arc. Leagoo is another Chinese smartphone manufacturer, but once again, we couldn’t get any satisfying explanation for this from Meizu.
We found that the Meizu M5 gets a bit warm when watching videos, including those streamed from YouTube. Video playback is restricted to 1080p although we had no trouble playing our high-bitrate video files. FLAC audio is also supported with the stock music player, which is nicely designed. However, the built-in speaker is weak, which makes it hard to hear your media files clearly. Things are better with headphones but there isn’t any audio enhancement or equaliser app to tweak the audio.
The cameras on the Meizu M5 are what you’d expect from a smartphone in this segment. They capture acceptable photos during the day but really struggle in low light. The rear camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, with a f/2.2 aperture and PDAF. Thanks to the latter, focusing is fairly quick under adequate lighting. The sensor isn’t able to capture good details in landscapes or macro shots, no matter how steady your hands are. Light metering isn’t the best either, as whites tend to bloom easily.
In low-light, there’s lots of compression artifacting and colour reproduction is poor. The front 5-megapixel camera on the Meizu M5 also does a passable job under good lighting but suffers in low-light. The camera app on the other hand is well designed, with toggle switches for the timer and flash, effects on the left and shooting modes and the shutter button on the right. Shooting modes include panorama, GIF and manual. Once again, the back of the phone ran pretty warm when we used the camera app.
The 3070mAh battery on the Meizu M5 delivered 10 hours and 17 minutes of runtime in our HD video loop test, which isn’t bad. However, during actual usage, we noticed big dips in battery life when using the camera or gaming for a bit. There’s also no fast charging support, so charging it fully is a long wait. The bundled 10W power adapter is compact and easy to carry.
The Meizu M5 starts at roughly Rs. 7,000, for the 16GB model we tested, but the price varies a bit across online stores. The 32GB version is priced at Rs. 9,499 after receiving a recent price cut shortly after it was launched. While Rs. 7,000 is generally considered a good price for a smartphone with this feature set, its overall performance still puts it behind the Xiaomi Redmi 4.
The Meizu M5 could have been a good budget contender but it has too many shortcomings, like the lack of FM radio and VoLTE, average camera and system performance, and the fact that the back of the phone runs warm very often. We’re also uncertain that this phone will receive necessary software and security updates. With better options available, we recommend giving this one a miss.