When Mi A1 was launched back in 2017, it was in my view an impressive phone from Xiaomi. I really enjoyed that the dual camera at the back in particular and Xiaomi had used a telephoto and wide-angle lens combination. The Portrait results were also quite good from the Mi A1, considering that the feature was not common on phones under Rs 15,000 at that time.
But when the Mi A2 came out, I wasn’t so sure about the camera’s performance. The battery also felt like a let down. The latest version is the Mi A3, which jumps onto the 48MP and triple camera bandwagon. Xiaomi has added an 8MP ultra-wide sensor, and bumped up the front camera to 32MP. It has also increased the battery size to address what was clearly a major user concern. But how does the Mi A3 perform? Here’s our review:
Mi A3 specifications: 6.08-inch HD+ display (720p) SAMOLED | Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor | 4GB or 6GB RAM + 64GB or 128GB storage | 48MP+8MP+2MP camera and 32MP front camera |4030 mAh battery | Android Pie
Mi A3 Price in India: Rs 12,999 for the 4GB variant and Rs 16,999 for the 6GB RAM variant
Xiaomi Mi A3 review: Design, Display
The Mi A3 has a stunning design and it looks like a polished phone when you first hold it in your hand. The Blue coloured variant with all the glass look has a stunning finish, and the gradient light effect at the back makes this stand out. Compared to the Mi A2, this is a much more polished design, which had a more staid matte finish.
The design brings back the headphone jack, which was missing from the previous version. For users in this price segment, the return of the headphone jack will certainly be an important addition. Xiaomi has added P2i splash resistant coating to this as well, which is another useful feature for a phone in this price segment. It has a Type-C USB port at the bottom for charging.
Mi A3 has an in-display fingerprint sensor as well, which is not yet present on the Redmi Note 7 series. It works fairly accurately, though at times it did not respond and took a few extra seconds more to unlock the device. But that happened very rarely.
Sadly, the Mi A3’s display seems like a compromise. This is a 6.08-inch display but with HD+ or 720p resolution. While the AMOLED display is brighter than regular LCDs one finds on phones in this price segment, the lower resolution does jar video watching experience on apps like YouTube. In some of the videos, the lower quality was noticeable. I’m not sure why Xiaomi decided to reduce the resolution, but this is a step back.
Xiaomi Mi A3 review: Performance, battery
Mi A3 runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor. The performance is certainly above average. This works smoothly with multi-tasking and gaming as well and these was no lag or stuttering in daily usage nor was there any heating while gaming. We had the 6GB RAM option for review.
Games like Asphalt 9 Legends, Badlands ran without any issues, but this phone does not offer the kind of processing that the Redmi Note 7 Pro does. If you want more on the gaming front, the Mi A3 might not be the best fit for that use case.
With Mi A3, Xiaomi has made another positive change and that has been to increase the battery size to 4030 mAh from 3000 mAh. This phone will easily last a day and a half for the regular user with moderate usage, and close to a day even with heavy duty usage. While the phone supports Quick Charge 3.0 and 18W Fast Charge, in the box, Xiaomi is bundling the standard 10W charger, so it takes 2 hours to get 100 per cent.
Of course, the phone is an Android One device and runs stock Android 9 or Pie. Xiaomi has not yet confirmed when the Android 10 update will be available for this. But stock Android means the phone comes without all the Xiaomi MIUI bloatware and some advantages. For instance, the standard Mi messaging app is very useful as it already filters out spam into notifications. The standard app on Android does not do that, and one does tend to miss that particular aspect of MIUI.
Xiaomi Mi A3 review: Camera
Mi A3’s camera setup might sound very repetitive in this segment, which is suddenly full of 48MP triple camera smartphones. The Mi A3’s camera performs well in regular lighting and the default 12MP shots are excellent with ample details. The colours are pleasing as well.
But when it comes to the 48MP mode, I’m yet to see any significant details when I zoom in. Yes, the photos are heavier in size, but photos shot in this resolution still skimp out on details. The low-light mode gives acceptable results, but not what one would call a great leap, if I’m comparing to the previous variant.
The Portrait mode is a miss, and can often struggle with edges even in daylight. The subject background distinction is not as sharp as I would have preferred and the skin tones appear lighter in some cases. This is disappointing given the original Mi A1 offered excellent Portrait shots.
The auto-focus was an issue especially in low light, and the camera just would not focus at times. The ultra-wide mode honestly needs a lot more work and still suffers from hardware restrictions in my view.
The selfie camera does result in sharp images with pleasing results, but be prepared for the beauty mode making you look a lot brighter and pinker. Overall, the triple camera felt underwhelming in my experience. There was lag at times, focus was an issue. Perhaps, Xiaomi will need to issue an update to fix these software issues.
Xiaomi Mi A3 review: Verdict
Should you buy the Mi A3? If you want a Xiaomi phone with the stock Android and one that will get upgraded to Android 10 quickly, Mi A3 is that device. The performance is not bad, the battery life has improved drastically and there are useful design changes like the re-addition of the headphone jack and splash-resistance coating. The selfie camera is impressive.
But there are compromises here as well. The display for one is a downgrade. The camera performance could be better, especially in low-light. For Mi A3, I would say the biggest threat still lies from Xiaomi’s own Redmi Note 7 Pro, which seems to have the edge.