Lenovo K4 Note review

Lenovo is slowly but surely making an impact in the Android smartphone market, particularly here in India. Lenovo has some fantastic devices on offer, with a smartphone portfolio that is continuously expanding, and one of the most popular of their devices is the Lenovo K4 Note.

Its predecessor was very popular, and the latest offering takes things one step further, with the K4 Note bringing some of the best features of the higher-end Vibe X3 to this affordable series. What does this device bring to the table? We find out, in this comprehensive Lenovo K4 Note review!

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Unboxing

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The phone comes in pretty standard packaging, with an image of the phone and the large VIBE branding splashed across the box. Opening the box reveals the phone in all its glory, and it’s nice to see the device already in a protective case. The hard plastic case isn’t the most impressive though, and if you are particularly clumsy, you may be better off picking something sturdier.

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Diving in deeper, you will find the standard documentation, an AC wall adapter, and a USB charging cable, and Lenovo also includes a screen guard with the device, which is another nice touch. There are no headphones included, but that does make sense, given the affordable nature of this phone. Setting up the device only takes a few minutes, and follows the standard steps that any Android smartphone user will be familiar with. Once the phone is setup, you will find the official update for Android 6.0 Marshmallow waiting for you.

Design

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The K4 Note sees a significant upgrade in terms of design and build quality, when compared to its predecessor. The device now features a metal frame and a polycarbonate plastic backing, which makes the phone feel sturdy and solid in the hand. The combination of dual-front facing speakers and a fingerprint scanner just below the camera makes the K4 Note aesthetically similar to the Lenovo Vibe X3, which isn’t really surprising, given that this device has been released in some markets as the Vibe X3 Lite.

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The plastic backing is removable, giving you access to the microSD card and SIM card slots, but the battery cannot be replaced. Removing the plastic back cover is when you notice how thin and flimsy it is, but despite appearances, it certainly holds up very well, and is something you won’t even notice when snapped in place. For those still worried, the device does come with a plastic protective case in the box, and there is also a version of the phone now available with a wood backing. The wooden back doesn’t seem to be sold separately yet, but is something that we can expect to see soon.

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Taking a look around the phone, the headphone jack and microUSB port are at the top and bottom respectively, and the power button is below the volume rocker on the right side. On the back is the camera that is centrally located along the top, and below it is the fingerprint scanner. Up front, below the display are the three capacitive navigation keys, but these buttons aren’t illuminated, which can make them quite difficult to see in the dark.

The power button doesn’t come with something like a ridged pattern to help differentiate it from the volume rocker, but the buttons are placed far enough away from each other for this to be a minor concern. The buttons also protrude quite a bit, so you can actually easily see which button you are pressing. The buttons don’t offer as much tactile feedback as might be expected, and the power button in particular feels quite mushy. However, with you being able to unlock the device and directly go to the homescreen using the fingerprint scanner, you won’t need to use the power button all that much anyway.

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As far as the handling experience is concerned, a slight curve on the back allows for the phone to nestle nicely in the palm of your hand, and unlike metal smartphones, the device isn’t slippery either, courtesy of the polycarbonate backing. Overall, the Lenovo K4 Note is a very well-designed smartphone, and as is also the case with some of its competitors, the design and build quality of the phone certainly goes beyond what you would expect from a sub-$200 device.

Display

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The K4 Note comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display, with a Full HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. Many affordable smartphones are starting to boast Quad HD screens now, but 1080p gets the job done here, with text appearing sharp, and watching videos and playing games is a lot of fun as well. The viewing angles aren’t great however, and while the brightness at the highest setting is good enough to allow for easy outdoor viewing, the screen can be quite dull and dark when the brightness is set to less than 40% even when indoors.

Lenovo in video:

The default color balance is good enough, but the color temperature is on the cooler side. You do have some options available to set the color balance and temperature to your liking, including a manual mode that gives you granular control over these aspects. One preset setting is called Comfort Mode, that helps protect your eyes when browsing the phone for long periods of time. There is also Smart Brightness, which judges when the phone is in harsh lighting conditions and enhances the visibility. It works well enough, but as mentioned, the display brightness is cranked up anyway.

Performance

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Under the hood, the K4 Note comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, clocked at 1.3 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T720MP3 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. There is also a version with 2 GB of RAM, but this iteration hasn’t been released in India. The performance has been pretty good, helped along by a clean software package, and there have been no glaring issues. The device handles day to day tasks very well, and opening, closing, and switching between apps has been smooth.

Of course, the K4 Note isn’t a performance powerhouse, and the benchmark scores reflect that, but with average usage, this phone certainly impresses. The gaming experience has been enjoyable as well, and playing games like Stick Cricket 2, UFC, and NBA Live Mobile have been a lot of fun. Games do take a bit to load, and there are some instances of stutter when navigating through the menus and settings, but when it comes to the actual gameplay, things have been smooth and lag free for the most part.

Hardware

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16 GB is the only on-board storage option available here in India, but in other markets, there are 8 GB and 32 GB iterations to be found. However, something to keep in mind is that the latter two come with 2 GB of RAM, while this Indian edition features 3 GB of RAM. If storage is a concern, the device features a dedicated microSD card slot, allowing for up to an additional 256 GB of space.

You get two microSIM card slots here, and you can pre-select which SIM can be used to for calling, texts, and data. The option you select for data will allow for access to 3G/4G LTE, while the other sticks to EDGE. It’s also a nice touch that you can choose different ringtones and message tones for the two SIM cards, making it easy for you to distinguish between them. There have been no issues with voice calling, with both parties able to hear the other loud and clear.

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The K4 Note comes with dual front-facing speakers – which is always the best placement for speakers – with Dolby ATMOS features. While these speakers don’t get as loud as I would have liked, you get a rich stereo sound which further enhances the video-viewing and gaming experiences.

The Dolby ATMOS settings allow you to choose between preset options like Movie, Music, Game, or Voice, and you can also set up custom settings depending on your liking. You also get additional features, including Surround Virtualizer, Dialogue Enhances, and Volume Leveler. This is buried in the Settings menu however, and is found under the “Ringtones and Volumes” section.

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With headphones on, the audio is absolutely fantastic, with impressive bass that I haven’t found with other, more expensive, smartphones. Something to remember is that it can get really loud with headphones on, so much so that the default volume setting is set to 50%, and you won’t find yourself needing to go any higher than that. If good audio is one of your requirements, the K4 Note is definitely a great option.

The phone comes with a fingerprint scanner on the back, and this is another feature that was very impressive. The setup is quick and easy, and the scanner is very accurate, but while it’s definitely fast enough, it may not be as fast as other sensors out there. Using the scanner unlocks the phone and takes you directly into the homescreen, which means that you will rarely have to reach for the power button.

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The scanner comes with a few extra uses when the phone is as well. You can set it up so that a single tap can have it function as a back button or take you back to the homescreen, and a long press can open the Recent Apps screen, or again, take you back to the homescreen. Finally, you can have the scanner function as a shutter button as well, which is very useful when taking selfies. These are similar to the gesture support offered by rival Chinese OEM Huawei in some of its recent flagships.

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The K4 Note comes with a 3,300 mAh non-removable battery, that allows for really good battery life. I was able to consistently get up to 5 hours of screen-on time with the device, and an impressive stand-by times means that the device easily lasted through a full day of use, and sometimes even two, depending on my usage. With heavy usage however, while the screen-on time was still pretty good, it was easy to drain the battery rather quickly.

You get the standard Battery Saver mode that automatically kicks in at the 15% mark, and there is also an Ultimate Battery Saver feature, that minimalizes the UI, and allows for only calls and texts. An interesting battery feature is “Scheduled Power On and Off,” that lets you preset a time period where the device automatically switches off and turns back on again.

Camera

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The Lenovo K4 Note features a 13 MP rear camera with a f/2.2 aperture, and a dual LED flash, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit, also with the same aperture.

The default camera app is very simplistic, and everything you may need can be found easily on the viewfinder. At the top left are the buttons to switch between the cameras and toggle HDR, and at the bottom is the button to toggle the flash. Only two modes are available in the menu, including Panorama and another that adds color filters to your images. Further in the settings is where you fill find the option to choose the settings for aspect ratio, photo resolution, snap mode, triaxial leveling, and guidelines.

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Using the front-facing camera adds the Beauty mode, and you also have an option called “fill light,” that adds two, pink or chrome, bars at the top and bottom of the screen to light up your face in dark environments, but it doesn’t really help much, and results in a pink or bronze hue in the shot.

As far as the image quality is concerned, the 13 MP rear camera is capable of taking some nice shots, especially in well-lit situations, and the images can be crisp and clear sometimes. Not surprisingly, some noise and grain starts to creep in as lighting conditions deteriorate though. The camera doesn’t handle shadows particularly well either, with very little detail to be seen, and while HDR tends to help here, it creates an oversharpened, unnatural looking shot. The camera also tends to underexpose shots in a few situations, and when you use the tap to focus feature, it also adjusts the exposure, leading to either overblown highlights or super dark shadows.

As far as video is concerned, the camera is capable of recording at a Full HD resolution at 30 fps. Video quality isn’t particularly impressive, and with no OIS, you can get some noisy and shaky videos. The phone comes with a 3 microphone system intended to help with background noise reduction, and while it does a good job when outdoors, the sound is somewhat muted when recording audio in quieter locations.

Overall, the K4 Note camera is serviceable and will certainly get the job done in a pinch, but it’s in the little details that the camera lets you down. It’s certainly not the worst camera we’ve seen on an affordable smartphone, but it isn’t close to the best either and if the camera is important to you, this is certainly something to keep in mind.

Software

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On the software side of things, the K4 Note is running Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, but – following the update’s release in India last month – there is now an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow immediately available after you first set up the phone.

The software experience is very clean and minimalistic, at least on the surface, and while it does have significant differences, quite a lot of stock and Material Design elements are to be seen here. The Settings menu and Recent Apps screen are the same as stock, Chrome is the default web browser, and Google Keyboard is the preset keyboard of choice. The notification dropdown and Quick Settings menu are also similar in the look, but it is packed with a lot more options, with even more available when you dive deeper, allowing you to pick and choose which settings are more useful to you.

The app drawer retains the Material Design look, but is side swiping, instead of a top to bottom scroll. A nice addition here is that the app search menu up to also comes with a section that houses the most recent apps opened. There is a lot of bloatware to be seen however, with a slew of unnecessary, often redundant, apps pre-installed on the device.

Luckily you can uninstall most of these third-party applications, and the only ones that can’t be removed are Lenovo staples like ShareIT, SyncIT, and the Lenovo Companion app. There is also a Theme Center, but it isn’t particularly robust, and all you can really do is change the look of the lockscreen, icons, and wallpapers.

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The Lenovo Companion app is a very useful tool to have, and provides a quick and easy way to set up service requests, or browse through the forums to find solutions to everyday problems you might come across. There are also video guides available, and also a robust diagnostics tool that lets you check whether all the device hardware is working the way it should be.

Finally, another feature that can be useful to some is Secure Zone; it can be toggled in the Quick Settings menu, and allows you to set up two virtual zones, that help keep your professional and personal lives separate. You can set up each zone to have their own accounts, passwords, and apps, and settings of one don’t carry over to the other.

If a notification arrives in one zone, you will know via a red dot that appears in the status bar, and you will then have to switch over to be able to check it. App data and documents are also kept apart, and if you are looking to share anything between the two, the way to do it is a via an OpenUserData shared folder. However, call logs and messages are shared between the zones.

Specifications

Display5.5-inch IPS LCD display
Full HD resolution, 401 ppi
Processor1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor
Mali-T720MP3 GPU
RAM3 GB
Storage16 GB
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0
GPS
NFC
FM Radio
microUSB 2.0
Camera13 MP rear camera, f/2.2 aperture, dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
Battery3,300 mAh
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
Dimensions153.6 x 76.5 x 9.2 mm
158 grams

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The Lenovo K4 Note is currently priced at Rs 10,999 (~$164), and the wooden back version isn’t that much more, priced at Rs 11,499 (~$171).

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So, there you have it for this in-depth look at the Lenovo K4 Note! Lenovo has certainly done a fantastic job with this smartphone, and while using, it has been difficult for me to wrap my head around how affordable it is. With a solid design, decent performance, great audio, and good battery life, Lenovo checks all the right boxes.

The software package does have a lot of extras, but you always have the option to de-activate the various settings and enjoy a stock-like experience, and the only real caveat here is the camera performance, which isn’t poor by any means. There are a lot of great affordable smartphones out there, but Lenovo stands out with a great audio experience, and if that is a requirement, I would definitely recommend the K4 Note.

What do you think of the Lenovo K4 Note and do you plan to buy one? If not, what other affordable smartphone would you buy? Let us know your views down below guys!

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Lenovo K5 Note expected to launch in India with 4 GB of RAM

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Lenovo launched the Vibe K5 Note back in January this year in China, rather surprisingly alongside the Vibe K4 Note, but the company is now preparing to bring this smartphone to India, with the device expected to launch next week, on August 1. If you’ve been looking forward to the latest affordable offering from Lenovo, there’s some great news that should get you even more excited about this launch.

A post on Lenovo India’s Twitter page teases the fact that the Indian edition of the K5 Note will feature 4 GB of RAM, instead of the 2 GB of RAM that was available with the original version. The K5 Note is an improved version of the Vibe K4 Note that had launched earlier in India, and sports a full metal body. Apart from the upgrade in the amount of RAM, we can expect the other specifications to be similar to the Chinese variant, including a 5.5-inch Full HD display, a large 3,500 mAh battery, and 4G LTE support.

Similar to the Vibe K4 Note, its successor features a rear fingerprint scanner, a 1.5W speaker with Dolby ATMOS surround sound and supports Lenovo’s TheatreMax technology and ANT VR headset for converting games and videos in virtual reality. However, it’s not yet known if Lenovo will bundle the ANT VR headset along with the Vibe K5 Note, like it had done in with the  K4 Note. We can also expect the Indian variant of the K5 Note to release with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box.

Lenovo has built quite a reputation for offering budget-friendly smartphones, and the Vibe K5 Note sells for about approximately Rs.11,300 in China. The device in India is expected to be priced slightly higher at around Rs.11,999 but the difference isn’t much, especially when you consider the extra 2 GB of RAM that is being added.

Let us know in the comments below if you think the Lenovo Vibe K5 Note is a good deal at this price!

10 interesting facts about Google

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I’m sure you’re all familiar with Google in one form or another. After all, the company runs the world’s most commonly used search engine and is behind the Android operating system that powers all of our smartphones. But there’s much more to Google than just searches and phones.

Here are 10 rather rather interesting facts about Google that hopefully even some of you Google experts might have missed.

Google was stored on 4GB hard drives

A long time ago back in the earliest days of Google’s development at Stanford University, the company’s search engine algorithm was stored on 10 separate 4GB hard drives. Google’s link structure approach to scouring the web required quite a bit of space for its day, and using multiple hard drives was the only way to ensure enough space. I’m glad that we have tiny microSD cards these days.

What’s more odd, though, is that Sergey Brin and Larry Page decided to construct their hard drive storage tower out of Lego. This allowed the two to expand the storage capacity easily, rather than having to find and pay for more expensive structures as their project grew. Today Google has indexed more than 100 million gigabytes of data, making its original 40 GB storage capacity look rather humble.

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Stanford owns Google’s first search patent

Work on Google’s search algorithm, known as PageRank after Larry Page, took place with the aid of Stanford University while the two were studying there. As such, when Larry Page was granted a patent for the algorithm it was assigned to Stanford.

When the two left to form Google, Stanford received 1.8 million shares of Google stock in exchange for a long-term patent license. PageRank has since earned more than $337 million for Stanford, which was more than enough to see the two inducted into the university’s Inventor Hall of Frame.

PageRank isn’t the only algorithm used by Google these days, but it was the first.

Goats mow the company lawns

Google Goats

Google has a fair bit of land over at Mountain View, which obviously needs to be trimmed and kept free of weeds to keep up appearances. Instead of breaking out the mowers and strimmers, Google pays for some goats to do the job.

The company hires out a heard of 200 goats from California Grazing to trim the lawns. The animals spend a week chewing on the grass and fertilizing the land. Apparently this costs the same as it would to bring in the lawn mowers, and Google says that goats are a lot more environmentally friendly and cuter to watch, too.

“Don’t be evil”

This isn’t one of those hidden or obscure facts about Google, but the company does have a rather strange corporate motto – “Don’t be evil.” The motto was first suggested by Google employee Paul Buchheit back in the early 2000s and appeared in Google’s 2004 IPO prospectus. The motto aims to promote a company culture that avoids conflicts of interests and bias, and encourages its employees to be objective.

After the business was restructured under the Alphabet parent company in 2015, the motto changed slightly to “Do the right thing” in the corporate code of conduct. However, the Google code of conduct still retains the original wording.

Call me Backrub

Google may be used commonly enough by us today to have made it into the dictionary, but the tech giant wasn’t always known by this name. Originally, the search engine running on the Stanford servers was called Backrub, until it consumed too much bandwidth. The name came about because the algorithm finds and ranks pages based on back links.

The modern Google name is a play on the word “googol”, a mathematical term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. According to Google, the name reflects Larry and Sergey’s mission to organize such a huge amount of web data, although another story has it that the name Google actually arose from a misspelling of googol while attempting to look for an available name for the new business.

A pet T-Rex named Stan

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Mountain View is home to a number of weird and wonderful items, from the beloved Android mascots to adult sized ball-pits and a space ship. But the most interesting piece worthy of our facts about Google is Stan the T-Rex skeleton.

The skeleton was named after a real dinosaur that was dug up not far from Google HQ. Stan originally appeared on Google’s campus back in 2006 and was covered in some of the company’s plastic pink flamingos at one point. Apparently, the company’s founders bought the T-Rex to help remind employees not to see or perhaps be responsible for Google going extinct.

Corkboard garage servers

Corkboard servers +Urs Hölzle

Going back to the company’s origins again, it wasn’t just Lego that helped hold up some of Google’s early bits of essentially technology. Google’s first servers built back in 1998 were based in a garage in Menlo Park, California.

As the two were starting the company on a budget, Page and Brin built their own servers from low cost parts. Very simple corkboards were used to help insulate each of the racks from one another’s heat, although that didn’t stop components from failing rather frequently. The company ordered thousands of servers that were to be packed into these corkboard racks.

In total, Page and Brin built thirty racks of these servers, each one housing eight 22GB hard drives and four PCs, although more were in operation later. That’s a pretty modest beginning for one of the world’s largest tech companies, which now spends almost $3 billion running its huge data centers.

Expanding at high speed

Although the early days may have been rather basic, Google has grown into one of the largest technology companies, powering well over one billion devices world wide. Google isn’t done either, the company continues to develop its own ideas and acquires promising new companies at an astonishing rate.

According to Alphabet’s list of mergers and acquisitions, the company, on average, purchases a new company roughly once a week. As of June 2016, Google has bought over 190 different companies. Although it has sold some of these at various points too, including Motorola, Google’s most expensive purchase.

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Early Google was slooooow

As you’ve seen by now, early days at Google weren’t exactly hi-tech by today’s standards. As such, Google’s search platform was substantially slower back then that it is now.

One of the earliest implementations of Google search algorithm and the available bandwidth meant that it was only able to crawl between and index somewhere between 30 and 50 pages per second, depending on their content. These days, Google can get through millions of pages per second and ranks them based on 200 different factors, which takes less than 1/8th of a second to complete. Talk about speedy.

The deal at Denny’s

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Rounding up our interesting facts about Google is a story about one of the company’s most important and influential purchases – YouTube.

Shortly after the $1.65 billion deal was done, YouTube co-founder Steven Chen revealed that executives from Google and Yahoo, YouTube’s old owner, met at a Denny’s in Palo Alto to agree to terms. Discussions about the terms and price were talked about ahead of time, but even these only took one week.

Apparently, Denny’s was chosen as a neutral meeting ground that neither party would usually go, instead of at one of their offices. I’ll let you ponder what that says about Denny’s breakfasts, although apparently Chen ordered the Mozzarella sticks. Then Google CEO Eric Schmidt promised YouTube’s founders that they would have almost unlimited resources if they could provide happy users, and the deal was done.


There you have it, 10 hopefully rather interesting facts about Google that you didn’t know before. If you have any of your own facts about Google to add, feel free to share them in the comments below!

Meizu m3 note review

Despite its relatively young age, Meizu’s m series has earned a reputation for offering some of the best user experiences at affordable prices. We were impressed from the start of the note lineup, which we echoed in our Meizu m1 note review, and also found its arguably premature successor, the Meizu m2 note, to be excellent in somewhat different ways.

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After nearly a year later, our Meizu m3 note review is here. Is this smartphone truly outstanding in a manner similar to its predecessors or does it simply fade into the massive sea of affordable smartphones? Let’s find out with our comprehensive Meizu m3 note review!

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Design


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It is very difficult to deny that the m3 note's design is both sharp and assertive


Instead of utilizing the iPhone 5C-like colorful glossy plastic found on several previous m models, Meizu has constructed the m3 note almost entirely of aluminum. Although one could argue that this change takes away from the iconic character of previous iterations, it is very difficult to deny that the m3 note’s design is both sharp and assertive. Premium design aspects such as the seemingly engraved antenna lines, symmetrical bottom, and 2.5D curved front glass are rarely found integrated so well at this price point.

The build quality here is also quite remarkable, something that can’t often be said about phones in this price category. The power and volume buttons, which have gone from the left side to the right side with this iteration, are tactile and feel solid. The m3 note also feels great in the hand overall, and the curved aluminum edges are most definitely appreciated.

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Instead of following the traditional three-button Android navigation key layout, Meizu has implemented a single button on the front of the m3 note. A press down on this physical button will take you home, whereas a tap will take you back. When wanting to switch apps, you can simply swipe up from either side of the physical button to access Flyme’s multitasking menu. In my opinion, this is a much more intuitive way to interact with your phone, even if it may take some time to get used to.

Some may consider the design to be too derivative for their liking

It is fair to say that the combination of the single physical button as well as several other design aspects makes the m3 note appear very similar to the iPhone. This is nothing new, however, as Meizu has long found inspiration in Apple products. One could argue, however, that for many end users, what matters most is how well the phone looks and feels in the hand, rather than how similar it appears to a competing smartphone. Still, some may consider the design to be too derivative for their liking.

Display

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Better than the Redmi Note 3's display, but not quite on par with its predecessors

 Sadly, Meizu has ditched the wonderful IGZO panels found on the m1 note and m2 note in favor of a more traditional, presumably less expensive panel. Although the m3 note retains both display size and resolution, at 5.5″ and 1080P, it lacks a bit of the vividness and saturation of the displays found on its predecessors.

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Despite this, the m3 note’s display is still better than most in this price category as it offers excellent viewing angles, good contrast, and the option to make slight adjustments to the color temperature. I found sunlight readability to be mediocre, however, and color reproduction could have definitely been better.

For scratch and shock resistance, the glass is coated with Dinorex T2X-1, which seemed to perform well as I did not notice any scratches on my unit after a few weeks of use.

Performance

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While many manufacturers like Xiaomi have transitioned to using Qualcomm‘s mid-range processors in budget devices, Meizu has chosen to stick with Mediatek for the m3 note. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, however, given the current circumstances between the two.

With that said, the m3 note is using a Mediatek Helio P10, which could be considered comparable to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617. Overall performance is still decent for the price, however; apps are sometimes noticeably slow while loading, but performance was otherwise fairly good.

You can purchase the m3 note with either 2 or 3 GB of memory. Light-to-moderate multi-taskers should be fine with the 2 GB model, but heavier multi-taskers may want to check out the 3 GB model.

Higher-end games like Asphalt 8 struggled with slow load times and very low frame rates

Unfortunately, gaming performance was very poor on the m3 note in my testing. Although the most popular casual games seemed to play fine, higher-end games like Asphalt 8 struggled with slow load times and very low frame rates, even in “performance mode.” It appears that the Mali T860 MP2 GPU simply isn’t enough to drive these titles. This is truly disappointing as even the m1 note had no trouble in this department.

Hardware

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Since the m3 note is an unlocked dual-SIM smartphone, you can use two individual SIM cards simultaneously. If the phone’s 16 or 32 GB of storage isn’t enough and you are willing to give up one of the SIM card slots, you can expand the phone’s storage via microSD, up to 256 GB.

Call quality seemed to be mediocre in my testing

Although the m3 note fully supports 4G LTE in countries where it is officially sold, those living more peripatetic lifestyles may have trouble acquiring more than 3G or even 2G signals in some countries. In the United States, for example, the m3 note is limited to HSPA+ on AT&T and T-Mobile. Call quality seemed to be mediocre in my testing, and although my earpiece sounded fine, callers said that they sometimes had difficulty understanding me. Unless you make many calls, however, this is unlikely to be an issue.

Meizu has embedded a fingerprint reader in the physical home button, and I found it to be fairly fast and very accurate. It’s always great to see fingerprint readers, especially at this price, as they offer much more convenient security.

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The m3 note is using the older non-reversible microUSB standard, and although it may disappoint those who have already made the switch to the growingly ubiquitous USB Type-C, it will likely appeal to those who do not wish to purchase brand new cables. It’s difficult to criticize Meizu here, as they have yet to make the transition for their budget smartphones.

The single side-firing speaker on the m3 note is reasonably loud, but moderately distorted, especially at higher volumes. It certainly does the job, but it’s not a step up from the m1 note nor the m2 note.

Battery Life

Thanks to its 4100mAh non-removable battery, the m3 note is able to provide excellent battery life. During my time with the device, I consistently achieved about five and a half hours of screen on time with twelve to twenty-seven hours of use. On one occasion, I used the phone for a day and a half, but still achieved a very respectable four and a half hours of screen on time.

Battery life on the m3 note is better than the vast majority of smartphones, including flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7. This, of course, is very impressive considering the phone’s price.

Camera

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The Meizu m3 note’s 13 MP rear camera offered average performance for the phone’s price. Sadly, captured images often lacked detail, were surprisingly soft, and lacked the dynamic range required for higher contrast scenes. Although the camera offers images with just the right amount of saturation and accurate color reproduction, excessive noise, regardless of lighting conditions, often distracted from the overall picture.

Meizu M3 Note camera samples:

The camera’s autofocus did not perform as well as I had hoped either, as it often seemed slow and sometimes refused to focus entirely. Unfortunately, it seems that the m3 note does not offer much of an upgrade over the m2 note in the camera department. Although there have been some minor camera software improvements, the quality of the m3 note’s camera seems to be very similar to that of the m2 note.

Software

Meizu M3 Note-13

Out of the box, the Meizu m3 note runs Meizu’s custom Flyme 5 OS, over Android 5.1 Lollipop. It would have been nice to see Android 6.0 Marshmallow, as it has been out for nearly a year now, but Flyme does do a nice job at substituting features like fingerprint reader support.

Overall, Flyme is dramatically different from stock Android, and it’s probably fair to view it as a glorified spinoff of iOS. With that said, Flyme is one of the most well refined and polished Android skins out there. Flyme 5 is easily Meizu’s best skin yet, and I was ecstatic to see small but major improvements like the addition of a settings shortcut in the notification panel (finally!) and a redesigned beautifully animated multitasking menu. My excitement extended to seemingly previously established stock apps as well, thanks to Meizu’s excellent design and implementations.

I really enjoyed my time with Flyme 5

Despite its departure from stock Android, I really enjoyed my time with Flyme 5 and feel that this is one of the m3 note’s best aspects. Users can also look forward to future updates, which are sure to only improve the experience further. While Flyme 5 won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it is easy to get accustomed to and once you’re used to it, it’s a pleasure to use.

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Price & Conclusion

Meizu M3 Note-4

The Meizu m3 note is available in China starting at 799 RMB (≈$120) and can be imported from third-party resellers for about $200. In India, the pricing is comparatively a bit higher at 9,999 Rupees (≈$150). The base model includes 16 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM, but another model with 32 GB of storage and 3 GB of RAM is also available. Each model is available in multiple color options, depending on the region.

The Meizu m3 note packs a very large punch for its price with its premium design, excellent battery life, and exceptional software experience. However, its lack of U.S. availability, poor gaming performance, and unimpressive camera do not help the m3 note stand out. And now that Flyme 5 is available on Meizu’s older hardware, there’s nothing particularly compelling about the m3 note. With the exception of its new design and fingerprint reader, the m3 note simply does not improve on what was already established with the Meizu m2 note.

More Meizu Coverage:

If you’re okay without a metal design and fingerprint reader, the Meizu m2 note is likely the best fit for you, if you can get it for a bit less than the m3 note. Otherwise, the Meizu MX5 is also still a great option, for a bit more. With the MX5, you’ll be getting a much better display, better performance, and a better camera. If you’re willing to venture outside of Meizu’s turf, the slightly better Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is also a great alternative to the m3 note, and is sold at the same price in India.

We want to know, do you think Meizu’s approach to this update was too passive? Would you actually buy an m3 note over an m2 note, just for the refreshed design and fingerprint reader? Let us know in the comment section below!

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