Xiaomi is a company that you may or may not heard of but is one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world. Considered as the Apple of China, your only way of getting a Xiaomi device is by import. And this is exactly what I did to get my hands on one of their most popular mid-ranged smartphones, the Redmi Note 4.
Before delving in, a bit of backstory on why I choose this device in particular. My main phone is the Nexus 6P. It's served me well, but over time I’ve had problems with the device. The battery drained to the point where I was having to keep it topped up. To add insult to injury, the device’s USB-C port was worn down to the point where I needed to hold the cable in to keep it charging. It was frustrating, and although I’ve gone ahead and booked a warranty repair for my Nexus 6P, in the meantime I needed a phone.
I didn’t have a spare and I didn’t want to get a new contract. The best option was to get a new phone. I had thought about getting a dirt cheap phone, something completely usable as a spare phone. Instead, I decided to delve into the Chinese market and import one.
I am no stranger to imports. I have in the past bought cheap Windows/Android Tablets from China and my 27” 1440p monitor was from South Korea. All arrived with no issues. These were never of a premium quality, but I knew what to expect for the price I paid. This was my expectation with the Redmi Note 4, but to my surprise, the device exceeded this.
The packaging isn’t particularly exciting, so there isn’t much to say. What is included though, is a non-UK charger, micro-USB cable and your usual documentation.
The Redmi Note 4 itself is impressive. At a price of £130, you’d never expect to receive a phone with a full aluminium body and a 5.5” Full HD IPS screen, but Xiaomi has done just that. And that’s just the start as the specs aren’t a slouch either. The International model I purchased features: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 (Octa-core up to 2.0Ghz), 3GB RAM, 32GB, micro-SD card support (up to 256GB) and an impressive 4,100 Mah battery.
There is also a fingerprint reader, which is very quick and accurate, a 13MP camera on the back and 5MP camera on the front. The bottom has your micro-USB port and two speaker grills. The sound quality is fine, but since it’s a mono speaker, you'd be better off sticking to Bluetooth speakers or headphones using the headphone jack on top.
The front glass, while not Gorilla Glass (something else close to), is 2.5D which adds slightly curved edges. It's nothing extravagant and is a bit of cosmetic flair. There are also three capacitive buttons on the bottom for navigation. Although the back and recent apps buttons are opposite to other Android devices, which is a pain at first, they’re responsive and if need be, can be switched around from the settings menu.
It's an impressively well-built device for the price, and rivals some of the more expensive premium smartphones out there. I’ve been using the device for about a month and I’ve had little to no problems. As it is the international model, there were no problems connecting to O2 and using 4G. The WiFi signal, however, is a little lacking compared to my Nexus 6P but nothing troubling. The only downside in specific device support is NFC: it isn’t supported. A shame as I used Android Pay on my old device. Nonetheless, everything performed as you’d expect.
Performance is excellent. The mid-ranged Snapdragon 625 paired with 3GBs of RAM is great for multitasking and gets along with the 1080p screen without any noticeable lag. The software took some getting used to. It runs on a custom version of Android 6.0 called MIUI, which is Xiaomi’s own version of Android. It’s baked into the OS and takes on a iOS feel. It’s easily replaced by any number of other launchers out there. I used Nova Launcher for a while but chose to stick to MIUI for its wide support of customisation. Included are Themes and Forums, both supported by the MIUI community. Themes allow you to customise every aspect of the device with a variety of themes and surprise, many are based off iOS.
The Redmi Note 4 has one of the best battery life cycles I’ve ever seen on a smartphone. Seriously, the phone easily lasts more than a day without charge, whether it be browsing the web, watching YouTube, chatting on Discord or some light gaming. The 4,100 Mah battery makes a real difference. Standby time was also excellent: I rarely had to charge the device. When it does come time to charge, it isn’t the fastest as it lacks any quick-charge feature, but that’s far from a deal breaker.
Lastly, let’s discuss the camera quality. The device comes with a 13MP rear camera and 5MP “selfie” camera on the front. The camera supports autofocus, a fast shutter, dual-LED, HDR, 1080p video recording, as well as slow-mo recording at 720p. There are some extra options for tweaking and editing included as well. Photos came out bright and clear but were a little soft in some shots. Same for the low-light shots, which also came out well using the dedicated night mode.
Never have I been impressed by such a cheap mobile phone, especially one imported from China. Still, getting hold of the device requires patience. I ordered mine from Banggood.com, they offered free postage but this doesn’t take into account import tax. I had pay £17 to DHL to have the device delivered, which took around 10 days. It was worth the wait as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is one the best mid-range smartphones available.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Review
If you're willing to take the plunge and import, then have no worry about getting the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. I can easily recommend it: For the price, it makes a perfect spare phone or as a backup for travels without having to compromise on quality, speed and usability.