Xiaomi Redmi Go Hands-on: Possibly the best Android Go budget phone money can buy
Android (Go edition) devices have, so far, been kind of a mixed bag. Sure, Android Go optimizes several parts of the OS to run better on lower-end devices, but certain devices have a specification sheet so weak that even Android Go is not enough to make them run optimally. The Nokia 1 with a MediaTek MT6737M processor and a subpar 480p display is a great example of this. At their price points, they’re not bad phones. They’ll still do the job for most people and Android Go goes a long way in smoothing things out. But you certainly deserve better, even if you’re on a budget. Enter the Xiaomi Redmi Go.
Xiaomi recently took a big step with their Redmi sub-brand, introducing themselves head-first into the Android Go market. The result? The Xiaomi Redmi Go, Xiaomi’s cheapest device to date, retailing at a measly Rs. 4,499 (~$65)—but don’t let that price tag fool you. After playing with other Android Go devices like the Samsung Galaxy J2 Core and the Nokia 1, I can confidently say that this is one of the best Android Go phones available in the market, if not the best one out there. Here are my first impressions of the Xiaomi Redmi Go.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 425|
|Storage||8GB (expandable via microSD card up to 256GB)|
|Operating System||Android 8.1 Oreo (Go edition), stock|
|Dimensions||140.4 x 70.1 x 8.4 mm (5.53 x 2.76 x 0.33 in)|
|Weight||137 g (4.83 oz)|
|Screen||5.0″ HD (70% screen-to-body ratio), 16:9 aspect ratio|
|Screen Type||IPS LCD|
|Cameras||Front: 5MP w/ f/2.2 aperture, 1.12μm pixel size|
Rear: 5MP w/ f/2.2 aperture, 1.12μm pixel size
|Connectivity||microUSB (USB 2.0), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Bluetooth 4.1), GPS, OTG, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|In the box||Xiaomi Redmi Go smartphone, Documentation, microUSB Cable, Power Adapter, SIM Ejector|
|Availability||Available now for ₹4,990/$65.|
About this review: I purchased the Xiaomi Redmi Go at a local store in Venezuela.
The Xiaomi Redmi Go is not really made to stand out. In fact, it is fairly bland in its design. It is a slim, compact device which is made entirely of plastic, including the back, frame, and buttons. Not that this is a bad thing, to be honest. Again, we’re talking about a $65 phone, and sturdier or more premium finishes like glass and metal are off the table since the whole point of this phone is to be affordable. Also, despite its plastic build and price point, it actually feels fairly sturdy and well-built. The back is not removable unlike many other Android Go devices. This may help with its sturdiness, but also means that the battery isn’t removable. If this is something you’re looking forward to, then don’t hold your breath.
The back of the phone houses a small, single 8MP back shooter, an LED flash, and a very faint Xiaomi logo. I got the blue version of the phone, and while there’s no gradient back glasses or anything fancy here, it is actually a very cute little phone. Thanks to its 5-inch display and its light and slim body, it is easily pocketable. I still love my OnePlus 5T‘s 6-inch display, but I think more devices (flagships included) should come in this smaller form factor.
Down at the bottom, we have the micro-USB charging port and a bottom-firing speaker, while the top houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and a microphone. The right side includes the power button and volume rockers, and the left side is reserved for both a nano-SIM card tray as well as an SD card tray—two rare sights in an all-plastic smartphone. There is no fingerprint scanner of any kind in this phone or any other kind of biometric unlocking features for that matter (Smart Lock does not have support for face unlocking here), but then again, expecting one at this price point is probably a stretch.
This phone’s display was actually one of its nicest surprises. It is a 5″ HD (720p) IPS LCD panel at a 16:9 aspect ratio. There’s a bottom bezel housing the capacitive navigation buttons. Nothing to blow you off your seat, sure, but other Android Go devices in the same price bracket (and even some more expensive ones) have included qHD (540p) and even SD (480p) panels, so an HD panel is a nice change of pace. There are no thin bezels, notches, or any other shenanigans here: It’s just a standard 16:9 form factor with decently-sized bezels. This, combined with its slim, compact body, makes it easy to use one-handed.
This same panel is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, so it should be able to withstand light scratches and general use just fine. The display panel’s brightness could be better, but overall, I had no problem using the phone in broad daylight, even with the tempered glass screen protector that was installed. (Note that this phone does not come with a screen protector of any kind—this one was pre-applied by the store I purchased it in). Nighttime usage is as good as you’d expect from an LCD panel: there’s a backlight, so blacks emit light, unlike AMOLED displays. The phone’s software does come with Night Light to help eye strain with nighttime usage.
This is something that I’ve mentioned countless times in this article already, but I feel that it’s worth another mention: This is a $65 phone. Most people will not buy such a phone expecting superb camera performance, and thus, I didn’t come in expecting a lot from it. But it’s camera experience is noteworthy enough to deserve a section here, especially given how I like to photograph almost everything that surrounds me. During my testing, I’ve found that the Redmi Go actually provides a passable camera experience in specific circumstances. This smartphone features a single, rear-facing 8MP shooter with an f/2.0 aperture, 1.12μm pixel size, and autofocus. It’s also capable of shooting 1080p video at 30 fps.
I didn’t go deep into the camera, but the Redmi Go’s camera takes decently exposed pictures in most outdoor circumstances, with some images exposing a slight degree of over-saturation, but not worrying enough to be a problem.
Xiaomi Redmi Go camera samples.
Indoor pictures, though, are another story. Image quality takes a huge hit indoor, especially in dimly lit rooms and nighttime lighting. Even with heavy noise reduction and AI adjustments, images still come out extremely grainy. As a result of this aggressive noise reduction, details, even at closer distances, are lost. It’s a small 8MP sensor in a cheap phone, so I won’t hang Xiaomi out to dry over this.
It also struggles a bit with locking focus, but it does have a manual mode allowing you to manually adjust the focus, ISO, and shutter speed, an actually surprising feature for a phone in this range. The autofocus thing can be improved with software updates, too. The camera app doesn’t really come with a lot of features, either: there’s a 1:1 square picture mode, the aforementioned manual mode, a couple of features like a “scene” mode that automatically adjusts the camera based on light conditions, and a “straighten” mode that adjusts the picture based on the phone’s orientation.
Moving to the front, we have a fairly standard setup: a single 5MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and 1.12μm pixel size. Selfies tell the exact same story: outdoor images are fine, but indoor ones are a mixed bag. The camera should, however, be just okay at meeting your selfie needs.
The Redmi Go’s camera won’t exactly turn heads, but it’s not meant to do that. It’s just okay. It will be able to capture precious moments, which is all it’s meant to do. If you’re actually looking for this smartphone to compete with the big players of mobile photography, your expectations are way too high for this device.
User Experience and Device Performance
Possibly the most unusual bit about this phone is its software and the overall experience it delivers. After all, this is the first Xiaomi Redmi device the company is shipping with near-stock Android instead of MIUI. The Xiaomi Mi A1, Mi A2, and Mi A2 Lite are all part of the Android One program while the Redmi Go runs Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition). The phone thus comes with near-stock Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but being an Android Go device, it also comes with the usual apps you’d expect to find on Android (Go edition). The regular Google apps are replaced with their Go equivalents and the bloat is kept to a minimum, with the only pre-installed non-Google/AOSP apps being Mint Browser, Mint Launcher, the MIUI Cleaner app, the MIUI file explorer, Mi Drop, and Facebook Lite.
Stock Android is not mandatory for Android Go as we’ve seen on Samsung devices like the Galaxy J2 Core, so we give props to Xiaomi here for caring more about usability and performance than packing their MIUI software experience. An Android Pie update is, while possible, highly unlikely given Xiaomi’s track record with their lower-end phones. Plus, there are reports that Android Pie (Go Edition) has problems, causing its adoption to be delayed.
Given its low-end specifications, the phone actually feels pretty snappy and responsive, much more so than other Android Go devices I’ve tried out in the past. I haven’t run into any major hitches with it yet. I would imagine the 1GB RAM/8GB storage combo will get very limiting, very quickly. (In fact, I’d say a microSD card is a must-have here.) However, I haven’t used the phone extensively, but Android Go should help out greatly in this regard.
Xiaomi’s first big foray into the Android Go device ecosystem turned out to be a pretty successful one. There is no denying the fact that this is an entry-level device and there’s nothing to lure you in if you’re currently using a flagship or mid-range device. In fact, it’ll be a severe regression. After all, this is meant to be someone’s first smartphone or someone’s secondary, burner phone. It’ll probably be a phone for an older person or a child. But the Xiaomi Redmi Go offers decent performance and user experience for those who just want to run a few apps, make phone calls, check emails, browse the web, etc.
The Redmi Go does have a host of issues, but under $100, you’d be very, very hard pressed finding something better than it. In fact, with its combination of entry-level specifications and stock Android software and its $65 price tag, I think this is the best Android Go phone available in the market right now. Low-end Android smartphones have always had a bad reputation of being laggy and unusable bricks, but the Xiaomi Redmi Go strays far from that description, offering acceptable performance and a lot of bang for the buck. And again, this thing is only $65.
The Xiaomi Redmi Go is currently available globally in both Black and Blue.