The Meizu m3 note is an upgrade that doesn't go above and beyond - quite typical of the Chinese maker's phablet lineup actually. The m2 note didn't make a splash but offered meaningful add-ons such as the wider LTE coverage and a microSD slot.
The m3 note in turn refines the design with a metal unibody and 2.5D glass, while trying to take performance one step further with the Helio P10 chipset. The clever mTouch button with a fingerprint scanner is a welcome feature as well.
To be fair, the Meizu notes are targeting the budget-conscious crowd and that restrained upgrade routine is more than justified. Yet, somehow none of the more recent Meizu phablets have been able to match the positive impression of the original m1 note that sticks long after its debut. It was a powerful yet affordable smartphone, with a great display, capable camera and solid battery life.
There's yet another sibling though that's hardly doing the m3 note any favors. The Meizu m1 metal was launched a few months back and instantly made a statement with its premium design and better performance thanks to a Helio X10 engine.
Just like the m1 metal, the new Meizu m3 note goes for a higher-tier bodywork but, in contrast, fails to deliver a matching performance. The m1 metal is superior in both processing power and graphics. The only thing the m1 metal cannot possibly match is the impressive battery life of the m3 note.
Considering the overall cautious approach to upgrades in the Meizu note lineup, the m3 note is hardly a surprise. It has the impressive battery backup to set it apart and is definitely on the more attractive side of its midrange price bracket with a metal build.
Overall, a pretty credible package until you take a closer look at the alternatives. The thing is, you don't even have to look further than Meizu's very own lineup.
We mentioned the Meizu m1 metal more than a couple of times and for a reason. It does deliver better in terms of both CPU and GPU. If you are OK with sacrificing some battery life for superior performance, the m1 metal is a must-see. Oh, and it's some $30 cheaper.
Add an extra $25 or so and you can get the Meizu MX5. The m3 note's design was inspired by the MX5, but in addition to the more powerful Helio X10 chipset, the MX5 brings an AMOLED screen and a vastly superior camera. Meizu better adjust that price gap one way or another.
Xiaomi's Redmi Note 3, in either the Helio X10 or the Snapdragon 650 powered version, is beyond doubt a strong contender too. The Redmi Note 3 is all metal, with a better screen, superior performance and better imaging. Both variants cost less than the Meizu m3 note, which should put them firmly on your shortlist.
The Lenovo K5 Note is built on a similar base as the m3 note. And yet, it still manages to improve its chances by offering a high-res selfie camera and better audio. It can't deliver the same battery life though and supports even fewer LTE bands.
The recently announced Moto G4, which may fail to impress with a Snapdragon 617 chip, is a solid choice for the on-time Android updates. It's made of plastic but makes up for that with much better network support, an FM radio, and always the latest OS version.
Finally, either LeEco's Le 2 or the Le 1s are appealing enough and priced closely to the m3 note. The 5" Le 2 runs on the Helio X20 chipset and offers a better camera setup, while the 5.5" 1s has the Helio X10 under the hood, supports 2160p video recording, and has a USB Type-C port. Both handsets run Android Marshmallow, which is a definite advantage.
Overall, the m3 note is the usual solid package by Meizu. At a first glance, it's quite capable of getting the attention of budget-conscious users but we couldn't help the feeling that Meizu isn't doing itself a favor timing its latest releases. A tight, focused lineup used to work in their favor. Have they grown in number but fallen out of step?
Now, the plan for the m3 note and the m1 metal may have been to never get in each other's way. But they will inevitably - be it just for the fact that the latest generation of a highly rated phablet lineup is just a repackaged last season's release.
Special thanks to HonorBuy.com for providing the review unit.