Perhaps this review is long overdue. I’ve had my Redmi Note 3 review unit for more than a month now, and the Redmi Note 3 has been on sale here in Singapore for quite a long time. In light of this, I have decided to frame this review a little differently. Instead of a full-fledged review of the device (many of which I’m sure you can find online), I’m going to talk about my personal experience of this phone and what I think of it from the standpoint of a technology enthusiast who has had a wide variety of devices come and leave my hands every couple of weeks.
The original Redmi Note 3 launched with a Mediatek MT6795 Helio X10, identical to the chipset found on the Redmi Note 2. Suffice to say, there weren’t many reasons to get a Note 3 over the Note 2. But when the Snapdragon 650 variant of the Redmi Note 3 was announced I was hyped. The Snapdragon 650 is one hell of a processor, on par with last year’s “flagship” Snapdragon 808 found on the LG G4. I mean, for S$299 you get a phone which uses the same processor as the recently released Xperia X that goes for S$848; that’s almost one-third the price. Recently Xiaomi has been pissing fans off with its steeper pricing of phones such as the Mi Note and the Mi 5, but the Redmi Note 3 sets things right. And just like the Mi3 did, the Redmi Note 3 is spoiling the market for everyone else.
Just take the ASUS Zenfone MAX which I’ve reviewed. That phone costs S$249, just $50 cheaper than the Redmi Note 3. But if you get a Redmi Note 3, for those extra $50 you get a 1080p screen instead of a 720p one, a far, far superior processor, more RAM and storage, a more premium metal build, and an excellent fingerprint sensor. Getting the Redmi Note 3 over the Zenfone MAX is a no-brainer. Xiaomi is one hell of a market spoiler.
What I liked
The most obvious would be the processor and generous amounts of RAM. Everything flies on the Redmi Note 3, be it launching apps or basic transitions and animations. For S$299 you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better performing phone.
The battery life is also amazing thanks to the 4000mAh battery and the software enhancements present in MIUI, which allows for very specific battery and background app management. Getting through the whole day is easy even with moderate to heavy usage.
The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is also excellent. It’s not as fast as TouchID on the iPhone 6s or the one found on the OnePlus 3, but it comes pretty close. It’s a touch sensor that’s always on, not a physical button, which is good because you don’t have to press the button before it starts scanning your finger.
What I didn’t like
While the phone is made of metal, it feels kinda cheap. There’s a hollow kind of feeling to the phone which you don’t get in more premium offerings. Furthermore, the Redmi Note 3 is one of the most slippery phones I’ve used to date. Its large size and rounded edges makes the phone hard to grip. You’re going to need a case for this phone if you’re afraid of dropping it.
The display, while of good quality and resolution, has a rather obvious gap between the screen and the glass. It’s a problem for me personally as it does give the screen a cheap quality, but if it doesn’t bother you then it’s fine.
MIUI is also another point of contention. I really dislike the way the UX handles the icons of third party apps, placing a border around the app icons in order to conform it to the shape of the first party icons. It’s simply horrible. MIUI 8 does improve on the overall aesthetics, and the update will be pushed out to the Redmi Note 3 in August.
Other quirks in the software include a slow-to-respond autobrightness, disproportionate brightness slider, and lack of certain features in some of the third-party themes.
Lastly, the camera on this phone is absolutely horrible. It somehow manages to screw up exposure even in the simplest of lighting conditions, and a lot of noise is present even in good lighting. Just look at the camera samples below.
It almost sounds absurd, but when I first started using the Redmi Note 3 review unit I was seriously considering selling away my aging iPhone 6 and buying a Redmi Note 3 for myself. The larger screen and better battery life were enough to justify the purchase. However, I eventually decided against this as camera image quality is something that’s very important to me, and the Redmi Note 3 is simply horrible in this regard compared to my iPhone.
If you want a cheap but well performing handset and don’t mind a poorly performing camera, then look no further than the Redmi Note 3. There’s literally no other phone I would consider.