Hello to all! This is my review of the limited edition (for now due to the stock availability) MI3 by Xiaomi. Doing a review after a very long time, so go easy on the comments guys. A little background on myself at this point in this genre would be that I’m not a hard-core techie/tech genius, but yes, I’m the kind of person who would fall under the category of “the guy who upgrades stuff fairly often” as per my friends, so to put it in timelines, it sums up to almost once a year in a rotational cycle for each category (phone, tablet, laptop, so on and so forth). I also fall under the category of “the guy to call when I need to buy something in terms of anything related to Electronics or Automobiles” and I can do it for pretty much any market, not just for us Indians.
Okay then, to start off with, why the MI3 at all? Well I’ve been using Android devices since 2010 (which is the same year that MIUI was launched), starting off with a HTC Wildfire which was the then affordable Android (for me at least) and I didn’t know much at all back then. But I learnt from my “mistakes” and within a span of exactly 1 year of buying the Wildfire, changed phones twice! Ever since the second phone, which was the famous Motorola Droid (Indian version) which I’d bought second-hand after saving up some pocket money, I managed to make very good use of it, development for it was going crazy at that time. This was the first time I’d caught a glimpse of the MIUI ROM, towards the end of my ownership of the Droid. There were massive memory leaks in the ROM which caused the phone to crash and reboot or get stuck because of its limited RAM (256 Mb). I never saw a fully functional ROM from MIUI for that phone because a few months later I was gifted the Motorola Defy. Now this had 512 MB of RAM and was (in my opinion) one of the best phones ever made. At this point, development was just blooming for this phone and there was no MIUI ROM for it yet and I eagerly waited for it because I’d like what I’d gotten a taste of in the ROM for the Droid. The ROM was finally ported a few months later and boy was it awesome! At that point, it was based on the Gingerbread version of Android. I still have the phone and it still runs MIUI even to this day (the Gingerbread version, because later versions are too heavy for it to run on, but they are also available). I’ve had 2 other Android devices in between, one of them being the very famous HTC HD2 and a not so famous XOLO Q800 (rebranded Gionee GN708W). I’ve tried a gazillion ROMs for each phone and at the end of the line I always turned back to MIUI just because of its functionality, and I’m not even going to refer to the theming aspect which, by the way, is absolutely insane in MIUI! MIUI offers an experience similar to Apple’s IOS and Samsung’s TouchWiz UI with a lot of small (and huge) factors which make it the best choice within Android, that’s where Xiaomi will win over their customers. And like there are iPhone fan boys and Samsung fan boys, I’m an MIUI fan boy until something better does ever come out!
Finally coming to the MI3 itself, the first thing that catches your eye upon taking it out of the Flipkart packaging, is the box. Plain, simple, extremely sturdy (it’s said one can even stand on the box, try it at your own risk, I’m not responsible for any damages!) and 100% eco-friendly. Talk about epic packaging, neatly compartmentalized, sleek, somewhat innovative even and hard to believe that it’s all done with recycled material.
Then comes the phone, once you open the box, which comes with a frosted screen protector denoting all the button positions and their functions. It has a metal uni-body which cannot be taken apart (without voiding warranty, of course). Both the upper and lower faces are flat. The right and left faces are curved. The SIM tray is on the upper face next to the earphone jack which comes with a tray opening pin included in the box and it seats a normal full-sized SIM. The USB slot and the speaker is on the bottom face. It’s very sleek at 8.1 mm (144×73.6×8.1 mm is the full layout of the phone), comes with a 5″ full HD IPS LCD (1080×1920 pixels and ~441 ppi) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. And to top it off, it’s a feather-weight at 145 grams. The buttons are nice, snuggly fitting and snappy. The screen does attract fingerprints but can be easily cleaned. The metal body has a brushed metal feel to it and doesn’t get scratched on sliding it around on a plain surface, but yes if not careful, it may slip out of the hand (in this case, would definitely recommend to get a case to counter this issue if it’s a regular thing for you, fell flat on my face while I was lying down and yes the Gorilla Glass hurts). It doesn’t in any way look, feel or act “cheap”. Please refer to the images for reference.
Glimpses of the phone from different angles (excuse the amateur photography) 😛
The SAR values that many people have been asking about!
Cool, now that I’ve given a thorough view of the build quality, let’s move on to the specifications now. The MI3 is running Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box on a Qualcomm MSM8274AB Snapdragon 800 chipset with a Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400 series processor, an Adreno 330 GPU, 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM and 16 GB internal memory (with a nice 120MB/s read speed). It doesn’t support expandable memory, but does offer OTG where you are free to use OTG pen drives which are also available on Flipkart. This is a market killing combination considering the price it’s selling at because it’s some of the best hardware you can get, for any price!
The 13 MP rear camera is pretty awesome considering that it has optics from Sony (Exmor Sensor) IMX135 sensor with an F2.2 sapphire lens and a dual LED flash from Philips. It’s not as good as a Lumia (higher end) but does excellent in well-lit areas. Pictures do tend to come out a bit grainy in low light conditions but the results were highly satisfactory with the pictures being very vibrant and sharp with their natural colours. Considering the weather and insufficient lighting, I haven’t been able to take any shots for comparison, but take my word for it, it’s got better image processing on board than 90% of the Sony phones in the market currently available and with constant updates from MIUI, it’ll only get better (yes they can do that, I’ve experienced it first hand on my previous devices, and it’s free!). There is also the front facing 2 MP camera and both the front and the rear cameras are capable of capturing video in full HD (1080p) resolution! Interestingly, MIUI’s latest camera app will support RAW capture, as well as smart beautification by identifying the gender and age of the subjects in a shot. The pictures I’ve put up are not a fair comparison but it’s the only option I’ve got right now.
Taken with my Nokia Lumia 1320 (best in class 5MP camera)
Taken with my MI3 (13 MP with Exmor Sensor)
The battery is a bomb, literally! It holds enough charge to probably blow up a small neighbourhood. The next day after I received the phone, charged it overnight as is recommended, I used it continuously for 8 hours straight syncing accounts, updating/installing apps (all over 3G), customizing the phone to my standard MIUI set-up and at the same time multi-tasking with messages, emails and chats. After all this in 8 hours, I was left with 30% charge which is when I said, enough and stopped all the extra-curricular activities I was doing and guess what, once I reached home 4 hours later was still at around 22-25%. Even as I write this, it’s the second day of ownership and I forgot to put it on charge overnight and it only charged till 78% in the morning. It’s 8 o’clock in the evening now and the charge is still at 35% with more than normal use! It also has the option to control performance in the form of 3 modes (conserve, normal and performance) which comes with a toggle in the notification bar, and my experience was in normal mode! Epic isn’t it? The fluidity of the phone blew me away. At the end of it, it even handled my contact list of 3000 strong contacts without so much as a hiccup (after it’s fully synced and everything is done, or else you may experience a few if you do open it during the syncing process).
Apart from all this, you have the usual refinements that are part and parcel of a regular smartphone, accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensors, A-GPS with GLONASS, FM Radio (doesn’t work very well without wired headphones), Active noise cancellation (which tends to go a little crazy at times in noisy environments), comes with SwiftKey keyboard pre-installed, and a few other features like Altimeter and Barometer, OTG support, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct and the best of all is the MIUI interface itself! The phone doesn’t heat up as much as one would think. It stays a teensy bit higher than warm at worst, never came across a situation where I couldn’t put the phone to my ear. I’ve tried gaming on the device and it’s smooth like everything else about the phone, no hiccups or jarring anywhere (with regards to Real Racing 3 and a few others). Another surprise is that there’s also Immersion haptic feedback, which adds some rumbling fun to games, vibrates according to the beats of the song you’re playing and certain other UI elements.
Now I did find a few negatives, like the earpiece tends to blare at times when the noise cancellation acts up or if the volume is at maximum (if it irritates you, just change the option in the sound settings). The screen tends to stutter a bit when the phone is put on charge, although I did try that with a Samsung charger, which, considering it was of a lower amperage from the stock charger, shouldn’t have happened (doesn’t happen on the stock charger though). The loudspeaker isn’t very loud but it’s nice and crisp (Viper4Android should be able to help in this area). Night shots could’ve been better (and this is in comparison to Lumia cameras who’re so far the best in capturing night shots). For those who can’t live without more memory, unfortunately you can either switch to cloud storage (which Xiaomi actually provides, which is a bonus considering there are so many other providers already) or the OTG USB drives that I mentioned earlier. It has no dual sim, the screen is a bit of a fingerprint magnet
My 32GB OTG USB Pen Drive
One last bit I’d like to add is that, the audio DAC used on this phone is absolutely brilliant (feature either the Cirrus Logic CS42L73 DAC chip, which is apparently what the iPhone uses, or the WCD9320 DAC chip from Qualcomm, which is used in the Nexus 5, Note 3, etc., both of which are damn good so it doesn’t make too much of a difference). I was pretty amazed with the output of the stock audio controller (in terms of quality, not power). So i decided to go a step further, oh and FYI, this phone can be easily rooted and doesn’t void warranty (for those interested in squeezing out a bit more from this device). So, i’m now rooted and i’ve installed Viper4Android. The result……?
… Chills down my spine. I’ve just set it up for my Sennheisers (CX-175) and i’ve never got such output from any of the devices I’ve ever owned. I’m now itching to try out my jBLs (J04W). Audiophiles rejoice, cuz if you know your stuff, this is audio heaven!