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Infinix Hot S3X review: The notch gets affordable

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Nov 20, 2018, 9:53 am IST
Updated Nov 21, 2018, 7:20 am IST
A beautiful handset that absolutely betrays its attractive price tag.
The display is one of the strong points of the Hot S3X.
 The display is one of the strong points of the Hot S3X.
Rating:

Earlier on this year, we had the opportunity to review the Infinix Hot S3 and we absolutely loved it. In fact, we found it to be one of the coolest phones around as clicking pictures with it was truly satisfying. Since then, Infinix has vastly built up on its smartphone portfolio by dropping a new handset almost every month. The stand-out handset was undoubtedly the Infinix Note 5, the flagship Android handset from the Hong Kong-based smartphone manufacturer. The handset was a great addition for those looking to get an Android One handset on a budget as we found the handset to be absolutely polished with good optics.

Now, Infinix has introduced the successor to the widely successful Hot S3 in the form of the Hot S3X. This handset comes with stellar features and a beautiful design that could potentially rival handsets from bigger brands such as Xiaomi and Honor. Priced with a competitive tag of Rs 9,999, this handset is marketed at those looking to purchase a handset with a notch at an affordable price.

 

We dive into the Infinix Hot S3X to see if its worth your cash or if you should opt for handsets from competing brands. 

Infinix Hot S3X review

Design, Build

From the looks of it, it is pretty clear that Infinix has taken a step back, gone deep into it and designed this handset with a lot of thought. It is no easy task fitting a notched display on a budget device and keeping the bezels to a minimum. While the notch may be the focal point of the design team over at Infinix, the rear of the handset is where it actually sets itself apart from the hordes of smartphones available in this price segment. The Infinix Note 5 was a beautiful handset and we praised the brand for adding a modern look. They have done something similar with the Hot S3X and have given it the same design treatment. The rear of the handset boasts a glossy look that resembles a glass back.

Infinix Hot S3X review

Since the rear features a glossy rear panel, it takes a lot of effort to keep the handset pristine as it attracts fingerprints — lots of them. To keep it shiny and new, a case is more than compulsory.

Like the rear, the sides too are dressed in a glossy finish, thereby completing the overall aesthetic of the handset. The headphone jack is located on the top, the same way that handsets were designed in the past and this design scheme is common for budget handsets.

Infinix Hot S3X review

Infinix has added slim bezels across the face, apart from the chin. The notch is not too large, but there's also no option for hiding it. Other smartphone manufacturers include the option within the UI itself that can help hide the notch by adding black bars on either side.

Infinix Hot S3X review

The bottom plays home to the micro USB charging port, a speaker and a microphone. The volume and power buttons are located on the right while the SIM tray is on the left. With the Hot S3, Infinix added a circular fingerprint rear; the Hot S3X features a square-ish sensor with curved sides which in all honesty looks unapologetically rich. The rear dual camera module is vertically stacked and located on the top right-hand side. This is a redesign in comparison to the recent Note 5 which was horizontally stacked.

Infinix Hot S3X review

To sum it up, the Infinix Hot S3X looks classy and appears to be strong enough to take a few accidental drops.

Display

On the Hot S3X, we find Infinix’s largest display measuring at 6.2-inches. However, this handset by no means feels or looks like a huge phone. In fact, it is similar in size to the Note 5 which featured a 5.99-inch display making it a comfortable handset to hold single-handedly for long amounts of time to access content. This notched handset features a resolution of 720 x 1500 pixels making it an HD+ display with a pixel density of 268ppi. The display boasts an aspect ratio of 19:9 with a screen-to-body ratio of 86 per cent which is highly commendable for a budget device.

Infinix Hot S3X review

The display is a lot different to the one found on the Hot S3 as it now comes with a notch thereby mimicking most rivals today. Unlike the large notch found on the Pixel 3XL, this notch appears to be designed well and features the front-facing camera, a notification LED, earpiece and LED flash.

The display is bright, clear and vibrant. Viewing content on this handset even in direct sunlight is easy giving it an advantage over other handsets in the similar budget.

Software

The Infinix Note 5 was an Android One device giving us a pure Android experience. The Hot S3X is not the same — instead, you get Android Oreo 8.1 with Infinix's custom skin — Hummingbird XOS 3.3 Lite. The user interface looks a lot different from the one we found on Note 5 and with this handset get ready for a lot of bloatware.

If you so happen to have used the Infinix S3 in the past, you would get a similar experience with this handset. The navigation buttons are located at the bottom of the handset by default and if you wish them away, then you can toggle them off by opting for the Gesture navigation in the settings. Like with Android One handsets, Infinix has added an app drawer which lists all the apps on the handset in alphabetical order.

Infinix Hot S3X review

In short, though there are some extra features which we don’t really want, the XOS UI is pretty easy to navigate around in even if you are switching from another brand. However, if given the choice, we would have preferred the cleanliness of a stock Android experience as we found with the Note 5 or like an almost stock UI like there is on competing brands such as Lenovo or Motorola.

A major issue we have with this handset is advertisements — they keep on appearing in the notification drop down. This is pretty irritating as the ads keep on prompting you to download apps. Luckily, the ads do not appear as pop-ups. This unique method of making money by the brand could be a put off for users, not only for the disturbing visuals but also for unwanted data wastage.

Performance

Below that display, Infinix has roped-in an octa-core Snapdragon 430 chipset with the first cluster clocked at 1.09GHz and the second cluster clocked at 1.40GHz. The SoC is paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. What we did notice was that the initial boot-up process was a bit long. However, after that, it worked absolutely fine. Infinix has traditionally used MediaTek processors for their smartphones, but with the Hot S3 and now the Hot S3X, the brand has switched to Qualcomm’s chipsets, which could be an additional selling point for the brand, especially where Indian consumers are preferring Qualcomm chips over Mediatek.

Infinix Hot S3X review

During tests, the S3X performed admirably well, with it managing to provide flawlessly with every task we threw at it, be it casual gaming, video streaming, web browsing and even benchmarking. In the popular Geekbench benchmarking tool, the Infinix Hot S3X scored 665 points in the single-core test while in the multi-core test it scored 2421 points. In comparison, the Note 5 notched a score of 829 points and 3585 points in the single-core and multi-core tests respectively. While running the PCMark benchmarking tool, the Hot S3X scored 3474 points. It once again trails the Note 5 which scored 4747 points. And lastly, in the AnTuTu benchmark, the handset scored 59141 points; and it loses out to the Note 5 again which scored 83957 points.

benchmarks

An issue we had faced with the Infinix Note 5 was the responsiveness of the fingerprint scanner. Thankfully, Infinix has paid attention to users’ complaints and buckled down on this issue with the scanner on the Hot S3X performing admirably well. The handset also comes with a face recognition, and it works flawlessly — we hardly relied on the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor to get in.

Infinix Hot S3X review

Camera

Historically, Infinix has paid a lot of attention to its optics added in their smartphones while keeping the prices down to a minimum. The same is true with the Hot S3X. The smartphone comes with a dual-rear camera setup which is rated at 13MP + 2MP. The larger sensor is of the AF variety while the secondary one is for depth sensing.

Infinix Hot S3X review

Infinix Hot S3X review

Infinix Hot S3X review

The photos captured with the Hot S3X are of decent and the camera app features all the functions that are available on high-end smartphones — AI mode, HDR and portrait. The AI mode is good and it manages to capture photos with good colour accuracy and at the same time managing to retain most of the details.

Infinix Hot S3X review

Infinix Hot S3X review

With the Portrait mode activated, you get shots which feature bokeh. The photos shot in Portrait mode feature the necessary blur of the background while keeping the subject in focus. Sadly, objects are not entertained here as the AI seeks human faces to do a better job.

The camera also comes with a Beauty mode that’s becoming increasingly common across smartphones ranging across varied budgets which make the person appear to have makeup on as it does a job of smoothening skin blemishes. Besides this, the rear camera comes with two modes — Panorama and Night that can be used if the occasion desires it. While the camera excels in well-lit environments, in low-light it still tends to struggle.

Infinix Hot S3X review

Infinix Hot S3X review

Infinix Hot S3X review

Indoor shots appear to lack focus and have a fair amount of grain making them less than ideal for use. However, if you are going to capture photographs indoors, make sure that the subject is well illuminated for the best possible results.

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Infinix has added a 16MP shooter up front. This sensor is capable of capturing good photos that can be easily used on social media. This sensor too is dependent on the amount of light available. In well-lit environments the selfie-camera will shoot great photos; however, in low-light or dark environments, the image quality takes a hit. This is especially true even when the front LED flash is used.

In short, the quality of the photos from either camera depends on the light intake with it doing extremely well in well-lit environments. But yes, the photography, though decent, could have been better, especially when there are other rivals in the same budget segment that can capture better stills. 

Battery

The Infinix Hot S3X comes with a 4000mAh battery with 2A fast charging features added into the mix. The battery life of the handsets is pretty good with it being able to last a full day on moderate-to-heavy usage. While playing games such as Tekken and streaming videos off Netflix, the battery did take a hit but somehow still managed to last till the end of the day. We were quite impressed with the overall performance of the battery.

The handset comes with fast charging which is a bonus feature on a budget smartphone. While it may not feature the blazing fast charge speeds seen on flagship handsets, it does the job decently well.

Infinix Hot S3X review

Verdict

The Infinix Hot S3X is priced at Rs 9,999. Overall, this is a good budget handset that does what it claims. The only issue we have with it is the ads that are prevalent everywhere and in the process take away the user experience.

Infinix Hot S3X review

If given the choice between, and if you could stretch your budget to a to Rs 2,000 more, then the Note 5 is what we could recommend. If money is a criteria and you don’t mind ads appearing on the handset, then you can easily invest in the Hot S3X as you get a stylish-looking device that’s budget-friendly.

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