Scores in depth
After the original Coolpad Note 3 and the Note 3 Lite, the Coolpad Note 3 Plus is the third variant of the Note 3 line-up to be launched in India. The phone is essentially just a Note 3 with the addition of a full HD display. Other specifications like the octa-core MediaTek 1.3 GHz MT6753 processor, 3GB RAM and 16 GB of internal storage remain the same.
The phone which will go on sale on May 13 exclusively on Amazon, has been priced at Rs 8,999 and will compete with the likes of the LeEco Le 1s Eco and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. Does the addition of a full HD display make the phone a compelling buy? Let's find out.
Design and Display
The phone has decent build quality with a metal rim running around the sides of the phone, an all glass front and a plastic back. The removable back cover feels pretty flimsy and bends rather easily. The black boundary that runs around the display really takes away from the immersiveness of the screen. The phone feels quite slippery and slides around rather easily.
The phone weighs a rather hefty 168 grams. Its dimensions are 151.9x77x9.3mm. In this day and age of devices getting thinner and thinner, the Note 3 Plus feels rather bulky at 9.3 mm thick.
There is a fingerprint sensor on the back, which Coolpad claims has a recognition time of 0.5 seconds. The fingerprint scanner is extremely fast and accurate and worked flawlessly for me at all times during testing. There is a headphone jack on top, the lock button on the right, the volume controls on the left and the speakers, the microphone and micro USB port at the bottom.
The lack of USB type C is a disappointment. However, the popularity of USB C is still pretty low and micro USB has its own advantages in widespread availability. The mono external speaker unit is decent. Even at the maximum sound level, we did not find it loud enough. On a positive note though, it does not distort. The earpiece is more than adequate, with calls sounding loud and clear.
The display itself is a 5.5-inch full HD IPS display, with viewing angles of 178 degrees. The display is supposedly scratch resistant, although there is no mention of Gorilla Glass protection. The display is the only differentiating factor between the Coolpad Note 3 Plus and the standard Coolpad Note 3, with the latter having 'just' a 720p resolution.
The display has deep blacks, is very bright and has great viewing angles when indoor. It is vibrant and full of detail. However, the colours seem a bit too saturated and the sunlight legibility is rather poor. Moreover, the underpowered GPU has trouble handling the 1080p screen, which we will talk more about later in the review.
The phone has capacitive buttons underneath the display, which sadly are not backlit.
The Coolpad Note 3 is powered by an octa-core Media Tek 1.3 GHz Cortex 153 MT6753 processor paired to an ARM Mali- T720 GPU clocked at 450 MHz. It has 3GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage and a decent 3,000 mAh battery. The internal storage can be expanded through a microSD card. It accepts cards of up to 64GB.
Amongst the competition, The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 offers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor, 16/32 GB of storage, a 5.5 inch full HD display, micro SD support and 3GB of RAM. The recently launched LeEco Le1s Eco has a 1.85 GHz MediaTek Helio X10 processor, 32 GB non expandable internal storage, a 5.5 inch full HD display and 3 GB of RAM.
As mentioned before, the Coolpad Note 3 Plus is same in every way to the original Coolpad Note3, except for the addition of a full HD screen. What is supposed to be an advantage for this phone actually ends up becoming its Achilles heel.
With the MediaTek MT6753 CPU, the smartphone is more than capable of handling day to day use. However, the smartphone really bogs down when it comes to gaming or other intensive usage. The ARM Mali - T720 GPU, which was able to handle the 720p resolution of the Note 3 decently, really struggles with the 1080p resolution here.
Games like Subway Surfers and Temple Run take a long time to load and when they do, frame rate dropping is a frequent occurrence. It's not that they are unplayable; it's just not a very smooth experience. The gallery application struggles to load images if one scrolls a little fast, the smartphone slows down when lots of apps are running in the background and apps take the extra second or two to launch under load.
However, it's not all bad news. For everyday use, the smartphone feels quite snappy. Multitasking is relatively smooth. The smartphone has an option for multi window support, which is extremely usable. The camera takes photos very quickly and as said before, the fingerprint scanner is a delight to use. Moreover, the smartphone doesn't suffer from any heating issues, even under heavy load.
Overall the day to day performance is good. The CPU is a decent performer; it's just the underpowered GPU that lets the smartphone down.
Software and Connectivity
The Note 3 Plus runs on Coolpad's own Cool UI 6.0, running atop Android 5.1 Lollipop. Coolpad has said they are working on a Marshmallow build; however no timeframe has been given for the same.
The UI, as typical of other Chinese brands doesn't include an app drawer out of the box. Thankfully, one can switch to a traditional layout with a separate app drawer via an option in settings. The app switcher is thankfully same as stock android. Quick shortcuts are found in the notification tray. There are 16 separate buttons with no option for customization. This makes it a very cluttered and confusing affair.
Though fast and snappy, the customization done by Coolpad is not to everyone's tastes. The company has adopted to include its own gallery, music and video apps leading to confusion between its own applications and Google's own. There is a lot of bloatware as well, in the form of Coolpad's own apps like Cool Store, Cool Service, Cool Show and Xploree keyboard. None of these apps can be uninstalled. Out of these, only Cool Service offers some modicum of functionality, showing the Coolpad service centers nearest to the user's location.
The phone also supports certain gestures like tap to wake, which work flawlessly. One can also swipe down to access the camera, draw a w for Whatsapp and an e for the browser. While I dismissed them as gimmicks initially, I ended up using these gestures quite extensively during my usage.
Another nifty feature is the ability to lock any application via the fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor can also be used to snap quick photos.
The phone has dual-SIM support and runs on all Indian 4G LTE bands. Other connectivity options include 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 as well as GPS.
The Smartphone has a rear 13MP autofocus camera with a 5 element HD lens and a f/2.0 aperture. The camera performs rather well in well lit situations, producing sharp and vibrant results. However, some noise does creep in and the photos also lack detailing. Indoor shots with adequate light are surprisingly good, and more than a match for the competition. The phone also handles Macro shots rather well.
The camera is very snappy, with no lag in focusing or recording the image.
In low light situations though, the phone struggles a bit. While producing perfectly usable images and not just a dark mess, there is a lot of noise and the phone struggles a lot with exposure. The flash is again decent, but throws off the colors and a dual LED flash is missed.
The rear camera can record 1080p video and produces average results. The lack of OIS leads to shaky and blurry footage, unless kept extremely still. In daylight and well lit situations though, the camera is good for recording an occasional clip. However, it will not be replacing your video camera anytime soon.
The front camera is a 5MP faced focus camera which is rather mediocre. A fixed focus camera in this day and age is extremely disappointing. While adequate for Facebook or Instagram selfies, one should not bank upon this camera for vlogging or serious photography.
Here are some camera samples:
The Coolpad Note3's 3,000 mAh battery got me through a day of use easily. At the end of the day I usually had around 10 to 15% battery left. These results while not outstanding are in line with the competition. I got an average of around 4.5 hours of screen on time throughout my testing.
The fingerprint senor is a delight to use and is extremely fast and accurate. The screen is sharp and vibrant. The rear camera is decent for the price and is good enough for the average user.
The Coolpad Note 3 Plus looks and feels cheap and built to a price. The plasticky build and the 9.3 mm thickness are big letdowns. The overall performance is dissatisfactory, with the GPU incapable of handling the 1080p resolution. The smartphone really bogs down when gaming and during other intensive use.
A common thread running through this review has been the phone being average, or decent. For 8,999, the phone is not a bad buy by any means, with a fantastic fingerprint senor and a decent camera, but the competition edges it out easily. The performance issues are not something that can be ignored easily. The Xiomi Redmi Note 3 and the LeEco Le 1s Eco are better buys for just a little more money. If those are beyond your budget, the original Coolpad Note 3 at Rs 8,499 is a better performer than the Plus due to its 720p resolution screen.