Xiaomi Redmi Y3 [Mini] Review: Class Leading Selfie Performance
Xiaomi introduced the Redmi Y series back in 2017 with the Redmi Y1 being the first device from the youth-focused lineup. It was followed by the Redmi Y2 which not only featured a better front camera, but also a dual-camera setup for portrait photography, then exclusive to the Redmi Note lineup only. Recently, the company introduced the third iteration of its selfie-focused lineup with the launch of the Redmi Y3 in India. With the Redmi Y3, Xiaomi is bringing a more appealing design, a bigger battery, and an even better front camera. The Redmi Y2 was quite successful and the company believes the Redmi Y3 might repeat the same success. With the price starting at Rs 9,999 for the base model, it sure looks to be a compelling device. But is it really the best phone for selfie lovers? We find out in this review.
Redmi Y3 Specifications
|Software||Android 9 Pie with MIUI 10||Connectivity||2+1 SIM tray, Dual 4G VoLTE, GPS, micro USB port.|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 @1.8GHz – 8x Cortex-A53||Audio||3.5mm headphone jack, Dirac HD sound.|
|GPU||Adreno 506 (up to 725MHz)||Rear cameras|
|RAM and storage||3GB / 4GB LPDDR4 RAM and 32 / 64GB eMMC 5.1 storage|
(microSD support up to 256GB)
|Battery||4,230 mAh||Fingerprint scanner||Yes (rear-mounted)|
|Display||In the box|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz)||Colors||Dynamic Black, Dynamic Blue, Black|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.2||Network bands|
Redmi 3 Design & Display
While the main highlight of the Redmi Y3 is its front camera, what immediately grabs your attention is the beautiful Aura Prism design. Xiaomi says the dual-tone back is made of 7 layers which consist of the ink layer, plating layer, UX texture layer, gradient paint, PET membrane, polycarbonate, and UV coating. When viewed under direct light, it reflects a cool rainbow-like effect with colors blending into each other. We highly praised the Realme 3’s design in our review and called it the best-looking smartphone in its price range. But it seems we will have to pass that title to the Redmi Y3. The Realme 3 is still a great looking device but the Redmi Y3 has surpassed it with a more eye-catching design and better build quality.
In terms of design language, the Redmi Y3 is a clear descendent of the Redmi Note 7 design philosophy, featuring a water-drop notch on the front and gradient back. Although the design is the same, the material isn’t, as the device uses plastic instead of a metal and glass construction. Without actually holding the device in the hands, it’s hard to tell if it’s made out of plastic as it has the same glossy finish as the Redmi Note 7. This glossy finish also means the back is prone to pick up fingerprints and smudge very easily. It’s not a unibody design, but the reflective surface and gradient color scheme give the device an impression of seamlessness.
Except for the fingerprint sensor, you will not find any bit of metal on the Redmi Y3 — even the SIM tray and physical buttons are made of plastic. But the overall build quality is solid enough that there’s nothing to complain about — except for one thing: the buttons. The buttons lack solid tactile response and seem finicky. There were a couple of occasions where the volume down button was stuck in its position after being pressed, resulting in a continuous popup of the volume slider window on the screen. Not a deal breaker by any means but indeed a bit disappointing for an otherwise perfect design.
The front of the device is protected by Gorilla Glass 5, which is said to provide up to 4 times more protection against shoulder height drops than competing glasses. The water-drop notch on the top holds the front camera while the notification LED is hidden on the bottom chin. On the very top, you will find the secondary microphone, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and an IR blaster. Power and volume control keys are on the right while the 2+1 SIM tray is on the left. Meanwhile, the micro USB port, speaker, and microphone are located on the bottom.
Moving to the back, we can see the familiar Redmi Note 7 look. The vertically assembled dual-camera setup is on the left and just beneath is the flash module. There’s a recessed fingerprint scanner on the upper half and the brand logo which reads “Redmi by Xiaomi” (since Redmi is now a separate brand) on the bottom.
The Redmi Y3 features a 6.26-inch HD+ LCD with a resolution of 1520 x 720. While not the sharpest out there, the quality of the display itself is quite good. Colors are punchy and vibrant and viewing angles are also excellent. Similar to other Redmi devices you also get various display settings to tweak the white balance and contrast to your liking. We found the Standard Contrast mode to be a little too warm. Automatic Contrast mode, on the other hand, is quite useful as it adjusts the contrast automatically according to the available light for the best viewing experience. Outdoor visibility is also very good — almost on par with the Redmi Note 6 Pro. It gets fairly bright at max brightness and we had no trouble reading texts and previewing photos on sunny days.
Redmi Y3 Camera
Front camera performance
The main selling point of the Redmi Y3 is its front camera. So while a bit odd, I think it makes sense to start the camera section with the analysis of the front camera performance. The Redmi Y2 offered a 16MP front camera and the Redmi Y3 doubles down on the megapixel front with a 32MP sensor. It’s easy to get excited by seeing the whopping number of megapixels, but as we all know, having more megapixels doesn’t directly translate to better camera performance. There are multiple aspects at play that affect the overall picture quality. The 32MP sensor is paired with a smaller pixel size so the light capture may not be that great in low light shots. To address this, Xiaomi is using pixel-binning to combine 4 pixels into 1 to produce a final 8MP image. You can toggle the 32MP mode from the hamburger menu to shoot at the maximum resolution, though.
In terms of image quality, selfies in well-lit conditions came out great with pleasant skin tone rendering and good contrast. Colors are accurate and so are the white balance and saturation. Exposure can be hit or miss under high contrast scenes. The default 8MP images are sharp and have sufficient details. Under good lighting conditions, the Redmi Y3 doesn’t disappoint and delivers amazing results. You also get portrait mode on the front camera which works really well. In outdoor scenes, it’s pretty accurate at identifying the subject from the background even when there are multiple people in the scene. The portrait mode is only available when shooting in the default 8MP resolution.
As for those wondering whether shooting in 32MP makes any significant difference in picture quality, the simple answer is yes. In terms of detail retention, 32MP shots retain a lot more details compared to 8MP shots, though you’ll be unlikely to spot any major difference between 8MP and 32MP shots simply by looking. The difference is only apparent when you decide to zoom in on the subject. I don’t think shooting with full resolution in every scenario is a great idea as it doesn’t produce a significantly superior image. Not to mention the large storage footprints — up to 20MB for a single image. High-resolution photos may be useful on social media platforms which make use of heavy compression and at night if you prefer more details at the cost of noise. Otherwise, the default mode produces just as good results in most scenarios.
In low-light conditions and under artificial lighting, the Redmi Y3 continues to deliver great results. Shooting with the default 8MP camera produces less noisy images compared to the 32MP resolution shots. This is because by combining 4 pixels into 1 the sensor is effectively capturing more light — 1.6μm vs. 0.8μm — resulting in significant noise reduction in images.
The front camera of the Redmi Y3 so far has impressed us with its performance and consistency. Have we seen better selfie performance on a smartphone than the Redmi Y3? Yes, but definitely not in this price range and the overall performance still comes quite close to what we have seen on more expensive devices.
All in all, the front camera on the Redmi Y3 produces the sharpest and arguably best-looking images we have seen on any device in this segment. If selfies are your priority, look no further than the Redmi Y3.
Note: All our sample images were taken with the beautification and AI mode disabled.
Rear camera evaluation
The Redmi Y3 has a dual-camera setup on the back consisting of a 12MP main sensor and 2MP depth sensor. It’s a decent camera package for the price point, though there’s nothing extraordinary here. We tested the camera capabilities of the Redmi Y3 in various situations to assess its performance. In good lighting conditions, the Redmi Y3 mostly delivers satisfying results and it’s also capable of capturing a few stunning shots if the lighting is just right. The colors are accurate, though dynamic range is about average from what we have seen on similarly priced devices. There’s auto HDR mode which claims to boost the dynamic range in high-contrast scenes but we were not pleased with the results. Most shots taken with auto HDR were washed out and a bit cartoonish. We recommend setting the HDR mode off as more often than not the auto HDR fails to get things right. We also encountered some issues where the camera would oversaturate the colors and overexpose the highlights in outdoor scenes. Fortunately, these particular issues were fixed in the first software update.
Daylight images have plenty of details and retain textures very well, but things start to get muddy as you move to low-light scenes. The low light performance isn’t the strongest point of the Redmi Y3 but it does get the job done. It performs just okay. For what it’s worth, it gets the color and exposure right most of the time, but details are smudged out resulting in softer images. Manually shooting in HDR does improve details and shadows but it only comes handy for shooting static objects. It’s impossible to shoot any moving objects with the HDR mode on as it takes its sweet time to produce the final image.
Portraits are excellent on the Redmi Y3 and actually far better than what we saw on the Realme 3. This is an area where companies like Realme and Asus still have some catching up to do. The Redmi Y3 produces some of the best looking portraits in this price range. Depth estimation is a little slower than we would like but the end results are usually pretty accurate with a pleasant blur effect and an accurately masked subject. There are rarely any artifacts in outdoor images and complex details such as hair and the edge of the sunglasses are handled quite well.
Redmi Y3 Performance
The Redmi Y3 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 SoC, a successor to the Snapdragon 626. Although the CPU clock speed is similar to that of the Snapdragon 636, it’s a different architecture. It uses 8x Kryo 250 cores based on ARM Cortex-A53 as opposed to the Snapdragon 636’s Kryo 260 cores which use more powerful Cortex-A73 cores alongside Cortex-A53 efficiency cores. Ultimately, the Redmi Y3 isn’t going to be a performance powerhouse but it has enough raw power under its belt to keep things running smoothly. Having used the Redmi Y2, I can tell you that the Redmi Y3 is definitely a step up over its predecessor and feels snappier in normal operations.
In our app opening speed test, the device fared quite well, beating the Realme 3 by a comfortable margin while coming close to the Snapdragon 636-powered Redmi Note 6 Pro. The test opens the Play Store, Gmail, and YouTube app 150 times for each app in quick succession and the final results are displayed on the graphs below.
Keep in mind that we are not measuring the time it takes for an app to be fully rendered with all its elements drawn on the screen. Rather, we are using a proxy by recording the time it takes for the app to create the main activity of the application. The time measure we include encompasses launching the application process, initializing its objects, creating and initializing the activity, inflating the activity’s layout, and drawing the application for the first time. It ignores inline processes that do not prevent the initial display of the application, which in turn means the recorded time is not really affected by extraneous variables such as the network speed fetching burdensome assets.
Overall, the Redmi Y3 is a quite usable device, though far from ideal for heavy users. As you start to open new apps and the RAM fills up, the device becomes slightly choppy. We encountered some UI freezing and sluggishness when switching between apps from time to time, but nothing that seriously hampered our experience. The Redmi Y3 is still a good performer for its price and, in fact, far better than the Realme 3 with its beefier processing package.
There is nothing more to add about the performance aspect of the device. It’s not meant for power users and that’s the point to remember. If powerful performance is what are you looking for in this price range then something like the Redmi Note 7 or the recently released Redmi Note 7S will be a better choice. For everyone else, the Redmi Y3 doesn’t disappoint, delivering reasonably fast performance in day-to-day scenarios.
In terms of unlocking speed, coming from the wildly inaccurate fingerprint scanner on the Realme 3, I was pleasantly surprised by the speed and accuracy of the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner on the Redmi Y3. It’s genuinely fast, accurate, and rarely fails to register my finger even if they’re sweaty. Face unlock on the Redmi Y3 also works like a charm, even in low-light conditions. As a nice addition, a recent software update has added an option to stay on the lock screen and doesn’t directly take you to the home screen after a successful face unlock. This is really handy when you just want to check time or notifications on the lock screen.
Redmi Y3 Battery Life
The Redmi Y3 offers a big 4,000 mAh battery, a step up from the Redmi Y2’s 3,000 mAh unit. A bigger battery coupled with a low-resolution screen result in amazing battery life. With my relatively heavy usage, which involves lots of Chrome browser surfing, photo taking, streaming on Spotify and YouTube, and heavy social media usage, the device was able to easily last close to two days on a full charge. The battery life, of course, varies from person to person depending on their personal usage patterns, but this is a very good estimate of what you can expect from this device in general.
On our standard PCMark Battery 2.0. test, the device survived for 12 hours and 1 minute with the brightness set to 50%. The test was performed with background services disabled and internet connection turned off.
As for the charging time, the device takes close to 2 hours and 15 minutes to fully charge from the dead state. Quite acceptable for a 4,000 mAh battery which charges through a 5V / 2A charger. There’s no unusual heating around the back when the device is being charged, something which was quite common with our Redmi Note 6 Pro unit.
Redmi Y3 Software
The Redmi Y3 ships with Android Pie 9.0 out-of-the-box with the familiar MIUI 10 running on top. We have already discussed various parts of MIUI 10 at great lengths in our review of the Redmi Note 6 Pro and Redmi Note 7 Pro. We would recommend you check out the software sections of those reviews as there’s virtually no difference in terms of the overall software experience and features these devices offer. During our review period, we received one software update which brought the April security patches, an improvement to face unlock and camera, and fixes for bugs reported by users.
Redmi Y3 Connectivity & Call Quality
Call quality both on the earpiece and speaker is loud and clear. Signal reception has also been generally good with no instances of call drops or signal loss. Data speeds, however, were significantly slower compared to something like the Redmi Note 6 Pro. This is primarily because of the comparatively slower Snapdragon X9 LTE modem. The device supports VoLTE on both SIMs and since it has a 2+1 tray, you can also accommodate a microSD card alongside two SIMs, something which even more expensive devices such as the Redmi Note 7 Pro can’t do.
The Redmi Y3 is yet another solid device from Xiaomi. It’s mainly targeted at selfie lovers who are looking for a capable front camera. If you fall into this category, the Redmi Y3 is a perfect fit, offering best-in-class selfie performance, amazing battery life, and stunning design at a reasonable price point. Apart from the front camera, there’s nothing that particularly stands out about the Redmi Y3. It’s a decent device, but those looking to get the best bang for their buck and overall a more rounded smartphone experience in the same price range will find the likes of the Redmi Note 7 and Redmi Note 7S more appealing.
In terms of competition, the Redmi Y3 has a direct competitor in the Realme U1, which also offers a selfie-focused experience at a similar price point. But the Redmi Y3 enjoys an advantage as it offers a bigger battery, a newer software version, and, arguably, better camera performance. If you’re thinking of buying the Redmi Y3, our recommendation goes toward the base model as 32GB of storage is enough for apps and since the device has a dedicated microSD slot, you can always bump up the storage capacity to store your photos and other media files if needed.