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Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 review: The real flagship killer?
By Cookie Monster - 17 Apr 2016
Prices:

Overview, Design, and Features

Note: This article was first published on Apr 5, 2016.

Overview

Despite only coming into the market barely two years ago, the Redmi Note family has come a long way. Starting with the Mi Note, Xiaomi has proven itself to be a company which is capable of coming up with great design and build quality. The Redmi Note 3 is no different; the budget-centric smartphone did surprised us with its array of flagship and premium features such as a fingerprint sensor, a metallic design and great build quality. Below is a brief look at how far the Redmi Note family has progressed:

  Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 Redmi Note 4G
  Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 Redmi Note 4G
Launch SRP
  • From S$299
  • From S$229
  • From S$229
Latest Price
  • From S$185
Operating system
  • Android 5.1.1 with MIUI 7
  • Android 5.0 with MIUI 7
  • Android 4.4 with MIUI v5
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 hexa-core 1.8GHz
  • MediaTek Helio X10 octa-core CPU 2.0GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core 1.6GHz (MSM8928)
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
Display
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1080 x 1920 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels / IPS
Camera
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with 5-element lens, f/2.0, 78° wide-angle lens and a two-tone flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel with f/2.0 and face recognition
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with aperture of F2.2, 28mm wide angle lens and LED flash, Phase Detection Autofocus, 1080p video recording
  • Front: 5-megapixel, 720p video recording
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with aperture of F2.2, 28mm wide angle lens and LED flash, 1080p video recording
  • Front: 5-megapixel, 720p video recording
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct
  • GPS, AGPS, GLONASS and BeiDou positioning
  • WLAN: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
  • GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, AGPS
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • WLAN: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
  • GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, AGPS
  • Bluetooth 4.0
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 16GB internal storage
  • MicroSD (supports up to 32GB)
  • 8GB internal storage
  • MicroSD (supports up to 64GB)
Battery
  • 4,050mAh
  • 3,060mAh lithium-ion polymer
  • 3100mAh lithium-ion polymer
Dimensions
  • 150 x 76 x 8.65mm
  • 152 x 76 x 8.3 mm
  • 154mm x 78.7mm x 9.45mm
Weight
  • 164g
  • 160g
  • 185g


Design & Handling 

Note: We've done a dedicated photo gallery for the Redmi Note 3. You can refer to that album if you want to see the phone in various angles. 

With most phone makers now using metal builds for their smartphones, Xiaomi is also taking the plunge with its Redmi Note series. The Redmi Note 3 is the first Xiaomi phone to have a full-metal body although there are still two plastic bands at the top and bottom of the phone for the antennas. In case you don't know yet, metal materials will interfere with the signal and that is the last thing any phone maker wants.

Holding the Redmi Note 3 in the hands will make you question how Xiaomi managed to include an aluminium body in a phone that costs below S$300. The premium feel and build quality are unseen for a device in this price category. The textured finish on the rear also helps provide a better grip on the device.

Despite Google encouraging Android vendors to adopt on-screen navigation keys, Xiaomi has stuck to capacitive keys at the bottom of the display. Right-handed users will like the layout of the keys where the Back button is conveniently located closer to the right thumb. One thing we appreciated is the inclusion of backlighting for the capacitive buttons that will light up whenever you touch the fingerprint sensor or power button. 

Even though the Redmi Note 3 is shorter and narrower than the Apple iPhone 6s Plus - which in itself is considered a great feat for the design team at Xiaomi - the Redmi Note 3 can be a handful for some consumers with smaller hands. 

The left side of the phone houses the SIM card tray which can accommodate a micro-SIM card and a nano-SIM card or a microSD memory card (of up to 32GB). Both slots are capable of supporting 4G connectivity.

SIM card slot 1 and the micro-SD memory card slot (in place of SIM card slot 2). 

Micro-SIM support on SIM card slot 1 and nano-SIM support on SIM card slot 2.

 

Display

While the Redmi Note 3 has the same screen size (5.5-inches) and resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) and pixel density (401ppi), it boasts new technologies that will certainly entice Note 2 owners to upgrade. Like the recently announced Night Shift on Apple's iOS 9.3, Xiaomi also has a similar display setting, Reading Mode on the Redmi Note 3.

Accessed via Settings > Display > Reading mode, this feature essentially reduces the display's background glare to minimize eye strain. You can adjust the strength of the feature via a scroll bar or pre-select apps to use reading mode. Reading mode has to be enabled manually, unlike Night Shift where you can set a schedule for it to be activated and deactivated. 

On a similar note, the display on the Redmi Note 3 can detect ambient light in real time and dynamically adjusts the contrast of the whole screen for optimal viewing experience. This allows you to use the Redmi Note 3 even under bright sunlight. This can be enabled via Settings > Display > Colors & Contrast > Automatic contrast

A neat display feature you can find on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3.

Overall, the display is sharp and bright with vibrant colors. Under actual usage conditions in bright light, sunlight legibility is still decent though not great. There is nothing to nitpick here, especially when considering you are looking at a S$299 phone.

 

Fingerprint Sensor

It's rather surprising to see Xiaomi incorporate a fingerprint sensor for the Redmi series and the Redmi Note 3 is proud to be the first one to have one. Xiaomi states that it uses Trustonic's TEE chip-level fingerprint security. To put it simply, the Redmi Note 3 should have the same level of security as Apple's Touch ID; fingerprint data is stored in a dedicated space within the hardware. For the Redmi Note 3, this security enclave is created with the help of Qualcomm Secure Execution Environment. 

The only downside of the fingerprint sensor on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is its location.

Xiaomi claims that the fingerprint sensor unlocks in just 0.3 seconds and in our testing, it really is that fast. You can even touch the fingerprint sensor with your finger and it will automatically unlock the phone and display. As the fingerprint sensor is located at the rear below the camera, you cannot unlock the phone if it is lying with the display facing up. 

Besides using it to unlock the phone, the fingerprint sensor can be enabled for Child mode and File Explorer. Setting it up is pretty easy; you have to setup a backup password before placing your finger on the sensor. It will take about 12 scans to register a fingerprint and you can register up to five fingerprints on the Redmi Note 3. 

  

Features

Like the Redmi Note 2, the Redmi Note 3 runs on MIUI 7 interface based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. In a nutshell, the MIUI 7 interface has been optimized to run 30% faster. You can find out more about the new features of MIUI 7 in the review of the Redmi Note 2, but there's one new feature on the Redmi Note 3 - four individualized UI themes which will offer different characters to the phone. They are High Lief, Rose, Pink Blush and Ocean Breeze. These four themes are in addition to the thousands of themes available.

You can find four individualized themes on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3.You can find four individualized themes on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3.

After updating all the preloaded apps, the Redmi Note 3 comes with about 22.70GB of available storage space. The model sold in Singapore comes with 32GB onboard storage space, which you can increase up to 32GB via the SIM and memory card slot. 

8.5
  • Design 9
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 9
The Good
Great design and handling
Fast fingerprint sensor
Smooth performance
Long battery life
The Bad
Camera performance could have been better
Expandable by only 32GB
MIUI 7 can be a resource hogger
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