PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
MEIZU PRO 5 UBUNTU EDITION REVIEW
While the majority of MWC 2016 is focused on Android-powered smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5, Canonical brought the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition to the show to prove that Ubuntu is just as good as iOS or Android, and can work on a high-end smartphone. Did the company succeed, or should we stick to what we know? We went hands-on with the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu edition at MWC 2016, and here we discuss its design, features, spec and most importantly, the Ubuntu operating system. Read next: Best smartphones of 2016
MEIZU PRO 5 UBUNTU EDITION REVIEW: PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
The Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu edition will be available to pre-order from the Meizu website soon, and you can head over there now to sign up for alerts. The company isn’t letting the cat out of the bag in terms of an actual release date, but we definitely know it’s coming this year – we’ll update this article once we have more information on a UK release date.
It’s a similar story with UK pricing too – while it has been announced that a 32GB Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu edition will set US customers back $369.99, there is no word yet on UK pricing. However with this being said, rumours (and currency conversion) suggest that the smartphone may cost under £400, which, if true, is a fairly competitive price for the specs included in the smartphone.
MEIZU PRO 5 UBUNTU EDITION REVIEW: DESIGN AND BUILD
The Meizu Pro 5 is a sleek looking smartphone, which looks pretty similar to the iPhone 6s Plus with its brushed aluminium body and antenna lines. The body is slightly curved at the edge to make it more comfortable to hold in the hand, and the slightly curved 2.5D glass provides a seamless display-to-body design. In terms of dimensions, it’s pretty big due to the inclusion of a 5.7in display, and measures in at 156.7x78x7.5mm. It’s also fairly lightweight, weighing in at 168g, making it 3g lighter than Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus even with a 0.2in larger display.
The Meizu Pro 5 also features a physical home button that doubles up as a fingerprint scanner much like other flagship smartphones on the market. Ubuntu claims that this will be able to scan a fingerprint from any angle, though the model we went hands on with hadn’t had the feature enabled so we can’t comment on its accuracy.
In the hand, the Meizu Pro 5 feels like a high-end flagship smartphone, which is pretty impressive if there’s any truth behind the sub-£400 price tag. In terms of colours, the Meizu Pro 5 comes in silver, grey, or gold with a white bezel, or grey with a black bezel.
See also: Best budget smartphone of 2016
MEIZU PRO 5 UBUNTU EDITION REVIEW: FEATURES AND SPEC
The Meizu Pro 5 features a 5.7in AMOLED display protected by Gorilla Glass 3. Even though it features an AMOLED display usually associated with a QHD resolution (like the Galaxy S7), Meizu decided to keep the resolution to full HD (1920×1080). Even though it’s only full HD, the display is bright, crisp and vibrant, and boasts a fairly decent 387 pixels per inch.
Under the hood, the Meizu Pro 5 is a bit of a beast. It boasts the Samsung Exynos 7420 octa-core processor featuring 14nm FinFET technology, which the company claims is a first for a mobile processor. It’s coupled with either 3/4GB of LPDDR4 RAM depending on the model that you select, and a Mali T760 GPU. Meizu claims that the Meizu Pro 5 has a “higher specification than many other leading smartphones” although with the announcement of the Galaxy S7 featuring an Exynos 8890 chip, we’re not quite sure it beats them all.
The Meizu Pro 5 joins the club of smartphones that feature a USB Type-C port opposed to a traditional micro USB port. It makes the phone future-proof to a certain extent, but at the same time will make it pretty hard to find a charger if you haven’t got yours due to the lack of USB Type-C enabled devices on the market at this time. It also features 4G connectivity (though we’re unsure if UK LTE bands are supported at this time), 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1, with support for Bluetooth LE.
In terms of storage, you have a choice between 32GB or 64GB, although if that isn’t enough then you’ll be happy to know that the Meizu Pro 5’s dual-SIM setup can double up as a MicroSD card slot. The MicroSD card slot can expand your storage by up to 128GB if needed.
Let’s talk cameras; the Meizu Pro 5 features a top-end 21Mp camera on the back with laser autofocus and dual-LED flash. An Ubuntu representative informed us that it featured a Sony sensor in the rear-facing camera, and we found that the photos taken were generally quite vibrant – even with the harsh lighting at the Ubuntu stand. In terms of a front facing camera, you get a fairly standard 5Mp camera. We couldn’t get the photos from the phone, but we’ll update this with sample photos once we get a sample back to the PC Advisor towers.
MEIZU PRO 5 UBUNTU EDITION REVIEW: SOFTWARE
The Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu edition runs (spoiler alert) Ubuntu. Specifically, it runs Ubuntu Touch OTA-9 OS, which is a mouthful to say but provides an interesting alternative to iOS and Android, although we’re not quite sold on it just yet. The Ubuntu UI is interesting because it relies heavily on gesture/swipe input to navigate the phone.
We found it really confusing to get used to and in our experience, the software wasn’t very good at differentiating between the various swipes (although we only had a very limited time with the smartphone and we imagine it becomes easier over time). The Ubuntu rep admitted it’d take around two days to fully get used to the way it works, which leads us to believe that this isn’t for general consumers – it’s for people specifically looking to put the time in to learn the ins and outs of a completely new OS.
It’s not like any other operating system on the market, with customisation and aggregation of content a huge focus throughout the operating system. This is due to the use of ‘Scopes’, which are essentially themed pages of content that you can swipe between on your phone. Ubuntu wanted to remove constant app switching and provide users with an easy way to get all the content you want in one place. For example, the News scope collects the latest news from a variety of different sources (which you can edit) to provide you with a personalised newspaper, much in the same way that Apple News works.
The Today scope provides users with a customised overview of their day including any reminders or tasks, recent calls and texts, along with location-based information like the current weather and local news reports. There are many other pre-loaded scopes including NearBy, which shows you any points of interest based on your current location including restaurants, concerts, public transport and the weather. We found that we could even input our current mood for different suggestions from the Scope, which was a small but nice touch. To find out more about Scopes, watch the below video:
As well as Scopes, you’ll find the Ubuntu Store, which will provide users with more familiar app-based content. The store features apps like Twitter and Amazon, although even Ubuntu admits on its website that the store doesn’t feature popular apps like WhatsApp or Candy Crush which, for many people, will be a deal breaker. Even with a variety of scopes and apps available, the Ubuntu Store can’t compete with the likes of iOS and Android in terms of the number of apps available.
Ubuntu’s convergence feature allows users to hook up Ubuntu powered devices to a keyboard and mouse to turn it into a full desktop, although sadly this isn’t supported on the Meizu Pro 5 due to the lack of a HDMI port and some issues with the USB Type-C port that the Ubuntu rep wouldn’t go into much detail about. He did say that a Wi-Fi based solution is currently being worked on and could arrive on the device soon, but we’ve got no word on when this may be.
While we’re impressed with the spec and build of the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu edition, we’re not quite sold on the Ubuntu operating system – not just yet, anyway. We only had a limited time with the smartphone at MWC 2016 and with any new operating system, you need to spend time getting to know its features and how it works. However we found it to be pretty confusing and swipe gestures quickly became frustrating when not recognised. The operating system has potential, but we think its for die-hard Ubuntu fans – for now anyway. We’ll get one back to the PC Advisor Towers, spend some time using the Ubuntu OS and update this with a more thorough verdict soon.