Last year I reviewed the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2, a great value device with excellent specs. Just over three months after the launch of the Redmi Note 2 Xiaomi announced the Redmi Note 3. I spent some pocket money recently and purchased one to see if it is a worthy successor or upgrade on the Redmi Note 2.
Xiaomi is going from strength to strength in the global smartphone market, and their growth outside China is currently driven by the Redmi Note 3. The third iteration of the Redmi Note line comes hot on the heels of of the Redmi Note 2, and shares some of its specs on paper, but is a very different product overall. TL;DR: for £120 you are getting a lot of smartphone.
- 5.5″ 1080×1920 IPS LCD screen
- Mediatek Helio X10 Octa-core chipset (2GHz)
- Power VR G6200 GPU
- 16GB/2GB RAM or 32GB/3GB RAM
- Dual SIM
- 13MP f/2.2 camera with Phase Detection Autofocus
- 5MP f/2.0 Selfie camera
- 4000 mAh battery
- WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, FM Radio and IR Port
- Fingerprint scanner
The device reviewed is a 32GB storage 3GB RAM one, purchased from an AliExpress seller in China. Google apps and services were side-loaded by me, as this is a Chinese version.
As mentioned earlier, the Redmi Note 3 may have a lot of similarities with the Redmi Note 2 on the spec sheet, but it feels like a completely different device to use. The all metal body design, heftier feel because of the bigger battery and the fingerprint scanner make for a much more pleasant overall ergonomic use.
The front of the device is dominated by the lovely Full HD IPS display which is crisp and has punchy colours. Below the screen you find the capacitive control buttons (multitasking, home and back). Above the screen you find the earpiece, proximity and light sensors and the 5MP selfie camera.
The right side of the device just has the power and volume rocker buttons.
The bottom of the device is where you’ll find the microphone hole and MicroUSB port, which is offset to the left (as on the Redmi Note 2).
The left side of the Redmi Note 3 is home to the Dual SIM tray.
On the top of the device you’ll find the infra-red port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a noise cancelling microphone.
The back of the device has a mono-speaker grille at the bottom, a shiny MI logo above it, a fingerprint scanner easily used with an index finger and the 13MP camera and flash.
The Redmi Note 3’s body has rounded sides and is made of metal, with matching silver plastic panels at the top and bottom which cover the antennas. Overall it fells like a premium device to hold and the fingerprint scanner is fast and reliable.
The Redmi Note 3 runs on MIUI, Xiaomi’s Android-based operating system. MIUI is frequently updated and has its own UX language, launcher, apps and theme engine.
Flat design and a drawer-less launcher make for a compelling, even if iOS-like, user experience. When compared with Huawei’s similar EMUI, MIUI seems to be more polished and have less “conflicting features”. Currently my Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is running MIUI 7.3, which is based on Android 5.0.2 and has the April 2016 security patch applied. Updates with minor and incremental improvements and bug fixes have been arriving on an almost monthly basis and I enjoy the overall MIUI experience.
If you are after a more Google-like Android experience, it is simple enough to install a third party launcher, like the excellent Action Launcher 3, and any apps you would like. That’s the beuty of the Android ecosystem.
The 13MP camera on the back is an improvement over the Redmi Note 2 in day to day use and produces good pictures in bright light conditions, but can be noisy and slow in low light. The MIUI camea software is pretty comprehensive, includes HDR and scene modes, panaorama, manual and beautify modes.
The 5MP Selfie camera is pretty good and is complemented by some pretty cool software features such as beauty mode, gender and age detection. I’m easily amused: I often try and trick the selfie camera to making it believe some amusing things…
Battery & Overall Performance
The 4000 mAh battery keeps things ticking over for a full day for me, and that is an impressive achievement. Whether streaming Amazon Prime Music, playing Goat Simulator or Threes, I’ve never seen a noticeable slow down or lag in using the device. As someone who doesn’t believe in benchmarks, I consider the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 a reliable workhorse, and performance can be managed through the power settings.
On paper, the Redmi Note 3 wasn’t much of an upgrade over the Redmi Note 2, but in everyday use it definitely is. The 4000 mAh battery keeps things ticking for longer, the metal body and fingerprint scanner make for better ergonomics and usability. If you are in the market for a 5.5″ smartphone the Redmi Note 3 is a definite buy from me, unless you need expandable storage. The only fly in the soup for the Redmi Note 3 is the lack of MicroSD expansion, but if not go crazy on AliExpress.com. There is also a Qualcomm Snapdragon powered version of the Redmi Note 3, which also has MicroSD expansion so consider that as well.