After an on-again, off-again relationship with India over the last few years, MEIZU is now gearing up for a more conspicuous comeback in the country with not one, but three smartphones. Among these is the MEIZU 16th flagship, named as such for being… MEIZU’s 16th flagship. With this device, the company wants to take on the likes of POCO and OnePlus in the affordable flagship segment, which is easier said than done. I’ve been using the 16th as my primary driver for the past week. Read on to find out if it makes the cut.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1080 x 2160 pixels|
|CPU||Quad core, 2.8 GHz + Quad core, 1.8 GHz, Snapdragon 845|
|Internal memory||128 GB|
|Capacity||3010 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable|
|Primary camera||12 MP|
|Secondary camera||20 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 8.1 Oreo|
There’s no denying the MEIZU 16th is a gorgeous device. With a curved glass back panel, metal frame and thickness of 7.3mm, the phone practically melts into your hand. The finish is flawless, making this a truly premium device. But predictably, this design comes with its share of compromises. The glass back panel is a magnet for fingerprints, and the shiny frame is likely to get scratched in the long run. MEIZU has provided a plastic case in the box, but it’s flimsy, leaving the sides exposed. I’d advise purchasing a third-party one immediately if you choose to buy the device.
As for the ports, MEIZU has wisely retained the 3.5mm headphone jack on the phone, and added a Type-C port for good measure. An ejectable tray on the left houses two nano-SIM card slots. Above the display, you’ll find a notification LED next to the selfie camera. The back panel is home to slightly protruding dual cameras in a vertical setup, with a circular LED flash beneath.
The display measures 6-inches and features full HD+ resolution. Being a Super AMOLED panel, you can expect deep blacks and rich colours. Viewing angles are excellent and sunlight legibility is on point. You can also enable the always-on display to give you a glance of the time, date, battery and notification icons on a black screen. This screen is also where you’ll find the illuminated in-display fingerprint sensor.
The dual cameras on the 16th consist of an f/1.8 12MP sensor and secondary f/2.6 20MP sensor. These are assisted by a six-LED circular flash. The front camera is an f/2.0 20MP unit. The rear cameras offer portrait mode with a bokeh effect, OIS and 3x optical zoom – a feature we’ve most recently seen on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. You also get a pro mode in the camera. The front camera offers a portrait mode as well, but this is software generated.
The results on the primary cameras were varied. The cameras can focus quickly and capture beautiful macros and detailed daylight shots. Photos taken with portrait mode are acceptable, but feature soft edges. The optical zoom is useful if you need to capture a particular detail, but doesn’t make for an impressive photograph. At 3x zoom, images turn out grainy and overexposed. In low light, the camera captures colour well, but there’s a fair bit of light flare. My main gripe with the cameras was the beautification – even though I turned this feature off, the cameras smoothened and whitened faces, making for artificial looking photos. The front camera is capable of decent selfies in natural or bright light, but in low light results lack detail. The portrait mode for the front camera doesn’t do a good job of detecting edges.
The MEIZU 16th runs Android 8.1 Oreo as a base with the company’s proprietary Flyme 7.1.1 OS on top. Most users in India will be unfamiliar with Flyme, but to give you the gist – it’s your typical Chinese smartphone user interface. You get a heavily skinned UI with options to fine-tune nearly any setting, ranging from the display to the sounds to notifications. Flyme also has a provision for different navigation methods – you can choose from the standard Android navigation bar, the proprietary mBack system which mimics the mBack home button on older MEIZU phones, and gesture navigation which implements iPhone X-style gestures. Flyme also has a theme store where you can download a bunch of themes and wallpapers.
While I’m not a fan of Flyme in general – it isn’t polished and intuitive like MIUI or EMUI – what’s more disappointing is that it’s filled with bugs. I wasn’t able to perform the most basic of actions – changing the wallpaper – and kept getting an error asking me to update the system. I was also unable to change the theme or switch to regular Android icons (you get Flyme icons by default). The clock on the always-on display also kept changing positions with every minute – a bizarre feature. Clicking on quick actions like ‘open’ and ‘mark as read’ on notification banners did nothing for several third-party as well as proprietary apps. I also noticed an odd bug on WhatsApp, which kept showing me alerts for messages I had sent, instead of new messages received.
The MEIZU 16th doesn’t skimp on the internals. Powered by the Snapdragon 845 chipset, it’s paired with 6GB of RAM. My unit came with just 64GB of storage, and unfortunately, there’s no microSD card slot to expand it further. The phone is adept at most tasks you throw at it – whether it’s running multiple apps side by side or gaming. Playing resource-intensive games like Asphalt 9 doesn’t cause the phone to break a sweat, although I did notice some heating after longer sessions. The loudspeaker is surprisingly loud and clear, and you won’t find yourself needing headphones when you use the device. One issue I did find on the 16th was the Wi-Fi and cellular reception – the phone struggled with frequent call drops and often had issues detecting the Wi-Fi network.
The battery on the 16th is a 3,010mAh unit, which holds up for the better part of the day. You can expect about 4 hours of screen on time on average, but if you’re a power user, you might need to plug in the charger sooner. The optical in-display fingerprint sensor works well for the most part. Initially, I had some trouble with it, but after deleting and re-registering the fingerprint, it was pretty accurate. The 16th also offers a face unlock feature, but it’s not fast, and mandates the extra step of swiping up from the lockscreen after recognising your face.
The MEIZU 16th is a bit of an oddball. On one hand you have a super sleek, stylish device with powerful internals, and on the other you have a clunky, sluggish interface. The presence of a Snapdragon 845 chipset alone doesn’t make for a flagship experience, and that’s the trouble with the 16th. MEIZU also got the pricing wrong on this one – at Rs 39,999, it’s more expensive than the OnePlus 6T (review), which is an obvious choice in this price range. Then there’s the POCO F1 (review), which features similar specs at a significantly cheaper price. Better luck next time, I guess.
Editor’s Rating: 3.5 / 5
- Beautiful design
- In-display fingerprint sensor works well
- Good performance
- Flyme OS needs work
- Cameras are hit and miss
- No expandable storage