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Meizu MX 4-core (unlocked) review: Meizu MX 4-core (unlocked)

The Meizu MX 4-core may look like an iPhone, but it runs Android 4.0, has a fast quad-core processor, and connects to nine different bands.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
7 min read

Editors' note: We recently reviewed the Meizu MX handset. Because of the two devices' similar construction and features, applicable portions of that review will be used in this evaluation of the Meizu MX 4-core.


Meizu MX 4-core (unlocked)

The Good

The <b>Meizu MX 4-core</b> is attractive, compact, and flaunts an Apple-like aesthetic. It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and a fast quad-core CPU. The phone supports nine bands plus comes with 32GB of storage.

The Bad

The Meizu MX 4-core is meant for Chinese markets only. For $530, the unlocked handset is pricey. The Meizu's screen is dim and unimpressive.

The Bottom Line

The Meizu MX 4-core is a compelling iPhone clone, but there are much better unlocked Android handsets available.

The Chinese company Meizu has turned copycatting Apple's iPhone style into an art, first with its iPod-like music players, and then by creating a whole Android smartphone line that mimicked the superpopular handset right down to masking the OS in an iOS-flavored skin. The manufacturer's most recent product evolution is the $530 (4,099 HKD) Meizu MX 4-core. This latest addition to the MX line now boasts speedy quad-core power, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), and a roomy 32GB of internal storage. That makes the Meizu MX 4-core a powerful little number, that is, if you can find it outside of mainland China or Hong Kong.

Meizu's MX 4-core, the quad-core iPhone lookalike (pictures)

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Don't be surprised if the Meizu MX 4-core looks familiar. That's because it's the spitting image of its predecessor, the Meizu MX. This trim and polished handset could also be a twin, or certainly close relative, of the iPhone 3G or an iPod music player.

The phone's front face is all black and is sculpted in the rounded curves that Apple loves. Similar to Apple's uberphone too is the MX 4-core's 960x640-pixel resolution screen that boasts the same pixel count as the iPhone's vaunted Retina Display. The Meizu's larger 4-inch real estate, though, compared with 3.5 inches, means its pixel density is lower.

At just 0.4 inch thick, the MX 4-core is easy to slip into pockets. Sarah Tew/CNET

That said, I found the MX 4-core's screen merely adequate for typical smartphone tasks like viewing text, pictures, and wallpaper. Compared with the recent crop of modern Android handsets such as the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3, the Meizu's ASV LCD screen can't hold its own.

Side by side with those phones, its display looks dim, lacks contrast, and has a distracting yellow tinge. For instance the Meizu lacks the deep blacks and vibrant colors its competition offers. Plus, like typical LCDs, viewing angles deteriorate quickly when the display is tilted off-axis.

Unfortunately the Meizu MX 4-core's display is dim and lacks much contrast.

Despite its blatant mimicry of a late-model iPhone, the Meizu MX 4-core's design is subtle, even elegant. Above the screen is a minute VGA (0.3-megapixel) camera. Gone, though, is the faint Meizu nameplate written in old-style Chinese characters, which graced the previous Meizu MX.

Underneath the display, however, you'll still find two of the slickest capacitive buttons I've seen on a smartphone. Consisting of clusters of LEDs, or Light Keys as Meizu calls them, the buttons change configuration depending on what's happening on the phone's screen. For instance, within applications, the left key becomes a triangle of three dots, essentially a Back button.

The right key is usually arranged in three dots in a line indicating its Menu function, but when you flip the MX 4-core between landscape and portrait modes, the keys intelligently adjust their orientation accordingly. The keys also double as notification lights, pulsing gently when new e-mails or texts arrive. A more traditional raised circular Home button sits in between the MX 4-core's distinctive Light Keys.

The only other controls are a thin volume bar on the left side, Micro-USB port on the bottom, and a 3.5mm headphone jack plus tiny power button running across the top edge.

Breaking from the iPhone's design theme, the Meizu MX 4-core sports a thin metal bezel around the display along with white plastic edges and back, not the iconic chrome or glass construction. Even so, the 4.9-ounce handset has a solid heft to it and premium-feeling build quality. Measuring 4.8 inches tall by 2.5 inches deep and just 0.4 inch thick, the MX is easy to slip into pockets, too.

While the unit I tested was an engineering sample and not the final run of the product, I don't care for the MX 4-core's glossy back, which feels too slippery and fingerprint-prone for my tastes. I prefer phones with a textured back plate or even a soft-touch coating for a more secure grip.

The Meizu MX 4-core's back is smooth and glossy to a fault. Sarah Tew/CNET

Running Ice Cream Sandwich version 4.0.3, the Meizu MX 4-core comes carrying a fresh infusion of the Android operating system. Just like the previous Meizu MX, the MX 4-core's lock screen features a suspiciously OS X-like starry-night-sky wallpaper. A digital clock floats above cleanly drawn icons for phone and messages, and tapping the symbols launches these functions. Corresponding alerts, like missed calls or unread texts, will appear there, too, which is a nice touch. Dragging the padlock symbol up to the center of the screen whisks you straight to the home screen.

The lock screen for the MX 4-core looks almost iOS in nature. Sarah Tew/CNET

With the same UI that practically begged for an Apple lawsuit on the Meizu MX, the MX 4-core's interface is a hybrid of standard Android and iOS. Three main home screens slide horizontally in iPhone fashion and there's no separate application tray, either, a staple Android feature. Instead apps are added to the home screen when installed. While this layout is uncluttered, I had issues finding key apps I knew were installed, such as Gmail. In fact I had to open it from the Android Market before a shortcut finally appeared -- that's disconcerting. I ran into the same quirk on the original MX even though Meizu chalked it up to my first MX sample being an early engineering unit.

Also, integration with social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter could be better. The phone book, for example, doesn't pull in pictures or other data from these services. Additionally I couldn't find a way to add Facebook or Twitter accounts to the phone as you would with most Android devices. You can create folders iOS-style for storing away shortcuts, but since ICS now supports this feature, it's not as slick of a trick as it used to be.

As an unlocked handset, one of the more appealing features of the Meizu MX 4-core is its ability to operate on nine different frequencies (GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz; HSDPA: 850/900/1700/1900/2100MHz). If you have a Micro-SIM card with service from, say T-Mobile or AT&T, the handset shouldn't have a problem latching on.

Equipped with an 8-megapixel sensor and LED flash, I was pleasantly surprised by the Meizu MX 4-core's camera performance. The phone snapped indoor still-life images that were clear, with proper white balance and vibrant colors. Details, though, were a bit soft. As with many phone cameras, the Meizu MX 4-core also had trouble freezing fast-moving subjects under low light without its flash.

Indoor still-life images were clear with vibrant colors, but details were soft. Brian Bennett/CNET
Capturing fast moving kids proved difficult under low light. Brian Bennett/CNET

Outdoors the handset captured good photos as well with bright colors, provided there was enough light. Colors popped, too, but again detail wasn't as crisp as I would have liked.

Outside, colors were bright, but details could have been sharper. Brian Bennett/CNET
With ample light, outdoor shots looked good. Brian Bennett/CNET

The MX 4-core's camera doesn't offer much in the way of extra settings, but there are a few capture modes including Panorama, Smile, and Burst. You can manually select the ISO, too, but it tops out at 800.

The phone can record video in full 1080p quality as well; I found that details were sharp and clear enough. That said, color looked muted and washed out even in bright sunshine.

I tested the unlocked GSM Meizu MX 4-core on AT&T's network in New York. Voice quality was rock-solid and I didn't experience any dropped calls or other mishaps. Voices through the Meizu's tiny earpiece were warm, rich, and lifelike. Like many small smartphones I've used, volume wasn't extremely loud. Callers on the other end said they didn't hear static or distortion either but did report that my voice sounded slightly muffled.

As for data, you're strictly limited to 3G GSM networks. With an AT&T SIM card inserted, the Meizu MX 4-core returned average download speeds of 2.5 Mbps while uploads came in at just under 1Mbps. That kind of throughput pales in comparison to new 4G LTE connections that typically clock in at 10 to 15 Mbps down and 10 Mbps for uploads.

Since it's a true quad-core fire-breather, I was very eager to put the Meizu MX 4-core through its paces. The 1.4GHz quad-core A9 processor driven Meizu cruised through the Linpack benchmark (multithread) in 1.43 seconds, logging a score of 118.197 megaflops. The HTC One X trounced this result, though, firing back with an impressive score of 180.199 MFLOPs in 0.94 second.

Investigating further, I ran the grueling Quadrant benchmark on both handsets. Interestingly the devices turned in comparable performances, with the Meizu MX 4-core notching an overall score of 4,103. That just edged out the HTC One X's showing of 4,009 on the same test. Reflecting these numbers, the MX 4-core felt nimble and responsive to me either when launching apps or flipping through menus.

Powered by a 1,700 mAh lithium polymer battery, the MX 4-core lasted a decent but not terribly long time on my anecdotal drain test. It persevered for 6 hours and 38 minutes, playing an HD video clip continuously. Still, that's a few minutes longer than the HTC One X (6 hours, 35 minutes) but nowhere near the Samsung Galaxy S3's run time of 9 hours and 24 minutes. In everyday use, the Meizu had enough juice to get through a typical work day, but I recommend charging it up overnight.

I can understand if not many people will be drawn to the Meizu MX 4-core. Just finding the device, which is intended for mainland Chinese and Hong Kong markets only, will prove tricky. Also, the phone's unsubsidized $530 (4,099 HKD) price is pretty steep. Additionally the Meizu's whole iPhone aesthetic, which may have once been appealing, has lost its luster due to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. JB is faster, packs more features, and you can have it for about $450 on the unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Still, if you really love the idea of using a handset with modern Android power in a Apple-esque package, then by all means scoop up the MX 4-core on your next jaunt to Shanghai.


Meizu MX 4-core (unlocked)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6