Xiaomi Mi A3 review: Stock Android, triple camera, AMOLED display at the right price

The Xiaomi Mi A3 has become an all-rounder but Android One is not as special as it used to be.

₹15,999

tech2 rating

4/5

avg. user rating

0/5




Build & Design

4.5

Features

4.25

Display

4

Software

4.25

Performance

3.75

Camera

3.75

Battery Life

4

4/5

overall rating

the good

48 MP camera
32 MP selfie camera
Attractive holographic design
Android One
Battery life

the bad

Gaming performance

the bottom line

Android One done right

When Xiaomi launched its first A series Mi smartphone, the world (India and China to be precise) was more than happy to accept it because it was the only smartphone that offered stock Android at its attractive Rs 14,999 price tag.

It packed in the one feature that every Android fan craved for back then. A pure serving of Android, minus the custom skin, which most manufacturers back in 2017 still had not gotten right (clunky at best). It was fast (thanks to Android One), accessible and it sold like hotcakes.

It was literally the “poor man’s Pixel” and at that, it was more than capable of getting the job done given its stock Android software and a capable (and power-efficient) Snapdragon 625 chipset.

Xiaomi Mi A3 review: Stock Android, triple camera, AMOLED display at the right price

It's not blue, it's Not Just Blue. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

In 2018, Xiaomi confidently launched the Mi A2. Its price tag was raised to Rs 16,999 (4 GB + 64 GB) and it even came in a power-packed 6 GB + 128 GB option as well.

However, by this time, Nokia had also announced a slew of smartphones with Android One project, so the Mi A2 did not offer anything special or new. What worked in its favour was the Snapdragon 660 chipset, which was quite powerful and still a big leap over the 636 chipset on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and whatever Nokia had on offer in that price range as well.

Wait, isn’t the Redmi Note 7 Pro a better performer?

In 2019, the Mi A3 looked at other areas. Gone are thick bezels of the A2. There’s a new notched display, an in-display fingerprint reader and even a snazzy new shell, which looks gorgeous.

But its 665 chipset that I believe falls a bit short for the upper end of the budget range. This is because the Redmi Note 7 Pro packs in a better chipset (675 SoC), a higher resolution display (FHD+) and an attractive design as well. It will also run PUBG Mobile at maxed-out settings, unlike the Mi A3 which only works with Low or Balanced graphics. Asphalt 9 was also a very stuttery experience even at the lowest graphics settings (performance). Mobile FPS Shadowgun Legends, ran smoothly with no hiccups at the highest settings possible.

So why should you buy a Mi A3 in 2019?

That camera!

While Mi A1’s camera was not too great, the Mi A2 did a pretty good job at clicking photos in all types of lighting conditions. The Mi A3 continues with that tradition and delivers a great mobile photography experience, with its AI-powered triple camera setup.

You get a 48 MP + 8 MP + 2 MP camera setup where the 48 MP primary delivers binned 12 MP photos. As always the 12 MP photos are clearer and more detailed so I would recommend not switching to the 48 MP mode as every capture takes up about 12 MB of space.

The Mi A3 finally gets a triple rear camera setup. Image: Tech2/ Omkar P

The Mi A3 finally gets a triple rear camera setup. Image: Tech2/ Omkar P

We took the Mi A3 out of Mumbai on our overnight trip to Lonavala.

The weather was amazing and the Mi A3 performed as expected. Delivering slightly oversaturated 12 MP photos across the quickly changing lighting conditions. The AI mode kind of boosts the saturation when clicking green landscapes but smartly kept the colours in control while I clicked portraits of my colleague Abigail in front of this colourful van.

The Mi A3 has a tendency to overexpose especially when clicking subjects. (Click for a full resolution sample).

The Mi A3 has a tendency to overexpose especially when clicking subjects. (Click for a full-resolution sample).

The camera does have a tendency to overexpose when focusing on a subject (especially in Portrait mode) and the HDR camera at times is not able to compensate for it as well.

Focus is sharp but the details are on the low side. (Click for full resolution sample).

Focus is sharp but the details are on the low side. (Click for full-resolution sample).

As for low light, I found the auto mode samples to be sharper than the photos I got from the Night mode which I found to be a bit blurry. Given its Rs 12,999 price tag the Mi A3 is quite the capable low light shooter, except that the details are a wee bit on the low side.

Low light photos have good detail. (Click for a full resolution sample).

Low light photos have surprisingly good detail. (Click for a full-resolution sample).

Video recording is locked at 30 fps (whether its 720p, 1080p or 4K) but the electronic image stabilisation (EIS) is pretty good and the bitrate smooth.

Landscape photograph shot using the primary wide-angle lens. (Click for a full-resolution image).

The same scene shot using the ultra-wide-angle lens came out quite blurry and low on details. (Click for a full resolution image).

The same scene shot using the ultra-wide-angle lens came out quite blurry and low on details. (Click for a full-resolution image).

While the 32 MP selfie camera made my colleague Sneha Sharma quite happy, the selfie video stabilisation was not all that great and needs some polish. Indeed, the only reason for one to switch from a Mi A2 or a Note 7 Pro to a Mi A3 would be the wide-angle camera. Long story short, it’s not that great and the photos quite often came out blurry.

That AMOLED display

We don’t know who decides what goes into Xiaomi’s phones, but swapping out an FHD+ display for an HD+ AMOLED display does not look good on paper.

The visuals looked crisp and the wide-gamut AMOLED display made for a rather contrasted Netflix viewing experience. What I did not like was how low the brightness levels were. Back in the mountains on the trip, I had a tough time previewing clicked photos on the phone which is not great for a smartphone priced in this range. An LCD unit would not have this problem.

The AMOLED display felt a bit saturated but I loved the deep blacks while streaming Netflix shows. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

The AMOLED display felt a bit saturated but I loved the deep blacks while streaming Netflix shows. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

The Mi A3 packs in a 4,030 mAh battery which is 30 mAh bump over the Mi A2 and the Redmi Note 7 Pro. And this is where I appreciated the switch from FHD to HD+ resolution. It’s massive, and I believe the HD+ resolution AMOLED display had a role to play when delivering a good two days of standby time and about 5-6 hours of screen on time after plenty of photographs, regular messaging and several calls.

Look ma! I got a notch! Image: Tech2/Omkar P

Look ma! I got a notch! Image: Tech2/Omkar P

I’m not a fan of the display notch and definitely not a fan of the slower than normal in-display fingerprint reader. It’s reliable but takes more than a second to unlock and you have to stare at that animation while it does that, which kind of gets tiring when you have to wait to click a quick photo.

Gorgeous design

The holographic design on the back looks gorgeous. I preferred More than White over our Not just Blue review unit. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

The holographic design on the back looks gorgeous. I preferred More than White over our Not just Blue review unit. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

What I liked about the Mi A3’s design apart from that snazzy (Not Just Blue) holographic back was how narrow the device was. The rounded glass back and polycarbonate frame makes one-handed use possible (with a bit of stretching) and that’s kind of impressive for a smartphone with a 6.08-inch display.

Android One

In 2019, Android One is not exactly a Xiaomi Mi A series specialty. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

In 2019, Android One is not exactly a Xiaomi Mi A series specialty. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

As mentioned earlier in this review, Android One is not really special in the budget smartphone range anymore. Literally, every Nokia phone from the Nokia 2.2 onwards features stock Android, so customers do have plenty of choices that range from Rs 6,999 till Rs 49,999 (Nokia 9 PureView) or if you include Google’s Pixel all the way up to Rs 65,999.

But in this price range, the closest you can get is a Nokia 6.1 Plus at Rs 13,999 which is a capable smartphone, just that it is not as good as the Mi A3.

Audio

We still love the 3.5 mm headphone jack in 2019. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

We still love the 3.5 mm headphone jack in 2019. Image: Tech2/Omkar P

The audio quality through a pair of headphones was pretty good. I also tried using a pair of Bluetooth headphones and the audio quality was as expected given that there's Bluetooth 5.0 onboard. It's good to see Xiaomi include a 3.5 mm headphone when its predecessor had skipped on it last year. This definitely gets a thumbs up.

The Redmi K20 should have been this year’s Mi A3

Yes, the Mi A3’s pricing and placement is a bit confusing. Its focus is supposed to be the camera but the ultra-wide angle lens feels a bit gimmicky. Android One is not exactly special anymore, thanks to Nokia’s entire 2019 lineup and the Xiaomi’s own Redmi Note 7 Pro offers a better chipset and a higher resolution display at a lower price. Which begs the question, should Xiaomi just kill the A series?

Not really, Xiaomi has managed to squeeze in a phone in its smartphone range that offers a lot of value at a lower price than ever before (for a Mi A series device) given that its closest competitor is the Nokia 6.1 Plus.

Xiaomi’s confusion basically started with the introduction of the Redmi K20. Priced at Rs 21,999, the K20 should have been this year’s truly upgraded Mi A3 and it would have packed in quite a punch. But, Xiaomi decided to add to the confusion and introduce the K series anyways. Still, I’m not complaining.

Buy the Xiaomi Mi A3

Buy the Nokia 7.1 (Rs 15,999) for a better camera and if you have trust issues with Xiaomi being a "Chinese" brand.

Buy the Realme 5 Pro (Rs 13,999) if gaming and the camera is your priority and you don’t mind ColorOS.

And buy the Vivo Z1 Pro (Rs 14,990) for its hole-punch display and that powerful 712 SoC.

Buy the Mi A3 if you want an all-rounder of an Android One smartphone that is priced just right!

Xiaomi Xiaomi Mi A3 Specifications

The Mi A3 is an Android One-powered smartphone from Xiaomi and is the successor to the popular Mi A2. It features a triple camera setup with a 48 MP + 8 MP + 2 MP cameras that also brings an ultra-wide-angle lens to the series for the first time. There is a 32 MP camera inside the display notch on the front. The handset is powered by a Snapdragon 665 SoC and comes in 4 GB and 6 GB RAM variants with internal storage options starting from 64 GB and topping off at 128 GB.

Display

Screen TypeAMOLED
Screen Size6.08
Screen Resolution1560 x 720
ProtectionGorilla Glass 5

Processor

ProcessorSnapdragon 665
Speed2.0

Memory

Internal Memory128

Camera Features

Sensor Resolution48 MP +12 MP + 8 MP
Digital Zoom2X

General Features

OSAndroid
VersionAndroid 9.0 Pie

Battery

Capacity4030




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