PHP 1000 Budget Phone For Online Classes?

PHP 1000 Budget Phone For Online Classes?
August 03 22:12 2020 Print This Article

With the pandemic going on around the world, requiring schooling indoors and tethered to the internet online classes will be the norm at the moment. Although, not everyone of us can afford the expense of gadgets ranging upwards of thousands of pesos. Is there really an opportunity of learning, with access of online classes, with budget at a pinch? 

Product listing and seller here

I was wandering through Shopee as I saw a listing of a particular device. It caught my attention, it was a Xiaomi Mi 3. An old flagship device from the Chinese phone maker, costing just above PHP 1000. Rummaging through the reviews, it seemed to have positive feedback. Though, the reviews indicated that the device is second hand, but functioning well with some scratches and dents. 

Being curious, I ordered one and tested it for review. The seller took 4 days to ship out the device, which is from China. She managed to send photos of the device before shipping it. 

I digress, the device arrived in a generic cardboard box. Inside is the device itself along with a Type A to Micro-USB cable and a sim adapter. I tried to boot up the device and it welcomed me with MIUI 8. 

The phone feels light and ergonomic. It has a polycarbonate unibody chassis all throughout. The buttons on the right side are made out of plastic as well. At the top is where the headphone port and sim card tray is located. The storage isn’t expandable but supports two mini sim cards. The left is barred of any hardware feature. The bottom houses the speaker grille which takes up majority of the space and the Micro-USB port is offset to the left portion. 

The curve at the sides of the device helps with the grip, especially with its rectangular candy bar shape of the handset. The design reminds me of Sony Xperia handsets, it is squared-off in its design aspects. The edges of the screen, the symmetry of the bezels and the camera module and flash are boxy.

The front of the device showcasing the display and MIUI 9 on Android 4.4 Kitkat.

Impressively, the screen is almost pristine with small scratches and minimal gashes despite being a second hand device. The screen quality is serviceable. The 5″ Full HD panel serves well in displaying content. The colors are okay, but a bit washed out, though I have seen worse with other budget phones which is an impressive feat by itself. 
Viewing angles are passable, even with today’s standard. It’s responsiveness with touches is below average but serviceable nonetheless. 

Xiaomi released the Mi 3 last 2003. It has two variants, a duo of LTE and 3G devices. The 3G variant has the Snapdragon 800 mobile platform, this is Qualcomm’s top tier chip way back 7 years ago. And the LTE variant has the Tegra 4 chip, the chip has five physical cores, one of which is invisible to the OS. I received the Tegra variant which is reportedly superior than the Qualcomm variant as benchmarks suggest. 

How does it perform? 

Quite surprising to be honest, but mediocre at best. Slowdowns are observed in all use cases, but can maintain sufficient firepower to do simple to a little heavier tasks. Social media browsing and viewing media doesn’t cause much of a problem with the device. In heavier tasks such as multitasking and even light gaming causes the device to stumble and drop significant frames. The device doesn’t even support some of the popular mobile titles. Heating is apparent with the device when chugging even when light usage. More loading times when opening applications and games. Despite all of this, the handset was able to deliver the tasks that was intended to do.

What about the cameras? 

Well, they’re not good but to say the least usable. On daylight, you can shoot decent shots with average amount of detail. Colors tend to wash out and clip. It also attains zero dynamic range as the sky is always blown out when not focused on. With that, the shades within the trees have no detail and are totally black due to absence of it.

On artificial light, colors appear dull with poor amount of sharpness. Images shot on this situation will have substantial amount of noise and artifacting. Pictures will appear darker and bluish.

Video recorded in daylight is not good as well. Wobble and janks are noticeable while recording, tinny audio and experiences the same issue of dynamic range as with the photos. It can record for up to 1080p at 30fps, and it is decently sharp on steady recording. 

The device was also tested on messenger video calls and it performed okay.

The device supports for up to two mini sim cards but unfortunately, the handset fails to read our local networks. It seems that the device is locked to a Chinese carrier as the seller has shown the device working with a sim. This is a deal breaker for those who access the internet through cellular data connection. That also means the user can’t receive texts nor calls. 
WiFi reception isn’t very good as well but still usable. It can load videos on YouTube and the browser but at slower speeds. Upon moving away — of about 8-10 feet– from the router, it may fail to pick up any reception. At this distance, 1080p videos from YouTube fails to load successfully. 

Very light usage of the device gave me 5 hours of screen on time. Not too bad considering the price I paid for.

As a second hand device, the battery is expectedly poor. It can stay up for up to 3-4 hours of light to medium usage, that includes browsing on Facebook and YouTube sessions on WiFi. Heavier usage such as light mobile titles can kill the device within 110 minutes. It charges for 2 hours with a 10W charger. 

Is that thing Android? How does it perform in accessing my favorite applications?

Yes, the device is Android 4.4 Kitkat on MIUI 9. It’s been a while since I’ve heard of Android Kitkat which dates back in the early 2015 of smartphones. Anyway, the device runs well on MIUI. Though the skin itself does not have a native app drawer built-in, you can have that installing your own launcher. The look of the software is more on the colorful and cartoony side with 2D paperlike icons which reminds me of Android Marshmallow.

It lacks a fingerprint scanner nor the ability to have facial recognition, so in terms of biometrics and security you can only setup the handset with a PIN or a password.

16 gigabytes of storage and 2 gigabytes of RAM are harnessed within, you can store a decent amount of data and necessary applications but beyond that, heavy mobile titles won’t fit in. Unfortunately, storage isn’t expandable so you’re stuck on the 16GB. The 2GB of RAM can chug up a handful of applications before it starts to dismiss them

Overall, what do I think of the device? My purchase experience? And will I recommend anyone in buying this for the purpose of online classes? 

I think that the device performed better than I expected for its price. Sure, it will perform poorly in every key aspects of a smartphone such as performance, battery, cameras, and display. But the device manages to carry the tasks thrown at it. Using this is not a joy but for the price I paid for, it opens the opportunities for people, who are earning less, to gain access to social media, receive messages, and even sufficient to perform video calls for online classes. 

Although, it does not read sim cards from our local carriers. This is a huge deal for those who rely on cellular network to access the web. Also, since this is a second hand device, other issues may also emerge from other units as well which may make them unusable. For that reason, I won’t recommend in purchasing this. There are options from brands such as Cherry Mobile, MyPhone and iTel with just a couple of hundred pesos more will guarantee a brand new device and also the clearance of mind as it has atleast a year of warranty. 

Though it is an interesting experience nonetheless, this may serve as a warning for potential shoppers that are currently looking for an ultra budget device for online classes. 

Product listing and seller here

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