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.

ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Review

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.

ALSO READ: Realme 5 Pro Review

Xiaomi Mi A3 Camera Hardware

Xiaomi has also upgraded the optics in its third generation Android One phone. The Mi A3 triple rear camera setup packs a 48MP primary sensor with f/1.78 aperture, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera with a 118-degree field-of-view, and a 2MP depth sensor.

For selfies, the Mi A3 comes with a 32MP snapper. The Mi camera app is ported from the current MIUI software. Apart from regular modes, there is a 48MP mode, Night mode, Manual mode, and a few other options. The Mi A3 camera hardware looks promising, to say the least.

ALSO READ: Realme 5 review with Pros and Cons

Xiaomi Mi A3 Hardware and Software

The Mi A2 was a powerful device in its segment and was backed by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660. The MI A3 ships with the more recently announced upgrade to the SD660, the Snapdragon 665.  It’s an 11nm process based octa-core chip where 4 Kryo 260 Gold cores clocked at 2.0GHz and the other four Kryo 260 Silver core tuned to run at 1.8GHz.

The Mi A3 in India is offered in 4GB and 6GB RAM and 64GB and 128GB storage options. Now, you can slip in a micro-SD card, but only if you are fine with using just one SIM. The phone draws juice from 4,030mAh battery with USB Type-C charging port and support for 18W fast charging. The charger bundled in the box is rated 10W, though.

The software has obviously been the biggest attraction for A-series. With Android One, a user gets to experience clean Android Pie based software with no interrupting ads. Being a part of Android One family, the Mi A3 will be getting next two Android generations updates – Android Q and Android R which means A3 users will be getting new software features and enhancements for sure.

Having said that, new Android versions on Mi A1 and Mi A2 only ushered in numerous stability and performance issues, which is why we aren’t half as enthusiastic about the update part. Hopefully, Mi A3 will be a different story.

Xiaomi Mi A3 initial impressions

The Xiaomi Mi A3 is one of those phones that just can’t be ignored. The initial time we spent with it has piqued our interest and we are optimistic that, even with its flaws, we’d be able to recommend it as an option for affordable phone buyers (the base variant, that is).

That’s because it’s a rare compact phone, has a refined software, a promising camera, a powerful chipset, and a decent battery. Also, the Realme 5 offers comparable specs at a much lower price, but that’s a rather big phone and should appeal to a different consumer taste. We will have a definite verdict after we are done testing the phone in our own space.

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.

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