Consumers were pleasantly surprised when Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note in early 2014, with the extremely affordable smartphone offering specifications and features beyond what its price point would suggest. A year later, and the affordable smartphone segment has become increasingly competitive. At a price range below $200, where the original Redmi Note was once king, its successor, the Redmi Note 2, may have a harder go of it.
The follow up brings some key enhancements over the original, but is it enough to stand strong against the tough opposition? We find out, in this in-depth Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 review!
Like its predecessor, the Redmi Note 2 features a large 5.5-inch display, but borrows its design language cues from Xiaomi’s newer releases, like the Xiaomi Mi 4i. There is a striking resemblance between the two smartphones, including the soft touch plastic rear with a matte finish, but while the smaller smartphone comes with an unibody design, the rear cover of the Redmi Note 2 can be removed, allowing for access to the battery, microSD card slot, and dual micro-SIM card slots.
Going around the device, the volume rocker is found above the power button on the right side, and the headphone jack and microUSB port are placed up top and at the bottom respectively. The Redmi Note 2 also adds an IR blaster, and the capacitive navigation keys up front below the display are now illuminated and of a red color. The power button and volume rocker don’t offer as much tactile feedback as one may hope for, but there are certainly no issues as far as responsiveness is concerned.
Despite featuring the same display size, Redmi Note 2 comes with a smaller footprint when compared to its predecessor, and manages to be significantly thinner and lighter as well, allowing for a far improved handling experience. The matte finish on the rear helps with the grip as well, and some users should also be able to manage comfortable one-handed use with the device.
The Redmi Note 2 comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display like its predecessor, but sees a bump in the resolution from 720p to Full HD, resulting in a higher pixel density of 401 ppi. This is a significant upgrade, but a necessary one, given the fact that some of the competition in this price range also feature 1080p screens. The display is of course, sharp and offers excellent viewing angles, but the contrast and vividness of the colors could have used a boost. It’s definitely not a bad display by any means, but it certainly isn’t the best out there, even when compared to other similarly-priced smartphones like the Meizu M2 Note.
Under the hood, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6795 Helio X10 processor, clocked at either 2 GHz or 2.2 GHz depending on the version of the device you pick, backed by the PowerVR G6200 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. The processing package is another marked improvement from its predecessor, and as such, addresses all the performance concerns that plagued the original.
Day to day performance with the Redmi Note was excellent, and everything remained smooth and snappy throughout, and things should get even better with the upcoming rollout of MIUI 7. The device also handles multi-tasking well, but there were a few instances of stutter and lag when it came to gaming, which is a bit of a let down. The phone also did heat up during processor-intensive tasks, but it wasn’t so much as to make the device uncomfortable to hold.
The Redmi Note 2 comes with either 16 GB or 32 GB versions, with the top-end model featuring 4G LTE connectivity with both SIM slots, and also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options. Given that this is the Chinese model of the phone, there is expandable storage available via microSD card by up to 32 GB, but it is unclear whether the international version will have this feature. With this version, it was possible to only get HSPA+ connectivity on the AT&T network, so it is a good idea to check for compatibility with your home networks before picking up this phone.
The IR blaster functions as expected, although the in-built Mi Remote app may not be compatible with some televisions. Third-party apps are available however, to allow for support with many other TVs. Overall, this is a very nice addition, which isn’t expected with a device that falls in this price range. The rear speaker of the Redmi Note 2 sounds really good, and offers adequate volume to be heard even in somewhat noisy environments. The distortion isn’t as much as seen with previous Xiaomi smartphones, and the only drawback here is its placement on the rear. This is certainly one of the better audio experiences that can be had when compared to other devices that are priced at below $200.
The Redmi Note 2 comes with a 3,060 mAh battery, but despite its size, the battery life isn’t as good as expected. With Wi-Fi on for most of the day, and the screen brightness set to auto, the phone was able to manage 4 hours of screen-on time at most, and lasted for around 12 hours overall. Toning down the usage resulted in the battery life going up to 15 hours, but with only 2 hours and 15 minutes of screen-on time. The battery drain is surprisingly significant when the phone is in the idle state, but hopefully, this is a software issue that can be fixed in future updates. If battery life is a concern, the battery of the Redmi Note 2 is removable, which gives you the option of carrying around a spare.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 comes with a 13 MP rear camera with a LED flash and phase detection auto focus, and also packs a 5 MP front-facing unit. While the auto focus is very fast, the actual performance of the camera itself is just about average, as there is a noticeable lack in detail and sharpness in images. As far as the camera application is concerned, there are many different camera modes available, and the manual mode allows for more granular control over aspects like white balance and ISO.
The Redmi Note 2 ships with MIUI 6 based on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, but will soon receive an official update to MIUI 7. MIUI is a very different experience from stock Android, but does have a lot of positives, such as the ability to re-organize the quick toggles, adjust the brightness even when auto brightness is on, and also customize what information is seen in the status bar, along with the option to change the display color temperature or contrast.
You can also change the look and feel of the user interface by taking advantage of the robust theme store that is available, as well as change the functions of the capacitive keys. Useful applications that are pre-installed include the Mi Sound Enhancer and the Xiaomi Backup app, that lets you back up app data, as well as launcher layouts, settings, and account information, without requiring root access to do so.
Of course, MIUI is not without its drawbacks either, such as the fact that you cannot dismiss notifications from the lock screen, or access any other app from it other than the camera. There is also no app drawer, leaving users dependent on folders to keep things organized and clutter-free. A significant drawback with this Chinese version of the phone is also the lack of any Google Apps, but if you pick up the device after its official release in international markets, this won’t be an issue.
|Display||5.5-inch IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi|
|Processor||2/2.2 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6795 Helio X10|
PowerVR G6200 GPU
|Storage||16/32 GB, expandable up to 32 GB|
|Camera||13 MP rear camera with LED flash |
5 MP front camera
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, FM Radio, IR Blaster|
|OS||MIUI OS 6 based on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop|
|Colors||white, yellow, pink, grey, blue|
|Dimensions||152 x 76 x 8.3 mm|
Pricing and final thoughts
The Chinese version of the device starts at just $140, with the Prime version, which comes with 32 GB of storage and both SIM slots capable of LTE support, priced at $156, and the price point is expected to be quite similar with the international version of the phone itself. Available color options currently include white, black, yellow, blue, or pink.
So there you have it for this closer look at the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2! This smartphone is an excellent option, especially when considering its price, with it featuring a nice design, powerful processing package, and great software experience. The average camera performance is to be expected, but the disappointing battery life is certainly a letdown however. Overall, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 is one of the better options available in this price range, and things should be even better with the international version of the phone, which will come with Google Apps pre-installed as well.