The Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition is the latest phone to ship with the operating system built by Canonical, and it’s also the most powerful available right now. We’ll take a closer look at it, and we’ll try to determine whether it’s good enough to stand on its own.
This is a dual review, one of the phone itself and one of the operating system. The two of them are linked, and it wouldn’t be fair to talk about one without mentioning the other. It would also be unfair towards Ubuntu if we compared it with other mobile OSes, like Android or iOS, which have been around for a long time, but we’ll get to that later.
We can’t say that Ubuntu is the first Linux OS to land in the mobile world, since the Linux kernel has been used before, but Ubuntu Touch (or Ubuntu for phones) is the first true Linux distro on phones. In fact, Canonical is working very hard to make a single operating system that will work on any platform, including mobile devices, which is a first in the industry.
When Canonical first announced that Meizu is one of the first companies to release a phone with Ubuntu, everybody searched on Google about them. They might be a big player in the Chinese market, but their presence in Europe, for example, is virtually unknown. What we do know about them is that their phones ship with Android and they have a really good build quality and solid specs. A company that is trying to break into such a competitive market is exactly what Canonical needed.
So, after months of teasing, we finally get our hands on a Meizu MX4 phone powered by Ubuntu. The main difference between us and regular users that would just buy this because it’s shiny is that we’ve been using Ubuntu Touch for a while now, and we know what we’re getting into, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll first take a look at the phone itself.
This is a relatively new phone, but it’s not the latest. It was released back in September 2014, so it’s been around for some time now. It was the high-end phone for Meizu for a few months, so you know that they’ve tried to provide the best quality build possible that was still affordable. Even with a plastic back, it doesn’t look cheap and feels really good to hold in the hand. It’s a little slippery, and the grip is not perfect because of the glossy back. The best way to put it is to say that it’s not a phone for clumsy users who tend to drop things.
Hardware and display
The phone uses a MediaTek 6595 solution that has been customized by Meizu. It’s an eight-core CPU, but it’s a little bit different from what you might expect. The chip from MediaTek is actually made of two CPUs, A17 2.2GHz, and A7 1.7GHz. Both have four cores, and all eight can be turned on if needed. The idea is to improve the battery life and not have everything work at once. It’s not clear how this chip from MediaTek is working on Ubuntu, yet it probably has the same functionality on this OS as it does on Android.
Meizu MX4 also comes with 2GB of RAM, and all the sensors you might ever need, like an ambient sensor, gravity sensor, Hall Effect sensor, infrared proximity sensor, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, touch sensitive, and digital compass. There is no SD card slot.
This brings us to the display. We could just say that it has a display of 5.36 inches (from Sharp), and it supports a resolution of 1920 x 1152, but it would be unfair. The display is one of the first things you will notice when you open the Meizu MX4, and it’s incredibly bright and warm. The colors are vivid, and it works really well in bright sunlight. The contrast is really good, and it shows.
The reason why the camera has its own category is because it’s really, really good. Many of the high-end phones today can brag with a good camera. Some are better than others, but not all of them are great. In fact, there are many great phones out there that ship with a lousy camera, and it’s always a mystery why that happens. MX4 comes with a 20.7 MP camera using the SONY IMX220 Exmor RS sensor, and the lens is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The frontal camera could have been better, and it’s only a 2MP version, powered by the SONY IMX208 sensor.
Meizu MX4 comes with a 3100 mAh battery that cannot be removed. The back cover of the phone is removable, but only to insert the sim card. This brings us to performance. If you had asked me a week ago what the battery life for the phone was, I would have answered that it was terrible. Things have changed dramatically after the latest Ubuntu Touch update, and you can expect it to work for two days of regular use, which is a great improvement.
The Meizu MX4 specifications and performance are not a secret, but everyone wants to know how this phone works with Ubuntu Touch. And, it’s quite possible that some of you might wonder what Ubuntu Touch is, so I’ll try and answer both questions.
Ubuntu for phones (sometimes referred to as Ubuntu Touch) is a new operating system from Canonical for mobile devices, including tablets. It’s been in the works for almost three years, and it’s been released in a stable form for a few months. As it stands right now, there are three phones with Ubuntu in the wild: Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition, BQ Aquaris e4.5, and BQ Aquaris E5 HD. As you can see, it’s not an extensive lineup, but Canonical is not looking for big numbers or sales, at least not now.
Ubuntu is an operating system based on the Linux kernel that uses a desktop environment named Unity 8. It has a launcher, just like the desktop version and apps, just like everyone. The difference is that there is no home screen, not really. Other OSes, like Android or iOS, have multiple screens available to uses when you have too many apps to fit into a single one. On Ubuntu, each screen is called a scope, and it’s actually an online content aggregator.
The first one is Apps, by default, but that can be changed. If you swipe to the right, you’ll find scopes Video (from online sources like YouTube), Audio, Photos, News, and so on. There is even a nearby scope that tells things of interest depending on your location.
Which brings us to swipe. As you might have noticed, the number of phones with physical keyboards is getting smaller in time. We do most of the work on phones with the touch screen. Ubuntu is a phone designed to work on phones that have no buttons at all, let alone keyboards. Everything is done with swipes.
You swipe from the left you get a handy app launcher, you swipe from the right, you change between the opened apps. If you make the right swipe a little longer, you have access to a task manager that shows all the running apps in memory. Swiping from the top edge opens up the indicators (battery, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and so on), and the bottom swipe is used differently by apps.
Meizu MX4 also has a home button on the front that brings users back to the first scope when pressed and it provides LED notifications. It’s also worth pointing out that Meizu MX4 comes with very thin bezels, which work great with an OS emphasizing swipe gestures.
Apps and general experience
The number of available apps for a new OS is very important, and Ubuntu devs know things very well. They already have some native apps in place, but others – like Facebook, GMAIL, or Twitter – are web apps. Their goal is to have these native at a certain point, but it will take a while for that to happen.
As it stands right now, users will have to adjust to the fact that the apps base is not big, and it doesn’t incorporate some of the big names, like Whatsapp, just to name one. On the other hand, it’s still an OS aimed at enthusiasts and at people who know what they are buying.
If you’ll ever get your hands on a Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition, you will notice that it’s still slow, it staggers from time to time, and it’s not the fastest, but it also doesn’t matter all that much. It’s still a young OS with plenty of time to get better. Android provided an awful experience for its users for many years, and it still has its quirks. It would be naive to expect Ubuntu to run perfectly only a few months after its initial release.
Article source: http://news.softpedia.com/news/meizu-mx4-ubuntu-edition-review-a-diamond-in-the-rough-487850.shtml