Imaging, Performance and Conclusion
The Mi 3 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon (MSM8274AB) quad-core 2.3GHz processor and 2GB RAM. For your information, the MSM8274AB processor is part of the Snapdragon 800 family which also includes the following common part numbers 8074, 8674 and 8974. You can refer to Qualcomm's site for more info.
The LG Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 with LTE+ run on the MSM8974 processors. Without going too much into the technicalities of the different model numbers, the MSM8274AB only supports HSPA+ network while the MSM8974 generally supports 4G LTE networks. Therefore, the Mi-3 is not a 4G LTE-enabled smartphone.
We will be comparing the Mi 3 against the other phones of its class which it competes against. The list will include the ASUS PadFone Infinity (late 2013), LG Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 with LTE+ and Sony Xperia Z1.
Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performances.
The Mi 3 held up pretty well against the other Android flagship smartphones with the second highest score of 21,439 in the Quadrant benchmark. The near-stock Android interface running on the PadFone Infinity might have contributed to a better performance.
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms including Android OS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.
For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, 3DMark consists of three test sections:
3DMark Ice Storm is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering at 720p then scales the output to fit the native display resolution of your device. Ice Storm includes two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme raises the off-screen rendering resolution to 1080p and uses higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets.
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited is used to make chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets, CPUs and GPUs, without vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result.
Almost all the recent flagship smartphones maxed out the scores for the Ice Storm and Ice Storm Extreme, hence we will only be looking at the scores for Ice Storm Unlimited.
Without other factors affecting the outcome, the Mi 3 emerged top in the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark which is followed closely by the Samsung Galaxy S4 with LTE+.
Real World Usage Experience
Number crunching aside, the Mi 3 generally felt smooth. While its responsiveness is certainly faster than Redmi on all fronts thanks to the Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB RAM, the Mi 3 still feels a tad slower than the Nexus range of devices, which still deliver the smoothest Android user experience thus far.
The power setting on the Mi 3 was set at Balance mode most of the time, although while we were at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014 last week, we used the phone on Battery Saving mode. Unfortunately, when using the Battery Saving mode, slow down in operation was noticeable when accessing apps. For example, it took at least one second longer for the Mi 3 in battery saving mode to load the Play Store, Gmail and Pulse News Reader as compared to Balanced and High Performance modes.
We took the Mi 3 for a spin while we were at MWC 2014 and these are some of the photos taken in auto mode, full screen 16:9 imaging ratio and at standard picture quality setting. The photo samples we use have not been post-processed and are copyright to SPH Magazines. They are provided for your reference and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere.
Overall, you can tell that imaging quality is pretty good without much noise observed from the captured shots, even in darker ambiance.
Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:
• Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
• Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
• Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Even though the Mi 3 has the largest battery capacity among the phones compared, it did not last the longest in our video looping battery test. It only managed five hours and 44 minutes in our battery test, which is about average from the list of other phones compared. For your information, the power setting of the phone was set to Balanced mode.
The crux of the issue seemed to be the phone's high power draw, in some cases nearly twice as much as its competitors. It's strange to see the Mi 3 drawing so much more power despite sporting the same 5-inch Full-HD display and the same family of Snapdragon 800 processors. Could the device be more optimized for performance and thus the higher benchmark results seen earlier? It's a possibility, but a the moment, the phone's battery life is just average.
We measure the portability of a device by calculating its battery life to (weight x volume) ratio. Due to its average battery life, the Mi 3 ranked second last in the Portability Index even though it is one of the slimmest and lightest phones.
Real World Battery Performance
But benchmarking gives only one view to the above assessment. To give you a more realistic understanding on how the Mi 3 fared under real world usage conditions, we included screenshots of the usage and history graphs based on our usage.
As seen from the graphs above, the Mi 3 could last about 18 hours before the battery dipped below 20% . Screen-on time is about 4 hours and 48 minutes. Some notes:
- The device logged onto the 3G network because the Mi 3 does not support 4G LTE connectivity and the SIM card used is a 3G SIM card.
- The device logged onto Wi-Fi connections from time to time.
- Our typical usage scenarios include making some voice calls, texting via WhatsApp, capturing some photos and sharing them on social networking sites, the occasional web browsing via Pulse News Reader and emailing.
Do note that battery mileage varies depending on your usage patterns. For us, the Mi 3 had no problems lasting through a day at work with enough battery juice to last till we plugged in the charger at night.
So does the Xiaomi Mi 3 has what it takes to take on the big boys? In our opinion, the Mi 3 does pose a strong challenge to all other brands and their offerings. Although top devices from Samsung, Sony, LG and more have other premium features that justify their price - be it in the form of software functionality, hardware features, to waterproof design and others - the Xiaomi Mi 3 offers great performance with all the required basic features and at a price point that's delectable. If you require even more out of your device, or just a more premium build, then you would have to look beyond the Xiaomi Mi 3 and consider other top tier offerings.
Aside from its lack of 4G LTE connectivity, no memory card slot and average battery performance, the Mi 3 is a great deal for consumers who want a smartphone with flagship specs without burning a hole in their pockets.
The Mi 3 may not have the premium build and finish of some Android flagship smartphones, but at its price point, it doesn't need to. Its build quality is nonetheless solid and provides good handling. The 5-inch Full-HD display is comparable to the competition, although its screen brightness can be better.
MIUI OS remains the key differentiator for the Mi 3; users have total control over how they want the interface to look and how the phone functions, and software updates are issued on a weekly or monthly basis. This is in stark contrast to the closed system approach of Apple and the OS fragmentation issues faced by other Android vendors.
The Mi 3 (16GB) is available for purchase on Xiaomi's Singapore website tomorrow at 12 noon for S$419 (inclusive of GST and without line contract). At this price point, you would be hard pressed to find any compelling alternative in its category.
The US$349 LG Nexus 5 comes close, but you have to factor in additional costs such as shipping and the lack of warranty coverage. The Nexus 5 has speedy software updates and 4G LTE connectivity (for Japan, Australian and Hong Kong models) to its advantage though. Certain local retailers do carry stock of the phone and as seen here, for a S$550, you do get a phone of comparable performance, but it has 4G LTE support and wireless charging. However, the Nexus 5 doesn't have the ease of customization that the MIUI offers on the Mi 3 device. In our opinion, both devices offer equally good value and it depends what you require on your smartphone.
Another affordable 'flagship' model that you can consider is the Huawei Ascend P6, which boasts an ultra slim side profile of 6.18mm and has a full metal chassis. While its launch retail price is S$638, the street price is more affordable at S$489. Unfortunately, it loses out to the Mi 3 on several performance aspects and it only has a 720p display. Other than its sleek and nice build with microSD support, the Xiaomi Mi 3 offers a more compelling device - for less.
For those who are wondering whether Xiaomi Singapore will sell the 64GB model, it will not be available at launch. However, Hugo Barra did not rule of the possibility of bringing it in if there is sufficient demand.