Infinix Hot S3x review: not the beast but definitely the budget beauty

Rating: 6.5/10

Yay: 

  • Great design for its price
  • Decent battery backup
  • Comfortable and ergonomic design
  • Decent cameras

Nay:

  • Sub-par display
  • XOS is a mess
  • Sluggish performance

Introduction

The Infinix Hot S3x. No, don’t get the name wrong. The device is said to be the successor to the Infinix Hot S3. Although I wouldn’t blame you for taking it in a different direction. In fact, I’m writing this review while listening to Sex on fire by the Kings of Leon. But let’s move past the name, shall we? 

The Infinix Hot S3x offers a great design coupled with some decent hardware. But with a price tag of Rs. 9,999, one must really question whether the S3x is the device to go with? Or would you be better off with the trusted performers like the Redmi 6 or the ZenFone Max Pro M1? Well, let’s find out, as we review the Infinix Hot S3x.

Infinix Hot S3x design: hot and seductive

Yes, I’m feeding to the name that the phone carries, but damn, it deserves it. Being a tech reviewer, I’ve come to use multiple smartphones. And let’s be realistic, every budget smartphone offers the same cheap feeling to it. The Infinix Hot S3x, on the other hand, feels something different. Yes, it comes with a plastic build, but the ergonomics of the device really give you a feeling of holding something premium.

Our review unit came in the Aqua Blue shade, which reminds me of the signature honor devices. However, the S3x comes with a shiny reflective back, that definitely is an eye turner. Not to forget that it is also a fingerprint magnet. There is a dual-camera setup in the top-left corner followed by a dual-LED flash. For unlocking the device, there is a fingerprint sensor on the back as well.

On the left side of the device, you’ll find the SIM tray, with a comparatively cheap finish. Over to the right side are the volume rockers followed by the power button. 

At the top, there is the beloved 3.5mm headphone jack, which is always welcome. And lastly, at the bottom, there is the microUSB port, sandwiched between the speaker grill and the mic.

All in all, the Infinix Hot S3x comes with a pretty good design, along with decent connectivity options. While I would have appreciated a USB-C port, I can let that pass considering the price of the device.

Infinix Hot S3x display: unlike the name, the display is too cool

Judging by that subheading, I’m sure you must have gotten a hint of where this section is headed. The Infinix Hot S3x packs in a 6.2-inch HD+ display with a resolution of 1440x720p. That comes out roughly to a 260 ppi, which is definitely not good. And that shows.

The display certainly lacks the clarity one would expect. With the Full HD+ displays becoming common in the Rs 10K bracket, users wouldn’t really fancy the S3x’s display. What’s more is that the color tone is, as you might have guessed, slightly cool. There is also a hefty amount of color shift on the side. As such, the viewing angles are not great on the device.

One of the most interesting features about the Hot S3x is the notch up-top. If you thought that the Pixel 3 had a big notch, take a look at this one. Honestly, with the default font and display size, there is hardly any space left for content on the top. On the upside though, it houses a front LED flash, which should assist you while clicking yourself in the dark.

Yes, the display is decent for its price. But that being said, it definitely lacks a punch. And while it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, it does hamper the user experience by a noticeable margin.

Infinix Hot S3x software: save me, my lord

As has been the case with most of the Chinese manufacturers out there, the OS on their devices is mostly crappy. The aim is to mostly replicate Apple’s iOS, but the end-product is an entire mess. And the XOS on the Infinix Hot S3x is no different. 

Infinix Hot S3x comes with XOS v3.3 based on Android 8.1 Oreo. Apart from running Oreo, there is hardly anything good with the custom OS skin. The XOS is full of color and overloaded animations that have a significant impact on the device’s performance.

As for the features, it does come with gestures and smart motion. However, apart from the three-finger screenshot, none of them works decently. Also, unlike most smartphones with a notch, the S3x does not come with an option to hide the notch. 

The launcher on the XOS is decent, at its best. There is an option for a shelf on the left side similar to the OnePlus, that Infinix calls “headlines”. You can customize a lot of things inside the launcher, such as grid size, animation, blur, and more. However, the impact on the performance is a big one, so I’d recommend not tweaking with them a lot.

Infinix Hot S3x camera: surprisingly amazing

Okay, I’ll get this straightened out. The camera on the Infinix Hot S3x is frigging amazing. That is, in proper daylight. And no, I don’t mean to say for its price. It is actually quite good. I’ve used a lot of devices that come with AI to support its imaging quality, but quite often they just soften the image and alter the color profile. With the Infinix Hot S3x however, things are quite positive. 

The Infinix Hot S3x packs in a 13MP+2MP dual-camera setup on the back. There’s the aforementioned AI feature onboard, that vastly improves the image quality. I tested out the camera in a variety of conditions, and it held its front almost every time. Take a look for yourself:

In daylight photography, the Infinix Hot S3x is a great camera device. Despite the AI onboard, the camera manages to capture colors accurately. There is a decent amount of sharpness to the image with enough detail. The focus works great, and the images definitely look like they came out of a budget flagship device. Also, thanks to the dual camera setup, there is the portrait mode as well. The edge-detection is definitely missing the mark, but the blur sort-of makes up for it.

In terms of low light photography, the S3x is decent. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. As one might expect, as the light drops, the noise does start to creep in. The subject in itself is not very well lit. However, the S3x does manage to balance things out, once again, thanks to the AI features. 

The Infinix Hot S3x comes with a 16MP camera up-front accompanied by an LED flash for low-light selfies. Honestly, the selfies on the device are a tad bit soft, as opposed to the rear camera performance. The images lack the detail, and there is a hint of change in the overall color profile. Also, there is no portrait mode in the front camera. That being said, the camera performance is still pretty darn good in terms of budget. On the plus side, you still get an AI mode and a beauty mode, which is good.

Infinix Hot S3x performance: slow and steady, but doesn’t win the race

The Infinix Hot S3x comes ill-equipped with the Snapdragon 430 SoC alongside 3GB of RAM. The performance of the device, as you’d expect, is pretty darn slow. There are no two ways about it. As much as I love the cameras on this thing, I hate the performance. 

While I don’t trust the benchmark scores a lot, they do give an indication of where things are headed. And for the Infinix Hot S3x, things are headed south. The Hot S3x manages to achieve a score of barely 58,494 in the Antutu Benchmark. As for GeekBench, the device scores 666 in the single-core test and 2,360 in the multi-core test. 

GeekBench Scores (left) and Antutu Benchmarks (right)

However, benchmarks are not the complete story. Well, if you’re wondering how the device performs in day to day activities, don’t expect a lot. The Snapdragon 430 SoC is pretty sluggish, and the XOS on top of it makes it further slower. Not only are there lags in between menus, but the device also happens to absolutely freeze at times. 

As for gaming, the device is a big no. While playing PUBG Mobile, I managed to log a Gamebench fps stability of just 66 percent. This was while playing on the lowest settings possible. 

All things considered, if performance matters to you, the Infinix Hot S3x is a device to stay away from. The blame is not just on the processor, to be honest. XOS is one of the heaviest custom Android skins out there, which definitely proves to have an adverse impact on the device’s performance. Sadly, there is no custom ROM support as well, so you’ll have to stick with the sluggish performance.

Infinix Hot S3x audio: could be better

The Infinix Hot S3x comes with a single firing speaker grill at the bottom. Having used the Pixel 2 as my daily driver for a long time now, I just hate the bottom placement of speakers. It’s not just with the Hot S3x, but almost every device with bottom firing speakers tends to underperform a lot. That being said, the placement is not the only issue with this device.

The speaker in itself is quite underpowered. Halfway through the volume steps, the voice starts to crack a bit. Turning it all the way up destroys the whole experience. Yes, it’s loud. But it lacks the quality. 

As for call usage, the speaker is decent. The voice does crack a bit, but considering how loud the speakers are, you can tone the levels down as well. The earpiece up top within the notch is also loud and works well for phone calls. 

Infinix Hot S3x battery: simply amazing

The Infinix Hot S3x comes with a whopping 4,000mAh battery. Couple that with the battery efficient Snapdragon 430 SoC and we have a beast in our hands. The device lasted me almost two days in my testing. Mind you, that this was on the weekend, where I spend most of my time watching YouTube videos, listening to songs on SoundCloud, socializing a lot on Instagram and Reddit, and playing the occasional light-weight games. All in all, the device was able to give me a SoT of 7 hours, which is pretty impressive. 

On the downside though, the charging on this thing is a huge disappointment. There is a microUSB port on the bottom and no support for fast charging. Owing to the huge battery capacity, it took me a little over 2 hours to completely charge the device. Also, the device charges linearly, so you can’t expect to just “top-up” your S3x’s battery.

Infinix Hot S3x: worth it or not?

At this point, you’re probably wondering whether the Infinix Hot S3x is worth your buck or not. Well, there are a few pros and cons to it. While I’ve highlighted them briefly at the beginning of this review, I’ll just expand a little bit on them here. To put things on the table, the Infinix Hot S3x is designed as a camera phone. The device manages to capture great images, that are almost always social media ready. The battery life is great, and the design is a pleasure to use.

That being said, the performance is horrendous on the Hot S3x. The custom OS skin that is XOS is horrible, and the display is just sub-par. As one might expect, at this price tag, you should be ready to make a few compromises. If the camera is your main priority, the Infinix Hot S3x is a no-brainer. However, if you value performance even a bit more, you might want to consider these alternatives:

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1

If a notch is not of the utmost importance to you, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 is practically your best bet at this price tag. It comes with the same 3GB of RAM, but couples it with the snappy Snapdragon 636 SoC. It’s a massive upgrade over the Infinix Hot S3x. The device also comes with Stock Android, so you don’t have to deal with XOS’ crap.

Buy ZenFone Max Pro M1 here

Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro

Alternatively, if a notch matters a lot to you, you might wanna consider the Redmi 6 Pro. Compared to the ZenFone Max Pro M1, it does come with an underpowered Snapdragon 625 SoC. However, it is still a more powerful processor than the Snapdragon 450 on the Infinix Hot S3x. And in terms of custom skins, MIUI is any day better than the XOS on the Hot S3x.

Buy Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro here

Also read: Honor 9N review: made for the rebels

All things considered, the competition in the budget smartphone market is on an all-time high. As such, camera stands as a standpoint for the Infinix Hot S3x. However, performance enthusiasts should look somewhere else.

Varun Mirchandani

Varun is your go-to guy for everything related to technology. Someone with a keen interest in the Android world, he installs a new custom ROM every week and is always living on the bleeding edge of technology. When not writing for Mr. Phone, you can find him gaming on his beastly gaming rig which is also his prized possession.