Mlais M7 Smartphone Wraps Lollipop in a Compact Body
The M7 is the most feature-rich phablet coming from Mlais, and could have been an extraordinary phone, if it weren’t for certain issues.
1. Contents of the Box
3. Design and Build Quality
4. Technical Specs
7. Performance Assessment
7.2. Sound Quality and Reception
7.3. Image Quality
7.4. Battery Life
8. Price and Availability
Back in April, when I first wrote about the M7, it surely seemed like Mlais was on a winning streak with its affordable, yet fine performing products. Using it for a bit over 3 weeks revealed that this smartphone has several issues that could turn consumers away from it.
Mlais M7 comes in the same turquoise box as the M52 and the M4. Since this is the most feature rich smartphone made by this company, I definitely would have wished to see some more special packaging. Differentiating the products is essential in any business, and using the same packaging for all the line can lead to confusions.
Furthermore, the contents of the box are the same as in the case of the other two smartphones. Besides the device itself, there’s also a USB to microUSB cable, a 5V/1A charger, and a user’s guide.
These are the standard contents for all Mlais smartphones, so a bit of differentiation wouldn’t have hurt here, either. The phone maker could partner up with an earphone manufacturer in order to provide a decent solution for listening to music. That would be fit of the flagship the M7 wants to be.
When it comes to the number of accessories, the manufacturer only supplies two: a flip cover similar to the one for the M52, and tempered glass to better protect the display.
As seen above, you can buy flip covers (which is purchased separately) that match the phone in terms of color (just in case you don’t want your phone to look like a harlequin).
The functionality of the flip cover has been preserved from the previous phones, which means that the small window can be used for displaying the clock (either in digital or analog formats), or for music playback.
The plastic case the tempered glass comes in also includes dry, as well as wet wipes for cleaning the display prior to applying the glass. Bear in mind that the phone comes with a screen protector pre-applied, so you will have to remove that one before installing the tempered glass.
The M4 already had a metal frame, but the M7 took things even further. The entire phone feels solid, and the buttons are no longer flimsy, as they were in the case of Mlais’ previous phablet. The front features all the usual suspects: the display has at the bottom the three capacitive buttons you’ve come to expect in an Android smartphone, but only Home is contoured. The other two become visible when touched, due to the white backlight.
There are no buttons on the right side of the phone, which can only mean one thing.
Both the volume rocker and the Power button are placed on the left side of the phone, which is a bit weird. The manufacturer explained that Lenovo and Huawei also did this, so Mlais is not the first one to move them all to one side. However, I found this to be very uncomfortable, especially when taking screenshots.
At the bottom you can only see the microphone.
The microUSB port that’s used for charging and data transfers can be found at the top, along with the 3.5mm audio jack.
The back side of the phone sports the main camera, a single LED flash, and the fingerprint scanner, which is something I’m not a huge fan of, even though I cannot deny its usefulness. Under the hood you can also see the 2600mAh battery.
Here’s a closer look to the aforementioned details, along with the two SIM card slots and the microSD slot.
Below you can see the external speaker, along with the LTE antenna.
Overall, I’d say that the M7 is very well built, not to mention that at 149.5*76.8*8.6mm it is more compact than most of its competitors. That’s right, Elephone P7000, I’m looking at you! On top of that, Mlais’ latest phablet does not bend like the P7000 does.
Mlais has decided to use the same Mediatek chipset that powers the M52, namely the 64-bit MT6752, which includes an octa-core CPU clocked at 1.7Ghz and a Mali T760 M2 GPU running at 600Mhz. Even though the M7 has 3GB of RAM (which is 1GB more than the M52), there are not that many situations when this much RAM comes in handy. The more memory there is, the more apps you can run at the same time, but it wouldn’t hurt to also take battery consumption into consideration. As for storage, the M7 is equipped with 16GB of ROM that can be expanded by up to 64GB using a microSD card.
The sensors Mlais used for the cameras are a 13MP Sony IMX135 on the back and an OmniVision 5648 in the front. In other words, the quality of the pictures taken with the main camera will be superior to M52 and M4’s main camera, while selfies won’t differ at all, since it’s the same sensor at play there.
Apart from NFC (or HotKnot) and Wi-Fi ac, the M7 has everything you could need in terms of connectivity: 4G LTE in the B1/3/7/20 (800/1800/2100/2600) bands, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, GPS and A-GPS. I found most of them to work satisfactory, apart from the Bluetooth and the Wi-Fi, which either took a long time to connect, or dropped the connection every so often.
GPS accuracy could have been better, as 4 meters (12 feet) can make the difference between driving on the road and jumping into a lake. Still, I supposed that drivers are able to correlate their visual input with what they’re getting from the navigation software.
Mlais M7 is running a vanilla version of Android 5.0 Lollipop with just a couple of differences that pertain to some specific characteristics. Below you can see the home screen and the app drawer as they looked like after the first boot.
The first difference is represented by off-screen gestures, whose settings look as below. Besides the predefined gestures, users can also customize their own, so that drawing a certain letter launches a certain app.
The second difference is represented by the fingerprint scanner settings. Users can save up to 5 different fingerprints, and even though the set up takes a while, I am extremely impressed with how fast and how accurate the press touch ID scanner is. Mlais really did a great job in this department, and I hope they won’t make any changes in their future smartphones.
Assuming that your skin has no problems and that you want your phone to be secure, using a fingerprint for the lock screen is as good as it gets.
To see how the M7 performs, I ran a set of benchmarks, whose results you can see below. Besides that, I used the phone as my daily driver for more than 3 weeks, and reached to the conclusion that despite its better looks, it provides poorer performance than its brother, the M52.
With an AnTuTu score of 47265, the M7 isn’t bad at all, but some users even got 49K with the M52, which makes you wonder if the extra GB of RAM matters at all. Had the resolution been higher, as in Meizu M1 Note’s case, for example, the AnTuTu score would’ve been much lower, so I can see why Mlais sticks with this resolution. On the downside, the resolution may be the exact reason some users pick a phablet over another one.
I ran the Epic Citadel benchmark on the M7 using all three settings: High Performance, High Quality, and Ultra High Quality, and you can see the results below.
Below are the results for the GFX OpenGL benchmark.
Mediatek chipsets are known to have GPUs that pale in comparison to the ones included in Qualcomm SoCs, yet 3DMark Ice Storm Ultimate still thinks that M7’s GPU is impressive.
NenaMark 2, on the other hand, is an outdated benchmark that shows very similar results for a bunch of smartphones, so I wouldn’t take it very seriously.
At first, I thought that the M7 gets overheated only when running GPU-intensive tasks, but I soon discovered that it also does that when playing videos, and even during 20-minute calls. That’s a major drawback, and the fact that the manufacturer was aware of it and still decided to launch the device will cause some people to raise an eye brow.
The external speaker of the M7 is decent, even though I found it to lack bass and depth. The earpiece, on the other hand, is a completely different story. During phone calls at maximum volume, I could hear sound crackling coming out of it. Considering that taking and placing calls is one of the most basic things to do on a phone, be it a smartphone or a feature phone, facing such a problem could be a deal breaker. Other than that, it is loud enough to understand what the other person is saying.
The 13MP Sony IMX135 sensor that M7’s rear camera is based on represents a major step forward from the M52 and M4’s IMX219, especially since the resolution is no longer interpolated. That means that you get to shoot photos using the camera’s native resolution.
The first time I ran the GeekBench 3 battery test, I did it with no SIM card installed, and with all wireless connections turned off. Prior to that, I charged the M7 using a Xiaomi 16000mAh power bank, and I measured the capacity with one of these gadgets. The meter indicated a capacity of a bit above 2500mAh, with the mention that charging stopped at 95% and didn’t go up. The second time I did that, the battery charged up to 97%, again with the phone turned off. With the phone turned on, the battery usually charges fully, which makes me think that either there is a hardware problem that prevents the battery from charging to 100% when the phone is turned off, or the battery is poorly calibrated. Under the previous conditions, I obtained 4h55m of screen-on time in GeekBench 3. After installing a SIM card and several apps (which included Battery Doctor), I obtained 5h25m, which is slightly better, but still very disappointing.
When it was first announced, Mlais M7 had a MSRP of $189.99, but over time, various resellers offered the phablet for $159.99 during flash sales and activities. Considering the specs, this is definitely a smartphone worth buying, but before placing an order, there are a few things you should consider.
Mlais M7 could have been a great Android smartphone, if it weren’t for the overheating, sound crackling, Wi-Fi instability and poor battery life. These are issues that affect even basic functionality, which means that the manufacturer should improve quality control, to make sure that devices such as the one that I reviewed don’t end up to the end consumers. Mlais has made good products that provided excellent value for money, and it’s disappointing to see that their most feature-rich smartphone ended up like this.