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Xiaomi Redmi Note 3: First impressions review

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3: First impressions review

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 comes in two storage variants - 16 GB (with 2 GB RAM) and 32 GB (with 3 GB RAM).

Nearly three months after introducing the Redmi Note Prime (an enhanced version of the Redmi Note 4G), Xiaomi India has launched a new Note smartphone, which happens to be the newest handset in the company’s Redmi Note series.

Named Redmi Note 3, the phone comes in two variants - 16 GB (with 2 GB RAM) and 32 GB (with 3 GB RAM). While the former is priced at Rs 9,999, the latter costs Rs 11,999. Given that the phone features a metal design and boasts an impressive spec sheet, its pricing may get many to stand up and take notice, but does it deliver the promise and have in it to compete against its rivals? Having used the phone for quite sometime, we are in a position to ascertain where it stands in the already heated under-Rs 15K market.

There may be a wide range of value-for-money phones in this price segment, but there are only a few that can impress you with the first look. And the Redmi Note 3 is one of those rare mid-range phones. Taking about its design, the Note 3 is the first Redmi phone in a metal body which not only features a premium finish, but also shows off flawless curves at the back which go on to add to its convenient handling.

Also, the phone doesn’t feel heavy in hands, which makes it comfortable to operate. If you look at the back of the phone, you would notice how neatly and aesthetically all elements sit in a row.

The design of the phone had almost lived up to my expectations until I took out the SIM tray, which I found was a hybrid dual-SIM tray. In other words, the SIM tray in the Redmi Note 3 can either support two SIM cards at once or one SIM and a microSD card card. I have never liked this concept as it restrains the user experience. But unfortunately, many companies, of late, have been following this design in some of their smartphones. This, I think, calls for a reconsideration on part of smartphone makers.

The front of the phone has a 5.5-inch full HD display (1920 x 1080) IPS display with narrow bezels, which lead to a relatively larger viewing area. The phone’s quality display not only produces vibrant colours, but also has a great touch responsiveness. The combination of great grip and excellent touchscreen actually made typing on the phone a breeze.

Also the phone comes with the company’s Sunlight display feature which is said to adjust each pixel in real time so the screen is clearly visible under strong sunlight. And living up to the claims, the phone indeed offers a fairly good readability under direct sunlight.

It was great browsing through photos and reading content on the phone, but watching videos didn’t turn out to be as amazing. Not that did the display misbehave while viewing videos, even the speaker at the back that failed to deliver the desired results. The speaker disappointed me both in terms of loudness and audio quality. It is average at best.

Unlike most phones in the under-Rs 15K segment, the Redmi Note 3 comes with a fingerprint sensor, which is located at the back right below the camera lens. It is not only easy to set up, but also performs in line with the company’s claims.

While the company initially unveiled the phone with a MediaTek processor, it has brought it to India with a Snapdragon processor. The Redmi Note 3 that has been introduced in India is said to be the first smartphone to be engineered with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 650 hexa- core processor (two 1.8GHz ARM Cortex A72 + four 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A53). While it is too early to comment on its performance, but throughout the brief period we spent with it, we didn’t face any lags, app crashes or heating issues on the phone. But equally true is the fact that our experiences with the Xiaomi phones in the past had remained smooth for the first few months followed by heavy lags afterwards. It is too early to tell how this phone ends up performing in the long run.

Coming to its cameras, the phone sports a 16 megapixel f/2.0 rear camera with two-tone dual-LED flash and a 5-megapixel f/2.0 front camera - with a plethora of customisations options. Both the cameras capture good light and produce true to life colours, but results produced in natural sunlight are far more detailed than the ones produced indoors in soft-light environments. We will talk about the camera performance at length in our full review, but for now we can say that the cameras generate satisfactory quality and is among the better camera phones in this price range.

Another interesting thing about the phone is its powerful battery. There are quite some phones available with a battery capacity over 4000 mAh, but there are very few that come at this price point. The Redmi Note 3 is one of those rare phones that sports a 4050 mAh battery, which the company claims is 29 per cent higher than the one in the Redmi Note. The battery on paper looks monstrous, but only the real-world tests can vouch for it. And we are yet to test it for an extended eriod.

The Redmi Note 3 currently runs Android 5.1.1. with the company's proprietary MIUI 7 layer atop (Xiaomi says a Marshmallow update is on its way) The UI looks neat and there is not much bloatware to eat up into your storage space. The 32 GB variant offers users 26.28 GB of user accessible space.

The phone may not have great speakers, but it still seems to have a lot of potential to compete with other in this price segment. We will soon be out with our final verdict on the phone in our detailed review.

first published:March 03, 2016, 15:56 IST