Sorting smartphone makers into a top five by volumes is easy enough, and those brands are the ones that have the most visibility. But if you look beyond the big names, there are dozens of smaller smartphone makers building quality devices and trying to get noticed. Many of these are from China, including the brand we’re talking about today: Meizu.
The company started out in 2003 as a manufacturer of MP3 players, but eventually got onto the smartphone bandwagon to considerable success. It even launched in India, but didn’t quite do as well during its previous attempt. Now, Meizu is back with a new range of smartphones for India, including the affordable Meizu M6T and C9 smartphones. However, the more interesting device in the new range is the top-of-the-line Meizu 16th.
This flagship smartphone was launched earlier this year in China, but is now available in India at a price of Rs 39,999. While there are some strong positives to the device, there are also some drawbacks. We explore what makes the Meizu 16th (pronounced 16-T-H) tick in our review.
Meizu 16th Design and Display
In a world of smartphone screens stretching to the edges and notches galore, it’s admittedly surprising to see a device with a regular rectangular screen and a distinct ‘forehead’ and ‘chin’. The Meizu 16th sports what is now considered a classic look, being like Samsung in its devotion to the idea of the ordinary screen. If you dislike the notch, you’ll love the way the Meizu 16th looks. The advantage of this is a full-sized earpiece sitting on the top edge, and enough room for the front camera and sensors.
Putting that aside, the Meizu 16th does a pretty decent job of looking premium in all other ways. You get a glossy metal frame with glass at the back, and the black color makes it look beautiful from all angles. The rear has a minimalist approach with just a Meizu logo at the bottom, the dual-camera setup and the interesting-looking six-LED flash, which looks like a third camera sensor. There’s also no fingerprint sensor at the back, thanks to the in-display fingerprint sensor at the front.
The screen itself is a 6-inch full-HD+ AMOLED 18:9 display, which is excellent in all ways. The resolution is more than adequate for all purposes save VR, and good brightness, a decent level of color accuracy and the general lack of distraction due to the rectangular shape make it a pleasant screen to look at. The optical fingerprint sensor works well, is quick and generally doesn’t let you down.
Meizu 16th Specifications and Software
Unlike Meizu’s earlier attempts to break into the India market, this time the company has decided to go flagship. The Meizu 16th is a re-branded version of the Meizu 16 that was launched earlier this year in China, and sports top-end specifications for an Android smartphone. The specifications are on par with various top-end devices, and takes on the OnePlus 6T, Xiaomi Poco F1 and Asus Zenfone 5Z, to name a few.
Powering the Meizu 16th is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, which comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage on the single variant being offered in India. The phone also comes with a 3,010mAh battery, along with a 24W fast charger bundled in the box. You get a full charge in a little over an hour, with the initial burst of power giving you about 60 percent in 30 minutes. It’s a convenient charging solution that uses the now-mainstream USB Type-C port. With moderate use, you can get a full day out of the battery, but heavy use will force you to give your phone a top up earlier.
The software on the Meizu 16th, like that of many other Chinese brands, comes across as below-par on many counts. While the appearance of the UI isn’t as garish as some other manufacturer overlays, there are functional issues in the way things are set up. And what is definitely bothersome is that the phone runs on Android Oreo, with no word on when users can expect a software update.
This includes a bothersome search tool that is supposed to trigger when pulled up from the bottom of the screen (but rarely does so quickly), unwanted apps that can’t be uninstalled like the TouchPal keyboard app or the separate app store that doesn’t offer anything special. Furthermore, I was unable to change the wallpaper during the entire time I used the Meizu 16th, due to an awkward error that prompted me to update the firmware of the phone, even though no software update was available.
However, there are some positives to the software. Face unlock and the in-display fingerprint sensor work well and are suitably helped along by useful gestures such as lift to wake. The settings menu is clean and uncomplicated in its design and layout, giving you enough control over things. And finally, apps such as the system-installed Migratool (for easy transfer of data) and Toolbox are rather useful and well-designed, with the latter giving you a decibel meter, ruler, magnifier, level tool, compass and more.
Meizu 16th Performance
Despite the shortcomings in the software, the raw power offered by the hardware makes the Meizu 16th a strong performer. Thanks to the combination of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC and 8GB of RAM, the Meizu can handle anything you throw at it including graphics-intensive games such as PUBG Mobile and heavy multi-tasking. Image editing is also a breeze on the device, and video editing is capably handled as well.
The device also comes with a 3.5mm jack – a relative rarity these days. This makes it useful if you listen to a lot of music on your phone and have good wired headphones to use with it. In general, all-round app performance is decent for the time being, but it remains to be seen if Meizu can continue to support the phone with regular software updates to keep things running smoothly.
Meizu 16th Camera
The Meizu 16th sports a dual-camera setup at the back running on the Sony IMX380 sensor, with a 12-megapixel primary camera and 20-megapixel secondary camera for depth-effect shots and 3X lossless zoom. At the front, the phone sports a 20-megapixel camera. Other useful features on the camera are 4-axis OIS, a massive 1.55-micron pixel size for the primary sensor, and AI capabilities built into the system.
AI can be a good thing at times, such as the feature that turns off flash when it detects that you’re taking a picture of a baby. Similarly, scene detection sets the camera up with the ideal settings, which are said to help you take better pictures. However, it’s worth noting that you can’t switch AI off in normal photography modes, and you’ll have to go to full-manual to get plain-vanilla pictures on the Meizu 16th.
The AI, in my opinion, is excessively implemented. Pictures look quite attractive thanks to the heavy boosts, but this also makes them entirely unnatural. This was particularly evident in low-light shots, where the camera software went out of its way to show details while also boosting brightness levels and colors to an unnatural extent. Purely on merit, the camera does a decent job of capturing details and doing away with noise and grain, but produces images that don’t look very much like the actual scene.
In regular light, you get shots that are a bit less unnatural looking, but another way to look at it is that these images are rather attractive for social media. The sharpness, detail and vibrant colors make for impressive looking images, if that’s what you like. Even close-up shots, video and indoor photography is decent enough, provided you can overlook the lack of accuracy in colors.
The Meizu 16th is a good smartphone, no doubt. It’s got good hardware, a decent set of cameras (assuming color accuracy isn’t a huge concern) and a design that’s impressive for the most part. Maybe it isn’t quite as modern-looking, but it gets the job done. However, what keeps it at good, and not entirely great as a smartphone, is the average software and the aforementioned oddities in the camera. With all of that in mind, the Rs 39,999 price tag on the Meizu 16th is its biggest weakness.
For a price that’s higher than that of established options with proven capabilities such as the OnePlus 6T and LG G7+ ThinQ, you aren’t getting a complete package. Perhaps a price tag closer to Rs 30,000 would have made this a smartphone worth considering, since it does have certain advantages over options such as the Xiaomi Poco F1 and Asus Zenfone 5Z. But at its current price, and given that Meizu doesn’t have the brand value to pull it off, the Meizu 16th is a good smartphone that’s unfortunately hard to recommend, except if the compact design and styling appeals to you.