Visually, the Redmi 3S Prime looks nearly identical to the Redmi Note 3, especially from the front, where the glass is stretching edge to edge with a chrome finished border matching the color of the phone. Our gold sample had the bezels painted in gold, just like on the Redmi Note 3. The maker of the glass hasn't been confirmed but it is scratch-resistant and survived being scratched with a steel knife. You also get an oleophobic coating.
Above the display sits the earpiece with the front camera, proximity sensor, and ambient light sensor. Below it are three capacitive buttons for navigation, which aren't backlit. Below the home key is a tiny RGB notification LED.
On the right side of the phone are the volume and power buttons. The buttons on the 3S are made out of plastic unlike the metal buttons on the Note 3, even though they look similar. On the other side is the hybrid SIM tray that holds one micro SIM in slot 1 and one nano SIM or microSD in slot 2.
On top of the phone are the headphone jack, IR blaster, and a microphone. On the bottom you get a microUSB connector and another microphone.
The back of the Redmi 3S Prime is largely made out of plastic with a thin aluminum coating in the mid-portion and exposed plastic bits at the top and the bottom. The camera and single LED flash are placed on the upper left corner. Below them in the center is the fingerprint sensor. Right at the bottom is the single loudspeaker with a little nib that raises the phone slightly so the speaker doesn't get blocked. The Indian unit also comes with a ton of markings on the bottom (in addition to those on the removable stickers) that cover nearly one third of the phone's relatively small backside and look unsightly.
The Redmi 3S Prime feels well built. The metal back gives it a sense of rigidity and it feels slightly sturdier than the Note 3. While it was easy to get the Note 3's display to pop up with a slight flex of the back side, the 3S requires a lot more force due to its smaller dimensions and would thus be more reliable. We did have some issue with the plastic creaking when pressed at the top and bottom but apart from that there wasn't a lot to complain about.
One thing that separates the Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime from the Note 3 is the size. Not everyone wants a big phone and the compact size of the 3S definitely makes it more suitable for those people. At 144g it's also fairly light and quite thin considering the 4,100mAh battery inside.
The Redmi 3S has a 5.0-inch 1280 x 720 IPS LCD of average quality. The 720p resolution is starting to show its age but at this price you can't really complain. The display calibration is a bit off and there is a distinct green color cast to it that is especially noticeable when you switch to this phone after using something else.
Another thing that's extremely bothersome is that Xiaomi decided to leave its Sunlight Display mode permanently enabled here, unlike on other MIUI devices where it is optional. What Sunlight Display does is adjust the display contrast based on the amount of ambient light and the image on screen. If the image is dark and you are in bright light, it boosts the shadows to make the screen more visible.
This is great if you're outdoors under the sun but having it permanently on means the display constantly adapts and changes colors even when you're indoors, which can be very distracting. Watching a video becomes annoying as the display changes color every time the shot changes. Even just going through the menus causes the display to constantly adjust itself. Doing any kind of image editing is also difficult as the screen adjusts to the image so you have no idea what you are looking at anymore. Only a serious oversight could have caused someone at Xiaomi to think a feature as severe as this needed to be permanently enabled and we hope it gets fixed promptly with a firmware update.
Xiaomi has also used a lower DPI setting for the 3S, possibly to compensate for the smaller display. This makes things look a bit too large at times, which means you see less content on the screen at once compared to something like the Redmi Note 3.
The screen offers very good viewing angles and a crisp image. The black levels are OK for LCD panels and, combined with the relatively high brightness, the Redmi 3s Prime achieved respectable contrast ratio.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
With an average deviation (DeltaE) of 7.1 the screen's color accuracy of the Redmi 3s Prime is about average. The colors are punchy, but if you want a more color accurate representation you may want to try the Warm Color option in Display Settings - it changes the color calibration to a very balanced one with an average DeltaE of 4.4.
Outdoors, the Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime is an above average performer regarding sunlight legibility. The glass on top of the display is reflective, but most of the time you'll have no problem viewing the screen content.