Once in a while, something comes around that is so big, so game-changing that it can’t be ignored. Another such revolution has just broken, and we’re lucky enough to be a part of it. The Mi 3, an Android smartphone that is already making waves in China, Singapore and other countries in the region, has finally made its way to the Philippines, and fortunately, one landed in our admittedly eager hands.
The Mi 3 is a looker. Its understated design is a nice combination of curves and straight lines that diverges from the rounded corners we’re seeing a lot of in other brands’ flagship devices. The non-removable back is finished in what initially looks like brushed aluminum, but is actually an extremely convincingly finished aluminum-like matte plastic. We set the device onto the back of a Macbook Air, and despite a slight difference in color, the texture was spot-on. The finish and material are also grippier than brushed metal, and help keep the weight down.
One of the things that makes the Mi 3 so special is the spec. It’s a beast of a device, as you can see in the impressive specsheet included in this review.
The phone tips the scales at a pleasant 145g. It measures in at 5.67 x 2.90 x 0.32 inches, which is a little large for a five-inch phone, due to a larger-than-average bezel, though I do doubt that you’ll notice it once you see the gorgeous, curiously vibrant, five-inch HD IPS LCD screen. Compared to other phones of the same or similar resolution and type, 441 ppi Mi 3 screen seems to be much more vivid.
The Mi 3 comes with a 13 MP main camera with dual-LED flash, and is capable of taking full-HD video at 30FPS. A standout feature of the Mi 3 is compatibility with the newer wireless ac standard, which gives it super-fast Wi-Fi connectivity with ac-compliant routers. The rest is pretty standard, offering the usual list of options, though this model does leave LTE out.
A Qualcomm MSM8274AB Snapdragon 800 and quad-core, 2.3GHzKrait 400 processor, 2GB of RAM and Adreno 330 GPU, plus a massive 3050mAh battery round the device off nicely.
User Experience 4.5/5
The Mi 3 is amazing. By now, the hardcore among you know that is boasts some of the best benchmark scores in the market today. This translates in to buttery-smooth performance during everyday tasks, even with multiple apps running in the background. Having such robust hardware means apps, up to and including the most graphics-intensive ones on the Play store, are fair game for the Mi 3.
The software as much the star as the hardware. The Mi 3 runs MIUI V5, which is an OS based on Android 4.4.2. Now, before the prospect of anything but vanilla Android scares you away, you should know that MIUI is sleek and streamlined, giving users an experience that is closer to Android as it was originally envisioned, at least in my eyes. Most users are not likely to notice massive differences between this and stock Andriod, and those differences that are present actually add a lot of functionality that vanilla Android just doesn’t have.
Simple little things like how the phone gives you easy access to recently-added contacts, a quick vibrate when a call connects, call recording, secret messaging and a host of other little tweaks and conveniences all add up to an experience that is one of the most pleasant I’ve ever had. This is saying a lot, as I do this kind of thing for a living.
I don’t normally mention the camera on phones I test, but the Mi 3’s camera is just too good to leave out. Color reproduction is outstanding, and the 13MP sensor captures images so sharp, more than once, I used it to cover events for work. HDR on the phone is also extremely impressive, doing an excellent job of giving perfectly balanced shots, though at the expense of a little time for processing.
Though the Mi 3 doesn’t have LTE, it’s more than made up for an amazing battery. I took it along to an out-of-town photoshoot and used it to stream music via Spotify, check Facebook and my email whenever I wasn’t driving, take a few dozen photos and make phone calls, and it lasted the whole day. Plus the next one to boot. I ended up having to charge after over 24 hours of regular use. Coming from a phone that barely makes it to the wall charger at the end of the day, I didn’t mind giving LTE connectivity up.
Honestly, the reason this phone gets this score under “Value” is because there is nothing higher. The Mi 3 gives you performance that should leave other flagships deeply concerned, a battery that lasts forever, and beautiful design, all at a price that’s about a third of other similar devices. Allow me to put it into further perspective: You could book a flight to Singapore, but a Mi 3 there, go around a bit, and fly back home, and still not have spent enough to buy a competing, similarly-specc’d flagship device. That’s value.