Having already become rather well acquainted with the handsets coming from Chinese manufacturers Huawei and Xiaomi, I was excited when a package marked “Meizu” happened upon our doorstep.
For those of you who are scratching your head Meizu is among the largest smartphone brands in China along with Xiaomi and Huawei.
Today we take a look at the brand’s flagship smartphone the Pro 6 and while the phone is gorgeous and has several flashes of brilliance they do little to detract from the handset’s flaws.
Welcome then to the review of the Pro 6 or why brands need to stop screwing with Android.
Meizu Pro 6 review: Android but not Android
The Pro 6 runs a custom version of Android Meizu calls Flyme. While this is not altogether uncommon, what Meizu has done is.
The first time we switched the handset on we discovered that none of the Google services we have grown accustomed to seeing were to be found.
No Play Store, no Maps, no Drive. Curious.
Instead you’ll find Hot Apps and the App Store. To be frank the absence of the Play Store threw me and I was extremely wary of downloading apps that don’t come from the platform.
So we contacted Meizu’s representation to ask what gives. We were told that to install Google Mobile Services we had to open either of the preinstalled app stores at which point we would be prompted to install the Google goodies.
This installation failed. Twice.
We were then sent a Pro6 that came with the Play Store pre-installed but we had to install the Google Apps we wanted. Fair enough, we thought, until another oddity appeared.
Notifications stopped being pushed through whenever the handset was locked. This meant that for hours the handset would be silent until it was unlocked. At this point a flurry of notifications would come through but some wouldn’t. In the case of WhatsApp, Twitter, and Gmail we had to open up the specific app to get a notification.
This problem was somewhat fixed after contacting Meizu who gave us a work around but up until time of writing we still experience this notification lag.
The firm says that the problems experience may be linked to a bug in the firmware and should the problem be resolved before we send the handset back we will update this review.
For those of you that think this is a non-issue it isn’t.
In my time with the Pro 6 I have missed countless calls (it’s unclear whether this relates to the handset or my network), countless more emails that I received a notification for too late and spent an inordinate amount of data downloading apps that I have come to expect on a handset bearing the Android logo.
There are flashes of brilliance in the Flyme UI to be fair. The ditching of soft buttons makes the entire handset look that much more sleek. Instead of these soft buttons you’ll find a single button on the bottom bezel. A tap of this button takes you back a step in the apps we used and a press will take you to the home screen. Sliding up from the bottom bezel will bring up the multitask view where you can switch between or close apps.
The fingerprint scanner is incredibly proficient. The biometric scanner is located in the singular button on the handset’s face and you simply need to place your finger on the scanner to unlock the handset.
But these assets are overshadowed by Meizu’s refusal to install Google Mobile Services before the handset comes into your possession.
Meizu Pro6 review: Wonderfully smooth
The performance of the Pro 6 is decent though it’s hardly what we would expect from a flagship smartphone.
Granted, the Pro 6 is cheaper than the Samsung and Apple flagships but that doesn’t mean it can afford to be a slouch.
At R7 999, this handset is batting terribly close to the Xiaomi Mi 5 which outperforms it substantially. Granted the Xiaomi uses the incredible Snapdragon 820 chipset while the Pro 6 uses Mediatek’s deca-core MT6797T Helio X25 chipset so there are bound to be big performance differences.
Despite having 4GB of RAM to pair with ten cores, the Pro 6 doesn’t quite match the performance of other flagships with the exception being the P9, though in our review of that handset we found the camera to be the main focus of Huawei’s 2016 flagship device.
We noticed a considerable amount of slowdown once we had several resource hungry apps running and we had to cull apps to get the phone back up to a workable speed. For things such as gaming the Pro 6 is fine but you’ll need to switch to Performance mode to get a smooth experience.
The internals of the Pro6 are good but they just aren’t good enough and once you consider the problems with the UI and user experience, the frustrations we felt overshadowed the handset’s performance.
Meizu Pro6 review: Lacklustre snaps
“A 21MP rear camera? Oh joy of joys” was the reaction I had when I saw how big the rear snapper was.
My excitement was however, quickly overshadowed by the disappointing quality of photos taken in the toned down lighting of Montecasino.
Images look muddy in decent light but colours appear muted when snapping under anything less than studio lights.
For the purpose of taking a snap to record a memory, the camera is serviceable but if you’re cutting your teeth as the next major Instagram celeb you’d be better off getting your hands on the Mi 5 at this price point or just waiting until the sun is shining.
For selfies you’ll find a 5MP front facing snapper that is serviceable. It works about as well as you would expect it to which is more than we can say for that rear camera.
The images below are a few snaps we’ve taken in varying light conditions.
Meizu Pro6 review: Life to live
The Pro6 houses a 2560mAh Li-Ion battery which gets me through a 12 hour day of texting, browsing the internet, responding to mails and stealing a few hours of Subway Surfer.
When using the handset aggressively with the screen on for extended periods we saw the battery drain from 100% to 60% in four hours so if you plan on watching a few movies expect to get around 10 hours of life.
When using the handset less aggressively I found that it was possible to squeeze two days of life out of it, but my usage was extremely limited in this case.
To get the handset from 0% to full juice will take you about two hours if you use the included charger.
Meizu Pro6 review: Verdict
The Pro6 is gorgeous. The singular button on the face is reminiscent of Apple’s iPhone and the UI (ignoring the problems regarding Google Mobile Services) is incredibly slick and interactions are simple once you get the hang of them.
Sadly there are a few problems such as the camera in lowlight and the usability issues the Flyme OS presents.
Thankfully software problems are easy enough to address and should Meizu fix these and present a more welcoming smartphone experience the Pro6 might have been a smartphone worth recommending.
However, the Pro6 falls short in its performance compared to the Mi 5 and at the same price there is very little we can say that will convince you to opt for the Meizu.