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If bezelless phones weren’t a thing, the Xiaomi Mi Note 3 would be impressively compact. However, bezelless phones turn the Mi Note 3 into a rather unsightly affair just by virtue of comparison.
Standing in the shadow of a MIX is never an easy thing, and couple that with the expectation of a flagship level processor in a Note phone, the Mi Note 3 is turning out to be one controversial beast indeed.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Review

Xiaomi’s processor choices in many of their phones have been less than… desirable, with many of their higher end devices utilizing the low powered Snapdragon 625 processors, and now the Mi Note 3 is following suit, taking a step down from a high end chip to a midrange one. I have no doubt that Xiaomi has crafted an excellent and refined device, but public perception (from enthusiasts at least) due to the processor stepdown has been rather biting. Let’s get into what Xiaomi got right and what they got wrong.

A step down from the previous generation

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Specifications

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 Processor
Display 5.5″ 1920×1080 IPS LCD
RAM 6GB
Storage 64 ROM
Operating System Android 7.0 Nougat with MIUI8
Cameras 12MP, 5MP Camera
Battery 3500mAh
Physical Dimensions 163g, 152.6 x 74 x 7.6 mm

Big thanks to Gearbest for providing this review unit.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Hardware

The Mi Note 3 looks exactly like the Mi6, even down to the positions of the sensors, home buttons, and camera location. However, this means that both the Mi6 and the Mi Note 3 look fairly generic, with no standout features like bezelless displays or 18:9 aspect ratios. We have very slim side bezels and rather chunky top and bottom bezels that make the phone look and feel a little bit dated, considering the industry’s recent shift to a bezelless philosophy. We have generous curves on the back and a slim 8.3mm profile, the Mi Note 3 is easy to hold, even for an adamant 5 incher like myself.The back of the phone is glossy and a complete fingerprint magnet. Expect this phone to look pristine for all of 5 seconds before becoming a mess of fingerprints, but who am I kidding, we’re all going to be putting a case on this thing anyway.

Xiaomi made no mention of water resistance and we are quite certain this phone is not water resistant either. The biggest complaint I’ve heard is the removal of the headphone jack. It seems like everybody and their mother is taking this out, with Motorola and Apple leading the charge. To be honest, this does not affect me personally as I’ve moved completely to Bluetooth headphones, but a physical jack would definitely be handy if (and when) I do forget the 3.5mm to USB-C dongle. We find a microSD card slot conspicuously missing.

Solid & Generic

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Display

The older Mi Note 2 utilized an AMOLED display with the controversial Pentile arrangement, but this time Xiaomi has transitioned the Mi Note 3 away from AMOLED back to regular old LCD. The LCD screen at first glance is merely average because of the pastel colour palette that MIUI generally adopts, however you start seeing how vibrant and colourful the screen can get when you peek at a colour video or photo. The resolution stays at 1080p instead moving up to 2K, and this is in my opinion the right decision, no need to take that small hit in battery life for more pixels that have a nigh imperceptible difference, focus instead on improving colour gamut and contrast. Maximum brightness tops out around 550 nits, more than enough for use in direct sunlight while the screen brightness dims to a barely visible level in a dark room. Touch response is excellent and we have Gorilla Glass 4 covering the screen also.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Audio

The dual stereo speakers produce excellent sound volume, easily matching the Xiaomi Mi6 and the older Mi Note 2. Audio quality is also good, an almost imperceptible difference between the more expensive Mi6 and this Note 3. However, it does distort at max volume occasionally.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Battery

I have pretty high hopes for battery life. While I fully expect the Snapdragon 660 to be less power efficient than the Snapdragon 625, it shouldn’t fall that far behind. I am pleased to say that battery life here is excellent. Not Redmi Note 4X levels of excellent, but good nonetheless. I was able to get 8 hours of screen on time easily over a 16 hour day with over 20% left. This was a varied mix of use cases, about two hours of YouTube, two hours of gaming, and the rest was web browsing, Reddit, and social media. I also played music through Bluetooth for two hours also. While this isn’t going to match what the Redmi Note 4X is getting, it’s a lot closer to the Xiaomi Mi5x/Mi A1, even heavy users will be able to get through a single day without problems. The phone is also QuickCharge 3.0 capable, and I could bring the battery to 70% within a single hour.

Great battery life

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Software

MIUI is a known quantity to those of us who are Gizchina regulars. However, the Mi Note 3 comes with the latest MIUI9 within which comes a few new features, many of which promise to improve the MIUI experience. We all know that MIUI takes a very aggressive app management style, killing apps when you exit them or turn the screen off in order to improve battery life and free up RAM, an annoyance those of us who don’t need this kind of management. Xiaomi has implemented a new “Doze” mode that hibernates apps instead of killing them when your screen is off for a long time, and it definitely works well, no longer requiring an app relaunch every time you turn the phone back on. You can also quick reply to notifications, something MIUI users have been pining for since Android Lollipop was released. Finally, MIUI has promises improved RAM optimization meaning that MIUI uses less RAM and it does deliver on that promise, cutting down RAM use fairly healthily, not that it will affect you on the Mi Note 3 since there are 6GB of RAM.General use is very smooth and very fast, whether I’m navigating through MIUI or using the Nova Launcher. I do detect very slight lag compared to the Xiaomi Mi6, but its imperceptible to those who have not used both. Opening and closing apps is also slightly slower than the Mi6, and this can be seen on video, the Mi Note 3 takes an additional microsecond to open the app. It feels about as fast opening apps as a brand new Snapdragon 821 phone like the Galaxy S7. Multitasking is obviously no problem with 6GB of RAM. Gaming for all intents and purposes is just as fast as the Xiaomi Mi6, with all the intense games playable at the highest settings.

The fingerprint sensor on the front is blazing fast, bordering on instant. It matches the Xiaomi Mi6 and the Oneplus 5 in terms of speed and accuracy. There is also face unlock and while it does work, its slow enough that I don’t use it at all, I turn it off.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Connectivity

I was able to get great reception anywhere I went, even down in Mexico on AT&T, getting 4G LTE everywhere, even a moderately remote construction site. Speeds are blazing fast, even faster than my Zuk Z2, giving me a whole new way to eat my data at unheard of speeds.With the removal of the headphone jack, Bluetooth better be good, and it is. I was able to connect to all my Bluetooth devices including a car stereo, two Bluetooth earbuds, a Bluetooth headphone, and a Bluetooth speaker. WiFi signal strength is excellent also. Navigating using the Mi Note 3 is excellent both in Canada and in Mexico.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Camera

Specifications wise, the camera module here is rather packed for the now midrange Mi Note 3. It features the exact same setup as the Xiaomi Mi6, a 12MP 27mm wide angle lens and a narrower 12MP 52mm portrait lens, both of which support 4-axis OIS.
The camera app is simple and standard across MIUI devices, with a few added features to support the dual lens; you can switch between the two lenses by switching zoom levels from 1x to 2x.So starting with the 27mm wide angle lens (or 1x zoom in the camera app), the camera captures great looking photos in good lighting conditions. The camera records great exposure and colour saturation, it’s definitely a little oversaturated, but that’s exactly how I like my photos. Detail levels in good lighting conditions are great also, no issues here.
When you switch zoom levels to 2x, you switch over to the 52mm lens and to my eyes, photos in this mode are slightly sharper than what you get on the wide angles. The framing of the 52mm lens is also perfect for taking photos of people as opposed to landscapes.In low light, the 52mm lens (2x zoom) fills with noise a lot faster than the wide angle, which is actually quite capable of taking shots in low light. It balances noise reduction and detail quite well, giving you useable low light shots.You can turn on HDR and this boosts shadows significantly and even gets your photos even more saturated, even more to my liking!

There is also portrait mode that adds Bokeh to the background, and it does it quite well, separating the subject from the background fairly well, but zooming in will show you the aberrations in the separation.The front facing camera is just about average, but it includes A.I enhanced software to beautify your face, smoothing out wrinkles, removing blemishes and making your face look more like a baby’s (albeit somewhat artificially). I turned it off as most of my selfies include a certain canine, but it does work fairly well in making your face as smooth as a silk.

Moving on to video, the phone captures full 4K video and video detail is great, colour and contrast are both captured well. OIS does its job well in 4K, smoothing out some jitters that naturally arise from handheld shooting.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Camera Gallery

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Verdict

You can look at the Mi Note 3 from two perspectives. First, it could be a midrange device with a great camera that peeks into flagship level territory with an almost imperceptible performance difference to the more expensive Mi6. Or, it was a flagship device hobbled by the use of the Snapdragon 660 and is now a midrange device with leftover flagship bits. Either way, you’re getting an amazing if somewhat bland device that is great in every aspect. But, and there’s always a but, the high $379USD starting price calls into question the value you are getting with the Mi Note 3, considering the slightly better Xiaomi Mi6 is cheaper than this. A slight upside to the Mi Note 3 are the grey market prices, which usually add a good $70 to such a new product, but in this case, a premium of between $30-40 is applied to those of us outside China.

In a sentence, the Xiaomi Mi Note 3 is a great but overpriced piece of hardware.

Great & Overpriced

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 Gallery

  • Build Quality
  • Display
  • Audio
  • Battery
  • Software & Performance
  • Connectivity
  • Camera
3.9

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  • Lazar Prodanovic

    With the price is D.O.A. needs to be chipper that Mi 5 to gain traction. So this whose a huge miss from Xiaomi.

    • Wolvie

      You will be surprise that out there a lot of people will still queue to buy this low spec and high price phone

      • Yes, but those people are most likely not tech nerds like us, just regular people or Xiaomi fanboys

      • Lazar Prodanovic

        It’s a miss & a big one. As you can buy last year’s Mi 5 for less than 250$ giving 380$ for this actually is far from a good choice… I do like S660 (which is cheaper than S82x) but not at that cost.

        • I think you missed mine and Wolvie’s point.
          People will buy a $1000 S8 over a Mi6, same specs. There are people in the world who don’t care about specifications.

          • Lazar Prodanovic

            Yes & we usually call those iPhone users. We live in the era of tech just for tech where we consider it as jewelry one’s when it starts to think it self it will eat sorrowful creatures that we become.

            • The large majority of people do not think like us or buy like us either. That’s why marketing works instead of selling a good phone for a cheap price.

            • balcobomber25

              We call them “average consumers”. They purchase Samsung, Apple, LG, Google, Oppo and every other brand of smartphone you can think of. They don’t care about specs like we do. They care about the brand name, the popularity, promotions etc. Most couldn’t even tell you what SoC stands for let alone the differences between a SD835 and 660.

          • Flipp0

            Many tech geeks also prefer S8 compared to Mi6 even tough it is much more expensive. Even tech geeks value the better screen, much better camera and bezelless design of S8.

        • Flipp0

          At the moment you can get Mi Note 3 for around $330 https://www.kimovil.com/en/where-to-buy-xiaomi-mi-note-3
          I would go for Note 3 over Mi 5 since the former phone has much better battery life, a larger screen and a better camera setup.

          • Michel

            Hi, I need your opinion
            regarding a purchase. I can get the RN4 Global Edition with 4GB Ram at
            129,79€ on Gearbest website but at the same time I really like the Mi
            Note 3 which is sold around 284€ excluding shipping costs. My feeling is
            that the RN4 is little dated nowadays and I was wondering if it is a
            good idea to spend 130€ in order to get it. Also, Xiaomi is going to
            release the RN5 pretty soon according the recent leaks but when exactly?
            At this stage nobody knows…The Mi Note 3 seems to be a very good
            phone for the price asked but still a bit expensive for a phone that has
            the SD660 CPU. I could live with the fact that the phone do not the B20
            used in my country. Mi Note 3 is overall a much better phone compared
            to RN4. What would you do if you were me? Thanks in advance! Peace.

            • Flipp0

              Do you need a decent camera? If so I would go with Mi Note 4. If not, I would go for Redmi Note 4 or wait for Redmi Note 5. I will probably buy a Mi Note 3 and install Google camera with HDR+.

            • Michel

              Thank you for your honest opinion. I have never spend more than 150€ for a phone but I guess that a decent camera might be useful in some occasions. Even if the RN5 will be very attractive in terms of pricing, if it has a bigger screen like the Mi Mix 2 it will in my opinion scatter easily if you drop it from your pocket. I mean that I can’t buy a new phone every month. Mi Note 3 has a better build quality and amazing design. 5.5″ is more than enough for me and the phone is still compact.

              If you are interested by the Mi Note 3, Gearbest sell the phone at 278€ (using the coupon “BJnote3”) for the base variant. It is still expensive but I think that its price will decline significantly if you are willing to wait for at least 6-9 months.

      • balcobomber25

        Yup just look at what OPPO and Vivo have done over the past few years. They invented this market of super premium midrange devices. Devices with midrange specs that sell for flagship prices and both have sold tens of millions of phones this way.

    • balcobomber25

      One of the top selling phones in the world right now is the Oppo R11 which has nearly the same specs and costs more.

      Average Consumers don’t buy phones based off specs, tech geeks do.

      • Lazar Prodanovic

        Sheep’s are easy to skin off. I am neither your abridge common folk nor a typical person disregarding of your point of view regarding it. I do like real teach progress which is rather slow thanks to mentioned sheep’s along with common commercial (prosumer) way thinks are done this day’s. How ever I am good on fixing things OEM’s (you name it) aren’t capable of so actually common folks do have some kind of use of me. It’s your choice entirely how you spend your time, effort and money. When it comes to phone I pick what satisfies my needs (nothing more & nothing less) other than that price difference I make I am more keen throwing away on trivial things as partying as what a hell you only live once.

        • balcobomber25

          You always seem to lack the ability to grasp the idea that you aren’t the target audience for any of these devices. To you it is a failure, but to actual customers it will sell in the tens of millions.

          • Lazar Prodanovic

            Lol… Targeted audience? Previous Mi Note owners won’t buy it not because of the price but because it’s a disappointment for them as it stranded before as the only true Mi flagship & N3 in the best case stands for higher end midrange. People who want bang for $$ won’t buy it either as their are much better deals & cetera. Tens of M? Well with all old & new models Xiaomi me by reaches 90M which would be their record & majority of it will be Readmi series. N3 won’t account for more than a 1% of that because it’s failure if it isn’t that would be 2~5%. Which is far from ten M not to mention cuple of them, this ain’t Samsung flagship to reach such a sails results.

            • balcobomber25

              Previous Mi Note owners are buying it which completely destroys your argument.

  • balcobomber25

    It was quite obvious from the moment this launched that this was a phone by Xiaomi to challenge Oppo and Vivo in the super midrange market. Compared to those phones this is an excellent option. The problem is every review isn’t comparing it to those two (which use the same SoC).

    • Michel

      Hi Balco, hope you are well. Sorry to bother you, I need your opinion
      regarding a purchase. I am asking your opinion because I never spent more than 150€ for a phone in my life. I can get the RN4 Global Edition with 4GB Ram at
      129,79€ on Gearbest website but at the same time I really like the Mi
      Note 3 which is sold around 284€ excluding shipping costs. My feeling is
      that the RN4 is little dated nowadays and I was wondering if it is a
      good idea to spend 130€ in order to get it. Also, Xiaomi is going to
      release the RN5 pretty soon according the recent leaks but when exactly?
      At this stage nobody knows…The Mi Note 3 seems to be a very good
      phone for the price asked but still a bit expensive for a phone that has
      the SD660 CPU. I could live with the fact that the phone do not the B20
      used in my country. Mi Note 3 is overall a much better phone compared
      to RN4. What would you do if you were me? Thanks in advance! Peace.

      • Lazar Prodanovic

        I would wait for RN5.

    • Michel

      Hi Balco, hope all is well. I can get the Mi Note 3 at 278€ (without the insurance against potential
      loss which is 6,42€) on Gearbest. Is it a fair price according you or
      should I wait the price to decline significantly (after 6 months at least)? I have never ordered a phone on Gearbest, should I trust them? I can choose Colissimo shipping to France. The problem is that my
      Samsung S5 is dead and I use a basic phone at 10€. Thanks in advance!