Xiaomi was quite successful with the Redmi Note 3 in India. It became their best-selling smartphone with over 3 million units sold in India last year. Offering a balance of great design, excellent performance and most importantly a long lasting battery, the smartphone is still considered to be the best budget smartphone to go for.
However, smartphones have a short life span. The budget segment today has quite a few new offerings that give serious competition to Xiaomi. Companies like Lenovo, LeEco, Honor have intriguing products that could be a threat to the Xiaomi. Enter Redmi Note 4. While the smartphone had already made its debut in China last year, the company took its time and launched a more attractive Snapdragon version of the smartphone in India last week at a similar price bracket.
The real question is, has the company managed to make the best budget smartphone even better? Read on for more.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
At first, the Redmi Note 4 doesn't look very different from its predecessor, but looking closer, you start seeing minor changes. Instead of overhauling, Xiaomi has played safe and done some polishing over the existing design. You still get a metal back, only a bit more polished and more premium. The front is flat with a 2.5D curved glass finish and the back has slight curving closer to the edges, similar to the Mi 5. The gap for the antenna bands get some chrome treatment and the metal edges are now chamfered.
There are some other prominent changes like the speaker grille from the back is now moved to the bottom edge. There are some symmetrical design changes as well like the headphone jack and infrared sensor on the top, the front camera and light sensor flanked on either sides of the earpiece and the microUSB port sitting in the middle.
These may not be big leaps in design but they do lend the new Note 4, a more premium look that is a far cry from the rounded, and unfinished body of its predecessor.
The company is known to set a benchmark when it comes to the specifications and it continues to do so with the Redmi Note 4. You get a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS LCD display on the front covered with curved protective glass. The smartphone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor which sounds like a step down from the Snapdragon 650, but is said to be more power efficient. There are three memory variants on offer which include 2GB RAM with 32GB of storage, 3GB RAM with 32GB storage and 4GB RAM with 64GB of storage. All the variants come with an option to expand the storage supporting microSD cards of upto 128GB.
There is a new 13MP camera at the back with PDAF (phase detection auto focus) and a dual tone LED flash, while on the front there is a 5MP camera. Connectivity options include support for dual-SIM (hybrid SIM card slot), 4G with VoLTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS with GLONASS, infrared sensor and a microUSB port. Rounding it all off is a fingerprint scanner at the back and a 4,100mAh battery to provide the juice.
The Redmi Note 4 comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS LCD display. While it sounds similar to last year's model, Xiaomi says that it has improved colour calibration. The curved glass on top really brings in a premium feel, although the bezels still look similar with some trimming done on the top and bottom.
Coming to the quality of the display, it offers 401ppi which makes it sharp and colours look great with a hint of a blue tone. You can adjust the contrast and colour tone by going into the display settings. Viewing angles are great and sunlight readability is good, but not the best out there. You can also enable the reading mode which adds a blue light filter to reduce strain on your eyes. Overall, I didn't have any complaints with display, it looks and feels good and is quite responsive which is what one needs in a budget smartphone.
The handset comes with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with MIUI 8 out of the box, which isn't new, but has its own set of features which are neat. If you have used or seen any Xiaomi product in the last few months, you wont see a lot of difference.
Having said that, the MIUI 8 recently got an update which makes the experience very smooth. The UI is fast and is an improvement over the early builds of the OS which were a bit buggy. You still get apps like the Mi Remote app, Mi Store, a system manager to clean and manage your handset, a file manager, and more. For personalisation there is a theme store and also a dynamic lockscreen wallpapers feature. The drop down notification/quick setting toggle shade looks neat and can be used as traditional combined mode or separate paged mode.
Xiaomi has confirmed that it has released the Android 7.0 Nougat program which is available in Beta.
Xiaomi claims that the new Snapdragon 625 (an update to the Snapdragon 617) is a lot more efficient, and it is trading that for the raw power of the Snapdragon 650. The new Qualcomm chip has an octa-core processor clocked at 2GHz with eight Cortex A53 cores built on the new 14nm FinFET architecture. The Snapdragon 650 however offered two more powerful Cortex A72 and considering the Redmi Note 3 offered excellent performance, I was a bit worried that the new chip is a step down. However, I realised that is not the case. In fact, I was impressed how snappy the performance was. Apps open quick, games are perfectly smooth and the UI is fast and responsive. For a daily driver, I think this is an excellent smartphone.
Gaming is pretty good as my experience with high-end games like Asphalt 8 and Real Racing 3 was great, but with minor frame drops. An hour of Pokemon Go in the open sun led to a bit of heating, but even then the smartphone didn't struggle in terms of performance.
As for the benchmarks, I was comparing them to the Redmi Note 3 and it is mostly neck to neck. Of course I reviewed the 4GB variant and comparing it to the 3GB version of the Redmi Note 3 isn't fair, but then it has been launched at a very similar price range. Benchmarks like AnTuTu and Quadrant were dominated by the new comer, while others were closer or lower to its predecessor. From what I have experienced, the Redmi Note 4 offers a similar raw performance package as the Redmi Note 3.
Xiaomi said that they have heard the consumer feedback and have worked on improving the loudspeaker. While moving it to the bottom edge isn't the best idea, the company has significantly improved it. It is now louder a bit more refined although lows are a bit overpowering. Not the best loudspeaker, but definitely a good update. As for the call quality and network performance, everything is in order and works well.
Probably the only major concern on the Redmi Note 3 was the camera. For the Redmi Note 4, Xiaomi has loaded a new 13MP CMOS f/2.0 aperture camera made by Sony which has 5-piece, 77 degree wide-angle lens and the sensor is said to offer bigger pixel size. The new camera is better in terms of colour and contrast. I could see a clear a difference in the overall quality. The camera also comes with PDAF and a dual-tone LED flash. Shutter speeds are fairly good but fast moving objects are still difficult to capture and leave a blur. It still needs improvement in terms of calculating exposure, but it was nice to see that Xiaomi is looking at improving things.
The app offers modes like slow-mo, manual controls, timelapse, straighten mode and more. The camera app is quick and responsive. I also liked the fact that Xiaomi has improved the HDR mode. Low light is still a bit of a concern, although it is better than what the 16MP unit offered on the predecessor.
As for the front camera, I didn't see a lot of difference. The 5MP camera felt pretty much the same as it was on the Redmi Note 3. The front camera features a beauty mode where you can make your face slimmer and skin cleaner. The overall quality of the front camera was just average.
Battery Life: 8.5/10
Now the Redmi Note 3 offered an excellent battery life. Xiaomi has gone ahead and put the same 4,100mAh battery which featured on the Redmi 3s/3S Prime. Add to that Qualcomm's new 14nm SoC architecture and what you get is even more battery life. Xiaomi claims that the the new handset sees a 25 percent improvement in the overall battery life and the claims are true. I didn't feel the need to charge the handset the whole day and I was still left with 39 percent of charge. The usage included Wi-Fi tethering, a bit of gaming, replying to instant messages, checking mails and watching a few TV episodes.
Even the battery benchmark test on PC Mark shows that the Redmi Note 4 is the one to go for if you are looking for long battery life. In terms of charging, you get Quick Charge 2.0, which we know isn't the fastest. Charging from 0 to 100 takes about two hours.
Verdict and Price in India
Xiaomi has been always been spot on with the pricing and including the new variant was also a good decision. The 2GB+16GB variant is priced at Rs 9,999, 3GB+32GB for Rs 10,999 and 4GB+64GB for Rs 12,999. There are some good offerings in the market, but considering Xiaomi's reputation, the Redmi Note 4 will be a hot seller.
In my opinion, the smartphone is a nice update. Agreed, it is difficult to bring massive upgrades in a short time and frankly you won't notice a massive change, but the company has put an effort to curb the issues that were seen on the Redmi Note 3. The performance is pretty much the same but the design is slightly refined, the camera sees improvement and the battery life has been further improved. If you recently invested in the Redmi Note 3, then I think you shouldn't upgrade to the new handset. If you are however planning to buy a new smartphone, this will keep you happy.
While I would definitely recommend this handset, other options like the LeEco Le 2 and Lenovo P2 are worth considering as they offer hardware and performance capabilities that are as good as the Redmi Note 4. The LeEco offers a more powerful Snapdragon 652 chipset for Rs 11,999 while the Lenovo P2 has an even larger 5,100mAh battery for Rs 16,999. You should consider these handsets before blindly considering the Redmi Note 4.