Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 XDA Review: All Geared Up for Another Year of Success

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 XDA Review: All Geared Up for Another Year of Success

India is a crucial part of Xiaomi’s international market. Here, their flagships have not had much success. On the other hand, the company continues to see its popularity rise with well-priced and high-value budget and low-end offerings.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 SoC was Xiaomi’s best selling phone in India and the country’s best-selling (online) phone with 3.6 Million units sold in just 10 months. For a budget device in a developing country with a saturated and competitive market, that is a lot of volume. With the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Xiaomi is aiming even higher with its sales figures, hoping to double the numbers by selling at least 7 Million handsets in the country alone.

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But is the Redmi Note 4 enough of an upgrade to achieve that number? How much value does it provide, and how does it stand against the competition?


In this review, we’ll take an in-depth dive into the Redmi Note 4. Rather than listing specs and talking about how the experience felt, this feature attempts to provide a thorough look with contents relevant to our reader base. At XDA, our reviews are not meant to tell a user whether a phone is worth buying or not — instead, we try to lend you the phone through our words and help you come to the decision by yourself. Before getting started, let’s get the specification sheet out of the way:

Device Name: Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Release Date/Price Available Now, ₹9,999 ($150) onwards
Android Version 6.0.1 (MIUI Global 8.1 ROM) Display 5.5 inch 1080p IPS LCD (401p ppi)
Chipset Snapdragon 625, Octa Core Cortex-A53, 8x 2GHz, Adreno 506 GPU Battery 4,100mAh non-removable
RAM 2/3/4GB LPDDR3 Sensors Fingerprint, Hall, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light, Electronic Compass
Storage 32/32/64GB eMMC Connectivity USB 2.0 Micro USB, Hybrid SIM tray (Micro SIM + Nano SIM or Micro SIM + Micro SD card), 3.5mm audio jack, IR Blaster
Dimensions 151 x 76 x 8.5 cm (~72.7% screen-to-body) Rear Camera 13MP CMOS Sensor, PDAF, f/2.0, [email protected] / [email protected] video
Weight 165g Front Camera 5MP CMOS, Fixed Focus, f/2.0, [email protected] video

Index

Design

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 features an aluminum body in a design that depict it as smaller variant of the Xiaomi Mi Max rather than a direct successor to the Redmi Note 3. While the Redmi Note 3 had more pronounced curves on the side edges, the Redmi Note 4 gets a boxy-appearance thanks to the flat mid frame. Only subtle curves appear on the side edges of the back.

A first look at the device would make it appear that the build is a unibody construction. However, and just like the Redmi Note 3 and several other Xiaomi phones, the metal does not extend over the entire back. The top and bottom caps of the back are made of plastic, which facilitates signal transmission. There is a shiny trim that separates the plastic and metal areas, and this strip adds a bit of a character to the back of the phone. The MI logo is present towards the bottom, as well as a few declaration markings.

The camera setup on the back appears identical to the Redmi Note 3, but the camera sensor and fingerprint scanner sit well below the back surface, keeping them protected from scratches. The shiny color trim is also present on the edges of the camera lens and the fingerprint sensor. The back no longer houses the speaker and the slightly awkward protrusion to keep the speaker lifted up. Instead, the speaker now finds its place at the bottom side frame of the device. Xiaomi took care this time to get a symmetrical layout with identically drilled holes on either side of the micro-USB port, but only the right side bears the speaker. The left side houses a microphone, but the rest of the holes are merely cosmetic.

The right side of the device bears the volume rocker and the power button. The buttons are well built with no wiggle in either direction, but they have a slightly muted click response — nothing too bad though. The left side of the device has room for the hybrid SIM tray.

The top of the device has the 3.5mm headphone jack, the IR Blaster and the secondary microphone.

The front of the device has a 5.5 inch IPS LCD display with 2.5D curved glass edges occupying most of the front. The sense of symmetry continues with the speaker on the center and two identical holes flanking either side — the left holds the proximity and light sensor and the right bears the front camera.

Our review unit is the Gold back and White front color variant, where the LED notification light is neatly hidden under the colored front and is visible only when lit up. The traditional Xiaomi capacitive buttons — Recents, Home and Back — are present on the bottom.

As far as handling of the device goes, the phone is comfortable to handle for anyone used to handling standard size 5.5” phones. The device’s physical dimensions compared to its predecessor are just 1mm longer but remain static on the width. The Redmi Note 4 is barely thinner with a 0.2mm difference, but it appears thinner than the Redmi Note 3 because of its flat sides. The 2.5D curved glass edges give the front a bit of a taper on the edges, but the transition from glass to the metallic chassis does feel sharp.

A black bezel border does exist visibly on the white color model, but it seems Xiaomi is taking efforts to cut down the color difference. The (total) bezels (72.7%) on the device are virtually the same as on the Redmi Note 3 (72.4%), but due to the shape of the device, I had more of my palm resting on the display while gripping the phone. Xiaomi’s palm rejection on stock MIUI did not feel up to the mark, and I had frequent annoying mistouches on the sides. I had to often adjust my grip while holding the phone as my palm would cause the UI (and especially scrollbars) to go crazy and jump all over the place.

The trim lines on the back add a nice premium touch in a very subtle way.

Xiaomi does play it safe on the budget line in terms of design, not experimenting much beyond the tried and tested. The design language on the Redmi Note 3 quickly spread through the budget lineup in India with various other OEMs also bringing out similar looking products, intentionally or unintentionally. So a bit of a switch up by letting the device take cues from the Mi Max lets it have a year of differentiation in an otherwise saturated price range. The trim lines on the back do add a nice premium touch in a very subtle way.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

Overall, I was content with how the Redmi Note 4 rests in the hand. Outside of occasional adjustments to counter the erratic palm rejections, I had no issues with holding and using the device with one hand. The metallic device remains cool to the touch throughout its usage and also does fairly well on not slipping around on level surfaces. The build quality is good, and the device speaks for itself.

The device certainly looks better than its price tag. Before the Redmi Note 4 became common knowledge, people around me would frequently quote numbers up to twice the price of the device when asked to guess the retail price. The white-gold color variant does look very pretty, and the overall build quality does lead people to believe that this is a premium, mid-range device.

The phone also comes in two other colors: Dark Grey with Black front and Matte Black with Black front. In my limited hands-on with the Matte Black color during the launch event in India, I did find that fingerprints were rather visible on the back of the device, though that is nothing a quick wipe won’t fix.

Software

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow on MIUI 8.1.15.0 Stable (MCFMIDI)

Marshmallow on the Redmi Note 4 is nothing like Marshmallow on any device that runs Stock Android, completely thanks to Xiaomi’s extensive MIUI “skin” (ROM) which is laid on top of the core of Android. The modifications in MIUI run deep enough to the point that calling this is a “skin” would be an utter injustice to the years of efforts and the myriad of changes that Xiaomi has put in, cosmetically and otherwise, even if it doesn’t amount to a perfect experience.

The changes done by Xiaomi exist all throughout the Android OS: from the lock screen to the notification bar to the launcher and even down to “stock” apps like the calculator and dialer. While MIUI still goes on top of the base Android framework, an update to this framework will be lost on the end user (even if Google does an obvious cosmetic change), while major updates to MIUI itself will be apparent even if the base Android platform remains untouched.

We have extensively detailed the various changes present in earlier versions of MIUI, i.e. MIUI 7 on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. The Redmi Note 4 comes with MIUI 8 out of the box.

While the Redmi Note 3 ran Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out-of-the-box (Android 6.0 came as an update down the line), the Redmi Note 4 runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with a promise for an update to Android Nougat soon. For the most part as has been our experience, the base Android version remains largely irrelevant as long as MIUI exists.