2015 was a big year for the smartphone industry. We had Samsung pushing out the phablet of the year and a completely redesigned galaxy line up. How can we forget Sony’s extravagant 4k smart phone and Apple’s crazy new 3D touch. All in all if you had money to burn and appreciate finesse, you had a lot of options this year. There were budget smartphones too but none of them had the oomph (save for the Meizu M2) to make it big in the overly crowded segment. Enter the Coolpad Note 3.
Coolpad is the largest smartphone company in China and the largest domestic brand by sales outside of China. They recently entered India with two of their smartphones, the Dazen 1 and the Note 3 and boy have they created a stir! We got a Note 3 to play with for two weeks and are pretty much blown away with what the handset has to offer!
Design and Build Quality
Let’s be honest. The Coolpad Note 3 is not the most jaw dropping smart phone on the market but it appears to be pretty decent. The front is dominated by the 5.5” 720p display with the usual capacitive buttons underneath. You might easily confuse it with other Micromax smart phones but there is nothing even remotely similar apart from the looks. A chrome rim surrounds the device and gets scratched pretty easily. The volume rocker and the power button have a nice travel to them. There is also a notification LED near the front cam and it lights up like anything!
Flip the phone and you’ll find a squarish mirror finished fingerprint sensor just below the camera. The back also houses the speaker which although is loud, gets diminished if the phone is placed face up. The camera juts out of the back a bit and scratches very easily.
There is absolutely no grip thanks to the all plastic build quality but it does feel solid in hand with no flex whatsover. Overall the phone feels that it can survive a drop or two. However, three days into our review and it slipped and the screen got completely shattered. Our advice, put it in a case as soon as you buy it.
Software & UI
There is no menu and all the icons are present on the screen. To be honest the icons are a bit of a disappointment. A very large display with a measly 720p resolution results in a pixellated image. Although it kept notifying us that it had found an HD icon for Google Play or other random apps, it didn’t make a noticeable difference.
- Android v5.1 Lollipop
- Custom Cool OS skin
Coolpad has instead provided a lot of theme options by the means of the Coolshow App. There are several different icon packs and themes for those who like to keep their appearances.
What surprises us the most is that in spite of all the pre-installed apps and the custom OS, the Note 3 is as smooth as silk. You can easily zip through apps and home screens without a stutter. Multitasking, Check. Asphalt 8 runs like a dream, Modern Combat 5 did stutter a bit but all in all it gave a very fine experience. Gaming, Check. The credits go partly to the 720p display and the massive 3GB RAM, another first in this segment.
- Mediatek MT6753 1.3 Ghz Octa Core chipset
- Mali-T720MP3 GPU
- 3GB RAM
- 16GB Internal, up to 64GB
All the while we had the device, it did not even hang once which is a very big feat for an Android smart phone in this price range. There was a noticeable stutter when trying to play 1080p videos though. K3 Note or the Meizu M2 had no troubles in playing 1080p videos without a hic. The back of the device will definitely warm up a bit but not to an extent that it became uncomfortable to hold.
The best part of the phone is probably its fingerprint sensor. It is fast, efficient and works almost all the time. What’s more, you just need to place your finger on the sensor without even touching the power button or waking the screen to unlock your phone. Did we mention it is crazy fast and is way better than most smart phones that cost more than twice as much. Kudos to Coolpad for this!
Coolpad has paid special attention to what people want from their smart phones: Reliability and Battery Life. While the battery lasts for well over a day on moderate use, an hour of Asphalt 8 with WiFi connected throughout drained about 20% of the battery with ease.
Since the battery is sealed, you might want to keep the charger handy, just in case. The provided charger takes very long to completely charge the battery. All in all, the Coolpad Note 3 will easily last you for a day full of browsing, calls and media consumption.
When it comes to raw specifications, the Coolpad Note 3 offers a lot on paper. However, the rear cam just doesn’t cut it. There is no shutter lag and the autofocus is crazy fast but that’s about it. The photos do look great on the display but once you start zooming in or transfer them on a large screen, the colors start to wash out and details vanish.
- 13MP rear camera
- 5 piece lens arrangement
- f/2.0, 1.4 micron pixel size
- 5MP front camera
The photos have a good color reproduction but have very little detail. The Meizu M2 in comparison churns out way better photos even in dimly lit situations. The front cam however takes amazing selfies.
The interface is pretty neat and has several shooting modes available including a fun to use beautification mode. If you want to go pro, there is a dedicated Pro Mode with an interface reminiscent of the old Nokia smartphones with custom sliders for all the settings.
The Coolpad Note 3 is a good smart phone. For an asking price of Rs. 8999, it offers a fingerprint sensor and is a pretty decent performer. So should you buy one rightaway? Well that depends on how much you want the elevated privacy!
The plastic back is way too slippery is difficult to grip and so the phone might fall from your hand quite often. Trust me on that. (Sorry Coolpad!) Secondly, the camera is mediocore at its best with very little details in the photos. We might easily be nitpicking but it does compromise the premium smart phone experience a bit.
The Coolpad Note 3 is not the perfect budget smart phone but we can easily live with a few flaws. It is perfect for anyone buying their first smart phone or those looking for a reliable performer, for everyone else, the Moto G3 or the Meizu M2 are still the better options!