Xiaomi Mi 3 review
The Xiaomi Mi 3 is import only, so is it worth shipping?

Xiaomi has made a superb phone in the form of the Mi 3, offering high-end performance and an interesting, angular physical design that helps it stand out from the masses of other budget Android models.

We liked

The Mi 3 feels like a quality device. It's thin, smooth, solid and has a stylish look about it that so many of the budget makers fail to achieve. The use of standalone capacitive touch buttons is a bit of a shame, but overall the feeling is of a phone vastly more expensive that its unofficial import cost.

Camera performance is great for a cheaper phone. Outdoors in good light, image quality is up there alongside the output produced by the high-end competition, with only a slight drop in quality when taking shots in low light. The flash saves the day here, though, nicely illuminating scenes without blasting away colour and skin tones.

The 1080p display is superb. Viewing angles are great, colours realistic and it makes the MIUI icons appear vibrant and sharp. It's perfectly readable outside in direct sunlight too, as long as you've got brightness set to auto.

We disliked

The physical buttons aren't as intuitive to use as the software options found on many Android models these days. In most leading apps software menus have long replaced the menu button, so the Mi 3 feels like it's lagging behind the curve a little in having the physical menu option.

A long-press on this pulls up the multitasking feature, again making a little less easy to use than on rival phones that have adopted Google's preferred way of doing things.

Import buyers might find the odd bit of Chinese language on here, but it's not a deal-breaker. The Xiaomi themes portal doesn't translate to English, but that's OK as it's mostly populated by local pop-culture wallpapers, which you probably won't to want to install.

The pre-loaded TouchPal keyboard also asks you to buy skins in Chinese, but that's kind of OK too as it's a pretty poor keyboard, and you're best off switching to the stock Android keyboard as soon as the phone powers up for the first time.

Sound quality is patchy. The onboard speaker is very loud, but there's nothing in the way of meaningful bass. It can fill a room in volume terms, but after a few minutes of listening to its tinny output, it starts to grate.

Verdict

It's a lovely phone for the most part, with the Xiaomi Mi 3 combining a surprising amount of style with high-end power and a supremely polished user interface.

The fact it's only available on import is the only substantial issue, as buying one from China through a third-party means possible stress and misery should a warranty claim ever need to be made.

Aside from that, though, there's very little not to like. It's probably too late for this particular model to make much of an impact in the US or UK were it to launch now, but the solid and impressive Mi 3 ought to get smartphone fans pumped for Xiaomi's next move.

First reviewed: July 2014