Redmi Y3 is in for review, and we put it through its paces to see if it can hold up against the competition. The Redmi series has been immensely popular for Xiaomi, so much so that the company is now positioning ‘Redmi' as a sub-brand, similar to the way it introduced its Poco sub-brand for enthusiasts. The company recently launched the Redmi Y3 and Redmi 7 (Review) smartphones in India as replacements for the Redmi Y2 (Review) and Redmi 6 (Review) respectively. Xiaomi introduced the Y-series a couple of years ago targeted at the youth and selfie lovers, and the latest iteration boasts of a 32-megapixel selfie camera, which seems quite impressive for a phone that costs Rs. 9,999. However, the Redmi Y3 does have a more immediate problem to deal with first. You see, its base price is exactly the same as that of Xiaomi's own Redmi Note 7 (Review) and the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 (Review) — two phones that offer vastly superior specifications compared to the Redmi Y3.
This means the Redmi Y3 ought to have some killer selfie performance to justify picking it over the obvious choices. Let's see if its worth your while.
Xiaomi launched the Redmi Y3 and the Redmi 7 together, and apart from their colours, front cameras, and RAM/ storage configurations, both phones are virtually identical. In fact, they both share the exact same dimensions. Just like the Redmi 7, the Redmi Y3 is on the heavy side as you certainly feel its 180g weight when you hold it. It's also noticeably chunky at 8.47mm in thickness. However, the plastics used here feel sturdy.
The phone's ‘Aura Prism' design looks striking, especially in the Elegant Blue trim that we have for review. This phone is also available in Prime Black and Bold Red trims. The glossy finish on the back and sides means it does attract fingerprints and smudges very easily. Xiaomi has also added a P2i nano coating which is said to offer some resistance against humidity and light splashes of water.
The buttons have good feedback and are ergonomically placed on the right. The Redmi Y3 has single slot on the left for two Nano-SIM cards and a microSD card. The 3.5mm headphone socket is placed on the top, beside the infrared emitter. The latter can be used to control IR devices such as televisions, ACs, etc.
At the bottom, we have a Micro-USB port and a loudspeaker.
Coming to the display, we have a ‘dot notch' or dewdrop notch on the top with prominent bezels on all sides, with the chin being a little thicker. The 6.26-inch display only has an HD+ resolution so images and text don't look their sharpest when viewed beside a phone with a similar sized full-HD+ panel, but overall, the colours and viewing angles are decent.
We initially found the brightness to be slightly limited when we first unboxed this phone, but after using it for a few days, we can say that we didn't face any difficulties using this display outdoors under sunlight. The of this phone is made of has Gorilla Glass 5 for scratch protection.
The Redmi Y3 has white LED tucked away in the bottom chin for notifications and to indicate charging status. At the back, we have a dual camera module, flash, and fingerprint sensor. The latter works well at authentication.
There's also face recognition, which isn't as quick as the solution offered by Realme, but still works well. In low light, it takes a second longer to unlock the Redmi Y3, but the process tends to fail in complete darkness unless you bring the phone really close to your face.
In the box, the Redmi Y3 ships with a standard 10W charger, Micro-USB cable, SIM eject tool, some manuals, and a tinted silicone case. You don't get earphones in the box.
The Redmi Y3 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 SoC, which is the same chip powering the Asus Zenfone Max M2 (Review) and of course the Redmi 7 (Review). It's a decent performer for casual tasks but isn't suited for intensive workloads such as playing high-end games.
The Redmi Y3 comes in two variants — one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and the other with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. We have the 3GB version to test today.
Other specifications include dual 4G VoLTE, single-band Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, support for three satellite navigation systems, and the usual suite of sensors. There's also FM radio and USB-OTG support.
The phone runs MIUI 10.2, which is based on Android 9 Pie, however our review unit still had a slightly dated February Android security patch. The singe-layered UI will be very familiar if you've used any recently launched Redmi phones. There's still plenty of bloatware pre-installed and even though you can uninstall even some of the stock apps, spammy notifications continue to be a problem which sadly, doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
There is a way to stop this to an extent. For instance, during the initial setup, you need to make sure you uncheck the ‘Personalised ad recommendations' toggle. You can also manually open each of the stock apps such as Music, Video, etc and make sure you disable ‘Receive recommendations'. With all these measures taken, we managed to reduce the spam considerably but every now and then, we would still get a couple of push notifications from the Mi Apps store and the Mi Music player.
Some of the preinstalled apps included Mi Pay, which lets you setup a UPI wallet for utility payments; and Mi Drop, which lets you share files between two devices or between your device and a computer via FTP. Then there are the usual suite of gestures and shortcuts that we've come to expect from MIUI.
With regular activities such as using chat apps, streaming music, and using Google Maps for directions, the Redmi Y3 handled itself quite well. MIUI runs fairly smoothly and even switching between apps is often quick and painless. We did face one or two instances where the system became unresponsive when we had many apps running in the background, but this wasn't a consistent issue.
The phone doesn't heat up too much either, and even when gaming, the back only gets mildly warm. We didn't face any issues with call quality.
In benchmarks the Redmi Y3 posted an AnTuTu score of 1,04,587 points and a graphics score of 35fps in GFXbench's T-Rex test. Real-world gaming performance is decent too, as long as you stick to casual titles. Alto's Odyssey ran smoothly, although the graphics weren't the sharpest due to the lower resolution display.
In more demanding titles such as PUBG Mobile, the game defaulted to the ‘Low' preset, and even then, gameplay wasn't exactly smooth. Video playback is handled well, but the speaker doesn't get very loud.
The main reason for considering the Redmi Y3 is its 32-megapixel front camera, and now it's time to see how it fares when pitted against the competition. Xiaomi has smartly used a 4-in-1 oversampling technique that saves an 8-megapixel image by default. This reduces the file size so photos take up less space on your phone and are easier to share. You can, however, shoot using the full 32-megapixel resolution using a toggle in the viewfinder.
In daylight, the Redmi Y3 captures detailed selfies when shooting at the full sensor resolution and when combining four pixels into one. The main difference in the two modes is that when shooting at 8 megapixels, there's generally much better detail in background objects, which is not the case when using the full 32-megapixel resolution. There's a big difference in file sizes too. The oversampled shots are usually under 6MB while full-resolution shots come in at around 21MB. Saving a 32-megapixel file also takes a hair longer.
When compared to similarly priced phones such as the Redmi Note 7 and the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2, the Redmi Y3 certainly has the sharpest selfies but we're not convinced that they're the best in terms of quality overall. Beauty mode was disabled on all the phones for our comparisons.
We prefer the overall look of selfies taken by the Redmi Note 7. Skin tones look a lot more natural and the highlights and exposures aren't blown out, like on the ZenFone Max Pro M2. The Redmi Y3 still has the best details in objects in the background but selfies themselves look too oversharpened. Adding beautification does fix this a bit.
In low light, the oversampling definitely helps in reducing noise, which is present when shooting at the full 32-megapixel resolution. Selfies shot with the Redmi Y3 were sharper and more detailed, and overall more appealing when compared to those taken by competition. In pitch darkness, the Redmi Y3 has the most powerful flash of the three phones, giving you the best lit selfies. There's Portrait mode too, but the effect isn't very convincing.
You can shoot selfie videos at up to 1080p resolution. Quality is very good in daylight but videos get a little grainy in low light. The Redmi Y3 is supposed to have electronic stabilisation (EIS) for the selfie camera but this didn't appear to be working when we tested it, despite enabling it in the camera app's settings.
Other selfie-centric features include Palm Shutter, which counts down to release the shutter when it detects your palm; and Group Selfie, which takes multiple photos and combines them to try to create a frame in which everyone looks good. This latter feature didn't seem to work very well all the time.
At the back of the Redmi Y3, you get a 12-megapixel primary sensor with a f/2.2 aperture and a 2-megapixel depth camera, just like on the Redmi 7. There's AI scene detection which can be switched on or off if needed. Interestingly, AI scene recognition isn't available for the selfie camera, like it is on the Redmi Note 7.
Autofocus speed is average at best, and while shooting videos, we found the continuous autofocus to be a little iffy as we had to tap the screen a couple of times to ensure it focused properly.
With ample light around, landscapes packed in good detail. Colours could look a little muted when HDR kicked in, but otherwise, saturation was good. Macros turned out good too but there were instances when the phone got colours completely wrong. For example, the colour of the hibiscus above should have been red and not pink. Also, the AI tended to smoothen out textures and boost the colours of objects such as flowers.
In low light, the main sensor really struggled to capture good details and sharpness. Distant objects in focus appeared a bit soft, although macros fared a bit better. The depth sensor helps this phone do a decent job with edge detection when shooting people. Video recording goes up to 1080p at 60fps. Image quality is good in daylight but gets grainy in low light. The effect of EIS wasn't very apparent, so despite it being on, we're not sure if it was actually doing anything.
The camera app is similar to what we've seen on previous Xiaomi phones. It's easy to use and features shooting modes such as short video, panorama and pro. There's no Night mode though, which we saw in the Redmi Note 7.
Xiaomi is touting two-day battery life with the Redmi Y3. The 4000mAh battery fared well in our battery loop test, lasting for 13 hours and 41 minutes, which is good but we were expecting a longer given the specs of this phone. However, in actual usage, we easily managed a day and a half (at times, a bit more) on one charge. Our usage typically involved a bit of gaming, chatting, and using social apps, plus making few calls and surfing the Web.
There's no fast charging support but the 10W adapter can charge the Redmi Y3 from zero to about 52 percent in an hour.
So, to answer our initial question — is the Redmi Y3 worth buying over more powerful smartphones at its base price of Rs. 9,999? The answer really depends on how big of a selfie shooter you are. If you find yourself obsessively taking pictures of yourself for Instagram throughout the day, then you might be willing to compromise on the specifications, just for a better front camera. While not perfect, we did find the Redmi Y3 to have an edge over competition such as the Redmi Note 7 (Review) and Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 (Review) when it comes to selfies, especially in low-light.
The 4GB version is priced at Rs. 11,999, and it has even stiffer competition in the sub-Rs. 15,000 segment. Many of the other options you could buy at this price offer more powerful specifications, but you might still prefer the Redmi Y3 just for its selfie camera.
On the other hand, if you only take selfies casually now and then, you would find the Redmi Note 7 (Review) or Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 (Review) to be better value than the Redmi Y3. Both phones have much better displays, more powerful processors, and slightly better rear cameras.
Do Redmi 7 and Redmi Y3 prices in India show that Xiaomi's missed a trick? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.