The sub 10,000 rupee category of phones has been redefined by Xiaomi’s Redmi series. Over multiple generations, the company has focussed on delivering a compelling experience driven by competitive hardware and well optimised software. Xiaomi has a similar goal in mind with the Redmi 4 too. Does it succeed? We find out in our review.
Xiaomi Redmi 4 specifications
- 5-inch (1280 x 720 pixels) HD 2.5D curved glass display, 450nit brightness, 1000: 1 contrast ratio, 72% NTSC color gamut
- 1.4GHz Octa-Core Snapdragon 435 processor with Adreno 505 GPU
- 2GB RAM with 16GB storage, 3GB RAM with 32GB storage, 4GB RAM with 64GB storage version, expandable memory up to 128GB with microSD
- MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
- Hybrid Dual SIM (nano + nano/microSD)
- 13MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, 5P lens, PDAF, LED Flash
- 5MP front-facing camera with f/2.2 aperture
- Fingerprint sensor, Infrared sensor
- Dimensions: 139.24 x 69.96 x8.65 mm ; Weight: 150g
- 4G VoLTE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS
- 4100mAh battery
In a market saturated with formulaic Android running devices, the Redmi 4 sits a class apart. Very rarely do we see a particularly good-looking device in the sub Rs. 10,000 segment and this phone delivers. From the front, the Redmi 4 is closer to the 3S Prime than it is to the Redmi 4A. An iterative improvement to the original formula, the phone looks quite stunning in black and manages to appear much more premium than the price suggests.
Up front is a 5 inch display panel with not that large bezels on the side. The glass coating on top gently curves along the edges and blends into the aluminum construction of the hardware. Above the screen is a 5MP front facing camera alongside the earpiece while at the bottom you’ll find three capacitive keys corresponding to back, menu and home key. Predictably, these keys are not backlit to keep prices down.
Over on the right hand side within easy reach are both the volume rocker and the power button. The ergonomics on the volume key are fantastic though we found the power button to be a bit mushy. We did notice that there is a hint of latency between pressing the power button and activating the phone. The left side of the handset the hybrid SIM slot for dual SIM cards or microSD expansion.
The rest of the ports too are a standard affair and include a micro USB charging point along the bottom edge flanked by grilles for the loudspeaker. At the top you’ll notice the 3.5mm audio jack as well as the IR blaster for controlling consumer electronics of all kinds.
Let’s flip over the phone then. The back of the Redmi 4 is predominantly a very clean slab of aluminum marred only by the fingerprint sensor that is ergonomically placed. Along the top and bottom, plastic end caps close out the phone with discrete antenna lines placed between them. A 13MP camera equipped with PDAF and a single LED flash are placed along the top-left corner.
We’ve already waxed lyrical about the design quotient of the Redmi 4 but what we particularly liked here was just how well the handset fits in your hand. Coming from a line of plus sized hardware, it is a delight to hold a phone that cradles itself in the palm of your hand and slips into the smallest of pockets. The dimensions of the Redmi 4 are 139.24 x 69.96 x8.65 mm and the phone weighs 150 grams. The weight is not unsubstantial for a phone of this size but it is well-distributed and makes the Redmi 4 feel very densely put together.
The phone runs MIUI 8.2.4 based on Android 6.0.1 and ships with the March security patch. The interface should be familiar to anyone who has used a Xiaomi phone in the past wherein the two layer app drawer hierarchy has been eschewed in lieu for an iPhone-like single layer that holds apps, folders and widgets.
The lock screen is a simple affair with a clock at the top and a camera shortcut located at the bottom right corner. Notifications show up here as well of course. We liked an interesting addition here. Tapping a shortcut key at the top-right corner gives you wallpaper options and lets you easily customize your phone.
There’s not much in the name of bloatware and compared to some of the recent offerings, the software here is decidedly spartan. There’s of course the usual Mi enhancements that include the app for using the infrared port to the Xiaomi’s own community application as well as the Mi Store. Other pre-installed apps like Facebook, Flipkart, PhonePe, Kindle and Swiftkey can be easily removed.
The Redmi 4 is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor paired with the Adreno 505 GPU. The chipset has 8 Cortex A53 processors clocked at 1.4Ghz working simultaneously to deliver solid performance. There’s also 3GB of RAM onboard that keeps things running very smooth. In real world usage, the Redmi 4 hardly ever broke a sweat. From day-to-day use to extensive web browsing, gaming, listening to music or using the camera, the Redmi 4 managed it all without any pesky slowdowns in the interface. Pushing the CPU hard for an extended period of time does make the phone heat up uniformly across the body. The temperatures here can reach uncomfortable levels though it is unlikely that any regular user will be able to reach such a point.
In the Basemark OS II benchmark, the phone scores 833 points placing near the bottom of the test bench.
In GFX Bench 3.0 Manhattan, the Redmi 4 manages 885.7 FPS making it the fastest in the category.
Similarly in the GPU centric GFX Bench 2.7 T-Rex, the phone manages 1466 frames and tops our test bench.
The Redmi 4 comes equipped with a 5 inch HD display. With a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, the density isn’t particularly high but we found it perfectly sufficient for a smartphone at this size. The 2.5D curved glass as we mentioned earlier flows over the edges in a gentle curve and generally feels great to the touch.
On paper, the display has a 1000:1 contrast ratio and covers 72% of the NTSC color gamut. We found the display to be particularly great for multimedia content because of the vibrant albeit slightly oversaturated color rendition. At 450 nits, the brightness levels too are satisfactory for general use though it might not be enough to offset the very glossy display and peak summer sunlight.
We don’t usually expect much from smartphone cameras in the absolute entry level segment. Suffice it to say that we were very surprised by the results we obtained from the 13MP module on the Redmi 4. Let’s talk specs first. The 13MP camera has an f/2.0 aperture and a 5P lens. Equipped with PDAF, the phone manages to lock focus quickly even in adverse lighting conditions. Finally, there’s a single LED flash on offer for low light shots.
Image quality in general is quite decent, especially when you are shooting outdoors in good lighting. We observed that the white balance tends towards warmer shades rather than accuracy which can lead to a yellowish tinge in shots as you can see above.
The oversaturated shots can make for some dramatic photos though they may not really be representative of how the scene actually looks. Then again, this really comes down to personal preference. While we liked the punchy images for the most part, it seemed that the algorithms went a tad bit overboard especially in the foliage shot above. The phone retains a good level of details as is evident when you pixel peep. Noise levels aren’t too bad but definitely start creeping in as soon as the ambient light levels drop down.
In extremely low light conditions, the HDR mode helps you get more details out of the shadow regions. Predictably, noise is quite prevalent across the image but it is quite impressive that the end result was still usable.
Connectivity & Battery Life
The Redmi 4 is pretty standard from a connectivity perspective. This is a Dual SIM device with the slot being of the hybrid variety. What this means is that you’ll have to choose between microSD expansion or a secondary SIM card. It’s not an ideal situation by far especially considering that most users will want to expand the built in 32GB of storage. The phone supports 4G and VoLTE as well as WiFi 802.11 b/g/n. There’s also Bluetooth 4.2 and GPS support of course as well as FM Radio for the music lovers. Of the 32GB of storage, just about 24GB is available at first boot. Along side the microSD card, you can also use USB OTG to boost the built-in storage.
One of the key highlights of the hardware is the huge 4100 mAh battery built into a very compact shell. In our mixed use case stress test, we got 9 hours 10 minutes of screen on time. Since this use involves pushing the phone through a simulation of constant web browsing, playing games, watching videos and generally, heavy-handed use, you can expect the battery to last close to two days of average use. Indeed, in day-to-day use, we could easily manage to go two days without the need to charge up the phone.
There’s little doubt that the Redmi series has changed the definition of a budget smartphone. Xiaomi’s budget line singlehandedly changed market expectations and has truly disrupted the segment. The Redmi 4 feels like the culmination of several years of experimentation and absolutely nails the formula.
Priced starting at Rs. 6,999, the Redmi 4 is easily one of the best smartphones available at the sub Rs. 10,000 price point. This particular SKU is priced at Rs. 8,999 while you can step up to a 4GB RAM & 64GB ROM variant for Rs. 10,999. With a combination of good design, ergonomics, above average camera and a battery that just doesn’t give up, we feel that the Redmi 4 represents a fantastic package, one that prospective users would be remiss to not consider. It will be available from 23rd May at 12 noon on Mi.com and Amazon.in.