Redmi Note 3 review: Too much “meh” for Mi

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So far we’ve been rather impressed with Xiaomi’s line-up of products.

The Chinese firm’s smartphones and cheerful Mi Band Pulse have given us hope that you can get great tech without paying a fortune.

When we heard news of an update to the Redmi Note 2 in the form of the Redmi Note 3 we were noticeably excited. The Note 2 was a great phone that exemplified why you don’t need to spend more than R3 000 for a great smartphone experience.

The Redmi Note 3 boasts upgraded internals which means that the price gets an upgrade as well. Sadly the bigger processor, camera and RAM don’t do much in the way of improving the experience of using a Redmi.

Redmi Note 3 review: Frustration abounds

The most noticeable addition to the Note 3 is a fingerprint scanner. Located at the back of the handset it functions in the same way that Huawei and LG’s does in that you simply need to place your finger in the right spot and the sensor will scan your digit.

The problem, we found, was that the scanner wasn’t as responsive as on other handsets and often failed to detect our digit correctly. Compared to phones from the last couple of years, it was a bit disappointing.

The micro USB charging port supports Fast Charging.

Despite the frustrations we endured and even after inducting our fingerprint again it gave us problems.

The handset itself also operates at a snail’s pace. There is noticeable lag when opening applications and if you open multiple apps at once you will see that RAM figure in the task manager slowly whittle down to below “719MB of 2GB available” rather quickly.

Redmi Note 3 review: A downgrade to the upgrade?

The Note 3 is powered by a six-core Qualcom 650 system on a chip, which despite first appearances is a significant upgrade to the eight core CPU in the Note 2.

The Note 2 housed a 1.92GHz octa-core processor, namely the Mediatek MT6795 Helio X10, which sports eight ARM Coretx-A53 cores and a PowerVR graphics unit. The Note 3’s chip also has four Cortex-A53s clocked at 1.4GHz for background tasks, and a pair of newer Cortext-A72s running at 1.8GHz for performance.

While going from four to two cores may seem retrograde, it gives the Note 3 a surprisingly hefty performance lift that puts it with some of the best phones on the market in some tests. Here’s a sample of our benchmark scores.


That said, real world performance doesn’t feel that much different to the Note 2, something we suspect is down to the fact the 16GB model tested has just 2GB RAM – many phones have moved to 4GB, but they do cost considerably more.

If the 16GB storage feels less than ample you can add an SD Card for extra space. The only problem is that you lose the second SIM slot if you do – something that is a much desirable feature on this phone.

Redmi Note 3 review: Red(mi) snapper

The camera sensor at the rear of the handset has been bumped up from a 13MP in the Note 2 to a 16MP in the Note 3.

The rear camera and the fingerprint scanner which attracts all the dirt in the universe.
The rear camera and the fingerprint scanner which attracts all the dirt in the universe.

You’ll find the usual list of features including HDR, Panaorama and Beautify. The camera is good but its still not quite enough to make the Note 3 feel special.

At the front is a 5MP sensor with a wide F2.0 aperture for better selfies in the dark.

Redmi Note 3 review: Cover charge

The 4 000mAh Li-Po battery will give about two days of use if the phone is used for the occasional call, text and social media update. In practice, we found this equated to one full day of heavy use for web and mail, and around 6-8 hours of continuous movie watching and game playing. Which is, on the whole, satisfactory.

The Note 3 does have fast charging which can bring your battery up to full charge in just under three hours from empty.

Redmi Note 3 review: Conclusion

What made the Note 2 so great was not just one stand out feature but the sum of its parts. That synergistic approach to smartphones is what has impressed us about Xiaomi time, and time and time again.

The Note 3 attempts to one up the Note 2 but perhaps our expectations were too high. Having been spoiled by the Note 2, the Note 3 feels more like an incremental upgrade that disappoints with some things (like fingerprint detection) and merely does well in others. Maybe a higher resolution screen (it’s still 1920×1080) and more RAM would have done it – we just don’t know.

The thing about the Redmi Note 2 was that all in, you could buy one for less than R3 000. The Note 3 is listed as R3 799. While that is still good value, for us if you are looking for a cheap, functional smartphone we still recommend the Note 2.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.