Xiaomi has enjoyed considerable success with it’s Redmi line of smartphone, it’s budget offering. Whilst the “Mi” phones represent Xiaomi’s best and most exciting smartphones, the Redmi line has always set the standard for value for money in it’s price range. Following on from the successes of the previous Redmi Phones, Xiaomi has released the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, the “flagship” of their budget offerings. Featuring up to 4GB of RAM with it’s Snapdragon 625 SoC, the Redmi Note 4 promises to be the best of the budget phones, a title Xiaomi has held for quite some time. The Redmi Note 4 joins the Redmi family, along with the Redmi 4, Redmi 4A, Redmi 3 Prime, and Redmi 3s+ – quite a large lineup! Value for money is Xiaomi’s strong point, so lets see how far it can push that with the Redmi Note 4.
Xiaomi typically excels in designing mobile phones. From the Xiaomi Mi Mix to the Xiaomi Mi 6, they all look excellent, and have superb build quality. Even at it’s low price point, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is no exception. It’s beautifully crafted with an all-aluminium enclosure, and it comes in a variety of great looking colors. It isn’t too similar to any other phones, but it does remind me a little of the HTC One M9. The shiny antenna bands on the top and bottom of the phone are the only things that break up the otherwise completely smooth back. It’s refreshing to see a phone at this price point with a metal body, when most phone designers seem to resort to plastic in their budget phones. Across the front of the phone is the large 5.5″ display, with three capacitive buttons beneath it.
Unlike most phones with an off-screen home button, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner on the front. Instead, Xiaomi has decided to place the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone, just below the camera cutout. While it’s much more natural to have it on the back when holding the device, it makes it a cumbersome process to unlock when the phone is face up on a desk, or on a dock. In addition, the fingerprint scanner cutout is exactly the same size as the camera cutout. Thankfully, they’re made of different materials, but it still can cause a little trouble when trying to unlock the phone. At 8.45mm thick, it’s a relatively thin device, but not as thin as many flagships today. Overall, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is a great looking device, and it’s made with premium materials.
Like I mentioned before, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is made with quality materials. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re well put together, but in this case, they are. There aren’t any build quality issues at all, and the phone doesn’t creak or give in under normal pressure from my hands. It’s a well-designed phone, and it’s also well built. Being metal does make it more prone to dings and scratches, but if you take good care of it, it’ll continue to look stunning.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, being a budget phone, doesn’t have a plethora of unique features, but it does retain a few features which are essential to it’s job as a smartphone in 2017. One of the things it retains, and does a very good job of, is the fingerprint scanner. Though it’s located on the back, it’s very quick, and accurate too. Being on the back also means that you don’t have to assign all five fingers to it, just the index finger of each hand. This is because it will be the one closest to he fingerprint scanner when holding the phone normally. Since the battery is exceptionally large, at 4100mAh, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 naturally features fast-charging, at 5V/2A. Xiaomi does not put any claims as to how fast it is, but I’d guess it’d be around 0-25% in 30 minutes.
If you consider it a feature, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 also supports external Micro-SD cards. This is great news if you have an unused Micro-SD card lying around, as it can expand your phone’s available storage by up to 256GB. If you buy the most expensive version of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, the 4GB|64GB (RAM|ROM) version, you could have a phone with 320GB of storage. Unfortunately, the internal flash storage isn’t especially fast, since it’s EMMC 5.0 instead of UFS 2.1. Overall, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 skips over most of the flashy special features in order to lower the cost, which is reflected in the resulting consumer price.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 has all of the connectivity options you’d expect a phone to have today. However, it lacks NFC (Near-Field-Communication), which means you won’t be able to use any contactless payment options with your phone. Aside from that, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 has a relatively stock-standard set of connectivity options.
The display is one of the most important parts of the device, and while it’s nothing special, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 packs a very high-quality screen within its budget. It’s a large 5.5″ display, and while it’s not especially large by today’s standards, the bezels on the Redmi Note 4 aren’t especially large either. This means that while it’s a 5.5″ display phone, it’s total footprint is a little smaller than what I’d expected it to be. The screen itself is very detailed. At this price point, it’s rare, but the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 has a Full HD display, at 1920×1080. However, it seems that the pixel density was the number one priority, with the contrast ratio a little lacking. The 1000:1 contrast ratio isn’t especially bad, but it’s not as much as a lot of displays on phones today.
The brightness of the display has also been increased from it’s predecessor, quite noticeably so. Color reproduction and viewing angles are superb, thanks to the IPS display. There’s also a “night display” mode, which is a blue color filter, much like “night shift” mode on the iPhone. While it’s not anything groundbreaking, it’s nice to have a feature like that built into the phone, and it makes late night reading a lot easier on the eyes. Overall, the display is great for it’s asking price, and it rivals displays from phones which cost hundreds of dollars more.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is a budget phone, but it certainly doesn’t have typical “budget” hardware. In its lowest and cheapest configuration, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. 32GB of storage is quickly becoming the new minimum for storage space, and that’s great, because 16GB simply isn’t enough in this day and age. It’s system on chip is the mid-range Snapdragon 625 chipset, which keeps the phone running quickly and smoothly. Since the Snapdragon 625 isn’t a high powered chip, it means that it also saves on battery life. Combine this with the extremely large 4000mAh battery, and you should get astonishingly long battery life.
As mentioned before, the 32GB or 64GB of storage built into the phone is EMMC 5.1, which is much slower than the standard for flagship devices today, UFS 2.0 or 2.1. EMMC saves space and money, but it’d be nice to have UFS on the Redmi Note 4. Still, at just $150, I couldn’t expect it to have UFS 2.1 like the OnePlus 5. Overall, the hardware inside the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is good, and it punches above it’s price class.
Hardware – Camera
While the Redmi Note 3’s camera was lacking, Xiaomi has sought to improve on it this year. This time around, the Redmi Note 4 has a 13MP CMOS camera, with PDAF focusing down to 0.1s. The aperture is also relatively high, at F/2.0. On paper, this looks better than the iPhone 6s in almost every way (12MP sensor, F/2.2). For the most part, it’s a pretty good camera for a $150 phone, but in low-light conditions, detail is absolutely decimated, so much so that you may begin to wonder if it was in focus at all. With good lighting, the camera works wonderfully and can take some beautiful photos.
Although it has a high-quality sensor, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is unable to take 4k video at all. Instead, it shoots at a maximum of 1080p at 30fps, or 720p at 120fps. At $150, it’s excusable, but it’d be nice if it could at least shoot 1080p at 60fps. In addition, videos are plagued by the same problems which befall the image quality, namely, the low light performance and grain. Overall, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 takes good photos and decent videos in good lighting, but quality quickly deteriorates when the amount of light is lowered.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is equipped with the Snapdragon 625 SoC. Although it’s not the most powerful chip, it’s still able to perform well in benchmarks. Scoring 900 in single-core, and 4600 in multi-core Geekbench 3, it’s an admirable performer for the price. The trade off you get for the lower performance when compared to flagships is the increased battery life. Still, it will be able to keep the phone quick and snappy for a few years. After a few years, you may notice increased slowdowns, especially if there are future software updates for the phone. As of right now, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 runs Android 6.0. With the Snapdragon 625, moving around the user interface is smooth and fluid, and 2d games run just fine. Some 3d games are also playable on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, but some more demanding titles may not fare so well.
Like All Xiaomi products running Android, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 runs MIUI on top of Android 6.0. MIUI is wildly popular in Asia, but for me and many users in the US, it’s a bit different. For starters, there’s no app drawer, instead solely relying on the home screen as an app drawer, much like iOS. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as nice as iOS does, but Xiaomi has done a pretty good job of keeping it similar. One of my favourite features of MIUI is the duplicate apps option, where one app is opened with different logins, for example, a work and home Facebook account. Instead of having to log in and out of the same app, MIUI can duplicate the app in different modes so you just tap the one you want.
There are a few other useful features, but otherwise, it’s mostly aesthetic and UI features. I don’t especially like the design language which Xiaomi has used, so I downloaded Google Now Launcher to bring it closer to stock Android. However, simply downloading Google’s launcher will only change the home screen, leaving all the built-in apps to have a Xiaomi flavor to them. This is especially noticeable in the settings app. Overall, MIUI is a pleasant experience with some cool features, but I still prefer stock Android.
If you were looking for a reason to boast about your $150 phone, this could be it. it has a feature missing from the iPhone 7 – that is, the headphone jack. Capable of outputting 24bit/192khz audio, the built in DAC isn’t bad quality. Even though there’s been a rush to annihilate the headphone jack, even with the Xiaomi Mi 6, it’s odd to see that almost all entry and mid level phones retain the “legacy” port, even though you’re paying less.
With a modest Snapdragon 625 chip and a Full HD display, you’d expect the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 to have astonishing battery life. Combine this with the monstrous 4000mAh battery pack inside the phone, and you get simply astounding battery life. It absolutely blows me away, in a similar fashion to what the Vernee Thor E did. For me, under medium-heavy usage, I managed to get around 10 hours of screen on time, or just under two days for me. If you’re not a phone freak and don’t use your phone for 5+ hours a day, you could probably get 2-3 days of battery life on just one charge. In comparison to my iPhone 6s, it has about triple the battery life. Battery life is definitely the standout feature of this phone, and at just $150, it’s very impressive.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 comes in a myriad of different color and performance options. Initially, Xiaomi released the Redmi Note 4 with just three colors – Grey, Silver, and Gold. Recently, Xiaomi also added Blue and Black to the lineup, so you have a total of 5 color options. You can also choose between performance options. There’s (RAM|ROM) 2GB|32GB, 3GB|32GB, and 4GB|64GB options, and out of all of those, I’d go for the 3GB|32GB version. While the 4GB|64GB option may be tempting, it’s unlikely you’ll be keeping this budget phone for longer than 1-2 years, and during that time, the extra 1GB of RAM probably won’t make much difference. If you’re worried about storage, it may be sensible to upgrade to the more expensive 4GB|64GB version, since it’ll set you back about the same amount extra as a 32GB Micro SD card anyway.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is a stunner of a phone at it’s ~$150-$250 price range, and its astonishing battery life and solid performance make it a contender for being one of the best budget smartphones of 2017. It definitely sets the standard for value for money, and I hope other phone manufacturers follow suit. If you’re looking for a phone around this price range, I couldn’t recommend the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 enough, especially if you’re addicted to your phone and need ultra-long battery life.