If there was one complaint we had about the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, it was that it looked about as very interesting as a Use. This doesn’t mean it looks bad it’s simply too plain and inconspicuous to stand out in the crowd. The Redmi Note 4 brings back that same design philosophy, and there isn’t much to tell the two phones apart. Xiaomi has gone with the same block concept, changing very little of what it sees as a tried and tested formula.
Xiaomi is holding a special event in New Delhi, India on 19 January in which it will launch the Redmi Note 4 in India. The Indian version of this phone may feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon rather than MediaTek processor, but it should otherwise be the same. Here’s what to expect from Xiaomi’s budget phablet.
DESIGN AND BUILD:
At 151x76x8.4mm the new Note 4 is roughly the same size as the Redmi Note 3 and a little tubbier at 175g (vs 164g), but much has changed. The design is significantly more attractive, now with a full metal build that feels much less cheap. Whereas the Note 3 features plastic parts at the top and bottom to improve signal, the Redmi Note 4 is all metal with those increasingly familiar white stripes top and bottom to ensure you can still get reception. It’s also flatter at the back, with chamfered edges and less rounded corners, yet feels every bit as good in the hand.
Something else gone from the rear is the speaker grille, and you’ll now find two rows of six drilled holes on the phone’s bottom edge, one either side of the now centrally mounted Micro-USB port. This is the same design as is used by the Redmi Pro (albeit with USB-C rather than Micro-USB), but don’t be fooled: it looks nicer, and sound is less likely to be muffled, but there’s still just a mono speaker lying below.
Things look different at the front too, and while you still get the three standard-Android touch buttons below the screen (as before the fingerprint scanner is rear-mounted below the camera) and the bezels are the same size, the new layout above the screen and 2.5D curved glass make it so much easier on the eye. The earpiece, front camera and proximity sensor are now symmetrical: dot, dash, dot rather than long dash, short dash, dot as seen on the Redmi Note 3. It’s a little thing, but it makes more difference than you might expect to the phone’s overall aesthetic appeal.
A 1080p panel stretched across 5.5 inches is what you’ll find on the Redmi Note 4. The IPS panel hasn’t changed much if at all from the Redmi Note 3 and that’s perfectly fine given that the Note 3 packed one of the best displays in the segment. Xiaomi claims that the panel covers 72% of the NTSC gamut and has a contrast ratio of 1000:1.
Marketing jargon aside, the panel genuinely punches above its weight and colors are mostly natural albeit with a hint of over-saturation. Perhaps we’ve got the customizability of MIUI to thank but it is possible to change the warmth of the screen panel using a utility built into the phone. You can also adjust the contrast levels which should further help you tweak the color profile. Brightness levels are improved but the highly reflective display continues making it hard to view under direct sunlight. Worth noting, Xiaomi doesn’t claim what, if any, protective glass has been used on the Redmi Note 4 and as such we’d highly recommend getting either a screen guard or being extra careful with the display.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 sticks to its mid-range pricing, there are some key changes in the hardware that give it a boost in performance. The biggest of these is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC. The successor to last year’s Snapdragon 617, the 625 may at first appear to be a downgrade from the Snapdragon 650 on the Redmi Note 3. However this is fabricated using a 14nm process, and features eight Cortex A53 cores where the Redmi Note 3 had four A53 cores and two A72 cores.
Although we weren’t able to run benchmark tests due to the limitations on our review unit, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 does come across as a capable performer that matches the great mid-range performance of the Redmi Note 3. Everything runs smoothly, and the SoC keeps things ticking without any lag or stutter. All of this is of course helped by the 4GB of RAM under the hood, and we would obviously recommend you go for the top-end 4GB RAM variant of the smartphone if you do plan to pick it up. Additionally, there aren’t any issues with heat, and the phone stays relatively cool even when running graphically intensive games.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 has a 13-megapixel primary camera capable of recording video at full-HD resolution, while the front has a 5-megapixel shooter that can record 720p video. There is also a dual-tone LED flash at the back, and autofocus uses phase detection methods.
The camera app follows the same design language and focus on simplicity as the rest of MIUI 8. This makes it easy to quickly take pictures, but it also takes away a lot of control from you. All the important modes and settings are present, and filters can be applied quickly and conveniently, but there aren’t too many tweaks available to customize your pictures. If your camera needs are basic and you don’t want to work too hard at taking pictures, this should be fine.
One of the modes worth mentioning is ‘tilt shift’, which uses the software to produce a faux blur effect, and is also present on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 now. This essentially keeps a circular zone in focus depending on where you choose, and blurs out the rest using software, rather than the deep focus and depth of field sensing effects that dual-camera phones or DSLRs ordinary give you. Images definitely look software-engineered, but look interesting nonetheless.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 has a 4100mAh battery that isn’t a lot larger than the one on the Redmi Note 3. However, the incredibly power-efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 helps in getting as many hours out of it as possible, sipping battery out of a straw rather than glugging it down its throat. Even with heavy usage, I was able to get close to two full days out of it, and none of this comes at the cost of performance.
The Redmi Note 4 isn’t a huge upgrade over the Redmi Note 3 in terms of core hardware, with simply a greater amount of storage and a faster processor, but the design changes are a huge improvement over its predecessor. If you don’t care about looks and can make do with less storage then the cheaper Redmi Note 3 may well meet your needs. The Redmi Note 4 remains a great buy, but the omission of Google Play support may put off some users. O2 and Giffgaff customers should also note the lack of support for 800MHz 4G.