The Meuzi MX 4-core runs on a heavily modified ICS-based Flyme OS 1.0, with a 1.0.1 update available for download. This is not your average Android skin, customizations run way deeper than usual. By comparison, you can fairly easily replace Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense with a custom launcher of choice - but not Meizu's Flyme. We're not saying impossible, but it will involve some deep tinkering with the OS.
The Flyme is very different from what seasoned Android users might expect (though not unfamiliar if you've seen the original Meizu MX). Once again, Meizu's goal was clearly to emulate the iPhone experience and we should say they did a pretty good job of it - way better actually than they handled the hardware design.
Even though its core has been updated to ICS, the Flyme OS is very simple Android with a flat interface and no app drawer. You can put folders and widgets on the homescreen but shortcuts are an alien concept to the UI - essentially, each app you install appears on the homescreen. This is the ultimate simplicity - there's no app drawer to drag icons from onto the homescreen.
The downside of this completely new approach to Android is that Ice Cream Sandwich has been stripped down of almost every new feature - focus was instead on the performance optimizations under the hood. The web browser got better compared to the previous Flyme OS app, but if you expected the stock ICS browser or its new ICS gallery app, calendar, music player, face unlock etc. - you're in for a disappointment.
On the other hand, Meizu's Flyme OS has most of the important functionality covered: it's got a fairly elaborate lockscreen, pretty good task manager and Notifications, as well as a number of nice little touches that you'll be happy to discover as you explore the interface. Here's a video of the Flyme OS to get you started.
The lockscreen is the slide up to unlock type, but borrows the idea of launching different things depending on where you swipe. If you start the gesture over the padlock icon you will just unlock the phone, but you also have Phone and Message icons for the dialer/inbox too. Sadly, these two shortcuts are non-customizable.
There are no lockscreen widgets other than the default clock panel and the music controls (only when the music player is active). We liked a lot even a really minor thing like the battery charging animation.
Beyond the lockscreen is a fairly standard Android homescreen and you can dock up to five apps at the bottom, the middle one - the web browser - is non-customizable. There's no app drawer though and all installed applications have their icon on the homescreen instead. You can get the shortcuts of rarely used apps out of the way by putting them in folders - each folder can store up to 16 apps. The usual gesture for removing icons (dragging them to the bottom of the screen) uninstalls the app.
You only get three homescreen panes at first (there's an indicator of the currently active one), but as they start to fill up, you can grab an app icon or a widget and drag them to the side and a new homescreen will appear. There's no overview mode where you can easily add, delete or rearrange homescreen panes.
We mentioned widgets - the Meizu MX came with very few preinstalled and you can access them only via Settings->Customize->Widgets. You get Google search, Quick Contacts, Notes, a calendar and the News & weather widget. That's it, there's not even a clock widget. If you want more, you'll have to get third party widgets off the market. Unlike the original Meizu MX, the widgets can be used more than once - you can have the Google search bar on all homescreen panes for example.
You can set the homescreen wallpaper as usual and there are quite a few provided. Live wallpapers are enabled too.
The notification area has been updated with five connectivity toggles (Wi-Fi, mobile data, Bluetooth, GPS, Sync). If you tap on the Wi-Fi network name you'll get a list with all available networks in range and you can quickly switch on to another router without digging in the Settings menu. At the bottom of the drop down list you'll can also set the type of mobile network you prefer (auto, 3G or GSM).
There are a few more toggles available from the menu that pops up when you press and hold the Power/Lock key - they switch on and off the ringer, the vibration, airplane mode, GSM network and screen auto-rotation.
The task switcher (hold the menu key) has been completely rewritten since the Gingerbread-based Flyme OS. The new task switcher is different from what you're used to in Android and a quite similar to its iOS counterpart. It's launched by a press and hold of the Menu button.
When activated, the task switcher appears at the bottom of the screen. It's a side-scrollable row of icons, showing the recently opened apps. You can kill apps by tapping and holding on an icon and then dragging it over the X at the very bottom. There is a shortcut too to kill all running apps.
Just like in iOS you get music controls here too. They are always visible below the rows of running apps, though this time around there is no volume slider.
There's one more trick to the interface - when you're scrolling long lists, you can tap the top right corner of the display (near the battery icon on the status bar) and the list will automatically scroll back to the top. It's something that most people might miss, but can come in handy when dealing with long lists.
That's about it for the general user interface. We just want to note that the screen transitions have been changed since the previous Flyme OS version. In the original Meizu MX they were lifted directly from the iOS, while this time around they're more like the vanilla Android ICS.
We're quite pleased with the overall speed and responsiveness of the UI, we experienced no misbehavior or glitches. Everything runs smoothly, and that's hardly a surprise given the quad-core processor powering the whole thing and the optimizations coming with ICS.
The Meizu MX 4-core runs on a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor clocked at 1.4 GHz. You can set the CPU behavior from the accessibility settings (a bit odd), where you get low, normal and high CPU level options. At the highest setting, the CPU runs can reach its maximal 1.4GHz frequency. At normal, the clocked is capped to1GHz and the low has the CPU limited to a maximum of 600MHz.
We ran our traditional benchmarks and the Meizu MX 4-core did splendidly. Directly compared to the dual-core Meizu MX though, the 4-core version only made a big enough difference in the CPU-intensive Linpack benchmark.
The BenchmarkPi performance rivals both the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X (Tegra 3), but falls behind the Krait-powered Ones S and One X for AT&T. Note that BenchmarkPi uses one core only, so it is understandable the newer Krait processors do better.
Lower is better
The Linpack result took us by surprise. The Meizu MX 4-core did better than the Galaxy S III and almost leveled with the Krait-powered One S. The advantage over the dual-core Meizu MX is huge.
Higher is better
The Mali-400MP GPU got a good score at the NenaMark 2 graphics benchmark, putting the Meizu MX 4-core in the third place. However, we should note the 640x960 pixel display works in Meizu's favor and the 720p screen contestants shouldn't have been so much ahead, let alone be able to beat it.
It seems that the GPU of the Meizu MX 4-core has been down-clocked (compared to the Galaxy S III) to conserve power and/or to prevent overheating issues.
Higher is better
When it came to browser benchmarks, the Meizu MX 4-core took the second place in both the Sun Spider and BrowserMark charts. It is almost on par with the Galaxy S III but so is the dual-core Meizu MX, so the achievement is down to the optimizations Meizu did as much as to the snappy CPU.
Lower is better
Higher is better