Finding a good Android phone on a limited budget is easier than ever these days. It used to be that you needed to spend $600 or more if you wanted to get a phone that could play games and take decent pictures. Now, flagship-tier devices are a lot more common at the $400 and $500 price points, but the Meizu MX6 is an even better option for those looking for a great phone for around $300.
You’d be forgiven if you couldn’t pick the Meizu MX6 out of a lineup. Like many of today’s flagship smartphones, the MX6 is indistinguishable from the dozens of other smartphones which sport an aluminum unibody and a 2.5D glass panel on the front. The only distinguishable design element on the back of the MX6 is the antenna lines which have a curve when they reach the edges of the device.
The front of the phone is dominated by its 5.5-inch display and a clickable Samsung-esque home button and fingerprint scanner. The single speaker is located along the bottom edge, next to the phone’s USB-Type C charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack.
While the MX6 looks generic, it’s actually quite comfortable to hold. The device is not light, but it is well balanced. The curved edges on the sides allow the phone to nestle into the hand and the thin bezels around the display give the phone a smaller footprint than most other phones with a 5.5-inch display. You’ll still have to perform some hand gymnastics if you want to reach the notification bar with your thumb, but the phone’s software intuitively lets you swipe down anywhere on the lock or home screens to open the notification and quick settings panel.
Processor Mediatek MT6797 Helio X20 RAM 4GB Storage 32GB internal Display 5.5-inch 1080p Super LCD3 Camera Rear: 12 MP sensor with f/2.0 lens, phase detection autofocus and dual-LED flash
Front: 5MP sensor with f/2.0 lens, fixed focus
Battery 3,060 mAh Dimensions 153.6 x 75.2 x 7.3 mm Weight 155 grams
The 12MP main camera on the MX6 is good, but it’s a step lower than what you’d get if you purchased the Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S7, or HTC 10. The Sony IMX386 captures incredible shots during the day. Colors are vibrant, the images are crisp and the phase detection autofocus can lock on to a subject instantaneously. Unfortunately, the imaging experience deteriorates when lighting is dim. In low light, the Meizu has a hard time focusing and the sensor doesn’t pull in as much light as other flagship devices do. Since the phone lacks optical image stabilization, you’re often forced to snap multiple pictures in low light since minor hand movements result in a blurry shot.
Fortunately, the MX6 makes up a bit of ground with its 5MP front-facing camera. The shots turn out pretty well, but we would have appreciated a slightly wider lens which would allow users to fit more people into a shot when taking a selfie.
Most people in the US and Europe know what to expect when they pick up a phone running on a Qualcomm processor. That’s typically not the case with phones using Mediatek’s chips. To give you a bit of context, the performance of the Mediatek MT6797 Helio X20 falls somewhere between the Snapdragon 810 and the 820. The Meizu MX6 won’t be winning any speed races when paired up against the Galaxy S7 or LG G5, but it doesn’t have any issues playing the most taxing 3D games currently available on Android.
Meizu has also done a good job with RAM management. The phone can keep 6-8 apps in memory at a time, allowing you to jump out of a game, reply to a quick text message, check twitter, and then jump back into your game.
The software on the Meizu MX6 is dramatically different than the traditional Android experience. Like Xiaomi and Huawei, Meizu’s default launcher takes a few cues from iOS. That being said, the UI is flat and doesn’t force rounded corners or weird backgrounds on all your app icons. Since the MX6 is primarily sold in China, it doesn’t have the Play Store or any of Google’s apps pre-installed on it. Meizu does include a Google Services installer which can seamlessly download and install the Google service and the Play Store with a single click.
Compared to Huawei’s iOS knockoff software which includes 1,001 customization options, Meizu’s Flyme UI is dramatically sparse. There are dozens of themes to customize the icons, widgets, and stock apps, but that’s basically it.
The software feature that makes the MX6 stand out is its unique gesture and button interactions used for navigation and multitasking. Since the phone doesn’t use on-screen or capacitive navigation buttons, recent apps are accessed with a swipe up from the bottom of the display. A simple tap on the home button mimics the functionality of the back button. Pressing the home button takes you to the home screen, but you can also press and hold the button to turn the display off.
The performance of the Mediatek Helio X20 isn’t super impressive, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that the chip is extremely power efficient. With the MX6’s 3,060 mAh battery is more than enough to make it through a full day with more than 20% battery life to spare after 14 hours of heavy use. If for some reason you do need to charge up during the day, the included charger will give you a 25% charge in just 10 minutes or a 65% charge in 30.
For those looking for a device that can compete with the most expensive flagship devices of 2016, the Meizu MX6 isn’t the phone for you. But it’s not a bad phone — not by a long shot. The camera and performance are good and the design of the phone is very appealing. It does look like an iPhone or HTC knockoff, but so does every other metal-clad smartphone these days. If you only have $300 to spend on a new smartphone, we don’t see any reason why the Meizu MX6 shouldn’t at the top of your list.
Buy the Meizu MX6
Meizu is officially selling the MX6 in roughly a dozen countries. You can view a list of authorized retailers directly on Meizu’s site. If the phone isn’t officially sold in your country, there’s a good chance that a third-party seller has the device available through Amazon or their own site.