Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 review: You won't believe how much you get for S$259

Note: This review was first published on 18th April 2017.

Overview

The Redmi Note 4 isn't exactly a new phone model from Xiaomi. It was announced more than 8 months ago and the original model was powered by a deca-core MediaTek Heli X20 chipset. A slightly updated model was then released in January this year for the Indian market, which came with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor, minor design tweaks and a new color option. The updated model only arrived in Singapore in mid-March. Was the wait worth it?

During the past few months, two handsets powered by the same Qualcomm chipset emerged in the market which delivered excellent battery life - the ASUS ZenFone 3 and Moto Z Play. This raised our expectations that the updated Redmi Note 4 would have similar performance considering that they share similar specs on almost all fronts. Here's a quick look at the specs of the Redmi Note 4 against its predecessor (Redmi Note 3), the ZenFone 3 and Moto Z Play:

  Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 ASUS ZenFone 3 Moto Z Play
  Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 ASUS ZenFone 3 Moto Z Play
Launch SRP
  • From S$259
  • From S$299
  • From S$498
  • From S$699
Latest Price
  • From S$205
  • From S$185
  • From S$630
Operating system
  • MIUI 8.2 based on Android 6.0.1
  • Android 5.1.1 with MIUI 7
  • Android 6.0 with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
  • Android 6.0 OS (Marshmallow)
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core 2.0GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 hexa-core 1.8GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core, 2.0GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 5.5-inch / IPS / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (~401 ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / Super AMOLED
Camera
  • Rear: 13-megapixel BSI CMOS camera with ultra-fast 0.1s PDAF technology
  • Front: 5-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with 5-element lens, f/2.0, 78° wide-angle lens and a two-tone flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel with f/2.0 and face recognition
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, TriTech AutoFocus, 4-axis OIS
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/2.0
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture
  • Front: 5-megapixel, f/2.2 aperture
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou positioning, micro-USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct
  • GPS, AGPS, GLONASS and BeiDou positioning
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, USB 2.0 Type-C, Wi-Fi Direct
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/g/b/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE + EDR, USB-C, 3.5mm audio
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 64GB storage (expandable via microSD to 2TB)
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 2TB MicroSD
Battery
  • 4,100mAh
  • 4,050mAh
  • 3,000 mAh
  • 3,510mAh
Dimensions
  • 151 x 76 x 8.4mm
  • 150 x 76 x 8.65mm
  • 152.59 x 77.38 x 7.69 mm
  • 156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99mm
Weight
  • 165g
  • 164g
  • 155g
  • 165g

Design & Handling 

Compared to its predecessor, the Redmi Note 4 has minimal differences in physical dimensions. It's slightly taller (151 vs 150 mm) and thinner (8.4 vs 8.65mm). As for the appearance, Xiaomi retains much of the design of the Redmi Note 3 on the Redmi Note 4 although there are subtle changes to give a more premium look.

You still get the anodized aluminum chassis tapered edges and a beveled frame which provide a good feel in the hand. The high gloss CNC finish lends a more classy look for the Redmi Note 4. 

Capacitive buttons are found below the 5.5-inch display and they do light up when touched, just like its predecessor. As with most Xiaomi handsets, the navigation keys are arranged in the following order from left to right - menu, home, back. The volume controls and power button are raised sufficiently for good feedback when pressed and are located on the top right hand side of the device.

On the opposite side, you will find the '3-choose-2 hybrid' SIM card tray which you need a pin to eject. The SIM card tray allows you to put either a nano SIM and a micro SIM or micro SIM and a microSD card. Both SIM card trays support 4G connectivity, but the secondary SIM card will only support 3G calls when both SIM card slots are used at the same time. 

The fingerprint sensor is located at the back just below the camera. It's always on, which means you can just place your finger on the sensor and it will unlock the phone. The whole process of unlocking the phone is very swift.
You need a pin to eject the 3-choose-2 hybrid SIM card tray.
We like how the speaker grilles are lined up perfectly with the micro-USB 2.0 port at the bottom. This shows some degree of pride and effort by the design team at Xiaomi.


Software Features

The Redmi Note 4 is one of the few Xiaomi devices to ship with MIUI 8, the latest version of Xiaomi's  OS. MIUI 8 was rolled out late last year to several devices such as the Mi 5, Redmi Note 3 and Mi Max. Here are some new features that you can try on the Redmi Note 4: 

Dual Apps

Dual Apps is a feature which allows you to run the same app in two different instances. This feature is especially useful for dual-SIM devices like the Redmi Note 4 where you can have two WhatsApp accounts on the same phone. 

It can be enabled via Settings > App Settings > Dual apps. Out of the box, the feature is supported on a handful of apps such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger and MIUI Forum. Other third-party apps which are supported include Instagram, Twitter and Pokemon Go. Once Dual Apps is enabled for an app, the "second" app will have a "lock" icon at the bottom left corner.

 

Second Space

For consumers who rely on the Redmi Note 4 for both work and personal usage, Second Space will come in handy. It basically creates a secondary profile on the device. While the phone's settings are shared between the two profiles, the home screen theme and layout will differ. 

To manage Second Space, you have to set a password for the profile, setup private contacts and messages, and move items to the Second Space. Having said that, you can easily move data (e.g. photos, files, contacts) between the two profiles. There's also an app icon named "Switch" for you to toggle between the two spaces.

 

Professional Photo Editor

Instead of depending on filters by third-party apps such as Instagram, MIUI 8 has a built-in professional photo editor in the Gallery app. You can apply filters, adjust, doodle, mosaic or enhance photos straight from the Gallery. 

 

Scrolling Screenshot

Not exactly a new feature for smartphones, Scrolling Screenshot can be found in other Android smartphones such as Samsung's Galaxy series. To take a scrolling screenshot, press and hold the volume down button and power button together. The first screenshot will emerge at the top right corner as a floating window, which you have to tap on it.

Once the window expands, there is an option for Scroll at the bottom. Once you tap on Scroll, it will automatically scroll down to take multiple screenshots. You can also click "Done" when the required screenshots are taken. Do note that this feature works for the built-in browser app, but it does not support Chrome. 

 

Calculator

Unlike standard built-in calculator apps on other phones, MIUI 8's Calculator app allows you to do more such as currency, temperature, speed, area conversions and even work out your mortgage loan payments. These extended functions can be easily accessed via a small menu button on the top left corner of the Calculator app.

 

Available free storage

On a side note, the Redmi Note 4 sold in Singapore comes with 32GB internal storage space. After updating all the preloaded apps, available storage space out of the box is 21.92GB. If you need more storage space, the microSD memory card slot (which doubles as a micro-SIM card tray) supports memory card sizes up to 128GB in capacity.

Benchmark Performance

The Redmi Note 4 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core 2.0GHz processor and 3GB RAM.  We've already established in our earlier reviews of the ZenFone 3 and Moto Z Play that the Snapdragon 625 processor strikes a fine balance between performance and battery mileage, hence we are very eager to compare the Redmi Note 4 with the ZenFone 3 and Moto Z Play, as well as to see any performance advantage over the Redmi Note 3.

  Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 ASUS ZenFone 3 Moto Z Play
  Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 ASUS ZenFone 3 Moto Z Play
Launch SRP
  • From S$259
  • From S$299
  • From S$498
  • From S$699
Latest Price
  • From S$205
  • From S$185
  • From S$630
Operating system
  • MIUI 8.2 based on Android 6.0.1
  • Android 5.1.1 with MIUI 7
  • Android 6.0 with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
  • Android 6.0 OS (Marshmallow)
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core 2.0GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 hexa-core 1.8GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core, 2.0GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 5.5-inch / IPS / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (~401 ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / Super AMOLED
Camera
  • Rear: 13-megapixel BSI CMOS camera with ultra-fast 0.1s PDAF technology
  • Front: 5-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with 5-element lens, f/2.0, 78° wide-angle lens and a two-tone flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel with f/2.0 and face recognition
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, TriTech AutoFocus, 4-axis OIS
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/2.0
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture
  • Front: 5-megapixel, f/2.2 aperture
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou positioning, micro-USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct
  • GPS, AGPS, GLONASS and BeiDou positioning
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, USB 2.0 Type-C, Wi-Fi Direct
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/g/b/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE + EDR, USB-C, 3.5mm audio
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 64GB storage (expandable via microSD to 2TB)
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 2TB MicroSD
Battery
  • 4,100mAh
  • 4,050mAh
  • 3,000 mAh
  • 3,510mAh
Dimensions
  • 151 x 76 x 8.4mm
  • 150 x 76 x 8.65mm
  • 152.59 x 77.38 x 7.69 mm
  • 156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99mm
Weight
  • 165g
  • 164g
  • 155g
  • 165g

 

SunSpider

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. While the Redmi Note 4 competes favorably against the ZenFone 3, it lags behind the Redmi Note 3 by a wide margin and the Z Play by a fair bit. 

For your reference, the Redmi Note 4 scored 31.06 for the JetStream benchmark – this is a new test where we're gathering test data, so we'll be a while more before we can fully report all results based on this test.

 

Quadrant

Quadrant benchmarks a device’s CPU, I/O, and GPU performance. Unlike the SunSpider Javascript benchmark, the Redmi Note 4 takes the lead here with a slight margin over the ZenFone 3, and a healthy margin over the  Z Play.

 

3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited

3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test uses a mix of graphics and physics tests to measure hardware performance. The first test measures the GPU’s ability to process lots of vertices, while the second does the same thing with lots of pixels and post-processing effects. Finally, the physics test switches the load to the CPU to test its ability to process physics simulations, while keeping GPU load low. The performance of the Redmi Note 4 is comparable to its rivals, but the Redmi Note 3 clearly outshines the Snapdragon 625-powered devices in this benchmark. 

For your own reference, the Redmi Note 4 scored 829 for the 3DMark Sling Shot benchmark – we're still gathering companion results for this new benchmark, but as with 3DMark results, the higher the score, the better.

 

Camera Performance

Housed at the rear of the Redmi Note 4 is a 13-megapixel CMOS BSI camera sensor with 1.12μm pixels, 0.1s ultra-fast PDAF, f/2.0 aperture and dual-tone LED flash. Though the megapixel count is lower than that of the Redmi Note 3 (16-megapixel), the larger pixel area than the Redmi Note 4 allows the sensor to capture more light, which will benefit in low light conditions. Video recording resolution support is up to 1080p and you can capture images while recording. The front-facing camera is no slouch either; you get a 5-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture.  

Click to enlarge image.

Click to enlarge image.

The Redmi Note 4 generally delivered great images in normal lighting conditions. There are plenty of details, but images tend to look soft at times. Focusing was fast. When it comes to low light photography, the Redmi Note 4 struggled with murky details and high noise levels. This was to be expected from a phone of this class and price point, despite the larger photosites on the sensor.

 

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

Although the Redmi Note 4 has the biggest battery capacity among the phones compared, it did not last as long or longer than the ZenFone 3 and Moto Z Play. It managed to outlast its predecessor by a mere 37 minutes though.

What puzzled us more is the fact that the ZenFone 3 and Moto Z Play could last longer despite having the same processor, same display size and screen resolution. The two phones also have smaller battery capacities. In fact, the Moto Z Play lasted 68% longer! This goes to show that the power consumption figures are very much lower on the competition to bring about the battery life observed in our testing.

The only logical explanations could be the use of a more power efficient Super AMOLED display and better power management on the Moto Z Play. The Redmi Note 4 and ZenFone 3 both utilize IPS LCD panels.

 

Conclusion

Xiaomi continues to bring great value to consumers with its Redmi Note series. It has found the right formula for delivering an unrivaled device in its price point - solid design with some refinements for a more premium look and feel, a great design, fast fingerprint reader, smooth MIUI 8 navigation, an overall good performance with decent image quality.  Although it fell short of its counterparts in battery mileage, the Redmi Note 4 is on-par in the other benchmark tests.

At just S$259, the Redmi Note 4 delivers more bang for the buck than its rivals, the S$498 ZenFone 3 and S$699 Moto Z Play. For an under S$300 device, Xiaomi has a great offering for consumers with a tight budget. For consumers who can afford to spend a little more, the ZenFone 3 is an obvious choice due to a more refreshing design, more RAM (4GB vs. 3GB), double the internal storage space (64GB vs. 32GB), superior battery performance and optical image stabilization for the rear camera. The Moto Z Play is another consideration, although the additional costs of its modules may turn you off. However, its astonishing battery life is one aspect that many consumers will appreciate.

All said and done, would we recommend the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4? Without a doubt, yes! At its price point, it's just amazing how complete and fulfilling a device you're getting that can go toe-to-toe with devices that cost up to twice its price. It's hard to go wrong with this phone and we reckon many might even consider getting it as their secondary/backup device. It's also fine as your main device if your budget is tight, but as pointed above, the costlier devices do have their own appeal that you will appreciate when looking for an even more capable primary device.