Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 review

The Redmi Note 3 is a midrange smartphone by Xiaomi, the successor to the hugely popular Redmi Note 2. From the official the statistics, the Redmi Note 3 is the best-selling smartphone in the Malaysian market and for good reasons. It has a sturdy unibody metal design, with powerful Snapdragon 650 processor, large 5.5” display, fingerprint scanner and a generous 4050mAh battery and all for as low as RM599 for an AP set from a local reseller. A complete package for somebody looking for an entry level smartphone with good specs.

Having bought and used the Redmi Note 2 myself, it is only natural that I bought the Redmi Note 3. It is a major upgrade from the Note 2 and the full metal body and huge battery are two major pulling factor for my purchase. The Note 3 Pro specs unit that I got features a Snapdragon 650 processor which differs from the earlier Note 3 version which has a Mediatek processor instead. In the box, I got the regular wall charger and standard USB 2.0 cable and that’s it. No earphones or other accessories. As expected of a note-type phone, the screen is quite large at 5.5". However the glass is not edge to edge like the Redmi Note 2 and many other phones and there's a significant bulge from the bezel separating the screen and the frame. I didn't really notice it at first looking at the review videos but up close I feel its one of those design decisions that could have avoided. Out of the box it comes with Android 5.1 Lollipop with the clean MIUI 7 interface. As of writing I have just received the MIUI 8 update featuring a few cosmetic updates but still no Marshmallow.

The fingerprint sensor is easy to setup and works really well. The screen unlocks almost immediately as soon as you place your finger on the scanner. It’s a pity you can’t assign the fingerprint scanner for something else like a camera shutter or for locking the screen. That said, you can use the fingerprint feature to lock apps so that only you can open them. The Snapdragon 650 processor is complemented with the snappy Adreno 510 graphics processor which delivers a fluid gaming experience. The 16GB variety of the Redmi Note 3 comes with 2GB of RAM and the 32GB version comes with 1GB more RAM for a hundred ringgit more. The Note 3 supports dual SIM cards although the second tray doubles as a micro SD slot so you had to choose between dual SIM or extra storage.

My overall experience with using the 32GB version is pretty good with smooth operation and virtually no lag when running graphic-intensive games. I particularly love the big 4050mAh battery which could easily last me 24 hours with moderately heavy use. The IR blaster is still included and despite the various devices featured in the Remote app, it only works with newer electronic devices from major manufacturers.

Now that I have covered the good parts, on with the not so good things. The unibody metal body sure looks and feels premium but the curved back design somehow makes it a bit slippery for my hands. And my kids were the first to prove it when they dropped the phone, twice from their bare hands. Sure you can always put on a plastic casing but that will only make it thicker and I don’t like thick and heavy phones in my pocket.

Another thing I liked about the Note 3 is the micro SD slot. As with their other budget phones, Xiaomi decided to include the ever so useful micro SD slot. However since it still runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, I can’t take advantage of the adoptable storage capabilities of Marshmallow or later which would enable me to combine my micro SD card space with the internal phone storage. As for now I can only store photos, video, audio and other document types on the SD card but no apps installation other than on the internal storage. Which is a bummer because adoptable storage is one of the most best features to come out of Marshmallow and Android operating system in general. Sure there are talks of Marshmallow updates coming for the Note 3 but I doubt it will come anytime soon or even at all. This is not uncommon for most budget and midrange phones where the manufacturer took the latest OS updates pretty much for granted (maybe its not worth it?).

Sample picture with the Redmi Note 3

Sample low-light picture

Camera quality for the 16MP rear shooter is decent to say the least. You won’t get flagship Samsung or iPhone quality here of course but in daylight, the picture quality is okay. I can’t say the same in low light though where there’s noticeable noise and grain in the pictures. Video recording supports 1080p HD with slow motion and time-lapse but no 4K though.

In a nutshell, the Redmi Note 3 is a good offering by Xiaomi for the midrange market as proven by the sales statistics. It offers good specifications at a pretty affordable price. However if you are used to having flagship devices you will quickly find the Note 3 falling pretty short in your expectation. The camera is not that great and don’t expect the latest Android updates to come out for your phone if ever. I for one found it to be rather inadequate to be my second/backup phone hence why I have sold it after just 2 months. I don't really mind it not having USB type C, NFC or a great camera but the lack of Marshmallow update is a real dealbreaker. But for that price range I would still say the Redmi Note 3 is the best, value for money entry level midrange smartphone in its category. Despite some of its flaws I would definitely recommend it for you instead of one of those Asus, Huawei, Lenovo or Oppo phones with similar price. You can get it in 3 exciting colors, namely silver, dark grey and gold. Just don’t bother trying to buy it from the official Xiaomi Malaysia website though because they are perpetually sold out (maybe they were busy or occupied making water filters, rice cookers or some stupid shit). Get one from established local resellers instead like DirectD and for a hundred ringgit less too. And remember to ask for one with Pro specs (Snapdragon processor) and global ROM (not China one).

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