Xiaomi Redmi – 1.5GHz Quad-core 4.7″ IPS display Android smartphone

Xiaomi's Redmi - Dual SIM 1.5GHz Quad-core 4.7" IPS display Android smartphone with MIUI
Xiaomi’s Redmi – Dual SIM 1.5GHz Quad-core 4.7″ IPS display Android smartphone with MIUI

It seems like the latest smartphone craze is to get the ultra-budget Redmi / Hongmi (Red Rice) android smartphone. The Redmi was released on 21 February 14 in Singapore for S$169. Their online stocks ran out within a few minutes during the first two rounds of public offerings (21 Feb 14 and 27 Feb 14 at 12pm). That just shows how crazy people are over the ultra-budget android smartphone. But just how good (or bad) is the Redmi? Lets find out.

Review At A Glance
Product Xiaomi Redmi / Hongmi / Red Rice [product link]
Summary Redmi / Hongmi / Red Rice is Xiaomi's ultra-budget android smartphone with cool MIUI, a good 8MP camera and crisp IPS display
Pros + User-friendly MIUI
+ Crisp 4.7" IPS display (1280 x 720, 312ppi)
+ Gorilla Glass 2
+ 8MP Camera (with flash)
+ Cheap / Affordable for its performance
+ Dual-Sim
+ Comes with PlayStore
Cons – Lack of 4G connectivity
– Slow GPS lock on
– Medicore 3D gaming performance
– Navigation buttons are not backlited
– Tiny notification LED
SRP S$169.00

 

Xiaomi Redmi / Hongmi (Red Rice) Technical Specifications
OS Android 4.2.2
CPU Quad-core 1.5GHz (MTK MT6589T)
GPU Imagination PowerVR SGX544
RAM 1GB
Storage 4GB Internal
Expandable via microSD (up to 32GB)
Screen 4.7 inch multi-touch capacitive touch screen
Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels (312 ppi)
Camera 8MP (rear) with dual LED, F/2.2 aperture 28mm
1.3MP (front)
Video 1080p HD video recording
720p (1280 x 720) Quasi-definition camera
Network 2G: 900/1800/1900
3G: 900/2100
Connectivity WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth: Version 3
Navigation Assisted-GPS
Battery Lithium-polymer 2000mAh
Dimension 137mm x 69mm x 9.9mm
Weight 158 gm
AnTuTu Score Version 4
16308
Multitask: 3268
Runtime:1060
RAM Operation: 1402
RAM Speed: 543
CPU Integer: 2305
CPU float-point: 1596
2D Graphics: [720×1280] 762
3D Graphics: [720×1280] 4088
Database IO: 635
Storage IO: 649
CPU frequency: 1508 MHz (x4)
Date: 2014-03-07 15:53

 

Design

The Redmi looks like a regular android phone with its rectangular design and slightly curved corners. From afar, it looks a little like a Windows 8 smartphone offering from the Nokia Lumia series. Only on closer look then you will realise that it is a phone from Xiaomi. In the hands, the Redmi feels solid but a little on the heavy side (158 gm) compared to the other smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S3 (133 gm) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (130 gm). Quality-wise, it definitely feels that it is well built for its price and it does not feel too plasticky.

Pixel Density Comparison (ppi)
Xiaomi Redmi / Hongmi / Red Rice 312
Apple iPhone 5s 326
Samsung Galaxy S3 306
Samsung Galaxy S4 441

It has a 4.7 inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels. With this, the pixel density works out to be 312 ppi. The Redmi’s crisp display delivers great image quality and sharp text. Most would find the bezel around the display is a little thick.

The recess slot where you use to pry the back cover off
The recess slot where you use to pry the back cover off

The battery cover is coated with a matte material which provides some grip / friction, preventing the phone from slipping out of the hand when operated one-handed. The matte coating also makes the Redmi less of a fingerprint magnet. However, oil smudges cannot be avoided. Xiaomi does offer the battery cover in other colours like red and white but seems like it is offered only in grey in its online store.

Memory card, SIM 1 (left with 3G), SIM 2 (right with 2G) and battery slot
Memory card, SIM 1 (left with 3G), SIM 2 (right with 2G) and battery slot

After prying off the removable battery cover, one can find the microSD (memory card) slot, two full-sized SIM card slots and the battery compartment. Both SIM card slots accept SIM cards with data connectivity but only the left one supports 3G while the right one supports 2G. With dual-standby support, it means that both SIM cards can receive calls and text messages concurrently. This feature is pretty standard with dual-SIM phones nowadays.

Near the top, it is a 8MP camera with LED flashlight. Just right of it are the speakers.

2000mAh Lithium-polymer battery
2000mAh Lithium-polymer battery

Battery Capacity (mAh)
Xiaomi Redmi / Hongmi / Red Rice 2000
Apple iPhone 5s 1560
Samsung Galaxy S3 2100
Samsung Galaxy S4 2600

The Redmi comes with a 2000mAh Lithium-polymer battery that lasted around 10+ hours for a regular user like me. That is using Whatsapp once in a while, some phone calls,  forum / facebook surfing during free time, twittering, watching video and perhaps light gaming. Oh boy, I think I am doing too much. At the end of the day, the Redmi still have got some juice left when I reached home. It is also my first time seeing a orange-coloured battery. Perhaps I am used to seeing white, black or grey batteries.

Volume (+ and -) and Power buttons on the right of Redmi
Volume (+ and -) and Power buttons on the right of Redmi

The power and volume buttons are all found on the right edge of the Redmi, leaving the left edge free of buttons. On the top edge, there is the 3.5mm audio out jack. On the bottom edge, there is the microphone and the microUSB port that handles the charging of Redmi, data transfer and OTG (USB On-The-Go).

On the bottom section of the Redmi, one will find the orange navigation buttons (option, home, back). Don’t be fooled by their bright colour because they do not light up in the dark. Just below the home button, there is a tiny LED notification light that flashes when you have messages, missed calls, etc. It is a little unusual for Xiaomi to place notification light at this location as most smartphone manufacturers place it on the top portion of the phone.

Navigation buttons that doesn't lights up in the dark
Navigation buttons that doesn’t lights up in the dark

 

 

Features

The Redmi runs an alternative android ROM – the MIUI. MIUI is a custom development from Xiaomi. It is actually very common for manufacturers to have their own unique / personalised ROM – Samsung have their TouchWiz ROM while HTC has got Sense ROM and the list goes on.

MIUI interface
MIUI interface

Before you start wondering if MIUI is as good as the ROM from manufacturers like Samsung or HTC, let me tell you that MIUI is well received in the android community. There are people who actually went through great lengths to get MIUI installed on their non-Xiaomi smartphone (like on the smartphones from Samsung). This shows how popular and popular MIUI ROM is. ROM boils down to individual preference. To me, I felt that the MIUI makes the Redmi feel snappy despite its (MTK-based) CPU and 1GB RAM.

Themes

One of the strengths of MIUI is its support for themes. Quite a handful of android users install the MIUI ROM for its themes. Themes allow users to customise or skin their android phone to their preference. But just a note of caution, some of the themes can be resource intensive (huge background or very detailed icons) and will slow down the Redmi. For me, I prefer function over form so I tend to go with lightweight themes or default themes.

Permission Manager

Managing App Permission centrally
Managing App Permission centrally

Personally, I find the Permission manager to be a worthy mention. It is offered as part of the MIUI and it is capable of managing the various permissions requested by the applications. Do you actually look through the list of permission requested by the apps during install? If you don’t, it is time to take note of why some basic apps request full access to your contact list and ability to send SMS. This is where the Permission manager comes in handy, you can revoke the (nasty) app’s permission.

I will not be going through each and individual feature of MIUI. In fact, such MIUI feature reviews are aplenty on the Internet. So do Google for them to find out more.

 

Camera

I was quite sceptical about the 8MP camera due to the Redmi being a ultra-budget smartphone. I didn’t expect it to deliver good quality photos or any sort but again the Redmi has proven me wrong.

Chinese Kendi
Chinese Kendi

Indeed, it does not have shutter lag and among the camera options, you will find “panorama” and “HDR” mode. These two modes happen to be my most commonly used camera options. Simply because I love taking landscapes and enjoy looking at pictures with dynamic range.

In good lights, the pictures turns out clean with plenty of details. Just like other smartphones, dim lighting makes the pictures noisy. Well, I guess it scored well in the camera department. Check out some of the pictures in the Camera Roll section below.

 

Performance

The Redmi is powered by a Quad-core 1.5 GHz MediaTek MT6589T and 1GB RAM. For smartphones, one should not just rely on the clock speed (1.5 GHz) and number of core (x4) but also take note on the type of processor (MediaTek, Snapdragon, etc.). At the similar clock speed, the Snapdragon would have a better performance than the MediaTek. So this essentially explains why the Redmi is more affordable than smartphones running the Snapdragon processor (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S4).

Despite it using the MediaTek processor, the Redmi feels great when used for normal tasks like surfing, facebook, twitter, calling, texting, enjoying multimedia, etc. But when it comes to 3D intensive applications like games, you will start to notice the difference and realised you are holding a ultra-budget android smartphone.

The redeeming part is that it scored 16308 in the Antutu Benchmark which makes it in the same league as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Google Nexus 4. Why did I say “redeeming”? Simply because the Redmi is way cheaper than the other two.

 

Conclusion

Although the Xiaomi Redmi is marketed as an ultra-budget android smartphone (S$169), it delivers higher-than-average performance and quality for its price. Honestly, I would expect the Redmi to feel like a toy or a cheap China knock-off phone but it had amazed me with its build and performance. The Antutu Benchmark score of 16308 reaffirmed my perception of its performance.

At this price and performance, I guess it is one of the best budget Android smartphone. Considering to get one? Maybe you would like to check out Xiaomi Redmi on Amazon.

 

Camera Roll (Taken with Redmi)

Gallery

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