A Rather Af­ford­able Flag­ship Smart­phone

Xiaomi Mi 3


Upon first han­dling the Mi 3, we felt that it had an un­canny re­sem­blance to cer­tain phones we’ve re­viewed. The curvy sides of the Mi 3 and the speaker grille at the cen­ter bot­tom sec­tion are de­sign trade­marks of Nokia’s Lu­mia smart­phones, es­pe­cially the older Lu­mia 800 and 900. Its han­dling how­ever, is good, per­haps even a tad bet­ter than the Lu­mia phones due to the fact that the Mi 3 is quite thin at 8.1mm and weighs 145g.

As Xiaomi’s flag­ship de­vice, the Mi 3 ob­vi­ously ranks bet­ter than the Redmi in de­sign and build qual­ity. It ri­vals most An­droid flag­ship smart­phones ex­cept the ASUS PadFone In­fin­ity and HTC One, which have an alu­minum uni­body. The Mi 3 has an outer shell made of plas­tic, with an in­ter­nal mag­ne­sium al­loy struc­ture en­cased in three lay­ers of graphite, giv­ing it a solid feel and metal­lic ap­pear­ance. Sand­blasted fin­ish­ing keeps the Mi 3 clean of fin­ger­prints and smudges.

Un­like the Redmi though, the Mi 3 does not have a re­mov­able back cover, a re­mov­able bat­tery, dual-SIM sup­port or mem­ory card slot. The model sold in Sin­ga­pore comes with 16GB in­ter­nal stor­age, though ac­tual avail­able space is about 12.28GB.

The Mi 3 is equipped with a 5-inch Full-HD (1,920 x 1,080 pix­els) IPS dis­play, which is on-par with al­most all An­droid flag­ship smart­phones we’ve seen so far in­clud­ing the up­com­ing Sam­sung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xpe­ria Z2. While the dis­play is gen­er­ally as good as most of its ri­vals, we find its bright­ness to be a lit­tle lower than the rest.

Pre­loaded on the Mi 3 is Xiaomi’s MIUI V5, a cus­tom­ized op­er­at­ing sys­tem (OS) based on Google An­droid. One key sell­ing fea­ture of MIUI is its huge list of fea­tures that al­lows you to have to­tal con­trol over your phone. Themes are no doubt the most pop­u­lar and per­haps, the most defin­ing fea­ture of MIUI.

There are over 4,000 themes to choose from, and the de­gree of at­ten­tion and de­tails poured into them are jaw drop­ping. When us­ing themes, you have to take note of their file sizes as graphic in­ten­sive themes usu­ally take up more space. In ad­di­tion, they tend to slow down the phone sig­nif­i­cantly be­cause more sys­tem re­sources are needed to run these themes.

MIUI also of­fers you the op­tions to grant per­mis­sions

for ev­ery app on the phone. By do­ing so, you can con­trol how your apps be­have on your de­vices. Fine grain app per­mis­sions can be set such as whether to al­low an app ser­vice to start up on boot, or its ac­cess to con­tacts, net­works and sys­tem ser­vices.

The Mi 3 is pow­ered by a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 800 (MSM8274AB) quad-core 2.3GHz pro­ces­sor with 2GB RAM. The key dif­fer­ence be­tween this pro­ces­sor and that of the LG Nexus 5 or Sam­sung Galaxy S4 with LTE+ is net­work sup­port; the 8274AB does not sup­port 4G LTE con­nec­tiv­ity.

While the Mi 3 runs more smoothly than the Redmi, it still feels a tad slower than Nexus de­vices. If you change the power mode on the Mi 3 to Power Sav­ing, the slow-down in oper­a­tion is no­tice­able.

Its 13-megapixel rear cam­era de­liv­ers good im­age qual­ity with plenty of de­tails and min­i­mal noise, thanks to its f/2.2 aper­ture, 28mm wide an­gle lens and 5-el­e­ment lens con­struc­tion.

Even though the Mi 3 has a 3,050mAh bat­tery, its mileage is only aver­age with an up­time of 5 hours and 44 min­utes in our bat­tery test. Un­der real world us­age con­di­tions though, it had no prob­lems last­ing us through a day at work.

Priced at $419, the Mi 3 of­fers great per­for­mance with all the re­quired ba­sic fea­tures at an af­ford­able price tag. Aside from the lack of 4G and mem­ory card slot, the Mi 3 is a great deal for con­sumers who want flag­ship specs and ad­vanced cus­tomiz­abil­ity with­out burn­ing a hole in their pock­ets.

Xiaomi de­signed the Sin­ga­pore theme specif­i­cally for its in­ter­na­tional launch here.


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