Todays review is all about a very budget friendly device from Xiaomi. The Redmi 4. Released in November 2016 can this device keep pace in 2018?
In the box
Included with the Redmi you get
- The phone
- A charger (US style)
- A sim removal tool
- The Micro USB charger
This is pretty much what you’d expect from a phone at this price point, but the inclusion of a charger that I personally can’t use is a bit of an issue. Its lucky that third party USB options are widely available and for pretty cheap.
Design, Build and In the Hand
Compared to devices released in 2017, the Redmi 4 is starting to look a little aged. In comparison to phones like the Meizu M5C, Cubot X18, Oukitel C8 and Ulefone Mix 2 the Xiaomi looks very dated.
The front of the phone houses your usual array of sensors, front earpiece and 5MP camera as well some capacitive buttons at the bottom. The bezels on this White front faced model do look quite slim, however this is a deceptive trick and there is actually a quite noticeable Black border around the display when its powered on.
The rear of the phone is Silver and partially metal. This is a big bonus for the build of the phone and although not fully metal it feels good for the price. The rear also hold the rear firing 13MP camera, finger print reader and single tone flash. There is also some subtle Mi branding too.
The sides of the phone are also metal which again is good for build quality and feel in the hand. The buttons are all metal too. There is a side mounted volume rocker and power button on the right side and sim port on the left.
At the bottom there is a centrally mounted micro USB port, one microphone and one speaker. I like that they’ve kept things symmetrical, but it does give you an illusion of dual speakers. This is sadly not the case and you’ll have to make do with one. The top has the 3.5mm headphone port, microphone and an IR transmitter.
In the hand the Redmi feels quite comfortable. Its not too wide nor too tall and isn’t overly heavy nor too light. I have average sized hands and for me its easy to use one handed with no trouble at all. Its quite nicely balanced for such a cheap device. It measures in at 14.13 x 6.96 x 0.89 cm (141.3 x 69.6 x 8.9mm) and weighs 0.155kg (155g). The metal backing is a bit slippery but not as bad as a fully glass backed device.
Overall the Xiaomi isn’t a bad looking device by any means, but it does look dated when compared to phone released just a few months later. Its plus points are good build quality and comfort to use.
UI and Software
The Redmi is running Android 6.0.1 with MIUI 8.2 over the top, so you aren’t getting a stock like experience. This is both a good thing and bad thing. The good thing is that it comes with quite a lot of useful features that you may not find on stock Android, the bad side is that its not as pretty to look at. This can however be somewhat changed with a few preset themes built in. During initial setup you get to pick your preferred one before finalising the phones setup.
There is also a more comprehensive theme store if you are willing to make an account to have the ability to install them.
The settings menu also looks different to that of stock Android but again it gives a different scope for what is on offer. I won’t go over every detail, but you get things like quick ball, one handed mode, advanced headphone settings if you use a pair made by Xiaomi and a lot more. You also of course get access to all the basic functions too, its differently laid out like mentioned but its still easy to navigate to find what you may require.
One big software issue I will address is the lack of the UK being an option when setting the default region on your phone. There is pretty much everywhere else apart from the UK. This means I had to set the zone to Italy and manually adjust the time and date. I’m not sure if this will happen if you get one, but it did happen to me. It will however still work in the UK as I have mine running on Virgin 3G and it works fine. But I’ll cover more on that further on in the review.
In spite of the aforementioned issues the software experience is not that bad, yes its not as pretty as stock Android but it does have a decent feature set and so far has been stable and bug free (apart from the previously mentioned issue).
The Redmi 4 has a 5 inch 1280 x 720 display with a PPI of 296. The display is actually fairly decent, its not the most crystal clear you’ll find but its good for the resolution. Reading text is easy enough, its clear and legible and ins’t overly pixelated. Colours are decent too, they aren’t the most accurate as it only has a 72% NTSC colour gamut but for everyday use its fine. They are vivid enough and although the Blacks aren’t AMOLED deep, they are fairly inky. Whites are naturally quite cool but this can all be adjusted in the settings menu. You can tweak the colours and contrast as well as enable reading mode and of course adjust the screens brightness.
Speaking off brightness the display does go very dim, almost too dim to be seen in any environment really. At 100% brightness its pretty bright, not the brightest I’ve ever encountered but its still pretty good. Outside usability is okay and on its max setting it can be used in all but direct sunlight. At 50% is where is use it mostly for indoors as its bright enough to be viewed under my desk light and around the house.
Viewing angles are decent too, there is no major colour shift or blue tint. They aren’t the best on any smartphone at this price point but they are more than acceptable. Watching video is a decent experience on the 5” display and even at a max of 720p its still quite sharp, in fact a little too sharp. I’ve noticed that sometimes it does seem to over sharpen images and video. Its not to the point where its unacceptable, but it is noticeable. In some cases in can look good as it can add sharpness to a less prominent photo, but if a photo is already sharp, then it does look a little off.
One problem that has occurred with the display is the dead/stuck pixel. I’ve tried to revive it but nothing I’ve tried has worked. I’m not sure how common this problem is, but it happen within the first few days of using the Redmi. The pixel is only noticeable when dark colours or Black is displayed, still its a fault that’s developed nevertheless.
Xiaomi has packed a Snapdragon 430 Octa core processor into the Redmi, this is paired with an Adreno 505 and 2GB of RAM. Storage wise you get 16GB with 10.62GB usable. Luckily the storage is expandable via the SIM/SD card at the side of the phone. For the usual Geekbench test it scored 651 on the single core and 2041 on the multi. Antutu provided a score of 43817, so its not a scorcher but its solid.
Everyday tasks are handled quite well, loading apps does take a bit of time but its not exactly what I’d call slow. Game loading times do take a while depending on their size and intensity, but smaller simpler titles load with no problem. Web browsing is mostly well handled in terms of speed, but I did notice on occasion that some sites failed to load due to the slow WiFi. This isn’t my home network though as I have fibre broadband installed, but sometimes the WiFi could be painfully slow. You do however get a handy speed readout of the current WiFi use. The only real drawback is the 2GB of RAM, this means you can’t really get much multitasking done as it doesn’t hold many apps before needing to close them. So if you are a a person that is constantly switching between apps, this is not for you and I’d look at a model with at least 3GB.
Gaming performance is again pretty decent for the price, in more intense games like Asphalt 8 you do get some noticeable stutters and on occasion lag too. But for the most part games like Star Wars Heroes, Stack jump, Sausage run and less intense games play without issue.
The UI runs quite smoothly too, for it not being stock Android its fairly smooth. I disabled animations as a default as I don’t find them necessary and just slowed down the phone. With them disabled the phone feels pretty smooth during navigation. Like mentioned switching between apps is a bit sluggish because of the RAM shortage, but general use is fine.
The Redmi 4 has a quite large 4100mAh battery installed and I was expecting good things. However I was met with middle of the road performance. I could get through a days use just about, but it only managed a screen usage time of between 4.5 to 5.5 hours on average. Even with the display on at 50% it could still only mange just over the 5 hours average. Its a little disappointing given the size of the battery. I did however manage to get two days use, the phoen was used a little lighter with only moderate tasks such as social media, light gaming and a bit of YouTube. Even then I still only managed 5 hours 32 minutes of screen on time.
Charge time from 19% to 100% took 2 hours and 23 minutes via my Anker Powerport 5. This isn’t going to win any sprints but its not exactly slow either. Well compared to modern quick charging it is, but for the price point its not bad. Also consider that it has to charge the large capacity and it is understandable, I just wish the battery performance was more consistent and better as its not great.
On the plus side you do get a handy charging indicator that glows White when its in charge and then goes Green at 90%, but it stays Green even until its done. It would have been better for the light to go Green at 100%, so then you know its actually done.
On the front of the Redmi 4 is a 5MP shooter and its not terrible but not great either. Below are a few samples from the camera in varying conditions both indoors and outdoors. Its better outside as there is more light for the sensor, but with my bright overhead light it was okay. Its not the quality I’d particularly share on social media unless its for a quick update. Outside it fairs better and the quality is decent, it won’t be on a par with mid range phones but its just okay. In the dark its quite bad and the noise is just very prominent, so it does need a strong light to be usable.
You can see from the outdoor images that the dynamic range isn’t that great and the sky is left blown out, colour accuracy varies as well as skin tones in each shot, but for a 5MP camera detail is okay.
The rear 13MP sensor has AF, Flash and HDR functions. Photos from the rear camera are like the front and are mixed. Sometimes its very capable and can pull off a decent shot, sometimes the shots don’t fully capture focus, are over sharpened and have poor highlight control. Dynamic range isn’t fantastic either as most of the time the sky is left blown out and there is no detail in the sky. Minimum focus distance isn’t too bad and you can get some decently capable macro shots given enough light. HDR does its best but sometimes over saturates and adds too much contrast to the image, it can work at times too but its not the best implemented I’ve ever seen. Detail capture is a mixed bag too, sometimes the image looks quite detailed and other do not. Colour accuracy is again hit or miss and can be fairly accurate or not. It seems to favour a cooler temp in auto mode, but of course you could switch to manual for slightly better control.
Shots indoors are the same story, give the right light they can be decent. Sometimes if there is a lot of natural light it can blow out the background and other times it can be too under exposed. There is also more noise and grain in these images and also the white balance can be a bit off too. The flash isn’t that great either, it adds a harsh Yellow tone to the photos and they look mucky when being shot, especially if the background is light. Detail capture can be strong though given enough light to work with.
The camera app is basic at first but you can of course go into the settings and make adjustments. The first thing you are greeted with upon launching the camera app is a large shutter button, options for filters, modes, video, swapping the camera to the front, enabling HDR and toggling the flash. Pressing the mode menu gives you access to all the available modes as well as the settings. The settings are not built into the app and instead are located in a separate settings menu.
The settings are quite comprehensive and you do get scope to adjust a fair few things. The manual mode is a nice touch too if a little basic. But as a whole the camera experience is not too bad for a phone costing under £100. Its also worth mentioning that these shots were taken in auto mode with the settings as they were at default, this means if you adjusted the settings, you could probably get more from the cameras.
The 3.5mm jack on the Redmi 4 actually impressed for the price. It got fairly loud and is reasonably powerful. I drove my 24ohm Sony H.ear on no problems at all, something which the Mi5 seems to struggle to do. The outright quality isn’t there when compared to the Mi5, but that’s not surprising as that costs three times as much. The mids produced by the phone are fairly detailed as are the highs. Bass is a touch emphasised but pretty solid.
The speaker is bottom firing which isn’t ideal but its not too bad, for watching YouTube its fine, the quality isn’t amazing but it does go pretty loud. Be careful though as it does distort quite bad at higher volumes. The sound is a bit thin and doesn’t have any low end really but for just casually watching video its acceptable.
Other features and Usability
The Redmi 4s other features include all the basics as well as a few other nice additions.
- Micro and Nano sim support
- SD card expansion
- Bluetooth 4.1,
- 3G and 4G
- Finger print scanner
- Double tap to wake display
- WiFi and data speed indicator
There is a few problems with these features though, well some of them. For one the finger print reader is I would say only around 80% accurate, sometimes it opens straight away and others it takes a few attempts. This is pretty acceptable as the phone is cheap, but don’t expect it too work flawlessly. It unlocks pretty quick though which is a bonus.
The final little issue is double tap to wake the display. Again it doesn’t work straight away all the time, yet again neither does my Mi5. Its by no means a deal breaker, but sometimes it can be frustrating.
On the plus side signal strength on Virgin 3G has been solid, I easily can get full strength where I live and I honestly have had no troubles with it. Call quality is average for the price. The mic and earpiece aren’t amazing but I wasn’t expecting them to be. You can comfortably hold a good conversation even though I did find the earpiece a little quiet at times.
Can the Redmi 4 keep pace in 2018, well surprisingly, yes. Yeah its not the best looking device but nor is it unattractive, it is well built though for the price. Its comfortable to hold and use, has some decent features, the display is pretty good, audio isn’t too bad either, the cameras can be good given the right conditions and performance wise its solid. Okay so it can struggle with heavy multitasking but for everyday use its fine.
Its drawbacks include, the below average battery life for its capacity, the not so attractive UI, the software updates from Xiaomi being few and far between, also the other issues with the finger print scanner and display are there too.
So yes it can work well in 2018, but that brings me to my biggest problem. Its very out of date. Looking on the web I could find at least half a dozen or more phones that cost the same as this, but with newer versions of Android, better specs and more modern designs and its that reason why I can’t recommend this. Yes I can’t deny its a solid budget device, but a quick browse can bring up more capable devices that cost the same. However if you don’t mind that its a bit dated then it would be a great secondary device or even a first phone for someone, so it does have it draws but ultimately its dated.
Get one here: www.gearbest.com/xiaomi-redmi4