Xiaomi has done it again? Or has it? We’re not about to keep you in suspense. Yeah, it actually has. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 is a cut-price phablet with specifications and performance far in excess of what you’re actually paying for the device.
For a certain kind of user (those with a South African salary, for instance), that’s the ‘SOLD’ dog-whistle right there. Performance that I should have paid more for? Where do I sign? South Africans love a deal, after all. That’s not enough for everyone, though. If you’re a smart shopper, you’re looking at more than just the price and you’re not just taking our word for it. Not till you get to the bottom of the page, anyway.
This time around the Xiaomi, in the form of a Redmi Note 2, is going meta with its impersonations. It looks like an HTC handset that is attempting to look like an Apple handset while all but straight-up stealing Samsung’s naming convention. That takes some serious nuggets (they’re not chicken, though) but Xiaomi is going to get away with it. Why? Because even though it’s got all these ‘influences’, the Redmi Note 2 is still its own phone. Visually.
The front is dominated by the 5.5in HD display, with its slightly thicker borders on top and bottom. The rear is a metal lookalike plastic panel that can be removed to reveal the removable battery (3,060mAh Lithium-polymer), microSD slot and dual-SIM slots. There’s an unwieldy charge port, which looks far too big at first glance, on the base of the phone. The volume rocker and power buttons are on the top right-hand side and there’s a headphone port on top. There are no configuration surprises but the Redmi Note 2 looks better than its less-than-premium materials would suggest.
Snacking on Apples
If the build is more plastic than you’re used to, there’s a reason for that. Xiaomi has opted for ‘competent’ in the engineering department so they can lob some very fast, very low-priced hardware at your face. In a good way, of course.
The headliner is the system-on-chip inside the Redmi Note 2, MediaTek’s MT6795. It’s a 64-bit octa-core chip with LTE and video support for screens up to 2K — meaning that it’s almost wasted on the Redmi Note 2 (we’re writing it out every time because ‘Samsung’). The 5.5in display is a straight 1,920×1,080. Still, more cycles to go elsewhere, right?
Xiaomi has gone for 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, with the aforementioned microSD space helping out with your storage wars after a couple of updates. There’s also a Redmi Note 2 Prime edition, which we’re not getting, that features 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. Considering the Redmi Note 2’s performance, we’re okay with missing it.
As usual, we bunged the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 through a couple of benchmarks. Also as usual, the handset obliterated expectations relative to the price you can expect to pay for it. That price, just in case you’re interested, is R3,000. No, there is no typo there.
Are you going to want to drop a quarter of the price of a Galaxy S6 (we’re using South African political math here, calm down)? Er… probably, yes.
Let’s see, we hit it with Geekbench 3 first and came out with single and multi-core scores of 938 and 4565 respectively. The single-core achievement is about on par with the Galaxy S5, while the multi-core is hovering around the Exynos-toting Galaxy S6 — but there’s a caveat there. Samsung’s score was set using the lower-frequency quad-core in the Exynos 7420 — the S6 is still the higher-performance handset by a large margin.
Xiaomi’s three-grand phone is still an epic little performer though, menu transitions are quick and the only lag has been put there by their MIUI 7.0 Android Lollipop skin. Sadly, but even then, it’s slight.
A more accurate picture comes from our AnTuTu run, which arrived at a score of 51,932. This is a little under the LG G4 and Google’s Nexus 6 and a satisfactory distance from the Galaxy S6’s record-breaking performance. Even so, you’re usually paying between R8,000 and R10,000 for the Redmi Note 2’s speed.
Now that we’re done gushing over actual performance, the camera has to be next on the list. Usually Xiaomi picks one section to sacrifice and this time around it’s not the cameras. The Redmi Note 2 totes a 13MP rear and 5MP front camera and camera performance is better than we would have expected.
Interior shots, the bane of crappy sensors, are more detailed and less noise-filled than expected. You can still generate noise in a gloomy enough setting but interior light should turn up decent picks. Outside images, in natural light (and some Johannesburg rain) are even better.
The rear sensor captures some impressive detail, without overblowing your shots. There’s an HDR option with the Redmi’s camera and this generates some very noticeable lag but the camera is speedy, if less intelligent, with HDR disabled.
We told you everything you needed to know in the opening paragraphs and if you stuck with it this far, then thanks. TL;DR? The Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 will cost you R3,000, performs like a phone three times as expensive and the only concession to cost is the plastic build. Even the camera kicks ass, in its own way. Should you get it? Yes.