Is Xiaomi Mi 3 really worth buying? An owners review

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I’ve been talking a lot about the Xiaomi Mi 3 lately on this blog, but it’s hugely because I just recently acquired the smartphone, and I’m a bit excited to share my experience after using it for one week.  Skeptics have warned about China made smartphones, but like always, I prefer to have my fair share of experience before believing something.

THE MOTIVATION TO BUY
I’ve said numerous times to buddies how I dislike smartphones which huge screens, but I just can’t help resist the greatest temptation in the Mi 3, which is the pricing. At RM768, the smartphone is a beast with the customized MUIU interface which makes an old Android 4.3 OS seem up to par with the current Android 4.4.3.

In landscape, the phone is a handful.
In landscape, the phone is a handful.

After a week using this 5-inch nicely designed smartphone, I’m still having difficulties handling it with one finger, but I’m getting there soon. Unlocking the phone itself takes extra effort, but once unlocked, its just so breezy to use.

BUILT & SHAPE
The phone feels great in the palms although its thin body does makes you worry you’d mishandle and drop it at times. The position of the buttons are good and the phone itself looks extremely solid with no screws seen. This does make you wonder how these smartphones would be repaired since no possible opening was visible. To me, the phone was done to perfection, and had curves here and there to eliminate ‘that boxy’ feeling.

The perfect back of the Mi 3.
The perfect back of the Mi 3.

For your information, my phone currently has a dent after I dropped it a few days ago.  The dent to me is prove that the phone is made of aluminium frame as Xiaomi claims.

DISPLAY & SCREEN
I’m so used to a 4-inch something screen that the 5-inch display on the Mi 3 seems so huge. But that’s not a bad thing because the display on the Mi 3 is anything but bad. It’s sharp, crisp and lively, that it makes anything you look at in the screen seem so nice.

mi 3,xiaomi
The display on the Mi 3 5-inch screen in amazing to say the least

There is however a question of whether the Mi 3 is using Gorilla Glass for their screens. As you may know, Gorilla Glass is tough and anti-scratch, and most flagship smartphones use this glass to ensure their smartphone screens last. Here’s what I’ve gathered from the MIUI forums; Apparently, Xiaomi had decided to replace the initial Gorilla Glass formerly used in their Mi 3 smartphones (due to the need of massive production) with another type of glass which is said to be similar to Gorilla Glass. Whether this alternative glass is as good, time will have to tell.  So far, it looks good especially since I did purposely scratch it with my keys  a few days ago, thinking it was Gorilla Glass – no scratches on the screen so far.  I however found in Facebook that Xiaomi themselves claim to be using Gorilla Glass 3, but interestingly, they are not listed by Gorilla Glass as one of their clients.

CAMERA – Not great, but good enough
I’m not crazy about pixel sizes because the quality of images is what really matters when I use a smartphone camera. The Mi 3 smartphone works best a well lit conditions. At night, the dual LED flash helps improve conditions, but the images get pretty average when lighting is poor.

Below you can see the comparison between numerous conditions with the Mi 3 camera, in which I used auto settings for all shots.

The Mi 3 excels in good lighting
The Mi 3 excels in good lighting
In poor lighting, the Mi 3 camera was poor
In poor lighting, the Mi 3 camera was poor
Macro shot without flash was average.
Macro shot without flash was average.

SOUND – Loud but seems it might break
Surprisingly, there was no earphones coming with the phone. Cost cutting? I don’t know, but I think it’s good because we do tend to have our preferred brand when it comes to headphones or earphones.

Position of the Mi 3 speakers
Position of the Mi 3 speakers

For the Mi 3, the speakers which are placed at the bottom end of the phone worked magically well, and was loud enough to wake you up rudely in the morning if you set it beyond the middle pitch. Playing music which had too much bass however does overstretch the speakers, and it is highly not recommended.

Miui – The alternative Android
Without a doubt, the Miui interface, which is sort of an ‘upgraded version’ of Android is one of the best out there. With 2GB of RAM powering the Mi 3, scrolling and multitasking with the Miui interface was close to flawless.

The amazing number of customization and themes available also makes this phone fun, yet very personal as you keep exploring something new every time.

A large number of themes and customization makes the Miui system amazing.
A large number of themes and customization makes the Miui system amazing.

If you are new to MiUi, let me put it this way – it’s basically Android, made with what you want, and nothing else. It doesn’t have all those unnecessary apps other major brands like Samsung, Sony or HTC love to include in their smartphone, but rather has all the apps you need to have a perfect smartphone to work. This includes virus scans, system cleaners, cloud storage, and many more! Like some people like to say, Miui is an ‘Android on Steroids‘.

BATTERY LIFE – Good for now, unsure for the future
One of the most important feature of any smartphone, yet always overlooked, the battery drain of the Mi 3. Numerous reviews have claimed that the battery life of the Mi 3 would surpass over 24 hours on heavy use, especially if you turn on it’s ‘battery saving’ features.

True and false.

The Mi 3 hardly reaches 24-hours under my normal usage.
The Mi 3 hardly reaches 24-hours under my normal usage.

I found that I could hardly reach 24-hours battery life with the Mi 3 under my current usage; which includes my wi-fi connection switched on when at home, and 3G connection switched on when I’m on the go. After altering the screen brightness to 40%, I could hit somewhat 22-23 hours of usage with the phone draining energy rather quickly when I decide to play Football Manager Handheld.

But if you are without a charger for over 24 hours, it would be really advisable to change your smartphone power setting to ‘Marathon’ as your phone battery would last for over a day without data connection and wi-fi. I find this rather impossible to do given the fact we all tend to check our phones every 15 minutes to tweet something.

Uneven estimations given by the battery indicator. Might be a bug.
Uneven estimations given by the battery indicator. Might be a bug.

Also, the power indicator provided under the Miui interface is not as accurate as you can think it is, given that it can give out some very outrageous estimates.

CONCLUSION – Still a great buy because its cheap
If you ask me, the Mi 3 is a great bargain. At RM768, you get an awesome smartphone which cost half the price of one of those branded ones. Like it or not, we are all bound to change to a new smartphone every two years, hence making the Mi 3 the most economic choice. If you ask me, the Mi 3 is underrated in terms of pricing, but I’m not complaining.

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