“Does the new Xiaomi Redmi 3S offer enough firepower to beat the competition? Let’s find out”
The launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 marked a much anticipated event in the phablet range of smartphones. But not all of us want that big, or that premium, a phone. In a market where compact smartphones are diminishing in number with each passing moment, Xiaomi has resurfaced the excitement with the launch of its pocket-friendly Redmi 3S (first impressions) and Redmi 3S Prime (review) smartphones. That said, the Redmi 3S variants are not the only fish in the tank to watch out for. Other vendors offer equally feature-rich handsets without hurting your pocket much… or do they? That’s exactly the question we sought to answer today. Smartphones like the Lenovo VIBE K5 and the Coolpad Note 3 Lite (first impressions) offer tough competition to the newly launched devices. But which of these phones edges out the others to rule the compact budget smartphone arena? Let’s dig right into it.
Design and Display
Starting with the Xiaomi Redmi 3S (FAQs) and the 3S Prime, the smartphones feature a major design change coming from the Redmi 2 Prime (review). As opposed to a polycarbonate back, the new smartphones feature a full metal unibody design that gives them a sleek and premium look. But if you’re looking for a fingerprint scanner, do note that only the Prime variant of the Redmi 3S offers one, located at the back of the device. Talking about fingerprint scanners, the Coolpad Note 3 Lite sports one as well. Though, you’ll have to settle for a less appealing plastic body with gold accents around the corners. Lenovo’s VIBE K5 takes an exactly opposite approach by including a metal unibody design, but missing out on a fingerprint scanner. However, it is also the lightest and slimmest of the three smartphones, closely followed by the Redmi 3S in second place, with the Coolpad Note 3 Lite coming in last. Overall, if the design is your priority, the Coolpad Note 3 Lite falls behind its counterparts, giving the Xiaomi Redmi 3S and the Lemovo VIBE K5 an early lead. But if this lead remains that way is something we need to see.
All three smartphones feature IPS LCD displays with a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. If you do some math, that comes out to be a decent pixel density of 294ppi for each of the devices. That said, with a higher screen-to-body ratio, the Redmi 3S offers the same 5-inch display in a more compact form factor, making it both easier and more comfortable to handle in one hand than the other two smartphones. Another interesting point that we noticed is that all three smartphone feature capacitive navigation buttons, meaning you won’t have to compromise with your screen real estate for basic functions like navigating the interface.
The Coolpad Note 3 Lite is the only one in the lot to use a MediaTek MT6735 SoC, which is a quad-core SoC clocked at 1.3GHz. The other two smartphones in our comparison use Snapdragon 400 series chipsets at their core. On one hand, the VIBE K5 uses the 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 415 SoC, while on the other, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S utilities a more recent octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor clocked at 1.4GHz. The Coolpad Note 3 Lite offers a solitary 3GB RAM variant, whereas the VIBE K5 and the regular Redmi 3S variant come with 2GB of RAM. If you can invest some more cash, then you can even get the Prime variant of the Redmi 3S which comes with an extra gig of RAM.
Camera, Storage and Battery
When it comes to the camera performance, it is not surprising to see that all three smartphones feature 13MP CMOS sensors at the back, along with autofocus and LED flash. None of the phones supports shooting 4K video, although all of them do support recording 1080p video in 30fps. Other modes like HDR, Continuous shooting, and Face detection are common between the three handsets. And that’s not where the similarities end. If you love to click selfies, it will be a hard time choosing between the three handsets, as each of them sport 5MP front cameras with fixed focus. That said, if you want to enjoy your own recordings, then the dual speaker Dolby speaker system of the VIBE K5 will offer the most immersive audio experience to you, as compared to the single speaker output of the Redmi 3S and Coolpad Note 3 Lite.
The similarities extend to the storage front, where all three phones come with 16GB of onboard storage, except the Prime variant of the Redmi 3S that offers double of that. And while all three smartphones also come with support for memory expansion with the help of microSD cards, the VIBE K5 and the Coolpad Note 3 support cards up to 32GB, while the Redmi 3S can accept cards up to 128GB.
None of the phones come with removable batteries. But this is one place where the Redmi 3S beats the other two smartphones hands down. It draws power from a massive 4,100mAh battery as compared to the meagre 2,500mAh and 2,750mAh batteries found in the Coolpad Note 3 Lite and the Lenovo VIBE K5 respectively. The Redmi 3S will easily last you over a day irrespective if you are a heavy user or not. It’s remarkable how Xiaomi has fitted such a big battery in the Redmi 3S without compromising the looks and weight of the device. Our only concern though, that with such a big battery, it also takes while a long time to charge the Redmi 3S from 0 to 100.
Software and Connectivity
The software is also one of the key differentiators between the three smartphones. Each of the three companies have their own take on Android, which they have implemented with their own skin on top of vanilla Android. The Coolpad Note 3 Lite and the Lenovo VIBE K5 use Android 5.1 Lollipop as the base, while the Redmi 3S runs the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Be it Coolpad’s COOL UI, Lenovo’s VIBE UI, or Xiaomi’s MIUI, all three offer tons of features to add new functionality to Android. There are a lot of customisations, more settings, and new features to make better use of the software. But with that, there is also the mountain of apps that come pre-loaded into the system, often using valuable space. If we had to pick one of the three UIs, we’d choose MIUI 7 for its slick animations and smooth transitions. But more so, the Redmi 3S should soon receive the MIUI 8 update, which will bring even more new features in the carousel including a revamped interface and the ability to store two instances of the same app.
On the connectivity front, all three phones feature dual-SIM support, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, mobile hotspot, Bluetooth, NFC and A-GPS. For charging and data transfer, all three handsets use micro-USB ports.
Pricing and Availability
The Xiaomi Redmi 3S will go on sale starting August 16th. Xiaomi will be selling the phone via open sales on Flipkart and mi.com. Interested users can pick one up in Dark Grey, Silver and Gold hues at a price of Rs 6,999. On the other hand, the Lenovo VIBE K5 is an Amazon exclusive and is available for the same price of Rs 6,999 in Grey and Silver colours. Incidentally, the Coolpad Note 3 Lite is also an Amazon Exclusive and bears the same price tag of Rs 6,999.
The Xiaomi Redmi 3S is given some tough competition from the likes of the Lenovo VIBE K5 and the Coolpad Note 3 Lite. But while the Coolpad Note 3 Lite offers an extra gig of RAM, it is the most under-powered device in our comparison. On the other hand, the Redmi 3S is one of the first smartphones to utilise Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 chipset. Add to that the fact, that MIUI has always been one of the most refined Android-based ROMs in recent times. All this makes the Redmi 3S the winner of our comparison, with the Lenovo VIBE K5 taking the second spot. An average design, an under-powered SoC, and a low battery capacity means that unfortunately, the Coolpad Note 3 Lite falls far behind the other two. But if you can spend a few more bucks, then do take a look at the elder siblings of these smartphones, including the Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime, Lenovo VIBE K5 Plus, and the Coolpad Note 3.