Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition

Strong specs, but sub-par software

Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition review

For me, the question I ask at the end of any review is: Would I pay my own money for this? And in this case the answer is: No, I would absolutely not buy the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition. However, this is very clearly an enthusiast device, and it has a place.

The problem of performance remains though. The hardware within the Pro 5 is fast enough – as other Exynos phones prove – so it's clearly Ubuntu that's making things feel sluggish.

We liked

From the moment you take the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition out of its box it impresses. The build quality is, and I'm not joking here, as good as that of any high-end phone from big brand names, such as the iPhone 6S or Samsung Galaxy S7. It's got a decent-sized screen too, and the quality of that is also excellent.

The camera is a solid performer. Photos aren't perfect, but there's a good amount of detail in them, and with a bit of patience you can produce nice-looking and well-balanced images. It's true that the camera lacks manual options and 'trick' features, which surprises me given the enthusiast nature of this phone, but it's not a deal-breaker.

Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition review

There are also some really nice integrations in the Ubuntu Touch user interface too – your Twitter stream can appear on the home screen, and you can log in to your Fitbit account and see how your day's exercise is going at a glance.

And Ubuntu Touch isn't Android, which means it looks fresh and has a few nice tweaks that set it apart. You can do a lot on this phone, at least in theory, and if you're someone who lives in Ubuntu then this might feel like a sensible choice for you.

We disliked

I'm one of a very small number of people who thinks that Windows 10 Mobile is a really good operating system. I really like the fact that Windows phones take the simplicity of iOS and give you low-cost hardware, along with software that's perfectly optimized for the hardware and runs well.

So the idea of a phone running a full-on version of Linux is actually appealing, because it could in theory bring an entirely new set of tools to mobiles that Android, Windows and iOS don't offer.

The reality, though, is that this isn't the case. You can't install WhatsApp, only Telegram. There are some WhatsApp third-party apps that claim support, but they're using the web interface to do so. The same goes for Spotify – there are third-party apps, but they obviously aren't official, and there's no support. You also need to have a paid account in order for them to work.

And then there's the real killer: using Ubuntu on a phone feels like pushing treacle up a hill. It's slow, messy and you're going to end up doing an awful lot of yelling. I could forgive the app situation, but what I really can't ignore is that this phone feels sluggish doing pretty much anything, and that's just not cool.

Verdict

So I am disappointed. My initial excitement about the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition was genuine, and it has lots of decent features. The dual-SIM is going to be really handy for some, I like the fact that there's enough built-in storage, with room to expand via microSD if needed, and the camera impresses.

But my overall impression is that the Ubuntu Edition isn't a great choice for most users. Some will love the ready access to proper Ubuntu, and for those who use the Ubuntu operating system on their desktops it might have appeal.

I can certainly recommend the Meizu Pro 5 based on the hardware. For most of us, however, it's going to be a lot less frustrating to get the version of this phone running Android.

First reviewed: May 2016