Xiaomi Mi Note 3

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Alarger ver­sion of the com­pany’s flag­ship Mi6, the Xiaomi Mi Note 3 is a gor­geous smart­phone that comes at an af­ford­able price. More af­ford­able, in fact, and that’s largely be­cause it of­fers slower per­for­mance. But while the com­pany has down­graded the Mi6’s pro­ces­sor, it has in­creased the screen size and bat­tery ca­pac­ity, and up­graded the selfie cam­era.

De­sign

Suc­ces­sor to the Mi Note 2, the Mi Note 3 is prac­ti­cally in­dis­tin­guish­able from the Mi6, sim­ply adding a larger screen (only slightly larger, mind, at 5.5in vs 5.15in), and los­ing the glossy coat­ing around the edge due to its 7000 se­ries alu­minium frame. A lit­tle bit of ex­tra weight, in part due to the higher-ca­pac­ity 3,500mAh bat­tery, makes it feel more sub­stan­tial in the hand.

We’re not com­plain­ing: the Mi6 is a very good­look­ing phone, if lack­ing the fu­tur­is­tic bezel-less de­sign of the Mi Mix. We’d like to see a taller, thin­ner dis­play built into the Mi Note 4, but for now thanks to its gen­tly curved rear edges and slim side bezels the Mi Note 3 is just about man­age­able in a sin­gle hand – par­tic­u­larly if you make use of MIUI’s One­handed mode.

The screen might be only Full-HD in res­o­lu­tion (Xiaomi has yet to implement any­thing higher in any of its phones), but it’s an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of IPS tech (yep, that’s IPS and not OLED as we saw pre­vi­ously). Bright, clear and vi­brant, with fan­tas­tic view­ing an­gles and de­cent con­trast. This dis­play is ac­tu­ally smaller than we saw on the Mi Note 2, which had a 5.7in panel, and it lacks the curved edges on top that made it look much like a Sam­sung Galaxy copy­cat.

As is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon with pre­mium smart­phones, the Mi Note 3 adopts a glass fin­ish front and rear. Its glossy sur­face feels ul­tra­smooth in the hand, and though our black sam­ple is pep­pered with fin­ger­prints it re­ally looks the part.

The pre­mium feel­ing is aided by the dual-cam­era vis­i­ble at the rear, the same one as found on the Mi6 and, pleas­ingly, ly­ing com­pletely flush. The Mi Note 3 might be larger than the Mi6 but it’s still just 7.6mm thick, and weighs around 163g.

We’re still not incredibly keen on the un­der­glass Home but­ton, which in­te­grates a fin­ger­print scan­ner but looks a lit­tle like the but­ton it­self fell off. (When we say un­der-glass we do not mean that it is in­te­grated to the screen, as is ru­moured for the im­mi­nent Xiaomi Mi7.)

We’re pleased to see Xiaomi has re­tained its IR blaster at the top edge – these are still pop­u­lar but in­creas­ingly rare – but the 3.5mm head­phone jack is gone, in­stead re­liant on USB-C au­dio. This sits at the bot­tom with speaker grilles ei­ther side, though just the one speaker in­side (the Mi6 has stereo speak­ers). Along the edges you’ll find power, vol­ume and a

dual-SIM slot-load­ing tray. Un­like some of Xiaomi’s more re­cent smart­phones the Mi Note 3 does not sup­port wire­less charg­ing. How­ever the bat­tery is Quick Charge 3.0-com­pat­i­ble, which takes the hassle out of recharg­ing. It’s higher in ca­pac­ity than the Mi6’s 3,350mAh bat­tery, though down on the pre­vi­ous Mi Note 2’s 4,070mAh.

Per­for­mance

The Mi Note 3 is a ca­pa­ble phone for all users, but it’s no longer a flag­ship. Whereas we saw the Snap­dragon 821 in its pre­de­ces­sor, and the 835 in the Mi6 (both were the top Qual­comm chips avail­able at launch), this new model has a mid-range Snap­dragon 660 run­ning at 2.2GHz in­side. It’s re­flected in the price, but dis­ap­point­ing if you sim­ply wanted a large-screen ver­sion of the com­pany’s flag­ship.

That pro­ces­sor is com­bined with the Adreno 512 GPU, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of stor­age in our review sam­ple, though 128GB is avail­able. There’s no mi­croSD sup­port, so if you think you’ll be tak­ing a lot of pho­tos and videos and stor­ing a lot of apps and games, go for the higher-ca­pac­ity op­tion.

Per­for­mance is still very good, if not quite flag­ship level, and the Mi Note 3 is also ca­pa­ble of play­ing the lat­est games. Once you’re fa­mil­iar with the soft­ware you shouldn’t find any nav­i­ga­tion bot­tle­necks, and in our test­ing the MIUI OS of­fers a fluid ex­pe­ri­ence.

We ran the Mi Note 3 through our usual bench­marks and un­sur­pris­ingly found lower per­for­mance than the Mi Note 2 and Mi6. Per­for­mance is just a lit­tle short of last year’s Huawei P10, and

though we haven’t tested it we’d ex­pect the Oppo R11 that runs the same hard­ware to be at a sim­i­lar level.

Con­nec­tiv­ity is pretty good, with dual-SIM du­al­standby func­tion­al­ity, Blue­tooth 5.0, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS. There’s also the afore­men­tioned fin­ger­print scan­ner, but no mi­croSD sup­port or 3.5mm head­phone jack.

Cam­eras

The Mi Note 3 uses the same dual-cam­era as the Mi6, and suf­fice to say we were pretty im­pressed with that one. There’s a 12Mp, f/1.8 wide-an­gle lens and a sec­ond 12Mp f/2.6 tele­photo lens, paired with a du­alLED flash. Key specs in­clude a 10x dig­i­tal zoom, 2x op­ti­cal zoom, four-axis OIS and PDAF.

It can also shoot sta­ble, high-qual­ity 4K video, and of­fers var­i­ous shoot­ing modes and real-time fil­ters. Af­ter the photo is taken there are also some de­cent edit­ing tools. As with the Mi6, we found images to be well ex­posed and of­fer­ing re­al­is­tic colours, with good de­tail lev­els – it could pick out in­di­vid­ual bricks on a build­ing the other side of Eus­ton Road. Some noise is present, but over­all the clar­ity is good.

With HDR mode turned on an oth­er­wise gloomy day sud­denly gets a boost, with the Note 3 do­ing a good job of light­en­ing the shad­ows with­out los­ing any de­tail.

Low Light per­for­mance is ex­cel­lent. The Mi Note 3 is able to clearly light up the scene, dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween shades of black, and pro­duce read­able text. While it’s the same pri­mary cam­era as we find on the Mi6, the front cam­era has been up­graded to a 16Mp lens. This is a very ca­pa­ble phone for tak­ing self­ies.

Soft­ware

We touched ear­lier on the fact the Xiaomi runs MIUI 9.5 rather than stan­dard An­droid. This is based on Oreo, but looks like quite a de­par­ture thanks to the lack of pre­in­stalled Google Play ser­vices and al­ter­na­tive apps for many of those you will be fa­mil­iar with. The app tray has also been re­moved and the Set­tings menu re­ar­ranged.

Just be­cause MIUI is un­fa­mil­iar does not mean it’s no good, of course. It has some use­ful fea­tures such as Dual Apps, Sec­ond Space, App lock, Quick ball and One-handed mode. Plus you can in­stall Google Play and the Google launcher, then set it up how you like.

Ver­dict

The Mi Note 3 is a down­grade on the Mi6 and, ar­guably, the Mi Note 2, but it ap­peals with a lower price and an at­trac­tive pre­mium de­sign. Though it doesn’t fea­ture a flag­ship pro­ces­sor, this is a very ca­pa­ble smart­phone with a very de­cent dual-cam­era. Pro­vided you can live with­out 800MHz 4G and are

happy to in­stall Google Play Ser­vices your­self, it’s dif­fi­cult not to rec­om­mend the Mi Note 3. Marie Black

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.5in Full-HD (1920x1080) 16:9 IPS dis­play • MIUI 9.5 (An­droid Oreo) • 2.2GHz Qual­comm Snap­dragon 660 • Adreno 512 • 6GB RAM • 64GB stor­age (128GB avail­able) • No mi­croSD sup­port • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • 4G FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B7/B8 • Dual-SIM dual-standby • Blue­tooth 5.0 • NFC • GPS • GLONASS • USB-C • Fin­ger­print scan­ner • 12Mp dual-cam­era, dual-LED flash, 4K video • 16Mp selfie cam­era • 3,500mAh bat­tery • Quick Charge 3.0 • 152.6x73.95x7.6mm • 163g

HDR mode

Low light shot

Stan­dard shot

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