Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 review: the blockbuster resurrected with some spit and polish


qen4r1484927481Expert Rating 

4 /5 Design ★★★★★★★★★★ Display ★★★★★★★★★★ Software ★★★★★★★★★★ Camera ★★★★★★★★★★ Performance ★★★★★★★★★★ Battery ★★★★★★★★★★ Pros

  • Premium design
  • Smooth performance
  • MIUI 8 signature features
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Camera image quality could be better
  • HDR processing takes some time

Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 3 was one of the biggest budget blockbusters of last year, and as per the brand, sold over 2.3 million units in a mere six months. The smartphone was the most popular phone of 2016 according to 91mobiles data, reigning our monthly top 20 charts ever since its launch.

In fact, the Note 3 won the 91mobiles Phone of the Year User’s Choice Award, and also the Budget Phone of the Year 2016 Jury Award. Its successor, the Redmi Note 4 then, has some pretty big shoes to fill.

Despite all the accolades and praise it won, the Redmi Note 3 was sort of a rough diamond. When we reviewed it, we called it out for its boring design and average cameras. As it turns out, instead of coming up with a drastic upgrade, Xiaomi has polished that diamond and outed a successor that addresses most of the earlier pain points. Read on for our opinion on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4.

Specs at a glance

Display
Size 5.5 Inch
Resolution Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Performance
CPU Octa core, 2 GHz, Snapdragon 625
RAM 4 GB
Storage
Internal memory 64 GB
External memory Up to 128 GB
Battery
Capacity 4100 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
Camera
Primary camera 13 MP
Secondary camera 5 MP
Connectivity
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
Others
Battery Capacity 4100
Operating system Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Design

The improvements start from the design itself. The Redmi Note 3 came clad in metal, but didn’t really rock our boat in terms of looks. The Note 4 changes that, not drastically we admit, but enough to improve the in-hand feel quite a bit.

The addition of a 2.5D curved glass on the fascia, and chamfered edges on the side make the new phone seem much more premium in terms of look and feel. We also appreciate the white bezels on our gold unit (the gold Redmi Note 3 bore the same gold colour on the fascia too).

Yet another design aspect of the Redmi Note 4 worth noting is that the speaker has now been moved to the bottom, next to the micro-USB port. If you remember, the Note 3’s speaker was placed at the rear, resulting in the audio getting muffled when the device was kept on a flat surface. While you may not be able to differentiate the Note 3 and Note 4 from a distance, the design differences are enough for us to count them as a big plus.

Display

The new phone sticks to the same 5.5-inch FHD IPS display used by the predecessor, and it’s quite capable in terms of most parameters, including colour reproduction, sharpness, touch response, sunlight legibility and viewing angles. As usual, you can tweak display output to suit you preferences, and there’s a night mode for more comfortable reading after dark too.

Cameras

Moving on to the snappers, the Redmi Note 4 actually drops the megapixel count to 13 (in comparison to 16MP on the predecessor). On the front is the same 5MP shooter as before. Don’t get disappointed with the reduction in megapixels though, as the Redmi Note 4 is a far more accomplished shooter than the older model.

The Note 4 can take vivid and crisp shots in daylight, and even the low light shots aren’t half bad. If we were to nitpick, we’d say that shots from the Redmi Note 4 can look a tad oversaturated in some cases, and there’s some softness visible when you magnify the images substantially. There’s no Auto HDR mode, and HDR processing takes a little bit of time, but switching on this mode improves image quality subtly well, correcting saturation and highlighting the darker areas nicely. Overall, most casual users should be pleased with the image quality – both from the primary, as well as the selfie shooters.

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Long shot Auto Auto Night shot Night shot HDR off HDR

Software

The Note 4 doesn’t really have anything new to offer on the software or connectivity side of things. it runs MIUI 8, with Android Marshmallow as base. Xiaomi’s MIUI remains one of our favourite Android-based ROMs, offering a smooth, stable experience. The thing with MIUI is, that it’s quite simple to use (it even offers a Lite mode for newbies), yet comes loaded with a barrage of features power users would appreciate.

Apart from a high degree of customisability (which includes extensive support for downloadable themes, tweaking the status bar, button behaviour etc), it offers useful features such as long screenshots, dual apps and second space. While Xiaomi was one of the first to bring these features into the mainstream, these are are now available on a few other smartphones as well. However, Xiaomi has implemented them quite well, and as we mentioned earlier, the overall user experience is smooth.

Performance

The Redmi Note 4 utilises a processor which has fast become a 91mobiles favourite. The octa-core Snapdragon 625 inside the phone is a solid blend of grunt and power efficiency, and has been very consistent across all phones we’ve experienced it on. Right from the Asus ZenFone 3 (review), to the Moto Z Play (review), and even the Lenovo P2 more recently, the Snapdragon 625 chip has proven its capabilities in terms of performance, battery life and keeping the heat in check. The Redmi Note 4 does nothing to shake that belief, and comes across as a smooth performer – whether it’s day-to-day tasks, intensive games, or media consumption. Thanks to 4 gigs of RAM on our review unit, multitasking was a breeze too.
And out of the ample 64GB storage, about 54GB is available for your own use. That should suffice for most, though one always has to the option to use the hybrid SIM slot to pop in a microSD card if required. Worth mentioning that the device also comes in two other variants – the base model offers 2GB RAM and 32GB storage, and there’s another option that offers 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. Note that there’s no 16GB model this time around, so that’s another plus point.

Battery life

The Redmi Note 4 packs a sealed 4,100mAh battery (marginally more powerful than its predecessor), and thanks to the power-efficient Snapdragon 625, kills it in terms of the battery life. In our usage, we were able to eke out a full day’s use comfortably, even with heavy usage. The handset lasted for a good 17 hours in our video loop drain test, which indicates how good its battery life is.

Verdict

At the end, it all boils down to this. The Coolpad Cool1 Dual (first impressions) is a worthy rival to the Redmi Note 4, and entices because of its dual cameras and overall image quality. However, it suffers from software issues. The Lenovo K6 Note also falls in the same price bracket, but comes with a less powerful Snapdragon 430 processor. The Moto G4 Plus (review) does offer better image quality, but offers a dated CPU and suffers from a few heating issues. The new Lenovo P2 (review) is unbeatable in terms of battery life, but is priced a tad higher and we’re not big fans of its shooting prowess. With its recent price drop, the Lenovo Z2 Plus (review) has become an attractive option too, especially considering it comes powered by a high-end Snapdragon 820 chip. However, it has its share of issues as well, such as a plain Jane design, so-so cameras and average battery life.

In sum, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 does could do with a little bit of TLC in the camera department, but that niggle apart, comes across as very well-rounded, balanced (not to mention affordable) package. one you can buy without worry. So does Xiaomi have another blockbuster on its hands? We think so.

Editor’s rating: 4 / 5

Pros

  • Premium look and feel
  • Smooth performance
  • MIUI 8’s signature features
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Camera image quality could be better
  • HDR image processing takes time

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