Meizu 16s review: An outstanding alternative to the thousand dollar flagship phone

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The Meizu 16s is the latest entrant into the world of premium mid-range phones that has an easier-to-deal-with price but also doesn’t totally throw aside quality and performance.

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The era of the flagship phone is in full swing. Many naysayers incorrectly thought consumers would never pay US$1,000 for a flagship phone. But a lot of consumers just didn’t seem to be phased by the high-dollar cost of the premium flagship phone. While the market seems to have embraced the idea of the US1,000+ smartphone, some people still want something more affordable and that delivers quality performance. Enter the Meizu 16s.

The Meizu 16s is the latest entrant into the world of premium mid-range phones that has an easier-to-deal-with price but also doesn’t totally throw aside quality and performance. Before we get too deep into this review, for users in the United States, there are some caveats to buying this phone. Like many other Chinese made phones, the Meizu 16s doesn’t work on all U.S. carrier bands. So be sure you research a bit before you buy.

Here’s what I was able to find out about the bands that work here in the U.S. This list may not be entirely complete, but it is what I could pull together for the global version of the Meizu 16s. Please let me know if you find others or other information that is relevant to the U.S. bands this phone uses.

  • LTE: B4 (1700/2100 AWS 1)
  • LTE: B5 (850)
  • LTE: B2 (1900)
  • LTE: B20 (800)
  • 3G: B2 (1900)
  • 3G: B4 (1700/2100 AWS A-F)
  • 3G: B5 (850)
  • 2G: B2 (1900)
  • 2G: B5 (850)
  • 2G: B8 (900)
  • 2G: CDMA BC0 (800)

The Meizu 16s worked well on the T-Mobile network in my area, even though T-Mobile isn’t very strong here. With that out of the way, read on for the full review of the Meizu 16s.

Specifications

The Meizu 16s has the following features and specifications:

  • Display:
    • 6.2″ AMOLED
    • 91.53% screen-to-body ratio
    • 1080 x 2232 resolution
    • 403ppi
    • Always-on display
    • Brightness 430 cd/m²
  • OS: Android 9 Pie with Flyme 7.2.3 UI
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
  • CPU: Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 485 & 3×2.41 GHz Kryo 485 & 4×1.78 GHz Kryo 485)
  • GPU: Adeno 640
  • Memory:
    • Internal – 128GB/256GB
    • External – No card slot
  • RAM: 6GB or 8GB (6GB variant not available with 256GB of storage)
  • Cameras:
  • Single Front:
  • 20MP, f/2.2, HDR+, 1080p @ 30fps
  • Dual Rear:
    • 48 MP, f/1.7, (wide), 1/2″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
    • 20MP, f/2.6, (telephoto), PDAF
    • 6-LED ring flash
  • Audio: Dual-speaker system
  • Features: Under-display fingerprint sensor, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
  • Battery: 3,600 mAh with fast charging 24W mCharge
  • Colors: Carbon Black, Pearl White, Phantom Blue
  • Dimensions: 151.9 x 73.4 x 7.6 mm (5.98 x 2.89 x 0.30 in)
  • Weight: 165 g (5.82 oz)

What’s In The Box

  • Meizu 16s
  • 24W fast charging brick
  • USB Type-C to Type-A cable
  • Sim ejection tool
  • Manual and documentation

Design

Design is a very important part of any smartphone, and the Meizu 16s really nailed their design down perfectly. The first thing you notice about the 16s are the slim bezels all the way around and the lack of a notch or punch hole. With so many flagship phone designs gravitating towards the notch and punch hole, it was nice to see this design choice.

Meizu says the 16s has a 91.53% screen-to-body ratio, and this is noticeable as the side bezels, chin and forehead are all super slim. On the front of the phone, you’ll find the tiny front-facing camera as well as the earpiece/speaker and nothing more.

Around the back you’ll find the dual-camera setup as well as the 6-LED ring flash which is crazy bright. There’s nothing along the left side of the phone, but the right side houses the volume rocker and power button. Both of these buttons are very tactile with great feedback.

Meizu 16s flagship phone
I love the animation the 16s plays when your music player is on the lockscreen.

At the top of the phone, there is a single noise-canceling microphone. At the bottom of the phone, you’ll find the SIM card tray, USB-C port, speaker, and second microphone.

The entire phone is made of glass and metal and feels very premium and not far off from any other flagship phone. The slim bezels have allowed Meizu to get that 6.2″ display into a small footprint. Holding the 16s is very comfortable and it feels just right. It doesn’t feel beastly and overbearing to hold at all and just sits in my hand perfectly.

Overall, the 16s looks beautiful, feels wonderful, and is made from very nice materials that really look and feel like a more expensive phone.

Display

The 6.2″ AMOLED display will give you FHD+ resolution which is actually just fine for smartphone use. While higher-end phones are giving you QHD+ resolution, it’s really hard to tell the difference on such a small screen. Even displays with higher resolutions generally come out of the box set to a lower resolution than it’s capable of, and most users never change it.

That being said, this FHD+ display looks great! The AMOLED display was made specifically for Meizu by Samsung and we all know Samsung makes some great displays. Colors are nice and vibrant, blacks are deep and whites are clean. Text is crisp and everything looks like what we expect from an AMOLED display.

Scrolling and pinch-to-zoom work well, and using the display day-to-day was just as you’d expect. There is an eye-friendly mode which will help with blue light in the evenings. You can also tune and optimize the color and range of the display using the preset tunings which include:

  • Adaptive
  • Standard
  • Photo
  • Dynamic
Meizu 16s flagship phone
Outdoor visibility is good but in very bright sunlight it does get hard to see.

I think what I enjoyed the most with this display is being able to zoom videos into full screen without a notch or punch hole interfering with my content. While I have become used to notches and punch holes, it was refreshing to see all of my content with nothing to get in the way. Outdoor viewing was decent, but I did have some trouble seeing in very bright sunlight.

Overall, there is nothing wrong with this display. FHD+ is really all most of us need for everyday use. It can be argued that any higher resolution is almost indistinguishable on such a small screen. I love how Meizu packed in a 6.2″ panel into such a small footprint.

Software

I’m not going to talk much about software, because, at this point, I think most of us know how well Android Pie works. Android 9 Pie is what you’ll get on the 16s and that is under Meizu’s own Flyme UI, which is version 7.2.3 on our review unit.

I had zero issues with Android and I had no issues with Flyme UI, other than the look of it. Meizu’s look has always favored a more iOS look and feel, and that holds true here. Flyme isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, so thankfully there are things like Action Launcher 3 and Nova Launcher to replace that look.

Overall, I think Android Pie is fantastic. Flyme UI is going to be very subjective. The menus aren’t bad at all. They look okay, but the icons and main screen interface weren’t my favorite. I ended up installing a custom launcher and icons and all was fine.

Meizu 16s flagship phone
Feels good in the hand, perfect size.

Performance

Performance is certainly a key feature for the Meizu 16s as it’s running the same Snapdragon 855 and Adreno 640 as the Samsung Galaxy S10+, and that’s impressive.

This phone is snappy and responsive, and it comes with “Hyper Gaming Mode” which makes the most of the CPU, GPU, and RAM processes when playing games on the 16s.

Daily tasks are no issue here. Web browsing, email, text, social media, YouTube, YouTube Music and everything else ran just as you would expect. Switching between apps was clean and smooth. Scrolling and gestures were all clean and fluid. I felt no lag on this phone at all.

I’m going to cover the fingerprint sensor here in the performance section. I was going to put it under display, but given that it is located under the display, the performance really matters. In a nutshell, this optical fingerprint sensor is simply amazing. I’m even going to go as far as to say that it was more accurate than the S10+’s ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor. I had no issues with this fingerprint sensor at all, and it worked nearly every time. The one area in which it struggled, which is true for ALL fingerprint sensors, is with damp or wet hands.

Gaming, which I don’t do a whole lot of on the phone, was also smooth, and I couldn’t detect any dropped frame rates, etc, etc. Overall, this phone that costs under US$500 is an excellent performer.

Meizu 16s flagship phone
USB-C charging and speaker

Speakers/Sound

Another surprise this mid-range flagship has is dual-speakers. Most flagship phones have dual-speakers, but you don’t expect to find that on a sub-US$500 phone.

Another surprise is just how great these speakers sound. There’s no rattling and the sound has some depth to it. Let’s remember that these are still smartphone speakers, so you’re not going to get the same sound you would out of headphones, but that’s true of the US$1,000 phones too.

There is no headphone jack, which is something I think some users will miss.

Overall, these speakers are spot on. They produce a good sound stage that I think is acceptable for video viewing and listening to music. If you want better sound, use headphones. Honestly, that holds true for any smartphone.

Meizu 16s flagship phone
Outside overcast, plus it’s my Saab.

Camera

So here we are with probably one of the most subjective parts of any smartphone, the camera. Smartphone makers all process their photos in different ways, thus we see different results. Not everyone likes the images from some brands and the online flaming war is neverending.

The Meizu 16s has dual-cameras in the rear, one wide 48MP sensor and another telephoto 20MP sensor. The 48MP has an f1.7 aperture while the 20MP has an f2.6 aperture. The single front camera is 20MP at f2.2. You would think more megapixels means better photos, but that’s not always the case. The sensor quality and the work the software does make a huge difference.

Unlike every other smartphone maker, Meizu is keeping its camera functions fairly simple, which I appreciate, and they include:

  • Pro mode
  • Panorama
  • Time-lapse
  • Slo-mo
  • SuperNight mode (like Pixel NightSight)
  • Portrait mode
Meizu 16s flagship phone
Outside under some shade

First let me say that photos in good lighting on the 16s are excellent. I think most people just straight shooting out of the box will be more than happy. Colors are bright and vibrant and dynamic range is not the best but is pretty good. This camera especially excels outdoors in great lighting.

Photos taken in normal lighting, such as indoors with good lighting, are also solid. They are not quite as good as the ones that are in perfect outdoor lighting but still acceptable. The camera starts to get a little grainy in low-light situations, which is common for most cameras. SuperNight mode works okay, not as good as other solutions but it does well enough.

Portrait mode needs some work, which could be fixed with software updates. Portrait mode tends to blur out not only the background but the edges around the subject are also way too soft. I felt portrait mode’s blending could be improved and making the subject sharper should be the first step.

Overall, given the price of the Meizu 16s this camera is great. It’s not perfect by any means and it could use some improvement. But for the most part, I think most regular users are going to be happy with the photos here. Low-light photos will have some grain, but I think most people will look past that.

Reception/Call Quality

Reception was solid for me on T-Mobile, where T-Mobile is available. As I said to our U.S. readers at the start of this review, not all U.S. bands are supported so you might check before you buy. Call quality was great as well, no issues at all. Overseas users will not have the same mobile band issues as U.S. users. Overall, I think reception and call quality are both great.

Battery Life

The battery is a decent sized 3,600mAh battery which got me through a whole day and a half. That’s doing normal day-to-day things like web browsing, emails, social media, texting, phone calls, and the like. Battery life will vary depending on what you’re doing with the phone. Gaming will drain the battery faster as will watching large amounts of video, but that’s typical of any phone.

Overall, I think battery life is great, especially given the footprint of this device.

Price/Value

The Meizu 16s starts at US$476 and goes up to US$594 for the 8GB/256GB variant. This is honestly a fantastic deal for this device given its performance and features. I think the value is certainly here but for U.S. users, again, you should triple check that the bands you need are usable on this device, but this phone is certainly something to think about over another flagship phone.

Wrap Up

I loved using the 16s for the past few weeks. I actually found myself using and reaching for this phone more often than my US$900 Android flagship. The screen is a joy to use and without a notch or punch hole it felt very immersive. The camera is great, and excels in the best lighting conditions, it struggles in low-light. Battery life is amazing and performance is right up there with flagships. Finally, that price tag is ridiculous for what you get in this package. The Meizu 16s is an outstanding alternative to the flagship phone in 2019.

*We received a sample of the Meizu 16s for the purposes of this review.

Meizu 16s

US$476+
9.4

Design

10.0/10

Display

9.5/10

Software

9.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Speakers/Sound

9.5/10

Camera

9.0/10

Reception/Call Quality

9.5/10

Battery Life

9.0/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • Really amazing design with slim bezels all around and no notch or punch hole
  • Respectable display for this price range
  • Comes with Android 9 Pie
  • Snappy performer given its price point
  • Really great dual-speakers that get the job done
  • Good battery life, will get you through the day and into a second day
  • Amazing price for value ratio here
  • Nice build quality with great materials used throughout

Needs work

  • Display could be brighter for outdoor conditions
  • No headphone jack
  • No wireless charging
  • Camera is good but falls a bit short of the US$1,000 pack of phones

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