Well, we got our hands on one unit of the Redmi handset which was sold out multiple times within minutes on the Xiaomi Singapore online store and here we are going to do a review for all of your readers! I had to camp at the website and spam the check-out button to buy the phone during the second sale, and I don’t regret it at all.
Singapore was the first market outside greater China that Xiaomi has ventured into and there were great expectations. Much to the disappointment of many fans, the company decided to test the market with the mass market Redmi, rather than their flagship device, Mi 3 (which they did eventually sell in Singapore as well).
Sold for only S$169 without contract, the phone is an absolute steal. But there are some catches which you need to be aware of, and be able to accept it before jumping into the fray. In my opinion, this phone is a great phone that is comparable to phones twice (or even triple) its price, and I absolutely enjoy using it. As our usual practice, we will not compare this phone specification-by-specification, but more from a user’s perspective for a more approachable and practical way to help you know the product better.
The Redmi’s display was beyond my expectations for a sub-$200 phone. At 1280 x 720 pixels within a 4.7-inch frame, the colours were crisp and text was easily and nicely readable. I enjoy reading my messages, surfing the net, checking Facebook and viewing some photos on the display. The pixels were hardly noticeable at 312 pixels per inch (ppi), just marginally larger pixels compared to the iPhone 5s’ 326ppi. Yes there is a difference as compared to my HTC One, but nothing I can’t live with. As a comparison, the HTC One M7’s display is at 468ppi. In short, I think the experience with the display in terms of the text-reading and image-viewing would probably be similar to the iPhone 5s.
There is nothing much to shout about for the camera. It is basic and functional. You really cannot compare the Redmi’s camera to most other phone cameras released in the last year or so, certainly not any Samsung, Motorola or HTC phones.
In terms of the responsiveness of the phone, I have been impressed so far. This is a function of the quad-core processor and the 1GB of RAM. To be clear, I mainly use this phone as a secondary work phone. I run messaging applications, Google Mail, Google Calendar, Evernote, Chrome and Skype. I do not use it much to watch videos, play games nor edit documents, so just we are clear and you can compare apples to apples.
Opening and switching between applications is fast and swift, there is minimum freeze time. The screen is responsive and quick to catch my inputs with the provided default SwiftKey as the keyboard. There is no input lag and it feels smooth.
The Redmi allows for two SIM cards to be inserted, and ways to configure which SIM card to default to for sending SMSes, and data use etc. It would be extremely useful for people holding two lines (like me) for work. The catch is that one SIM card slot supports WCDMA while the other slot supports GSM, so in Singapore terms that would be supporting only 3G and 2G respectively. This phone does not support 4G LTE. Which also means it has superior battery life to some other phones though. I only use the 3G slot, and I use my HTC One for my LTE connection.
The battery life for the phone has been magnificent so far, but it’s a new phone, so the battery is new. Rated at 2000 mAh, it is smaller than many other phones on the market. However without the battery-sapping 4G connection, the phone does last a long while. Furthermore, the battery is removable so you can always buy an additional spare to swap. The battery is cheap at only $10. I have lasted two days just using the phone as earlier described, but I expect a typical user to at least last through a day.
I was pleasantly surprised by how easy to use the MIUI interface was to use, but I still had to relearn some bit as I was used to the vanilla Nexus launchers. There are many features so I won’t spend time going through all of them, just some more notable ones below.
The default interface is similar to that of an iPhone where the apps are displayed on the wallpaper without the need to go into an app drawer, yet with the flexibility of the putting Android widgets onscreen as well. Simple and fast to use, but I expect some clutter if you have a ton of applications. Good thing is that you can organise them in folders, ala iPhone.
I like the availability of themes which skins the phone’s interface. I have downloaded some really nice looking skins for free, and enjoy switching between them over the course of the week for a fresh look. Some of the themes still look weird as the alignment was probably designed for Chinese characters and has yet to be adapted to Latin characters.
In short, the Redmi has replaced my Samsung Galaxy Nexus as my secondary work phone. I am mightily impressed by it for a mere S$169. I would get this phone for anyone starting out on a smartphone, like for my parents. It is cheap, easy to use, easy to learn. Yet is is fast and responsive enough for the average user.
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