Redmi Note 3 Review: Xiaomi’s Foot Soldier Gets Metal Armour

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Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
Street Price: Rs 10.000

While the Mi 5 fights it out with the high-end phones, the Redmi Note 3 is Xioami’s footsoldier marching into the mass market. Like any other phone from Chinese brands, this one looks strong on paper. To entice the buyers, it also brings the metal construction and fingerprint sensor to the table. But does that make it a good all round budget smartphone?

Aesthetics and construction
The Redmi Note 3 joins the league of metal-clad budget phones including the Le 1s (what a terrible name) and Huawei Honor 5X. In fact, it is difficult to tell apart the Redmi Note 3 from the Honor 5X. They both sport a boring look anyway. The front features a raised metal outline around the display. It may have its noble cause, but it tends to poke the ear when you’re on call. Although it doesn’t hurt, it sure makes you feel uneasy.

Redmi Note 3 front
The body has been made of metal, save for two plastic strips on the back of the phone. The use of metal brings sturdiness to the device. The Redmi Note 3 is a big upgrade from its plastic predecessor. Folks at Xioami, have put some thought in the design. For instance, the camera lens and fingerprint sensor are in the middle of the phone. Another good thing is that these sensors are recessed, which keeps the scratches at bay.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 back

The phone has capacitive navigation keys, which are backlit. The front-facing camera and ambient light sensor are placed on one side of the earpiece, which breaks the symmetry. It is kind of an eyesore if you ask me. Moreover, the seams where the plastic and metal meet are uneven. Overall, the Redmi Note is a budget phone that makes good use of metal. It lacks the premium vibe though. In my books, the Mi 4i still best example of Xiaomi’s industrial design prowess.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 side


Display

The Redmi Note 3 comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD screen. Despite it being a budget phone, you won’t see a stray pixel without using a magnifier. Since it is an IPS display, the colour reproduction is good. However, like most LCD panels, the blacks look like dark grey at best.

Compared to most similarly priced handsets, the screen on the Note is significantly brighter. Moreover, it comes with the sunlight display feature, which changes the contrast under direct sunlight to retain readability. It is a neat addition, very useful in India. The phone also comes with night mode that adds a warm tinge to the display to limit the eye strain.

The official product page has no mention of any scratch-resistant glass. So it is ‘safe’ to assume that your display is ‘not safe’ from scratches.

Software
The Redmi Note 3 runs Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop). I know, it should be followed by an obligatory complain about the non-existing Marshmallow update. However, with MIUI on top, the underlying Android version hardly makes a visible difference. What’s important is that the phone ships with the latest MIUI 7, which is Xiaomi’s best attempt at software so far.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 user interface

The software does not look as gaudy as it used to be. The icons have become flat and the company hasn’t spilled too many colours over the homescreen. The app folder view, as usual, mimics the iOS. The quick settings and notification panel are subtle, yet useful.

The fingerprint sensor works like a charm. It is easy to setup and has hardly fails to recognise the pattern. However, I still prefer the good-old password method over the biometrics. My favourite add-on feature is the IR blaster that works with most TVs, sound systems, and ACs. Comes in handy when you lose a fight over a remote controller.

Xiaomi’s customisation is still seriously bloated though. On a fresh boot, with no app running in the background, the OS itself eats up 1 GB RAM. In effect, you are left with the remaining 1 GB RAM to juggle other tasks. Swiping through homescreens is smooth. However, there’s a noticeable delay when firing up an app. The MIUI frequently greets you with ‘app is not responding’ notifications.

A bit buggy software aside, the phone is backed by a powerful hexa-Core Snapdragon 650 chipset. So after a couple of crashes, the Mortal Kombat X did work on the phone. The chipset can take care off latest games, it is just the software that lets it down sometimes.

Multimedia
The phone comes with 16 GB internal storage, and a hybrid slot that can swap a secondary SIM for a microSD card. This should be enough to store your media collection. Those who prefer more can go for the 32 GB variant that costs a couple grand extra. With MXPlayer on board, the phone plays all the popular video formats without any issue. In the music department, the sound output isn’t that great, but you get what you pay for. For best results, disable each and every sound enhancement offered by Xiaomi.

pacificrim

For old-school folks, Xiaomi has duly covered an FM tuner.

Camera
The phone comes with a 16-megapixel rear camera with an LED. However, impressive that number sounds, the results are nowhere near what you would expect. Realistically, the camera performs like most 5 or 8 megapixel cameras found in similarly priced smartphones. While it is quick to lock on to the focus, the images lack detail. Things go south as you move towards the corners. Click here to check the sample. I have also noticed that the shutter fails to register input every once in a while.

The Redmi Note 3 records Full HD videos at 30 fps. The resulting videos were extremely jerky by today’s standards. With video quality set to HD or SD, you can even shoot slow motion videos. However, make sure you do that in good lighting conditions. Otherwise, it will end up looking like a VHS quality video.

Battery
Although the handset isn’t chubby, it packs-in 4000 mAh battery. For over a week, I have noticed that it easily lasts me for a day and the next morning. On weekends, when I don’t use my phone much, the Redmi Note 3’s battery even lasts for a couple of days.

Connectivity
The Note 3 offers 4G connectivity. In dual SIM mode, the phone took unusually long time to detect both networks. But, that should not be a problem unless you swap out SIM cards often.

The call quality was good. There were a few dropped calls, but I assume that was mostly because of Airtel’s flaky network. In Skype echo sound test, the phone’s microphone performed well.

Verdict
Xiaomi needs to work upon the buggy software and camera. It would be nice if they make minor design changes and make sure the handset does not poke our ears. Apart from a few hitches though, the Redmi Note 3 has plenty going for it including the metal body, aggressive pricing, Full HD display, firepower, and good battery life.

While the Le 1S is quite a good phone in this segment, it loses out due to the unreliable MediaTek chipset.

Review Overview
  • Design8
  • Display9
  • User Experience7
  • Performance7
  • Camera4
  • Battery9
Total Score7.3

Rating

Chandrakant 'CK' Isi

Technology editor, movie buff, and wannabe space explorer.