- Excellent battery life
- Android One is simple and sleek
- Large AMOLED display for media consumption
- Good camera
- Fair price point
- Average display for web browsing
- Dated processor
- Screen is dim under direct sunlight
Xiaomi recently released its very much anticipated Android One device for the year, in the form of the Mi A3. In a rather surprising move, the tech giant decided to add certain features, while downgrade other parts. One of the most controversial of which is the addition of an AMOLED panel, but with a 720p resolution, down from 1080p on the Mi A2. So, with the additions and omissions of certain features, how does the Mi A3 fare? Well, keep reading to find out!
Design & Build Quality
Our first stop is design and build quality, which is rather different compared to last years Mi A2. For starters, it has dropped a metal unibody for a typical glass sandwich design. However, it feels premium in the hand even at its price point, and is well protected by Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides. On the front, we have the controversial Super AMOLED screen with HD+ resolution, coupled with a 32MP selfie camera housed within a teardrop notch. Above the camera, the earpiece and a number of sensors can be found. There’s also a under-display optical fingerprint scanner on the front, which is a rather premium feature to have in current smartphones. Moving to the back, it is rather bare except for the triple-camera setup, and an LED flash placed beneath the vertical arrangement. As usual, the Xiaomi, and Android One logo are placed on the rear, along with other wordings.
At the bottom of the device, the USB Type-C port, and a downward firing speaker are situated. While there are two speaker grilles, only one emits audio, while the other is merely for aesthetics. All buttons are located on the right-side of the phone, with the volume rockers up top, followed by the power button. Meanwhile, the left-side contains the hybrid SIM slot, and it can either take two nano-SIM cards, or one SIM and one microSD. The memory expansion slot is a great inclusion, considering it was absent on the Mi A2. Finally, the top of the phone packs the most surprises, with the return of the headphone jack, as well as the IR blaster. It’s great to see that Xiaomi listened to the feedback from customers and did right by it.
Here comes the Achilles heel of the Mi A3, in the form of its display. While the Super AMOLED is an upgrade over the IPS LCD from the previous iterations, the resolution has been downgraded to HD+. At first glance, this isn’t an issue, but if you look closely, you’ll be able to see individual pixels especially on solid coloured backgrounds. Text will also appear rather weird if looked at closely, so this device isn’t recommended if you do tons of reading on your phone. However, as an AMOLED panel, it does a great job at displaying deep blacks, and colours look extremely nice. Video consumption on the Mi A3 is immersive, and pixelation isn’t noticeable during such occasions.
When it comes to sunlight legibility, the Mi A3 doesn’t perform well under extreme bright conditions. On multiple occasions, I had trouble viewing messages and such due to the dark display. Meanwhile, the minimum brightness isn’t that dim either, so using the phone in the dark will cause eye fatigue for sure. Overall, the display isn’t really an upgrade from the previous year, nor is it a downgrade. Xiaomi had to cut corners somewhere to make room for other features.
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 chipset coupled with an Adreno 610 GPU, and 4 / 6 GB of RAM, the Mi A3 is no slouch when it comes to performance. During day-to-day usage consisting of lots of social media, productivity apps, and web browsing, the Mi A3 didn’t stutter. Even with multiple apps opened in the background, the device didn’t forcefully close them, allowing me to continue where I left off. However, when it came to gaming, the Mi A3 struggled to keep up at times. Playing PUBG: Mobile for example, wasn’t as smooth as one would expect. While it’s definitely playable, graphics will have to be set to the minimum to enjoy a lag free gaming session. Throughout the review period, no apps experienced any sudden shutdowns or throttling.
While the performance is definitely good, it could be much better, and I wished Xiaomi opted for a more powerful processor, such as the Snapdragon 712. Benchmarks can be viewed below, but it should be noted that these results may differ when it comes to real world usage.
Battery Life & Charging
Encased within the Mi A3 is a 4,030 mAh battery, much bigger than on the Mi A2. Thankfully, the larger capacity translates to much better screen-on-time. On average, I would be able to get up to 5 hours of screen-on-time, which is rather impressive. This is most likely due to the large capacity, as well as the low-resolution of the display. Nonetheless, the phone provides excellent battery life. I usually end the day with 20 – 30% of battery left.
As for charging, Xiaomi includes a 10W charger in the box, though the Mi A3 supports up to 18W. With the included charger, 30 minutes of charging delivers 28% of battery. Meanwhile, an 18W charger juices it up to 45% in 30 minutes.
The Xiaomi Mi A3 has a triple-camera array on its rear, two for active shooting and one for depth information. It comprises of a 48MP f/1.79 camera which delivers 12MP images, an 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide-angle lens, and also a 2MP f/2.4 sensor for depth information.
While it’s an Android One device, the camera interface is taken from the latest version of MIUI. Different modes can be switched by swiping left or right, and additional settings are above the viewfinder. This includes the toggle to shoot in 48MP, HDR, AI, and video. There is also night mode, which can be selected from one of the modes. On the viewfinder itself, the toggles to switch between 0.6x/1x/2x are situated.
Under broad daylight, images taken with the primary camera are excellent. The images are 12MP by default, and show lots of detail, with the right amount of contrast, with colour accuracy maintained. Images are sharp as well, though they aren’t over-sharpened by any means. There’s an option to shoot in 48MP, but throughout the review, I rarely ever used it, as I didn’t see much benefit over shooting in 12MP. Images aren’t sharper or more detailed either, though they are much bigger in size. Each 48MP image is about 30MB or so. The ultra-wide camera gets the job done. The quality is rather decent, with enough detail and sharpness.
When it comes to low-light situations, the primary shooter is able to capture decent shots, but I reckon the shots would be much better if there was optical stabilization included. The ISO tends to be high, which introduces quite a bit of noise to images. However, this can be solved by using the Night mode, which increases exposure period. Images come out more detailed, and noise is also lessened. Ultra-wide shots are quite blurry at night, and I wouldn’t recommend using it to capture images in low-light.
The 32MP camera does a pretty good job at capturing selfies. Details are aplenty, colours are accurate, and sharpness is just nice. There’s a portrait option as well, which blurs out the background. This mode worked well enough, though you might notice a drop in sharpness in the foreground.
Security & Speaker
Xiaomi has included a number of unlock methods for the Mi A3, including face unlock, fingerprint scanner, PIN, and password. The face unlock method is rather fast, though it might not be as secure considering there isn’t a dedicated sensor for it. The in-display optical fingerprint scanner works well enough, though it may be slow at times. The sensor lights up, so you’ll know where to place your finger to unlock the device.
There’s a single downward firing speaker, and it works very well. Even at loud volumes, there is minimal distortion, and the sound is rich.
UI & OS
The Mi A3 runs AndroidOne out of the box with no custom UI, and is currently on Android 9.0 Pie. The software is very clean, and also free of the typical bloatware found on most Chinese smartphones. The only software included from MIUI is the camera app which is their proprietary camera. While it is very simplistic and clean, I do miss the option to include folders in the app tray.
The Mi A3 is a great successor to the Mi A2. Xiaomi brought back a number of things which made the Mi A1 such a good buy, such as the audio jack, memory expansion, and also a much larger battery. However, with all these additions, Xiaomi had to cut back somewhere, and the display took a hit. Now, a 720p Super AMOLED display, the screen works well for content viewing, but it falters for web browsing and reading. If you do not use your phone to read much, then this device would suit you fine. For RM 889, the Mi A3 is definitely an alright option in its price segment, and with Android One, you can expect quick and frequent updates from Google.