Top 3 devices I reviewed in 2017
Of course , as a smartphone-geek and a reviewer I always keep my eyes towards the future, towards the newest models, the fastest CPU and the latest design trends. Yet I think its important to remember many end users aren’t looking for the newest “anything”. Since smartphones that have been on the market for let’s say a year or a year and a half are very capable to function as a daily driver and have dropped in price considerably, you might get your best deal looking for last year’s phone. So let´s talk (write) about the Top 3 devices I reviewed in 2017.
3rd place Meizu M5 Note
I have had the plan to make a TOP 3 of the best phones I tested this past year for some weeks already. Which ones were the absolute best? Gave me the most premium user experience? Which one was most phone to play games on and make photo’s with? I looked at all the pictures I have made with the different devices over and over again , trying to make my decisions, I made checklists and from that the Top 3 was distilled 😉 Well without any further delays:
Third place will most definitely go to the Meizu M5 Note (Global Edition). This good looking budget phone comes with very decent specs for the price. Foremost with an impeccable, premium quality build. The M5 Note sports a 5.5 inch FHD screen with a 1920 x 1080p resolution that gives you great viewing angles and reproduces vibrant and vivid colours. The smoothness of the screen and the touch sensitivity is really amazing.
It is without a doubt in the same range as a Samsung or an LG or any other high end device of another brand. Just don’t forget the Meizu M5 Note is a budget friendly phone. Don’t let that distract you however because the M5 Note uses the Helio P10 processor by Mediatek and it performs surprisingly well, able to handle daily tasks without the slightest stutter or huge delays. The Meizu M5 Note is available in a 3GB and a 4GB RAM version and one can choose between 16/32 or 64GB ROM. I have had the pleasure to test the 3GB RAM/32GB ROM Version. What is good to know is perhaps the fact that the M5 Note is equipped with an SD card slot, which is always useful.
The M5 Note is no exception to other Meizu devices and this means it doesn’t run on stock Android but runs on Meizu’s own Flyme OS and in the case of the M5 Note that is Flyme OS version 5. I’m sure many of you have read reviews where the writer is more than happy to tell you one of the pro’s of this or that device is the fact that it runs on stock Android. Usually I am with that crowd, simply because a lot of Android-layers and manufacturer OS idea’s slow down the phone. Make you have to look for obvious settings in the strangest place and re-invent things that’s are already right there in Android. Not Flyme OS however. In fact after having used several Meizu devices I’m inclined to say I actually prefer Flyme over stock Android!
One of the reasons for this is the simple fact that Flyme only needs ONE button to do everything! Yes, that’s right, say goodbye to your traditional three-button-setup at your phone’s chin. Say goodbye to obnoxious on-screen navigation bars that steal your precious screen space. The Meizu mTouch button is a home-button, a back button and a fingerprint scanner all in ONE! And on top of that, if you click it twice the camera app opens in a second!
This means you actually can navigate the entire phone with just one button. This is something I really miss when I’m using a different device. But that’s not the only feature that makes the Flyme OS superior to stock Android in my opinion. The entire system runs fluently and has some pretty amazing shortcuts. To call on the navigation bar you don’t have to stretch your fingers all the way up to the navigation bar. Swipe down anywhere on your screen and the navigation bar pops up.
Same with the open apps menu: Just swipe up from the right corner and your open apps appear. This saves so much precious time during multitask operations it really makes a difference. In my humble opinion Flyme OS is more sentient, more fluent than any other OS I so far tested. And even though the M5 Note is equipped with a Helio P10 processor “only” there is practically no delay in scrolling and everything works like a charm.
Granted, the phone might be not the most edgy when it comes to design and it might be slightly heavy, but considering we’re talking about a 4000 mAh battery with an impressive 8 to 9 hours on screen time that weight is forgiven. Especially if you consider it also comes with a mCharge fast charger as well. When it comes to the how the Meizu M5 Note is build I can only repeat: premium style!
The way the metal back cover feels in your hand, the way the buttons are responsive, the way your phone unlocks, the way the antenna lines are integrated smoothly: premium, premium, premium! In fact when it comes to building quality there is nothing that distinguishes the M5 Note from devices that are usually at least 100 to 300 dollars more expensive! The 5.5 screen is not only greatly responsive an accurate it also is been treated with a oleophobic layer that lets you get rid of any pesky fingerprints in no time. Speaking of fingerprints: As mentioned before the Meizu M5 has the MTouch button that also functions as a fingerprint scanner. This works flawless! What I really appreciate is the fact that the home button is not just a touch sensitive area, but is actually clickable.
This way your phone never accidentally vibrates or registers false touches when you accidentally touch the scanning area. Since one has to press to unlock, the finger already is on the fingerprint scanner so unlocking is one fluent experience. These are the little well thought out details that makes the M5 Note a joy in everyday use. Now let’s move to the camera, for me usually one of the utmost important features in a smartphone.
Now the Meizu M5 Note´s camera units do not really impress when you would look at them on paper. In fact the 13MP back- and 5 MP front camera set up gives away this is obviously a 2016 model smartphone. So on paper the camera’s seem mediocre at best. However I’m convinced that using the camera on the M5 Note will soon bring you different idea’s!
Not only does Meizu excel in camera-options, for example there is a decent macro-setting and even slow-motion video recording, but there is also the Pro Mode that gives you complete control over the camera settings, from ISO to shutter time plus it has a built-in editor that gives you the possibility to dehaze and defog every picture to get optimal results.
On top of that the responsiveness and the shutter fastness is very satisfying. This results in sharp pictures with a great saturation and dynamic range and my overall conclusion thus is the camera’s of the M5 Note perform way above average. Sure like 95% of ALL smartphone camera’s we see the picture quality drop in low light situations, but even in that area, considering we’re still talking budget model here: Above average! And if it gets to dark the dualtoned flashlight surely offers a solution and lights up everything in natural light colours. Of course you will find some picture samples I personally shot with our M5 Note at the end of this review so you will have the option to judge them yourselves.
When it comes to connectivity I think many of the other Chinese phone-manufacturers could take an example from Meizu in this area. I was impressed with the Bluetooth range, the WiFi that didn’t experience a single drop during the weeks of using the device as a main driver and the call quality is also, again, above average.
No I live in an old house and some devices I’ve tested have had problems with call reception and WiFi reception when I went downstairs, this was not the case with the M5 Note. And even when I used it as a WiFi Hotspot the range was impressive. So it seems the build quality also extends to that area. I would say, considering you can get ALL this in a $ 125,- package, the Meizu M5 Note is definitely worth buying. The main reason this device ends up in third place is the simple fact it has the slightly older P10 Chipset then we find in our numbers 1 and 2 .
2nd Place: The LeEco Le S3 X626 (4GB/64GB)
The number 2 on our Top 3 I would definitely recommend even though it has been on the market for about a year now is the LeEco Le S3 X636. Since LeEco isn’t doing too well company wise, this has lead to enormous price-droppings of their devices, which is a great opportunity for you, the end user to pick one up cheap. ($ 95-120)
Before we go in to the details of the review, I think it might me useful to specify there are 3 different versions available of the Le S3. Two of them are packing 3 GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage and a 16 megapixel rear camera. One of them is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Quadcore processor the other by a MediaTek Helio X20 Decacore processor. And then there is the third, awesome edition that was sent to us. This version, that is only available in the Force Golden colour sports 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of ROM storage, and it uses the same 21.2 megapixel rearcamera also found in the LeEco Le Max2. Now, let’s take a closer look at this impressive phone:
If there ever was one company that understood the slogan “Less is More” then its probably LeEco. Simplicity and minimalistic approach are the first things that come to mind and that begins with the very box the device comes in. It’s a simple white box, just carrying the LeEco Logo. On the backside there’s a little sticker in the left lower corner, showing us the specifications, type number and imei-number.
Inside the box there of course is the device itself, and in separate compartments we find USB-C cable, Quickcharger and of course the leaflets no one ever reads and the simtray-tool. They also included the 3.5mm-to-usb-C-connector so you can use any old headset on the LeEco Le S3 that has gotten rid of the 3,5 mm jack completely. But I will elaborate on that later. So, like said simplicity at its best. Now lets take a closer look at the device itself:
Design and Screen:
Even though Apple and Umidigi keep shouting they were inspired by the Bauhaus concept of minimalism, all it takes is having one look at the LeEco Le S3 Pro to see that they have perfected the minimalism-concept. The phones design is an homage to symmetry. And it doesn’t really matter from which side you look at the phone. The upper bezel and the devices chin are exactly equally big which gives the phone a great feeling of balance in your hand, even the circular openings next to the earspeaker, which are housing the front camera and the proximitysensor are equally big and placed within identical distance to the speaker.
Everything is designed really well. Just like the fact that at first glance it looks like there’s no home- and/or navigation buttons, until you start to use the device, and the softtouch buttons light up behind the metal looking chin. The notification LED is “hidden” in the same way. The 5.5 inch 1920 x 1080 FHD screen is basically edge to edge (if we not count the black edge that surrounds the screen once it’s turned on, which are quiet easy to get used to and in fact didn’t bother me at all. What I really appreciate in every phone I test is when the manufacturer actually has put in some extra effort to give the screen an oleophobic layer to ward of those pesky fingerprints.
I was quite happy to discover the Le S3 was equipped with that. This adds to the premium user-experience. Another design decision was to leave out the 3.5 mm headphone jack and to be honest, even that was nothing that bothered me at all. We ALL know it’s not smart to use your phone during charging, so I don’t see the problem. On top of that LeEco did include a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box, so you can just keep using your favourite headphones. Since my favourite set of headphones is Bluetooth-based I didn’t experience any problems at all.
Hardware and software
Like said, there are several versions of the Le S3. The model that was reviewed by me was the one packing the Mediatek X20 decacore chipset, combined with 4GB of RAM and a whopping 64GB internal storage (which is nice since the Le S3 doesn’t support the use of a micro SD card). The Mediatek X20 processor is very powerful and operates smoothly at the clocked speed of 2.3 Ghz. GPU is provided by a Mali T880 which makes gaming and other graphical experiences quiet smooth and fluent.
The fingerprint scanner that is mounted on the back of the device works like a charm and unlocks the phone straight out of lock mode in under 0.2 seconds every single time. The speaker sound that is enhanced with Dolby DTS makes listening to music a pleasant experience, even if you chose not use your headphones. Just looking at the hardware of the device, I can seriously say it is a great device and it does, in no way give you the typical 120 dollar device experience.
But… then there’s the software. And that is exactly the point of focus that made this device only reach second place in my Top 3. Even though I do not agree with the majority of me reviewing peers, I think the LeEco EUI operating system is a rather intelligent addition to Android. Or rather, it could have been. Sure it’s definitely better than Samsungs Touchwiz that fills your device with unwanted bloatware you’re unable to remove, and its surely not as ‘bulky’ as HTC’s Sense. It is clear, easy to use and relatively customizable.
In fact my first reaction was: “Why would anyone complain about this, this is perfect”. And it was. That is, until my battery had died and after charging the phone, I decided to turn on the device again. Nothing happened and the screen stayed black. After getting over what felt like a near-death-experience, I remembered there was a hard reset option pushing volume down and the power button at the same time and holding for 5 or more seconds. And that worked. The device came back to live and it worked like a charm again. Now this problem with not liking to go to sleep, or rather, difficulties waking up repeated itself several times.
Several of my friends that also use this device reported the same problem. Now I do admit it was the ONLY problem whatsoever that I encountered with the Le S3 but for me it was just enough to not nominate this device for the 1st place in my Top 3. The rest of the software (the EUI) looks fantastic and works flawless. It might take some getting used to, since they changed the location of your open apps and toggles but since they changed in a way that does make (some) sense I didn’t have difficulties adapting.
Then there is the camera. Important to notice there are also two versions of that available there’s a model sporting an 16 MP back shooter and a 8 MP selfies-cam, and there’s the model I got, sporting no less than a 21MP back camera. And I think it’s fair to say, as far as budget phones go, this is one of the best smartphone camera’s out there. Not only does it work very fluently and fast (shutter time is not even worth mentioning even in bad lighting conditions) but it reproduces great pictures, with a decent dynamic range and great colours.
One thing I did notice is that it reproduces colours that are more realistic, and one needs to be a fan of those. I for one like the more saturated colour reproduction like we find in Samsung and to a certain extend also in Meizu camera’s. Nonetheless the LeEco Le S3 takes amazing pictures and isn’t afraid of darkness, cloudy days or even movement. The same is true for the 8MP frontcamera. I’ve made videos and took pictures with it that looked better than some devices main camera to be honest. There are many settings, like a pro setting that gives you complete control over the settings and there is a slow motion option that makes nice videos (be it in a lower resolution only, but still worth looking at).
There’s a set of real life filters to use, and beautification software for your selfies. Now once you’re my age, you give up every illusion that even software will make you look good, but I’m sure there are some end users that might find it useful 😉
So that sounds like a pretty perfect camera than doesn’t it? Well, for the most part: Yes. However (o, come on you ALL knew a “however” was on its way, right?) there were two tiny things that annoyed me. One is the fact that the camera didn’t always deal with direct sunlight in a fashion that made me happy, sometimes big rays of light that the bare didn’t register appeared in the pictures. Like said, that was only happening when working in direct sunlight, and living in the Netherlands or the UK for that matters, the risk of having a lot of direct sunlight is rather minimal.
Seriously though, it was no big deal once I learned that changing the phone angle just a wee bit would sort it out. The other thing that I wasn’t happy about was the fact that if you’re like me a fan of macro-photography, the Le S3 will somewhat disappoint you.
Once you get “too close” to an object the camera just will not be able to focus no matter how many times you tap the screen. The only way to restore focus was to take a step back. So yeah, if you’re like me and enjoy making close ups of plants and flowers, that is a slight disappointment. However the nightshots, slow motion and overall fantastic picture quality will let you get over that relatively fast. Here are some photo samples made with the Le S3:
Now the thing on the LeEco Le S3 that is definitely MORE than fast is the quick charge they build for their battery. I have truly never seen a phone that charged faster and yet was able to actually hold the charge just as long any other device. In somewhat around an hour the 3000 mAh battery was completely charged, which is really great. Sometimes I noticed I forgot to charge the phone at night, so I put it on the charger while drinking my coffee and get ready which usually takes 20-30 minutes. The result was that I could fully use the phone for the rest of the day. Really convenient.
So yea, the LeEco Le S3 did perform really really well for a phone under the 150 euro/dollar marker. The fact that LeEco is closing down all of their branches except the Chinese one, the annoying software glitch and the fact macro shots are not really a possibility made it that the LeEco Le S3 didn’t make it to the first place. But even with these minor flaws I can truly say this phone is worth its money and a good buy. Especially since it has dropped under the 100 dollar in price (32GB version) lately, price is the best reason to look at last years devices also when you’re in for a new daily driver.
The Absolute Winner of Top 3 devices I reviewed in 2017:
The Meizu MX6.
Yes another Meizu device made it into my list, and NO Meizu is in no way paying me, just to make things clear 😉 I have made it perfectly clear in my review of the Meizu M5 Note that I became a fan of the fluentness of the Flyme OS and the build quality of Meizu devices, since it’s just more than decent. Now, let dig into the specifications and experiences I had with their MX6
Box & Design:
Everything about the Meizu MX6 screams: “High End!” and that begins with the very box it comes in. The white sturdy box, with the shape of the phone embossed in a silver colour looks premium, and so it feels too. Everything inside is neatly arranged in compartments and magnets keep it all in place. As usual the device comes with an mCharge fast-charger, USB Cable (of the C-Type in this case with is definitely a pro) and a sim-tool with a Flyme Loge cut out.
Paying attention to those little details, this is basically what makes the Meizu devices winners for me. Granted, the design of the Meizu MX6 is not the most innovative or the most edgy design out there. But instead of an outlandish new design concept Meizu gives you a design that’s ergonomic, sturdy and yet timeless. It’s more a classical beauty and with that it holds up the well-known signature Meizu is known for and loved for by its fans.
The MX6 sports a lovely 5.5 inch screen that comes with very thin bezels. The upper bezel and the phones chin are equal in size with not only gives the phone a balanced look, but it feels perfectly balanced and lined out when you’re actually holding it. Of course the MX6 also features the well known oval shaped mTouch button that is so much more than just a home button thanks to the Flyme OS. Remember there are NO capacitive buttons on the sides nor are there any on screen buttons.
It’s one button for everything, and as far as I’m concerned the easiest most sentient way of navigating an Android based phone. The design of the body is very beautiful since the device is very slim with only 7.2mm thickness, the rounding of every edge makes it a pleasure to hold and the grip is just great. It has some qualities of design that make it easy to compare the MX6 with the One Plus 5 and the Apple iPhone 7, and in no way whatsoever does the MX6 feel lesser or cheaper.
On the right side of the screen we find the volume rocker and the on/off button. These don’t rattle or feel loose, and they are placed in perfect distance to each other, which makes the chance you’re accidentally pushing the wrong one small. Yet they’re positioned close enough to make screenshots easy (vol – & on/off combo).
On the left side of the MX6’s slim body we find the simtray that also fits perfectly, the 3.5mm jack (yes it’s there!) and the USB-C port are found at the bottom of the MX6, just like the speaker. This means, except a tiny microphone used for background noise reduction during calls (and it works like a charm by the way) nothing is placed on the upper side of the MX6 making its design just extra smooth and beautiful.
Screen & other hardware:
The Meizu MX6 comes with a great Sharp 5.5 Full HD (1920x1080p.) screen. Since its predecessor the MX5 used to sport an AMOLED screen this would look like a step back at first glance. But that seems to be a nonexistent problem in daily use, since the IPS/LCD panel used on the MX6 can reproduce great colour and contrast and it feels great. Is very responsive and there’s basically no lag whatsoever making it a great experience for those of us that are fast typers (or swypers ofc.). Plus, when you take into consideration that the MX6 is only 7.5mm thin I think the designers faced the choice to either make the device thicker or to use a less energy consuming screen than an AMOLED screen.
The third option would’ve been to go with both and end up with a disappointing screen-on-time. And considering the Helio X20 processor used in the MX6 is fast as hell, but not one of the most nergy-friendly chipsets out there. I think the choice was the right one, especially since the IPS screens produced by Sharp are just doing a great job and have deep end rich colours to enjoy. Daylight readability of the screen is great, also in bright sunlight you’re perfectly able to read your screen.
I already mentioned the chipset quickly before, and yes the MX6 is powered by the Mediatek Helio X20 decacore processor paired with 4GB of RAM. The internal storage is the only con of this device since it comes with 32GB of ROM, not expanable. But since I work out of the cloud most of the time I wasn’t bothered.
The GPU is taken care of by the Mali T880 chipset making gaming, video-binge-watching and other graphic activities work just great without any stutter of skipped frames which is a nice experience for a phone under the 200 euro marker. Everything is getting juice from a rather decent 3000mAh battery, the Meizu mCharge quick charging system makes sure your phone will be able to fully charge from 0 to 100 % in little over an hour.
Then the speakers, both the earset as the external speaker are producing a sound with a quality that is above average, and definitely above the quality of the many other devices I have tested and reviewed last year. Well, the only bit of hardware we didn’t discuss yet is the camera, but I will write an entire section on the camera later in this review. For now, let’s start with telling you a bit about the software of the Meizu MX6.
As mentioned earlier when I talked about the M5 Note, Meizu doesn’t bring you a blend, plain Android experience, nor do they bug you with a heavy laggy layer with tons of bloatware (Yes Samsung, I’m talking to you, YES Alcatel, you too!). They use their own Flyme OS based on Android 6 or 7. In the case of the MX6 you will be using Flyme6.0 of which I can only repeat what I said earlier… it’s sentient. It’s fluent and since the MX6 is even faster than the M5 Note, the fluent trait of the OS becomes even more evident.
I use my smartphone a lot and believe me when I say I am absolutely convinced using Flyme saves you time! I don’t feel the need to repeat myself so suffice to say that every great thing I mentioned about the OS in the review of or number 3 goes for this device too, just everything works even faster and thus more smoothly. Gotta love it.
When you would just look at the camera specs of the MX6 on paper (12 megapixel back and merely 5 mp front camera) you could get the impression of getting, well, mediocre results at most. Yet you would be wrong. The actual footage coming from my MX6 is simply stunning and even in low-light conditions it doesn’t completely falter like most sub-two-hundred-dollar devices usually do. Colours come out vibrant and alive. The camera software and hardware are optimized to the max and work together for great results.
The dynamic range is more than satisfying and it has rich contrasts and the saturation is full and you will have a difficult time shooting a bad picture with this one. The video quality doesn’t disappoint in sharpness, sound and frame rate. And the options and settings are awesome, like did you know there’s slow motion and time lapse options available in Flyme6.0? Also the build in editor is working like a charm and has really useful settings that actually make your pictures come out looking better instead of looking edited! Especially the Dehaze and Defog options are really making sense.
The front camera is rather average with the 5 mp resolution, but Meizu took their chance to once and for all prove megapixels aren’t everything. The front camera makes decent useful pictures for social media and for general usage, the lens still performs rather well when the light gets lower.
A good thing since there is no selfie flash on the MX6. For absolute darkness the phone screen is used as “flash” it turns the brightness to max and turns white for a mere second. I would’ve preferred an LED flash there but keeping in mind it’s a 2016 model and again 7.2mm thin I think the solution is a creative one and reasonably working too. And again, there is nothing wrong with the quality of the pictures. Great overall performance!
Conclusion about Top 3 devices I reviewed in 2017:
Well, I think everyone that actually read the review and didn’t jump straight to the conclusion will sorta already know how this will turn out, right? Well to state the obvious: there is a reason I have given the Meizu MX6 the “honour” to be the number 1 in my Top3! I think it’s the best phone one can buy for around 170-180 euro at the moment. It gives you an iPhone like feeling yet its powered by Android and perfected by Meizu’s Flyme.
The camera and speaker sound are both way above average and the screen is vibrant and bright and does what it’s supposed to do. The 7.2mm aluminium body is very attractive to look at and its feel is ergonomically on spot if you ask me.
I’m really impressed with this phone, in fact, I have used it longer than my usual week I take for reviewing a device. And again, Meizu is not paying me , neither is LeEco by the way… but well…that one is obvious lol..) but here’s my straight opinion: The Meizu MX6 is the best phone I have tested in 2017. There will be 2 more phones I will be reviewing this year before I’ll be hibernating during the Holiday Season, so whoever supplies them: You better know what you’re up against 😉
This is my article about the Top 3 devices I reviewed in 2017.
Glad I have the opportunity to write here on WiredLeaks and thats why I shared this top 3 with you. No worries though my other reviews won’t be this lengthy and usually I do one device at the time. Thanks for baring with me though… till next time!