The Mi3 is Xiaomi’s latest flagship phone. Xiaomi has come a long way from their initial flagship phone release. The Mi3 not only has amazing hardware powering the phone, it has the great MIUI to translate all that computing power into useful functions. The most amazing thing of all is the price that tags along with the phone. Just based on pure hardware specifications, you are getting an extremely great deal. Of course we cannot judge a phone just based on its price tag and hardware specifications. As such, read on for my full analysis and review of the Mi3.
|2G Network||GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz|
|3G Network||WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz (TD-SCDMA Available)|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 800*|
|Video||1080p at 30 FPS|
|OS||Android 4.3 (Custom)|
|GPS||Yes w/ A-GPS and GLONASS|
|WLAN||802.11 b/g/n (5GHz supported)|
|USB||microUSB v2.0 (OTG Supported)|
|CPU||nVidia Tegra 4|
|3G Network||TD-SCDMA 1880-1920/2010-2025MHz|
There are two variants of the phone available: one for the TD-SCDMA standard and the other for the WCDMA standard. They are basically the same phone except for the CPU that is powering them (look at the specification table above to see the differences). I will be reviewing the WCDMA version. Do note that the phone is running stock firmware MIUI V5 (Based on Android 4.3) and is tested as it is out of the box.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging for the Mi3 is basically a cardboard box with some logos and specifications printed on it. It is extremely basic and there aren’t any accessories provided besides some manuals and a microUSB cable. This is probably not what you would expect from a flagship offering but based on the price that you are paying, it is pretty alright. If you’ve read or watched my Xiaomi Redmi review, you would find that the packaging and accessories of both phones are basically identical except for the phone and the dimensions of the box. All that said, the way the manuals and cable are packed is pretty neat. You can see it in my unboxing video for more details.
I would definitely love to see some form of distinction in terms of packaging especially since the phone is technically the “high-end” offering of the company. While the packaging is advertised to be “eco-friendly”, the image that it provides isn’t necessary a positive one. While many people say that looks doesn’t really matter, it does give the first impression and first impressions are extremely important. Nevertheless, that is just the packaging and perhaps that might just be the “style” that the company is looking for: simple and minimalistic.
Design and Build Quality
We now come to the phone itself. You may be disappointed with the Mi3 packaging but upon lifting the box cover and holding on to the phone itself, all your disappointment will turn into happiness. The phone feels and looks premium enough to compare with all your other flagship phones. As for the people who like to compare hardware specifications, the phone packs a punch. In fact, you will see that the phone tops the chart in synthetic benchmark tests. A beauty on the outside and a beast in the inside. The Mi3 is slightly bigger than your usual 5.0” display phones but it doesn’t really affect the experience when it comes to comfort and usage.
The phone has a plastic unibody exterior built over a magnesium alloy frame. That results in the phone being light yet strong. The plastic material might put away some but honestly speaking it feels (and should be) solid and strong enough to survive through minor drops and physical damage. The metallic grey back gives the perception that it is a phone made from metal. You thus got yourself covered in terms of actual performance and aesthetic. In terms of looks the phone doesn’t provide anything interesting or new but the aesthetic does give a rather nice vibe to it. The simplistic design together with the unibody built certainly tags it with a posh and premium status.
The phone does not have any storage expansion slot. With only 2 types of storage configuration available (16GB or 64GB), some people may shy away from the phone. There is also the lack of 4G data connection. This may be a problem especially since the phone is technically marketed for the higher budget market. Flagship phones from other international brands have already included 4G data capabilities to their phone and users that have access to 4G networks will definitely prefer phones that have such functionality. Also, the phone doesn’t have a replaceable battery. These are some things you should take note and consider when making the purchase.
The phone’s volume rocker and power switch are located at the same side (right side) of the phone. There is no form of identification between the different buttons and thus can be slightly frustrating for users as mis-presses may happen (switching off the screen instead of tuning the volume down). What I would like to commend and point out is the phone’s speaker placement. The speakers are situated at the bottom of the phone, resulting in sound projection to not be hindered should the phone be laid completely flat. The only problem with such placement is that the sound is definitely going to be blocked whenever you play games that utilizes a controller style grip. Nevertheless, the speakers’ placement is certainly much more effective in many situations as compared to the countless number of phones that have them at the back.
An interesting feature of the phone is the presence of 2 LED lights at the back of the phone instead of the usual one. I’ve tested this and while the highest brightness level seems (using the human eye to judge) to be pretty much equal to that of your usual 1 LED light phones, the area the light covers is a lot wider than usual.
Overall, the phone is well built and designed. The only problems are the lack of expansion options and 4G data. This may or may not affect you too much. For a person like me who carries around an OTG microSD thumbdrive, storage is never really a problem. Also, not many people have switched to 4G yet and I belong to that particular group of people. Of course if you have 4G connectivity in your phone plan, not being able to use it might be kind of discouraging.
The Mi3 has a 5.0” IPS display (protected by some kind of glass) that simply looks gorgeous. Colour reproduction is vibrant and viewing high definition media content on the phone is simply a blast. With the amazing hardware specifications, you can enjoy some of the best mobile graphics games that are available for the Android OS. Everything looks sharp and clear. Be it reading text or watching videos, the display does not let you down in any way. The brightness of the display is sufficiently bright enough for usage under direct sunlight and dim enough to not cause much eye strain when viewing in the dark.
The Mi3 does everything you want smoothly and efficiently. I have never experienced any slowdowns in the time I was testing and using it. All apps and games run as smooth as butter and the phone is sensitive and responsive to every touch and action. In terms of general phone usage, the phone does work as intended. No drop calls, strong signal for both 2G and 3G bands and call quality is clear and sharp at both ends. Additional features such as Bluetooth, NFC and GPS works perfectly fine. The only thing that isn’t working is the TV-out functionality. The phone supposedly has the feature to use a MHL cable to output content from your phone (though not advertised on their official page, maybe that’s why it isn’t working). Some people say that it is the current ROM that doesn’t support such a feature so only time can tell. Perhaps someday some update will enable TV-out for the phone but as of now it isn’t working.
A worthy feature to mention is that the Mi3 supports 5GHz WiFi connection. You do not see such a feature often in Chinese phones or any kind of phones in general unless they’re the higher end ones. From my testing, I managed to have nearly double the download performance using the 5GHz connection (you must have a router that supports it). Your results may vary according to the router you are using amongst other factors.
As mentioned previously, the phone doesn’t have any storage expansion options. The phone have slightly over 10GB (16GB variant) for your own personal usage after discounting the space taken by the OS and default apps. This might not be enough especially for media content heavy users. It is thus wise to buy the 64GB variant but that may be a problem seeing that stocks are extremely limited (unless you’re willing to pay a premium).
The battery life on the phone is pretty good. Advertised as having a capacity of 3050mAh, the battery will last roughly a day of medium to high usage. For reference, I managed to pull out around 2hr 30mins of watching videos on Youtube (WiFi), 1hour of web browsing (3G) and 30mins of using the GPS and music for exercising. With that, I managed another 19 hours of standby time with sync on (all through 3G), occasional messaging and phone calls. For people that are mainly going to consume media content during transport to and from work, the phone should definitely last the journeys and remain working throughout your working hours.
The Mi3 has the customizable sound output feature similar to the Hongmi. You can customize what type of sound you like via the equalizer and choose the type of earphones you are using. You can also configure the functions to be carried out by your earphone buttons if any. The sound output on the Mi3 is definitely better than your average smartphones. As such if you’re looking for a media device, the phone will definitely be a great contender.
For fans of custom Android OS systems, the MIUI is sure to please. For the review on the MIUI OS, do refer to the phone software section of my Xiaomi Hongmi review. Long story short, it should work fantastic for the majority of you.
Phone Software (MIUI V5)
Please refer to the following link: Xiaomi Hongmi (Redmi) Review (MIUI Section)
TLDR: One of the better custom Android OS experience both in terms of functionality and aesthetic.
Amazing. There isn’t much needed to be said as the phone can basically run anything you throw at it. The main problem you would face is the speaker placement. If the game requires you to hold the phone like a controller, you will definitely block the sound projection.
The camera is pretty decent. Images captured are sharp and colours are vibrant enough to make the photo look good. The HDR function of the camera is pretty weird (see the sample) and can act up sometimes. HDR processed images can turn out wonky so do check on the images before moving on to take something else. The phone allows you to adjust many settings (ISO, white balance etc) but leaving them at the “auto” should work for the majority of you. Video recording wise the phone does perform decently as well. Overall, the camera performance is definitely one of the better ones compared to other phones.
Download unedited photos: Mirror 1
Official and Community Support
There are a lot of support for Xiaomi phones and the MIUI in general (both official and community wise). Of course if you’re looking for the official forums, be prepared to use Google Translator as most will be in Chinese. That said, there are a few community based English forums available dedicated to Xiaomi phones as well as the MIUI. If you’re looking to get the phone to flash another custom ROM, you will be out of luck as there is practically no support for that.
As the Mi3 is part of their flagship phone product line, you should not worry about the lack of updates. If there are any updates for the MIUI (there will be, both major and minor updates), you will be receiving them (at least until the phone is phased out).
The Mi3 is definitely a great phone considering the price you are paying. The main reasons I see people not wanting the phone is the lack of 4G support and storage expansion options. The 4G support should be more of a problem seeing as how there are many phones from your international brands such as Samsung and HTC offering such connectivity options at a similar price range (though lesser specced). It has to be said though that at a SRP of $419 SGD (roughly $330 USD), the hardware you are getting is simply unbeatable (comparing against all kinds of phones).
The biggest problem though is the availability of the phone. To get it at the standard retail price, be prepared to wait for quite some time as stocks are extremely limited. It isn’t exactly available worldwide as well. At the countries that they do sell, stocks are depleted within minutes of sale. Unless you do not mind paying a premium to get from an agent or reseller, getting the Mi3 is probably the hardest thing and the worse part about the phone.
Putting that aside, the Xiaomi Mi3 is definitely a premium phone that boasts of good design, build quality and great hardware. To top that off, it is selling at an extremely affordable and value for money price.
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