If you're looking to buy a phone for under £150, or even under £200, you're entering something of a minefield. While there are established players in the space such as Lenovo / Motorola with the Moto G and entry level devices from a number of other manufacturers, there are also a huge number of devices from lesser known names in the UK as well as China including, of course, Xiaomi. When buying at the high end, it's easy to be put off importing a device due to the potential risk with warranty hassle etc., but when the outlay is a lot less, the temptation to try something a little bit different increases.
The Redmi range from Xiaomi represents their entry level products. When we originally checked out the Redmi 3 we loved the size, build, finish, epic battery and - to a degree - MIUI, but also missed high end features such as larger RAM and storage and a fingerprint reader. With this in mind, we were particularly interested when Xiaomi announced the 'Pro' variant, which takes everything that is good from the original and bumps the RAM to 3GB, storage to 32GB and adds a fingerprint reader on the back. Best of all? The price is barely affected.
At first glance then this looks like a winning recipe, but does that prove to be the case in practice? Gearbest kindly send us a device so that we could find out.
First things first, let's be clear and say that you will absolutely struggle to top the Redmi 3 Pro's specs at the sub £120 pricepoint.
- MIUI 8 with Global stable and developer ROM support
- Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 CPU (1.5GHz / 1.3GHz)
- Adreno 405 GPU
- 4G FDD-LTE on 1800/2100/2600MHz bands
- Dual SIM support (hybrid slot with microSD expansion)
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB ROM
- 5 Megapixel front camera, f/2.0
- 13 Megapixel rear camera with PDAF, f/2.0
- Dual band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.1
- IR transmitter
- Light sensor, G-sensor, Proximity sensor, E-compass, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
- Notification LED
- Fingerprint reader
- 4100mAh battery
- 13.93 x 6.96 x 0.85 cm
- microUSB charging
Pretty impressive eh? If you were to nit-pick, the main omissions would probably be Gorilla Glass screen protection, 800MHz 4G (used by Vodafone / O2 and fill-in by Three), NFC and perhaps USB C. At this level though, these are very competitive specs with some added treats too (I'm particularly pleased to see dual band Wi-Fi).
Like the original Redmi 3, the Pro has a metal back, although this time there's no 'gold diamond' patterened version available. Construction is extremely solid. I tested the white / silver version, which would probably be my preference.
The device, as is traditional on Xiaomis, has recent / home / back keys on the front in the Samsung-alike order which isn't my preference, but for regular users it is fine.
The Redmi 3 Pro runs MIUI 8, the latest version of Xiaomis OS. A number of software builds can be flashed to the device without unlocking the bootloader - China Stable / Developer and Global Stable / Developer. You'll want to use the Global version, which comes with Play Store preinstalled. In my experience there's no reason not to use the developer version, it's is perfectly stable and comes with the added excitement of weekly updates!
Worth noting is that at this time, the Redmi 3 version of MIUI 8 is still based on Lollipop. The reality is that MIUI is skinned to such a degree that the underlying OS is almost irrelevant, but it is worth bearing in mind.
So what of MIUI 8 itself? It's flatter, better looking and slicker than all the versions that have gone before, but if you are a stock Android fan, this is not the droid you are looking for. Much like EMUI on Honor or Huawei devices, the OS actually adds a whole host of useful functions not found in base Android, albeit at the expensive of that 'AOSP feel' and with the caveat that the sheer number of additions and changes can sometimes feel overwhelming. Personally, I'd love to see Xiaomi (and others) offer 'stock Android' software versions, but once you get used to a manufacturer skin, they are generally good enough nowadays that you won't feel short changed.
If you're coming to the Redmi Pro 3 from a bigger device (and let's be honest, there's a decent chance of that), then the phone feels surprisingly *right* in the hand. Build quality is exceptional, all the buttons fall to hand naturally and the fingerprint reader is in a perfect spot - on the back is my favourite place for it. With one of Xiaomi's now trademark high density batteries on board (4100mAh this time round), the device feels reassuringly weighty and, well, dense. It's hard to describe, but the weight alone almost makes the phone feel more expensive than it is!
You'd hope that a big battery would equal epic battery life although that isn't always the case. Here... it is. One of the MIUI advantages is comprehensive battery management and the Redmi 3 Pro outlasts pretty much everything we've ever used. Whether you are using 1 SIM card or 2 seems to make minimal difference too - if you need a phone that lasts and lasts (and isn't too big), you'll be very satisfied.
As the device boots for the first time you get your first look at the 1280x720, 294 PPI 5" screen. Of course, it's an IPS LCD, with excellent viewing angles. The screen goes both extremely bright and incredibly dim - it's a very good panel. If you're concerned by the fact it's 720P, don't be - at this price it's absolutely fine and brings some benefits. The Snapdragon 616 in the phone is somewhat maligned amongst reviewers, but in truth at this resolution it is very snappy - certainly comparing well with the Snapdragon 4xx series or MediaTek CPUs found in most of the device's competitors.
Connectivity in the phone is comprehensive, with the exception of the aforementioned missing 800MHz 4G and NFC. The Dual Band Wi-Fi is fast, the IR blaster is a nice addition and I'm pleased to see a FM radio included. The microUSB connector on the bottom of the device supports USB OTG, should the 32GB storage and microSD expansion not cut it!
The camera is typically a weak point on cheaper devices. The 13 Megapixel camera on the Redmi 3 Pro uses hybrid autofocus with phase detection for lightning quick focus times together with a single LED flash. Like many Chinese phones, the camera app itself is positively crammed with features, although we're disappointed once again to see no auto HDR mode. It's very cliche to say 'the phone's camera is great in good light but weaker in low light', but it holds true here. Manually activated, HDR is better than we've seen on many devices. The front facing 5 Megapixel camera is fine but not exceptional, again offering lots of modes such as beauty shots and live filters. For social media selfies? Absolutely fine.
1080P video recording is available and quality is surprisingly good!
The device's single speaker is loud and clear - quality is as good as you can reasonably expect from a single bottom firing unit.
Importing pros and cons
Looking to import a device from China for the first time? Check out our handy guide on how to make the process as smooth as possible.
The Redmi 3 Pro does exactly what it needs to - it's a sensible refinement of the original with a minimal price increase. The phone originally felt like an entry level product, it's now absolutely knocking on the mid tier.
Can you live with MIUI 8? Are NFC and Band 3 LTE unimportant to you? Do you want epic battery life and a solid performer everywhere else? Then the Redmi 3 Pro may well be the phone for you.
Where to buy
The Redmi 3 Pro is available to buy from Gearbest.
Edited by PaulOBrien