Hardware design is a tricky subject. Some companies take risks to define their own aesthetic, while others borrow, in varying degrees, the design languages of more popular brands. What I have in my hands is the latter; the Meizu Pro 6 Plus borrows heavily from Apple's style, especially when viewed from the front. Its software is also an attempt to mimic iOS, for better or for worse.
Overall, however, I find that this phone is the classic story with a twist. The Pro 6 Plus has some actually nice hardware, but the native Flyme OS is a mixed bag. I am not sure if this is a case of Stockholm syndrome or what, but I found that I could tolerate the software for the most part. There is one thing to be noted, though: this phone is not GMS-certified, not even the international version (which I have), so be forewarned.
Meizu's latest flagship is a very solid phone, but even though it looks good on paper, I think that there are better options in this price bracket.
|Display||5.7" Super AMOLED QHD 2560 x 1440; 551ppi|
|CPU||Samsung Exynos 8890 Octa|
|Cameras||12MP IMX 3860 CMOS rear, OIS and ring LED flash/5MP front|
|Battery||3,400mAh; 24W fast-charging|
|Software||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow; Flyme OS|
|Connectivity||WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band; LTE bands 1/3/7/38/39/40/41|
|Ports||USB-C 3.1, 3.5mm|
|Measurements||155.6 x 77.3 x 7.3 mm; 158 g|
|Colors||Gold, grey, silver|
|Display||The 5.7" screen is great. Excellent viewing angles, vibrant colors, and good clarity.|
|Battery||The 3,400mAh cell is more than enough for a day's usage, and then some.|
|Camera||The camera provides good pictures and can take multiple shots quickly before lagging.|
|Performance||The Exynos chip, coupled with the 4GB of RAM, is an absolute champ and easily powers through anything.|
|Software||Flyme OS is mostly innocuous, but it can be downright frustrating, too. It is annoying when things are changed for the sake of being different.|
|Navigation||Moving around the OS is an absolute frustration and does not make any sense.|
|Google Play Services||While Meizu's standing with GMS certification is hopefully well known at this point, it is important to remember when considering this device. There is a workaround for the international version, but its lack of optimization could lead to issues.|
|Fingerprint sensor||Inaccurate and takes more time to use than to simply enter a PIN.|
Design and display
Meizu bring its own interesting flair to this phone, especially on the back. The company brought over a lot of design elements from the Pro 6, which was released early last year. The front houses the 5.7" QHD AMOLED screen, the front camera and the usual sensors up by the earpiece, and the fingerprint sensor/home button/back key along the bottom bezel. The 2.5D glass curves subtly around the edges, giving the phone a smooth and elegant feel.
On the back side, you will find the circular, body-colored "CD" camera module and the ring LED flash just below it. Meizu's logo sits just under them, and the rest of the back is unmarred save for the very discreet antennae lines. The right side holds the power button and volume rocker, both of which are solid and tactile. The USB-C 3.1 port, 3.5mm jack, and the single speaker sit along the bottom while the dual-SIM tray is alone on the left side of the phone.
I have to give Meizu props for designing and building a good-quality device. There is this sort of soft touch effect on the back of the phone which makes your fingers glide across it. The obvious downside to this is that the Pro 6 Plus is extremely slippery and when that's combined with the phone's size, it can be difficult to hold onto.
I was sent the gold version, which has a white face. I cannot say that this look is my favorite, but I do not find that it detracts from the overall design... even if it did garner me questions of "Is that an iPhone 6 Plus?" There are somewhat subtle gold accents on the earpiece grill up top and the border around the fingerprint sensor/home button.
This phone is not flashy by any means. Instead, it opts for mixing its own design flair with that of something more popular. It works well in this case, I think.
The Pro 6 Plus sports a 5.7" Quad HD Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 551ppi. Suffice to say, this display is excellent. It boasts superb contrast, fantastic viewing angles, and even adequate outdoor brightness (which is a miracle where I live). The color calibration feels more in line with the iPhones' displays, which is no surprise to me. So while you may not find the look of, say, a Samsung screen, Meizu has done a good job here.
There are a few display options in the Settings. Meizu has included some color temperature adjustments, a blue light filter, and an optional always-on Ambient Display.
The Pro 6 Plus sports a very capable camera. The app UI is not as cluttered as others I have used, rather it gives you quick access to the things you might need. It is also very fast to launch, easily matching the Nexus 6P or OnePlus 3. Once you're ready to shoot some pictures, you can fire off six to seven easily before you'll see any lag or stutter as the phone catches up. This is the sort of performance you would expect to find on a 2016 flagship; while the speed is certainly fantastic, I doubt it will wow anyone who has used a high-end smartphone camera from 2016.
The auto-focus is pretty quick on the take, usually finding the right target the first time around. The Pro 6 Plus cannot match the S7, or even the Pixel, in low-light, yet it tries admirably. In well-lit conditions, however, especially outdoors, the quality and detail is great. Most of the time, you can get a great photo by just pointing and shooting, which is what I imagine will matter to those who are considering this phone.
Performance and battery life
The Pro 6 Plus rocks the Exynos 8890 Octa, the same CPU as you will find in the international Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 edge. The version I have, the 64GB one, has four Mongoose cores clocked at 2.0GHz and four 1.5GHZ Cortex-A53 cores. The 128GB model receives a slight boost to 2.3GHz and 1.6GHz, respectively, as well as the Mali-T880 MP12 GPU (the 64GB gets the MP10). Even though there is a difference between the two options, the performance is spectacular.
As is my wont, here are the benchmarks for those of you who like the numbers.
The Pro 6 Plus is no pushover. It flew through anything I could throw at it, even games like Sky Force Reloaded, Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag, and Hearthstone. The phone itself boots in record time, apps load quickly, and I never saw stutter or lag at any point. But it will not change your perception of speed, nor will it blow anyone away who has used anything recent like the Pixel or OnePlus 3/3T. However, I came away impressed, especially considering how heavy Meizu's Flyme OS "skin" is.
However, the biggest failing in performance is most certainly the fingerprint sensor. I had more rejections than not, and when it did work, it was slow. With the "quick unlock" feature (i.e. typing in your PIN correctly automatically unlocks your device), the fingerprint sensor was often useless for me.
Battery life matched what I expected. The 3,400mAh cell easily lasted through a day's worth of use, including heavier usage than I normally would submit a device to. At 100% brightness with heavy gaming, streaming, and messaging, the Pro 6 Plus was able to scrape out about sixteen hours of life and 5 hours of screen-on time. Returning to my more normal usage raised those numbers by quite a bit. As always, your mileage will vary from mine, so keep that in mind.
This whole review has been leading up to this point: the Pro 6 Plus' software. Dubbed Flyme OS (not sure if it's pronounced flime or fly-me), it looks like iOS, but unlike other similar attempts that we have seen in the past, it actually does a pretty good job at things. All of you should know by now that I prefer the "stock" Android feel, as do most of us here at AP; however, I have also said before that I do not mind changes and customizations that attempt to make things better.
The international Pro 6 Plus is still running Flyme OS v5.27.0G, which is unfortunate because Meizu has been touting v6 of Flyme for a few months and I am curious to try it. There is nothing inherently wrong with this version of the OS, although it is missing a few functions like NFC (it's there, just not activated) and the heart rate monitor (again, there yet not activated).
Flyme is based on Marshmallow, which is a bummer. A very recent update brought it up to the January security patch, though I did chuckle when I saw the update (sent from Meizu's PR) was the same version number.
In all honesty, Flyme OS does not really bring much to the table as far as innovative features. I find v5 to be a cross between EMUI and MIUI, with many of the strengths of both and most of their weaknesses. If v6 had been released at this point, I could address the new things like the One Mind AI and the 400+ changes across the system... but I can't.
Navigation is a real stickler for me. I laud on-screen softkeys, though I am not opposed to capacitive buttons if they are done well (such as being backlit). The Pro 6 Plus, however, uses Meizu's asinine navigation model. The home button doubles as a fingerprint sensor, which is nothing weird. Where things get detestable is the fact that this button also functions as the Back key. So here's how you move about this phone: click for Home, tap for Back, and swipe up from the button bezel for Recents. When the screen is on, you can also press and hold the home button to turn it off (which means no shortcuts for Google Now or whatever else you might wish). This is an example of changing something just to be different.
Root access is available in the Security section of the Settings, if you're into that. I, of course, enabled it once I had concluded my findings.
Over time and exposure (and a series of events that forced me to continue using this phone even after the usual amount of time I spend with a review device), I came to tolerate Flyme OS. As I said in the intro, the only explanation that I can come up with is some form of Stockholm syndrome. Jokes aside, Flyme OS performs admirably on the Pro 6 Plus and installing Action Launcher helped to mitigate some of the visual problems I had, which made it even more tolerable.
I need to address the elephant in the room, though I have tried to review this phone irrespective of it. The Pro 6 Plus is not GMS-certified, meaning that it will not have Google Play Services out of the box. While I find this perfectly acceptable in Meizu's home country of China, I am not entirely sure why the international version shipped without GMS. I was told that Google Play Services, the Play Store, et cetera were considered optional for Meizu customers, to be installed via an app in Meizu's store if one so chose.
I will not address this in much further detail, as David did so already here. Having to install GMS in this fashion can lead to some issues, as Corbin experienced on the more affordable Meizu M5 Note. However, it can be done and the phone will run Google's stuff just fine for the most part. I did experience quite a few issues with push notifications in certain apps like Hangouts and Voice — by that, I mean I just didn't get any until I opened them.
The Pro 6 Plus is a pretty good flagship device. It has a large, beautiful screen, solid performance, and a great point-and-shoot camera. It is, by no means, a great phone, but it functions admirably. There are some problems, even outside of the implementation of GMS, but not so many as to make it unusable. The fingerprint sensor and navigation model, though, are probably the worst things about it.
The lack of US LTE bands is to be understood, as we here are not Meizu's target market. However, call quality and 3G on a T-Mobile MVNO worked just fine. The MSRP of $435 USD (for the 64GB) is where things get sticky. When put up against other competitors who have both U.S. and international presences, the Pro 6 Plus really starts to falter. You can get an equal or better camera/software experience, better fingerprint sensor, and GMS certification for about the same price from OnePlus or ZTE.
Fellow U.S. citizens, this phone is obviously not for you. Those of you who live outside of the United States, for whom Meizu may be a larger player, I suggest that you consider other options for a phone. The Pro 6 Plus is not bad by any stretch, but it simply isn't as good as its price point competitors.