[First impressions] Xiaomi Redmi: Rock-solid, value-for-money smartphone

Xiaomi Redmi
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It’s amazing to see how much the budget- to mid-range smartphone market has changed over the past year. The price-to-performance ratio continues to be redefined, sometimes by the usual bigwigs like Samsung, Sony or Nokia, and sometimes by young upstarts like Xiaomi. The rise of the China mobile brand has been phenomenal, and it is set for a proper presence in Malaysia. We couldn’t wait of course, and got our hands on the Xiaomi Redmi from Singapore, just S$169 retail. You may have already checked out the unboxing pics, so read on for a quick first impressions.

Neat little package

The Redmi looks modest and pleasant overall, with the red version a little more in your face. It’s got a typical full touch-screen candybar design, encased, unapologetically in plastic. The plastics and build quality are good though and the Redmi is also heavier than it looks. At 158g it carries some reassuring weight for its size.

The back cover thankfully is of a matte finish, so less of a fingerprint magnet than a glossy one.

Feature-rich goodness

The Redmi packs a 4.7-inch HD IPS display (312PPI), slightly lower than the Moto G‘s 326PPI, but coincidently the same pixel density as the iPhone 5. While not a Full HD display, sharpness and brightness is good for images and text.

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The quad-core MediaTek MT6589 processor running at 1.5Ghz is no scorcher in benchmarks as seen on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 and other budget- to mid-range phones. Having said that, benchmarks don’t necessarily always tell the whole story.

It packs just 1GB of RAM, but the Redmi copes very well overall with half a dozen apps running, with 3D games thrown in for good measure.

What makes it fly, is the MIUI layer that sits on top of Android 4.2.2. It’s polished, intuitive, snappy and honestly, one of the best user interfaces I’ve experienced on a budget phone. Because it’s so light and fast, you’ll forget that it’s got just 1GB RAM, and that MediaTek number. It’s exceptionally good, no kidding.

The other great thing about MIUI is its customisability. Go crazy with the 5,000 MIUI themes that are available at your fingertips from the Xiaomi Theme store. Anything from nothing to US$2. That’s not all, you’re able to customise features as well.

Xiaomi has chosen not to skimp on the camera and as such packed a highly-capable 8MP f/2.2 main shooter with snappy autofocus. It’s not going to trouble the iPhone 5s in imaging stakes, but heck, this is RM500 you’re talking about.

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It’s got Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, your typical array of smartphone sensors and dual-SIM support.

In the battery stakes, little Redmi packs 2,000mAh battery that given my ferocious battery-eating prowess, still powers me through 1.5 days, I’d say I’m impressed.

Initial verdict

A year and a bit ago, I’d completely avoid anything in the ‘junk’ Android market. That means, nothing below RM1,000, because many were just plain bad. Today, however, is a much different story.

For RM500 and a little bit more, the Xiaomi Redmi impresses. A neat package that packs sufficient firepower, features and refinement. Truthfully, there’s little to complain about or to dislike. Even Stuff magazine agrees, calling it “the best value-for-money Android smartphone.”

You can pick one up from IPMart or Lazada now, but it should be hitting Malaysian shores officially soon. Highly recommended.

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