Oct 11, 2014
Oct 10, 2014
(Last Updated: 16/10/2014) Xiaomi recently released a MIUI update, KXDMIBH34.0 (V5) for the Indian version of Mi3. The good news is that the update also upgrades the Android version from 4.4.2 to 4.4.4. You can install the update either OTA (Over The Air) or using your computer. For OTA installation make sure that your device is connected to a stable wifi network and has a good amount of charge.
Oct 7, 2014
Xiaomi, the Chinese tech giant (a.k.a. Apple of China) launched it’s flagship smartphone Mi3 in India on July 22 via an exclusive tie-up with Indian ecommerce website Flipkart. The demand of the phone was so high that it was sold out in just a few seconds everytime it was made available. Xiaomi sold it on Flipkart till August 26 and then closed further registrations for Mi3, perhaps in order to concentrate on its budget oriented device RedMi 1S. It was again sold on October 6 (the day Flipkart did its Big Billion Day sale), but this time only to 25000 of those customers who earlier registered for Mi3 sale five times but could not succeed to get hold of it. I hope Xiaomi sells it once again around Diwali time frame.
Another good news for Mi fans in India is that Mi3 has been listed as “Coming Soon” on the ecommerce website Infibeam. So if you are planning to buy one for yourself, just read on this post to find out if the device is really worth your money. I am writing this review after having used Mi3 for more than 45 days now. So I have a good idea about its pros and cons. Before you start reading the review, I’d like to mention that this review is slightly different from many other reviews that you might have already read. In this review I’ll not be talking too much about tech specs or benchmark results as you can always check the tech specs on the Mi India official website and I’m not a big fan of evaluating a device’s performance by benchmark results. I’ll just be sharing my experience with the device. What I liked and what I didn’t like. Sorry for such a lengthy post, but I couldn’t help with it as I wanted to cover each and every aspect of the device. I have mostly positive opinion about Mi3, but if you want to read something negative about the device, just jump to the “Bugs & Issues” section of this post.
Unboxing Experience -
Before I talk about the device itself, let me take a while to talk about my unboxing experience first. When I first got Mi3 delivered, I was a bit apprehensive about the SIM tray issue that many users had earlier complained about. So I unboxed the device full of excitement and also some apprehension about it being a defective unit. The device comes in a light brown colour small size box, which Xiaomi claims is made of recycled paper. The box is very minimalistic like Apple boxes, but unlike Apple it does have the specifications printed at the back. Anyways, the box looks very premium. When you open the box, the first thing you’ll see is the device itself which is black (at front) and grey (at the back). We have only one colour variant available in India (Xiaomi calls it Metallic Grey). You will also find a USB cable and a charger (its a 2 Amp charger) neatly placed inside the box, but no headphones. Before switching on the device I put in the SIM card and fortunately I had no problem with the SIM tray like many users had complained. One thing to note here is that, once you take out the SIM tray do not put it back without placing a SIM card on the top of it. I’m not saying this from my personal experience, but many users have complained that their SIM tray got stuck once they put it back without a SIM card. As I was already in knowledge of this possible issue, I didn’t commit that mistake. So everything worked fine for me and I had a very good (and in fact a very premium) unboxing experience.
When I first saw the device, I was really impressed by its looks. If you compare Mi3’s design with many other devices that are currently available in the market, it has a very unique design. Unlike Samsung’s boring design with rounded corners, this one has a sort of rectangular design. Many reviewers have said that rectangular design is not very ergonomic and due to its rectangular design, typing might be an issue on Mi3. But I beg to disagree. I had no problem even while typing long messages on this device. In fact its rectangular design makes it stand out of the crowd. Though Mi3 has a plastic back, but it very much looks like metal. Samsung probably needs some design lessons from Xiaomi.
The only complaint that I have with the design is that Mi3 has quite thick bezels which make it look bigger (only slightly though) than some other devices with same screen size (5 inch). As far as single handed operation is concerned, if you have big hands or even medium size hands, that shouldn’t be an issue. However for people with small hands, single handed operation of the device might not be easy.
Overall I’m very happy with the design of the device. It’s very ergonomic to my liking, button placement is also just right. All the three buttons (volume up, volume down and the power button) are on the right side and at perfect positions. So I’ll give it 9 out of 10 in design department.
Raw Performance & Gaming-
In terms of raw performance, Mi3 just blew my mind away! It runs on Snapdragon 800 processor (8274AB) clocked at 2.3 GHz which is accompanied by 2 GB of RAM. I have to say that it puts to shame many of the high end devices from tire one brands which cost double or even triple its price. I could easily play heavy games like Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5 without any frame drops or any other issue. Even multitasking on this device is butter smooth. No lag whatsoever. But I did notice a minor bug when it comes to multitasking. Music playback sometimes (only sometimes) suddenly stops if you are browsing photos and listening music at the same time (for details see the “Bugs & Issues” section below). Apart from this I didn’t come across any problem with the device as far as its performance is concerned. The UI is very smooth (way smoother than Samsung’s TouchWiz) and the device is comparable with Nexus 5 (or even an iPhone) as far as smoothness of the UI is concerned. I’ll give it 8 out of 10 in Raw Performance. I deducted 2 points for that music playback bug. I’ll be talking about it in detail in the “Bugs & Issues” section below.
Screen Quality -
Mi3 sports a full HD (1080p) screen with a pixel density of 441 PPI and it’s an IPS display. I must say that it’s one of the best displays that you can find on a smartphone. Auto brightness also works very well on Mi3 and the device is very much legible even under bright sunlight. And since the device is running on MIUI ROM, you also get the option to adjust the colour saturation of the display. You can make the display cooler or warmer as per your liking. So in display department, in my opinion Mi3 deserves a perfect 10 on 10.
Audio Output -
Mi3 Speaker Grill
Mi3 has a laser grilled speaker at the bottom and it’s not a stereo speaker. Though the speaker positioning is better than most of the smartphones which have a speaker at the back (which easily gets blocked on placing the phone on a surface), it’s not the best either. Speaker can get muffled by your hands while playing games in landscape mode. Audio output through the built in speaker is adequately loud and quite clear, though it lacks bass if you compare it with HTC boom sound speakers or iPad speaker.
Audio output through headphones (or external speakers) is one of the strongest points of Mi3 in my opinion. It has DIRAC sound which optimises the music for the kind of headphones you are using. And believe you me, unlike audio enhancement features on many other devices, it works really well. If you use Xiaomi’s own Piston 2 earphones (which are also available on Flipkart for just Rs. 999), the audio output that you get is just outstanding! The DIRAC audio optimisation works very well, in fact better than Apple’s equaliser options that you get on an iPhone/iPad.
Voice Call audio on Mi3 is also crystal clear through the earpiece and as well as through the speakerphone. So overall I’ll give Mi3 10/10 for audio output.
Camera Performance -
Mi3’s 13 MP rear camera is definitely one of the best smartphone cameras out there (and obviously not the best though). Yes, there are smartphones like iPhone 6/6+, Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3 which do have a better camera, but still I must say Mi3’s camera is very good in its class. For a perspective, I can say it’s comparable to Galaxy S4’s camera and better than the camera on Nexus 5. In natural light (sunlight), the camera is able to capture even very minute details, in artificial lighting however, pictures are a bit grainy (but that’s very normal with smartphone cameras). The 2MP front camera is also capable of taking decent pictures, but I found the pictures taken by the front camera to be slightly cartoonish (sorry that I couldn’t find a better word to describe that).
The default camera app UI is also very simple and self explanatory. It has all the features that you expect in a smartphone camera like auto focus, HDR and many filters and effects. The camera app has a Simple mode and an Advanced mode. By default, Simple mode is enabled, however if you are interested in tinkering around with the available options, Advanced mode is highly recommended.
When it comes to video recording, both the cameras are capable of recording videos in 1080p (full HD). Though the video quality is very good, I did notice slight hissing noise in the videos. Many users have complained about this issue and as per what I was able to find on MIUI forum, this is a software issue that crept in after an update. So there is a hope that this issue can be fixed in upcoming firmware updates. The default camera app does not allow to take pictures while recording videos, and as with still photos, I found the videos taken from the front camera to be slightly cartoonish.
The camera app also has a very gimmicky feature. It can tell your age and gender! Yes! it can. Although this feature should work with both the cameras, but I found that it worked only with the front camera. And obviously, the age and gender and not very correct.
Here are some sample photos taken from Mi3 cameras.
Overall, for camera I’ll give Mi3 9/10.
User Interface -
Mi3 runs on Xiaomi’s own custom ROM called MIUI. In fact, Xiaomi started as a software company and MIUI existed and was actually quite popular even before Xiaomi forayed into hardware manufacturing. And unlike Samsung’s Touchwiz, MIUI isn’t just limited to Xiaomi devices, you can install it on almost any Android device. It’s like Cynogenmod, which is arguably the most popular custom ROM for Android devices. Also, unlike Samsung’s Touchwiz and many other OEM’s custom skins, this one doesn’t make the device laggy. Take my word for it, Mi3 is as smooth as you’ll expect a Nexus device to be.
MIUI is best known for the customisable themes that it offers. There are tons of themes available in the Themes store, from which you can download and apply one as per your liking and it completely changes everything from wallpaper and icons to boot animation. The good thing is that you can even apply the themes partly. For example, you can use one theme for wallpaper and another theme for icons. Though initially I was very excited about the themes, but now I use the Themes app only for choosing the wallpaper as I don’t like manipulated icons (I prefer default app icons). Anyways, it’s a matter of personal preference and an additional functionality is always a welcome.
Another distinguishing feature of MIUI that makes it different from most Android ROMs and much like iOS is that it does not have an app drawer. It means you have just rows and rows of app icons and every app that is installed has to be on one of the homescreens. Unlike iOS, you do have the option of adding widgets though. If I tell you my personal experience, I’ve been using Android for a long time and this is the first time that I’m using MIUI. And to be very honest, I’m not missing the app drawer at all. But in case you can not do without an app drawer and you have to have it, you can always install a third party launcher app like Nova launcher or Apex launcher. You can even use Google’s own Google Now launcher. Besides this, MIUI also includes some very cool interface tweaks that you’ll enjoy. For example, it’s very easy to move app icons from one home screen to another using two fingers. You can simply tap and hold the screen with one finger and move the icons with another finger (of the other hand obviously). I wonder why didn’t anyone else think of this before.
MIUI also includes a cloud service called MiCloud, which in my opinion, is a blatant rip-off from Apple’s iCloud. Not just its name is very similar to iCloud, its more or less meant to do the same job as iCloud and the web interface is also very similar. You can backup your contacts, messages and photos to MiCloud. But as I had expected, MiCloud doesn’t work even nearly as seamless as Apple’s iCloud. Even the MiCloud desktop website is not completely in English. You’ll have to deal with some Chinese while registering for a MiCloud account. Since I don’t like things that don’t work well, I disabled MiCloud on my Mi3. And I think it’s not really needed. I can still backup my pictures using third party apps like Microsoft Onedrive or Google+ and for contacts, I always save my contacts in Google Contacts.
Though my impression of MIUI is mostly positive, I don’t like everything about it. One thing that I really don’t like about MIUI is that it doesn’t allow lockscreen widgets. And you can not even replace the default lockscreen with a third party one. If you install and enable a third party lockscreen, you will see it whenever you turn on the display, but once you unlock the screen using the third party lockscreen, you’ll have to unlock it once again using the default lockscreen, which totally defeats the purpose of using a third party lockscreen.
Now on a 10 point scale if stock android deserves a perfect 10/10 and Samsung’s sluggish Touchwiz gets 7/10 (that’s how I’d like to rate Samsung’s skin), I must give MIUI somewhere between 8 and 9 out of 10. Let’s give it 8.5. I’ve deducted 1.5 points mainly because of the few minor bugs that it exhibits. I’ll talk about them in the “Bugs & Issues” section below.
Battery Backup -
Xiaomi Mi3 packs in a massive 3050 mAh battery. And 3050 mAh is really a big number when you compare it with other flagships available in the market (even those which cost twice or thrice its price). But when it comes to real world scenario, the performance is not as good as you might expect it to be. Having said that, I must say that the battery easily lasted me one full day on a single charge under moderate usage. The screen on time that I got on Mi3 was almost always over 3 hours. Maximum screen on time that I got (only once) was 3 hours 40 minutes. Though the battery doesn’t drain too much on standby mode, you may expect to lose one percent charge every couple of hours (even less if you have many background services running).
So overall I’d say battery performance of Mi3 is decent (you can even say its good), but don’t go by the mAh figure that you see on the spec sheet. I’ll give Mi3 7.5/10 for battery backup.
In this section I’ll be listing some miscellaneous stuff about Mi3 that you might be interested in.
- Mi3 has a multi-colour LED notification light at the top. You can even customise the colour of the light as per your preference. For example, you can choose one colour for missed calls and another for messages. The LED light blinks in red colour when the device has less than 10% charge left and in green colour when it’s plugged in and 90% charged. I couldn’t find a way to change this behaviour of the LED light.
- Mi3 has two power modes. Earlier it had three, but in the latest version only two are there, Balanced Mode and High Performance Mode. Though Xiaomi never made it very clear what actually these modes do, but as per what I could find on MIUI forum, the Balanced Mode throttles the CPU and thus saves power. In an earlier version of MIUI there was also a Power Saving Mode which probably throttled the CPU even more aggressively. But (I don’t understand why) Xiaomi removed it in a later release of MIUI. Also do note that the battery performance and gaming performance that I’ve talked about above is in the High Performance Mode only. I did notice a bit of sluggishness while playing Asphalt 8 in Balanced Mode but no issues whatsoever in High Performance Mode (as I’ve mentioned above in the “Raw Performance & Gaming” section). I keep my Mi3 mostly in the High Performance Mode only.
- Mi3 locks to GPS satellite very quickly. I’m mentioning it as a separate point because GPS lock on Mi3 actually works better than most of other smartphones.
- The touchscreen on Mi3 is very responsive. It’s more responsive than iPhone’s touchscreen. At first you might think its over responsive, but soon you should get used to it.
- Although there are two variants of Mi3, 16 GB and 64 GB, only the 16 GB variant is available in India. Out of total 16 GB of internal storage, you get slightly less than 12 GB of available storage and the device does not come with any bloatware preinstalled. In fact many of the preinstalled apps like the default Browser, the Flipkart app (it comes preinstalled in India), the NFC app (PonPon Tile) can also be uninstalled, thus freeing up even more storage. Another good thing is that Mi3 also supports USB OTG (but it doesn’t have a Micro SD card slot, as you probably already know).
- Xiaomi updates the Developer version of MIUI on a weekly basis. The stable version however is not updated that fast. There is no fixed schedule for a stable version update, but you can expect an update once a coupe of months.
- Though Xiaomi hasn’t promised an Android L update for Mi3, Hugo Bara, Vice President of the international wing of Xiaomi has hinted in an interview that they will try to update not only Mi3 but also their RedMi line of devices to Android L.
Bugs & Issues -
Mar 7, 2014
Mar 6, 2014
Feb 25, 2014
Feb 21, 2014
Feb 14, 2014
Okay, it dates back to sometime in 2011 when I first noticed this bug in Windows Live Mail desktop client (and it hasn’t been fixed till now).