Xiaomi Mi A3 Review: Hands-on


Last year’s Mi A2 and Mi A2 Lite proved immensely popular with Tech Advisor readers. The Mi A3 is an exciting update to the line that introduces a brand-new design and several interesting features in the mid-range space.

Mi A3 was announced in Spain on 17 July, and we were able to gain some hands-on time with the new phone following the event. In Spain it is now available to pre-order direct from Xiaomi, and will go on sale on 24 July at €249 with 64GB of UFS 2.1 storage, and €279 with 128GB. Both models are upgradable with microSD, up to 256GB.

The Mi A3 has not yet been announced in other markets, though we expect a UK release to follow imminently. In the meantime you can pre-order from Geekbuying for £197.27, but do note that this site is shipping from Hong Kong, so you may be asked to pay import duty (20% of the value on the shipping paperwork).

There are three colour options, with blue, grey and white ‘holographic’ or iridescent finishes, which react with light to produce a stunning effect.

Mi A3

Mi A3 Build & Design

Mi A3 is covered in tough Gorilla Glass 5 front and rear to offer resistance from drops and accidental damage, yet it remains delightfully thin at 8.4mm. We’ve yet to see a waterproof Xiaomi phone, so don’t expect anything different here.

In the previous generation we saw a headphone jack on the Lite model but not the standard A2. A Lite (or even Pro) model was not mentioned during the launch, but Xiaomi has seen fit to reinstate this headphone jack in the standard A3. We also like the inclusion of a front-facing loudspeaker.

Arguably a bigger change in this new iteration is the fingerprint sensor. Previously found at the rear of the phone, Mi A3 integrates an in-display version. During our brief testing we found it fast and responsive, which is likely due to the larger surface area devoted to recognition.

The screen is only a touch larger than the Mi A2’s 5.99in panel, at 6.088in, but it feels very different due to its tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio, which allows Xiaomi to increase the screen size without increasing the overall width. Moreover, it’s an AMOLED panel, which is our favourite type of screen tech due to its rich, vibrant colours, deep blacks and excellent contrast.

It’s also brighter than before, according to Xiaomi, now at 530cd/m2 in comparison to the Mi A2’s 403cd/m2. We found this made it much easier to interact with the phone in broad daylight.

Less favourable is the move from a Full-HD+ resolution to just HD+, and the Mi A3 offers 1560×720 pixels.

Mi A3 rear

Mi A3 Performance

Xiaomi’s new Android One phone is powered by the Snapdragon 665, which is successor to the 660 we saw in Mi A2. It’s not a huge jump in performance, but it does lend itself to improved photography.

Both versions of Mi A3 come with 4GB of LPDDR4X memory, which is what we would expect at this price point.

Though we haven’t been able to run our benchmarks on Mi A3 just yet, we’d expect capable daily performance that should suit most non-demanding users.

Battery life should be very good from the 4,030mAh cell, which is a generous improvement over Mi A2’s 3,010mAh battery, especially when you consider the reduced screen resolution. We’re not surprised to see Xiaomi leave out wireless charging to keep down the price, but we appreciate the support for Quick Charge 3.0. While Mi A3 supports up to 18W fast charging you’ll find only a 10W charger in the box, however.

Our only real gripe with Mi A3 is its lack of NFC, which is necessary for making mobile payments – we’d expect to be able to use Android Pay with an Android One phone.

Mi A3

Mi A3 Photography

Mi A3 is the first Android One phone with a triple-lens camera. It boasts a 48Mp Sony ultra-wide sensor with an f/1.79 focal length, as well as 8Mp wide-angle and 2Mp telephoto sensor. The specs look good, certainly better than you’d have any right to expect at this price, and we can’t wait to get hands-on with the camera.

It’s not only at the rear that Mi A3 impresses with photography. Nestled into its new Dot Drop screen notch at the front is a 32Mp selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. As with the main camera it supports AI for intelligent scene selection, alongside pixel-binning that combines four average 1.6um pixels into one super pixel, for great results even in low light.

Interestingly, Xiaomi demonstrated its ability to capture portraits in panoramic mode, ensuring no-one is left out of the shot.

Mi A3 Camera

Mi A3 Software

What really sets apart Mi A3 from the rest of the Xiaomi line is its inclusion of Android One rather than Xiaomi’s MIUI interface. Though MIUI is a custom version of Android 9.0 Pie, and Android One is simply a pure version of that OS, we often find western users are less familiar and therefore less comfortable with it than they are standard Android. We think some of the extra features such as Dual Apps and Second Space are worth having, but admit that in comparison MIUI can feel rather bloated.

One of the biggest advantages of running a pure version of Android is the speed with which updates can be rolled out, since they don’t first need to be adapted to fit the custom interface. Android One phones are always the best to get security patches, new features and operating system updates.

Android One phones are guaranteed security updates for three years after their release, which certainly can’t be said for all budget- and mid-range phones.

Mi A3

Mi A3 Conclusion

The Mi A3 might be a mid-ranger, but in the Android One space it feels like a flagship, thanks to its triple-lens camera, in-display fingerprint sensor, and gorgeous design.

We’d like to see slightly faster performance, but the Snapdragon 665 is a reliable chip, and will serve most users well. The memory allocation is also sufficient, but it would nice to have 6GB of RAM available as an option.

We can turn a blind eye to the reduced screen resolution given the fact it’s a significantly better screen, but the lack of NFC just doesn’t sit right for an Android One device.

Overall, we think of Mi A3 as a rival to the Google Pixel 3A in photography and performance, but at a significantly lower price. If your budget will stretch just a little higher the €329 Mi 9T is an excellent choice with a slightly faster chip and NFC.

This hands-on review has been adapted from an article published on our sister site PCWorld Spain by Alfonso Casas.



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