[Review] Redmi Note 4 – The Reliable Budget Performer

[Review] Redmi Note 4 – The Reliable Budget Performer

Last year’s Redmi Note 3 proved to be an immensely capable performer for its price tag that crammed in quite a few features that were once considered the province of flagship phones. For the price of entry, you had a large phablet sized screen and decent hardware crammed into a metal body with a fingerprint reader and a huge battery. The Redmi Note 4 continues that illustrious lineage with a conservative but well considered set of upgrades while keeping to the design blueprint of what made Xiaomi famous – exceptional specs at a pittance of a price.


The Redmi Note 4 comes in several variants that differ based on RAM and onboard storage. Malaysia enjoys the 3GB RAM/32GB storage version which retails for RM799 and the recently introduced 4GB RAM/64GB storage variant which comes with a slightly higher RM949 price tag. Our test unit was the former lower specced version though it is otherwise identical to its pricier sibling in terms of everything else bar the RAM and onboard storage.


Externally the Redmi Note 4 came in a burnished gold finish though it is available in matte black and silver too. The finish repels fingerprints and belying its price tag, looks immensely well polished and premium. The rear comes with a subtle pair of antenna bands along with a fingerprint reader and a rear 13-MP camera with an F/2.0 aperture and a dual LED flash with the ability to capture 1080P video too.


The top of the phone comes with a 3.5mm audio jack and an IR blaster while the base retains a commonly used microUSB port for charging and docking duties flanked by grilles for the speaker and mike.

The power button and volume rocker are set on the right of the phone while the left has a slot for the hybrid dual SIM card slot. The front of the phone is taken up by a 5.5-inch 1080P touchscreen that is the same size as its predecessor the Redmi Note 3 with a 5-MP selfie camera perched on the top. A set of physical home, back and menu buttons take up the bottom area of the display with the whole affair paved over by 2.5D curved glass. This gives the phone the current curved aesthetic that in vogue with high-end smartphones. As far as build quality goes, the Redmi Note 4 doesn’t disappoint and it’s surprising that they’ve made something this posh looking for what you pay for.

Performance and Camera
In terms of hardware, the Redmi Note 4 sports an efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octacore 2.0GHz processor running Android Marshmallow out of the box, 3GB RAM and 32GB of expandable storage via the hybrid SIM card slot. The higher end variant comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB of expandable storage for RM150 more. While the phone runs Marshmallow, a Nougat update is still available as an optional beta update for more adventurous users. Overlaying Android is their highly customisable MIUI 8 user interface that offers immense customisability and functionality while still remaining relatively accessible. Of particular note on the latest incarnation of MIUI 8 is the option to run two versions of a selected number of apps simultaneously. You can have, for example, two Whatsapp or Instagram accounts.

 

In benchmarks, the phone performed exceptionally well for its price point. In Epic Citadel, it got an average of 59.7FPS at High Quality performance levels while running at 1080p. In Antutu, it score 53,058 points. In GeekBench 4, it score a single core score of 862 and a multi-core score of 2,874 which is fair. In PC Mark, it yielded a very respectable score of 4,736. In 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme, it yielded a somewhat low score of 457. This paints it as a solid all rounder with the ability to tackle most tasks including a decent amount of gaming.

 

In practical field tests, the phone was not found wanting with the ability to handle everyday tasks like texts, social media, emails and light gaming with deft aplomb. Multiple browser windows and apps were opened and used in quick succession and it ran a host of games like Asphalt 8, Unkilled and Clash Royale smoothly without any complications. Swapping between apps and browser windows was a smooth affair on the 3GB/32GB variant that we tested. For its price range, the phone proved immensely capable.


The Redmi Note 4’s 5.5-inch Full HD display has a crisp 401ppi and comes with excellent viewing angles and colours onscreen with good viewability under direct sunlight. For a sub RM1K phone, it certainly offers more than what you pay for. Text onscreen is crisp and sharp and movies as well as games were rendered smoothly with luscious hues and deep blacks. If you’re using it to read e-books or using it after hours, it has a blue light mode filter to make it appreciably easier on the eyes.

The rear camera sports a 13-MP sensor with an F/2.0 aperture with phase detection autofocus and a dual-LED flash. The front-facing selfie 5-MP camera also has an F/2.0 aperture with both front and rear cameras able to capture 1080P video. The UI comes with the usual bevy of modes including panorama mode, a timer, a mode to straighten images via judicious cropping, of course, a manual mode too. Manual mode is somewhat basic with only the option to tweak white balance and ISO onscreen.

Shots under brightly lit or daylight conditions turn out well with images that offer colours veering slightly on the vibrant side of the spectrum and decent detail though things start turning slightly pear-shaped after sundown or in dimly lit conditions. Shots were soft and the phone took awhile to focus on shots indoors or after sundown. There’s a HDR mode and you’ll likely be leaving this on most of the time. For taking pics used on social media this phone is more than sufficient for the job.

 

Battery Life, Price and Conclusion
In terms of battery life, the Redmi Note 4 performed well. The combination of a highly energy efficient Snapdragon 625 processor that is of recent vintage combined with the generously sized 4,100mAh battery allows it to easily offer all-day endurance for heavy users and close to a dozen plus hours of video playback time on a single charge. The only quibble here is that the phone only supports 5V/2A charging so it takes a good two plus hours to fully charge it from dead zero.

As it stands, the Redmi Note 4 is a well made, superbly priced phone that offers excellent performance for its price. It tacks off all the requirements of what is needed in not just a budget phone but for many mainstream ones as well – good build quality, a large display, decent hardware and great battery life. The only quibble here is the middling rear camera but that’s usually the case for this price point. If you’re not an ardent photographer out to get the best camphone on the market, the Redmi Note 4’s rear camera is able to tackle most casual snaps. If you’re looking to get a bit more storage and performance, you can opt for the higher specced 4GB RAM/64GB storage variant for RM150 more. As far as sub RM1000 smartphones go, the Redmi Note 4 is the phone to beat and comes highly recommended.

Specifications
Price RM799 (3GB RAM/32GB storage) RM949 (4GB RAM/64GB storage)
Display 5.5-inch IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080pixels, 401ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 2.0GHz octacore
OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Memory 3GB RAM/32GB + microSD card
Camera 13-MP w/ F/2.0 and dual LED flash (rear) / 5-MP w/ F/2.0 (front)
Battery  4,100mAh
Size/Weight 151 x 76 x 8.5 mm / 165g
*Review unit courtesy of Xiaomi

WHAT WE LIKED Great battery life, good build quality, good price tag for specifications, fingerprint sensor
WHAT WE DIDN’T Lacks NFC, battery takes awhile to charge, manual mode rather basic
WE SAY Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 4 offers exceptional value for money. It’s a competently made budget performer with a raft of well considered upgrades over its predecessor while retaining an agreeably low price tag.

 

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