User Review Xiaomi Redmi 3S Launch + Hands On


You've probably heard of the Redmi 3S by now. It's probably the most awaited phone of the year. I had an opportunity to attend the launch and get a brief hands on the with the device.



Let's get the basics out of the way. The features and specs are below:-
  • 5" 720p IPS display with scratch resistant protective glass
  • Octa-core 64 bit Snapdragon 430 processor with Adreno 505 GPU
  • 2GB RAM with 16GB memory / 3GB RAM with 32GB memory
  • 13MP PDAF Rear Camera / 5MP Front Camera
  • 4100 mAh battery
  • Metal body
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • IR port
  • 4G with VoLTE support
  • Hybrid SIM slot with dual SIM/micro SD support
  • MIUI 7 at launch with an upgrade to MIUI 8 on August 23rd
  • Starting price of Rs. 6,999 for the 2GB/16GB variant
  • All Redmi 3S phones will be Made in India
Cons:-
  • No fast charging
  • Fingerprint sensor only on the 3GB/Prime variant
  • Hybrid SIM slot dosen't allow usage of two SIM cards + microSD simultaneously

Introduction

Building on the success of the Redmi 1S and the Redmi 2, the Redmi 3 was launched in China in January this year. After a long wait, finally Xiaomi is launching the Redmi 3S in India. The Redmi 3S is a massive upgrade over it's predecessor, the Redmi 2 and virtually everything has been upgraded. The phone will be available in two variants, the Redmi 3S with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of memory, which will retail for Rs. 6,999/- and the Redmi 3S Prime with 3GB RAM, 32GB memory and a fingerprint sensor for Rs. 8,999/-. There is a choice of three colours, i.e. Dark Grey, Silver and Gold. Given the features, the price seems very reasonable, especially the cheaper 2 GB variant. But does the phone live up to the hype?





Display and build

With a 5" 720 IPS display, the screen size is up slightly from 4.7" on the Redmi 2. I would actually have preferred it if the screen size had remained the same, as the increased screen size does make it a bit larger. The Redmi 3S is 2.4 mm wider and 5.3 mm taller than the Redmi 2. However, despite the large battery and the metal body, the Redmi 3S is almost 1 mm thinner than the Redmi 2. The plastic build is history, and the Redmi 3S has a metal body which, along with the reduced thickness, feels very good to hold. There has been a slight increase in weight from 133g to 144g, but it is barely noticeable. The phone is easy to use in one hand compared to most flagships these days (with the exception of the Galaxy S6/S7). I was not a big fan of the Mi Max and felt it was just too large. The Redmi 3 finally addresses the sub 5.5" segment and the overall design cues are very similar to the now familiar Redmi Note 3. I actually liked the criss-cross pattern of the Chinese Redmi 3 but I was told that user feeback and surveys showed that the preference was more for the smooth finish (Another interesting point is that while white is the most popular colour for Mi in China, In India it is Dark Grey/Black)

Xperia Z2 for scale:-





The 720p screen is par for the course for this segment and a device of this size. The display quality was good and the brightness was sufficient for indoor use. I was not able to test it outdoors. Those clamoring for 1080p should really remember the price we are talking about here. A 1080p display would consume more power and would result in lower battery life, and also affect the gaming performance. There was some confusion on the display's protective glass since nothing was listed on the spec sheet by Xiaomi. When I asked about this, they replied that the device does have scratch resistant protective glass but since they use multiple suppliers, they didn't explicitly name any brand in their spec sheet. I asked whether the suppliers include either Gorilla Glass or Dragontrail, but they said they couldn't answer the question. It is also possible that they are using a different supplier altogether. However, they did state that the protective glass they use is at least as good or better than what they are using in their other devices. Either ways, if you were worried about the lack of screen protection, you can be rest assured that it is not an issue.





SoC and performance

The Redmi 3s is powered by a Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor which has a performance cluster of 4 x Cortex A53 at 1.4 Ghz and a lower power cluster of 4 x A53 at 1.1 Ghz. This is the first Snapdragon 430 based phone to launch in India. Xiaomi was also the first to launch a Snapdragon 650 phone in India in the Redmi Note 3. Powering the graphics is an Adreno 505 GPU. The original Redmi 3 used a Snapdragon 616 processor with an Adreno 405 GPU. The Snapdragon 430's CPU clock is a bit lower at 1.4 Ghz when compared to the 1.5 Ghz 616. The GPU however, is a good upgrade over the Adreno 405. Jai Mani stated that the decision to use S430 was based on the thermal performance of the SoC, which is better than the S616. Given that both the SoCs are still using a 28LP process, the difference is probably not substantial..but in a phone, any reduction is welcome nonetheless. The S430 also has an upgraded ISP and modem.

The SoC is paired with either 2 or 3GB of single-channel LPDDR3 RAM depending on the variant. The CPU performance was more than adequate for a budget phone and the UI felt smooth during use. There was no lag to speak of and the phone was quite responsive. Despite the slightly lower clock speed, the S430 actually outscores the S616 in Antutu. The Gfxbench scores between the phones is pretty similar so the main benefit of the upgraded GPU is the feature set rather than performance. Compared to the Adreno 306 in the Redmi 2, the Adreno 505 is about 3X faster in Gfxbench. Cortex A53 does have fairly low single threaded performance and while it is adequate for general use, for more demanding users, the Redmi Note 3 with its Snapdragon 650 and Cortex A72 cores will be a better choice (at the cost of a larger screen obviously).

Cameras

The rear camera is a 13 MP unit with Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) and Deep Trench Isolation (DTI) technology. The camera has a 5 element lens with f/2.0 aperture. This is a massive upgrade from the 8 MP auto-focus sensor found in the Redmi 2. For a phone in this price range, the camera specifications sound great on paper. But does the performance follow? I've attached some Camera samples from the phone below (These were not in the best lighting conditions):-






The camera performance is good and the phone generally punches above its class. The focus is quick and I was generally able to focus and take a shot in under half a second. Predictably, the low light performance, while good, is still lacking compared to higher end phones. I did a quick side by side with a Galaxy S6, but it is really an unfair comparison to make. The phone can also capture 1080p video at 30 fps. Overall, for a budget phone, the camera is certainly more than capable.

The front camera is a 5 MP f/2.2 aperture unit and is again a good upgrade from the 2 MP unit found in the Redmi 2. At first glance it seemed to be fairly good though I didn't play around with this too much. For social media and video calling, etc, it is quite sufficient.

Battery life

Better battery life is one thing that I've been clamoring for, for years now. Manufacturers have sacrificed battery capacity in their drive to make phones thinner and thinner and as a result battery life never really improved (and in some cases actually regressed) as much as the other features over the years. The 4100 mAh battery is probably the biggest feature of this phone. Xiaomi has managed this partly thanks to the use of a high-density 685Wh/L battery (Their highest to date). However, one important point to note is that there is no Quick Charging of any kind. This is understandable given the price range and the phone does come with a 2A charger, but I would really have liked to see some form of Quick Charge for such a large battery, even if it meant a slightly higher cost. The battery is enough for two days of use for the normal user (Not us power users I'm sure) and some beta testers have been getting 15 hours of On Screen Time. The battery is certainly the highlight of this device and I'm sure users will appreciate the time between charges.

In the future, I would really like to see an update of this phone with the new Snapdragon 625 chipset which is built on a 14nm FINFET process. Compared to a 28 LP process, 14nm brings significant improvements in both performance and power consumption. This should improve battery life even further! There have already been leaks of a Xiaomi device spotted running Snapdragon 625. The smartphone market is definitely set for interesting times ahead!

Connectivity

The Redmi 3s has a hybrid SIM slot with dual SIM/micro SD support. You can use a micro SIM card and either a nano SIM or a microSD card (expandable up to 128 GB). Unfortunately you cannot use two SIM cards and a microSD at the same time.

There is 4G with VoLTE support enabled and support for Band 3, Band 5 and Band 40. Band 5 support is a good addition and the main benefit is better LTE signal even indoors.

The phone supports 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Display and Wi-Fi Direct, along with Bluetooth 4.1 and GPS, GLONASS, Beidou support. Wifi AC and 5 Ghz support would have been nice, but again, at this price point its probably asking for a bit too much. Charging and data transfer is through the ubiquitous micro USB 2.0 port and also has support for USB on the go. Personally, I find microUSB more convenient than USB-C and you can find a charger anywhere (not that you'll really need to with this phone). There is also an IR port which can be used to operate a remote controlled device through the Mi App. This is a very handy feature and is normally only seen on higher end phones.

Like the Redmi Note 3, the fingerprint sensor is located at the back of the device. It was very easy to set up and use (Took about 10 impressions of my finger) and the device typically unlocked in less than half a second. Unfortunately the fingerprint sensor is only found on the Redmi 3S Prime. It would have been nice to see it in the Redmi 3 as well, but some things had to be cut to hit the lower price point.

Software

The Redmi 3S runs on MIUI 7 with Android 6.0.1 out of the box. I wont go into much detail here but the good news is that it would get the MIUI 8 update on August 23rd. MIUI 8 brings many new features like dual apps (lets you do things like two whatsapp accounts on a phone), second space, scrolling screenshots, quick ball (the idea of naming it "Mi ball" was dropped rather quickly), Hindi T9 dialer, and lots of other improvements. The MIUI 8 update will also pushed to all devices going back all the way to the Mi3 and Redmi 1s and this is a great move by Xiaomi to support their older devices.



Verdict

So should you buy a Redmi 3S? Absolutely yes! The Redmi 3S basically makes every other phone in the sub 10,000 Rupee segment obsolete. The phone offers features normally not found in its price class and is a great all round performer.

The Redmi 3S will go on sale at 12 PM on August 9th on both Mi.com and Flipkart. Initially only the 32GB Redmi 3S Prime will be available with the 16 GB variant following on August 17th. Manu Jain said that for this sale Xiaomi is moving away from the flash sale model and it will be an open sale with no registration required. You can simply add the product to your cart to buy. He also mentioned that they would have the highest number of units for a launch to date..but even then I expect demand to considerably outstrip the available supply. So if you've been waiting for this phone..start practicing your mouse clicking skills!

You can buy the phone from Xiaomi's website - http://www.mi.com/in/redmi3s/ or from Flipkart - www.flipkart.com/mi
 
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