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Xiaomi Mi A3 review: Is it a downgrade?

Xiaomi has built a good reputation in global budget phone market largely due to the success of the series A. The latest model of series A, Xiaomi Mi A3, was officially announced on July 17 in Europe for a starting price of 249 euros. However, for those who are familiar with Xiaomi latest products, it is not exactly a new model. The specs of Xiaomi Mi A3 is completely the same as the Xiaomi CC9e, which was released this month earlier. For software setups, the Xiaomi A3 runs the Android One, while the Xiaomi CC9e runs the MIUI. Due to different regional marketing, the twins have diverse missions. The CC9e is targeting the young who especially require high camera performance but with a budget price. The A3 more shoulders the mission to continue the global success of the A series in the budget segment.

Xiaomi Mi A3 review: Is it a downgrade?

The Xiaomi A3 is a Mi9-appearance smartphone featuring the Snapdragon 665 processor, 48MP triple rear cameras, 32MP front camera, and a large 4030mAh battery. The great camera performance is the main highlight, which is never seen on other budget models. And it’s also the first model of A series to have an in-screen fingerprint sensor. The 720P display could be the most disappointing department. So will it please the consumers with outstanding pros and cons?

The CC9e and A3 is the simplified version of the CC9, reserving the same triple cameras and front camera. As for the global CC9, Xiaomi probably renames it as the Xiaomi A3 Pro. So, if you are more interested in the Xiaomi CC9 or the A3 Pro, please check our review video last week.

The appearance is nothing surprising as we learned that it continues the Mi9-design and CC9-design. So, we briefly compare the main details between the Xiaomi A3 and CC9:

  1. The same color options as the CC9, White Lover, Blue Planet, Dark prince.
  2. The same rear setups: Triple cameras are at the upper left, and the Xiaomi test logo is aligned vertically down the cameras.
  3. A waterdrop notch with the same 32MP selfie camera.
  4. Size is smaller than the CC9e due to the smaller display size, 6.08-inch 720p AMOLED display.
  5. It feels a bit thinner and lighter, weighs 173g. The phone size provides a good handling experience.
  6. Unfortunately, due to the budget pricing, A3 has a 6mm chin down the display, which is almost the most distinct change of the appearance here.

In the budget market, it’s pretty rare to have such back design, coming from the unique rear color technique and all-curved rear glass. And you don’t need to worry the glass durability because Xiaomi still uses the Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the Xiaomi A3. The large 4030mAh battery is reserved in the A3, although it is thinner than the CC9. Considering its pricing as a budget phone, it’s definitely a surprise. The Xiaomi A3 supports both face unlock and in-screen fingerprint unlock. Though it’s not as fast as Xiaomi CC9, it won’t take you more than 1 second.

Rear triple cameras

Another outstanding point is the camera, no matter the front or the rear combination. Yes, It does mean that you can have a flagship-level photography experience on a budget phone. As far as the cameras are concerned, the Xiaomi Mi A3 on the rear packs a SONY 48-megapixel primary camera with an f/1.79 aperture; a second 8-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 aperture and a third 2-megapixel camera with an f/2.4 aperture. It sports a 32-megapixel camera on the front for selfies, with an f/2.0 aperture. The camera combination here is the same as the Xiaomi CC9 has. The primary camera is the SONY IMX586 camera, which also can be found on Mi9 and OnePlus 7 Pro. The bad message is that all the cameras lack OIS, so it might not able to perform the stabilization as well as those flagships, can do.

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The 48MP primary camera ensures that the image reaches much detail so that you can have your second creation by cutting the image. Under low light conditions, It supports a ‘4 in 1’ big-pixel feature to help you shoot brighter photos with better detail. Under bright conditions, the Xiaomi A3 performs great with natural color reproduction and fine contrast. Its fast imaging speed is also impressive, which is useful to capture fleeting moments. Even in backlight environment, the Xiaomi A3 can also guarantee the imaging quality with a balanced exposure.

48MP (compressed)

The night mode on A3 probably is the highlight of the camera performance. The general brightness got improved significantly and a balanced exposure shows better detail of both bright parts and dark parts. The dark sky has better brightness and more detail, while the bright text on the building is much clearer with correct exposure.

Night mode ON
Night mode Off

For the second wide-angle camera, it performs better when shooting landscape with bright conditions. The image has a good distortion correction and a strong visual sense. When we bring the wide-angle camera to low-light conditions, it got the same problem with the Xiaomi CC9, such as detail losing and shadow blurring. The third 2MP camera mainly does the depth calculation for portrait mode. With its work, we can have a natural background blurring and relatively correct edge detection for still life photography.

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Wide-angle photo-night
Wide-angle photo

Front camera

The 32MP selfie camera is another selling point of the A3. Our colleague Nadine took self-portraits and compared it with the samples of the Xiaomi CC9. She found that due to the diverse camera Apps, those additional beauty features in CC9 disappeared in the A3. The natural tone of her skin and good texture does please her especially when she zooms in to look at the facial detail. And she said that after trying it at different scenes, the A3 camera recognizes her face well no matter under what kind of extreme lighting conditions.

As Nadine mentioned, it runs a basic camera App but not the Xiaomi camera App. We have no additional camera features like Mimoji, and post-editing features as well on the Xiaomi A3, while these features are found in the Chinese version, Xiaomi CC9e. We believe that such kind of additional features can make phone photography more interesting for users.

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The main difference between the CC9e and A3 is their operating system. The Xiaomi A3 runs the latest Android One, while the CC9 runs MIUI. Android One is one of the best android original systems. It has proved its good performance on mid-range phones. No exception on the Xiaomi A3. It reaches a good fluency but laggy a bit when running most Android apps, and includes all the Google services and tools as well. And unlike the MIUI, it doesn’t require users to pay much learning cost. While the MIUI has a Chinese-language-based voice assistant, the Android One gives you a much universal one, the google assistant. So, it’s probably one important reason why you want to have a Xiaomi A3.

Xiaomi A3 features a 6.08-inch Super AMOLED 720 x 1560p display up front with a waterdrop notch. this 720p display definitely can be the biggest reason for you to give it up. When looking at it, the grainy experience does not please me at all. So, compared to those 1080p displays, there is nothing to praise. But due to the brand SAMSUNG of this 720p display, the A3 display still has a good display effect compared with most 720p displays. But sorry to tell you again, it’s just a 720p display.

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Another drawback of the Xiaomi A3 is the processor. The A3 is powered by a 2GHz Snapdragon 665 processor. And according to our sources, it comes with two memory versions, 4GB RAM 64GB ROM, and 6GB RAM 128GB ROM. The model in our hands is the 4GB RAM version. Unlike the Chinese version Xiaomi CC9e, Xiaomi A3 lacks a ‘Game Turbo’ feature which can slightly optimize the gaming performance. In our 30-min gaming test with PUBG Mobile, the frame rate reached 29fps when playing under mid-graphic settings. But it also got frequent fluctuation during the test. So it won’t be a great experience when playing the PUBG Mobile on the Xiaomi A3. Though it may be the same result when playing other games requiring fast response and fluent graphics, the A3 can still run most mobile games without problems.

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Avg. 29fps

As we mentioned, because the Xiaomi CC9 has a big battery capacity and a 720p display, you don’t need to worry about the power durability. But it doesn’t support any fast-charging solution. Using the included 10W charger, it takes more than 2 hours to get full-charged.

In conclusion, I would say that it’s definitely one of the best choices in the real budget market. It has pretty fast in-screen fingerprint unlock, triple rear cameras and 32MP front camera and so on. It’s no doubt that it is going to refresh the budget market and how producers making low-price models. But, at the same time, the 720P display could be so disappointing that it makes a hash of the good reputation of the A-series. Anyway, it is undeniable that the Xiaomi A3 is going to be a powerful challenger for the title of 2019 best budget phone.

Topic: #xiaomi mi
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