The Xiaomi Mi Note 3 looks like the twin of the Mi 6, bigger in display size, but still quite pricey at SGD500. It seems like the Mi Note series is meant to fill the gap between the Redmi Note series and the Mi flagships. Xiaomi to me is blurring the lines more and more with these variants.
Design and Build Quality
In terms of design, there isn’t much difference with the Mi 6, with the exception of the screen size, 5.5 inch to be exact. It has the same glass back that wraps around all 4 sides onto the metal frame to give it that seamless design. It feels pretty light on the hands at 163g even with a 5.5 inch screen. It’s even lighter than the Mi 6. Using it naked will be difficult with the glass back but they also included a TPU case in case you need it. The TPU case is simple but it gets the job done.
Just like the Mi 6, the Xiaomi Mi Note 3 comes with stereo speakers which are great. The volume is loud but it lacks clarity and sounds a little hollow to me. The speaker at the earpiece sounds softer and less punchy than the bottom ones, but on the whole it’s still good.
It’s also missing a headphone jack and they provided a Type C to headphone adapter if you need to use wired earphones. It’s troublesome to bring out and easy to misplace since the adapter is small. For me I still prefer using Bluetooth earphones.
Yet again there isn’t an option to change LED colors at the settings pages. This should be a norm for higher end phones. Xiaomi please fix. There isn’t any camera bump so it won’t rock on the table as well.
The fingerprint sensor has the same design as the Mi 6, concaved and made of glass. It’s easy to locate, feels nice and works pretty fast.
For daily use, the buttons are quite reachable but I need to stretch my fingers a little. It’s very clicky and provides a nice feedback. As I have commented in the Mi 6 video, the Mi 6 has the best design so far for their smartphones. Likewise for the Mi Note 3 since its similar, but the design could add some unique features to differentiate the Mi Note series. Anyhow it still looks very sleek and feels premium.
Hardware and Display
The 5.5 inch display has 550nits of brightness according to their website. I can still see the screen content when using it outdoors with direct sunlight. It has FHD resolution with 403 PPI, sharp enough in my opinion.
Colors are saturated and bright, you can adjust colors and contrasts in the settings. I prefer it to be Automatic Contrast as it looks the best to me.
The capacitive buttons are backlit and labelled as a dot. The function can be changed to be menu or back buttons on either side. You can also change things like what to show when menu is being pressed and long press behaviour.
The fingerprint sensor is very accurate and unlocks very quickly. The display also turns on almost instantaneously. A new security feature is Face Unlock. Initially I was a little sceptical about all this face recognition. But it turns out; it works pretty fine for me. I tested with spectacles on and off, and it’s still able to unlock the phone. I can say its 90% accurate and very fast but of course it’s not as secure as a fingerprint but still a nice feature to have.
The Mi Note 3 is available in 2 configurations, 64/128 GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. Fresh from the box it has around 51.84 GB free for the 64GB model that I am using. Usually their higher end models are missing the micro SD card slot and sadly the Mi Note 3 follows suit. Good news is that it supports USB OTG for the extra storage.
Dual SIM is supported with 4G + 3G but only 1 SIM can be 4G at any one time with the other one being 3G. There are also settings like default dial / internet SIM and VoLTE.
Software and Performance
Whats new with Xiaomi phones is the Snapdragon 660 and Adreno 512. The Snapdragon 660 is the successor to the Snapdragon 653, designed to have near flagship performance in a midrange market. It also brings with it Bluetooth 5.0 and Quick Charge 4.0 but the Mi Note 3 only supports Quick Charge 3.0.
Antutu scored 110176 and Geekbench scored 1559 for single core and 4977 for multicore, similar to the Snapdragon 820 series. Performance was excellent for gaming, screen loads fast, graphics was smooth. Couldn’t find or notice any slowdown. The phone runs pretty cool when I tested Galaxy on Fire 3 for about 20 mins.
Day to day usage is not a problem given the 6GB of RAM. No issues with multitasking. Phone calls were good with no drop calls and reception bars was close to max most of the time. Using Waze for GPS location was also accurate. I tested Wifi and 4G speed which is quite good as well.
From the box the Mi Note 3 is running Android 7.1.1 on top of MIUI 8.5. As usual this is a china ROM, no Google Apps are installed. Installing it the Mi Store way does not work, Google Playstore will be stuck at getting info. I used the same method for Mi 5X and Mi 6, the link will be in the description below.
So far all the Xiaomi phones I have reviewed have the exact MIUI and settings. So later, head over to the video link below to check out the software features on the Mi Note 3. I am planning to do a dedicated software features video for future MIUI versions too. Just for the record, the lag at the settings page still exists.
3500 mAh battery seems pretty small in comparison to the Mi 6 at 3350 mAh. The Mi Note 3 is bigger in size yet the capacity is just marginally bigger. I would have expected it to be at least near 4000 to be acceptable.
It still lasts a full day with normal usage like calls, messaging, lots of web browsing, Youtube and occasional gaming. Screen on time was about 5-7 hours which is pretty decent and of course more gaming will definitely drain the battery faster. Usually the phone is unplugged for around 12 hours and before I go to bed, it would have around 25-35% battery left.
The supplied charger is Quick Charge supported and although the Mi Note 3 supports Quick Charge 4.0, it’s only 3.0 enabled. So for a quick boost in battery, it can charge 50% battery in around 30 mins and it takes around 1-2 hours to fully charge to 100%.
It also has the standard battery saver mode to prolong battery life, power settings to check temperature, usage time, heating / battery drain notifications and such.
The Mi Note 3 features dual 12MP wide angle and telephoto lens with modes like portrait, tilt shift, panorama, hand held twilight and beautify. Filters can be accessed by tapping on the triple circle icon and a dedicated HDR button is at the top right.
Focusing speeds are quick and auto focus with good lighting works well but low light focus takes a little longer than usual. Macro shots are pretty good and don’t get blurry if taken it right. As for zoom, Xiaomi boasts 2X optical zoom without loss of quality which seems pretty true. Any more zoom will result in more grainy images.
Portrait mode can be turned on by the icon at the top. It blurs out the surrounding to fully focus on the object.
For daytime shots, colors look really punchy and saturated, even more so in HDR mode. Night shots are quite okay as well with good enough lighting.
As usual, there is the Time Lapse and Slow Motion mode for video. It can also record up to 4K resolution with support for OIS. I tried moving the phone a lot in the video and the OIS maybe just helped a little.
The Beautify tool for the front facing camera works pretty well. It makes my face look really smooth for the Instagram worthy picture, I hope.
Apart from the new Snapdragon 660, there isn’t much wow factor from the Mi Note 3. Whatever features here can also be found on the Mi 6 which seems like a better choice. Just by topping up a little more cash, you can get Xiaomi’s flagship device. The Mi Note 3 is still a very capable device and those that prefer a bigger screen, can consider it. Or Xiaomi might just spawn another variant, the Mi 6 Plus perhaps?