This review was written back in April 2016 on the original Mi Community.
Hi Mi Bunnies!
7108x2659 here. Last month, I was selected to become a Mi Explorer, sent on the journey to discover the Redmi Note 3 with 9 other Mi Explorers. My role in the team was the Mad Scientist, which meant I was free to do crazy stuff to my Redmi Note 3 and even destroy it (in other words, TechRax the Redmi Note 3). Before I begin with my review, I would like to thank Mi Singapore for making all these possible. Alright, here is my review.
The Redmi Note 3 gets a lot right. It has a metal body, huge battery, beautiful display, powerful processor; all these amazing features at only $299 ($319 if you buy from Challenger). At $299 this is probably the best budget phone you can get in Singapore. It does have its flaws though, just like every other phone.
Unlike the previous Redmi devices, Xiaomi chose to go with a metal body and that made the phone feel a lot nicer. The top and bottom parts of the rear cover are plastic that are made to look like metal. Since the body of the phone is made of metal this time, the rear cover (and battery) is non removable.
The rear camera, dual-tone flash, fingerprint scanner and speaker are positioned at the back of the phone.
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On the front is a beautiful 5.5” FHD display accompanied by capacitive buttons and the front camera.
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On the right side are the volume and power buttons.
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On the left, we have a SIM card tray with a micro SIM slot and a hybrid nano SIM/SD card slot. (Btw, the SIM tray ejector is hidden in the user manual compartment of the packaging)
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On the top is the headphone jack and IR blaster.
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The micro USB port can be found at the bottom left, which is a weird position, but this was likely done to make way for the giant 4000mAh battery.
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Overall, I would say that the design is a huge improvement over the old Redmi devices. The Redmi Note 3 is quite slippery so you might want to get a case for it.
The Redmi Note 3 is fast. It packs a Snapdragon 650 processor and 3GB of RAM. I was actually really surprized when I heard about the Snapdragon 650 variant of the Redmi Note 3. The 6XX line of processors are usually used in midrange smartphones. In benchmarks, it performed really well. I was able to obtain 1388 (single-core) and 3443 (multi-core) on Geekbench 3 and 71131 on Antutu Benchmark. In actual usage, the Redmi Note 3 was equally impressive. It had no issues with regular day-to-day stuff and in games, you rarely see any frame drops.
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If you are expecting a S7 or G5 like camera here, you will definitely be disappointed. The Redmi Note 3 is a $300 phone after all and budget phones usually (or even all the time), smartphones around this price do not have really good camera. I am not saying that the camera on the Redmi Note 3 is bad though. It is definitely not flagship smartphone standard but for what you are paying, this is as good as you can get. Photos in good lighting usually come out really good but under low light, the Redmi Note 3’s rear camera suffers. The front camera is actually pretty good.
(Some of the images were too big to upload here so I uploaded them all to google drive)
At 4000mAh, the battery in this phone is a beast. For reference, other phones with similar battery size includes the Oppo R7 Plus, Huawei Mate 8 and the LG G5 with Cam Plus module and these phones (at least the first two) are known for their amazing battery life. Most phones in the market today have batteries that are 3000mAh or less and many of them (especially those with QHD displays) are only capable of about 4 hours of screen-on time.
With regular usage, I was able to get nearly 4 hours of screen on time with 41% battery left at the end of the day. Under heavy use (gaming and watching a lot of YouTube videos), I was able to get 7 hours and 49 minutes of screen-on time with 3% battery remaining. I could definitely get it pass 8 hours if I push the phone even further but that was already extremely impressive.
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It is really nice to see a fingerprint scanner on the Redmi Note 3. The fingerprint scanner on the Redmi Note 3 is definitely not the fastest, but it is still considerably fast. The accuracy of the fingerprint scanner is on point but currently, there is a bug where the fingerprint scanner will reject all fingerprints until the phone is unlocked with a password. The fingerprint sensor is really sensitive and it sometimes trigger the display of the phone while in my pocket so I bought a flip case to cover the screen.
The speaker on the Redmi Note 3 can be found on the back of the phone. There are a lot of holes on the rear cover but only about 1/3 (in the centre) are real. The quality of Redmi Note 3 speaker is average and it does not get super loud, but for the price you are paying, it is pretty acceptable. With many phones with rear-facing speakers, placing your phone on a table is something you would try to avoid doing. On the Redmi Note 3, Xiaomi added a tiny fulcrum near the bottom of the phone and that really helps solve the problem mentioned above.
No Mi phone is complete without MIUI. Many tech reviewers outside Asia will complain about the lack of app drawer and how different it is from stock Android. However, I personally feel that this is not a bad thing. Even Samsung and LG are starting to offer the option to disable the app drawer on their latest flagship phone. A home screen without app drawer may not be as tidy, but it is a lot friendlier to use.
One thing I love about MIUI is the attention to detail. The functional app icons are super cool and things like the “3D” clock in the clock app makes MIUI really fun to use. Also, when you play, pause or skip to the next track in the music app, the music slowly fades in and out. I love how the widgets are sorted by apps, unlike on other Android skins where the widgets all placed together.
MIUI is also very customizable. The theme store is packed with themes and there is definitely one in there that you will like. For me, the themes that really caught my attention are Android N, Eureka and TurncloakTheme. The built-in wallpapers are really colourful and the home screen animation can be changed.
At $299, the Redmi Note 3 is the best phone you can get in Singapore below $300 (with official local warranty). Don’t believe me? Similarly priced phones includes the OPPO Neo 7 ($279), Lenovo Phab ($299) and Asus Zenfone 2 Laser ZE550KL ($279). All of these phones were announced last year, use the Snapdragon 410 processor and have 1-2GB of RAM.
I would say that the Redmi Note 3’s greatest competitor in Singapore is the Huawei GR5 (known as Honor 5X in other markets) as they have same sized display with the same resolution, both have a meal body and a fingerprint scanner. However, the GR5 is powered by the Snapdragon 616, has only 2GB of RAM, 16 GB of ROM and a much smaller battery, yet cost almost $80 more than the Redmi Note 3.
To recap, the Redmi Note 3 has amazing battery life and performance, superb build quality and great sound. The camera is awesome for a budget phone but not ground-breaking. The fingerprint scanner is amazing but slightly buggy. The Redmi Note 3 will go on sale again on mi.com this Thursday, 21st April. (2/16GB version will also be available at $279)
Extra: How the Redmi Note 3 is part of my daily life?
The Redmi Note 3 changed the way I use a smartphone. My previous 2 daily drivers are the LG G3 and Lenovo A7000a, both have a 5.5" display, like the Redmi Note 3. With those phones, I had to be very careful about battery usage as they use up quick. Even on standby mode, my LG G3 can use up 50% battery in a day, likely due to poor optimization. On regular use, I could hardly get through a full day on the LG G3. (The Lenovo A7000a has better battery life but not by a lot) With the Redmi Note 3, I typically end the day with 45% battery remaining and that could last me through the next day if I forget to charge it.
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The Redmi Note 3 is the (almost) perfect phone to replace my G3 with. I use my phone to surf the web and watch YouTube videos about 60% of the time. This is why I love phones with big screens and large batteries. 35% of the time I use my phone is for listening to music and the last 5% is spent on games. I usually charge the Redmi Note 3 at around 11:00PM when I go to sleep. Before the Redmi Note 3, I had to bring a powerbank along with me everywhere in case the battery of the G3 ran out.
The camera is the only area the Redmi Note 3 is unable to compete with G3. The G3's camera is not great by today's standard but it simply produce better photos than the Redmi Note 3. However, since I am planning to use the Redmi Note 3 with another phone (Hint: Out of stock), this is not a problem.
Currently, I am using the LG - Life is good theme with Fluffy light theme for the clock widget. I chose the LG theme as the icons are colorful and easy to recognise. One of the built-in wallpaper really caught my eye so I am using it as the homescreen wallpaper. I obtained the lockscreen wallpaper from the online wallpaper gallery in the settings.
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