Coolpad Note 3 Review - Not a perfect smartphone but still an absolute steal at its price






Coolpad Note 3 Review - Not a perfect smartphone but still an absolute steal at its price




























Chinese smartphone vendor Coolpad is no longer using the branding Dazen after launching its 2 phones Dazen 1 and Dazen X7 earlier this year, both of which were reviewed by us. We felt Dazen X7 was priced slightly on the higher side while Dazen 1 was a spectacular starting smartphone for a company. Dazen 1 has also been received warmly by the customers and sold many units within the first few days of its sale. After disassociating themselves from Dazen, Coolpad has recently launched their new smartphone in India, the Note 3, the launch news of which can be checked at the below link:
http://www.technodivide.com/2015/10/coolpad-amazon-india-unveil-indias.html

Today we are going to review Coolpad Note 3 and check whether it has the features and quality to match the competition or even surpass it. Just before moving further, we would like to point out that this smartphone has 3 GB RAM and a fingerprint sensor to boot. The device is priced at an aggressive Rs. 8999 and is available exclusively on Amazon.in in a flash sale model beginning 20th October 2015. The pre registrations for the flash sale began on 9th October 2015, the day the model was launched in India. Strikingly, the company has sold more than 15000 units of Note 3 in less than 5 minutes of its first flash sale on Amazon India. This is something of a worry for other brands operating in India and the reception of Note 3 by the end consumer would ensure whether Coolpad is here to stay or not. Till now, the story has been hunky dory and you will know after this review whether Note 3 has the guts to stay afloat in the market as well.

Before doing the complete review, let us take a look at the specifications of the smartphone.

Specifications of Coolpad Note 3:

SIM Card Support: Dual SIM
Display: 5.5 inches IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16 M colors, 720 x 1280 pixels, ~267 pixel density
RAM: 3 GB
ROM: 16 GB
Expandable Memory: 64 GB
Processor: MediaTek MT6753 Octa-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A53
GPU: Mali-T720MP3
Front Camera: 5 MP
Rear Camera: 13 MP, Autofocus, LED Flash
Video: 1080 @ 30fps
Battery: Li-ion 3000 mAh
OS: Android 5.1
Dimensions: 151 x 77 x  9.3 mm
Connectivity Options: LTE, GPRS, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Hot spot, GPS with A-GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0
FM Radio: Yes
Colors available: White
Fingerprint sensor: Yes

Unboxing

Coolpad Note 3 is delivered in a small, rectangular, white colored, top opening cardboard box. Once you open the lid of the box, you will find the smartphone covered in plastic cover. Additionally, as you look further, you will find data cable, charger and earphones but no documentation. The documentation might be missing as we have a review unit while retail packaging may consist some paperwork but don't take our word for it. The packaging is neat and you cannot expect cushioning for the phone on the box at this price point.

Coolpad Note 3 Review - Not a perfect smartphone but still an absolute steal at its price





























Design and Build Quality

Remember to keep the price of the smartphone in your mind throughout the review as that will give you a perspective of what we are talking about. We will keep reminding you about the price of Coolpad Note 3 a number of times. The first word that comes in our mind when we see and hold the device in our hands is incredible. The device is sleek, easily holdable, pocketable and extremely good to look at. The designers have made a very smart choice of providing a black bezel on the sides, which gives the user an impression there is apparently no bezel. This design choice makes the device stand out from its competitors.

The front of the device seems to have an end to end display though if you'll look closely, you will find there is a very tiny bezel on all sides of the screen. At the top and bottom of the screen is half an inch of white bezel. The top bezel houses an LED light, an ambient light sensor, a small speaker grille and the front camera lens while the bottom bezel sports three touch capacitive buttons for recents, home and back. The buttons are clearly marked in silver and you do not need to light up the screen to see which side is the back button and which side is the recents button. Many Android smartphones we review miss out on this very simple point and end up losing brownie points from our side for improper design language. We always post this in our reviews that the buttons need to be clearly marked without leaving it to the user's memory to remember which button works for what. Full marks to Coolpad Note 3 designers just for this little aspect.  

Taking a look at the edges, the top edge has the 3.5 mm audio connector port, the left edge has the volume rocker, the bottom has a microphone and microUSB connector port and the right edge has the Power/Sleep button. The volume rocker and power buttons are made of plastic but we did not like the throw, feedback or travel of any of the hardware buttons, in fact its utterly difficult to know if you have successfully pressed the Volume up key specially.

The back of the device is again impressive. It has a rubbery plastic finish which has just the right amount of friction for your palms. The back is tapered towards the ends giving the device a sleeker appearance than the actual thickness. There are no second thoughts when we say the smartphone is extremely easy and comfortable to hold. The device is not slippery and absolutely no fingerprints were marked on the back for as long we carried it which keeps the premium quality intact and thus requires less management and less cleaning. At the back, there is an LED flash, the rear camera lens and a microphone, the branding and three rows of speaker holes at the bottom. And then there is a fingerprint sensor below the camera lens. This is easily the most affordable smartphone sporting a fingerprint sensor and we will be reviewing the sensor a little further down below. The back cover is removable through a small groove on the right edge. Its a tough task removing the back cover and you can definitely end up breaking it into pieces if you are not extra careful. The battery on this phone is not removable. Both the SIM cards and microSD card can be inserted after removing the back cover. And very thankfully, there are markings around the slots to show the numbering of SIM cards and the direction in which to insert the microSD card and the SIM cards. This is a pain point in many phones which has been taken care of in Coolpad Note 3.

The device is strongly built with a lot of emphasis given to the end look of the product. We just love the fact that a brand has put in so much effort into designing a smartphone at this price point. We wish so much that the hardware buttons provided more feedback which would have made this smartphone the top notch designed phone but again, this is in no way a deal breaker and you definitely cannot expect any device to be perfect in each and every aspect. In all, as we wrote in our review of Dazen 1, we are spellbound by the designing of this smartphone too.

Display

We don't really know why but reviews for products from same brands tend to go in the same direction probably because they have the same team of workers and engineers behind each product model of theirs. The display on Coolpad Note 3 is sharp and enriching but the colors seem a bit unreal. This seems to be the problem with the UI employed by Coolpad and not just because of the quality of the display. We like to call it the sketch pen effect of a user interface where the colors seem basic and rudimentary. The use of such colors makes it slightly harder on the eyes which start tiring over prolonged usage. Hopefully, with future iterations, the user interface would be designed with more use of subtle colors. However, there is seemingly no pixellation on the display. We have not been bothered by the amount of screen reflection either which has been controlled well. There seems to be a small problem with the automatic brightness control setting which darkens the screen somewhat when enabled and is not stable. Though the blacks are pretty dark, we just don't prefer the color gamut used on Coolpad phones, the palette seems a bit out of place which we feel could definitely be improved upon. And this seems to be a combination of user interface colors as well as the employed LCD panel. Even the colors on the videos we watched on Youtube seem to be slightly washed out. However, the display gets a plus point with the fact that it is pretty legible under bright sunlight too and you do not need to swivel the device either side to be able to make what's on the screen. In essence, we feel Coolpad would need to improve on the display, specially the use of color palettes in its future phones.

Operating System and Software

Coolpad Note 3 is equipped with Android 5.1 wrapped under Coolpad's CoolUI. As a Chinese branded phone, the first thing you will note is that there is no app drawer and all the apps are arranged under scrollable home screens. One thing we would point out here is that the icons, colors, toolbars etc. have no uniformity amongst themselves, they use separate colors, separate looks and even seem to be using separate fonts between various screens. The end result is that we feel like using a number of operating systems on the same device which needs improvement for sure. The interface design language needs to at least be uniform if not entirely the same across the entire platform. We give the operating system a thumbs down just for this simple reason. The home screens are infinitely scrollable and you do not need to come back to the first screen to go in a backward position. There is a bundled FM Radio app, Rock Wallpaper app which changes the desktop wallpaper each time you click it and Clear app which clears the RAM just by clicking the app. However, the text that is displayed after clearing RAM using this way is not properly formatted and misses a space between text and numbers, which seems very ugly. Most Google apps are bundled here too. We just wish that in future updates we would see more uniformity in terms of color and design in the Coolpad UI as uniformity gives a sense of security to the end user. We found a few new interesting settings on swiping down from the top like Long standby which changes the phone's UI to a very basic mode to save power and C-button, which adds a touch button to the screen that adds circularly scrollable action items like back, home, screenshot etc. to be easily accessible from your thumb. Another feature that is actually a rip off from Samsung Note series, the multitask option is also available in the settings. We have found low usage of such multitasking in real world scenario though, specially without a stylus.

Camera

The camera app looks more like the camera app on iPhones but with more options and settings. It offers a number of settings like brightness, HDR, PIP, grid lines etc. There is a Pro option on offer which can help professional users set white balance, lighting and ISO. Let us now look at these 3 pictures taken from the rear camera to see how the camera performs in real world usage.

Coolpad Note 3 Review - Not a perfect smartphone but still an absolute steal at its price












Coolpad Note 3 Review - Not a perfect smartphone but still an absolute steal at its price

Coolpad Note 3 Review - Not a perfect smartphone but still an absolute steal at its price


















































Looking at the images above, its quite evident that Coolpad has invested a good amount of money in the camera engineering and research. The first image shows clearly how well the camera captures the details of the plants and the walls in broad daylight. Even the color reproduction is very realistic when the camera has ample ambient light to play with. However, when the surrounding light starts getting lower as is the case with the next 2 images, grain and noise seeps in and the colors start getting washed out. But still, we would call this a good camera since it does not overdo the color application during post processing. None of the images above have any hint of being processed with an arbitrary color which makes us call this a decent camera if not a spectacular one. Now is the right time to reflect back on the price of the smartphone and doing us makes us feel happy to know that Coolpad has not taken the camera lightly. The front camera on this smartphone is an average run of the mill camera which is only usable at its very best, if you'll zoom the pictures, you'll start seeing noise, pixellation and lack of detail. Still, you do get 2 more than average cameras for a small price to pay for, in Coolpad Note 3.

Performance

This is a scorcher of a smartphone specially due to the 3 GB RAM it is equipped with. Right from unlocking the screen all the way up to running apps, it is pretty smooth. Open the dialer app and input a number, the phone would register inputs immediately without any latency which even many high end phones are unable to do. We downloaded and installed a few games like Temple Run 2 and Asphalt 8: Airborne to see how the frame rates end up. We wished to know if the device becomes slow while playing games. The games ran without any frame rate drops or considerable latency. This is a fast phone which handles multitasking really well. The phone does not heat up much after prolonged usage. The speakers are loud, clear and crisp and you won't need to keep the volume at the highest level to be able to enjoy your Youtube videos to the fullest. The call quality is loud and clear too.

Fingerprint sensor

Coolpad is promoting Note 3 as the most affordable smartphone with a fingerprint sensor and for sure it is. But there is no point in having a feature as your USP in case it does not work well, hence we reviewed the fingerprint sensor to see if it functions smoothly or not. Firstly, we are not really fond of having any user interactive buttons at the back of a smartphone, be it a power button, a volume rocker or a fingerprint sensor. The sole reason for this is it takes a precious moment for us to be able to locate our finger in the right place since the buttons are not visible at the back. So we would have liked it more if the sensor was placed below the display at the front, much like iPhones or Samsung flagships. That extra time taken to keep our finger in the right place without looking leaves us gasping for more. But in any case, now that the fingerprint sensor is there at the back, we checked how fast and accurate it is. And believe us or not, we are quite surprised that the fingerprint here is extremely accurate and exceedingly fast. And above all, it works full 360 degrees, which means you can place a registered finger in any direction and it works impeccably. Moreover, you do not need to press a button, you just need to place the end of your finger at the right spot and there you go, the phone wakes up taking you to the home screen. To have a fingerprint sensor at this price point is a big deal, but to have a sensor of this high quality at this price is even better. There is a fingerprint management app bundled in for easy registration of fingerprints that you wish to use to unlock the phone. You can add up to 5 fingerprints. We are very impressed with the fingerprint sensor on Coolpad Note 3 and we simply have no two thoughts about the same.  

Battery

Coolpad Note 3 has a 3000 mAh battery which basically is the sweet spot of battery size that we find in budget to mid range Android smartphones these days. To check for battery life and battery time, we charged the battery to 100% and then started using the phone in medium use scenarios like real world usage. We used it for browsing the web, downloading and installing a few apps and games, some calling, Whatsapp messaging, playing a few games, watching videos on Youtube and throwing in some amount of standby time too just like a normal person would use a smartphone in moderate to slightly heavy use cases. The phone died on us after 13 hours with everything thrown in which is extremely good battery life. Particularly heavy users might need to charge the device twice a day while low to medium users can plug it once before going to sleep every night without any hassle. A full charge should suffice most of the users for a single day which does leave us happy and satisfied with the battery life of the phone.

Rating

4 stars out of 5

Bottomline and Verdict

Coolpad Note 3 ticks almost all the boxes right except for the color gamut used in the display and a lack of uniformity throughout the CoolUI operating system. But other than these 2 things, everything is done right. If you are in the market looking for a budget smartphone with a fingerprint sensor, this is the go get choice. Additionally, at this price point, you would not get 3 GB RAM either in any other smartphone. Coolpad Note 3 would compete directly with Lenovo K3 Note. Though the Lenovo offering lacks a fingerprint sensor and 3 GB RAM, it does have the brand name as well as backing of reviewers with it. But now, after reviewing Coolpad Note 3, we feel that Coolpad is here to stay, it is not an ordinary brand, it puts in a lot of research and effort into the engineering of its smartphones, all of which are evident with the quality of this device. This smartphone will definitely sell very nicely in the market provided Coolpad continues to market it properly. We would have called this a perfect device at its price if we found better colors and uniformity in the OS, but it is still an absolute steal for Rs. 8999

That's it for our review of Coolpad Note 3. Do hit the 'like' button if you liked the review and share the word across. You can also like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/technodivide to keep yourself updated of latest technology news, reviews and tweaks. If you have any suggestions regarding the review or the device, feel free to leave us a comment below. Stay tuned since we have many more such reviews coming up in the near future.


4 comments :

  1. Wonderful article. But i like lenovo K3 note over this phone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Simran for appreciating the article. But in the end it all boils down to personal preference specially when it comes to established brands like Lenovo and somewhat new ones like Coolpad. Both are good phones in their own right I think.

      Delete
  2. I found this site shows lenovo in just 5K. Dont know its fake or ture. But may help somebody

    http://www.supersmartdeals.com/Deals/11048/Lenovo-K3-Note-K50a40-Black

    ReplyDelete

 
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