Xiaomi ( or Mi, short and cute) has been into mobile device business for just 36 months but have garnered all the limelight and market share with their bang-for-buck priced mobile devices with mighty specs. The success can be attributed to their unique strategies. Mi doesn’t own a single physical stores nor take the brick-and-mortar retail stores distribution. They sell all their mobile devices online via their own web store (though in India they have opted Flipkart as their online distribution partner). Their approach to pricing is different too, if you wonder how they manage to sell their devices for such a low price, their mantra is to keep the product shelf of their flagship device for longer period to benefit from the fall in cost components. Quiet an innovative strategy eh?! By pulling Hugo Barra, once the prominent face of Google’s Android platform into their folds, Xiaomi made the mobile world take note of them seriously and make it clean their global ambitions. So here we have Mi now in India and their first batch sold out in flat 38 minutes 50 seconds. So here is Xiaomi Mi3 review from the Ramans, did we like it? Top-shelf specs, shockingly low price but does it have more to it? Read ahead.
Convincing build, Enchanting display
Mi3 is quiet a looker machined out of a aluminum-magnesium chassis and a beautiful 5-inch display laced with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. You don’t need to even hold the device to gauge the build quality, it is very apparent even for the eyes. I am sold out for the build quality, Mi wins the first round handsomely. There is something intriguing undertone about the design of the device.
At 8.1 mm thickness, Mi3 is not a ‘skinny’ model in town but at 145grams it is lighter for a metal body and is almost perfect on hand. The 5-inch display populates a total of 1920×1080 pixels resolution and a 441 pixels-per-inch is a big thumps up.
Located at the bottom is a machined speaker grill that speak volumes on the construction quality, to its side is the USB port. On the right side is the power button and the volume rocker a little above it. On top we have the audio port and on to its side a SIM slot that needs a pin to pop it out.
Interestingly, Mi3 opts out for the old-fashioned big SIM card and the box comes with a pin to pull it out.
On the rear of the metal slab you find a 13-megapixel camera flanked by a dual-LED flash.
Hardware muscle power
The low-cost doesn’t translate to low specs, Mi3 scores high on processing power with a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, Adreno 330 GPU and 16GB of onboard storage. There is no expansion slot for external memory and you get 11.84GB of user available memory. A single-SIM device, the Mi3 connects to 3G GSM network and also includes NFC, Bluetooth, Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4Ghz/5Ghz).
The SOC might be a year old and this year’s big flagship devices have moved over to Snapdragon 801 still the hardware muscle of Mi3 cannot be dismissed. It is still strong and an able workhorse that can handle the task intensive apps at ease.
MIUI – The real differentiator
The standout is the user interface and the high degree of customization and nifty features the Mi3 offers. Technically Mi3 runs on Android 4.4.2 Kitkat but what you see is not your familiar vanilla android. Xiaomi uses their own custom MIUI on top. It looks more of iOS experience and shuns the Android’s app tray and widget selections.
At every step there are nifty features to be explored. Hidden tricks galore. The software is straight forward to use and definitely not confusing even if you are used to the standard Android experience.
Xiaomi spoils us with the choicest of themes. There are more than 5000 themes to kill the boredom and the numbers just keeps increasing. The themes are well thought of giving a complete UI makeover and with their own dollops of custom effects. For example, its Ferrari theme plays a loud engine roar when you unlock the phone, for example, as well as changing the colors of the UI to a bright metallic red. I am sold. There are themes for every mood, likes, tastes and creative indulgence.
There are many thoughtful, simple add-ons like how you move the app to different screen. Unlike in other Android versions or iOS, you just hold the app and move the screens and drop it where you want to. Simple and effective.
When you are at dark place, you don’t have to scramble the phone to access the torch up but long press the home button from the lock screen and the torch comes alive. Simplicity is the hallmark of MIUI.
The security app is comprehensive tool and has a cleaner app to get rid of junk files, data monitoring tool, power manager app and a powerful app permission manager which gives complete control over the apps and the API’s they might access.
Even the dialer has a host of features like taking notes and recording capabilities. You can assign auto-recording of all the calls or selectively add to the list of numbers for recording calls.
With MIUI has simply made Android experience to a different scale and in tune with the open source nature of the OS. It retains the soul of Google’s Android but betters it in many ways. In China, Xiaomi has a massive fan following and community centered around it, the company takes the feedback seriously and makes weekly updates to better the UI.
The pocket camera-on-the-go
A 13-megapixel is now a standard fixture in flagship devices along with a 2-megapixe front camera set up. A super-large Exmor sensor and an f/2.2 aperture should technically give it a good low-light capabilities. By default, the camera is set to simple mode and in camera settings you can change it to advanced.
The simple mode offers in addition to the Auto mode, HDR, Panorama and a good number of filters.
The advance mode offers a little more. Hand-held twilight mode, a focus mode that gives you a macro mode and a manual focus moe, manual exposure adjustment, exposure meter and white balance options.
Bucking the trend of including gimmicky camera features, Mi3 keeps it simple. The shutter speed is snappy. The imaging capabilities are pretty good. You can check the sample pictures below.
The basics first. The Mi3 is very responsive and I didn’t feel any lag whatsoever during the time I used it. The UI is very stable and delight to use.
The call clarity is pretty good and the speaker volume is OK while attending calls. Though when you are watching a video with speaker ON, the position of speaker at the bottom means the sound gets deflected away from your ears. If you cup your palm around, the difference is notable.
Another appreciable fact is the battery life. With a 3,050mAh battery non-removable battery underneath, the Mi3 can goes for longer hours than most other Android phones I have used of late.
Mi3 defies the pre-conceived mindset we had about Chinese products. A great build quality, a thoughtful and delightful UI, long list of features and tasteful themes makes the Mi3 a fun to use.