Review

Meizu 16S flagship review: no notch, slider or pop-up camera required

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The smartphone manufacturer Meizu often flies under the radar, although we liked both the Meizu 15 and the Meizu 16th very much in the test and acted as an “insider tip”. Now the Meizu 16S is an upgrade of its predecessor. The new flagship comes with a 48 megapixel camera and no notch at all. Is that the right strategy in 2019? We were able to take a look at the Meizu 16S before the official release.

Meizu 16S Smartphone

Technical data of the Meizu 16S

Display 6.2 Inch 18.6:9 HD+ (2232 x 1080 Pixel) AMOLED Display (403 PPI)
Processor Snapdragon 855 @ 2,84 GHZ
Graphic chip Qualcomm Adreno 640
RAM 6/8 GB
Internal memory 128 GB (256 GB in China version)
Camera IMX 586 48 MP with ƒ/1.7 aperture; IMX350 20 MP with 2.6 aperture
Front camera 20 Megapixel
Battery 3.600 mAh
Connectivity b/g/n WLAN, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C, GPS, Dual-SIM, LTE
Features In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor, Face Unlock
Operating system Flyme 7.3 interface based on Android 9
Dimensions / Weight 151.9 × 73.4 × 7.6 mm / 165g

Back to basics: Without a Notch

Meizu understands the “fight against the Notch” somewhat differently from the competition and focuses on a classic smartphone design. You don’t need a notch, slider, in-display camera or pop-up camera if you simply keep the screen edge at the top and minimize it. The Meizu 16S basically looks like the Meizu 16th on the front, but the display diagonal now increases to 6.2 inches instead of 6 inches.

Meizu 16S Smartphone Design

The exact dimensions of the smartphone are 151.9 x 73.4 x 7.6 mm, making it slightly larger than its predecessor, but still rather small compared to the competition. It is thus about 4 mm bigger than a Xiaomi Mi 9 SE, but a good 6 mm shorter than the Xiaomi Mi 9. Meizu thus manages to maintain an overall compact format despite the larger display. Here, the screen edge has been optimized very well, it is really thin at the bottom and at the sides. The upper edge of the screen is of course a bit bigger due to the front camera and the auricle, but still relatively thin at 4 mm.

Meizu 16S button

But the back looks a bit different from the previous generations. Finally the dual camera is positioned in the upper left corner and arranged vertically. For example, we have known this from Xiaomi for quite some time. Under the camera there is an LED flash. Black (Carbon Black), white (Pearl White) and blue (Phantom Blue) are available as colours for the housing with aluminium frame and glass back. Our test device is made of carbon black, whereby the carbon look comes into good effect here under the glass layer in sunlight.

Meizu 16S Meizu Logo

Handling & Processing

If you also belong to the rather compact fraction, then the Meizu 16S is probably currently one of the best solutions alongside the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE. It’s actually quite handy, even if the one-handed use isn’t 100% successful. But I can’t get my finger into the upper left corner, but fortunately the necessity is not so often given. I personally really like the size, although I would probably still prefer the 6 inch diagonal of the predecessor.

Meizu 16S back

The processing plays once again on a very high level. This is how a mobile phone should look, feel and be composed. China manufacturers have caught up there in the last two years, even though Meizu has actually been playing in the big game for quite some time. The only thing I really want to criticize is the slightly protruding camera module. Even Meizu doesn’t manage to integrate the two cameras into the housing. With a good 1.5 mm this is still justifiable for me personally, especially as the competition delivers only a limited amount of better work.

Meizu 16S front camera
How did Meizu get another front camera in there?

The screen-to-body ratio of 91.53%, which is not self-evident, shows how well Meizu worked here. And that without any compromises, mistakes or other deficiencies – hats off to you.

Small size, large display

The Meizu 16S uses an AMOLED panel, 2232 x 1080 pixels result in a so-called FullHD+ resolution and an aspect ratio of 18.6:9. The AMOLED panel has some advantages, such as the Always On mode, which can be individualized quite well here. The Flyme OS operating system offers different designs for this. Individualization is a good keyword, because the 16S is above average when it comes to adapting the display. Different colour styles, colour temperature, an eye-friendly mode and the inactivity display just mentioned are plus points.

Meizu 16S Smartphone Display

Apart from that, the quality of the screen definitely pleases us, the brightness is very bright at maximum setting. But you need at least 33% to be able to use the phone, but in strong sunlight it should already see at least 50 to 60% brightness, otherwise the fingerprints take the upper hand. The functionality doesn’t disappoint either, Multi-Touch up to ten fingers is supported. I couldn’t find any input lags. The viewing angle stability is ok, but from above and below the reflection starts relatively early. I couldn’t detect a color shift for that.

Meizu 16S display settings
The operating system offers some options for the display.

The fingerprint sensor is on the display like on the Meizu 16th, but you don’t rely on an ultrasound solution like on the Samsung Galaxy S10. It works quite well, but in terms of speed there’s still a little way to goMeizu 16S Fingerprint Sensor

Operation

In this respect we would like to prefer the topic software, but concentrate on the operation of the Meizu 16S. The Flyme OS user interface offers four different navigation options. In addition to the three classic Android navigation keys, there is also gesture navigation. These are available in a simplified form and in a Meizu version of gesture navigation.

Anyone who has ever used a Meizu smartphone may know the mBack button. This single line on the underside offers a very special kind of operation, which is basically similar to the home button of an iPhone, but allows additional gestures. For example, a swipe to the right switches to the previous app.

Now also with 48 Megapixels

The Sony IMX586 sensor, which offers a resolution of 48 megapixels, is used in the main camera on the back. We already know this from the Xiaomi Mi 9 or Honor View 20. The camera also has optical image stabilization. The Sony IMX350, which still offers 20 MP and has an f/2.6 aperture, is used as the secondary sensor. This is a telephoto camera that offers a 3x optical zoom. So Meizu does without the currently popular triple camera.

Meizu 16S Camera

Already the Meizu 16th could convince us by the camera qualities and the successor is in no way inferior. The high resolution can be seen in the photos, the rich details are given and I like the colors very much. Strong, but not as saturated as is often the case with China smartphones. The clarity in wide-angle shots isn’t quite on the level of the Xiaomi Mi 9, but it’s exactly in this direction. The Meizu 16S scores well when you get objects close to the sensor. The autofocus works well overall, but for me this should be done a bit faster.

Meizu 16S test photo main camera colors

Meizu 16S test photo main camera person

Meizu 16S test photo main camera Xiaomi Comparison

My camera highlight here is the secondary camera, the telecamera. It brings distant objects really close without any great loss of quality. Sure, the P30 Pro with up to 10x hybrid zoom plays in a different league, but I like the zoom here even better than with the Xiaomi Mi 9. The sharpness is right, even in night mode you can use the sensor and if you don’t need such a blatant zoom, Meizu combines both sensors to create a 2x optical zoom – really cool!

Meizu 16S test photo main camera 3x zoom comparison

Different modes

Almost exactly this focal length is also available in portrait mode. The objects are a bit closer than in wide-angle mode, the bokeh effect is quite natural, but the edge detection needs some improvement. There are some problems with human hair, so that the soft focus is even applied to the head. I don’t think you’re good enough for a $500 smartphone here, even the predecessor did a bit better. I also have to criticize that Meizu doesn’t give an indication of the distance (“too close”) in order to achieve the optimal result. In addition, a light beauty filter always seems to be used here, even though this has already been improved by an update.

Meizu 16S Main Camera Test Photo Portrait Person
The edge detection could be a bit better, but I like the naturalness of the bokeh.

Meizu 16S test photo main camera portrait object

The camera app is basically quite reduced. In addition to the photo and video mode, there is also the “More” tab. There you will find Pro, Panorama, Square, Slow Motion and Time-lapse modes. These are pretty standard. The SuperNight mode is the only one that’s special here. The exposure time is adjusted upwards, the ƒ/1.7 aperture is an advantage and slightly shaky hands are compensated by the optical image stabilization. The results are impressive, but it’s not enough to compete with the Huawei P30 Pro.

Meizu 16S Main Camera Test Photo SuperNight

The video mode is above average in my eyes. The 4K recordings with 30 fps not only look good, the sound recording is also better than Xiaomi. Both the people in front and behind the camera are easy to understand. Only the autofocus could be a bit faster, but if you have an eye on it, that’s fine. It’s just a shame that slow-motion shots can only be taken at 60 fps. Here, 120 fps would be much more appropriate.

Nothing for Selfie fans

Despite a 20 megapixel sensor, the Meizu 16S doesn’t manage to produce above-average selfies. I think the color profile is a bit too flat, I also don’t like the sharpness very much. Everything looks very similar to the Huawei Nova 4. Everything looks as if it was covered with a grey veil, the saturation has probably been forgotten. Too bad – here I find a Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 with the Sony IMX576 sensor much stronger. Even the portrait mode can’t change that much. The just mentioned edge detection doesn’t work as well as it should for a $500 smartphone.

Meizu 16S test photo front camera portrait comparison

Top hardware

As usual for a flagship from the year 2019, the Snapdragon 855 processor with eight cores is also used here. The top CPU from Qualcomm is used in almost all Android flagships and currently offers the ultimate in performance in this area. In addition there is 6 GB RAM and 128 GB internal memory in the standard version. A larger version with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB memory is only available on the Chinese market.

What can you say, of course the Meizu 16S is fast. With so much power under the hood, you simply have a certain standard of speed, even without great OS optimization. There is enough power available to play even the most demanding games like PUBG at the highest settings without any problems. That’s what we expected. Nevertheless the feeling does not let me go that there is more in it. But more about that.

Meizu 16S Benchmarks

However, the benchmark results are very strong overall. You are on a par with the Xiaomi Mi 9, which is no wonder considering the same CPU. Especially the multi-score in the Geekbench benchmark is extremely high, the Meizu 16S is simply well equipped hardware-wise.

Better battery life at last

The power supply is provided by a 3,600 mAh battery, which can be quickly recharged with 24W. This is a good 600 mAh larger than the Meizu 16th, but of course the display area has been slightly enlarged. The battery life of the predecessor was already only average, the 16S was only slightly improved in this respect. It’s easy to get through the day, but there’s not much more to it. That of course depends on the usage, but nevertheless a Xiaomi Mi 9 or a Huawei P30 Pro is simply a bit stronger.

Meizu 16S battery benchmark

The 24W charger I just mentioned is unfortunately not as powerful as I had hoped. A complete charge takes about one hour and 20 minutes. When you think about how fast a OnePlus 7 Pro charges in the meantime, it’s unfortunately only average.

Meizu goes global!

What Meizu (unlike its predecessor) now does without is the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Meizu fans now also have to say goodbye to it. Unfortunately, you can’t compensate for this with a 3.5 mm to USB type C adapter included. So you have to get by with the USB type C port on the bottom side. Next to this is a dual SIM slot, which offers no possibility for memory expansion. With 128 GB internal memory, however, I find this acceptable.

For local internet the Meizu 16S 802.11a/b/g/n/ac uses Band WiFi, for mobile internet there are of course some LTE bands. But beware: the CN version has only LTE B1/B3/B4/B5/B8. The Global version we tested is equipped with more LTE Bands, so we would clearly recommend this version. In addition, there are GPS and GLONASS, as well as NFC for mobile payment via Google Pay.

Meizu 16S GPS Test

The voice quality of the Meizu 16S is really good, the other side has always understood us well. Also the GPS fix is fast and accurate, even in the office the fix was there within 3 seconds, with an accuracy of 4 meters. You can’t complain about that, but it gets a bit better.

Face Unlock & bombastic Sound

In addition to the already mentioned fingerprint sensor in the display, the Meizu 16S can also be unlocked via Face Unlock. Of course, this is generally a bit less secure than the fingerprint sensor, as the Meizu “only” takes a photo and no real 3D scan. Nevertheless, in my eyes – pun intended – this is the better choice, because the face unlock is faster than the finger sensor.

In comparison to the China smartphones, the predecessor was already very good in terms of speaker quality, but the Meizu 16S probably has one of the best speakers we’ve tested so far. This is partly due to the fact that it is a stereo loudspeaker and partly to the fact that the sound is really balanced and can convince even at low frequencies. So here you don’t even have to rely on a Bluetooth speaker, at least not in small rooms with few people.

Meizu 16S Loudspeaker

Speaking of sound, the Meizu 16S features Qualcomm’s True Wireless Stereo Plus, which is designed to improve listening with wireless headphones like the Redmi AirDots. First, it reduces battery consumption, second, it improves latency, and third, it makes the pairing process faster and easier.

Meizu Flyme OS – not finished yet

Flyme. This is the name of the user interface that is pre-installed on all current Meizu smartphones. This is based on Android 9 on the Meizu 16S and is in version 7.2.3. The user interface, for example, does not need an App-Drawer, similar to MIUI, and is rather reduced in design and not too conspicuous. The operating system of the Global version is completely multilingual, a CE mark is stored in the settings and all relevant Google services including Google Play Store are pre-installed.

Meizu 16S Screenshot Flyme

That it’s pretty far away from Stock Android is something you might like, but you don’t have to. Pre-installed games are kind of a no go in my eyes, even though they’re easy to uninstall. That you don’t have the typical Google Assistant overview to the left of the home screen is also a bit unusual. Unfortunately, the most recent update also threw the translations in the settings completely overboard, before the update it was much better. Of course this could be fixed easily.

As mentioned above under “Display”, Flyme also has some useful customization settings. The different modes of the Always-On display are not self-evident, Quick functions like SmartTouch or the double assignment of the power button are also useful. All in all there is definitely room for improvement, MIUI and EMUI from the competition are a bit more stable in my opinion.

Meizu 16S Flyme Bugs
The translations in the settings don’t work and you can’t even change the background. The OS is still in beta.

At this point we have to note that the Meizu 16S has not yet been officially released in the Global Version. Accordingly, slight bugs in the software are still to be excused, as soon as the Meizu 16S is officially released, we will revise this point again. However, the manufacturer has assured us that the software will be updated when it is released.

Conclusion under reservation: almost at eye level

I like Meizu as a manufacturer, even though we could only test the respective flagships so far. I don’t want to make a secret of that. And I really like the Meizu 16S, too, but I don’t really want to put the “insider tip” stamp on the smartphone this time. But this is mainly due to the competition, more precisely the Xiaomi Mi 9. You get $450, from China even less than $400. The Meizu 16S is more expensive with about $500 for the Global version, but in hardly a point better.

Main argument for the Meizu 16S for me is the design as well as the handling, because it gets along without notch and still offers a big and above all good display. Currently only the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE can do that. The camera is also really good and can perform better than the Mi 9, at least in the telephoto range. In terms of connectivity and workmanship, it’s equal overall.

There’s no wireless charging for that, the battery life isn’t nearly as good and the software also has to admit defeat. And then spend even more for it, resists the inner bargain hunter. But if you want to be as handy as possible and can’t do without top hardware, then I can recommend the Meizu 16S despite slight weaknesses, if the price still falls a bit. First of all we want to wait for the official global release of the Meizu 16S and will adjust our assessment a little bit.

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Thorben

My special interests are smartphones from China and I am always keen to discover new smartphone accessories like smartwatches and headphones. 

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