In 2017, Xiaomi kind of revived Google’s Android One program with the Mi A1. Back then, the combination of Xiaomi’s hardware and Google’s unadulterated software struck fans as a match made in heaven. The phone naturally received love from all quarters and was one of the best sellers of the year.
Next year, Xiaomi launched two Android One phones – Mi A2 and A2 Lite – out of which only the first one made it to India, and wasn’t half as impressive. And in 2019, Xiaomi is back with the third generation Android One phone, the Mi A3, which does things quite differently.
The Mi A3 is basically a modified version of Mi CC9e (from China) running Google’s pure Android instead of MIUI software. The Mi A3 brings back the audio jack, has a new-age CPU, improved cameras, and a reasonably attractive glass body, but Xiaomi has made a controversial move by switching from FHD to HD+ screen, which is surely grabbing headlines for the wrong reasons.
How big a drawback is the low-resolution HD+ screen on the Mi A3? That’s what was on the top of our mind when we went up close with the phone at the India launch. We have shared our findings in the Mi A3 hands-on review that follows.
Xiaomi Mi A3 Design and Build Quality
The Xiaomi Mi A3 comes with a refreshed design, which is in line with current design trends. The Xiaomi’s new Android One phone also has the new U-shaped notched screen on the front. The chin at the bottom isn’t quite minimal but that’s fine, especially considering the price.
The Mi A3 is offered in three hues inspired by Google’s Pixel nomenclature – More than White, Not just Blue and Kind of Grey. We decided to spend time with the White variant which appealed to us the most. The phone is mainly made out of metal and glass. The glass back is smooth with edges been tapered down to ensure excellent in-hand feel. Xiaomi has probably applied a decent oleophobic coating to the glass back since it was fairly resilient to finger grease.
At 6.01-inches, the Mi A3 is among the rare few compact phones in the big phone dominated market. However, it is not a slim phone, measuring 8.4mm in thickness. The triple cam at the back juts outwards which makes phone little wobbly went its laying on a table.
The power key and volume buttons sit on the right side, whereas the hybrid tray for SIM and microSD card finds a place on the left side. This year, Xiaomi also undid its move of quashing headphone jack from Mi A-series. So, a 3.5 mm port and IR blaster sits on the top, while the USB-C port and speaker grille find a place at the bottom edge.
The metal glass body of the Mi A3 felt solid in hands and both the use of Gorilla Glass 5 on front and rear should be of some assurance against drops and accidental damage.
Overall, we quite like the way Mi A3 looks and feels when held.
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Xiaomi Mi A3 Display
Let’s now address the contentious part – the HD+ display. On one hand, the Mi A3 offers an AMOLED screen for a very reasonable price, and on the other, the resolution of the screen has been downgraded to HD+. Moreover, since this is an OLED panel and uses a Pentile matrix, the effective resolution is even a tad lower than HD+.
While going into this review, we were quite optimistic that the advantages of a high contrast AMOLED screen would outdo the lack of pixels, but after going hands-on with the Mi A3, we are not quite sure.
The 6.01-inch screen really felt like a compromise. We could tell that the text was soft, and images not as crisp as they ought to have been. That said, we’d still like to use the phone for a longer duration and be sure that higher resolution screens, particularly the Note 10+ that our eyes have been feasting on for the last week, aren’t clouding our judgment.
The choice of AMOLED display allows Xiaomi to include an in-display fingerprint scanner in the Mi A3 for biometric authentication. Unfortunately, we couldn’t test the consistency and speed of the fingerprint unlock at launch. We will have that vetted for the full review.
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In India, Mi A3 starts from Rs 12,999 for the 4GB RAM variant and costs Rs 15,999 for the 6GB RAM + 128GB storage version.