You might wonder, right on the day when Xiaomi is busy in the launch of its flagship 5-inch Mi4 smartphone and when most of the tech reviewers and bloggers have already spoken enough about the Redmi Note, both 3G and 4G variant, what sense it would make for another review of the devices that were introduced two months ago. Most of the device reviewers have already written about the specification, features and comparable alternatives that exist in the market. Few among them have cared to take it to the next level and give their expert opinion after playing with it, however for hardly two to three weeks, before they go to the next device, as that is what they do for a living.
Come to think of it, unlike a movie which does not change a bit no matter how many shows you see, users with different set of requirements, expectations and usage considerations judge the devices differently and as they use it more often, they discover new possibilities and challenges that cannot be concluded within the two to three weeks of testing by the professional reviewers. Moreover, gadgets were never meant for reviewers and gadget companies would benefit more by users feedback than anything else.
So this time, we decided to take a different approach to see the device from a user’s eye. We asked a couple of our associates who are not gadget freaks to use both the devices for 8 weeks rigorously and pen down their unbiased independent feedback about the devices. And, here it is what he has got to say:
Everyone asks this question, “Why do we need more smartphones?” There are already tons of them in the market. But since, as they say, “change is the only constant”, entrepreneurs with a vision to change the world in a positive way keep striving towards it. Such a startup Xiaomi, from the land of dragons, China, is disrupting the smartphone market. No wonder they are the most valued tech startup in the world today. Being a user of their latest innovations Redmi Note 3G and 4G I can surely say that the valuations are justified.
I am not your typical Gadget Guru who would drop technical terms while review gadgets; I am an entrepreneur running my own tech startup. For me, a smartphone is a necessity more than a toy. Both the models of Redmi Note are very gentle for your pocket: an attractive option, especially due to the fact that budgetary concerns are at the top of your list when starting up. They are moderately priced and can be afforded by students and working professionals alike who are looking for a smartphone and the functionalities that come with it.
So my friends would say, “It is a Chinese phone, it has to be cheap”. That is precisely the innovation that our friends at Xiaomi are doing. Although the phone is manufactured in China, the UI and finish of the product is top notch. The Android OS has been forked and given a flavor that suits the device. The packaging is also neat.
Alan Kay, a famous computer scientist, once mentioned “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”
Xiaomi phones are a beautiful example of this notion. The hardware works beautifully with the OS. Some users are not happy with the fact that the phone runs on the dated 4.2.2 with the MIUI skin. I am not; the skins were a clear winner for me.
The theme marketplace is a great idea. Users can keep changing their themes to give their phones a fresh look every now and then. This feature was missing in my earlier smartphone Galaxy Note 2. I must say both versions of Redmi Note are “a breath of fresh air” when compared to my Samsung phone.
However, it’s very difficult to add apps to multiple screens as there is no app drawer. The solution is to install one of the numerous launchers available in Google Play Store but I didn’t use them as I was happy with the native themes.
The image in the center shows the proprietary security app which works very well. Previously I used an app called Cleanmaster but that was making my phone slow. But the inbuilt security app works like a breeze. Features like Cleaner, Virus Scan, Data usage monitor and Blocklist makes this app very useful.
The Redmi Note phones come with the Lite mode which allows non-tech savvy users to use smartphones. I have not used this feature extensively, but I bet my mom would love it!
When I got the phone as a test device last month, I read the CPU specifications as Octa Core. Since I had a Samsung Note 2 which had Quad Core, I thought that this device would only be twice as fast. But that was not the case; It was working much faster. It might be because of the Mediatek processor inside the Redmi Note 3G model which enabled me to do things more quickly. The 4G model has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC which has a quad-core processor.
Being an entrepreneur I have to be ubersocial and be connected all the time, and so Email, Facebook and Chat apps are a must. These devices allowed me to multitask like a pro.
Another feature that I liked was the non-intrusiveness of the calling app. If you get a call while using another app, there is a horizontal bar on the top of your phone showing the caller’s name, and the accept and reject buttons. This allows you to continue doing what you were doing and still attend or reject the call. This is the feature that I like the most as most of the users use smartphones as a computer now. A similar feature exists when receiving SMS.
The screenshot taking feature on the main notification bar is also very smartly done. It allowed me to take the screenshots for this blog post very easily.
There is a new trend of smartphone photography emerging called selfies. It’s so popular that it has been added to the Oxford Dictionary and there is even a song dedicated to the phenomenon. I was never a big fan of selfies but when I started using Redmi Note 3G, I was hooked. I must say this is a great phone to take selfies with a 5 MP camera in the front. You can see the amazing resolution of the selfie in the pic. This also allows quality Skype calls and google hangouts directly from the phone.
The back camera, which is 13 MP, assists good photography. Users who use smartphones to capture personal moments can rely on these phones to deliver the results they want. I like food photography a lot and used the phone to capture few snaps. The pics came out really good. The f/2.2 aperture allows to take pictures with a shallow depth of field. This is a good example:
The Redmi Note also captures good nature photography. It captures lot of details. You can see that here:
Another defining feature of the camera app is the friendly user interface that allows the user to toggle between different modes and features.
This is my favorite folder of the phone. I call it the Army Swiss Knife. It contains all the apps which make your phone a multi-utility device. Previously you had to download apps from the Play Store to use these features but they are bundled in this phone beforehand.
One of the UI features I didn’t like were the suggestions that it gave me while typing my email during texting or writing an email. The aspect ratio of the text is skewed.
The winning feature of this phone is the battery life. This is a make or break feature in most of the smartphones today. The 3100 mha battery, which has a long life, helps to stay connected while using Facebook, Twitter , Email , Whatsapp, normal calling and texting. The average time the battery has lasted during the last month of usage is close to 26 hours or little more than a full day. Also the 2A charger makes the recharge faster, taking only couple of hours.
I would recommend these phones to individuals who want to avail the features of a smartphone and not burn their wallets. The price of Redmi Note 3G variant is INR 8,999 (US$145) and Redmi Note 4G variant is available for INR 9,999 (US$160). There are no major drawbacks in the phone that are off-putting for the potential buyer. Now, if you ask me which one I would choose, I would go for the 3G model as it comes with a dual-sim which is a preferred feature in the Indian market. However, the 3G model is not currently available in India due to the ongoing ban, and so your choice is limited to the 4G model, which is available only in Airtel stores, and is limited to a postpaid connection.
As they say, these phones are truly bang for the buck!
Engadget Rating: 8/10
Cnet Rating: 3.5/5
Critic Rating: 7/10