Xiaomi’s Redmi Note series has always been a favourite among budget-conscious consumers. In fact, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 was one of the easiest smartphones to recommend to anyone looking for a sub-RM1,000 smartphone. And now, we have its successor, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4.
Despite packing a less powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset than its predecessor’s Snapdragon 650 SoC, I was pleasantly surprised by just how capable the Redmi Note 4 is. While it’s not quite as powerful as its predecessor, the Redmi Note 4 it is by no means an inferior device.
Design & First Impressions
When I first held the Redmi Note 4, it feels immediately more refined and premium that its predecessor. Everything from its 2.5D curved glass front to the tapered back make for a very comfortable device to use. Considering that it costs RM50 less than the 32GB variant of the Redmi Note 3, I’m quite impressed by how much better the Redmi Note 4 feels in my hands.
However, one of my biggest gripes with the Redmi Note 3 is still very much present on this device: the slippery metal back. Throughout my time reviewing the Redmi Note 4, I lost my grip on the device more times than I care to admit. I’m usually not one to use a case for mobile phones, but the Redmi Note 4 really made me reconsider my stand on the matter.
And then we have the rear fingerprint sensor of the Redmi Note 4, which is…decent. While the sensor itself recognises my fingerprint accurately most of the time, it’s not quite as fast as other devices in the market. Unlocking the Redmi Note 4 with the fingerprint sensor – while relatively quick – isn’t as instantaneous as, say, Huawei or honor’s sensor.
But at the end of the day, the Redmi Note 4 is an affordable smartphone. Its metal chassis and design – though not groundbreaking or particularly eye-catching – make for a device that feels and looks much better than its price tag would suggest, and other aspects of the Note 4 are rather impressive too.
Xiaomi’s decision to go with the Snapdragon 625 processor for the Redmi Note 4 was puzzling at first. After all, it’s technically not as powerful as the Snapdragon 650 SoC of the Redmi Note 3. However, after using the Redmi Note 4 extensively over the past few weeks, it makes a lot of sense.
For one, the Redmi Note 4 does not feel sluggish, which surprised me quite a bit. Of course, it does struggle slightly in more demanding tasks such as gaming, but the Redmi Note 4 feels responsive in other tasks. I can switch between apps without much of a hiccup, and browsing the internet with Google Chrome was pretty pleasant too.
Also, one of the best benefits of the Snapdragon 625 is power consumption: the Redmi Note 4’s battery life is one of the best I’ve seen on a smartphone.
I’ve had mixed experiences with the software of Xiaomi phones, but MIUI 8 on the Redmi Note 4 is perhaps the Chinese company’s most polished take on Android yet. It feels responsive – though with more bloatware than I would’ve liked – and most of all, it just works.
Really, that’s one thing that I find most impressive about the Redmi Note 4’s software. With previous Xiaomi smartphones I used, push notifications from messaging apps don’t always work, and there were even times when the devices – especially the Redmi Note 3 – would reboot itself randomly. Thankfully, I faced none of these issues with the Redmi Note 4.
There was also one particularly interesting feature on the Redmi Note 4. Despite still running only on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Google Assistant is actually present on the Note 4, which is a pleasant surprise. In many ways, Google Assistant works as its name suggests: a digital assistant. I can ask it to show me pictures from a certain trip, an email I received last week, or even about upcoming plans in my calendar.
Still, MIUI 8 on the Redmi Note 4 could definitely still use some work; it would’ve been great if Xiaomi were to take some cues from stock Android, like the ability to expand notifications with a simple downward swipe. Using two fingers to swipe down or pinching to zoom on any given notification just to show more information is just…not intuitive.
Phenomenal. That’s all there is to say when it comes to the Redmi Note 4’s battery life. According to Xiaomi, the Snapdragon 625 chipset powering the Note 4 is 20% more power efficient than the Snapdragon 650, which I wholeheartedly agree. Despite only packing a slightly bigger 4,100mAh battery than its predecessor’s already sizeable 4,050mAh cell, I managed to get about eight hours of screen on time with Redmi Note 4.
Yes, eight hours of screen on time.
Really, with some effort, I can get slightly more than two days’ worth of battery life out of the Redmi Note 4, which isn’t a feat many smartphones can replicate – especially not at this price range. However, the charging time of the Note 4 isn’t quite as impressive: it only charged up to 20% within 30 minutes of charging.
For a device at this price point, the Redmi Note 4 has a very good display. It can get bright enough to comfortably use under broad daylight, and it’s plenty sharp for a 5.5-inch 1080p display. I also like the fact that I can control the display’s colour temperature and contrast.
Unlike its predecessor, the Redmi Note 4 now has a bottom-firing mono speaker, which is definitely better than the Note 3’s rear speaker. For one, the audio won’t be muffled anymore when the device is placed on a soft surface, not to mention the fact that placing the speaker at the bottom is a more ideal position in general.
However, as far as audio quality goes, the Redmi Note 4’s speaker is serviceable. You won’t be blown away by the audio quality, but there’s no glaring faults with it too.
Xiaomi says that the Redmi Note 4’s camera sensor has a 25% larger pixel area than the Redmi Note 3’s, which would generally translate to better camera performance. After taking several pictures with the Redmi Note 4, it shows: the Redmi Note 4’s camera is evidently better than its predecessor.
Under ideal lighting, the Redmi Note 4’s 13MP camera can capture really good shots, but this is really a given for any smartphone worth its salt. The real test is when shooting with limited lighting, and the Note 4 does struggle quite a bit in such situations.
While the Redmi Note 4’s low light performance isn’t bad per se, there are a few issues. The shutter speed is noticeably slower when the lighting isn’t ideal. Some shots are noisier than others despite being taken consecutively. The camera gets slightly sluggish too. However, with some effort, I can definitely capture good night time shots with the Redmi Note 4.
Overall, the Redmi Note 4’s camera performance is good, especially for a device at this price point. Sure, the lack of optical image stabilisation does hamper the device’s camera performance, but we’re talking about a RM799 smartphone here; you can do a lot worse with other similarly priced devices.
Value for money is the name of the game for Xiaomi, and this is obvious once we compare the RM799 Redmi Note 4 to other similarly spec-ed devices. Let’s take the RM1,499 Huawei Nova Plus, which is equipped with the same Snapdragon 625 processor found in the Redmi Note 4.
Aside from the processor, the Nova Plus’ other hardware are similar to the Redmi Note 4 too, including a 5.5-inch 1080p display, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of expandable storage. However, the Nova Plus’ 13MP rear camera comes with optical image stabilisation; a feature not found on the Redmi Note 4. On the other hand, the Nova Plus comes with a smaller 3,340mAh battery.
And then we have the Lenovo P2, another Snapdragon 625 smartphone. In comparison to the Redmi Note 4, the P2 offers a more vibrant 5.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage, as well as a very large 5,100mAh battery, which dwarfs the Note 4’s 4,100mAh battery.
Evidently, the Lenovo P2’s hardware are superior to the Redmi Note 4, but this comes at a price: the P2 retails at RM1,299, which is RM500 more than the Note 4’s retail price.
Budget-minded smartphones have come a long way, and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is one of the best examples of this. It feels more premium and polished than its price tag would suggest, and its battery life is simply phenomenal – even in comparison to flagship-tier smartphones.
The Redmi Note 4 is by no means without its fair share of flaws, but it’s definitely one of the best – if not the best – sub-RM1,000 smartphones in Malaysia. As is always the case with Xiaomi’s budget-oriented devices, it gives consumers a lot of smartphone for a lot less money.
Sure, some compromises have to be made with the Redmi Note 4 (in this case, camera performance), but for RM799, it’s a damn good phone.
Photography by Terry Bass and Leon Lam.