There’s no way you have missed the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. It’s been the bang-for-buck benchmark for a while now, delivering a feature set and performance way above what its price tag suggests.
To refresh your memory Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 3 at the turn of last year and it was powered by a MediaTek Helio X10. In the spring of 2016, a Qualcomm-driven Redmi Note 3 followed and broke the company’s sales record in India. Now this full review admittedly comes a little late, but the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is still on many people’s radar, so we figured a way to compare the Mediatek-powered original and the Snapdragon edition might come in handy.
Besides the chipset, there’s also a new camera sensor, a 16MP unit even if it is limited to 1080p video recording. Another difference is the second SIM card tray can now take microSD cards. It’s the hybrid kind, which isn’t ideal for people who want to have it all. Other than that, the hardware is perfectly familiar.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 sports an all metal body and has rounded edges along the sides. Turn around the phone and the resemblance to the rear side on the Meizu MX5 is uncanny. The round fingerprint scanner is located just below the 16MP camera on the rear side and they are aligned to be placed in the centre. The dual LED flash unit is located in between the camera and the fingerprint scanner. The base has the speaker section and there’s a slight protrusion chin just below to ensure there is a gap between speaker section and the flat surface its placed on.
Looking around the device, on the left hand edge you have the dual SIM card slots, at the base there is a microUSB charging and data transfer port, on the right hand edge you have the volume rocker and power standby buttons. The top edge has the 3.5mm audio jack and an infrared blaster for controlling IR home appliances. The front has a 5.5inch display which has a tendency to collect smudges.
Thanks to the sand blasted matte finish on the rear side, you get a good grip on the phone. One handed option is inconvenient.The in hand feel of the phone is good as there are no sharp edges around the phone. Everything is nicely rounded. There’s even a chrome strip running around the edges which is slightly raised, so that it helps the display from touching the table if it is placed face down. Now these are minor touches, but quite thoughtful. Even the volume rocker and power/standby buttons are metallic with chamfered edges and a good feedback.
At 8.7mm thickness and 164 grams in weight, it is not winning any prizes in the slimness and lightness departments, but it isn’t bad at all considering it houses a 4050mAh battery.
Xiaomi is one company which started the specs vs price battle when it had launched the Mi 3 two years ago. And that is a legacy it has carried forward with the Redmi Note 3 as well. For starters, the Redmi Note 3 comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 SoC which houses a hexa core processor, with a dual core Cortex A72 processor clocked at 1.8GHz and a quad-core Cortex A53 processor clocked at 1.4GHz. This is paired with Adreno 510 GPU.
There are two variants on the Redmi Note 3 – one comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB ROM and the other comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM. We got the latter for testing and Xiaomi has given you the option to add in a microSD card to expand the storage. Out of the 32GB storage, the user available space is around 26.28GB. It runs Android 5.1 OS with MIUI 7 skin atop it. We will discuss more about MIUI 7 in the software section.
On the camera front, you have a 16MP rear camera with an aperture of f/2.0 and a 5MP front facing camera. The Redmi Note 3 comes with a hybrid dual SIM Card slot and can take in two 4G SIM cards which are hot-swappable. It supports voice over LTE (VoLTE), Wi-fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, FM radio, infrared port, GPS with AGPS and so on. The Redmi Note 3 is the first Xiaomi phone to sport a fingerprint scanner as well.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 sports a 5.5inch fullHD IPS LCD display which gives it a pixel density of 401ppi. The colours look natural and it has a good viewing angles. But the display tends to collect smudges which though easily removable are still annoying to have. There is no Corning Gorilla Glass protection, but the display is scratch resistant.
Xiaomi has carried forward the Sunlight Display technology from its Mi4/Mi4i line onto the Redmi Note 3. For those not aware, the Sunlight Display makes adjustments to the display at a pixel level so that you see a balanced image in bright outdoors. This is on by default and works when you are out in bright sunlight and want to photograph, without having to shade your phone. Reading mode helps reduce the blue light being emitted to reduce the eye fatigue, by adding a yellow tinge to the display.
The IPS LCD display is quite good with a good contrast ratio and decent black levels. Viewing angles are great, although the display can get very reflective at times.
MIUI 7 OS which was announced by Xiaomi in October last year comes loaded on the phone. While in terms of pure looks, there isn’t any drastic difference from the MIUI 6, but we do see some finesse on the OS. Xiaomi has added on a lot more Indian themes to the MIUI 7 for starters. It has an animated profile picture feature called ‘Showtime’ which lets other MIUI users see your animated selfies when you call them, instead of a profile picture.
In the messaging app, MIUI 7 divides messages from your contacts and services. An interesting touch is that if you are getting a one-time password (OTP) for some or the other credentials fulfillment online, you now get the option of copying the OTP from the notification itself rather than opening the message to search for. This is a good addition as you do not need to switch between screens. Same goes for calls – you get floating notifications at the top.
Xiaomi has also bundled in two months of free Hungama digital streaming for Redmi Note 3 buyers. Apart from the 13 system apps you also get a additional apps such as Flesky, WPS Office, Facebook, SwiftKey which thankfully dosen’t seem like a lot. You also get the Mi Store app pre-installed in case you want to purchase anything from the Mi India store. You can enter into the one handed mode in case you find the 5.5-inch screen size too much. You get the option to select between 3.5-inch, 4.0-inch and 4.5-inch screen sizes. You can also select photos from your gallery and add them to a hidden albums.
Call quality on the Redmi Note 3 is excellent and the earpiece speaker is sufficiently loud even outdoors. We didn’t face any issues with signal reception even inside elevators, that’s speaking a lot.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 chipset is quite impressive here. It is clearly performing at par with Qualcomm’s last generation hex-core Snapdragon 808. Phones around the Rs 20,000 price point house this processor. The Adreno 510GPU ensures a smooth performance while gaming as well – Asphalt 8: Airborne is playable at Extreme settings as well. All in all, the Redmi Note 3 excels in the performance department when compared with competition in this price range.
Despite the MIUI 7 skin atop the Android 5.1OS, we did not face any slowdown issues with the Redmi Note 3, which is interesting since the Mi4i did show a lot of lag in this department. The phone does take ages to reboot after a system update though, so beware in case you are in the middle of an important conversation, finish it off before you hit Reboot for the new system updates to take effect. Heat management is quite good and unlike the the Mi4 and Mi4i, the phone does not heat up noticeably while playing heavy games, despite having a metal body.
Fingerprint scanner works fine and is quick. We rarely had to keep adjusting the finger position for the scanner to unlock. You can also use the fingerprint scanner to click photographs or even lock apps, which is an interesting feature. Audio output isn’t that loud and you really have to cover the rear side to hear it clearly.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 sports a 16MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing camera. The rear camera comes with phase-detect auto-focus function which works great in well lit situations, but struggles in low light. Xiaomi has added on the timelapse and slow motion feature for video shooting as well along with a fullHD video recording support.
Image quality for daylight photographs is quite good. The HDR mode on the camera is similar to the one we had seen with the Mi4i, and is able to give a balanced output for regions in the shadow area. But we noticed that the highlights did get blown out on a lot of occasions. The Sunlight display feature which worked wonderfully when using the Mi4i, is quite slow on the Redmi Note 3. There were many instances when we had to literally wait a couple of seconds before the camera kicked in Sunlight display.
Low light photography is the Achilles heel of the Redmi Note 3. The camera just refuses to give sharp images. It takes time to lock on focus and if you are in the HDR mode, then unless you have rock steady hands, forget getting a remotely sharp image. The performance is quite reminiscent of the one we had seen with OnePlus X – good daylight photographs, but mediocre low light shots. The bump in the megapixel count clearly shows its shortcomings in the low light department.
The Redmi Note 3 comes with a 4050mAh non-removable Li-Polymer battery. It manages to retain the battery life really well. We were impressed with the battery life on the phone since we could easily go over a day and more, with a single charge, despite using the phone to watch videos, update social apps and listen to music for hours. If you want to still extend the battery life further, you get some Battery saver modes as well.
13MP/5MP cameras on Redmi Note 3 take gorgeous pictures. Here are some unedited photos.
Redmi Note 3’s fingerprint sensor unlocks in just 0.3s. Body has a smooth sandblasted metal finish too.
Redmi Note 3 has a massive 4000mAh battery but is only 8.65mm thick, weighs 164g – just 4g heavier than Redmi Note 2!
Display: 5.5 inch, 1920×1080 Pixel Screen with 403 PPI
CPU: Helio X10 64bit Octa Core 2.0GHz
GPU: PowerVR G6200
System: Android 5.0
RAM + ROM: 2GB RAM + 16GB ROM
Camera: 5.0MP with f/2.0 aperture front camera + 13.0MP with 78 degree wide-angle, f/2.2 aperture back camera
Sensor: Light sensor, G-sensor, Proximity sensor, Hall Sensor
Feature: GPS/ A-GPS / Glonass / Beidou
SIM Card: Dual SIM dual standby, Dual Micro SIM
2G: GSM 900/1800/1900MHz
3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz
|Basic Information||Brand: Xiaomi
Type: 4G Phablet
OS: Android 5.0
Service Provider: Unlocked
Languages: Simplified/Traditional Chinese, English, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Melayu, Catalan, Czech, Dansk, German, Eesti, English, Spanish, Filipino, French, Hrvatski, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Magyar, Dutch, Polski, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Slovak, Suomi, Svenska, Slovenian, Vietnamese, Persian, Arabic, Hinglish, Bengalese, Thai, Burmese, Korean, Japanese, Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Kazak, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Urdu
SIM Card Slot: Dual SIM,Dual Standby
SIM Card Type: Dual Micro SIM Card
|Hardware||CPU: MTK Helio X10
Cores: 2.0GHz,Octa Core
GPU: PowerVR G6200
RAM: 2GB RAM
External Memory: Not Supported
|Network||Wireless Connectivity: 3G,4G,A-GPS,Bluetooth,GPS,GSM,WiFi
WIFI: 802.11b/g/n wireless internet
Network type: FDD-LTE+WCDMA+GSM
3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
2G: GSM 900/1800/1900MHz
4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz
|Display||Screen type: Capacitive (5-Points)
Screen size: 5.5 inch
Screen resolution: 1920 x 1080 (FHD)
Pixels Per Inch (PPI): 403
|Camera||Camera type: Dual cameras (one front one back)
Back camera: 13.0MP
Front camera: 5.0MP
Video recording: Yes
Auto Focus: Yes
Camera Functions: Face Beauty,Face Detection
|Media Formats||Picture format: BMP,GIF,JPEG,PNG
Music format: AAC,AMR,MP3,WAV
Video format: ASF,MKV,MP4
MS Office format: Excel,PPT,Word
E-book format: PDF,TXT
|Other Features||I/O Interface: 2 x Micro SIM Card Slot,3.5mm Audio Out Port,Micro USB Slot
Sensor: Accelerometer,Ambient Light Sensor,Gravity Sensor,Proximity Sensor,Three-axis Gyro
Notification LED: Yes
Sound Recorder: Yes
Additional Features: 4G,Bluetooth,Browser,Calculator,Calendar,E-book,Fingerprint recognition,GPS,MP3,MP4,People,Sound Recorder,Video Call,Wi-Fi
|Battery||Battery Capacity (mAh): 4000mAh Built-in Battery
Battery Type: Lithium-ion Polymer Battery
|Package Contents||Cell Phone: 1
SIM Needle: 1
Power Adapter: 1
USB Cable: 1
|Dimensions||Product size: 15.00 x 7.60 x 0.87 cm / 5.91 x 2.99 x 0.34 inches
Package size: 16.50 x 10.00 x 5.00 cm / 6.5 x 3.94 x 1.97 inches
Product weight: 0.164 kg
Package weight: 0.485 kg
Most 4000mAh phones are thick and bulky. Redmi Note 3 uses 690Wh/L high density battery to stay thin and light.
A closer look at the sleek full metal Redmi Note 3. Available in Silver, Dark grey and Gold.