At the very beginning of this review, I have to admit something. Xiaomi’s Mi A-series has held a special place in my heart. Combining Xiaomi’s hardware mastery in the affordable segment with a clean Android OS was a masterstroke. So I was quite excited when Xiaomi announced a third smartphone in the said series. The Mi A3, as the name suggests, follows the Mi A1 and last year’s Mi A2. The company has stuck to the same formula, but on paper improved on aspects that were criticized on the Mi A2. So is it the best Xiaomi smartphone you can buy if you have a budget of Rs 15,000? Here’s my Xiaomi Mi A3 review.
An evolved design
With every new iteration, Xiaomi has improved the design, and the Mi A3 looks the most evolved of the lot. By opting for a glass-sandwich design, the smartphone looks more premium than it actually is. You can choose from three color options – More Than White, Kind Of Grey, and Not Just Blue. The white variant, which we are reviewing, is easily the best color and perfectly suits both formal and informal occasions.
But what really sets this device apart is its ergonomics. The size and form factor is just right, and it fits perfectly and comfortably in your palms. In fact most people who held the device proclaimed how this is the perfect size for a smartphone.
In terms of ports, you get a USB Type-C at the bottom, a 3.5mm audio jack at the top alongside an IR Blaster, and a card tray on the left. The volume rocker and power button are placed on the right.
A surprising compromise
The front is dominated by a 6.1-inch edge-to-edge AMOLED screen, with thin bezels on all sides. There’s a dewdrop notch at the top that houses a selfie camera. One aspect that came as a surprise was Xiaomi’s decision to offer HD+ resolution. This also happens to be lower than what was offered on the first two devices.
Now AMOLED displays are known for their punchy colors and saturation, which is what you get on the Mi A3. But sharpness does take a hit. You are bound to notice this when reading on the phone. You will constantly feel as if your eyes are slightly out of focus. Brightness levels are fine, and the display is just about legible under direct sunlight.
Just about enough power
Under the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 chipset and up to 6GB of RAM on offer. During my time reviewing the device, performance wasn’t really a concern. Daily tasks are handled with relative ease, and the top variant handles multitasking well.
Games like PUBG and Asphalt 9: Legends work well as long as graphics settings are at mid-level. I got through a few gaming sessions without any major lags or stutters. But the device does tend to get a bit warm after playing for a bit.
Unlike the previous smartphones, Xiaomi has opted for an in-display fingerprint sensor on the Mi A3. While this makes it up-to-date with the current trends, the performance leaves a lot to be desired. The sensor is painfully slow to unlock the device. It is also not very accurate, and many a times it required multiple attempts before recognizing my print. Suffice to say, you will be depending upon the PIN code or pattern to unlock your device.
A clean Android OS
Much of the smooth performance is also down to the fact that there is no heavy UI on top of Android OS. As a part of Google’s Android One program, the Mi A3 runs stock Android OS. With no bloatware to worry about, the operating system feels swift from the get go.
Some would argue that stock Android misses out on a lot of extra features that MIUI offers. While that may be true, fast performance and timely updates far outweigh some of those gimmicky custom features. Being part of Android One means that the Mi A3 will be among the first to receive Android 10 this year. Before that, it will also receive monthly security updates in time. Another thing to mention here is that since there is no MIUI, there are no ads on this Xiaomi device.
Are three cameras are better than two?
Both the Mi A smartphones offered great camera performance at the time of launch. The Mi A3 continues that legacy. This time, Xiaomi opts for a triple-camera setup at the back. The setup includes a 48-megapixel Sony IMX 586 primary sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor.
Photos taken in daylight conditions are quite good with plenty of details. By default, the camera shoots photos in 12-megapixel, but switching to the 48-megapixel mode gives you more details. The wide-angle lens helps you take creative photos, but they do tend to be low on details.
In less than ideal conditions, there’s a bit of noise that creeps into photos. There is a built-in Night Mode for such conditions, but you need to be patient to get the right photo.
There’s a 32-megapixel selfie camera up front. Outdoors during the day, the camera was able to click some nicely detailed shots. Even the portrait selfies looked good.
Before we wrap up the review, there is one more aspect that warrants a mention. Battery life. The Mi A3 is backed by a 4,030mAh battery, which is plenty to power a device with a HD+ display and mid-range chipset. It then comes as little surprise that the battery is able to last more than a day on a single charge.
While the battery performance is impressive, juicing it up is another story. Though it supports up to 18W fast charging, the bundled charger only supports 10W charging. This means it will take you just over two hours to charge the battery from zero to 100 percent. You will be better served to invest in an 18W charger.
Xiaomi Mi A3 Review: Should you buy it?
There are many things going for the Xiaomi Mi A3. Chief among which are the design, its cameras, and the clean Android OS. But having said that it is hard to ignore some of the aspects like the HD+ display, and the poor in-display fingerprint sensor.
There are two variants to choose from – 64GB+4GB RAM for Rs 12,999, and 128GB+6GB RAM for Rs 15,999. Yes, the Mi A3 offers a lot of bang for the buck. But competition in this price segment is fierce to say the least. You have options like Samsung Galaxy M20, the recently launched Realme 5 Pro, and Xiaomi’s own Redmi Note 7 Pro.
The choice then comes down to the operating system. If you’re looking for a smartphone with a clean operating system and a guarantee of regular software updates, then the Mi A3 is the best and only option.