Review: Meizu M6 mini player aims to give iPod nano a run for its money - Macenstein

Review: Meizu M6 mini player aims to give iPod nano a run for its money

Posted by Lab Rat

In an already overcrowded flash-based MP3 player market, how do you differentiate yourself from the crowd? Well, China’s Meizu is hoping to do it by taking everything customers love about the iPod nano, and then cramming a bunch more features in, including video.

Meizu’s M6 mini player looks and acts very much like an iPod nano, right down to its touch-sensitive click pad. It boasts a reasonably large 2.4 inch 260,000 color QVGA screen, set in landscape mode, and has the same white (or black) plastic front, and brushed metal back as the iPod family of players. The player comes in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB sizes, and is a flash player, like the iPod nano. Meizu rates battery life at 20 hours, and we got about 17 on average.

Meizu touts the M6 mini player’s “stylish� good looks in its advertising literature, and there is no arguing that it looks nicer than most MP3 players. This is of course because it looks almost identical the iPod nano. Meizu’s design team would have a hard time denying it took more than a couple cues from Apple’s iPod in terms of materials and color schemes (both front and back). In fact, it seems Meizu’s designers also felt the need to borrow from OS X in general. The Meizu M6’s default background is an actual rip from one of the default backgrounds that ships with Apple’s OS X. Even the packaging is somewhat reminiscent of the iPod’s fold out box design.

Hmmm… That background looks familiar somehow… (click to enlarge)

Now, while it would be easy to slam the player as a blatant iPod rip-off and leave it at that, the Meizu M6 actually performs very well, and boasts many features the similarly priced iPod nano does not (like the fact that you CAN change the background, for instance). So while I will not attempt to defend Meizu’s design ethics, I will urge you to not judge this book by its cover.

That’s better. A Less litigious background, thanks to the Meizu’s custom background feature.

Since the M6 is not designed with the Mac user in mind (like most MP3 players), the process of loading and managing media on the player is pretty much all done manually. When plugged into your Mac, the Meizu shows up as a USB 2 device, and you load and delete files by dragging them into (or out of) the appropriate folder (music, photos, video, etc.). There are ways to automate some of these processes with 3rd party apps and we even found an iTunes script that will allow you to use iTunes to sync with the Meizu (see below).


The M6 supports a pretty good selection of audio formats. Like the iPod nano, the Meizu M6 can play MP3’s and WAV’s. However, unlike the nano, the M6 can also play WMA, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis files, but if you intend to use iTunes to manage your music library, MP3’s are still the way to go. It is interesting to note that not only doesn’t the M6 support Apple’s protected AAC format for songs purchased via the iTunes Store (not that Apple let them have a choice) but the M6 also does not support PlaysForSure files purchased from Windows-tailored online download services. If you are a fan of purchasing music online, this device may not be for you, regardless of platform.

The most important thing to consider when buying a portable audio device is the sound quality, and here the M6 really delivers. The amount of bass this thing can pump out beats the iPod family hands down, and the customizable EQ settings let you really get some great sounds out of this little device. I rate the M6 slightly above the iPod in terms of sound quality. I’m pretty sure some iPod fan will say the iPod’s “flatter� output is more correct, and it is likely a pumping up on the M6’s EQ settings that is giving the illusion of better sound, but who cares? If it sounds better it sounds better. What can I tell you?

Working with iTunes

You may have noticed I mentioned using iTunes to manage your music library with the M6. Well, you can, but since this is NOT an iPod, there is a little work involved in getting iTunes to play nice with it. There are many solutions out there for syncing devices such as MP3 players and cel phones with iTunes, and we found our best results were with the brilliant (and free) iTuneMyWalkMan by Ilari Scheinin. Using this app, I was able to easily create a playlist of songs in iTunes and sync to the mini player.

The M6 can display photos as well, and supports GIF, BMP, and JPGs in sizes as large as 3000×3000 in our tests. The photos look very good on the M6’s bright screen, and the built-in slide show feature works well, and even manages some simple yet nice transitions. However, using very large images slows the player down. Resizing shots closer to the player’s 320×240 dimensions will yield results that look as good and display faster.

Hey, remember FM Radio? Well, Meizu does. The M6 can receive FM radio signals, and even supports the recording of live radio broadcasts. You can auto tune and store your favorite stations, and this feature worked well for us. Reception was decent in general, with beefier and closer stations coming in clear, but we found lesser stations pretty much inaudible.

Voice Recording
Sure, the iPod and nano can record voice, but you’ll need to buy some accessories to do so. The Meizu M6 has this feature built-in, and it works well. This is not a feature I personally have much use for, but my 5-year-old daughter thought it was cool. If you are into flash-based audio recording or often interview people, this will be a pretty useful feature. Audio is recorded as MP3 in low, med, or high settings. I used it to record the obnoxiously loud conversation of the couple sitting in front of us at a recent screening of The Departed. It’s almost as entertaining as the movie.

Text Reading
The mini player can display .txt files, and these are surprisingly easy to read (assuming you haven’t chosen an overly busy background). Again, I don’t know how many people do a lot of e-book text file reading on their portables, but the somewhat cool thing about being able to display text is it means the player can display .lrc files as well, so you can read song lyrics you have downloaded from the internet as the song plays.

A size comparison between the Meizu and a 5G iPod.

The ability to play video is what really sets the M6 apart from a nano, and is the feature with the most potential to sway would-be nano buyers, in my opinion. While the video watching experience is reasonably similar to that when watching video on a full-sized iPod, the process of getting your video onto the device is not.

The Meizu can only play video at 20 frames per second as opposed to the full 30fps on a regular iPod (although remember, the M6 is competing more with the video-less, 0 frames per second nano than a 5G iPod). Meizu is nice enough to include a disc with software that makes converting videos for the M6 relatively painless, but the software is Windows only. Both the Doc and I struggled valiantly on many forums to find a Mac application capable of creating the XviD AVI’s with the necessary settings needed to play on the M6, but the results were always disappointing. We tried ffmpegx, Visual Hub, DivX Converter, QuickTime Pro, Popcorn, D-Vision, and iriverter, yet nothing yielded the results we were after. We had the most success with ffmpegx, however when viewed on the M6, our AVI’s video was out of sync with the audio (the audio was always about half a second ahead of the video).

After about a week of Google-ing and failed encoding attempts, we broke down and tried the included software on a Windows PC, and were both surprised and somewhat relieved to find the audio was just as out of sync using THEIR utility on a Windows machine as it was on our Mac tests. In fact, their own forums still recommend you use a Windows app called Virtual Dub to encode for the player instead of their included software. All our AVI’s played fine and in sync on a computer, but when played on the player the sync problems occurred. As of yet we have not tried mencoder, as we fear command line apps, but if we do and have success, we will let you know (or if any mencoder expert wants to lend us a hand, we’d be happy to accept any help you could give!).

You CAN get video onto the Meizu, but it ain’t easy.

We eventually created a work around involving offsetting the audio track in the QuickTime movie and then running ffmpegx, but to say it was a tedious process would be understating the ordeal. It is certainly not the workflow you would want to go through when converting a large library of iPod videos to work on the M6, and trying to get a movie on it from a DVD using iSquint or Handbrake or some such app would just add an extra step to a 15 step process.

The one ray of hope in the less than stellar video thing is that Meizu seems to actually be spending quite a bit of time and effort to update both the player and the video encoding software in an attempt to improve the experience. For instance, Meizu has had at least 3 firmware updates to the M6, one of which increased the video frame rate from 18 to 20 fps. A new version of the Meizu Video Converter was released last week as well (although it did not solve our audio sync problems). So there IS hope that the video issues will soon be addressed, however, as of this writing, it is up to you to decide how much effort you are willing to put forth to get video on the M6.

In addition to all the other goodies, Meizu throws in a few other apps that are becoming common these days in portable players. Included are a calendar, stopwatch, calculator, and 2 games (Hua Rong Dao and Box Man). None of these will make you rush out to buy the M6, but they are there. The calendar seems especially useless, as you cannot save any info such as appointments or reminders. It’s basically good for finding out what day of the week Christmas falls on in 2009 (a Friday, incidentally).

The M6 has a couple neat customization features that the iPod nano does not, such as customizable backgrounds and menu colors and transparencies. These are kind of cool, and remind me a bit of OS 9’s themes. You can assign a different background for different tasks, such as when a song plays, the FM Radio is on, a text file is being read, or a voice recording session is underway.

The M6 comes with a good assortment of accessories, such as a case, software disc (Windows only) USB cable, headphones, cleaning cloth, earbuds, strap, and manual.


Overall, I very much liked the M6, but I did have a couple minor issues. First, I found the landscape orientation of the player caused it to sit a bit off center in the hand when compared to a traditional, vertically oriented iPod, and this makes it slightly harder to navigate one handedly (something all you touch sensitive widescreen iPod fans should keep in mind).

Additionally, there are some menu and navigation quirks that take some getting used to. For instance, when the player is first turned on, you are presented with the last song you were playing. iPod users (and users of other MP3 players) are likely used to being presented with the “Main Menu� screen on boot, and then choosing what they want to do from there. This isn’t actually a bad thing, as most of the time you WANT to just listen to music, and picking up where you left off saves you a few button clicks, but it is just different. Also, after adding music to the player, you need to manually select “UPDATE MUSIC LBRARY� from the audio menu each time before your newly added songs’ ID3 tags are recognized. This only takes about 3 seconds, even when adding hundreds of songs, but even my $40 Sandisk M230 player updates itself when disconnected from the computer.

While the mini player’s touch keypad is the next best thing I have seen to Apple’s scroll wheel, I found it to be a bit inconsistent, depending on what you are doing. For instance, when listening to a song, sliding your finger up and down the pad adjusts the volume of the song. When watching a video, you need to press and hold the top or bottom of the nav pad to adjust the volume. Also, the “Menuâ€? button will bring you back to the Main Menu in audio mode, but to get there from watching a video you need to briefly hold down the Play/Pause/Power button first (located on the top of the player). I have no idea the logic behind this, as there is no reason the controls should work any differently watching a video than playing a song.

Finally, I found it a bit odd that in order to have the M6 show up as a device on the desktop, you need to have it powered on first. If you plug a mini player into your Mac’s USB 2 port when powered off, it will charge, but you will not be able to sync it. I am just used to the iPod I suppose, which just turns itself on when connected. Another connection quirk, if you power on the M6, plug it in, transfer files, unplug it, then plug it in again, it will not show up again on the desktop. It seems it needs to go through a power down and up each time in order to reset itself so it can be seen by the computer.

The majority, if not ALL, of these issues can easily be addressed by future firmware updates, and I fully expect Meizu to do so (although somehow the audio vs. video nav scheme has made it through 3 firmware updates already). Most of the navigation issues I have can likely be attributed more to my familiarity with the iPod’s menu scheme than to an inherent problem with the M6. It is all about what you get use to. Still, if you are going to “borrow� from the industry leader in terms of looks, why not take it one step further, and “borrow� their menu structure as well?


So why would anyone, especially a Mac user, choose the Meizu M6 over an iPod nano? Well, realistically, few likely will. While the term “iPod Killer� is actually listed in the title for this player on its Amazon listing, odds are Apple is not overly scared. However, there IS much to like about the mini player, such as FM radio playback and recording, mic recording, video playback, photo slide shows with transitions, a larger screen, and a more customizable display, all for the same cost as a comparably sized nano. If the video experience was smoother, there would likely be many who would give it a long hard look.

Perhaps the main reason people may consider the M6 over a nano is that while it looks very similar, it is NOT an iPod. Like Apple fans vs. Microsoft, there is a movement afoot against the iPod’s near monopolistic hold on the portable music business. As evidenced by forums such as, many people are looking for the closest thing they can find to an iPod that doesn’t have Apple’s logo on it, just for the sake of not going along with the masses. For those people, may I suggest the Meizu M6 mini Player.

Meizu’s M6 Portable Media Player

Price: 2GB version (about $149)

Pros: Better sound than the iPod nano, similar price, similar looks, FM radio, Mic recorder, can play video (with a lot of jumping through hoops).

Cons: Doesn’t support online music, Syncing with Mac Apps takes some work, the video encoding experience (Mac or PC) leaves much to be desired. If Meizu addresses audio sync problems, this player would be rated a 9.

40 Responses to “Review: Meizu M6 mini player aims to give iPod nano a run for its money”
  1. bingeboy says:

    YEah will it work with osx?

  2. Brian from RI says:

    um… did you read the review?
    It is all about getting it to work with OSX!

    Hey, I love Evil Dead!

  3. Markus Sorensson says:

    Why people who review iPod competitors don´t get that it is not just the player but the whole ecosystem? It’s dead easy to sync your iPod with iTunes. It´s incredibly well designed. I recommend to the people who manufacture these devices that if they want to really compete with Apple they get allied with open source players like Democracy or Songbirdnest. Meanwhile, it’s just another player with lousy software support and an uggly navigation interface.

  4. Zim says:

    Markus, how do you call the nav interface “uggly”?
    It seems laid out the same as the iPod, and you can customize it.
    Seems better than the iPod’s “We know what’s best” attitude to me.

  5. NA says:

    When is the last time you looked at a nano specs?

  6. pcvil dead says:

    seems like a pretty gentle rating after reading how tough it was to use, with video expecially…

  7. Way Cool Jr. says:

    Since Meizu puts a picture of Spiderman 2 on the screen in its M6 advertising, I assume they have an agreement with Sony to put movies on it.
    I can’t imagine any chinese company would encourage piracy.

  8. smithee says:

    The ecosystem commenter is correct, no device is real competition when the iPod hardware and software accessories are considered.

    However that doesn’t change the fact that you wrote an excellent review, nicely objective.

    This device will be awesome when it goes on liquidation sale! 😉

  9. Gerolsteiner says:

    I like the clever placement of the Shake’d Citroen Commercial, it gave me a good chuckle.

    Other than that, I never quite realized how convenient the iTunes-iPod integration was until you described the act of loading songs onto this thing. Not a bad idea, but give the Chinese another 20 years, and it’ll be a helluva bigger threat to Apple.

  10. I just want to clear up something that I see in the comments both here and on Digg.
    The Meizu M6 does not have any native support for iTunes (or should I say, iTunes does not have native support for IT, or any other non iPod player for that matter) but simple solutions DO exist for being able to use the M6 with iTunes, such as the iTuneMyWalkMan app we mention. Once installed (about 20 seconds of your time), it is relatively painless to use iTunes to to sync music to the player.

    Buying an M6 does not mean giving up iTunes to manage your music. However, you do have to be slightly more geeky (ie “patient”) than perhaps the average Joe Blow consumer. Sometimes when you live, breathe, eat and sleep tech and gadgetry, it is hard to put yourself in the place of a 90 year old grandmother who might want to buy an MP3 player. But if you are under 40 or so, and have used a computer and the internet before, this player should be relatively easy to set up.

    As for our rating of 8 perhaps being too generous, overall we would rate a 2GB iPod nano an 8.5 by comparison. The nano is only rated higher because of its near seamless integration with the Mac OS. The lack of native syncing (on ANY platform) hurt our Meizu rating, but we did not find the somewhat more manual media management scheme to be all that cumbersome. After all, there are flash players, in 2GB and 4GB capacities. It isn’t like you have to manage 80GB of music and videos. And there actually IS a benefit to the folder structure of the Meizu, in that you can see all your files at all times. iTunes likes to hide your music and video, and put a separate “hard drive mode” partition for files. You could hook up a Meizu to a friend’s computer and give them all your music and video and photos, something you can’t do with an iPod without MANUALLY re-copying all of them to the “hard drive” portion of the iPod (assuming you have the space to double them up). By using a script like iTuneMyWalkman, you can have the best of BOTH worlds.

    We encourage you to try to see one in person for yourself before bashing it. We say, most people are better off with a nano, but for some this is a good choice. Unlike many other Chinese MP3 players it actually IS being released in the US, (and is on Amazon now).

    -The Doc

  11. Ferdi says:

    Try pocketDivXEncoder. its a real nice tool to convert AVi files on a windows machine. It lets you choose the frame rate, video quality and audio options. Framerate can be set on the advanced options

  12. Jen says:

    ” If you are a fan of purchasing music online, this device may not be for you, regardless of platform.”

    You can buy mp3 DRM-free music online (e.g. eMusic). Stop the FUD about itunes and playforsure.

  13. Michael says:

    What a great and detailed review – thank so much! Sounds like a great audio player – I wouldn’t waste my time trying to convert video to this puppy. If they can resolve their video issues I’d buy one tomorrow though…

  14. Zulu says:

    I have the chance to have a MEIZU 4GB. It works really fine with my Macbook pro. I’ll test your iTuneMyWalkman soft.
    It is really a very good player. YES it is 100% Chinese. But really well manufactured product 😉

  15. Poddy says:

    This will out dated in a few months, there’s a new touch screen iPod from Apple coming right around the corner.

  16. endif says:

    To NOT be able to just connect a player to a usb port and add music is insanity, if this would be possible with an IPod i would never think of buying someting else. Since this wont work, I have been using a M6 för 4 months now and is very happy about it, but… an IPod would be nicer for the design and the community…

  17. obsidian says:

    Dr. Macenstein Says: “But if you are under 40 or so, and have used a computer and the internet before, this player should be relatively easy to set up”.

    I am above 40. Does that mean I will have hard time ? lol!

  18. flyerwire says:

    I absolutely agree with endif. If you could just plug in an ipod and load/unload music onto it with or without Itunes, i would buy an ipod in a heartbeat. And *gasp* this new concept of “browsing your folder structure” is amazing

  19. random says:

    well: there are unofficial mods for the iPod which make it able to just drag and drop files onto it without iTunes. You only have to google for it.

  20. Tim says:

    u no…. there’s a thing in the world called sound qulity, an area in which this player exceeds the ipod in…

  21. MrGadget says:

    To Mr Marcus Sorensson
    You say,that Ipod is all ecosystem?I will give you nice example what kind of
    ecosystem it is:
    next to my house there is a small shop with electrical litems.
    I have just bought audio cable to conect my mp3 player with stereo system:
    1.5 mtr long,two plugs on each end,black,packed in plastic transparent sleeve,
    cost? – 1.0 US$.
    Half a mile away on mainstreet there is another shop selling similar items –
    electronic gadgets and accesories.They have many items,like I have just bought … but….listen
    Same cable,white colour(what else?) packed nicely in quite large box,nicely
    printed,with pictures in colours on hard paper(ecology???) and big name:
    “Audio Cable for Ipod”
    What do you think?What I think?Ecosystem,you are writing about in your
    comment above is:system to suck money from….I-DIOTS
    I-pods are for I-diots.
    ps.MusicCard 8G from Meizu,something close to Nano Ipod 8G cost:120$,
    better sound,many more futures then ipodnano.So?SteveJobs is loughing
    his guts out on his way to the bank!

  22. Tech geek says:

    Did you know that walgreens has the 4 gb meizu m6 for only $99?

  23. Scott says:

    “I used it to record the obnoxiously loud conversation of the couple sitting in front of us at a recent screening of The Departed. It’s almost as entertaining as the movie.”

    Is this available as a download?

  24. peter says:

    can u rotate the screen??

  25. Holly says:

    Wow I just love foreign features. I would love to own one and see this Mini player in action. Have they hit the US yet?

  26. Beau says:

    Yes they are available in the US. You can buy a 4 gig for $99.99 at

  27. ipodkiller says:

    I have the 8 Gb
    it’s simply the ipodkiller
    Xvid video, sound, picture, radio in one word : perfect
    so hype and so cheap
    I love it

  28. vanessa says:

    Hey im about to buy one and live in australia how sure are guys that its a good product.

  29. Ipod SUX says:

    I had the meizu m6 PMP for 1 year now and i have NOT regretted trading in my ipod nano for it.

    I did comparison test for sound quality with my friends Ipod utilizing the same song with the same bitrate and all that stuff. The meizu M6 clearly outperform the ipod in terms of treble clarity and bass richness, the music comes alive and the sound is so immersive that you feel like in a live concert but without all those screaming fans.

    My friend also disowned his ipod for the meizu M6 after listening to it. Ha ha ha.

    Of course the player performs well with a premium in ear headphones (e.g SHURE,Bose), forget about using the crappy IPOD’s supplied earphones with it, it RUINS the MEIZU experience.

  30. kruzer says:

    Anyone knows where can I get a GOOD video converter that works with this Meizu M6 player?

    I’ve tried a few but the player don’t accept it.
    You can direct mail me if you have info.


  31. jj says:

    Convert videos for Meizu M6 playback using Mac OS X… try this:

    1. Organize mencoder binary for your OS X installation (use Google)

    2. create shell script, let’s assume you call the file “meizu”: put this text in:

    “$1” -idx -noodml -ofps 20 -vf scale=320:-2,expand=:240:::1,crop=320:240,rotate=1 -ovc lavc -ffourcc XVID -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=384:vmax_b_frames=0:vhq -sws 9 -srate 44100 -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:br=128:mode=0 -o “$2”

    3. make sure you replace “” from #2 with the real path to your mencoder installation

    4. in Terminal, chmod 755 meizu
    5. you now can convert any -avi file to meizu playback format using “meizu infile.avi outfile.avi” (that is from the Terminal as well)

    have fun!

  32. Feinripp says:

    I own this Player 4 GB Verion. Man, this thing almost destroyed my prejudices against chinese products. Well most time those are cheap rippoffs but not so with this little razorsharp gadget.
    Me and a view collegues made a shootout of mp3 players. Connecting the same good headphones listening to various different Mp3´s. This beast cleeaarly outperformed the Ipod and several other products in terms of sound quality. Its crispy clear with unbelieveable Bass although with flat settings. Additionally it has so much different sound settings available incl. a 10 Band EQ, Bass bosts, 3D settings, Spatial etc..pp..
    The apple fan had those baffled look of blanc astonishment. You know, like a kid that firstly encounters big santa in supermarket.

    Call me Meizu fanboy, ok, but i would buy this player again even if the video wouldnt work at all.
    It shure has some flaws in firmware, but hey what can i say… i love it with its problems.
    Best wishes from ol germany.

  33. Feinripp says:

    .. additionally i would say that i like the preview, good work, thank you very much, was funny to read.

  34. Paul says:

    I’m going to have to digagree when you say the people at are looking for the ‘next closest thing to an ipod’. Many of the players they mention on that site are better than an ipod. They aren’t just looking for a different player other than an ipod because it doesn’t have their logo on it, they are because they know therre are so much other, better players out there.

  35. Enrico says:

    I just got a 4GB Meizu. I am very impressed. It takes a while to learn how to use it and the lack of OSX support is not good.

    I have one problem: I can not scroll through the pages in a txt file. The instructions read to to touch the next button lightly, but nothing happens.

  36. Andy says:

    I bought one with 8GB capacity while I was traveling in China for about 100 bucks. Man, I love it so much that I want to get a second one for my mom. It has everything I want, mp3 player, video player with crystal clear quality, and radio. And for 100 bucks with 8GB, it is a bargain.

  37. saad says:

    i have problem in the Meizu miniplayer

  38. Rocketm says:

    Got a Meizu after reading your review among many. I cannot for the life of me to get mine to work. My mac won’t even recognize the cursed thing. I’ve found customer support to be so lacking that it makes me want to rip my hair out, and I’m totally bummed I’m going to have to send back my new gadget.

    I’m still looking for an iPod alternative to run on my Linux and Mac computers, but I have to say, this one didn’t cut it.

    I agree with you about its nifty features and lots of other things…just mine won’t work.

  39. JB says:

    Anything after OSX after 10.5.5… stopped seeing the player.

    Anyone know a work around? I have 2 drives/2 OSX versions but don’t want to boot in 1055 every time I want to use this.

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