Long awaited, now here he is, the contender for the throne of the upper-middle-class smartphones. Meizu presents the E3, and the attack against Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 begins. The fight between these two smartphones is something special, because both shine with their advantages, but also bring disadvantages. Who wins the battle is unclear so far, probably, mainly because of lack of published smartphones – which doesn’t matter, however.
Meizu E3 is a little more expensive, it costs about 220€, but it should also take better pictures. The battery capacity has been saved on, but E3 should make life difficult for Redmi Note 5 in many areas or at least offer an alternative. Whether this works and how E3 performs in the test, you can find out in the following paragraphs!
Design, build quality and scope of delivery
Meizu is known for providing great build quality. So, E3 has a really good build quality all around and, at first sight, you have no reason to complain. But since you become more precise and meticulous when the price and expectations rise, there is a reason to complain. The power button is a little wobbly. It is nothing tragic, nitpicking if you say so, but it is an inconsistency that clouds the otherwise perfect overall picture. At least with this test device.
The dimensions are 157 x 74 x 6.5 mm. The increase of the camera makes another 1.5 mm. Predominantly very small dimensions, which are even slightly better than stated on the manufacturer’s website. Meizu probably includes the keys, which also protrude approx. 1 mm, in the count. The smartphone is pleasantly easy to use. The metal unibody casing fits very well in the hand. The low weight of 160 g does the rest. Light brushed aluminium is used on the rear. The material is susceptible to sweaty fingers, whereas normal fingerprints are concealed quite well. At the upper and lower edge of the rear, you see the well-known and proven antenna strips made of plastic. On the top right, vertically aligned, is the dual camera, which is set aside by a two-colour LED flash.
On the right side of M3, you will find the fingerprint sensor and the power button. For the former, there was no space at the front, and the rear was supposed to be kept as clean as possible. A bit unfortunate is the inclination of the sensor, which is slightly rear-facing instead of being executed parallel to the side or to the user. However, the fingerprint sensor was still easy to reach and unlocked the smartphone reliably and quickly during all attempts. On the opposite side, you can find the volume keys. It is no a normal volume control, but rather 2 separate keys. Above the button for raising the volume, there is the SIM card tray. As usual, it contains either two Nano-SIM cards or one Nano-SIM card and one Micro-SD card (max. 256GB). A transition from the tray to the frame is not noticeable.
The front glass is smooth. Gliding with the finger is almost without resistance. However, there is a downside. If you have the habit of placing your smartphone on the front, you should make sure that the ground is not sloping. The device almost slipped slowly off the table twice. But the front is also quite fingerprint resistant. A 2.5D rounding is used towards the edge of the glass, which creates a very soft transition into the metal frame.
It takes some time getting used to the reduction of three on-screen buttons to a single button in the middle, which has capacitive properties. So it reacts to the strength of the pressure. More about this topic later on.
In addition to a large 6-inch display in 18: 9 format, the light sensor and proximity sensor are also located on the front. The selfie camera is flanked by an “invisible”, unfortunately only white notification LED on the left. Invisible, by the way, because the LED is not visible before it lights up.
At the upper edge of the frame, you only find the second, noise-cancelling microphone, at the lower edge there are a few more openings. Besides six holes for the mono speaker, there is also the main microphone and a modern USB Type-C connection. Even the good old 3.5 mm jack connector is included and rounds off the features.
Meizu has created a visually appealing smartphone. The basics are still based on an iPhone, but Meizu manages to set his own accents that set it apart from Redmi Note 5. The equipment is good and apart from the really hardly noticeable wobbling of the power button, the build quality is flawless. The interplay of matt-golden back and white front gives the whole thing an additional high-quality touch.
Meizu E3 scope of delivery
While the smartphone is neatly equipped, it seems that they saved a little on the accessories. Thus, neither a protective cover nor a screen protector is obtained. The box is slightly larger than normal, but quite unadorned.
- Quick Start Guide (Chinese)
- Quick Charge power plug (Chinese, without EU Adapter, 2A)
- USB to USB Type-C cable
- SIM ejection tool
The display measures, as already mentioned, 6 inches and has an 18: 9 format. The resolution is 2160 x 1080 pixels, the usual Full HD+ format with corresponding 403 ppi. Individual pixels are therefore not recognizable and the contents appear very sharp. In addition, the lateral bezels are only 2.5 mm thick. The edge can almost be described as a formality. There is also only 13 mm space above and below. This gives to E3 a very good screen to body ratio of 80%. After deducting the range for the capacitive key, approx. 75 % of this remains.
The colours of the display are very strong and for the most part accurate, but come with a slight blue cast. If necessary, however, this can be reduced. MiraVision is not used here, but a solution from Meizu. The colour temperature can be adjusted as desired and, at the same time, a good example image has been displayed on which the effects can be seen even before the settings are applied.
The display shines with a very good brightness, indicated are 450 cd/m². Even in strong direct sunlight, the contents are still very easy to read. When the lighting is low, E3 can also be lowered very far. The adaptive brightness control does most of the work and adapts the brightness levels very reliably to the environment. But the gradations could be a little finer.
The black values are very good, although not as “infinite” as with an AMOLED display. The very good contrast is also impressive. The IPS Display does a good job. The distribution of the backlight has been successful, there is no halo formation.
As already mentioned, the surface is pleasantly slippery and should be placed on top of it with care. The 10 points of contact that E3 recognizes are implemented quickly and precisely. Fast typing persons and “clicker-gamers” will have a pleasant user experience.
Engraving your own initials into the front glass requires more than a screwdriver or a knife: the glass is definitely scratch-resistant, even if not directly advertised with Gorilla glass.
Also on board are settings such as double tap to wake or gesture control via letters drawn on the switched off display to call up an app directly.
Xiaomi presented the new mid-range monster chip Snapdragon 636 in Redmi Note 5 and achieved new peak values that almost catch up with old flagships such as the Snapdragon 835. The modern 14 nm manufacturing process even enables a more efficient energy yield than with the old top SOCs. Meizu uses the same Snapdragon 636 in E3 and achieves similar values in the benchmarks. The Kryo 260 architecture reaches speeds of up to 1.8 GHz in the power cluster with 4 Cortex A73 cores and 1.6 GHz in the power saving cluster with the more frugal 4 Cortex A53 cores. The main processor is supported by an Adreno 509 GPU, which works with still unknown clock rates, but definitely masters its work excellently.
In a direct comparison of the benchmarks, E3 is a few points behind Redmi Note 5, but this does not detract from its generally excellent performance. Apps are started without delay, navigation takes place without visible jerks. The 6 GB LPDDRX RAM (5.1 GB/s) has no problems with several opened apps and was never used to capacity, even though the system already occupies 3 GB. The main storage (eMMC 5.1) is available with 64 GB. After deducting the operating system, there is still about 50 GB left, which can be used at will. The storage reaches reading/writing rates of 260/236 MB/s. This means that the E3 even outperforms the competition in the form of Redmi Note 5 when it comes to pure numbers.
Games like Asphalt 8 or Nova 3 are just as easy on E3 as on the Xiaomi device, for everyday use you are more than well equipped with such a high-performance chip anyway.
E3 loses a few points in the benchmarks and recovers them in terms of the memory. Neither Meizu nor Xiaomi differ much in their performance. Both provide more than enough power to do everyday tasks without waiting times. Even graphically complex games are played smoothly. So this round goes into a clear draw. In terms of performance, neither device stands out, but both are at a very high level.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result
System with Flyme 18.104.22.168A on Nougat (7.1.1) basis
Meizu E3 houses the own Flyme OS on Android 7.1.1 basis (alias Nougat). The security patch for the latest version is from February 2018. Android 7.1 is not outdated yet, but it is also neither up-to-date. Xiaomi makes it better here and delivers Redmi Note 5 already on 8.1 basis. After all, Flyme OS 7 for the E3, which also uses the Android 8.1 substructure, has been announced for the coming months. Flyme OS itself offers a heavily modified MIUI-style interface with its own app icons. There is no app drawer (overview page) and all apps find their place on the home screen. For better management, folders can be created using drag & drop. E3 is also delivered without Google Play Store. The basic play features can be downloaded from the pre-installed Chinese App Store. The Play Store can then be reinstalled via APK, which is not really difficult. A short guide for the installation can be found HERE!
Since the E3 is intended exclusively for the Chinese market, some purely Chinese standard apps are pre-installed. Most of them can be completely uninstalled. However, the system apps remain and cannot be removed from the app overview by deactivating them. Some permissions that some apps require are somewhat suspect.
Actually, all of them want Internet access, including the calculator. Many want to know about the location or would like to do so at least in the future and also access to the contacts is required by more apps than it seems logical. Without these permissions, however, the apps provided by the system will not work at all. Furthermore, there is only a small selection of available languages. Although a wide variety of Chinese is available, outside of China you are limited to English. If you prefer another language than English, the app “MoreLocals 2”, which tries to translate the system without root rights, can help. This also works in most areas such as system notifications. However, the settings menu and the upper taskbar remain in English. Instructions on how to install “MoreLocals 2” on E3 can be found together with the setup help.
Flyme OS works very solidly. Navigation does not cause any lags and runs smoothly. In the settings, you can choose between different pre-installed “themes”. A theme shop is available online (Chinese), which offers an almost endless number of possibilities even without linguistic knowledge, it is free of course. If you don’t like Flyme OS, you can also download and install the Nova Launcher from the Play Store without any problems. By the way, I couldn’t find any malware or Trojans. The Theme Launcher was recognized as “Riskware.agent”, but is unproblematic. All elements that are not clearly stored in the archive are displayed as “Riskware”. Malewarebytes probably triggers an alarm because the theme launcher has considerably more permissions than should normally be necessary. The system is clean, apart from some double-used apps.
A highlight of E3, which harmonizes especially with the Flyme OS, is the capacitive button, which replaces the on-screen buttons. As already mentioned, it reacts not only to the touch, but also to the intensity with which it takes place. A simple touch works like the standard back button, a stronger pressure brings the user back to the start screen. Press and hold to switch off the display. Repeating strong, soft and again strong pressure starts the camera. Some of the functions can be assigned by the user. Only the basic setting for “Back” cannot be changed. If you switch off your display with the power button, you can also start the Google Assistant via one of the input types, for example. After a few minutes(!) getting used to it, the navigation with the button went already well and I did not miss the three on-screen buttons a bit.
But if you don’t get along with the single button, you can switch to the common on-screen buttons in the settings, but then you lose the capacitive properties of the middle button. The navigation bar can be hidden at any time, if necessary you can pin it, and, after the use, you can wipe it away; nice idea, Meizu.
If you need even more space to navigate but miss the “Full-Screen Gestures” of Redmi Note 5, Meizu will give you the “Smart-Touch” settings. In my opinion, this is not a quite so successful replacement. Smart-Touch creates a small point in the middle of the display which can be moved in all directions, like a joystick, and thus triggers certain actions. However, the button occupies a part of the screen, albeit a small one, and thus overlays underlying apps. The navigation with the joystick point is quite similar to Xiaomi’s “Full-Screen Gestures”.
Global ROM, China ROM, Custom ROM
With its Snapdragon 636, E3 is a good candidate for custom ROMs. The fan community of Meizu is large and a custom ROM would even be desirable for greater success in Europe, because not everyone is happy with Meizu’s own Flyme OS. Another launcher (available from the Play Store) is the first alternative, but all bloatware and double apps remain on the smartphone. There will probably not be a global ROM, as the E3 will only appear explicitly for the Chinese market. There is a chance that Meizu will rethink in case of many exports to the EU, but this is not very probable.
If you order Meizu E3 from China, you can order the smartphone with a modified custom ROM from most shops. Then the smartphone has the Google Play Store ex-works. At CECT-Shop, for example, this is possible. However, this is only half of the solution, as the smartphones with Chinese custom ROM will not receive any updates.
Other custom ROMs (e.g. from XDA developers) are not yet available either. However, this may only be a matter of time, given the equipment of the smartphone. In the near future, there will probably be custom ROMs with Google Play Store that receive updates – although not by the manufacturer itself. Unlocking the bootloader is not easily possible in the developer settings. How difficult Meizu makes it for the developers remains to be seen. As soon as the first custom ROMs are available, there will be a guide on Chinahandys.net to help you flash the E3.
One thing beforehand: the pictures that the E3 creates are great, hardly inferior to Redmi Note 5 and even surpass it in some areas. The Bokeh recordings especially look better in some situations.
E3 is equipped with a dual camera on the rear. A Sony IMX 362 sensor with 12 MP and an f/1.9 aperture form the main sensor. When switching to dual, the images are supplemented by the depth information of the second sensor. This is the Sony IMX 350 sensor with 20 MP and an f/2.6 aperture.
Doubtlessly, the images in daylight are simply great, the colours are neutral, the sharpness high and details are neatly reproduced. A real difference to flagships only becomes visible when zooming in the pictures. It should also be possible to zoom 1.8 times without loss of quality. You can get an impression in the picture gallery.
If the backlight is strong, the details are washed out. There is no OIS (optical image stabilizer), but EIS (electronic image stabilizer) is included and performs its work very satisfactorily. Video recordings in 4K and Full HD are also possible. Xiaomi offers the better recording with Redmi Note 5. In the camera settings, you can still use a professional mode in which settings such as exposure time or focus can be adjusted. Video recordings are also possible in slow motion and fast motion. The former switches to 720p and is limited to one minute. Time-lapse recordings run in Full HD and are possible for 0.5 seconds.
Night shots cause high image noise and become much more blurred. Shooting in low light, for example at dusk, is still quite successful, even though the image noise is already apparent here. The Bokeh effect requires good lighting conditions and is no longer usable even in low light.
HDR is also available and ensures better dynamics and optical improvement, especially in poor lighting conditions. HDR and Bokeh cannot be used simultaneously.
The front camera provides an unknown sensor with 8MP. The quality is fine. It can always be used for a few souvenir photos, as long as the light is still quite good. The Beauty-Mode, on the other hand, was much too artificial for me – they could have made it more beautiful.
The difficult question is who gets the camera crown. Both opponents take excellent pictures in this price range. Soon there won’t be much difference to the flagships. An OIS and some better details would be the next logical step for me.
Personally, I would grant Meizu E3 the crown, but in fact, it is a matter of taste. Both companies could improve the quality of the camera with software updates, but this is more likely with Xiaomi. And don’t forget that Meizu is aiming for a certain higher price for E3 than Xiaomi with Redmi Note 5, the surcharge is about 30€ (if Redmi Note 5 is on offer), but in return, you get the better photos and the better Bokeh implementation (in my opinion). Over a longer period of time, it will become clear who will stay one step ahead.
Images for comparison RN5 vs. OP3 vs. E3
Here are the comparison pictures between Redmi Note 5 (always on the left) and E3 (always on the right). Additionally, I added an old flagship in the shape of the Oneplus 3 (if available always in the middle), in order to also have a comparison to the upper class, even if the OP3 is no longer the very latest.
Connectivity and communication
Let’s face it, in this area E3 has to admit defeat to Redmi Note 5, but not because the connection is bad or the voice quality is lagging behind. Plainly and simply because Meizu does without band 20 in E3! Band 20 is not used in China but in most european countries like germany, spain and italy. E3 is officially released for China only. So there is no reason for Meizu to use band 20. A global version, originally named E3E, is not planned and would only be realized with a lot of luck. Thus, using E3, even in the city, you fall back again and again from the 4G network into the 3G network. The connection that is finally established, whether 3G or 4G, is very good, however; even in rooms, I had a good data throughput and very good reception. If you live close to the city, 3G will always provide enough data throughput to watch Full-HD YouTube videos on the go. However, it is becoming critical for inhabitants of rural areas. Here the 4G cover with LTE band 20 is important for constant data reception.
In the Wi-Fi network, too, Meizu does a nice job. The phone connects to 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz according to the .ac standard.
The range for Wi-Fi reception is just as good as for mobile data connection. Bluetooth is available in version 5.0 and also achieved very good transmission distances. Even with one floor and several walls in between, the connection was stable and files could be transferred, albeit more slowly.
E3’s internal speaker delivers appropriate sound quality with the usual low bass. The volume can be increased up to 50% quite moderately. From 50% the levels get bigger, the volume reaches a decent level at 100% without great distortion or oversteering. Unfortunately, an FM extension is missing.
Tracking the location via GPS went off without any problems. After a short loading time, E3 finds its current location and navigates to its destination without interruption. E3 supports A-GPS, GLONASS and BDS.
In terms of sensors, Meizu almost offers a complete selection: accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, hall sensor, light and proximity sensor.
If band 20 were available, the E3 would be an extremely strong competitor. Here, a lot of potential is almost uselessly wasted by the orientation to the national market. However, the field is therefore largely left to Xiaomi, even though the rest of the equipment is convincing.
In terms of battery, Meizu is in a solid average range with E3. With 3360 mAh you don’t have a monster batter, but you can get through the day without any problems. Two days in a row were also often possible. In the battery benchmark, E3 achieved a display-on time of approx. 10.5 hours. In reality, 7-8 hours were possible without gaming.
Various games consume an average of 8-9% every 30 minutes. A YouTube video at half brightness consumes approx. 15% per hour. These results are not top values, but they are at a high level.
Charging via Quick Charge 3.0 using the included power supply unit is quick and easy. From 8 % to 57 % it takes exactly 30 minutes, which is a good value, provided you have the required adapter for the EU socket at hand! After another 40 minutes, E3 was fully charged!Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
As a last resort in a battery emergency, there is the possibility to activate a super-energy-saving mode in the settings. This mode reduces the surface to a minimum (e.g. telephone and SMS) and switches off all colours. What remains are shades of grey and the desired minimum level of reachability.