Review Price Update: Xiaomi Mi A3 with Android One for $175.86

The assumptions have existed since the Mi CC9 and Mi CC9e were first introduced. On 17 July, the company unveiled the Xiaomi Mi A3 for Europe, which is virtually the Xiaomi Mi CC9e. But the Android One device surprisingly only comes on the market with an HD+ display, but offers a fingerprint sensor in the display, three cameras and a large battery!

Xiaomi Mi A3 Display in Hand

Technical data of the Xiaomi Mi A3

Xiaomi Mi A3
Display 6,088″ AMOLED Display (1560 x 720p, 19,5:9 aspect ratio), 282 ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 @ 2 GHz
Graphic chip Adreno 610
Memory 4 GB LPDDR4X RAM
Internal memory 64/128 GB UFS 2.1
Main camera 48 MP with ƒ/1.79 aperture + 8 MP wide-angle + 2 MP depth sensor
Front Camera 32 MP with ƒ/2.0, AI Functions & Portrait Mode
Battery 4.030 mAh with Quick Charge 3.0 18W
Connectivity LTE Band 1,3,5,7,8, 20 WLAN AC, GPS//BDS, Bluetooth 5.0, Dual SIM
Features Fingerprint sensor in display | USB Type-C | Face Unlock
Operating system Android 9 Pie
Dimensions / Weight 153,48 x 71,85 x 8,475 mm / 173,8 g

Xiaomi Mi A3, Mi CC9e or Mi CC9?

In order to counteract all the confusion, we want to put all the devices in the right context. In China, Xiaomi introduced the Xiaomi Mi CC9 and Mi CC9e at the same time, with the Mi CC9e being a smaller and slightly attenuated version of the Mi CC9. The Xiaomi Mi A3 is identical in construction to the Xiaomi Mi CC9e, so for Europe it is part of Google’s Android One program. The Xiaomi Mi CC9 is so far only available in China, an Android One version or a Global version is accordingly not (yet) available.

Xiaomi Mi A3 vs Mi CC9 Smartphones
Left: Xiaomi Mi A3. Right: Xiaomi Mi CC9.

Xiaomi Mi CC9e as Xiaomi Mi A3

In the design there are actually hardly any differences between the Xiaomi Mi A3 and the Xiaomi Mi CC9. The main difference here is the size, given by the 6.088″ screen diagonal of the Mi A3. This results in dimensions of 153.48 x 71.85 x 8.475 mm, making the A3 slightly smaller than the Xiaomi Mi A1. In practice, there is hardly any difference in length, but in width. There it is almost as narrow as the Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite and almost as thick.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Waterdrop Notch

The other appearance is mainly defined by the waterdrop notch, which sits centrally above the screen. The edges of the screen are still clearly visible, especially the lower edge is relatively large with 7 mm. The corners of the display are rounded as usual and above the notch there is also the auricle. For the Notch design, the slightly curved version was chosen, which was introduced later on in the Xiaomi Mi 9, for example.

Xiaomi Mi A3 vs Mi CC9 Backside

On the back side there are no differences to the Xiaomi Mi CC9. The transition from Gorilla Glass 5 on the front side is again from an unobtrusive plastic base to a metal case frame. A very small gap separates the frame from the back of the Gorilla Glass 5, so the Mi A3 is also a real glass sandwich. At the sides, the back is slightly rounded. The layout is also identical: triple camera in the upper left corner and the Xiaomi logo in the lower left corner. In contrast to the Mi CC9 there is also a CE-mark in the lower right corner and the reference to the Android One program.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Android One CE Marking

There are three color variants of the Xiaomi Mi A3: black, blue, white. The latter is actually new in the Xiaomi universe and we personally like it very much. The “Kind of Grey” colorway of our test device is reflected in a very dark gray, which almost goes in a bluish direction.

Processing & Handling

Even if one does not equip the Xiaomi Mi A3 with the in-house operating system, one leaves no doubt about the strong quality of Xiaomi. Finally, this also includes the top processing, which has been at the highest level for years, even in the medium and budget class. No gap size is too large and no edge is milled unclean. The ergonomics result from the 2.5D back and the well-balanced weight of 173.8 g. The keys on the side also offer a good pressure point, even though they may even be slightly too soft for my taste.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Display in Hand

But a big advantage is the already mentioned size. Even though the difference to the 6,39″ display of the Mi CC9 is not quite so big in practice, I welcome the millimetres that are saved here. But you really notice this in the width, because the Mi A3 is a bit higher. With approximately comparable performance, only the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE with 147.5 mm is a bit smaller.

Display: Is a 720p resolution sufficient?

Seldom has a Xiaomi smartphone received so much bad feedback from our community in advance. Why is that? Xiaomi’s Xiaomi Mi A3 has a 6.088 inch AMOLED display panel with a resolution of only 1560 x 720 pixels, so not even a Full HD display at this price. This causes trouble for many Xiaomi fans, as the Redmi Note 7 or Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite is available for less money and with Full HD+ resolution. The resolution is also a downgrade to its predecessor, the Xiaomi Mi A2. Can you make up for this with the AMOLED panel and fingerprint sensor in the display or is a 720p display simply no longer up to date?

Xiaomi Mi A3 vs Mi CC9 in Hand
The Xiaomi Mi CC9 (left) is equipped with a Full HD+ resolution, the Mi A3 only with an HD+ resolution.

Colors, Sharpness & Brightness

To compare the panel I consult the Xiaomi Mi A1 (Release 2017) and the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite (Release 2018), the first because of the same OS and the second because of comparable features. The Xiaomi Mi A3 offers much stronger colors than the Mi A1 due to the AMOLED panel, the saturation is on a completely different level, which I personally like very much. One notices that the panel is a bit warmer in the colours. The same also applies to the comparison to the Mi 8 Lite, which however only offers an average display due to its low price.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Smartphone diagonally in hand

Sadly, the Xiaomi Mi A1 panel is simply sharper than the Mi A3, although it’s already two years old. The difference between 403 and 282 ppi pixel density is only really noticeable from a viewing distance of a little more than 20 cm, but it is noticeable. Especially fonts are not as crisp on the Mi A3 as one might expect from a more than $200 Xiaomi smartphone. Icons in the App-Drawer or the start screen make it harder to tell the difference.

Unfortunately, the Xiaomi Mi A3 can’t win the comparison in brightness either. The differences between the three models are hardly noticeable at maximum setting, at medium brightness the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite is a bit brighter overall than the Mi A3 and the Mi A1, whereby the latter clearly loses the test. Thus, the display brightness of the Xiaomi Mi A3 is ok, but Xiaomi can actually do that a bit better.

Functionality

A big advantage of an AMOLED panel compared to an LC display is the possibility of the Always-On display in addition to the stronger colors and the better contrast ratio (here 60000:1). The time and notifications are still displayed on the lock screen, since the panel can illuminate each pixel individually. With the Xiaomi Mi A3 this is not possible despite the AMOLED panel, the pure Android operating system only allows the inactivity display, which also works without AMOLED. This can also be “retrofitted” with a third party app, but in my experience they don’t work very well.

Xiaomi Mi A3 fingerprint sensor in display

The AMOLED panel also makes it possible to use the fingerprint sensor in the display. This is also integrated in the Xiaomi Mi A3 and a unique selling point in this price class. It also works very reliably, even if the finger only hits the sensor at the edge. The speed is clearly behind the Xiaomi Mi 9T, but also behind the Xiaomi Mi CC9. The pure Android operating system is partly responsible for this, as the wake-up animation after detection takes about half of the unlocking process.

Interim conclusion

Since the display is one of the biggest points of criticism, there is a short interim conclusion at this point. For the price, the display of the Xiaomi Mi A3 is unfortunately not up-to-date, especially as it is even a downgrade to the two year old Xiaomi Mi A1. In a direct comparison to the other two mobile phones, strengths in the color profile and functionality are revealed, but the sharpness simply lags behind. Even if you have to criticize Xiaomi for this step, an normal user wouldn’t even notice it, the display is still fine overall.

Xiaomi Mi A3 display close up

New processor – same performance

Like the Xiaomi Mi CC9e, the Xiaomi Mi A3 also relies on the Snapdragon 665 processor, an unfortunately very small increase compared to the Xiaomi Mi A2 with Snapdragon 660 processor. In addition there is 4/64 GB memory or optionally also 4/128 GB memory. The LPDDR4X main memory is the current industry standard, the UFS 2.1 mass memory is expandable by up to 256 GB via microSD card. The eight Kryo 260 cores of the CPU as well as the 11 nm production technology promise modern performance and a good battery life.

Xiaomi Mi A3 PUBG Gaming

In the speed test the Xiaomi Mi A3 has to compete against the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite with the Snapdragon 660 processor (same CPU as in the Redmi Note 7). The Xiaomi Mi A3 can win this comparison, here the new CPU wins by a narrow margin. Almost all apps open slightly faster, multitasking even works much better, especially if you clear the cache. Gaming is also possible, but for PUBG we recommend the medium graphics settings, on the high presets there are slight jerks in between. The Mi A3 also gets relatively warm.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Benchmarks

What one notices in practice, however, is not apparent from the benchmark results. Except for the PC Mark benchmark, the results are worse than those of the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite or Redmi Note 7. You shouldn’t spend too much on such benchmarks, but that could be an indication that the MIUI operating system is better tuned to the hardware and that the pure Android of the Mi A3 doesn’t tickle all the performance out of the CPU.

Finally with a big battery

The biggest criticism of the predecessor was the short battery life. This is countered with a 4.030 mAh battery. It can be charged with 18W Quick Charge 3.0 via USB type C, but only a 10W charger is included. This is probably the biggest change to the Mi A2, which came on the market with a 3.010 mAh battery. A complete charging process with the included charger takes about two hours and 10 minutes, in one hour the Mi A3 only reaches 50%.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Charger
The 10W charger is in the price range actually also untypical for Xiaomi.

The running time, on the other hand, is much better. Even if you can probably get by even longer with MIUI, the energy-efficient CPU and the large battery ensure a battery life of almost two days. The drain is relatively low, only with the PUBG gaming the battery empties relatively fast. Unfortunately we couldn’t run the battery benchmark despite several attempts, here an update follows if it finally works.

Triple camera with 48 megapixel sensor

Like so many smartphones at present, Xiaomi also processes a 48 megapixel camera in the Mi A3. The sensor is a Sony sensor with an aperture of ƒ/1.79, probably the Sony IMX586, which is also in the Xiaomi Mi 9. As this is a triple camera, there is also a wide-angle camera with 8 MP resolution and a 2 MP sensor for more depth information.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Triple Camera

The fact that you have the same sensor as a Xiaomi Mi 9 doesn’t mean that the photos are equally good, but they are still good in the price range. I like the color profile very much, the results of the main camera are comparable to those of the Xiaomi Mi CC9. The sharpness is right, the resolution is high enough, so that you can zoom in on it. The autofocus also fits and works reliably, but the shutter speed for this hardware equipment is underground. If you want to take a picture of our cute office dog, he has to listen to ” sit “, unfortunately it doesn’t work well in motion.

Xiaomi Mi A3 main camera test photo dogXiaomi Mi A3 main camera test photo potrait comparisonXiaomi Mi A3 main camera test photo plant

The ultra wide angle mode is based on the 8 megapixel sensor, which is also located in the Xiaomi Mi 9T and Mi 9 SE. Accordingly, I like the wide-angle shots only moderately. Of course, the effect is there, but the sharpness is far from the level of the main camera. With such a viewing angle, a good focus is of course more difficult, but the sensor doesn’t cope so well with poor lighting conditions. On the other hand, it’s cool that you can also film in the ultra wide angle mode if you want.

Xiaomi Mi A3 main camera test photo modes comparison

The third sensor for the depth information is only used for portrait shots that can be seen in real life. Here I like the edge detection again extremely well, we already noticed this increase in the test of the Xiaomi Mi CC9. The Bokeh also looks much more natural than the competition from Honor and Huawei, for example. However, the pure Android allows the “hardness” of the Bokeh effect only before the photo, while with MIUI you can still change it afterwards – bearable, but a pity.

Xiaomi Mi A3 main camera test photo dog portrait comparison

Front Camera: New Selfie Standard?

On the front side the Mi A3 also works with a 32 Megapixel front camera with ƒ/2.0 aperture. I like the self-portraits altogether well, even though I personally think the shooting angle is a bit too big. This makes the head look a bit small, but that’s a matter of taste. The colors are very rich, the sharpness is on point and the autofocus works reliably. But the always preset beauty filter is really annoying, here Xiaomi should finally provide for improvement. It seems to be popular in China, but not in Europe.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Front Camera Test Photo Portrait Mode Comparison

In addition, there is also the well-known portrait mode, which also works very well here. As with the main camera, the bokeh effect is successful and the edge detection is exemplary. When felt, this increases the sharpness of the object, but this is a subjective perception. In fact, panorama selffies are also possible here, as we already know from the Xiaomi Mi 9T and we also like it here. Of course, you still have to keep relatively still, but the software stitches the images together well.

XIaomi Mi A3 front camera panorama mode

Video camera

In contrast to the Xiaomi Mi CC9, the Xiaomi Mi A3 can actually record in 4K. But then you have to get used to unstabilised recordings at 30 fps, even though the video stabilisation is switched on. In addition, the colors tend to oversaturate, straight skin tones are very red. The 1080p shots look better here, because the image stabilization works really well here, even in hectic situations. Since 4K still hasn’t fully established itself, this is definitely sufficient.

There is also a time-lapse function and the popular slow-motion recording, which leaves no room for settings. The results are nice to look at thanks to the 1080p resolution, and even with 120 fps, four times the slowdown.

Xiaomi Mi A3 as part of Android One

Also the Mi A1 and the Mi A2 were each based on different Xiaomi devices. The biggest difference was the operating system, because since the MI A1 we find Android One on the devices of the series. An exception at Xiaomi, who otherwise use their own version of the operating system called MIUI.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Android One Design

The Android One program is basically simply Stock Android, the pure Android operating system from Google. The security update of Android 9 here is dated June 5, 2019 – so it’s very current. This is exactly the biggest advantage of the Android One program – fast and long-term system and security updates that come directly from Google. You are on the safe side. It is very similar to the Google Pixel devices.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Android One Security Patch

From Xiaomi itself only the Mi Community and the Mi Store App are pre-installed, the OS gives you the choice to install the AliExpress App. Of course, all Google services are pre-installed, including certified Google Play Store, YouTube, Google Drive and Gmail. Accordingly, an App-Drawer is also installed and the whole operating system can be used in several languages right from the start.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Display in Hand flowers
You can see it at first glance: there’s almost nothing here that doesn’t belong there.

Stock Android vs. Xiaomi MIUI

Of course there are some basic differences between the pure Android operating system and the Xiaomi MIUI, which we cannot all go into. As already mentioned above, the differences in the display settings are striking. While the Mi CC9 integrates the Always On mode and also offers a dark mode, the display settings of the Xiaomi Mi A3 are very puristic.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Android One vs MIUI Display settings

Of course, there are also many optical differences. Of course the whole OS is different, but also the icons are different. In addition, the Mi A3, for example, only has a background image available, while Xiaomi even offers different categories of wallpapers. There is also a selection of different themes and a separate theme store. Also the Notch cannot be deactivated in the settings of the pure Android.

The topic battery life is particularly in the foreground with MIUI, accordingly one has there many setting possibilities. Also the Mi A3 offers of course an energy saving mode and an “intelligent battery”, with the Mi CC9 it goes with the battery optimization and scene recognition (e.g. sleeping) a little more into the depth.

Xiaomi Mi A3 Android One vs MIUI battery settings
The Xiaomi Mi A3 on the left, the Mi CC9 on the right.

In my opinion there is no clear winner or loser here, the operating system is a question of preference. MIUI is already strongly adapted, offers a large functional range and many own services, with the Stock Android one has free space to individualize the mobile phone according to his imagination. Both have advantages and disadvantages. I’m a fan of MIUI, but how do you see it? You are welcome to write that in our comments!

Connectivity

Of course, the Xiaomi Mi A3 is intended for use in Europe, because the operating system is available in all possible languages, a CE mark is on it, and an EU charger is also included. In addition, there is also a 3.5 mm jack input and there is USB type C as in the predecessor. By the way, it is interesting that it is even closed with the included case and can be opened with a flap. On the upper side there is even an infrared blaster again.

Xiaomi Mi A3 jack connector

As typical for Global Versions of Xiaomi, the LTE Band 20 frequency band has been integrated, as well as the LTE Band B1/2/3/4/5/7/8. For the future it’s also interesting that the LTE Band 28 will be launched, which will probably get more attention soon. LTE reception can be used with one of the two Nano-SIM slots, but then you have to do without the memory expansion via microSD card. If you dial into the local Internet, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual Band WiFi is available. Bluetooth 5, GPS, A-GPS and GLONASS are also integrated.

Xiaomi Mi A3 SIM Slot

But unfortunately you don’t use NFC. It’s a pity that Xiaomi doesn’t offer contactless payment, only the Xiaomi Mi CC9 or Xiaomi Mi 9 SE and Mi 9T in this price range get this. It’s also a shame that you don’t use a stereo loudspeaker, but instead use mono speakers on the underside. The sound, however, is perfectly ok, tending towards a slightly overdriven sound at very high volume levels.

Conclusion: Four letters would have changed everything

Oh Xiaomi, with the Xiaomi Mi A3 you didn’t do yourselves a favor. The smartphone is actually not bad at all, especially the camera I like well in this price range, the battery life is good, the handling & design do the rest. Also the connection possibilities are definitely more than sufficient and the performance is more than adequate to the price. If you prefer pure Android, you really have a real and cheaper alternative to the Google Pixel 3a.

But the problem here is simply the display. That’s okay overall, but it’s simply a downgrade in contrast to its predecessor, the Xiaomi Mi A2. It would have been a deterioration even to the Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite, but I would have forgiven it more. That’s why I would have liked the Mi A3 to be Mi A3 Lite, those four letters would have fundamentally changed the perception of the mobile phone. But not only because of that, the Xiaomi Mi A3 is not the big upgrade compared to the Mi A2. Almost the same CPU, hardly any better camera, same connectors (except for the jack), but at least an improved battery life.

Accordingly, I wouldn’t advise to switch from the Xiaomi Mi A2 to the Xiaomi Mi A3, a change in the Android One sphere is only recommended if you have a Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite or Xiaomi Mi A1. If you are interested in a Xiaomi smartphone in this price range and can handle MIUI, I still recommend the Redmi Note 7. Meanwhile, we’re waiting to see if the Xiaomi Mi CC9 will come to us as the Xiaomi Mi A3 Pro.

What do you think of the Xiaomi Mi A3? Is the display also a dealbreaker for you?

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Thorben

My special interests are smartphones from China and I am always keen to discover new smartphone accessories like smartwatches and headphones. 

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