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NUU Mobile Z8 review

Posted by wicked August - 1 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

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Until very recently, the norm in the Android world was that there was a very clear distinction in every aspect between the high-end, mid-range, and the entry-level, be it with regards to build quality, specifications, features, and sometimes even the version of the Android OS the device would be running. While the big names in Android fought hard in the high-end arena, smaller companies had the opportunity to make a name for themselves in the affordable smartphone segment.

This may be the status quo no longer, particularly in 2015, but there are still some good devices on offer from some lesser known brands. One such company is Hong Kong based NUU Mobile, with the company bringing an affordable, 4G LTE-enabled device intended for the US market. Does this smartphone manage to stand out in the ever-growing crowd? We find out, in this full review of the NUU Mobile Z8!

Design

NUU Mobile Z8-2

As far as the design language is concerned, the NUU Mobile Z8 doesn’t stray too far from the standard, offering a familiar look and feel, albeit without an obvious inspiration. The glossy plastic rear cover comes with a faux metallic finish, that helps keep it resistant to fingerprints, and its tapered edges allows for the device to fit snugly in the hand. The back cover is a little difficult to remove though, which is a slight concern, given that you have to to access the microSD card slot, dual SIM card slots, and the replaceable battery. With a thickness of 9.4 mm and weighing 146 grams, the device does feel solid in the hand as well.

NUU Mobile Z8-11

Looking around the device, the volume rocker and the power button are on the left and right sides respectively, and the buttons do offer a solid tactile feel when pressed. Considering the larger overall footprint of the device though, a slightly lower placement of the power button would have made for a better handling experience. The capacitive navigation keys are found below the display, and depending on which device you are switching from, the placement of the Recent Apps key on the left and back button on the right can take some getting used to. The headphone jack is up top, and the microUSB port can be found along the bottom of the right side.

NUU Mobile Z8-4

An unique design aspect with the Z8 is the inclusion of a notification light integrated into the chin of the device, similar to what was seen with the OPPO Find 7, but in a slightly different implementation. There’s no denying that the breathing effect that this non-traditional notification light allows for looks great, and is a great addition to an otherwise uninspired design.

Display

NUU Mobile Z8-1

The NUU Mobile Z8 features a 5.5-inch gapless IPS LCD display, with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. Quad HD may be all the rage nowadays, but Full HD certainly more than gets the job done, especially when considering the mid-range nature of this device. The display performs very well, with excellent color reproduction and great viewing angles. The maximum brightness is still relatively dim though, which does negatively affect outdoor visibility.

This particular review unit arrived with an LCD bright spot out of the box, and while NUU Mobile confirmed that you will be able to pick up a replacement under their standard 2-year warranty, it does raise some concerns. Further, this screen is quite the fingerprint magnet, which can be annoying to some users. A tempered glass screen protector will be available in a few weeks for the Z8 however, which will hopefully make this less of an issue.

Performance

NUU Mobile Z8-13

Under the hood, the NUU Mobile Z8 packs an octa-core, 64-bit MediaTek MT6752 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T760 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. This processing package proved to be a solid and reliable performer, and handled day to day activities with relative ease. 2 GB of RAM allows for some comfortable multi-tasking, and the device also handled gaming very well.

The overall experience felt just as fast as the Asus Zenfone 2, with its arguably superior processing package, and this similarity is reflected in the benchmark scores as well. Of course, some of the credit for this smooth performance has to be given to the stock Android software, which does allow for a very fluid and stutter-free experience.

Hardware

NUU Mobile Z8-15

The NUU Mobile Z8 comes with 16 GB or 32 GB built-in storage options, with the latter available now, and the former being released early next month. Both versions come with support for expandable storage, via microSD card, by up to 64 GB. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, including MediaTek’s take on NFC, which is the HotKnot data exchange feature, which is limited to just smartphones and tablets featuring MediaTek processing packages. There were some noticeable connectivity issues however, with the Wi-Fi not very strong, leading to a lot of dropped connections, along with the GPS failing to find a lock indoors, and requiring some time when outdoors. Once connected, there were fortunately no issues after that.

NUU Mobile Z8-5

The device does come with full HSPA+ support on the AT&T and T-Mobile network, and while the dual SIM phone does allow for 4G LTE connectivity, it might be difficult to get because of some particular LTE bands not supported. That should change soon though, as NUU Mobile did mention working closely with the network carriers to add these bands, and should be activated soon, which users will receive via an OTA update.

NUU Mobile Z8-14

As far as the rear speaker is concerned, the single speaker on the Z8 does get plenty loud, but can sound a bit distorted, which is disappointing. As is the case with any rear speaker setup as well, it is easy to muffle the sound when the device is placed on a flat surface.

On the battery front, the NUU Mobile Z8 packs a removable 2,650 mAh battery, that unfortunately didn’t provide the best in terms of battery life. In my initial testing, the device lasted for just 7.5 hours with a screen-on time of 2.5 hours, which is below average by any standard. A software update that followed did result in a slight improvement, with the total time being pushed close to 10 hours, with the screen-on time jumping to 3.5 hours. As such, even average smartphone users will have a difficult time getting a full day of use comfortably out of this device. NUU Mobile did mention that they will continue to improve in this area with future updates, and for now, you do have the option to carry around a spare.

Camera

NUU Mobile Z8-7

The NUU Mobile Z8 comes with a 13 MP rear camera which did allow for some nice looking shots. Autofocus can be a little slow, but capturing the shot after that is fairly quick. There can be a lack of saturation in some images, especially when compared to other similar camera setups, like the Asus Zenfone 2, which actually does tend to oversaturate pictures. Some exposure issues came up as well, where tapping on a light object drops the exposure significantly, and vice versa.

All of the images, however, were very sharp and not lacking in detail. Understandably, the camera does struggle in low light conditions, even when the flash is on. Once again, NUU Mobile confirmed that they will try their best to improve image processing that will be made available to users in future firmware updates. As far as the camera application is concerned, it is the standard open source MediaTek app, and doesn’t really pack a whole lot, apart from a few modes, as well as some granular control over aspects like white balance and ISO.

Software

NUU Mobile Z8-3

On the software side of things, the NUU Mobile Z8 runs a near-stock iteration of Android 5.0 Lollipop, which provides an excellent software experience. Some additions over stock Android include a few gestures, as well as a Clear All Apps button in the multi-tasking screen, which is certainly a very useful addition. The launcher is very similar to the Google Now launcher, except without featuring Google Now, and the Google keyboard is also the default out of the box. What is particularly refreshing is the fact that there is absolutely no bloatware to be found anywhere.

Some of the gestures added include double tap to wake, drawing an “o” to launch the camera, shaking the device to turn the flashlight on, flip to mute, and wave to mute. All these gestures work very well, but the one to activate the flashlight is limited to only the lockscreen. This functionality will also be improved upon in future updates. Speaking of updates, NUU Mobile promises that this device will receive an official update to Android 5.1 Lollipop, but there is some uncertainty with it going beyond that.

Specifications

Display 5.5-inch IPS LGCD display
1080p, 401 ppi
Processor 1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6752 processor
Mali-T760 GPU
Storage 16/32 GB
expandable via microSD up to 64 GB
RAM 2 GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0
GPS+GLONASS
microUSB 2.0
Software Android 5.0 Lollipop
Camera 13 MP rear camera with LED flash
8 MP front-facing camera with wide angle lens
Battery 2,650 mAh
Colors black, white
Dimensions 152.9 x 76.5 x 9.4 mm
149 grams

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The NUU Mobile Z8 is available officially through the company website, as well as via various re-sellers like Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and HSN. The 16 GB variant, when released, will be priced at $249, and the 32 GB version is currently available for $299, with the included color options being white and black.

NUU Mobile Z8-9

So there you have it for this closer look at the NUU Mobile Z8! The device is certainly a solid offering in the affordable smartphone space, from a company that is relatively new to the US market. There are some positives here, like the excellent display, smooth performance, and fluid software experience. Of course, there are notable drawbacks as well, with its connectivity issues, distorted audio, and poor battery life. There is a lot that can be resolved with future updates, but for now, the Z8 does feel like a work in progress, and given the intense competition in this space, with other fantastic, but similarly-priced, smartphones, this phone is difficult to recommend, at least for now.

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Meizu MX5 review

Posted by wicked July - 30 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

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A big focus by smartphone manufacturers this year has been on offering consumers quality devices that don’t break the bank, and we’ve seen some fantastic new additions to this segment from the like of Asus, Alcatel OneTouch, and a slew of Chinese OEMs. The fact that high-end doesn’t necessarily have to mean expensive was really brought into the spotlight just this week however, with the ZTE Axon Phone, OnePlus 2. and the new Motorola flagships, the Moto X Style and Moto X Play, bursting on to the scene. Joining this intensely competitive arena now is Meizu, with their latest flagship offering. Does this device manage to stand out in this ever-growing and impressive crowd? We find that out, and more, in this in-depth Meizu MX5 review!

Design

Meizu MX5-3

The Meizu MX5 retains a lot of the design language of its predecessor, and as such, also continues to feature a very familiar look with an inspiration that is obvious. Unlike previous iterations of this flagship line though, Meizu has gone from using a metal frame and plastic backing to a full metal unibody design that curves around the sides to meet the large display up front, allowing for the premium feel that is expected from a current generation flagship.

Meizu MX5-1

One easily noticeable difference in the design between generations is the presence of a physical home button up front, with an integrated fingerprint scanner, in the case of the Meizu MX5, replacing the capacitive home button found with its predecessor, which also doubled as a notification light. With this feature not available anymore, a notification LED is now included, found in its more traditional location above the display. The home button can feel a little cheap at times, which isn’t great, given all the different ways this button is used – as a home button, as a back button, and as a fingerprint scanner.

Meizu MX5-15

Taking a look around the device, on the right side is the power button below the volume rocker, placed to be within easy reach, and the dual SIM card slot can be found on the opposite side. The buttons may not be of the highest quality, but do offer a decent tactile feel and good responsiveness. The headphone jack is up top, and at the bottom is the microUSB port, flanked by a microphone and a single speaker unit.

Meizu MX5-21

While not the thinnest smartphone around, its 7.6 mm thickness makes it quite sleek, and its weight of 149 grams results in a device that feels substantial and comfortable in the hand. Despite its metal construction, the MX5 isn’t particularly slippery and provides a secure grip, and the overall handling experience is far better than what you might get with other smartphones with a similar build.

Display

Meizu MX5-4

The Meizu MX5 comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi, and the display is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel, to keep things scratch-free. Meizu decided to ditch the rather odd 16:10 aspect ratio seen with its previous devices for the more standard 16:9, which is a very welcome change.

While Quad HD is dominating the high-end Android smartphone scene, the 1080p display of the Meizu MX5 certainly more than gets the job done. The display is beautiful, with AMOLED technology bringing everything we love about it, including colors that pop and are nice and saturated, deep blacks, and high brightness. The color temperature does lean towards the warmer side of things though, resulting in a slightly pinkish hue on white backgrounds. It may not be the sharpest display around, but the difference is hardly noticeable, and the media-viewing and gaming experience is an absolute joy.

Performance

Meizu MX5-8

Under the hood, the Meizu MX5 packs an octa-core MediaTek MT6795 (Helio X10 Turbo) processor, clocked at 2.2 GHz, and backed by the PowerVR G6200 GPU and 3 GB of RAM.

MediaTek processors may not entirely match up with the Snapdragons of the world, but in the case of the Meizu MX5, there were rarely any problems with performance. Opening, closing, and switching between apps is a breeze, and the device flies through the various elements of the UI. The device also handles multi-tasking and gaming very well, which hasn’t always been the case with Meizu devices and others that feature MediaTek processors. That said, a big contributing factor to this smooth performance is also the software optimization that Meizu has managed with the latest version of the FlyMe OS.

Hardware

Meizu MX5-6

The phone is available in 16, 32, and 64 GB variants, but with the lack of expandable storage via microSD card, you will certainly be better off opting for the higher built-in storage options. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, along with 4G LTE support, but it is recommended to check for compatibility with your local network carrier first if you do decide to pick up this device.

Meizu MX5-19

As mentioned, the physical home button up front has different uses, with a press required for it to work as a home button, and a tap to make it function like a back button. Finally, the button also comes with an integrated fingerprint scanner, that is called M-Touch. The touch type implementation is certainly the one we prefer, and it works incredibly well on the MX5. It is really fast, making it very quick and easy to unlock the device and get into your homescreen. There have been no issues with the scanner failing to recognize the fingerprint, and it actually manages to feel faster than the implementations found with some of the other, more high-end, devices out there.

Meizu MX5-9

The single speaker at the bottom isn’t the best sounding out there, but is far from the worst. The audio can sometimes sound a bit tinny, but overall, it allows for a decent audio experience, and can certainly get very loud. As is the case with any bottom-mounted speaker though, it is fairly easy to cover it up when holding the device in the landscape orientation, but the curve along that side does alleviate this issue to some extent, even if only a little bit.

Meizu MX5-5

On the battery front, the Meizu MX5 comes with a 3,150 mAh non-removable battery, that allows for some impressive battery life. Regardless of your usage, you can always manage up to 4.5 hours of screen-on time, and the battery should allow for a full day of use for most users. Something odd is the fact that the “Phone Idle” mode seems to strain the battery a lot, which is very surprising. Since the battery life is still good, it isn’t a big concern, but the battery life should get even better if and when this bug is fixed.

Meizu MX5-20

There are few different battery saving modes built-in as well, with the default Balance mode functioning very well for the most part. Graphic-intensive gaming may require a switch to Performance mode, but the default setting otherwise keeps everything running smoothly. There is of course, a power saving mode available that lets you get that little bit of extra juice out of the battery. If you do run out of battery life, the MX5 comes with fast charging capabilities, called M-Charge, that will allow you to charge the device to up to 60% in just 40 minutes.

Camera

Meizu MX5-4

The Meizu MX5 comes with a 20.7 MP rear camera, with an f/2.2 aperture, and found below the camera is a dual tone LED flash and a laser-guided autofocus. The camera app is very simple, clean, and easy to use, with quick access to a bunch of different modes, like a full manual mode, that gives you granular control over aspects like shutter speed, ISO, exposure, and focus. Other modes include panorama, and Light Field, that takes a lot of shots fast at different focus points, allowing you adjust the focus after the fact.

Shooting in Auto mode allows for some good looking pictures, and it is actually quite surprising how nice they can look, with saturated colors and good detail. Dynamic range is good, but it is up to you to cater the shot correctly, so even if Auto mode is supposed to automatically adjust to take the best picture, that isn’t always the case.

Meizu MX5-23

Tapping on the viewfinder helps with the focus and the adjustment of light, but this can be very finicky. You have to make sure that you tap exactly on where you want the camera to focus, and adjust the light to that area. Being off by just a little bit can result in an image that is either too dark, or too bright, and it does require a few tries to get it just right, which can be frustrating. HDR helps in this regard, but does require a second or two to take the picture.

Overall though, when you do get it right, some great shots are possible. As expected, low light shots can be a little noisy and lacking in detail, but the images don’t look too bad either. Video recording is great on the MX5 too, recording at 30 fps, along with 4K recording available as well. Slow Motion video capture is also possible, at 100 fps, and even though that isn’t as slow as some other flagship smartphones, the quality is certainly impressive.

The device also comes with a 5 MP front-facing camera, which allows for some decent self portraits. Pictures have a good amount of detail, but one thing you do have to watch out for is the fact that it tends to prioritize the primary subject, making anything that is even slightly in the background a little blurry. Taking advantage of the front-facing camera is Beauty mode, with settings that lets you change the size of your eyes, make your face a bit slimmer, and more. This mode may not be practical or useful for everyone, but can definitely be fun to play around with.

Software

Meizu MX5-5

On the software side of things, the Meizu MX5 runs its own customized FlyMe OS 4.5, based on Android 5.0.1 Lollipop. Of course, you’ll be hard pressed to find any stock Android and Material Design elements in this user interface, and overall, the software experience can take some getting used to.

For starters, there is no application drawer available, leaving users dependent on folders to stay organized and keep the homescreens from getting too cluttered. The Settings menu is very iOS-like in its implementation, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but is of course, very different from what you may already be familiar with. Trying to get to the Settings app itself can be a pain, as there isn’t a direct shortcut available in the Quick Settings menu in the notification dropdown, so you will have to make sure that the Settings icon is at placed at an easily accessible location on the homescreen.

The FlyMe OS may be one of the more simpler takes on Android, but it does pack some cool and useful features, like the ability to lock apps so that they require a pass code to get in to. As mentioned, the physical home button also doubles as a back button, but when it comes to opening the multi-tasking screen, it does get a little strange, since there is no dedicated Recent Apps key to be found. You will have to slowly swipe up from the bottom, to open what looks a lot like the iOS 6 used app dock. Previews of the apps isn’t available, but you can close them with a simple swipe up.

Specifications

Display 5.5 inch AMOLED
Full HD (1080×1920)
Density: 401ppi
Processor Octa-core MediaTek Helio X10
8 x 2.2GHz
Power VR G6200 GPU
Storage 16/32/64GB

Expandable: No

RAM 3GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1
GPS+GLONASS
Software Android 5.0.1 Lollipop
Flyme OS 4.5
Camera 20.7 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
Battery 3,150 mAh
Colors black, silver, gold
Dimensions 149.9 x 74.7 x 7.6 mm
149 grams

Gallery