Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Review
When today Xiaomi launched their new Redmi Note 4 smartphone, which is a successor to the company’s best selling phone in India – the Redmi Note 3, it was obvious that new handset from company has a big shoes to fill. The Redmi Note 3 enjoys a huge popularity in India as well as in China. But India being a global platform launch for the new Redmi Note 4 means that this time around company has made it’s upgrade on feedback from it’s Indian consumers. As stated by Jai Mani, Product Manager of Xiaomi India, himself that their new phone comes with the upgrades based on the feedback they got from the Redmi Note 3 users in the country.
The smartphone is launched today and you’re worried about whether to go with the company word that it is a worthy upgrade to the Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 3 smartphone or not. You’re at just the right place to find out whether this handset is a worthy upgrade or not. If you’re thinking to upgrade from Redmi Note 3 to Redmi Note 4, or from any other handset to this, then this is the right place to be, as we have been exclusively using this handset for about a month. Below you’ll see just the right amount of information regarding the usage and other parameters of the Xiaomi’s latest affordable flagship in the mid-range. That will help you in deciding whether to go with the upgrade or not.
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There’s a lot that is changed on the new Redmi Note 4 despite the similar size as the predecessor. The first thing you should know is that the thickness has been reduced to 8.4mm from 8.7mm. It’s not much when we talk about the weight of the device, which has been slightly increased, but you will definitely feel the weight of the device once you hold both the devices one-by-one. The first thing that is noticeable about the new Redmi Note phone from the company is regarding the significantly more attractive design. On first in-hand feel, it is easily observable that new handset now comes with a full metal build which feels less cheap. As opposed to the plastic parts at the top and bottom on rear side of the device. Do make a note that they were present to improve the signal. The Redmi Note 4 on the other hand is all metal with those increasingly familiar white strips on top and bottom, they are there to ensure good signal reception. Despite the flatter back, chamfered edges and less rounded corners, the device still feels every bit as good as it was before. Though, you can add one thing to the in-hand feel, i.e. much sturdier design.
The speaker grill has been shifted from rear to the bottom edge for obvious reasons of sound becoming flat when placed on a table. Now you can notice two rows of drilled holes on the phone’s bottom edge. The microUSB port is now centrally mounted as bottom edge looks much more aligned with both sides drilled holes for speaker. It is the same design that as is used by the Redmi Pro (except the USB Type-C rather than a microUSB). Although, the new Note phone looks much nicer and sound is less likely to be muffled. But unfortunately there is still a mono speaker lying below.
Interestingly things looks different at the front too when we talk about the look and feel. Earlier you could see a borderline going over all the edges, now that’s gone, which is a good thing. All thanks to the chamfered edges. We have the Gold variant which has a white front part and it looks quite beautiful, attractive than before. Note that the bezels are the same, but this time around there’s a new layout that gives screen a good appeal. It is because this time around company has introduced 2.5D curved glass, which makes it so much easier on the eye. It might be little thing in appearance but earpiece, front camera and proximity sensor are now symmetrical. It makes more difference to the overall aesthetic appeal of the phone.
On the top edge the headphone jack, primary microphone and IR Blaster has changed the places. Whereas the volume rocker, power switch and SIM tray remain exactly where one expect them to be. The improvement was done regarding the quality of the buttons, as earlier they weren’t as solid and clickable as they are now. Overall, we felt these changes in design makes for a massive improvement that was required badly on the Redmi Note series. The result is that you get an absolutely stunning phone with great look and feel. It looks more at home in the flagship Mi family rather being in the affordable Redmi family. The Redmi Note 4 is significant improvement in terms of the design and especially we liked the beautiful 5.5-inch full HD IPS panel that adorns the front of the device. The huge subconscious difference is the addition of 2.5D glass on top. Running your fingers over smooth surface is so much better and natural.
One shouldn’t expect much quality of the display when a phone retails with such price tags. But fortunately the IPS LCD display on the Redmi Note 4 is quite brilliant for an LCD display. The times when AMOLED displays are superior and widely used among manufacturers, and when you see good LCD display that can compete with AMOLED is surprising and impressive at once. Though, usual negatives and positives are here, but that shouldn’t come in the way of enjoying this bright colourful display. The 5.5-inch Full HD (1080p) display have a pixel density of 401 PPI (Pixel Per Inch). It doesn’t bring much surprise but it indeed is a pretty quality panel in this price range.
Do make a note that there’s some light bleed on the edges, which is evidenced by the gradient effect that can be seen at the edges. And of course, the black levels are decent enough considering this is an LCD panel. You’ll notice that blacks are more gray than anything when phone is used indoor and the brightness level is more than 40%. While if the brightness is lower under sunlight, it will help hide these details. Note that panel is perfectly viewable under sunlight all thanks to being bright as torch. Also, auto brightness works quite well. Overall, we could say that sunlight legibility is pretty good. The viewing angles of the display are good as well. It means more people can watch the YouTube videos without missing out on the fun.
Notably the panel hinges a tab bit on the cool side, which makes whites just a little bit more blue than they should be. Fortunately, it can be adjusted a bit in a display settings to be warmer if you want to change. But then you’ll notice that it would make display a bit yellow/brown. Talking about the contrasts levels, they are decent but nothing quite impressive, while on the other hand colors do a fair job of representing reality. When we talk about refresh rate, it’s pretty fantastic among the better and expensive LCD panels. While talking about the digitiser, it gives absolutely top notch experience, as every touch is registered without a hint of pause or error and multi-touch works exactly as it should be. We didn’t encounter with any weird ghost swipes or grouping issues as many affordable phones sometimes exhibit.
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With MIUI 8.0 Xiaomi has greatly taken on the standard Android operating system, it would be only familiar for those who have used a Xiaomi phone before. If you’re a first time user of this handset, then you should know that there are different sections to standard Android under Settings area. Of course, there is no app drawer, which is inspired from iOS-esque experience. The dropdown notification bar has been tweaked from what you might have seen on MIUI 7. You get standard Xiaomi icons that are beautiful in appearance as well as are quite full of colors than previous major version of MIUI.
Coming to the technical, the Redmi Note 4 retailing in India would be coming with Global ROM out of the box with latest stable version, which may vary from our review unit, i.e. MIUI 8 Global 7.1.4. It would be based on the Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, for nougat you would have to wait to get stable release, while Hugo Barra has already announced that Redmi Note 4 would get support for Beta MIUI based on Android Nougat 7.0. Do make a note that MIUI 8 doesn’t bring up much eye candy but it does improve a lot in terms of experience inclduing better text rendering, enhanced power saving mode and video editing tool as well as a new Notes app.
It’s not a new thing that that Xiaomi’s customisations run very deep replacing all the Google services as default. While it is for a fact that Xiaomi phones sold in China doesn’t even have Google apps at all. On the other hand, in India the company is offering most of the Google apps pre-installed on the device, since it’s a Global ROM. Interestingly you won’t get apps like Google Keep, but you do get Duo as a default video calling application. Other Google apps includes Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Chrome, Play Movies, Drive, Photos and Play Music.
Like most Chinese smartphone or even Indian smartphone vendors, the Xiaomi eases up on packing up bloatware, as you get only couple of apps like Amazon, Flipkart, Facebook, Amazon Kindle and WPS Office. You’ll find lots of pre-installed apps on the device, but they are mostly resourceful in one or other way. Such as Music player, Explorer, Gallery, Mi Community, Mi Remote and couple more. Interestingly, Mi Remote is one of the most used apps as declared by Xiaomi official, which makes use of IR Blaster feature of the device allowing control of various IR operated appliances such as Air Conditioners, Televisions, etc.
Talking about the appearance, you get five themes pre-installed on the device including Default, High Life, Rose, Pink Blush and Ocean Breeze. Apart from these themes, you can head over to online and download and apply from thousands of free and paid themes. There is a separate category for wallpapers, ringtones and fonts if you’re interested to separately install and apply them. Seeing so many options you might get too psyched, beware of such behaviour. Just Kidding, Go Bananas! Everyday you can have a different smartphone altogether, at least in terms of appearance. On top of that there is an app called Mi Picks, where you would get handpicked applications from Xiaomi staff. You can pick apps from wide range of categories such as password manager, coding, educational, photography, games, emojis, movies, etc. With all these all you might be worried about the storage space, well, our review unit comes with a 64GB internal storage, which is more than enough for any media needs as well as application needs. On top of that there is a Hybrid SIM slot that allows you to place a microSD card slot to expand storage.
Moving on with multitasking talk, you might have noticed by now that MIUI is iOS inspired and thus that can be seen in the app switching interface as well. Tapping on the menu capacitive button will open an interface of recently opened apps. If you see a list of apps opened, you can browse through the list and tap on the desired app you want to switch. There are number of functions that you can carry out including locking apps from clearing up, see the preview of the apps recently opened, etc. Talking about the experience, switching between the apps is pretty easy, even switching between heavy apps was handled pretty well by MIUI. We have the 4GB model, most of the time we saw more than 2GB of free RAM available on the device, which means no worry when system is running lots of apps at a time. It can handle multitasking pretty well. Do make a note that the experience might vary according to the RAM as there are three different variants with lesser RAM than 4GB.
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Hardware & Performance
The new Xiaomi handset comes with a Snapdragon 625, while it also have a MediaTek Processor variant, which is powered by a X20 SoC. India won’t be getting the MediaTek model, but only the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor variant. Looking at the predecessor, the Redmi Note 3, which had Snapdragon 650, the Hexa-Core processor. For the Redmi Note 4, Xiaomi has opted for an Octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor, which was introduced by the Chipset manufacturer late last year. It is one of the few SoCs in market to come with 14nm FinFET technology. It is a wise choice by Xiaomi as it offers several upgrades in performance. It also receives a modem upgrade, as well as is said to enhance the call clarity for VoLTE calls using Enhanced Voice Services (EVS). The Snapdragon 625 is considered to be the best-in-class performer for thermal heating as with 14nm FinFET Technology that Qualcomm has used to manufacture this chipset makes it power and efficient at the same time. With a first hand experience we have seen Redmi Note 4 heat lesser even if one continuously plays with the device for long time.
As I was impressed by the Redmi Note 3 performance in terms of the gaming, I’m now blown away by the gaming performance on the Redmi Note 4. We played lots of games such as Dead Trigger 2, N.O.V.A., Asphalt 8 and couple more. While playing every game, we didn’t encountered any issue regarding graphics lag, as the game was loading fine for us. Thanks to the beautiful display and the smooth screen, we were able to thoroughly enjoy gaming on this device. Even the performance on graphic heavy games like N.O.V.A. was pretty amazing. Notably after 30 minutes plus of gaming the device did heat, but it isn’t considerably high compared to it’s competition in this price range. It was impressive that with huge power, it managed to be less hotter than even it’s predecessor. if you’re someone who likes to enjoy casual gaming now and then, it is a great handset for few minutes of relaxing while commuting to/from office.
The fingerprint sensor is quite a common scenario these days on Android devices, as even the cheapest of them comes with fingerprint sensor. While it’s a totally different thing whether they are faster or reliable. Talking about the fingerprint sensor on the Redmi Note 4, it is placed on the rear side below the camera sensor and dual-tone flash. The biometric sensor is surrounded by a ring that shines and gives an attractive look to the rear side. It is the similar placement as we saw on the Redmi Note 3. Back then, I had a complaint that it should be placed on front. But this time again looking at how fast and reliable the sensor is, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The predecessor had a quick sensor, but it used to lag at least twice out of ten. While the upgrade doesn’t lag at all, it’s so quick that as soon as you touch your finger, the device gets unlocked. You don’t even have to wake up the device by pressing power button first. All you have to do to unlock the device is put your finger (the one which you have saved) and it will unlock the device for you within microseconds (not literally, just a phrase to describe it’s quickness). On top of that MIUI allows you to use fingerprint sensor in locking apps as well as taking selfies with touch of a finger.
While performance and battery life has always been an important part of the smartphone, the camera department concerns a lot these days. As people these days don’t tend to carry a separate digital camera just because smartphones have outgrown them in terms of convenience and quality as well. So, it is obvious that consumers looking to purchase a new smartphone would look for a better camera performance. Even if you’re a photography enthusiast at a beginner level you should not compromise on the camera features on your next smartphone purchase. Which is why I would suggest that Redmi Note 4 is an excellent camera smartphone in a mid-range segment. But you should know that it’s not a perfect snapper, as in, not every aspect of the camera output is impressive as one wants to be. What matters is that it offers overall great camera experience with more hits and less miss.
Starting with the technicals of the camera sensor, the new handset from Xiaomi, which is a successor to the Redmi Note 3 packs 13-megapixel image sensor compared to the 16-megapixel image sensor on the predecessor. Though, it might be a downgrade in terms of megapixel count, but as you should know we have constantly highlighted this – megapixel count is not important as far as the camera output is good. That is what the case here seems to be, as we have been using the Redmi Note 3 as our primary device for a long time and thus allowing us to clearly state the difference in quality on the Redmi Note 4 outputs. The major improvement that we noticed is regarding the color reproduction, it has become better and while in HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode we absolutely loved the details we got while capturing scenic beauty of Kuala Lumpur.
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On talking about which Sensor Xiaomi is used, we got the respond that they are importing similar capacity sensor from different manufacturers. It seems to be the decision to reduce the load of supply on one camera sensor manufacturer. Companies tend to do this usually. The 13MP rear module is supported by PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus) Technology and the dual-tone color temperature flash. The camera sensor has 5P lens setup and sports an aperture number of f/2.0. Noting other camera features includes Dark quality enhancement technology, HDR, Panorama mode, Burst mode, facial recognition and In real-time camera filters. Now that we are done stating what camera features are present on the rear camera setup present on the Redmi Note 4, let’s move on to the talk of camera outputs and experience.
Xiaomi has always been good with software experiences, which can be seen on camera app as well. The default camera app on MIUI is pretty easy to operate, as it is clean and intuitive. When holding in landscape (upper part on left side), on the right side you will get the buttons to capture photos, access them and record videos. Most smartphone makers hides the HDR mode in the settings and they are not easy to access every time you want to switch ON/OFF the HDR mode. But on MIUI camera app, it has been given on the top right corner, just tapping on that will enable or disable the mode. Isn’t it quite intuitive. Other modes like Manual, Panorama, Timer, Beautify, HHT, Straighten, Scene, Tilt Shift and Audio can be easily accessed from the Modes button you see just above the shutter button.
Over the past three weeks we have been using this handset and in that time period, we have taken the camera for a spin in all sorts of lighting conditions ranging from – Artificial, Natural and Low – to understand the camera performance. The one thing is for sure, the camera is quite snappy and doesn’t take long to capture, it’s fast, all thanks to the PDAF technology for faster focusing. Though I would have to highlight that capturing photos in HDR take a lot of time, more than any average smartphone would take in HDR mode. Sometimes it’s just impossible to hold steady for that amount of time. But fortunately, it would be worth it, as the HDR mode captures great color details and enhances the pictures with sharpness. Well, sometimes too much sharpness and contrast, but that’s just how it rolls. I was impressed by the natural and artificial light captures, but low light conditions tend to put this camera to sleep. Meaning it wasn’t as pretty in some cases as we hoped. But despite that, it managed to give decent captures where a large part of details are visible in low light conditions. We recommend using HDR mode in low light instead of HHT (Night Mode).
With smartphone cameras being used by everyone to take photographs, they are also the top source for capturing videos these days. And that is why one would want at least a 4K video recording option on their handset. It was lacked on the Redmi Note 3 and it is again a shortcoming on Redmi Note 4. How about that! It’s nice to see company offering modes such as time lapse and slow motion features in the MIUI camera app, but it’s rather unfortunate to know that even with such high-end internals the camera fails to offer a 4K video recording. There are number of handsets in this price range that offers 4K video recording, it should be an standard resolution video recording. On top of that there is no OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) present on the camera sensor, to help reduce the blurs and shakes in pictures and videos.
Talking about the front facing module, the selfie shooter. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been improved much, as it sports a 5-megapixel resolution sensor that was present on the Redmi Note 3, the predecessor of the Redmi Note 4. Sporting the similar aperture, the selfie camera on the new Note handset gives a similar experience, which isn’t that great compared to the current selfie camera scenario in this price range. But it isn’t bad either; the user can capture decent selfies and use beautify mode to virtually make up, which is in trend. On top of that there is a feature that allows you to use beauty mode during video calls, which is a real-time beautification feature. Make use of countdown timer to take selfies if you like. There is no flash light present on front, so don’t expect clear and detailed selfies in low light. Despite no wide-angle lens claim by company on the front facing module, it can still fit good number of people in one capture. Overall, we believe the camera package is pretty impressive, but it needs an update in some areas, which we hope would be provided by company in future OTAs.
In the generation of smartphones when the battery capacity is one of the top priorities while purchasing a smartphone, one has to wisely choose a smartphone based on the real life usage. These days there are lots of handsets that offer massive battery packs, but doesn’t tend to last as much as they should. Which is why a combination of the efficient processor is required with high battery capacity. Xiaomi always managed to work it’s magic with the Note series, as they have continuously shown that their handsets can offer good performance as well as can be efficient towards battery life.
The battery capacity on this device is at 4100 mAh, which is similar to the Redmi Note 3, it’s predecessor. Xiaomi has implemented it’s principles here as well, which is why the battery life on this new Note handset from company is impressive. The MIUI 7 offered two power modes, standard and advanced modes, while the same functionality but different name has been given on the MIUI 8. Now there is just Off & On modes, where for obvious reasons OFF mode means MIUI won’t restrict the background activities, while in the ON mode it will restrict all background activity when possible.
Earlier, it wasn’t an easy sight seeing of 4G enabled handset in the country, but with a boom of 4G Network operators, starting with Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and idealised by JIO in India. The 4G enabled handset has seen a rapid growth over the last year. As talking about the predecessor which was launched last year in March saw 4G VoLTE support. So, it was obvious that the successor would come with 4G VoLTE support as standard. The new Redmi Note 4 packs offers 4G LTE support in both the SIM cards unlike on earlier model, where it was available for only one SIM. The upgraded modem ensures that you get good download and upload speeds on your 4G network. We have been using a 4G SIM Card on our review unit for quite a while now and we are happy with the connectivity this device offers in terms of internet and voice calls. We haven’t had any issue with making and taking calls, sound is clearly audible on both the ends. Moving on with IR Blaster feature, according to Xiaomi their IR Blaster app is most used feature on the Redmi Note 3 handset, which is the reason that company hasn’t remove this feature on the successor handset. With IR Blaster connectivity, you can control AC, TVs, Fridge or any other Infrared enabled electronics appliance with your Redmi Note 4. Other connectivity features includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and microUSB 2.0 which are the basic set of connectivity options.
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Xiaomi has clearly outdone themselves with such an overall beastly handset that offers efficient performance, long battery life and an attractive design that looks premium considering the price point. The only thing that bugs me is that why didn’t Xiaomi gave a 4K video mode on their new Redmi Note 4. These days even the mid-range handsets have been seen sporting a 4K video mode in a camera department. That is the only thing that makes us wonder whether the camera department on the successor is a good package or not. Looking at the photos it can be said the device has improved quite a lot, but in terms of video, there isn’t any change from the predecessor that can be seen on the successor handset. Absence of 4K video mode might be a deal breaker for amateur photography enthusiasts, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker for regular consumers. Though, there are lots of alternatives that you could go with such as Coolpad Cool 1 or the upcoming Honor 6X, which is slated to be priced similar as Redmi Note 4. But we would recommend if you have an urgent need, then Redmi Note 4 is an amazing device.