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Xiaomi Mi 3 review: The way of the dragon

Introduction

Xiaomi one of the largest smartphone vendors in its homeland – China – and it’s one of the most popular Asian mobile brands. It has given the world the popular user-friendly MIUI for Android. But the crown jewel, of course, is their current flagship phone – the Xiaomi Mi 3.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is the company’s best-selling phone to date packing top-notch technology and blazing-fast Android experience. The MIUI launcher feels at home on a Xiaomi phone delivering amazing performance. It is very easy to use and yet hides some powerful functions and services for advanced users.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 official pictures

The Mi 3 has it all – a wonderful unibody design made out of polycarbonate, a 5″ IPS display of 1080p resolution, a top-notch Snapdragon 800 chipset with 2GB of RAM, a capable 13MP camera with Full HD video recording, and a massive 3,050 mAh battery for long-lasting smartphone experience.

Sounds great, right? Here comes the complete feature list.

Key features

  • 5″ IPS 1080p capacitive touchscreen with 441pi pixel density; Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat with MIUI v.5
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU; 2GB of RAM; Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset
  • 13MP camera with dual-LED flash, 1080p video capture
  • 2MP front-facing camera with BSI sensor; wide-angle f/2.0 lens; HDR; 1080p video recording
  • 16/64 GB of built-in memory
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated microphone
  • 3,050mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • No LTE
  • No 4K video recording
  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • No wired TV-out connectivity option
  • No microSD card slot
  • Sold exclusively online

The implementation of a unibody shell has required some sacrifices though, as in the inability to replace your battery being the most major. The lack of microSD card slot is surely a bummer for some, but this trend seems to be spreading among lots of popular manufacturers lately. The lack of 4K video isn’t something we would hold against it, if it wasn’t for its flagship status.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 live photos

Enough with the small talk, let’s get down to business, shall we? Our Xiaomi Mi 3 exterior tour kicks off right after the jump.

Unboxing the Xiaomi Mi 3

Xiaomi Mi 3 comes in a pretty much standard box, made out of recycled paper. Inside we find a basic set of accessories – a microUSB, a 1A wall plug and a SIM ejector pin.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 retail box

XiaomiShop.com, the provider of our review unit, throws in a bunch of freebies in every box and ours came with a screen protector, a fancy flip case, an EU adapter, a USB car charger plug, and a small capacitive stylus that conveniently plugs into the 3.5mm audio jack.

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The accessories XiaomiShop throws in for free

Xiaomi Mi 3 360-degree spin

Xiaomi Mi 3 spreads at 144 x 73.6 x 8.1 mm and weighs about 145g. This is exactly the same footprint as Sony Xperia Z1’s, but lighter. Unfortunately this means the Xiaomi Mi 3 also has rather big screen bezels.

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Design and build quality

The Xiaomi Mi 3 features a stylish polycarbonate chassis that wraps around the sides of the device a lot like some Nokia Lumia phone do. While this makes the 3050mAh battery inaccessible, the rounded edges mean the device is a pleasure to hold. We’ve always liked Nokia’s choice of materials for its top Lumia models and we are glad to see the polycarbonate working out for another brand.

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Xiaomi Mi 3

The rear side finish promises no nasty fingerprint smudges. The pitch black front contributes to the overall classy feeling and is very easy to clean. You can barely see where the IPS display ends and the frame begins.

Xiaomi Mi 3 was designed to look and feel like the flagship device it is. You will easily pick it up when put in whatever lineup of devices no matter it doesn’t bet on any iconic elements as some of its competitors. It is likeable and beautiful, thoughtfully designed with usability and style in mind.

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Handling the Xiaomi Mi 3

Handling the Xiaomi Mi 3 is as pleasurable as it can get – the polycarbonate unibody is solid and provides great grip thanks to its matte surface. The Mi 3 is just 8mm thin, but its wide footprint doesn’t allow you to forget it’s in your pocket.

Display

The Xiaomi Mi 3 features a 5″ Full HD IPS display with a pixel density of 441ppi, which places it among the best in-class. It’s covered by Gorilla Glass 3 for protection against scratches and cracks from pressure.

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The 5″ IPS display Xiaomi Mi 3

Here is the display matrix of the Xiaomi Mi 3 shot from upclose. Taking a closer look at it under our digital microscope reveals a standard RGB arrangement of the sub-pixels that make up the Xiaomi Mi 3 LCD panel, not that we’ve expected anything else.

Xiaomi Mi 3

The display on the Xiaomi Mi 3 is bright enough at 100% with good contrast and colors. Unfortunately dropping the brightness reduces the contrast and the screen becomes dim very soon, which makes us believe 50% of the brightness scrubber is way below 50% of the actual brightness.

Unfortunately, the brightness of the screen is uneven with the backlight source being pretty visible at the top of the screen. When you have a white page opened on the screen you can easily notice the gradual brightness falloff from top to bottom. On the positive side, that’s only visible with a full-on white or gray screen – in any other case it’s as good as invisible.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Xiaomi Mi 3 0.18 142 809 0.61 557 907
LG G2 0.1 149 1522 0.45 667 1495
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 0 201 0 404
Sony Xperia Z1 0.38 580 1513
Huawei Ascend P7 0.13 101 807 0.79 668 843
Oppo Find 7a 0.33 280 842 0.68 580 852
Sony Xperia Z2 0.41 488 1195
Gionee Elife S5.5 0 178 0 330

The sunlight legibility isn’t great, but the Xiaomi Mi 3’s display is still usable outside and you will be able to see what’s happening on the screen.

Sunlight contrast ratio:

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Xiaomi is providing options for color temperature and saturation. Glove mode is available too, but you probably shouldn’t leave that turned on if you don’t need it because it may drain your battery faster.

Finally there is an option to prevent accidental unlocks of your screen, while the phone is in your pocket. If enabled, you won’t be able to unlock the scren while something is covering the proximity sensor. Again, that would take its toll on the battery life.

Controls

Exploring all the Xiaomi Mi 3 controls brings no surprises. On the front we find the 5″ IPS 1080p display protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Above the screen go the earpiece, the ambient light and proximity sensor, as well as the 2MP front-facing camera.

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The 5″ display • looking above and below the screen

Unlike most of the phones we get to review today, the Xiaomi Mi 3 brings back the capacitive control deck below the display thus not cutting off screen resolution. The trio uses the older arrangement with Menu, Home and Back keys.

There is absolutely nothing on the phone’s left side but things get busier on the right. The volume rocker is there, along with the power/lock key.

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The left side is perfectly bare • the volume rocker and the power/lock key are on the right

At the top has the 3.5mm audio jack, the secondary microphone and the miniSIM tray. Moving on to the bottom of the phone we find the microUSB port right next to a huge grille hiding the loudspeaker and the primary microphone.

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A peek at the top and bottom of the Xiaomi Mi 3

The back of the device is where the 13MP camera lens and dual LED flash can be found.

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The 13MP camera lens is on the back

The 3,050 mAh battery hides beneath the polycarbonate rear shell and is non-removable. There is no microSD card slot on the Xiaomi Mi 3 either.

Battery Life

Xiaomi has put a 3,050mAh battery inside the Mi 3, quite an impressive unit for a 5″ device. We ran our battery test and the Xiaomi Mi 3 scored 66 hours, which means you can count on few hours short of 3 days if you do an hour each of calling, web browsing and playing video per day.

Xiaomi Mi 3

Note that we’ve tested the web browser test on Google Chrome, as the default MIUI browser crashed occasionally during our traditional battery routine.

Connectivity

Even though the Xiaomi MI 3 runs on the capable Snapdragon 800 chipset it lacks LTE connectivity. It relies on quad-band GSM connectivity and quad-band 3G connectivity with HSPA support.

The rest of the connectivity features include dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS, plus an FM radio.

There is NFC connectivity, too, with support for Android Beam for sending files to other Android devices.

There is a microUSB 2.0 port for charging and data connections. Media transfer mode is supported for accessing the phone’s built-in memory and microSD card over a USB connection.

There’s also USB On-the-go for connecting USB peripherals such as pen drives, keyboards or real USB hard drives.

The microUSB port doesn’t have any TV-out functionality, but if you have a compatible HDTV, you can mirror your phone’s screen wirelessly via the Miracast protocol.

User interface – MIUI v5 on top of Android 4.4 KitKat

Xiaomi Mi 3 runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box skinned with company’s proprietary MIUI v5. The MIUI ROMs have been around for quite a while and are fairly popular among the Android community. Xiaomi’s customizations run very deep and replace everything including all Google services, but you can get them from the Mi Market.

In fact some regional versions of the Mi 3 come with the Google Services built right in so you don’t even need to install them. The Mi 3 review unit we have is for the Chinese market, so there might be differences with other regional versions.

Here’s quick walkthrough of the MIUI v5 on video to get you started:

The lockscreen looks very familiar and we’ve already seen similar in Huawei’s Emotion UI. There is centered circle with shortcuts in the four cardinal directions: simple unlock to the South, start the camera to the North, messaging is to the East and the dialer/call log is to the West.

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The MIUI v5 lockscreen

Beyond the lockscreen is the Android homescreen with four customizable shortcuts docked at the bottom, but you can dock up to five items. The default selection is phone app, contacts, camera, and messages but you can have any app really, or folders with multiple items, visible on all homescreens.

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The MIUI homescreens • there is no app drawer

There is no app drawer – anything you install pops up on your unlimited number of homescreens. There’re no shortcuts and the usual routine of removing icons (dragging them up to a recycle bin at the top of the screen) will uninstall the corresponding app. The thing is fool-proof and you can’t accidentally uninstall essential apps like the gallery or email client.

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Homescreen overview • launcher settings

Widgets are available too – tap and hold on the homescreen, then choose Widgets. Of course, you can get third party widgets from the Play Store.

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Customization menu • widgets • wallpapers • transition effects

By the way, Xiaomi’s proprietary Search widget does a similar job as iOS’s Spotlight system-wide search. It even goes further and suggests internet search results.

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MIUI’s Search widget

Homescreen effects are available from the customization menu. You can change themes, too. A theme will change your homescreen wallpaper, lockscreen style, system icons, system font and the sound profile.

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Themes repository

The notification area has two tabs – the first one holds all notifications, while the second is a 4×4 grid of toggles. You can add, remove and rearrange toggles. The Quick Settings tab is the one that opens by default unless you have unread notifications. Nice touch!

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Toggles • Notifications • Expandable notifications

The task switcher has the icons of all currently opened apps in a single row plus there is a Clean All shortcut to kill all apps.

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The task switcher • killing all and freeing up some RAM

Xiaomi provides its own app repository and cloud service for content syncing between devices. While the Mi Market somewhat mirrors the Play Store functionality, Mi Cloud is a different story.

Each Mi Cloud account is granted with 5GB of free storage. You can use it to backup contacts, messages, your entire gallery, call log, notes, settings, voice recordings, Browser content (history, tabs, webapp data) and your music library. Sounds familiar? Yes, indeed! Xiaomi’s sync and backup service shares lots of similarities with the Apple iCloud. There is even a free Cloud Messaging option that allows Xiaomi users to exchange messages over the internet connection instead of being billed for SMS.

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Configuring Mi Cloud and Cloud Messaging

Finally, if you singed in with your Mi Cloud account you can opt for the Find device function – a handy feature in case you lose your Xiaomi Mi 3 or someone steals it.

As far as the smart assistants are concerned – you can either opt for the familiar Google Now (you can install Google Search if it is no available by default) or you can launch Xiaomi’s proprietary Voice Assistant. The latter looks a lot like Siri in both user interface and functionality, but unfortunately works only in Chinese and we couldn’t test it as our Chinese is a bit… rusty.

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Xiaomi’s Assist

The virtual assistant is summoned with a tap and hold on the Menu key and you can configure the default on – Google Now or Xiaomi’s.

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The voice assistant menu • Google Now

Performance

Xiaomi Mi 3 runs on the popular and powerful Snapdragon 800 chipset with a quad-core 2.3GHz Krait 400 processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The Mi 3 comes with a 1080p display, which means the smartphone should be on par with the 2013 flagships featuring the same combo – Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G2, Sony Xperia Z1, plus the recently launched Oppo Find 7a.

Our first tests explores the raw CPU power, but for some reason Xiaomi Mi 3 fails to impress here. We did the test a couple of times, but either the app or the software optimizations are incompatible with the GeekBench 3 CPU benchmark.

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Things immediately got better when we ran the AnTuTu compound tests, which in addition to the CPU calculations, throws in GPU and RAM routines, too. The Xiaomi Mi 3 gets an excellent mark here.

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We’ve tested both regular and anti-cheat version of the popular Basemark OS II benchmark and we found the Xiaomi Mi 3 doesn’t use any tricks to boost the scores. It does excellent on all three test we keep track of, so you shouldn’t worry about any performance hiccups.

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The Adreno 330 is a wide-spread GPU core and we already knew what to expect. The Xiaomi Mi 3 is on par with the Oppo Find 7a and beating the rest of the competition in both the on-screen and off-screen tests.

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The Open GL ES3.0 Manhattan test puts the Xiaomi Mi 3 among the best devices we’ve tested o far.

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The BrowserMark 2.1 tests HTML 5 performance, while Mozilla’s Kraken 1.1 is JavaScript-centric. The Xiaomi Mi 3 did great on Kraken, but somewhat average on the compound BrowserMark test.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 and its Snapdragon 800 chipsets deliver excellent raw performance and provide hiccup-free gaming and blazing-fast Android + MIUI performance. There is nothing the Xiaomi Mi 3 can’t do and it will have no one disappointed.

Contact management and telephony

The dialer and the phonebook share a single app although there are two shortcuts. The app uses a tabbed interface – recent with dialer, then there’s the contact list and directory (a.k.a. groups).

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The Phonebook

The Directory tab is updated automatically online and has various contacts for bars, restaurants, health clinics, flight agencies, hotels, cleaning services, among others. Unfortunately those work only in China, but if you are going to use your Xiaomi phone in China – then this should be of extreme value to you.

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Directory

Contact info is displayed as a list of all available details. Custom ringtones can be selected for each contact and duplicate contacts can be merged into a single entry.

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Managing a single contact

The dialer supports Smart dialing just fine (looking up both names and phone numbers).

Xiaomi Mi 3 supports voice call recording and it can do it automatically on each call if you like. You can also assign an answer gesture, pre-define quick responses upon reject, there is even support for internet calling.

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The Dialer • settings

There are even more call settings if you dig deeper into the menu – flip to mute the ringer, turn on/off the proximity sensor, lock automatically once slipped in a pocket, it can even mute calls from unknown numbers.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 scored a mark of Below average on our loudspeaker tests, meaning you are likely to miss some calls and notifications if you are in a noisy environment.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia Z1 65.7 61.3 66.7 Below Average
LG G2 65.7 62.2 66.2 Below Average
Xiaomi Mi 3 64.9 64.8 66.6 Below Average
Huawei Ascend P7 63.9 66.1 70.9 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z2 66.7 64.6 75.7 Average
Oppo Find 7a 71.7 66.6 75.7 Good
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 70.6 66.2 77.3 Good
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005 70.5 66.6 78.0 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 73.5 67.7 78.7 Very Good
OnePlus One 74.8 73.5 80.2 Excellent

Messaging and email

The messaging department is pretty standard – there’s a list of all bubble-styled conversations organized into threads, with New Message and Search keys at the bottom and a settings button next to it.

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Messaging

Attaching multimedia to a message will turn it into an MMS. You can add everything from photos, videos, audio to general files. There’s even a full blown slide editor if you want to make full use of the MMS standard. The Attach location option is pretty nice too.

Moving on to email, the Gmail app (if included) has handy shortcuts at the bottom of the screen and supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The default app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there’s no unified inbox.

There is also a generic email app for all your other email accounts and it can handle multiple Exchange, POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online, side by side with the standard local ones such as inbox, drafts and sent items.

MIUI relies on Google keyboard for the text input – it has always been pleasure to use and is one of the most preferred Android keyboards out there. On this screen the keys are comfortably large in both portrait and landscape mode. There is support for gesture typing, handwriting and voice input.

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Google keyboard

Image gallery

The Xiaomi Mi 3 comes with a custom Gallery app. It defaults to your camera roll with two shortcuts at the bottom that will take you to album view of your local images and album view of your cloud pictures. You can’t change this view, nor can you customize the default folders.

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Gallery

The available features when viewing a single image are pretty standard – set image as wallpaper/contact image, share it, delete it, enter edit mode or just get more info.

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Viewing a single image • options

The integrated editor offers various effects, frames, tools (crop, mirror, straighten, rotate, fisheye, doodle) plus light adjustments that let you bring out the shadows or the highlights.

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Editing an image

Music player

The MIUI music player is a custom app with a well-laid out, easy to navigate interface. It has a huge visualization screen doubling as a Now Playing windows. Below you get four non-customizable tabs – All Songs, Artists, Playlists and Online.

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Music Player

The Online tab is where you pay for the Baidu Music service, which allows you to listen to their huge online track collection. Here you can also find various internet radio stations you can listen for free.

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Online music and online radios

The player has cool 3D effects, transitions and transparent elements, especially on the expandable Now Playing section.

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Now Playing screen

Xiaomi’s Music app offers customizable equalizers with a few default presets already available for you. You can also try Xiaomi’s MiSound enhancer, which comes into play when you use Xiaomi-branded headphones.

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Audio enhancements and equalizers • Editing a song

Finally, you can edit song info and you can also enable automatic song info download in case the ID3 tags are empty. Lyrics can be downloaded, too.

FM radio

The phone has an FM receiver and supports radio recording. There is a sleep timer as well.

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FM radio app

Video player

Xiaomi’s video player has very basic interface but rich video decoder support. It managed to play everything we threw at it but WMV files. AC3 audio codec is supported too. Interestingly, the player won’t list MKV files, but it can still play them hassle-free, if you access them from the file manager.

The video player, just like the music player, offers access to a paid video streaming services for movies and TV shows.

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Video player

Subtitles and pop-up play are not supported by the MIUI’s Video app.

Mediocre audio quality

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is aiming at the proper flagship territory and it’s facing some pretty serious rivals when it comes to audio reproduction qualities. The smartphone will have to prove itself against the likes of Samsung Galaxy S5 and, more notably, the HTC One (M8).

Unfortunately, the Mi 3 just doesn’t have the skills to be anywhere near the level required to fight it out for the best music player around. Its performance with an active external amplifier was a mixed bag, combining below-par volume levels with disappointingly high stereo crosstalk and distortion levels and less than stellar frequency response. The other readings were good, but they weren’t enough to salvage more than a mediocre performance.

It was more of the same when we plugged in a pair of headphones. Stereo crosstalk worsened a bit more, while the other parts of the Mi 3 performance were at the same level as before. That’s normally a good thing, but given that they were somewhat disappointing to begin with, we don’t think it’s worth celebrating on this occasion.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Xiaomi Mi 3 +0.11, -1.52 -91.5 89.5 0.0037 0.359 -68.9
Xiaomi Mi 3 (headphones attached) +0.63, -1.01 -91.5 89.6 0.0092 0.365 -44.2
Nokia Lumia 930 +0.12, -0.02 -91.4 90.7 0.0099 0.101 -90.3
Nokia Lumia 930 (headphones attached) +0.19, -0.43 -89.4 90.7 0.012 0.501 -55.8
Samsung Galaxy S5 +0.02, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0017 0.0089 -95.2
Samsung Galaxy S5 (headphones) +0.01, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0095 0.018 -61.9
LG G3 +0.02, -0.08 -99.4 98.9 0.0016 0.035 -100.0
LG G3 (headphones attached) +0.02, -0.09 -93.7 93.3 0.0060 0.032 -78.5
Sony Xperia Z2 +0.02, -0.08 -88.2 90.1 0.0063 0.013 -88.9
Sony Xperia Z2 (headphones attached) +0.08, -0.04 -84.7 87.6 0.120 0.066 -60.2
HTC One (M8) +0.04, -0.10 -95.4 93.4 0.0012 0.010 -93.2
HTC One (M8) (headphones) +0.04, -0.08 -94.9 93.9 0.0014 0.018 -79.7

Xiaomi Mi 3 frequency response
Xiaomi Mi 3 frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

13 MP camera does a great job

Xiaomi Mi 3 features a 13MP camera coupled with a dual LED flash to help you with the low-light scenes.

The interface is fairly standard – everything is placed at the two side bars. On the left you get front camera shortcut, camera/camcorder switch and flash settings. The right sidebar has the settings toggle, the camera shutter and the gallery shortcut.

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Camera UI

The settings offer HDR, scenes, focus mode, white balance, exposure and ISO manual settings, among others. The Face Detection and Image stabilization switches are within the additional settings (the small gear key).

Xiaomi Mi 3’s camera resolves plenty of detail. The colors are somewhat oversaturated and the white balance sometimes is off, but overall, the Mi 3 image quality is great.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 camera samples

The HDR mode is conservative and rescues both the highlights and shadows without making the contrast too low.

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HDR off • HDR on • HDR off • HDR on

Panorama shots are available too – you can capture both landscape and portrait panoramic photos at about 180 degree. Shooting is easy but the stitching takes more than a minute to complete. The end result isn’t as impressive as we’ve expected – the portrait shots come in 3400x1200px pixels while the landscape mode results in 4000x700px.

While the panoramic images are stitched very well, the quality and resolution are below the competition. The exposure is way off, too.

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Xiaomi Mi 3
Panorama samples

Xiaomi Mi 3 features a 2MP front-facing camera for shooting 16:9 selfies. The images lack proper sharpness and are somewhat less saturated than we would like them to be. On the positive side, there is no visible geometrical distortion and closeups of faces turn out looking just fine.

An intriguing feature is the skin enhancement effect, which tries to guess guess your age and sex while you are framing the shot and it reports them right in the viewfinder. We guess it’s even supposed to adjust the enhancement accordingly, but for us, it ruined every single shot with the skin coming out way too unnatural.

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A 2MP picture taken with the front camera

Photo comparison tool

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is more than capable of carrying its own weight in our Photo Comparison tool. You can see it does pretty well against the other 13 MP snappers.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 in our photo compare tool

Video recording

Xiaomi Mi 3’s camcorder shares the same UI as the still camera. It supports slow-motion videos and time-lapse videos with customizable snapping interval.

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Camcorder UI

Image stabilization is available too and it manages to keep the video steadier, but as usual it will lower your field of view significantly.

You can also capture 10MP images during video recording. Here are two samples of such snapped pictures:

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Pictures taken while recording a video

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is capable or recording 1080p@30fps videos. The clips have a bitrate of around 15 Mbps, audio is captured at 96 Kbps with a sampling rate of 48 kHz with 2 channels (read stereo).

The detail levels in the videos are high, while colors are pretty good and the framerate very consistent at 29fps. Contrast and white balance are great too for some impressive footage overall.

Here is a 1080p video we’ve uploaded on YouTube.

And here’s an untouched 1080p @ 30fps video sample taken straight off the Xiaomi Mi 3.

Video quality comparison tool

The Xiaomi Mi 3 enters our video comparison too. There are plenty of 1080p camcorders you can compare it to, but it has proven to be among the best with great detail, colors, and contrast.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 in our video compare tool

MIUI Browser comes pre-installed, you should install Chrome too

The Xiaomi Mi 3 comes with the feature-rich MIUI Browser. It does a great job browsing, syncing with your Google account, supports downloads, there is a night mode too. It is as fast as Chrome, but does not support Find on Page or copy text (only links).

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Mi Browser

The MIUI Browser turned less capable of handling pressure – it couldn’t handle our battery-test browsing script for more than three minutes without crashing. That’s why we suggest you install Chrome – just in case you need to avoid crashes or you need to find something on a page. Plus it can sync with your Google account easily.

Other pre-installed apps

The Xiaomi Mi 3 offers a great file managing app called Explorer, but there is no document viewer/editor pre-installed. There are plenty for free in the Play Store though (even ones made by Google), so this shouldn’t be a problem.

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Explorer

The custom Calendar looks good, syncs with your accounts including Google, and offers Day and Month views.

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Calendar

There are also the standard sound recorder, notes, flashlight, calculator, clock, and weather apps, among others, that are a given in any self-respecting Android package nowadays.

By the way, you can activate the torch from the lockscreen by a tap-and-hold on the Home key.

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Voice recorder • Notes • Calculator • Weather

When it comes to getting around, the Xiaomi Mi 3 relies on Google Maps and Navigation. Naturally, if Google Maps isn’t installed on yours, you can get it for free. The app offers much of the same functionality as its web-based counterpart, although you will need a data connection to take full advantage of the navigation features. Street view mode with digital compass enabled is an especially neat thing that you should definitely check out if you haven’t already.

Whatever you may be missing, you’ll find it in Google’s Play Store or Xiaomi’s Mi Store for sure.

Xiaomi Mi 3 Xiaomi Mi 3 Xiaomi Mi 3 Xiaomi Mi 3

Google Play Store • Mi Store

Final words

Xiaomi Mi 3 offers everything a flagship should have – premium and stylish design, a top-quality display, latest generation chipset, capable camera and snappy Android KitKat with great MIUI launcher. As it always happens there is more to the story.

Xiaomi’s best-selling smartphone is made to stand out. You’ll recognize it not only by its aesthetics, but also by its user-friendly MIUI.

The MIUI ROMs have gained tremendous popularity over the past years and have accumulated a massive user base and attracted a lively developing community (though the shared information is mostly in Chinese). Some of Xiaomi’s rival even launched their own Android skins, somewhat inspired by MIUI’s success. But MIUI has been designed to work on a Xiaomi phone in the first place and that’s why it feels right at home on the Mi 3. It’s a combination you’ll probably pick in a heartbeat. It is easy to see why people want it – it is affordable enough, yet manages to keep it all premium.

Xiaomi Mi 3

The success of the Xiaomi Mi 3 speaks for itself – the Mi 3 has sold millions of units in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore over the past few months. It is going pretty well in latest market – India. Of course, you can find the Xiaomi Mi 3 in Europe as well, but those are grey imports so we don’t have official sale numbers.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is available in 16GB and 64GB flavors, both of them lacking a microSD card slot. This is probably the thing many people won’t forgive, but that’s life we guess. In case you need more space, you’ll have to pay about $50 more for the 64GB version and that should be enough for most.

Let’s make a quick summary of our review findings:

Xiaomi Mi 3 key test findings:

  • Build quality is great, the phone is impressively slim
  • The display quality and sunlight legibility are OK
  • The battery life is very good
  • We rated the speaker loudness as Below Average
  • The intuitive MIUI interface is based on Android KitKat and offers rich customization options
  • The benchmark performance is almost excellent
  • The audio output quality is mediocre
  • Camera takes great photos and videos
  • Video player supports every audio and video codec except WMV

Sure, there is some competition, as you can imagine, and we’ll check it out.

Xiaomi has already announced the Mi 3 successor – Mi 4. It will upgrade the chipset to Snapdragon 801 with 3GB RAM and LTE connectivity, but keep the same display, camera, memory options and software package as the Mi 3. It offers new design with a metal frame but glossy plastic rear cover. It also comes with a price premium.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Last year’s top tier smartphones shouldn’t be overlooked as they’ve become very attractive with the recent price cuts. The Snapdragon 800-powered Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2 and Sony Xperia Z1 are selling as cupcakes nowadays. They all offer similar, if not better performance, better cameras and unique functions as water protection (Xperia Z2), optical image stabilization (LG G2), or the insanely feature-rich TouchWiz launcher (Galaxy S4). What they lack is Xiaomi’s easily customizable MIUI launcher and the low price tags Xiaomi is known for.

Samsung I9506 Galaxy S4 LG G2 Sony Xperia Z1
Samsung I9506 Galaxy S4 • LG G2 • Sony Xperia Z1

Xiaomi’s competition in the face of Huawei Ascend P7 is quite weak, because of the lesser chipset and battery capacity offered by Huawei, but the Oppo Find 7a is ready to give a good fight with a fair chance of winning because of its better camera capabilities. Then again, none of those two can beat Xiaomi’s pricing.

Huawei Ascend P7 Oppo Find 7a
Huawei Ascend P7 • Oppo Find 7a

Xiaomi Mi 3 isn’t perfect, but this doesn’t get in the way of the pleasant impression we are left with after our close encounter with the Mi 3. It’s is a classy device with snappy performance and even a head turner, too. That’s certainly enough by our books.

Mi3 Specs:

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
SIM Mini-SIM
Announced 2013, September
Status Available. Released 2013, December
BODY Dimensions 144 x 73.6 x 8.1 mm (5.67 x 2.90 x 0.32 in)
Weight 145 g (5.11 oz)
DISPLAY Type IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches (~441 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3
– MIUI 5.0
SOUND Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Card slot No
Internal 16/64 GB, 2 GB RAM
DATA GPRS Yes
EDGE Yes
Speed DC-HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP
NFC Yes
USB microUSB v2.0, USB On-the-go
CAMERA Primary 13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED flash,check quality
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face/smile detection, HDR
Video 1080p@30fps, HDR, check quality
Secondary 2 MP, 1080p@30fps
FEATURES OS Android OS, v4.3 (Jelly Bean), upgradable to v4.4.2 (KitKat)
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
CPU Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
Browser HTML5
Radio FM radio
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors White, Gray, Black, Yellow, Pink, Blue, Gold, Green (16 GB)
– Fast battery charging: 60% in 30 min (Quick Charge 2.0)
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP4/DivX/XviD/WMV/H.264/H.263 player
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/FLAC player
– Organizer
– Photo/video editor
– Document viewer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF)
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa
– Voice memo/dial/commands
– Predictive text input (Swype)
BATTERY Non-removable Li-Ion 3050 mAh battery
Stand-by Up to 500 h
Talk time Up to 25 h
Music play Up to 50 h
MISC Price group
Rs. 13999/-
TESTS Performance Basemark OS II: 1234
Display Contrast ratio: 907 (nominal), 2.001 (sunlight)
Camera Photo / Video
Loudspeaker Voice 69dB / Noise 66dB / Ring 75dB
Audio quality Noise -91.5dB / Crosstalk -44.2dB
Battery life

Endurance rating 66h

All thanks to GSM Arena

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