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MEIZU m1 note unboxing and first impressions: Enter the Dragon

|April 6 2015 |Mobiles, Android Phones, First impressions, Unboxing, Meizu

"At MEIZU's first meet up in India yesterday, we got a chance to check out the popular m1 note phablet"

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Given Xiaomi's success story in India, we weren't surprised by rumours that one of its biggest competitors in China, MEIZU, was looking setting up shop in the country. The company has been teasing its imminent launch here on its social media channels of late, and yesterday, it organised its very first meet-up in India in Bangalore. The low-key event was more of an informal introduction, given that MEIZU is still in the process of readying operations in India. Unlike its Chinese counterparts like Xiaomi, OnePlus and Honor, MEIZU also operates through offline channels. Company representatives at the event also stated that they weren't looking to partner exclusively with any online retailer, which should make MEIZU products more easily accessible online as well. There were three devices mentioned at the event - the MX4, MX4 Pro and the m1 note, but the focus for now seems to be only on the last. MEIZU had a few display units of the m1 note available for media, and we got a chance to go hands-on with the smartphone. Here's an unboxing and our first impressions.

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The m1 note comes packaged in a flat, square white box with branding in the front. Opening up the lid reveals three neat compartments inside. The smartphone is cradled in one, while the remaining two contain the two-pin wall charger and USB cable respectively.

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The cable comes packaged in a paper sheath, which also includes an adorable ejector tool with Flyme branding and a little cloud-shaped cutout representing its logo. Under the smartphone you'll find the warranty and other documentation. Underneath that is another cavity the perfect size for earphones, but in its place is a bit of paper politely stating 'earphone not included'. 

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Like Xiaomi, MEIZU has often been associated with taking its design cues from Apple, and the m1 note is a classic example. It draws inspiration from the colourful iPhone 5c, and is also available in a range of bright shades like blue, green, yellow and pink. There's also a white option available, and that's what we got our hands on. The smartphone features a unibody polycarbonate exterior with a glossy finish, that's prone to being smudged easily.

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At the front of the smartphone you'll find the large 5.5-inch display. Above it is the usual arrangement of the earpiece, sensors and front camera, which features a 5MP resolution in this case. Below the screen is MEIZU's signature circular home button. Coming to the port and button placement, the top is where you'll see the power button, secondary microphone and 3.5mm audio jack. The volume rocker is on the left spine, but we're more used to seeing it on the right. On the left side is an ejectable tray which holds a double-SIM card tray that accepts a pair of micro-SIMs. The bottom edge containing the loudspeaker, primary microphone and micro-USB port is clearly inspired by Apple. The rear panel features the large 13MP primary camera and dual-LED flash on top, and MEIZU branding at the bottom. 

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The m1 note's 5.5-inch display uses Sharp's IGZO panel, and features full HD resolution. It also gets Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. The display was quite sharp, but the colours seemed quite underwhelming on our display unit. Powering the device is a 64-bit octa-core MediaTek MT6752 processor clocked at 1.7GHz, paired with 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM. The m1 note is available in 16GB and 32GB configurations, and both lack microSD card slots for expansion. On our 16GB demo unit there was around 11.8GB of user available storage, but given that there were a few apps and photos on the device, we expect the retail units to offer more space.

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The smartphone runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, layered with MEIZU's own Flyme (pronounced 'fly-me') 4.2 OS. Like MIUI, Emotion UI and other UI's from Chinese brands, Flyme doesn't feature an app drawer. The icons are modified, with a dock at the bottom that accomodates the dialer, browser and messages. There's a drop-down notification bar on top, and you can swipe to the right for an expanded view with more quick settings. The only onscreen button is a back key, although some apps have additional controls.

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Flyme features a Security Center, which is eerily similar to Xiaomi's Security app. It includes a one-touch scanner, junk, app and virus cleaners, and permission and traffic managers. There's also a Themes app from where you can customise the phone with a variety of themes, but this is currently in Chinese. When we asked MEIZU representatives about the theme store, they mentioned that units in India may not ship with this feature initially, or at least until they can modify themes for the Indian market. 

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The settings menu on Flyme is designed differently than from other UI's, with a narrow bar on the left side with various icons. You can swipe out from the bar for an expanded view. Flyme also has a few gesture features, such as double-tap-to-wake, swiping up from the lockscreen to unlock the phone, swiping down to open the notification bar, cold-accessing apps, and more. You can also long-press the home button to lock the phone. 

Coming to the all-important camera features, the m1 note features a 13MP primary snapper with dual-tone LED flash, along with a 5MP front camera. The camera app features a full-blown beautification option. Once you take a photo, you can adjust the outline of your eyes and mouth, and then choose which beauty mode you want to add. While some of the results look quite artificial, the app's image processing algorithms are impressive, since it's able to beautify the face of a single or all persons in the frame. We can't really comment on image quality as yet considering we could only test the cameras indoors in poor lighting. 

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The m1 note is fuelled by a 3,140mAh battery. Connectivity options include dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, GPS and GLONASS. The phone supports 4G only on one SIM, and currently the only LTE network supported in India is band 3 (1,800MHz, FDD LTE). Unfortunately, it's incompatible with the more popular band 40. In China, the m1 note is priced at approximately Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,200 for the 16GB and 32GB variants respectively. There's no indication of India-specific pricing yet, but we expect it to be nothing less than aggressive. Given that most devices in the Rs 10,000 - Rs 15,000 range feature HD displays and quad-core processors, the m1 note might have a serious edge over the competition if it is priced sensibly.

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