In Summary…Easily Wins my Editor’s Best Value Smartphone Award for this year!

What’s Great about this Phone!

  1. Excellent Performance
  2. Solid Build Quality not found in other budget phones
  3. Good LCD display (Full HD for $299!)
  4. Very fast and conveniently located Fingerprint sensor!
  5. Excellent Battery Life
  6. Neat software tricks such as one handed mode
  7. Camera takes great pictures under good lighting
  8. Only $299 and it easily beats middle  range phones in $400-600 price range (E.g. Samsung Galaxy A5 2016)
What’s not so great though…

  1. No multi-window feature (This is a common flaw in Xiaomi Phones)
  2. Camera has no image stabilization, and dosen’t perform well in dark environments
  3. Non-Removable Battery (A common flaw in many phones now though)

 

 

 

 

Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Apple iPhones are pretty cool and offer ground-breaking new features, albeit at a ground-breaking price as well. Getting a decent phone from these brands would be really difficult with a tight budget, as they offer very sad-looking specs for your money.

But all hope is not lost. Enter Xiaomi, Which has become really famous, especially it’s redmi series of phones. The Redmi series of phones are aimed at providing smartphones which offer really great value for your money. This is the single reason why every time a new Redmi phone is launched in Singapore (or china), it is almost certain that it’ll be snapped up within minutes (or seconds!) when it is first launched in the respective country.

Today, I will be reviewing the Redmi Note 3 (Snapdragon Variant). Do note that there is an older version of the Redmi Note 3 with a Mediatek processor, which you might not be interested in, because, well, everyone wants the latest and fastest stuff, right? Not to worry though, so long as you buy from Xiaomi’s official store in Singapore, you won’t be confused. They’ll only be selling the Snapdragon version here! 🙂

To find out if you have gotten a local set, check out this Xiaomi Community Forum post right here, which shows you the key differences between a genuine Singapore local box set, versus the imported ones you get from parallel importers

Anyway, back to the review. I managed to grab my Redmi Note 3 from the Xiaomi Online Store. I logged in at 12pm with my old smartphone (on 3G Connection), and with some luck, I managed to get my hands on this Redmi Note 3! Mine is in gold colour.

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The Redmi Note 3 i ordered during MFF 2016 was shipped to me in a matter of 2 or 3 Days! On a Saturday! Really Appreciate Xiaomi’s fast processing and delivery speed!

The Redmi note 3 with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal memory comes in gold and dark silver. The (light) Silver colour version comes with just 2GB RAM and 16GB Internal memory though, so do take note.

Now, let’s get down proper to reviewing this phone. What can $299 give us in 2016?

Design – You’d never believe how good the phone feels in your hands!

If I were to hold the actual phone without knowing the price of the phone first,  I would have never believed this phone was being sold at $299.  The back of the redmi note 3 is made of well polished metal and the edge/rims seem to be finished in shiny chrome. It feels almost as premium,if not at the same level,  as some high end smartphones. You really have to hold this phone and believe it for yourself.

The LCD screen comes at 5.5 inchem and has a Full HD (1980 x 1080) display. Sure, it may not sound like the sharpest screen in the world, but l feel the colours offered by the screen is rather excellent  and accurate,  and the phone’s viewing angle is really good, allowing you to see the display from odd angles. In fact, this display may be the reason why the phone does so well in our battery tests later – because it does not waste energy rendering excess pixels which our eyes would usually not notice. I did not feel like I was missing anything, even though I used to use a Samsung Galaxy Note 4,  which had a 2560 x 1440 (sharper than full HD) Super AMOLED screen (Which offers excellent colours and viewing angles)

The only thing might be a little disappointing is that the front LCD screen does not seem to be made with gorilla glass. There is a lack of documentation regarding this aspect. This made me worried initially, as clumsy people like me would know the devastation of seeing a cracked phone display after dropping the phone from a height.  Oops. But don’t get me wrong,  the glass protecting the screen seems quite strong with no give when I put a reasonable amount of pressure on it. But,  for now,  just to be sure,  I have applied a tempered glass protector and used a silicon + polycarbonate case on the phone,  so its a little safer.

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My Redmi Note 3 – Armoured in Tempered Glass Screen protector and a Rubber + Polycarbonate Plastic Case (I shall review these accessories on a later date)

The fingerprint sensor is placed at the back of the smartphone, right below the rear camera. To iPhone and samsung users (like me),  this seemed at first,  like a really silly place to put a fingerprint sensor,  because the fingerprint sensor would be blocked should we place the phone lying flat on the table.

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A picture of the solidly built metal back of the Redmi Note 3, it’s conveniently placed Fingerprint sensor, speaker and Camera (with 2 tone flash). Pardon the sticker with model number, which was pasted on this phone the moment i opened the box

But you should give this design idea a try, because after spending some time with my redmi note 3, I realised how much easier it became to use this phone with one hand while on the go. After a while, one would realize that when holding he phone in portrait direction with either of your hands,  your index and/or middle finger would be easily able to reston the fingerprint sensor, making it a breeze to unlock the phone. You don’t even have to press the home button to wake the phone up! Just tap your finger on the sensor, and the home screen opens instantaneously. Really innovative design indeed.

Neat Software features in the Redmi Note 3!

Together with the unique design placement of the fingerprint sensor, You can acctivate the one-handed mode by swiping from the home button to either the recent or back button,so you can really use this phone with just one hand

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The One-Handed mode in the Redmi Note 3 really makes sense, and you can even choose how small you need the phone display to be! Notice that the weather, calendar and clock App launcher icons show the current weather, date and time too!

Apart from that, I also liked the infrared sensor,  which allows me of control devices such as my TV and air-conditioning with just the redmi note 3.

Furthermore, after getting used to the unique interface of the miui launcher (the default apps launcher in all xiaomi devices),  i realized I really loved this launcher design because there is no more confusion between finding apps in the home screen or app drawer–instead, you can neatly arrange your widgets and app shortcuts once in the launcher,  and not have to go about sorting the app drawer too. Now you just have to swipe either left or right to find the app or widget you’re looking for. You can apply homes to further customise the phone’s looks to your liking, and Also,  very Interestingly, the miui launcher shows the current date,  time and weather as it’s app icon! It’s a really cool feature that I wished other smartphone brands had as well.

So. So far so good for the design and software aspect of this phone. But hey,  what about its performance? Can it play my favourite games without the much dreaded lag? Let’s find out.

Great Performance that easily matches or beats older Flagships

With 3GB of ram and a snapdragon 650 processor, We can expect pretty stellar performance, expecially considering we only paid $299 for it! This 64-Bit Snapdragon processor contains 2 A72 High-performance processors, plus 4 A53 Power efficient processors,  thus making this processor both a power-efficient yet powerful one as well. In fact, it performs faster than the Snapdragon 808 processors,  which were used in mid-to-high performance smartphones not too long ago.

In real world usage, the redmi note 3 really showed that it was more than able to do anything that I threw at it. Browse Facebook and watch YouTube videos? Easy meat! I tried playing my favourite games as well (e.g Simcity Buildit,  need for speed no limits,  asphalt 8,  fast & furious legacy and real racing 3), and game play was really smooth. In fact, the Redmi Note 3 was able to provide better framerates (ie smoother gameplay) than my old Galaxy Note 4, which was a really powerful flagship phone already back in 2014! Impressive stuff.

In terms of benchmarks,  this phone does not disappoint as well!For my unit, it scored 17539 in 3Dmark Ice Storm Unlimited and 68357 in Antutu V6!

Slide1.JPGAs you can see, in the 3Dmark Ice Storm unlimited benchmark, the Redmi Note 3 is impressively very close to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus, both of which were flagships just one year ago! With $299, you can get almost the same performance as those 2 flagships. How cool is that! The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) only managed to score 8530 points in this benchmarks. That’s a sad score for the samsung phone…it’s nearly 2x lower in score than the Redmi Note 3!

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Next up was the Antutu V6 (The latest version of Antutu Benchmark). Impressively, my Redmi Note 3 was again able to score 68357 Points, which is faster than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4! It is just 17% slower than the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Again, the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) scores are way lower than any of the phones i am comparing to here!

And Bear in mind, The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) version RRP is a whopping $598! Thus, I AM NOT KIDDING when i said that the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 can take on phones that are in the middle-price-range category! 😀

In all, anyone who manages to grab this smartphone won’t be disappointed by the computing performance of this phone

Great Camera (But you need Steady hands and Enough lighting on the subject)

[It is great, but a part of me now wishes that I had waited for the Xiaomi Mi5…I’m a really huge photography buff 😦 ]

Equipped with a f2.0 16 Megapixel camera at the back, plus a 5 megapixel front camera, the redmi note 3 performed really well in environments with good lighting. To me,  the pictures taken by the redmi note 3 in good lighting looked really good, with not much noise and rich colours. It also has 0.1s phase-detection (dual pixel) auto focus,  which really helps it to focus on objects quickly. The camera flash also happens to be a two-tone (orange and white) flash, so that when you take pictures of your friends, they won’t look strangely white because of the usual harsh cool white led found in many smartphones.

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A picture of food taken by the Redmi Note 3 (Yes! I LOVE taking such pictures!) With a stable hand, you can get pretty good pictures out of this phone most of the time! 😀

However, the redmi note 3’s camera does have its few drawbacks. Firstly, it seems that the redmi note 3 camera does not have Optical Image Stabilisation, which is essential when taking pictures in darker environments with your hands. Secondly, in dark scenes (eg when doing night-time photography outdoors),  the redmi note 3 can struggle to take good night-time pictures, as lots of noise may creep into the picture due to the use of high iso. Furthermore, as there is no image Stabilisation, the pictures may also come out a bit blur. Thirdly, the manual mode in the redmi note 3 only allows you to adjust the ISO levels and White balance. Strangely, the phone does not allow you to adjust the shutter speed of the camera manually, which I feel is a big pity because I can think of many situations where manually changing the shutter speed would come really useful.

But Hey! Let’s not miss one very critical point: Considering that the redmi note 3 only sells for $299, you would be really hard pressed to find a phone with a better camera, especially at this price range! In fact, I think some midrange phones selling for about $400-$600 might already have difficulties fighting with the redmi note 3’s camera! I have attached another image taken by my Redmi Note 3 here for your viewing pleasure.

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See! Another picture of good food taken by My Redmi Note 3! 🙂

Excellent Battery Life – No more need for me to charge in the middle of the day!*

Equipped with a 4000mah battery and a power-efficient processor, this phone was nothing short of awesome when it comes to battery life! I have used this phone for many days now and it is always able to go through my day of phones use, with some spare left. My phone usage is admittedly heavy, with me playing my favourite games on the redmi note 3 quite often during the day, with browsing the Web, surfing Facebook and other social media included. I have attached some screenshots of my battery stats so that you have an idea of how wonderful the battery life of this phone is.

The history details below have a few breaks in the charts-that’s not because i turned off my phone though! As you can see my phone is constantly on for many days now – So i’m guessing android is hibernating the battery stats app when the phone is idle for a long time.

Under this heavy usage, On my Xiaomi Mi4, I sometimes would run low on battery around 3/4 thru my day outside and need to use a powerbank. On my Samsung galaxy note 4, I would have to use a powerbank after my lunch break (about half-way thru my day) as the phone heats up and just somehow eat its battery dry. I recently changed my Galaxy Note 4’s battery somewhere in January this year, so I’m sure this is not a battery problem in my Samsung Galaxy Note 4!

Coming from old flagship smartphones to a budget centric Redmi Note 3, I am really,  really impressed with how this phone has been working for me so far.

*Of course, it also really depends on your usage of the phone. I would rate my usage as moderately heavy. Your mileage would vary according to your use 🙂

However, There is a feature I wished all Xiaomi Devices had…

There is a feature I wished the redmi note 3 (and All xiaomi phones in general) had – and that is the ability to multitask and display 2 or more apps at once! Many other brands,  such as Samsung and LG, now have multi-tasking/multi-window features that allows the phone to show 2 or more apps on screen, thus allowing you to make full use of the screen Estate and multitask with real ease. I hope this feature would make its way to All of xiaomi devices sometime soon, as it is really a useful feature that everyone would enjoy.

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An image of the Galaxy Note 4’s multiwindow feature. I really wish such a cool feature could be implemented in all Xiaomi Phones soon!

For now, the recent apps drawer (which opens really quickly) would do for my multitasking, but Here’s to hoping for an improvement in future!

Conclusion – For $299, It really dosen’t get any better than this! 

I am simply amazed by the Redmi Note 3. It is almost perfect! It has successfully replaced my Xiaomi Mi4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4,  both of which were flagship phones – and yet I don’t really miss my old phones at all! The only thing I found lacking was the camera’s lack of Optical Image Stabilisation and it’s night-time photography picture quality,  which did leave me wishing that I had waited for the Xiaomi Mi5,  which has the better camera that I’m really yearning forward .

But, Then again, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 only costed me $299, and considering that price I paid, I am thoroughly impressed with this Phone. At this price, I am almost sure you won’t be able to buy a smartphone that can perform as well as this one. This Redmi Note 3 offers quality and performance that some midrange smartphones (priced from 300-600) may be unable to offer.

Thus, I proudly give this my #TechWithAaron’s BEST VALUE smartphone award for 2016, even though this is my first formal Smartphone review on my own blog. Believe me when I say i have looked thru many other phones available in the market for the budget segment, and this one is really a HUGE cut above the rest!

If you were considering buying a high performance smartphone and have a tight budget, this may just be the best phone you could ever choose to buy. I Strongly encourage you to test drive this phone and believe what I have said for yourself (you can test drive this phone at certain Challenger stores) – and then try to buy one online directly, from Mi Singapore! You won’t be disappointed! 😀