A little over two years ago, Xiaomi introduced the masses to its A series of smartphones, which promised a no-frills, stock Android experience. After two successful launches, the company is back with the third iteration in the range in the form of the Mi A3 (first impressions), which is quite possibly the most important smartphone from the brand this year. I say this, because of late, the user experience offered by Xiaomi’s MIUI platform hasn’t been so great in light of ads appearing on the OS.
Therefore, if you are looking to buy a Xiaomi phone but can’t partake with the company’s MIUI custom skin, then the Mi A3 is quite possibly your only ray of hope right now. But then again, is the phone any good in the first place? To find out, I put my SIM in the Mi A3 and after testing it for a week, here’s what I make of it.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||720 x 1560 pixels|
|CPU||Quad core, 2 GHz + Quad core, 1.8 GHz, Snapdragon 665|
|Internal memory||64 GB|
|External memory||Up to 256 GB|
|Capacity||4030 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable|
|Primary camera||48 MP|
|Secondary camera||32 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie|
Design and Display
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the Mi A3 is its compact footprint. The handset ships with a 6.08-inch display, which by no means is a small screen and yet, managed to nestle comfortably in the palm of my hands. What’s more, the smartphone cuts a handsome package (especially in the Not just Blue hue) too and has been constructed in entirety using a mix of glass and plastic. In fact, unlike most of the competition, the back of the device is actually glass and the difference in the build quality is immediately evident – the Mi A3 feels thicker, more robust and much nicer in the hands. I’d also like to give the company credit for layering a stunning gradient finish on the handset, which creates visual auras when the back of the phone is viewed at different angles.
So, you might see squiggly lines, a parabolic curve and many more optical effects on the Mi A3’s back from time to time, thereby keeping the design of the phone interesting even after you’ve owned it for a couple of months. What’s more, Xiaomi has marked a couple of firsts with the Mi A3, with one of them being that it’s now the only brand in the world to un-axe the headphone jack. You heard me, the Mi A3 brings back the headphone jack, and my 1More Quad Drivers couldn’t be happier. What’s more, the smartphone even ships with an IR sensor, however, since it’s an Android One device, it doesn’t come bundled with the Mi Remote app.
I’ve been using the Mi A3 exclusively for the past week, and I must admit, the smartphone’s ergonomics are second to none. The handset ships with a narrower frame, which coupled with its compact size, chamfered corners and a slightly tapered back make it a godsend for one-handed usage. It’s not immediately evident, but you’ll greatly appreciate the smartphone’s minuscule footprint if you commute in a bus or a packed metro every day — places where it’s impossible to keep both hands free.
What’s more, the device sports an in-display fingerprint sensor, which in my opinion, is more convenient than reaching for a rear-mounted unit. That being said, the Mi A3 ships with a noticeable camera bump and is quite slippery too, so you might have trouble unlocking the phone when it’s kept flat on a surface. Speaking of which, the back of the device smudges really easily as well, so you’d be better off slapping the bundled case onto the phone the second you unbox it. Barring that, the Mi A3’s fingerprint sensor worked well during my testing, allowing me to get into my home screen in a fraction of a second. You even get face unlock with the device, which works just as well. It’s a tad bit quicker during the day, but is a little finicky at night.
The display on the Mi A3 is its Achilles heel and it will be the reason many prospective buyers forego the handset. You see, the smartphone features a 6.08-inch Super AMOLED HD+ display, which isn’t the sharpest panel out there. Quite frankly, I don’t see why the company couldn’t outfit the smartphone with a full HD+ display, the likes of which you’ll find on similarly-priced handsets like the Realme X and the OPPO K3. Be that as it may, the display on the Mi A3 is good enough for day-to-day usage, and it gets plenty bright too. Moreover, the handset comes with support for Widevine L1 and therefore, you can stream HD content from apps like Netflix. All in all, while I would’ve loved to see a more pixel-dense display on the Mi A3, it didn’t deter me from enjoying content and movies on the phone.
The Xiaomi Mi A3 is among the better shooters in the affordable segment and the handset features a triple camera setup at the back comprising a pair of Sony IMX 586 48MP sensor with f/1.79 aperture, an 8MP wide-angle lens with a 118-degree field of view and a 2MP depth sensor. For selfies, the smartphone features a 32MP front camera.
Going by the spec sheet, you’d be wise to think that the Mi A3 clicks good photos. I’ve summed up my experience with the smartphone’s cameras below, so take a gander:
1. The Mi A3 shoots brilliant photos during the day and the trio of rear cameras ensure that you rarely ever have to come back to a scene and click an image again. Daylight shots are flush with punchy colours and an abundance of details and the built-in AI engine works well to detect a scene and change the camera settings best suited to capture the picture accordingly as well.
2. In typical Xiaomi fashion, the handset’s AI engine brings up the details from the shadows albeit in doing so, occasionally overexposes the highlights ever so slightly. Nine times out of ten, you will be able to get away with a stunning picture but it might help to meter down the exposure manually when it’s too bright outdoors. As for the dynamic range, you’ll love to shoot pictures of a cloudy sky, or play with the shadows of a building with the Mi A3.
3. The Mi A3’s camera is on par with the competition for the most part too. In fact, the handset clicks identical photos to the Realme X when it’s sunny outside, with the only difference being the added punchiness in Realme’s shots. You even get an ultra-wide angle sensor with the phone, which clicks flattering photos during the day with minimal fish-eye distortion.
4. That said, I was a bit disappointed with the smartphone’s 48MP mode, which pales in comparison to the one on the Realme X. Take, for instance, the picture outside my office. Upon zooming in, it’s evident that the picture is better composed on the Realme X as the bushes in the foreground are more defined and the building being constructed at the back is sharper as well. Therefore, if you plan on clicking a lot of high-res landscape images, the Mi A3 might not be the best fit for you.
5. While the handset clicks gorgeous landscapes during the day, I found it almost impossible to click macros or closeups of flowers with the phone. For some reason, the Mi A3’s camera outright refused to lock focus on tiny objects, and I spent a lot of time variating the distance of the lens from the subject to get a sharp image.
6. The Mi A3 leaves a lot to be desired when clicking photos at night too. The handset’s shutter is slow to focus on subjects after the sun has set and the photos have visible noise in them too. What’s more, while the built-in night mode helps bring out the details in the shadows ever so slightly, the photos are still plagued with graininess and lens flaring.
7. On the flipside, the smartphone’s 32MP selfie shooter is among the best in the biz. The portraits come out beautifully off of the handset’s front camera and the device delivers even in lowlight scenarios admirably.
Performance, software and battery life
The Mi A3 is only the second smartphone in India after the Realme 5 to be backed by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 octa-core processor. The handset features two RAM and storage variants, and you can either opt for a 4GB RAM variant which will give you 64GB of built-in storage, or a 6GB RAM model which comes with 128GB of storage.
Thankfully, unlike its predecessor, the Mi A3 comes with a microSD card slot and therefore, you won’t be locked to the storage you get out of the box. Now, specs aside, the Snapdragon 665 isn’t the quickest chip in its price range. In fact, for the price you pay for the Mi A3, you could instead opt for a phone with a Snapdragon 710 or 712 processor. To give you a better picture, here’s how each chip fares in Antutu benchmark.
|Realme X (Snapdragon 710 processor)||1,56,669|
|Realme 5 Pro (Snapdragon 712 processor)||1,82,246|
|Xiaomi Mi A3 (Snapdragon 655 processor)||1,39,196|
With that said, the Mi A3’s near-stock overlay pays dividends as it’s not as resource-hungry as the competition’s custom skins. Therefore, for the most part, you won’t notice any difference in performance between the three aforementioned processors. During my time with the phone, the Mi A3 opened applications quickly, and it rarely ever stuttered whilst multitasking. Gaming, however, is a completely different story and I came across noticeable frame drops whilst running PUBG on the HD graphics preset on the phone. To recap, both, the Realme X, as well as the Vivo Z1 Pro, showed no signs of slowing down when running PUBG at the same settings. Therefore, if you are a hardcore gaming enthusiast, you might want to look at other options before pulling the trigger on the Mi A3.
On the flipside, Xiaomi’s partnership with Google for the Mi A3 ensures that the device will get guaranteed software updates for the next two years along with an additional year of security patches. That’s something which I can’t say with certainty for the competition. Furthermore, I’ve always had a slight bias for smartphones which offered a near-stock Android experience and therefore, I’d take a slight hit in the performance for a cleaner UI any given day.
With the Mi A2 (review), Xiaomi screwed the pooch by removing the headphone jack and shipping the smartphone with a measly 3,000mAh battery. Well, the company rights all wrongs with the Mi A3 as the smartphone features a beefy 4,030mAh cell with support for fast 18W wired charging too. That said, the bundled power brick maxes out at 10W and therefore, you’ll have to procure an 18W charger on your own. Regardless, the Mi A3 lasts really long and try as I might, I couldn’t kill its battery in under a day.
Despite extensively using the phone to browse through my social media feeds, text on WhatsApp, listen to music on Apple Music, watch videos on YouTube and playing two-three games of TDM on PUBG, I was still hitting the bed with over 30 percent juice still in the tank. To give you a better picture, the smartphone lasted close to 23 hours in our battery drain test, which is a phenomenal number. Rest assured, you’ll seldom have to carry a power bank with the Mi A3 in your pockets.
The Xiaomi Mi A3 starts at Rs 12,999 for the 4GB RAM variant, however, the 6GB RAM variant will set you back Rs 15,999. For the price, the device goes up against the likes of the Realme X (review), the Realme 5 Pro, and the Vivo Z1 Pro (review), all of which offer superior performance and displays to boot. What’s more, while the Z1 Pro offers a mammoth 5,000mAh battery and the Realme X ships with a full-screen display, there’s nothing that sets the Mi A3 apart. I will admit, the promise of timely updates is quite enticing but it’s not enough to sway buyers over to its doorsteps, especially when you can opt for devices like the Realme 5 (review), which cost way less and feature most of the same specifications.
Moreover, I’d hoped the smartphone would offer a ground-breaking photography experience to tip the scales in its favour but that’s not the case either. Consequently, as much as I’ve enjoyed using the Mi A3 as my daily driver, I must admit, there are better options in the market right now. However, if you absolutely need a smartphone which does most things right and ships with a near-stock Android interface, then the Mi A3 might fit your bill.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Good-looking design
- Timely Android updates
- Long-lasting battery life
- HD+ display at this price is a letdown
- The competition offers better performance
- Rear cameras struggle in lowlight scenarios