You know how the saying goes: fast, cheap, or good; you may only pick two. This is the general rule of thumb when it comes to our expectations towards most of the things in our world today, especially when it comes to retail products.
As a disruptive force in the world of smartphones, Xiaomi seems to be a company that continuously defies the laws of retail products. With their recent foray into Singapore, they brought with them the same amount of fanaticism, fervor, and pandemonium with their trademark “fire sale” that distinctly heralds their brand.
I was also consumed by this “fire” and finally managed to get a set of their flagship offering, the Xiaomi Mi3, after several failed tries. Here’s a short review 3 months into using the phone.
Upon making successful payment for the phone, the delivery was made within 3 to 4 working days. The first thing you will notice when the packaging comes is how well-produced it feels in your hands, and how it completely exceeds your expectations. Although the packaging material is just normal corrugated cardboard, it feels sturdy and cut with the purpose to accommodate miscellaneous accessories while allowing the phone to take the center stage.
The Xiaomi Mi3 is a beautiful, classy device. Sleek and thin, it’s 8.1 mm thin and sports a uni-body design with no unsightly screws or any removable battery casings.
I got the black colored one, so the back of the phone feels smooth and matte upon touch, while the front is completely black and protected by Gorilla Glass. On the top, there’s the proximity and light sensor, the phone speaker, as well as the front camera and a status LED. Right below you can see the three synonymous Android buttons (menu, home, and back) that are softly illuminated without any signs of light bleeding.
Switching from an iPhone to Android, I was at first uncomfortable with the large size of the Mi3 and worried that it was not ideal for day-to-day usage. The iPhone is easily accessible by thumb and is perfect for single hand usage, and this new device initially seemed to demand attention from both my hands. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded as details in the Mi3’s design quickly helped me to acclimatize to its handling.
Yes, design really shines for the Mi3, with its rounded edges playing a big role in creating a natural hand grip and the lock button on the right side of the phone (instead of the typical top position for most manufacturers) feels intuitive and allows for access without switching the hand position. This is a good decision and a testament to Xiaomi’s commitment to designing for the user.
One thing I did not like however, was a slight looseness in the volume buttons. Being able to shift the volume buttons with slight pressure made the phone seem less polished. This is not an issue for Mi3’s lower priced sister (Xiaomi Redmi), which makes it frustrating as this little blip brings down the overall score in a phone build that otherwise shouts top quality.
The nice 5-inch IPS OGS screen is stunning, and at 441 ppi pixel density (higher than the Samsung Galaxy S5 at 432ppi with a larger screen) offers an amazing view for videos, photos and games alike. The screen does however suffers from a slight bluish tint, and is a major fingerprint magnet. The auto light function does not do terribly well outdoors under direct sunlight, but this is an issue for most phones too, so I wouldn’t really fault the Mi3 in this aspect – adjusting the brightness manually helps with outdoor visibility.
The Xiaomi Mi3 powered by the Qualcomm MSM8274AB Snapdragon 800, is supposedly the fastest phone of its generation at the time of its launch last year. The operating system MIUI v5, is a heavily modded android system that is in many ways similar to the iOS experience. The MIUI is constantly updated with feedback from Xiaomi user forums and gets updates weekly. The general navigation feels snappy and responsive, and animations when firing up apps run flawlessly.
A slight issue that I’ve experienced is scrolling on some applications like Facebook or Chrome – there’s a lag, with the transition feeling slightly stunted compared to the scrolling on an iPhone. Not quite sure if it’s an Android wide thing, a Xiaomi thing or just my device. The battery life is great, for a heavy user like myself that consumes music and streaming videos on the go it lasts about a day on a full charge and has not shown any sign on slowing down in my 3 months of usage.
For the mobile gamers the processing speed is a godsend. From casual games like Candy Crush to the graphic intensive ones like Real Racing 3, the processor handles everything like a boss. Graphics run smoothly and look great – I had a really great time with no issues.
Lastly, the camera is one of the Mi3’s strongest features, offers a 13 megapixel wide-angle lens. The camera app comes with standard shooting modes like the HDR, panorama and even allows you to scan QR codes directly without the use of another app. The main highlight here is how nice photos for close up subjects, making it a great companion for Instagram food addicts like myself.
The front facing camera also packs a punch, and is often a crowd pleaser with a function that offers real time recognition for the subject’s age and gender and also has a built-in auto air brush feature for that perfect #selfie.
Value for Money
With its high-end specs and top design quality, the Xiaomi Mi3 is a steal for its price tag of S$339 for the 16GB version. Sure it doesn’t come with the LTE function, but 3G speeds are still largely acceptable in Singapore in my opinion (the fast processing speed seems to help a lot).
Whether you are a long time iPhone user looking for an easy entry point into the Android ecosystem, or one of those who are now still on any of our local telecom’s legacy 12GB data plans who don’t want to renew their plans, the Xiaomi Mi3 that is an embodiment of fast, cheap and good that should sit comfortably on top of your consideration set.