Hands-On, Smartphone

Xiaomi Mi A3 Hands-On: It’s Not a Downgrade

When Xiaomi unveiled its latest Android One device, the Xiaomi Mi A3, many folks were not thrilled by one key hardware: the 720p display. This choice of resolution is odd, considering the fact that its predecessors (the Mi A2 and Mi A2 Lite) had 1080p displays.

However, after spending some time with the Mi A3, the 720p display really isn’t that big of a problem. In fact, if priced right, this phone could be the one to beat, especially for those who are looking to get an affordable Android One smartphone.

Since it’s the hardware that’s getting the most attention, let’s talk about the Mi A3’s 720p notched display first. It’s a 6.088-inch 1560 x 720 AMOLED screen, and to top it off, it’s also using pentile matrix subpixel arrangement. Basically, it would look more pixelated than a conventional 720p display with a true RGB subpixel arrangement.

Yes, if I look closely, I can definitely see the pixelation of the Mi A3’s display. But, when viewed at a normal distance, the display looks totally fine. On top of that, because this is an AMOLED panel, you get good, vibrant colours with excellent black levels.

Would it be better if the Mi A3 had a 1080p display instead? Definitely, but it is what it is. Plus, the lower resolution display does have one big benefit: power consumption.

Theoretically, a 720p display would consume less power than a 1080p screen. Paired with the Mi A3’s generous 4,030mAh battery, this phone should be able to deliver above average battery life. Besides, the Mi A3’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 is also an 11nm chipset, which is more power-efficient than the 14nm Snapdragon 660 SoC found in its predecessor.

When it comes to performance, the Mi A3 feels very fast and responsive. The Snapdragon 665 may only be a slight improvement over the Snapdragon 660, but it can still provide a good level of performance. I didn’t notice any stutter or lag in my brief time with the phone.

Of course, this smooth experience can also be attributed to the clean, stock version of Android running on the Mi A3. If you’re familiar with Google’s Pixel smartphones, you’ll be right at home here. It’s minimalist, there’s virtually no bloatware, and it feels really lightweight – key features of Android One devices.

Rounding out the specifications of the Mi A3 are 4GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of expandable storage (it supports microSD cards up to 256GB), a USB-C port, and get this: a 3.5mm headphone jack. Yes, it’s finally back after its absence from the Mi A2.

In terms of design, I quite like how the Mi A3 looks. While I’m not crazy about the notched display or chunky bottom bezel, I appreciate the look and feel of the glass back. Even the metal frame is nice to the touch, giving the phone a premium touch. All in all, it’s a step up in build quality over its predecessor.

Another nice upgrade the Mi A3 got is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is…well, decent. It’s an optical sensor, and it can accurately recognise my fingerprint relatively well. It’s not particularly quick, but it can certainly get the job done.

And then we have the camera performance of the Mi A3. The triple camera system is made up of a 48MP f/1.79 primary shooter, an 8MP f/2.2 wide angle shooter, and a 2MP f/2.2 depth camera. There’s no telephoto sensor here, but the camera interface does have a 2x zoom option – digital zoom, of course. The selfie camera, on the other hand, is a 32MP f/2.0 sensor.

While I’ve only spent a brief time shooting with the Mi A3, I’m generally pleased with the camera performance. The camera isn’t particularly responsive, but the end results look good with proper exposure and detail preservation. Even the autofocus speed is fast too.

That being said, I have not tested the Mi A3’s camera in less than ideal lighting condition – that’s the real test of a smartphone’s camera performance. Rest assured, I’ll put it through its paces once I have the device in for review.

The Xiaomi Mi A3 is not a downgrade in any sense of the word. Yes, the display resolution is lower compared to its predecessor, but it is now an AMOLED panel instead of an IPS screen. Personally, I’ll take the deep blacks and vibrant colours of an AMOLED display over a slightly higher resolution screen any day.

However, just how compelling the Mi A3 would be in the Malaysian market will highly depend on its asking price. For comparison, the 64GB variant of the phone retails at 249 euro in Europe, which comes up to about RM1,150. The 128GB model, on the other hand, goes for 279 euro (approximately RM1,290).

Do note that these prices are on the higher side of things because of the inclusion of VAT – it’s likely that the Mi A3 will be slightly more affordable when it is introduced in other markets, such as Malaysia. In fact, the Android One device will be launched here on 31 July 2019.

It’s not known yet if Xiaomi Malaysia will bring in both variants of the Mi A3 to our market, and we have no estimated local pricing for the device yet either. Nonetheless, if the Mi A3 is priced below the RM1,000 mark – and this is very possible – it would be a very attractive smartphone.

Even more so for Android purists who want a clean, stock Android experience without breaking the bank.

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