Xiaomi hits all the right notes with Redmi Note 4
By Chong Jinn Xiung May 3, 2017
- Solid build quality and great software experience enhance the Redmi Note 4
- Boasts a big battery and good performance though its camera is not the best
XIAOMI, the Chinese phone maker that started a revolution, has long been known as a company that delivers products which exhibit both style and value for money.
Now, the Redmi Note 4 isn’t Xiaomi’s latest handset. In fact, it was announced eight months ago. Since then it received a minor update in January, upgrading its processor to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625. Was it worth the wait?
On the outside, it gets much of its looks from the Redmi Note 3. Even though it is marketed as a budget phone Xiaomi definitely has put a lot of thought into its design and even manages to make it look more like a mid-tier phone.
The Redmi Note 4 one-ups its predecessor by sporting an all-metal chassis crafted from aluminium. It has all the makings of a premium device at a fraction of the cost with 2.5D curved-edge glass that spans the 5.5-inch display to give it a premium feel.
The Full HD IPS display with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution is surprisingly bright and colourful. Even in terms of sharpness, text and images appear crisp with vivid colours. The one slight downside to the display is that it is quite reflective but the viewing angles are good.
You get the usual capacitive navigation buttons below the display with the menu, home and back button arranged from left to right.
The rear is mostly clean save for the circular shapes of the camera and fingerprint scanner. The speaker has been moved to the bottom this time around and though there are two grilles flanking the micro USB port, don’t expect stereo sound quality.
Looking at the sides, the volume controls and power are on the right, raised sufficiently that you can control them without having to actually look at them.
Meanwhile, the SIM card tray sits on the opposite side, ready to pop open when you need to insert your SIM card. In what has become standard practice among most smartphone makers, you get a hybrid SIM card tray that accepts one Nano-SIM and one Micro-SIM or a microSD card.
The Redmi Note 4 ships with MIUI 8, the latest version of Xiaomi’s OS that runs on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The system runs buttery smooth with nice looking animations and little to no slowdowns.
Xiaomi has added plenty of features to the OS including Dual Apps that let you run the same app in two instances which are of great benefit to a dual-SIM device. Essentially you can run two WhatsApp accounts on the same phone.
A handy feature for users who want to keep their work and personal life separate is Second Space, that allows you to create a secondary profile where you can have different home screen themes and layout. For additional security, the second account can be set with a password to protect the privacy of your work functions.
Within the image gallery, Xiaomi has added built-in photo editing so you can enhance your photos easily without having to open another app.
The Redmi Note 4 comes with a pretty average 32GB of internal storage. In reality, you get roughly 20GB of free storage after deducting the space taken up by the operating system and preloaded apps. Fortunately, it accepts microSD cards up to 128GB in size.
There is, unfortunately, no way to remove preloaded apps like Mi Remote, Mi Store, Weather and many others. Understandably, Xiaomi is building an ecosystem of apps that help differentiate it from others but it would be great if users had the option to remove the ones they don’t use often.
Xiaomi has always tried to pack more punch into its smartphones by including specs that offer as much power as they do value for money.
The Redmi Note 4 comes equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor which is a fine example of a processor that strikes a balance between performance and battery conservation.
There are several variants of the Redmi Note 4 with differing amounts of RAM. The unit received had 3GB of RAM, the middle of the road variant with performance just slightly degraded from the top end 4GB but still better than the entry 2GB version.
In terms of benchmark performance, it is clear to see that the Redmi Note 4 isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off but it has a respectable Antutu and PCMark Work 2.0 scores.
Geekbench 4 scores were worse than expected but you take what you can get with budget hardware, and don’t complain too much.
As far as 3D graphics are concerned, 3DMark Sling Shot pushed the handset to its limit so much so that it only managed to muster a very low score. But if one were to dial it back a bit to use Ice Storm Extreme as a benchmark then things start to look mildly better for the Redmi Note 4’s 3D capabilities.
In terms of handling day to day apps, the Redmi Note 4 proved to be dependable. There wasn’t any lag between switching apps or while browsing the web with multiple tabs opened. Safe to say multitasking was a breeze on the handset even when we busted out graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 8, Riptide GP Renegade, Modern Combat 5 and Star Wars: Force Arena.
The Redmi Note 4 boasts a rather large 4,100mAh battery coupled with the fact that it has a power efficient processor.
There is no support for quick charging, which would have been welcomed, but one should be able to get through a full day on a single charge. Impressively, the Redmi Note 4 was able to last almost two days with the frugal use of apps while heavier usage yielded a one and half day maximum result.
When it comes to taking photographs the Redmi Note 4 relies on its 13-Megapixel rear camera. The camera comes with a host of different features that read like a dream list for photographers including Phase Detect Auto Focus (PDAF), an f/2.0 aperture and dual-tone LED flash.
The camera may have a lower Megapixel count than the Redmi Note 3 (which had a 16-Megapixel camera), but it does have a larger pixel area that in theory allows for more light and benefits it during low-light shooting.
In use, the Redmi Note 4 performed well in taking photos during the day. Focusing was accurate and fast which is great for capturing moving subjects. Shooting in HDR greatly helps when capturing high contrast scenes but the trade-off is that it takes longer to move between shots.
Unfortunately, the Redmi Note 4 is definitely no low light master. Focusing is much slower during night photography and the results are often blurry or noisy.
Video recording goes up to 1080p, which is sufficient for taking casual home videos. You can also capture images while recording video, though the resolution would be limited to 1,920 x 1,080.
It certainly easy to outshine the success of the Redmi Note 3 but Xiaomi has done it again as the Redmi Note 4 is a great example of a budget model that gets it right.
There are plenty of good features to be found in the Redmi Note 4 as befits a very solid build quality that punches above its class.
There is a lot of value to unpack in the Redmi Note 4 with its smooth software experience, strong performance and long battery life. Really, it is impressive just how this budget model can go toe-to-toe with devices that are twice its price.
That being said, it isn’t perfect. The camera for one won’t be impressing anyone but it gets the job done so long as you shoot when there is plenty of light. Also, there are still plenty of preinstalled apps out the box that can’t be uninstalled to free up more space on the device.
Still, the Redmi Note 4 is just the sort of smartphone we would recommend to anyone who is on a budget for a primary phone and it also works well as a secondary phone for travel.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
Design - 4
Performance - 3
Value - 4
Overall - 4