You often hear the age-old rhetoric that China is taking over the world, and nowhere is that more clear than in the smartphone market. Companies like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo are now in the top five global smartphone vendors. And for good reason: they're making some top product.
One company you may not be aware of is Meizu. Like Xiaomi - another popular Chinese smartphone maker - it's known for producing great quality hardware at relatively affordable prices.
Meizu Pro 6 Plus review: Design
- 155.6 x 77.3 x 7.3mm
- 158g in weight
- All metal chassis with curved edges
Like so many other China-made Android phones, the design is immediately familiar. But then again, when it comes to premium phones, the current choices for staying on trend are limited. You can either use an all-metal back and be forced to have antenna bands running along it (like the iPhone), or go with glass (like a Samsung Galaxy).
On the whole, Meizu has built a phone that's both attractive to look at and pleasant to hold in the hand. In many ways, it reminds us of the similarly designed (and sized) Oppo F1 plus. It's roughly the same width as an iPhone 7 Plus, too, so it's still quite big - but it does have a larger screen, making its overall smaller footprint an impressive feat.
The metal back panel is anodised - our review unit in gold, but other colours are available - with antenna bands at the top and bottom. They're not your typical completely straight bands though, as they're curved to match the curves of the phone's edges.
The camera sits near the top, placed centrally above an unusual LED flash ring (which is made up of multiple dual-tone LED lights) that surrounds the laser focus sensor.
On the front, there's a single pill-shaped home button which also acts as the fingerprint scanner. Unusually, there are no capacitive buttons joining the home button, and there are no typical home, back or multitasking virtual buttons on the screen either.
As far as other ports, switches and buttons go, they're in the places you'd expect to find them. The bottom edge features the USB Type-C port, the loudspeaker grille and the 3.5mm jack. The top edge has nothing except the noise-cancelling microphone, while the power button and volume rocker live on the right side of the phone, and the dual SIM tray lives on the left edge.
Although it's not a one-handed device by any stretch of the imagination (or your grip), the Pro 6 Plus is impressively slim for a device with such a big screen and powerful innards.
Meizu Pro 6 Plus review: All the pixels
- 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440) display
- Super AMOLED 1000:1 contrast ratio
- 3D touch-like technology
As smartphone screens go, the 5.7-inch display on the Meizu Pro 6 Plus is definitely at the larger end of the scale. And it's when looking at it that we get our first hint that Meizu really is going after flagship territory with this beast.
It's a Quad HD resolution panel built using Super AMOLED technology (similar to Samsung's best phones). It's big, bright and colourful, while boasting a 1000:1 contrast ratio - meaning those blacks look really inky and dark and combine well with the bright saturated colours.
One of things that's quite striking about the Pro 6 Plus' screen is how clear and bright it is. It doesn't seem to matter what angle you're looking at the phone from, the content just pops, like there's no interface between you and what's on display. It's just you and your movie or game. It's genuinely beautiful.
As a bonus, Meizu has built in a pressure-sensitive layer into the screen to enable 3D Touch-like features, giving you the option to press hard on app icons to bring up bespoke quick actions. In a lot of ways, this is similar to the latest iPhones; giving you the ability to send a quick text from the messages icon, or create a new contact from the dialler icon, among others.
Meizu Pro 6 Plus review: Exynos inside
- Exynos 8890 processor, 4GB RAM
- 3,400mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0
- USB 3.1 support
Depending on whether you buy the 64GB or 128GB version of the Pro 6 Plus you'll get different internal specifications. For instance, while both come with 4GB RAM, the lower storage model's Exynos 8890 processor is clocked at a slightly lower speed to the more capacious 128GB version. Likewise, the higher storage model has a slightly more powerful graphics processing unit (GPU) too.
Regardless of which one you end up going with, Samsung's Exynos 8890 processor inside is one of the most powerful chips available on the market. In fact, this is the same chip that powers the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. In short: it's no slouch.
In daily use it launches apps and videos without showing any signs of effort. It's fast, fluid and rarely stutters or pauses for a breath. Likewise, unlocking the phone using the home button's fingerprint sensor is virtually instant, providing you don't get the unmatched fingerprint message, which did happen a couple of times a day.
Providing the audio chops is a DAC capable of producing 32-bit/192kHz audio which is designed to produce great sounding music without consuming a lot of power. Not many phones are able to deliver high-end audio such as this, so it's good to see support for those high-end music aficionados.
Meizu Pro 6 Plus preview: Battery life
Backing all of this processing power is a 3,400mAh battery, which is enough juice to get you through a full day without issue, but not likely to get you far into a second day unless you're a very light user.
For those times when the battery is running really low and you know you won't make it to a power outlet for a while, there's a software feature which lets you enter a super mode to dramatically reduce battery consumption. It limits you to just phone and text messages and switches to a simple black and white theme.
Meizu claims that its battery is long-lasting and can survive up to twice as long as regular batteries, with a lifetime of over 900 cycles. Obviously we can't test this, having only owned the phone for around a month (at the time of writing).
Once it depletes, the Quick Charge 3.0 enabled power adapter can fill it speedily. Its USB cable has been designed specifically to deal with high wattage power transfer up to 60W (MacBook charger territory). The phone has short circuit protection to ensure it doesn't overheat or short circuit, as an additional security measure.
As well as all that, it's worth mentioning that the phone supports USB 3.1 via a USB Type-C port giving you data transfer speeds up to 5Gbps. Matching that speediness, the fingerprint sensor on the front is claimed to be one of the fastest out there, and our initial testing does nothing to dispel those claims. The phone unlocks within the blink of an eye. Well, more the touch of a finger.
Meizu Pro 6 Plus review: Flyme to the moon
- Flyme 5.2 software
- Runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- No Google Play services out of box
As is the case for most Chinese smartphone manufacturers, Meizu's big flagship phone runs a heavily skinned custom version of Android, called Flyme. It's in version 5.2 currently, which uses Android 6.0 Marshmallow as its foundation, but you wouldn't know it from looking at it.
Some basic core elements of Android just aren't there initially. For instance, there are no on-screen virtual home, back or multitasking buttons despite the fact that there aren't any capacitive ones. Instead, to go back you have to touch lightly on the home button, and to launch the multi-tasking screen you have to swipe upwards from the bottom of the display.
It also doesn't ship with Google staple apps and services, so there's no Play Store, Google Maps or anything else. However, there is a way to manually install them by downloading the Google Installer APK. You can do this from the preinstalled "app store", or by using other unofficial sources, like APKMirror.
This took a few goes to get right and required resetting and rebooting the phone more times than we would have liked. However, once we got that installed, we were able to download and install all of our favourite and most-used apps. That's one of the limitations of a Chinese company that hasn't fully adapted to the out-the-box UK experience.
As you'd expect, there's also no app drawer, which means all of your apps live on the home screen. That means either arranging everything into folders, or just downloading a third-party launcher for a more traditional Android look and feel.
Similar to many other modern 'droid phone, the Flyme software has a phone management app for optimisation. You can use it to perform virus checking, RAM clearing to kill background apps, delete old and useless files, and so forth.
There's also a handy toolbox app that gives you instant access to things like a compass, spirit level, flashlight and ruler. They're obviously not as useful or reliable as their genuine physical counterparts, but useful to have in a pinch when you don't have your trusty Stanley measuring tape to hand.
Meizu Pro 6 Plus review: Camera happy
- 12MP Sony sensor
- 10 LED flash ring
- 4-axis OIS (optical stabilisation)
The Pro 6 Plus' flagship claims are bolstered even further by its camera capabilities. Images are captured by a 12-megapixel Sony sensor with large 1.25μm pixels to produce great shots in low-light conditions. Combine that with the 4-axis optical image stabilisation, f/2.0 aperture and 6-element lens, and you should see great results, and you should be able to snap them quickly thanks to the laser-guided autofocus.
Meizu has also built-in what it calls the "latest generation high-performance ISP image processor" and paired the camera with a unique dual tone flash ring made up of 10 individual LEDs. In other words, you should be able to shoot smooth, noise- and blur-free shots with great colour regardless of the lighting conditions.
What all of this means is that you can take great looking shots in most circumstances. Focusing and capture times are virtually instant, and the plethora of useful camera features and modes should be enough to keep anyone occupied.
Like so many other phone cameras there's a manual shooting mode too. This gives you control over shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, manual focus, exposure compensation, saturation, contrast and white balance. There's also the usual collection of video and still modes like panorama, beauty mode and slow-mo as well as some more unusual ones.
There's Macro mode for taking close-up shots of small objects, GIF mode for creating animated GIFs and even a Light Field mode which takes a series of photos in one with the focus set at different focal lengths.
End results, in most instances, are nicely balanced and naturally coloured. Low-light scenes don't pose too much trouble, with very little image noise creeping in unless things get really dark. It doesn't struggle to focus, unless an object is really, really close to the lens. All in all, it's a great camera.
In the Pro 6 Plus, Meizu clearly shows why Chinese manufacturers need to be taken seriously. It's a quality product with only a few shortcomings.
The biggest concern for many regular consumers will be the lack of Google Play Services as standard. While you can install them yourself with a bit of know-how, that's an extra step that's just beyond the comfort zone of many casual smartphone users who'll want something that works out of the box. Oh, and the lack of capacitive buttons and softkeys might be seen as an oddity by many.
Apart from that, Meizu has built a phone that competes with the best of them in virtually every regard, and does it at a lower price. A company to watch for the future? We think so.
Alternatives to consider...
Its screen is slightly smaller at 5.5-inches, and features a less pixel-dense 1080p full HD display, but as an overall experience the OnePlus 3T is one of the most complete phones out there. It's solid, charges really quickly and is a smooth, fast performer that costs even less than the Meizu.
Read the full review: OnePlus 3T review: The best mid-price phone, now with Nougat sweetness
As big phones go, the Pixel XL is one of the best out there, if not the best. It runs the latest, purest version of Android Nougat, has a beautiful display and a fantastic camera. It's a little pricey, but we think it's worth it.
Read full review: Google Pixel XL review: Android's heavyweight champion
iPhone 7 Plus
If you want a reliable, smooth and consistent performer with software updates for years, a wide selection of the best apps available from a company that offers brilliant customer support, you can't go wrong with an iPhone. It's big, but it's brilliant.
Read full review: iPhone 7 Plus review: Big changes from the big iPhone