Meizu MX

I’m traveling to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress on Saturday and one of my biggest concerns has been my choice of smartphone. Thankfully, I have a big selection to choose from, but the Meizu MX especially stands out because it’s a pentaband 3G phone with HSPA+ support. That means it supports a ton of different frequencies, and thus, is compatible with a larger number of 3G networks. Specifically, the MX supports the following frequency bands: 850MHz/900MHz/1800MHz/1900MHz for 2G networks and 850MHz/900MHZ/1700MHz/1900MHz/2100MHz 3G networks, which means it will run on AT&T and T-Mobile USA in the United States.

The Meizu MX is a rather beautiful device. Its rounded edges and curves remind me a bit of the white iPhone 3GS. The back of the phone is home to an 8-megapixel camera with a single LED flash. There’s a power button and a  3.5mm headphone jack conveniently located on the top of the MX, volume toggle controls in easy reach on the left-hand side, and a microUSB charging port on the bottom. The battery cover is really hard to remove — it almost felt like I was breaking the device every time I had to access the microSIM card slot, which is hidden extremely well (so well that it took us 15 minutes to locate it). The battery can’t be removed, either, which is a bit odd for an Android phone.

The front of the MX is home to a 4-inch 960 x 640-pixel display that is sharp, bright and colorful, but it doesn’t touch the quality of LG’s IPS HD display or Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus screens. There’s a small button below the display that always brings you to the home screen, a feature that might sound familiar to iPhone users. Meizu ditched the standard home, return, search and menu buttons for its own confusing capacitive keys, too. The keys are actually cool, they glow white when the phone is on and hide when the phone idles. Additionally, the left button morphs from a single glowing light, which seems to have little-to-no-purpose, to an arrow, or “back” key, once a menu is open. The keys might look neat, but I prefer Google’s standard buttons when it comes to usability.

I really dislike Flyme, Meizu’s custom Android skin. First, it takes a lot of getting used to because Meizu has basically turned Android 2.3.5 upside down on its head. There’s no app drawer — this took me a while to figure out — and instead the company takes Apple’s iOS approach and just installs a shortcut to every application on the home screen. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I like Android because it hides all of my apps in a drawer and leaves my homescreen free for widgets and other customizations.

I do admit, however, that Flyme is quick and fluid, thanks to the 1.4GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, no doubt. Its keyboard is also spacious and super easy to type on. Flyme’s lock screen is specifically useful; it allows you to quickly view missed calls or text messages without unlocking the device completely. Overall, though, I just wish it had plain old Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich installed instead.

Calls placed on the Meizu MX were solid in New York City. I didn’t have any issues making a few calls from my apartment. As is typical for AT&T, however, the phone’s signal was in and out in the back of one of my favorite diners. I was not able to get the data connection working properly on the Meizu MX. I tried multiple microSIM cards for AT&T, added the correct APNs and even allowed the phone to detect the proper network. The phone should technically support T-Mobile and AT&T’s 3G networks in the U.S., but unfortunately I wasn’t able to test them.

The camera took medicore shots. Most images were washed out; the finish on a bright yellow Nerf gun, for example, didn’t look nearly as colorful as it does in person or in photos shot by other cameras. 1080p video captured with the MX wasn’t too shabby, but it was constantly trying to slowly auto-focus, which meant the video would blur from time-to-time. Most phones are able to focus faster, however, so this is a problem I haven’t really seen before.

I like two things about the Meizu MX: the industrial design and the support for pentaband 3G. Unfortunately, one of those things was marred by the phone’s inability to properly to connect to AT&T’s 3G network in New York City. Perhaps it’s user error, but I’ve configured dozens of international phones and can’t understand why this one didn’t work properly. The Flyme user interface was unique but really turned me off from the device altogether. The camera is mediocre and is easily bested by most other devices currently available. While some may find the Meizu MX is right up their alley, I don’t recommend it for most consumers.