No matter what Indian manufacturers are thinking and doing over it, the smartphone market is becoming more appealing for foreign vendors since recent times. While Micromax among more Indian vendors are busy launching new phones made by Chinese sub-manufacturers, Chinese companies are stepping on Indian shores in search for more sales and greater exposure around the globe.
One of the most recent manufacturers is Xiaomi, a name that had already been in the lime light much before it made its way outside China. Xiaomi Mi3 is Xiaomi’s Android flagship smartphone that the company is retailing in India via ecommerce site Flipkart. It will be selling among two more sub-Rs. 10,000 Xiaomi smartphones launching soon. Xiaomi Redmi 1S (Rs. 6,000) will be launching on Aug. 2.
Again we cannot say how much Indian manufacturers considers Xiaomi to affect their sales when it entered India, but one thing’s for sure – Mi3 is a direct competitor to Moto G which is also being sold only on Flipkart. Recently Moto G had set itself selling for Rs. 2,000 off, and that was, the Xiaomi Mi3 effect. You must have heard about almost everything its spec sheet says, but how does it really perform? How good is Xiaomi Mi3? Is it decent enough to fulfil your requirements? Those are a few things you’re going to read in this detailed review of Xiaomi Mi3.
Mi3 runs on MIUI v5 over Android 4.4.2 KitKat and packs in 16GB of internal storage with no support of storage expansion via SD card.
The rear camera is equipped with 13MP sensor while the front is 2MP.
LOOK AND FEEL
Xiaomi Mi3 looks stunning from front. The gorgeous all black look from top to bottom layered with shiny Gorilla Glass 3 all over is an element you won’t forget to admire. However on the contrary, the rear is flat with a design not as stunning as the front. It’s too plain, too simple – but does look premium with that aluminum-like coated plastic back panel.
Continuing the grip part of ergonomics, Xiaomi Mi3 is fairly light weight but because of taller size and points listed in previous lines, you might feel the weight tilting from top on a normal hold.
This is probably where Mi3’s competitor product wins over it – Moto G.
The company claims Mi3 is designed with aluminum-magnesium alloy frame which is coated in 3 layers of thermal graphite film. So it should be solid, and it really feels so.
On the right side you’ll find volume rocker and power button. On top there’s a microphone presumably dedicated for in-call noise cancellation or stereo audio recording in capturing videos, 3.5mm headphone input and mini-SIM slot. Nothing on the right side. At bottom you’ll find microUSB 2.0 port which supports MHL for TV out, and mic and speaker in the drilled holes.
On front top – earpiece, proximity sensor, LED notification light and 2MP secondary camera. Below the display on front bottom, Mi3 has capacitive touch navigational backlit buttons.
On back there’s a 13MP Sony Exmor camera with dual-LED light and a dedicated noise-cancellation microphone (third mic).
Xiaomi Mi3 is 144mm tall and measures 74mm by width. It’s 8.1mm thin and weighs approximately 145 grams.
Mi3 has a well calibrated IPS display panel of 5-inch measuring a full HD resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels with density of 441 pixel per inch. Through software you can load presets of colors according to what looks better to you. But I’ll prefer the default standard preset as it is really well calibrated and outputs near to natural colours – actual black level, no colour bleeding.
Visibility at outdoor is OKAY, nothing special here.
Viewing angle is very good, company claims it can be clearly viewed on up to 178 degree angle, and they are fairly near with the claim.
The screen is coated with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, you won’t really need a screen protector plastic over it. All these factors sums up for a gorgeous looking display the Mi3 has.
Touch is very responsive with choice to make it more responsive for gloves.
SOFTWARE AND PERFORMANCE
Xiaomi Mi3 comes packed with Android 4.4.2 KitKat with MIUI version 5. The review unit we reviewed was running on one of the latest stable firmware updates named KXDMIBE 18.0.
Even if Xiaomi executives don’t like to hear it and disagree with the statement, Xiaomi is not just “inspired” but is clearly imitating Cupertino’s pride Apple.
Some of them are incoming call notification when you’re busy doing something in an app, manageable permission for any app to access phone’s data along with a complete package of security, torch toggle directly from lockscreen, interactive notification for messages, adding note from dialer, simpler settings menu with option for power users.
Mi3 comes with MIUI’s own security package that includes storage cleaner, data usage, call/SMS blocklist, power management, virus scanner and app permission manager. Everything works nice but still I feel the security package isn’t really polished. It can buggy sometime.
Screenshots of security app:
My experiment with data usage didn’t really go as I expected it to, the app allows you to block data transfers of individual apps. With data usage, I disabled data transfer of WhatsApp from both Wi-Fi and cellular – and to my notice I still received messages on WhatsApp, not real time but on intervals – it happened twice during the 7-day review course. So it can be buggy, which software isn’t? So dubbing that MIUI is very secured is a question to itself, it’s not primarily targeted to be an enterprise solution after all.
MIUI’s browser is intuitive than Google Chrome because it’s really simple and bears least but essential functionality that should be on a mobile browser. Text wrapping on zooming in works great, reading view option on webpages is fairly good.
Xiaomi Mi3 in India comes preloaded with essential tools by MIUI including Xiaomi’s own MiCloud cloud data synchronizing service, and almost complete package of Google – Play Store, Chrome, Newsstand, Google+, Photos, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Hangouts, etc.
Although MIUI is optimized throughout the overall user interface, multitasking is a not-so-good compared to multitasking on Moto G. We had done a video on Moto G multitasking, it’s available on our YouTube channel. We have also made a stress test video on Xiaomi Mi3.
The task manager sheds a good interface of icons of apps that are opened or running in background. Pulling icons up closes apps, pulling down locks and unlocks apps from being closed with the “erase-all” icon button. A dedicated task manager button that you get in most of the Androids with on-screen navigational buttons, would have been better than long-pressing menu key on Mi3.
Xiaomi Mi3 has a 13MP camera at rear, paired with dual-LED flash light. The camera is equipped with Sony Exmor sensor with a wide aperture size of f/2.2.
Color reproduction of pictures are often natural looking. The good part is you can calibrate color with white balance card with measuring functionality.
The results we got from the camera are extremely good, pictures appeared natural like how I would see them in real. Indoor shots with sufficient lighting were a bit noisy, but outdoor shots were more appreciable.
Photos captured in auto settings were altogether natural looking, but in case if you’d desire a more saturated and vivid shots the camera app provides HDR mode too – which is fairly good and competes the auto mode in ways it should.
Bokeh effect on Mi3’s 13MP camera is good enough for a camera phone on macro focusing shots. Check out the samples.
Low light photography in HDR mode marks visible difference.
Xiaomi Mi3 records video up to 1080p resolution. Video recording is decent, both in daylight and indoor condition. Check out the videos embedded below, or download original videos from this link (photos also included).
I often got my fingers in front of the sensor when typically holding the device for a shot. Mi3 isn’t the first to have that camera placement on back, we’ve seen it in iPhones and Xperia Zs before, but I still believe the camera should be placed at a decent offset from top and center from side edges.
Xiaomi Mi3 has a 2MP front-facing secondary camera for video chats. It’s decent. It features a skin tone enhancement technology that makes users look younger with real-time tuned skin color.
Mi3’s camera application is full of manual controls along with the simplest ways it offers. But the interface could have been more intuitive. With the camera app with picture mode you can control ISO, shutter speed, exposure, white balance and focus. The app also features burst shots, panorama, audio activated timer, etc.
Video mode includes settings to change resolution, whitebalance (no manual), fast motion, etc. There’s one little flaw in this app is that by default you cannot set the camera to record at 1080p, 720 HD is default… and you’d need to change it every time in case you want a full HD recording.
NETWORK AND CALL QUALITY
Expect network disruption during calls whether you’re on a 3G band or 2G – in a not-so-good network zone, however other phones like Nokia Asha 311 and a couple of Lumias, also Moto G works better than Mi3.
Wi-Fi connectivity is good. Xiaomi Mi3 boasts dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz and 802.11 n/ac 5GHz. Wi-Fi coverage is better than other smartphones, and it’s fast.
Xiaomi Mi3 features earSmart noise reduction technology that is also found in iPhone 4S, Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3. In-call dedicated noise cancellation mic works good, voice is clear on the other end. Voice quality on earpiece is often distorted by the low quality earpiece speaker Mi3 has. On infrequent occasions but noticeable, volume of earpiece fails to remain persistent.
Network and call quality, while putting Wi-Fi in the exception list, is seriously below average no matter what latest renowned technology Mi3 uses.
Xiaomi Mi3 has 3050mAh Li-ion non-removable battery. It could take about 2 hours for charging the phone from 0 to 100% while phone is ON.
Battery life is good, can last about 20 hours on intensive usage with lots of background data too, depending on circumstance that you would not use your phone for about 8 hours, probably during bed time (that’s how I tested). Battery life could be increased if in case your usage would have lesser background data activity. Overall battery performance is good, acceptable for your “last-long” requirement.
IN THE BOX
Xiaomi Mi3 comes packed with a touted to be tougher box for transport. And the company is seriously serious to promote the box. While I do admit the box is very hard and solid, I’d urge you all to not to fall on to the gimmick perception Xiaomi is making with Mi3’s box, after all packaging of other brands’ phones in retails do not get you damaged units. Logic.
First, the USB charger doesn’t have standard EU plug used in India, it’s US type of plug. Although many people are using plug outlets that fits both EU and US types of plugs, you might not have such in your place. If so, you’d need to buy a separate adapter to get the charger work. The microUSB to USB cable is decently lengthy.
Second, box doesn’t contain earphones. Xiaomi Mi3, touted for its Dirac sound technology, SFX surround sound and even FM Radio, doesn’t carry an earphone in the package. Why?.. Cost cutting? Really?
Third, you from India are not Chinese. Well most of you are simply not Chinese. Yet you’d have to find that the box contains user manual in Chinese.
Xiaomi Mi3 fills a few desired features at a desired cost. But there are several positives, with negatives that consolidates this verdict.
Xiaomi Mi3 has an excellent Exmor camera sensor at rear, photos are clear, natural looking and dominates over most of the camera phones out there, equals to the premium range of camera phones that you can’t get at this price of Rs. 13,999. Mi3 also has a stunning design especially the front with gorgeous looking 5-inch FHD display. The user interface MIUI is intuitive, smooth and completely customizable. Mi3 has a good solid body.
Where Mi3 could make you confuse whether to buy it or not are:
It is single SIM device, consumers buying phones in this particular price range are often offered with smartphones that are dual SIM. Many consumers today require dual SIM smartphone.
Mi3 multitasking with essential background running apps is decent, but it might not fill up requirements of a more power user as most of the memory is allocated for UI. Of course it might be a different story if you the power user root and juice Mi3 with custom ROMs.
Xiaomi Mi3’s attention gathering look actually sacrifices the basic ergonomics of a phone, it’s a pain to use the phone either one handed or two.
Network reception and call quality is a key factor for a phone, and it has to be good. Mi3, unfortunately falls behind on this part.
There is one more cons that shouldn’t be missed in the verdict of this review, as the hype for a China branded smartphone in India has covered over and upon some valuable aspects for buyers – first is Xiaomi Mi3 is exclusively available only on Flipkart that too on a virtual queue as the company is shipping limited units from its mainland China on interval basis. And it will be a false statement if one says there’s no other device as good as Mi3 in the market at that price range. Fact is, there exists a few compelling devices in the retail market like Asus Zenfone 5, Lenovo S850 and Karbonn Titanium Octane.
We cannot have a verdict on the customer services on this new company setting its roots in India. However on the note you should be aware that there are about 30 service centers across India in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Hyderabad, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu. Two company’s Mi Exclusive service centers are located in Bangalore and New Delhi – one more is said to be opening soon in Mumbai.
“Xiaomi Mi3 is a smart telephony device that not only features high end hardware, but a user interface with functionality that iOS and Android should have had it that way. The price with specs is pretty tempting but fact that it’s limitedly available lowers our rating bar if we had one. There’s certainly more that lowers, but the point is if you can sacrifice a few of your essentials for the phone’s specs, camera, display and UI Xiaomi Mi3 can be an opportunity like to have ice candy while surfing around a sandy desert”
Choices are yours whether you go for Mi3 or you don’t. The review gives you an outlook of what Mi3 can fill in for you and what it cannot. For questions, suggestions, corrections, please comment below.