The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is one of Xiaomi’s trump cards to capture the low-mid end market for 2016, being the successor of one of Xiaomi’s most popular phones, the Redmi Note. Featuring some very enticing specs at a price that is unbelievable, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 seems to bring most of the right ingredients to become the king of the low end.
But can its real world performance do justice to its beastly specifications? Or is there a catch in this too-good-to-be-true deal? Read along as we find out if the Redmi Note 3 “Pro” can put its money where its mouth is.
Here’s a quick look at the spec sheet for the Redmi Note 3:
Xiaomi is no newbie in the smartphone making game, and the Redmi Note 3 is a tribute to the expertise the company has acquired over the years. Moving over the plastic builds from the Redmi Note 2, the Note 3 features a metallic build that grants it a nice heft and leaves no stone unturned in hiding away the true price of the device. No way you can say this is a cheap device, because it certainly does not look cheap.
On the face of it, the Redmi Note 3 would appear as a device sporting a metallic unibody build. The marketing materials sure do point to this as they smoothen out and make the back appear to be made of one material. But, the phone is not all metal and glass. The top and bottom ends of the Note 3 are definitely plastic, but the combination of plastic bits to the metallic back that Xiaomi went for does not easily give it away. The main metal body bears a cool, smooth finish; while the plastic has a glossy finish which is less slippery. This works in the device’s favor in two ways: one, Xiaomi has a way to incorporate the antennae needed for radio communication without resorting to plastic band lines; and two, this texture difference makes the device less slippery than an entirely flat, metallic phone would be.
Speaking of flat, the back of the Redmi Note 3 is not entirely flat. It does bear curves at the edges, and these help with the grip of the device considering that it has decent thickness to it, along with a bit of height. In my case, the curved back and rounded corner help in holding the phone, resting on the palm for one handed use.
While we are on the topic of the back of the device, the back also features the rear camera module in the center, with the dual tone LED flash placed horizontally below it. Below these, you will find the fingerprint scanner inset significantly, making it very easy to find without looking at the back. In comparison, the camera module lense as well as the glass on the LED flash are flush with the back, making them vulnerable to scratches. On the bottom end of the back, you will find the Mi logo, along with some self-declaration to comply with Indian government rules. Below this, you will find a drilled grill pattern of which the middle 50% open up to the speaker on the inside.
There is also a tiny obtrusion just below the speakers, on the plastic bottom cap. Xiaomi mentioned that this was intentionally placed so that the speakers are not muffled when you place your phone on the back, but in my experience, the device did not show any noticeable gap between the phone and any flat surface because of this lip. It’s barely there, and it does not make any difference, positive or negative. Fortunately, it also does not cause any rocking of the device in any direction.
At first glance, you see a black slab of glass…
Unlike the back, the front bears a very minimalistic look. You get the speaker grill deep inset on the top, along with the ambient light and proximity sensor beside it and the front camera and notification LED following it along. The 5.5″ FHD LCD display sits in the middle, and three backlit capacitive buttons are below it. You can remap these to a certain degree for other actions, so you get some choice in the matter even though you can’t disable them entirely in lieu of the navigation bar. The front is so clean, you see only see a black slab of glass in the first glance. Focus, and then you can make out the various elements. I really like such a super clean and smooth look for my devices, but your subjective opinion may differ and that is alright.
Interestingly, the Dark Grey color of the Redmi Note 3 does not bear the black border bezel around the display, since the entire front of the device is black. This gives a very uniform color and a clean, distraction-free look to the device that I really appreciate. Bezels are necessary, I get it, but it is the choice of coloring which decides if it becomes a distraction or something you’d never notice. In contrast, the Silver and the Gold color variants have matching colored front, but with the black bezel border around them. If these are a distraction to you, I would suggest to opt for the Dark Grey color variant which has an all-black front.
Moving on to the sides of the device, you get the microphone hole and the headphone jack on the top left and the IR blaster on the top right. The left side bears only the slot for the hybrid SIM + micro SD card combination, and is otherwise devoid of any buttons or marking. The bottom side bears the primary microphone hole and the micro USB connector on the left (and not on the middle, as a lot of phones tend to go for). The right side of the device gets the volume rockers towards the top and the power button below it. These have the same texture as the rest of the metal back, so you may occasionally have an issue hitting the correct button in the first try. Otherwise, these are good stiff with a sufficient press and have absolutely no wiggle or sideways travel to them.
Before we move on, the box contents of the Redmi Note 3 are very minimal. You get a standard USB to micro USB data cable, a power adapter rated at 5V/2A of output, a SIM removal tool and some documentation. An important message in the documentation, relating to the SIM slots, is that the Redmi Note 3 does not support dual-4G. If one SIM has 4G/3G/2G, the second SIM will only be restricted to 2G. Also to mention, the Redmi Note 3 does not have NFC in it.
For its dimensions, the Redmi Note 3 has a very typical setup as you come to see in 5.5″ phones. The phone is a tad bit smaller than the OnePlus One, and is almost as thick. But the Redmi Note 3 bears a larger battery, an improvement of over 1,000 mAh in pure capacity as compared to the OnePlus One. As a result, it feels more dense and heavy even though the phone is just 2 grams heavier than the OnePlus One. The curves on the phone make it feel more smaller than the difference in pure dimensions, and the Redmi Note 3 can be used one-handed better than the OnePlus One.
The Redmi Note 3 is one of the best built phones I have owned. Holding the phone, you certainly do not feel as if this is a $150 phone. It kills all the other devices in my collection, considering how much this phone retails for. With a weight of 164 grams, the Redmi Note 3 is a tad bit heavier than the OnePlus One (162 grams), but bears slightly smaller device dimensions overall and a 33% increase in battery capacity. As a result, the Redmi Note 3 feels really solid in the hand, but not blocky either due to its curved side profile. There is no creaking or noticeable bending, no noticeable gaps, no other hardware issues. It’s just a well built phone altogether, a rarity for phones from Chinese manufacturers (although our review unit was manufactured in India as part of Xiaomi and the Indian government’s “Make in India” initiatives).
The Redmi Note 3 has an air of confidence to it. You can hold the phone without a case and not be terrified of dropping it. It is not a “tough” phone, but it certainly has that air to it. It is slightly slippery as smooth finish metal phones tend to be, but I haven’t had any incidents of it slipping out of my hand or off the table or any slight incline. Overall, I am very satisfied with the package Xiaomi has put together in terms of build quality and design and have no significant complaints.
I did find some smaller annoyances after the review section. Mainly, I could not find any setting to turn off Android’s Spell Checker, and that the brightness slider compulsorily needs the finger to be at the current level before the slider can be dragged, which can be difficult to do when you can’t see what is on the screen.