Coolpad launched the Note 3 on October 9 to disrupt the Indian smartphone industry. It is a regular looking phone but comes with 3GB of RAM and a fingerprint scanner, being priced at just Rs 8,999. Hence, it is a game changer for the growing budget Indian smartphone market. Is it any good or just a gimmick, lets find out in our Coolpad Note 3 Review.
Coolpad Note 3 Review : Hardware & Build Quality
In the box, we get the phone, wall adapter, microUSB cable and an earphone along with information booklet and warranty card. Getting straight into the design, it is a straight forward, no-nonsense design that just looks good and shiny. The phone comes with a 5.5-inch display but narrow bezels and good weight distribution makes it very comfortable to hold. Looking at the top front, we find the earpiece sitting in between the LED notification light on the left and the 5 megapixel front-facing camera on the right. Below them, we find the 5.5-inch (1280 x 720 pixels) HD IPS display sitting in the middle and that is followed by three physical soft touch buttons. They are not backlit but the company has colored them to make them visible. At the top, we find the 3.5 mm audio jack and at the bottom, there is a microUSB port in the middle followed by the primary microphone. On the left, we have a single bar volume rocker and the power button is on the right side of the device. The buttons are well placed and are soft and quite tactile as well. Going straight to the back side, we get the 13 megapixel rear camera sitting on the top centre. The LED flash is towards its left and the secondary microphone on the right side. Below the camera, we find the most happening feature of this device, it’s the fingerprint scanner that is at par with the ones found on any flagship device. More on that later. At the rear bottom, we get the Coolpad branding followed by the speaker grill (60 machine-drilled holes).
Opening up the rear panel, we find the 3,000 mAh non-removable battery. The dual SIM card slots (micro) and the microSD card slot are accessible after removing the back panel. The phone feels sturdy and solid in hand. It is not that bulky even with the huge battery as it just weighs in 155 grams. It is not competing to be the slimmest phone and rightly has a body with 9.3 mm thickness. It has chrome running around the edges which gives it a better grip and the plastic used is also of good quality. Hence, the phone does not feel too premium but does not feel too cheap as well. In any case, it would be insanely stupid to expect a premium looking phone at just Rs 8,999.
Coolpad Note 3 Review : Display
Moving on to the display, it has a 5.5-inch TFT IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (HD). It has a pixel density of 267 ppi. The pixel density is on the lower side but the display is just fine. Again, a no-nonsense display that just shows accurate colors, has perfect saturation and doesn’t hurt the eye. You would love consuming rich media content on it. As the display is very bright, visibility outdoors under bright sunlight is not an issue as well. Yes, we have a handful of devices with Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) displays in this price range but the HD display on the Note 3 feels just as good. It is due to the quality of the display panel. The ones found on the Full HD displays in this range are of inferior quality. Also, a HD display for this processor is just about right. A Full HD display would have been overkill for the device and that would have resulted in over heating and performance issues. So, you would feel good watching music videos, movies, etc on this 5.5-inch display.
Coolpad Note 3 Review : Performance & Gaming
Diving into the performance aspect, the phone is powered by the MediaTek MT6753 64-bit processor with 8 ARM Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.3 GHz and a Mali-T720 MP2 GPU. We have seen this processor in a lot of smartphones this year and it is a winner. Surely, it is not high-end compared to the MediaTek Helio X10 but is a reliable mid-range processor. We did not see any lags or frame drops navigating around the UI, running a couple of apps simultaneously or playing some high-end games. The smoothness in multi-tasking is also helped by the 3GB of RAM found on board. The Coolpad Note 3 is probably the first and the only phone in the Indian smartphone market with 3 GB of RAM priced under Rs 10,000. There was no over heating issues as such with this phone. Maybe, it is due to the HD display panel or good overall optimization but heating is under control. Occasional heating after running heavy games or clicking pictures for longer duration is normal though. We (majority) do not use our smartphones for much of calling these days but if you want to know about the call reception on this phone, it is absolutely fine with good voice clarity. There were no call drops as well but of course that has more to do with the network rather than the smartphone. The sound output from the speaker is not the loudest but does the job quite well. You can easily watch movies on it if you’re feeling lazy to put on the earphones.
Coming to gaming on this device, it is not made to enjoy high-end graphics intensive games. Of course we can play most games on the Coolpad Note 3 but high-end games tend to drop a frame here and there. Casual games were fine and caused no jitters though. We have played Asphalt 8, Mortal Kombat X, Modern Combat 5, Marvel Future Fight to test the high-end games. They were smooth but not flawless. We tried the evergreen Subway Surfers and Temple Run 2 and they performed up to the mark. Overall, you cannot have the best gaming experience on this phone but for the money you pay, you get adequate value for your money.
Coolpad Note 3 Review : Fingerprint Scanner
We have a separate sub-heading to discuss the fingerprint scanner on the Coolpad Note 3 because it deserves it. First of all, it is the first officially launched smartphone in the country priced at Rs 8,999 to come with a fingerprint scanner. Yes, fingerprint scanners were only found in flagship devices or higher end handsets in the mid-range categories. In 2015, it is now found on many smartphones but the performance is quite a hit and miss. However, the advanced fingerprint scanner found on this device is top-notch. The scanner is placed below the rear camera at the back. It has chrome running around it as it sits down (engraved). So you won’t be unlocking your phone by mistake.
The fingerprint scanner works perfectly well and is super fast. It can be opened with just a touch of your finger, even if the phone is not awake. We can store up to five different fingerprints. Also, we can have one touch app access. It means we can lock any app and it can only be opened after you scan your finger. Hence, if we have any personal app (s) which you wouldn’t want your friends to see without your permission, then get this phone and lock them up. The fingerprint scanner is so good, it can be even compared with the new Nexus 5X or the Nexus 6P. Heck, we can even compare it to the iPhone’s Touch ID as it performs really well, irrespective of the price point.
Coolpad Note 3 Review : Camera
After talking about its very good fingerprint scanner, coming to the camera, it is sort of disappointing. The 13 megapixel rear camera comes with 5p lens, f/2.0 aperture and a LED flash. It can record 1080p Full HD videos as well. Coming to the quality of the images, they are slightly over saturated to our liking. If you click in perfect lighting conditions, they are quite good with adequate details but low-light performance is not that good to be honest. The app feels quite slow as well. It comes with few modes like normal, face beauty, HDR, dimlight shot, smile shot, panorama and gesture shot. We also have a Pro mode, where we can set ISO, white balance, exposure and aperture as well. We believe Coolpad can tweak some algorithms and give its camera app an update for better performance. The 5 megapixel front-facing camera with 1.4 micron pixels is better than the rear shooter in terms of speed and performs well with beauty mode. It has nothing to boast either but will work for occasional selfies and video calls. Overall, there are better camera phones in this price range but this will get the casual photo snapping work done.
Coolpad Note 3 Review : Camera Samples
Take a look at the camera samples of the Coolpad Note 3 taken in various lighting conditions:
Coolpad Note 3 Review : Software, Battery Life and Connectivity
The Note 3 runs on Cool UI 6.0 based on Android 5.1 Lollipop. It has iOS style app UI where all the apps are present on the home screen. The OS has gesture support where we can select Double-tap to wake and other such features. Then, we also have Glove Mode and Cover Mode. In the notification panel, we have most handy shortcuts and out of those, two of them are not found in most Android devices. These are C-button and Multitask button.
The C-button brings a C icon on your home screen that can be moved around depending upon where you want to place it to use the phone without the distraction. It pops up the options (Home and Back) found on the physical soft touch keys and we also get buttons to take screenshot, lock the phone and a mute switch as well. The multitask button will enable a side tray where we can put all the desired apps that we want for multitasking. Then, we can select two apps and run them simultaneously in two different windows vertically. We can even adjust the screen real estate for each app or just keep it at 50% area for each. It works well with casual apps but cannot be used perfectly with graphics intensive games or other high-end apps. The 3GB RAM comes into play here but the experience is far from desirable.
Coming to the apps on Cool UI, we find an app called Rock Wallpaper to change wallpapers randomly with one tap. The CoolShow app can be used to change themes, FP Lock app to set up one touch access for apps. We have an app named Cool Service where all the service centres of Coolpad India are listed. Cool Store has a curated list of apps affiliated to them but it is better off using the Play Store. Many apps such as WeChat, WhatsApp, WPS Office, Facebook, Amazon Shopping and more come pre-installed. Overall, we do not have any issues with Cool UI and the UI is quite smooth. However, software experience can only get better with more updates and we would like Coolpad to bring Android 6.0 Marshmallow on this device as quickly as possible.
Check out some screenshots, app, settings and more:
There is a 3,000 mAh Lithium-ion battery under the hood. It is non-removable and promises to give up to 15 hours of talk time and up to 400 hours of battery life on standby mode. Yes, it lives up to its promise and we got through more than a day with above average usage. With heavy usage, it lasted all day but we had to charge it around night to make it usable for next day. There is also a “long standby mode” option to improve battery life further, that just gives access to Phone, Messaging, Contacts, Alarm and Calendar. Hence, there is no complain with battery life but if Coolpad brings in Marshmallow, then with Doze, it will get even better (in theory).
Jumping straight to connectivity, it has 4G LTE on Dual SIMs and it seemed to work fine. It also has the usual WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. All of them works perfectly as well. The phone has 16GB of internal storage out of which around 1.27GB (apps), 5.19GB (System) and 9.25 GB was available for the end-user after first boot. We can expand the storage up to 64GB via inserting a microSD card but sadly we cannot move apps to them. Also, USB OTG drives work with this phone. Hence, the phone ticks most boxes in these segments as well.
Coolpad Note 3 Review : Final Verdict
Coolpad Note 3 gets most of the basics right. It is a no-nonsense phone that also sets the bar high for others, when it comes to pricing in respect with features. Yes, it also has the bragging rights to become the first smartphone / phablet in India to come with 3GB RAM and a fingerprint scanner that is priced under Rs 10,000. We would have liked it to come with a better camera (at least software) but we can live with what we are getting. The market is quite crowded and Indian consumers take a little bit of time in trusting a ‘Chinese’ brand. If Coolpad can establish that trust among the Indian consumers and offer good after sales service, they are here to stay. Overall, if we are looking for a smartphone priced around Rs 10,000, we will have the Coolpad Note 3 at the top of our list.
The Coolpad Note 3 is available exclusively on Amazon India for Rs 8,999. It is sold via flash sales and the pilot sale took place on October 20. They have sold 35,000 units in two sales so far. The flash sale takes place every Tuesday at 2pm and the third one is on November 3rd. In order to take part in these flash sales and buy the phone, you need to register beforehand and you are good to go.