The Xiaomi Mi A3 was a highly anticipated successor after the Mi A2 disappointed a lot of Mi A1 fans by dropping features such as the audio jack, the memory expansion, and the FM radio support. Indeed, the Xiaomi brought all these back for the Mi A3 and even put a much larger battery.
The premium build, the OLED screen and its under-display fingerprint scanner, the improved camera and the modern chipset were all very thoughtful picks for a rather budget phone. But a compromise had to be made somewhere for these numerous niceties and the screen absorbed the whole cost-cutting thing.
The Super AMOLED screen is of low 720p resolution and its PenTile matrix makes the already pixelated picture look even worse. The screen is no good for long reading or browsing, as many people will find the jagged text unpleasant.
What the screen is great for is video playback and gaming as most of the users won't notice the individual pixels on busy pictures. But we are not sure that many people will be buying the Mi A3 for its gaming framerates or video playback prowess. Usually, a phone is a daily driver first and then an entertainment device. Whilst the Mi A3 have it backwards and this limits its potential customers by a lot.
Xiaomi is selling the Mi A3 as Mi CC9e in some markets in Asia, such as China. The only difference is the launcher - the CC9e boots the latest MIUI 10. But thanks to Xiaomi's proprietary MIUI the CC9e enjoys much brighter screen when necessary.
Then there is the fact that Xiaomi already has a better phone than the Mi A3 - the Mi 9 SE. The Mi 9 SE costs about €30 over the Mi A3 and runs MIUI, but will offer a 1080p HDR AMOLED, a faster chipset, and an additional telephoto camera to its main 48MP and ultrawide 13MP snappers.
The Galaxy A50 is also a very interesting competitor. The A50 has a larger and of higher resolution Super AMOLED with an under-screen fingerprint reader, equally capable chipset, the same battery, and a triple-camera of similar capabilities. By having a much better screen for just minor cash over the Mi A3, the Galaxy A50 is a major threat and probably a better deal.
The Huawei P30 Lite also have a 1080p screen even though it's an LCD one. It offers similar performance and same triple-camera, and excels in battery life, too. The P30 Lite price is close to the Mi A3 and it's one very beautiful smartphone, but it has EMUI instead of vanilla Android.
Finally, if Android One is a must, you may want to check the splash-resistant Motorola One Vision. It has a 6.3" IPS LCD screen with a punch-hole selfie camera. Its Exynos chip performs as well as Mi A3's Snapdragon and its battery is large enough, too. The One Vision has a 48MP primary cam at the back with a depth sensor but lacks an ultra-wide one.
There are plenty of good devices in Mi A3's price bracket and the A3 fits rather well in there. But it is not the best one and we can hardly pick it as the top choice. It will be the best match for some, but the 720p screen easily makes the Mi A3 more of a niche device as it is best suited for gaming and videos instead of browsing and reading.
The Xiaomi Mi A3 has gotten so many things right that we are beyond conflicted at the end of this review. The screen is one of the most important features on a smartphone and the Mi A3 has the right panel but the wrong resolution. And then it goes to ace every test we've put it through. We can't call it a winner, that is certain, but it is truly unique in both good and bad ways.
We have one advice for every person interested in the Mi A3. Don't write this phone off until you've seen its screen in the store and decide whether the low resolution is an eyesore for you or not. It deserves at least that much.
Special thanks to HonorBuy for providing the review unit.