Mid-range phones are increasingly achieving higher quality and grabbing the attention of premium users looking for cheaper prices. Competition is ripe in the market as more phone manufacturers get on board.
CompareGuru takes a look at and compares two mid-range Android phones released in South Africa over the past year: the Hisense C30 Rock and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (16GB version).
Xiaomi has been established for some time as a force to be reckoned with, offering extremely high quality compared to cost.
However, Hisense has started wading in the mid-range pool with recent releases such as the Infinity Faith and Elegance smartphones. Unfortunately, the South African market hasn't seen a mid-range release for Xiaomi since the Redmi Note 3 - with the Note 4 only reaching certain markets.
So how do each manufacturer's latest mid-range releases compare to each other?
We tested them to find out…
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While specifications aren't the be-all and end-all for phones, they can give you a good indicator of certain features.
Below is a table of each phone's specs:
The phones are mostly on the same playing field, but the Redmi Note 3 pulls slightly ahead in terms of raw specifications.
The C30 Rock has the higher pixel density, but the Note 3's battery and processor outrank it.
||Hisense C30 Rock
||Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
||5.2-inch Full HD
1920 x 1080p
||5.5-inch Full HD
1920 x 1080p
||16 MP main camera 5 MP front camera
||16 MP main camera
5 MP front camera
, where Xiaomi offers premium-feel features like fingerprint recognition, Hisense is offering durability with its damage, dust and water-resistant smartphone.
But factors other than hardware affect the smartphone experience. We weighed up our experience with certain features to see which phone came out best in each category.
Design And Display
In terms of design, the C30 Rock is the smartphone which stands out. Mid-range phones are especially prone to looking very similar to each other but the C30 managed to differentiate itself significantly.
Xiaomi opted for a more standard appearance, which Hisense has replicated with other models. However, when it comes the C30 Rock, Hisense has managed to achieve something significant by creating a rugged smartphone that is also visually appealing.
Most rubberised smartphones are bulky and thick; but Hisense's Kevlar effect for its rubber exterior, rose gold accents, and a slim design makes the C30 Rock a very good-looking piece of hardware by any standards.
The C30 Rock has a slightly smaller display and achieves a slightly higher pixel density, but the phones are mostly evenly matched in this respect. The Redmi Note 3 has 'reading mode' capabilities, which might account for a small difference in brightness when compared to the C30 Rock.
Overall the colour intensity on the C30 Rock also appears better than the
Redmi's display, making the rugged phone a winner in both design and display.
Winner: C30 Rock
Performance And Battery Life
On paper, it's clear which phone would be the assumed winner in this category. The Redmi Note 3 has superior hardware both in terms of processing power and battery capacity.
But do these raw specs translate to the hands-on experience? Yes, mostly.
The Snapdragon 650 is the more powerful of the processors, accompanied by a better GPU. The Snapdragon 430, on the other hand, is designed with more energy efficiency in mind.
This shows when it comes to battery usage - despite a 1000mAh difference in the batteries, the C30 Rock does a noteworthy job while trying to keep up with the longevity of the Note 3's battery.
When both phones were run through a 20% battery test with Antutu, the Note 3 naturally outperformed the C30 Rock. Hisense's phone scored 9541 while Xiaomi's scored 13 608. To put this in more practical terms, it took around 1.5 hours to consume 20% of the C30 Rock's battery. However, the Note 3 lasted 2 hours for the same proportion of the battery charge.
This means that with heavy usage, the C30 Rock battery should last a total of about 7.5 hours while the Note 3 will last about 10 hours. While this may seem like a big difference, the 1000mAh gap would usually create a bigger divide. This means that the C30 Rock is actually quite energy efficient. It also has the benefit of quick-charging.
When it comes to games and general usage, there isn't much of a noticeable difference between the phones. However, the Redmi Note 3 does have a smoother feel to it when it comes to changing tabs and loading the home screen.
Winner: Redmi Note 3
Both smartphones have 16MP main cameras and 5MP front-facing cameras, so relying on pixels solely will not give an accurate measure of how the phones differ.
Rather, we took the phones out at the same time and took pictures of the same scenes to get an accurate comparison.
By doing this, it became apparent that the Redmi Note 3 had better
colour saturation than the C30 Rock. The C30 Rock's high light sensitivity resulted in many of the photos appearing more washed out than the Redmi's pictures.
The C30 Rock also had a tendency to pick up yellow more than other tones. The pictures were taken
mid-morning, but still showed a yellow haze in some areas.
The difference in quality could be down to the Redmi Note 3's HDR functionality, which gives a greater range of tones in pictures through post-processing. Without the
HDR however, the Redmi's photos come out with lower saturation and contrast, diminishing their quality.
But without its own HDR mode, the C30 Rock can't replicate the same quality. This results in photos with low tonal variety.
Strangely enough, the C30 Rock's photos look better on the phone itself, due to the better brightness and
colour intensity of the display. We had expected the Note 3's photos to have less contrast and
colour. It was only once the photos were put on the same computer screen that the differences became more evident.
Winner: Redmi Note 3
What unifies these phones is their mid-range price points and status as mid-range flagship releases in South Africa over the past year. However, that's where many of the similarities end.
The Redmi Note 3 is the phone which performs better, but it lacks a rugged and unique design. Its camera produces photos with better saturation and its fingerprint sensor adds an extra premium feel. It is also the cheaper of the two phones, priced at only R2 999. (R3 699 for the 32GB version, which would be equal to the C30 Rock's storage).
The downsides are that the phone is operating on an older version of Android, its body has a plastic feel which makes it seem cheaper and its display brightness is less striking than that of the C30 Rock.
Meanwhile, the C30 Rock achieves a unique feat in being a rugged, rubberised phone that is still visually appealing - even more appealing than some of its fragile peers. While it is higher in price (R4 499), it remains one of the cheapest Android 7 smartphones. It is also one of the most affordable rugged smartphones, with phones from companies like
Blackview costing higher in general for similar specs.
Deciding which phone suits you best depends on what you're looking for in a device. While Xiaomi does offer a lower price and better performance, the C30 Rock is quite a step by Hisense. It represents the company trying something different from the norm while upping their quality versus price.
Considering Xiaomi is renowned for the high performance and low prices for their devices (their Mi 6's specs are considered basically on par with the Samsung Galaxy S8, despite being around half the price); Hisense providing worthy competition in the form of this phone is an impressive feat.