Learning from what the users haven’t liked in the predecessor, Xiaomi came up with the much better Redmi 2 smartphone in India, for the good price tag of Rs. 6999. What was much needed though, was the 2GB variant of it, which is yet to launch while we write this review of the unit having 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage. Not anything was really bad to be criticized by the users of Redmi 1s, but the changes were much needed, to make the new device compatible with the latest data network connectivity, and be able to handle the new UI version that is smart and intuitive.
To be fair, Xiaomi with its disruptive pricing, was able to take away all the attention last year, when the Redmi 1s was launched at a time when Motorola was just picking up numbers for its budget device, Moto E. The Android One series from Google was expected to do well when it was announced, but again, the Redmi 1s made those devices look like not really worth the price. The year 2014 and budget smartphone category had Xiaomi at the top, not with the number of sales, but with the value of money quotient.
Now, the Redmi 2 with a 64-bit processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 with four cores clocking at 1.2 GHz, and with the 1GB RAM support, has the same display size and resolution, while the MIUI version is upgraded with real good improvements, and you aren’t looking at Android Lollipop yet. Also, to make it a future-proof device for at least a couple of years, Xiaomi has given two SIM card slots, both being compatible with 4G LTE connectivity.
Design, Form Factor
In the hands-on, we did mention about how compact the Redmi 2 was, and the only concern could be about the 1gig of RAM, not the design. Slimmer bezels, a non-glossy back and the smooth curves on the sides sum it up on why I like the form factor of the Redmi 2. While the smooth finish on the back doesn’t retain fingerprints, there are smudges often noticed. The screen is a fingerprint magnet, and just below to the display are the three navigation buttons, and the LED notification light that lets you know about the notifications or even when the battery is low and needs a charge.
For more pictures and design overview, check the Xiaomi Redmi 2 hands-on.
The removable back cover wraps around the edges to meet the screen panel, and under the back cover, we see two SIM card slots and a MicroSD card slot alongside a 2200 mAh user-replaceable battery. The silver colored buttons for power and volume functions, are tactile and well responsive. It is well appreciable that Xiaomi has managed to make the Redmi 2 about 25 grams lighter and more compact than its predecessor, and for a 4.7 inch screen, this feels much more comfortable.
The display on Redmi 2 has the same resolution, i.e. 720×1280 pixels, while it comes with the AGC Dragontrail glass protection to keep the scratches away. It does the said job quite well, as after a couple of weeks of usage, we rarely find any scratches while having the phone among keys, pen and such in the pocket. The screen is reflective, but that is the only issue with that regard, as the display is actually very good with the colors, and the sharpness was quite there.
Though reflective, the brightness on maximum was able to give enough to make it possible for reading the content under bright day light. No over saturation, and the viewing angles are good as well. The capacitive touch buttons under the display were fairly responsive and easy to access, thanks to the size.
OS, User Interface
The Redmi 2 has the MIUI v6 on Android 4.4.4 KitKat OS, and unlike what we felt like on the first impression, the MIUI v6 feels much smoother than the v5, and speedy in response. Everything including navigating between the screens, transitions, opening and closing apps is very smooth now, and that is quite a good news, for those who hated the previous version of MIUI for being slow in response.
If you didn’t know, MIUI is the interface developed by Xiaomi for its smartphones, and it comes with a simple UI, which doesn’t offer a separate app drawer, although the iOS-like interface allows the user to have widgets among the app icons. It is not heavy, and it doesn’t seem cluttered as well. There is a proper theme support, with a store having loads of themes, downloadable and filtered by different categories. The best part is, these themes don’t just change the background look, but also the icons, fonts, and even sounds and the lock screen appearance.
The notification panel wastes quite some space on the sides, making it look even smaller and thus, not easier to navigate and access the notifications. Even in the quick settings, the music player widget seemed to have taken much space, making the quick settings available on scrolling down. But get into the settings, and you are welcomed by some very good options.
The floating notifications come very handy when you are using any full screen apps, as games and camera app take up entire screen area, and incoming calls usually distract in such cases, but the floating notifications are little widget-like pop ups that appear on the full screen apps. There is some bloatware but a worrying lot, as most of the apps that are pre-installed, come handy at times. Apart from the Themes app, there are is a Barcode scanner, Compass, FM Radio, Updater, WPS Office, Security app and a File explorer. The Indian unit of Redmi 2 comes with the Google Play apps, and the Play Store as well for downloading apps.
Under the settings, some important ones are Do Not Disturb, Lite Mode, Notification light settings, Options to toggle navigation button functions, and the connectivity settings we’ll talk about, below. For someone who wants an even simpler interface, the Lite Mode should be a good one, presenting with a Windows Phone-like UI, having large tile icons for important apps, and nothing else.
We had not hated the 8-megapixel camera of the Redmi 1s at all, but Xiaomi has done quite a lot to make us appreciate the camera of Redmi 2 even more, and this probably is one of those areas in the review, where you’d see us talking on why Xiaomi is more about giving proper value for money, in particular aspects. Camera is one of them. The 8-megapixel shooter with F/2.2 aperture and 28mm wide angle lens is supported by the new camera app of MIUI v6, and it does a brilliant job for what you expect from a standard 8MP smartphone camera.
The MIUI camera app has a very simple interface, with simple swipe up/down and swipe right/left to toggle between photo/filters/modes and back/front camera respectively. Some of the modes include Audio capture, Highlight tones, Handheld twilight, HDR, Manual and Scene mode. The manual controls let you set the ISO sensitivity from 100 to 800, and White balance between Auto, Incandescent, Daylight, Fluorescent and Cloudy. The only issue with the app is the little screen area left for the live preview, as the toggle options and shutter button takes away almost 30% of the screen area.
Bright light captures
Zooming in – from No zoom to 6.1x zoom
Low light – Exposure control, and Flash
The focus wheel also has the option to change the exposure with clockwise and anticlockwise swipe, where the exposure can be set from -2 to +2. Results below shows how they differ.
The camera app lets the user scan QR codes, and set the picture quality between High, standard and low. Just like the other Xiaomi devices, even this one tries to detect the face and let you know of the gender and approximate age.
The quality of capture is great, in broad day light as well as in low light, where although we might say there could have been better captures but for this price, we don’t find any other smartphone cameras doing well when the surrounding light is low. The color reproduction in natural light is great, and it looks more natural, and although not that it helps always, the background does get blurred appreciably when we focused on some object close to the camera.
We did try out the HDR mode as well, and as expected, the colors got better and were still natural with minimal shadows. It is only in the low light, where we see some grains, but those are not as much as we had noticed in the Redmi 1s, and even better than the contender from Lenovo, the A6000. The 8MP camera on Redmi 2 is capable of taking 1080p videos, and the front facing 2-megapixel camera is just decent for video calls, not more than that.
What we felt about the Lenovo A6000, is the same in Redmi 2. Out of the 1GB RAM, on a fresh boot, only about 370 MB free RAM is seen available, and that at time, doesn’t let you do a lot of multitasking. Heavy games didn’t play really well, and that is not a surprise due to limited RAM, though the processor powering the phone is well known to handle games and heavy multitasking.
The Redmi 2 is not for all-time phone gamers, and it never breaks down when you are using it for browsing the web, camera and standard calls. While talking about the games, it is not the same on all the games, as some like Asphalt 8, Subway Surfers, Angry Birds and Minion Rush played flawlessly. If you are looking at better graphic loaded games than these, you’ll be disappointed.
The RAM management and heating issues was something worrying in the Redmi 1s, and that is there a bit here as well. Especially the latter one, as just about 10-15 minutes of Skype call made the device heat up on the back, but the device indeed stayed on to continue the call for about an hour. The heating is not more about the RAM, we felt, as the continuous camera use foes heat up the phone, but it was more than natural in case of Redmi 2.
Although more compact, the Redmi 2 comes with a 2200 mAh battery unlike the 2000 mAh capacity one in its predecessor. That was needed as the Snapdragon 410 64-bit chipset takes up more load, and it in fact, did quite well to get more than a day of usage. On average, the battery went from 100% to zero in about a day and four hours. The big plus is, we kept the connectivity active for the entire day, half of which was with 3G network connectivity.
The Redmi 2 could’ve been simply called as the successor to the Redmi 1s, but seems to be more like a competitor to the current bunch of budget smartphones targeting customers who look at connectivity more than anything else. Dual SIM, with both the SIM cards supporting 4G LTE connectivity, is a first for any smartphone under Rs. 10,000. The best part about this, is that the phone has Dual standby, and MIUI v6 has some options to personalize the details about the SIM cards in the settings.
There are no 4G networks in the area where we are testing the device, thus no LTE test could be done, but for the 3G networks it worked all perfectly and the reception was good. It didn’t jump quickly between networks and stayed on 3G even on low signal area. Calling was smooth, but the loud speaker couldn’t give high output on voice and video calls.
- The speakers located on the back were rather a disappointment, as the sound expected was a bit higher than what it actually is. Lenovo A6000 wins in this case with its Dolby speakers, not just having a better output level, but also much smoother sound.
- Out of 8GB internal storage, about half of it was available for the user, and the MicroSD card expansion helps if you are someone capturing a lot of photos or videos. We did try to insert a 32GB card and it worked well.
- Swiftkey comes pre-installed in the Redmi 2, and that for me, is one of the best Android keyboards out there. Even though the 4.7-inch screen is easy to use with a single hand, if that is big enough for you, there’s a Compact keyboard option in Swiftkey settings.
[quote align=’right’]The Redmi 1s was a bang for the buck, and the Redmi 2 is no different, especially for the value-for-money part.[/quote]Did Xiaomi actually improve? They certainly did. Not just with the display quality or the camera, but as an overall unit that aids more with the connectivity, thanks to the Dual 4G SIM and actual good network reception. The Redmi 1s was a bang for the buck, and the Redmi 2 is no different, especially for the value-for-money part.
It certainly does face some heat in the competition against Lenovo A6000 and the Yu Yureka, but this phone is far more comfortable to hold, has a very good display quality and the camera is actually better than what we had seen in the A6000. Yureka should be a better buy if you are looking at a different interface and a good camera, but for everything else, the Xiaomi Redmi 2 is all you might have to put your money on.