“The Coolpad Note 3 looks set to murder its rivals by offering compelling specs in its class”
Writing about the Note 3 in 2015 makes us feel like we’ve travelled back in time, but the brand in question this time isn’t Samsung. We’re alluding to the new offering by Coolpad, dubbed the Note 3. The Chinese brand is still quite new in the Indian market but it seems to have learnt an important lesson quite early on. We feel it’s important for new, and relatively unknown brands to offer hero offerings that one-up others in the same league, and Coolpad did exactly that when it debuted in India with the Dazen 1 (review). If you recall, the latter was the most affordable smartphone to offer 2GB of RAM at launch time. With the Note 3, Coolpad is upping the ante further, and the latest smartphones comes in at a budget price point but manages to trump worthy rivals (on paper at least), thanks to a couple of features that steal the show and should look quite appealing to those hankering after specs. To set the context up front, you should know that the Coolpad Note 3 boasts 3GB of RAM and an integrated fingerprint scanner… and has been priced at a very aggressive Rs 8,999. This makes it the most affordable smartphone in the country to offer said features. Ignoring these two mainstays, the other offered specs look quite reasonable too, and since we’ve had the chance to play with the new smartphone, this is an opportune time to tell you what we think about it.
Getting our hands on the Coolpad Note 3 for the first time was sort of anticlimactic – it looks quite ho-hum and plain Jane. There’s really nothing out of the ordinary in terms of design – with the only saving grace being the Chrome-finished band that runs around the sides. Otherwise, the design looks quite boring, with the 5.5-inch display up front, three capacitive navigation keys below and the usual array consisting of the earpiece, the front 5MP camera and the sensors above. The screen comes with a resolution of 720p, and looks quite vivid and sharp. It’s quite responsive to touch too.
The volume rocker is placed on the left, while the power key is on the right. The headset socket and the micro-USB port are where they should be – at the top and bottom respectively.
The rear panel is fashioned out of white plastic, and with the possible exception of the square fingerprint scanner placed below the circular camera lens, doesn’t have anything exciting to offer as well. You’ll find an LED flash next to the camera, plus Coolpad branding and a speaker grille down below.
The back panel is removable, and while you can’t pull out the battery, you can get access to the pair of micro-SIM slots and a microSD card slot.
The software side of things comprise Android Lollipop 5.1.1, with the brand’s custom UI dubbed Cool UI 6.0. Like most Android skins that come from China, Cool UI puts the kibosh on a dedicated app drawer and utilises the home screens to list all installed apps. Some of the features on offer include theme support and an app called Rock Wallpaper that changes the background when you tap the icon. Screen-off gestures like double-tap-to-wake, slide up to unlock, slide down to take photos and drawing specific characters to launch apps directly from standby have also been provided. In addition, the device features a glove mode and a multi window mode for running two apps simultaneously as well.
The primary camera rocks a resolution of 13-megapixels, and the custom camera app offers a slew of modes that cover the likes of face beauty, HDR, smile shot, a ‘dim light’ mode and gesture shot. The Pro mode looks quite interesting, as it presents a menu consisting of concentric rings that let you tweak parameters like white balance, exposure, ISO and focus to get the exact shot you want. Bad lighting at the event kept us from getting test shots, so we’ll reserve judgement on camera quality till the time we get the handset for a full-blown review.
We were able to try the fingerprint scanner though, and it works quite well. The software can store up to five fingerprints, and once you’ve got a print registered, you can unlock the smartphone straight from standby by just placing your finger on the scanner. It barely takes a fraction of a second, so we believe Coolpad when it says the fingerprint scanner is fast. Apart from unlocking the device, the fingerprint scanner can also be used for other functions like shooting a picture, direct dialling a contact or launching an app. However, it looks like that a registered fingerprint can only be used for one of these functions – so if you’ve set your right index finger to unlock the phone, you can’t use the same finger to launch an app, for instance. We’ll confirm this once we have a review unit in hand.
With a 1.3GHz octa-core 64-bit MediaTek processor running the show along with 3 gigs of RAM, we didn’t encounter any signs of lag during our brief usage. The 3,000mAh battery promises to keep the phone alive for as long as possible, and supports quick charging as well. So the specs do look good on paper for sure, but a deep dive into the Note 3’s capabilities will reveal how it fares as a daily driver. We’re also sure that the existing lot of devices in the same price bracket would be sweating bullets right now… we’re looking at you, Lenovo K3 Note (review) and YU Yureka Plus (review). That said, our review should separate the wheat from the chaff, as usual.