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Xiaomi Redmi Note 3G review: The best budget phablet

Posted by admin, at 4 December 2014

After some delay, Xiaomi's budget phablet, Redmi Note has finally reached the Indian shores. The company, known for its 'value for money' devices, also unveiled the 4G-enabled version of the phablet for the market.


While the Redmi 1S targets the entry-level segment, the Redmi Note is suited for people who want a big screen phone along with relatively superior hardware and the same MIUI software experience offered by Xiaomi's other devices. We've been using the 3G variant of the Note and try to help you in deciding if it's worth a buy.

Build and design

The Redmi Note is a big phone and is clearly not meant for people who desire to use their device with one hand.

It shares the same design language that we've seen in Redmi 1S complete with the red coloured navigation buttons, rectangular slab form factor with rounded corners and a removable back cover that wraps around the edges.

However, the phone is pretty wide at 78.7mm. We received the 3G version of the phone as our review unit which weighs 199gram. The back cover is rounded at the edges and is white in colour, sporting a glossy finish. It's a little slippery so it's best to put on a case if you're careless with your phones. The back is also slightly prone to smudging.



Removing the back cover reveals the battery compartment, two regular sized sim card slots and a microSD card slot. The battery is removable. It is easy to take the cover off.

The right edge features metallic keys for volume and power.The keys are not very tactile but offer a good response. The 3.5mm jack is placed at the top edge while the micro-USB port is at the bottom.

In terms of build quality, the Redmi Note feels extremely durable and we did not encounter any squeaks or wobbles even though the phone has a removable cover. It doesn't feel very premium though.

Display

Xiaomi Redmi Note sports a 5.5-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280x720p. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and looks bright and vibrant.



While the display doesn't look as sharp as 1080p (full-HD) displays, it offers wide viewing angles and decent sunlight legibility. We also found the display panel and capacitive touch buttons to be very responsive to touch.

Software
Xiaomi Redmi Note runs MIUI, a heavily customized version of Android. You would be familiar with the MIUI ROM if you're an Android enthusiast and like flashing different ROMs on your device. The ROM is available for a large number of Android phones and tablets.

While the MIUI software is based on Android, the interface looks totally different. For some reason the 3G version of Redmi Note is still on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, which is a pity.

The UI is devoid of an app drawer and app icons and widgets are spread across the home screens. The unified home screen-app launcher style may come across as user-friendly to people who have not used an Android phone before. But it will take some time to get used to if you have already been using an Android smartphone. You can of course download and install an alternate launcher.

Xiaomi has promised that it will update the software to Android 4.4 KitKat in Q1 2015.

Just like the Redmi 1S, the Redmi Note also offers a Lite Mode that features a simplified Home screen and menus. One can switch to the Lite Mode by going to the Settings and enabling the mode under the General Settings tab. The phone reboots to the Lite mode which looks a bit like Windows Phone with its big tiles for most core apps, large fonts and simplified versions of phone and messages apps.

The Lite Mode is good for first time smartphone users and the elderly since it doesn't overwhelm with the hundreds of options, settings and apps part of the Android smartphone experience. One can reboot to the full-fledged UI mode by going to the Settings app and disabling Lite Mode via the system settings.

For a detailed review of the software, you can read our Xiaomi Mi 3 review.
Xiaomi Mi 3 review: Redefining value for money

Camera
Xiaomi Redmi Note sports a 13MP rear camera accompanied by an LED flash and a 5MP front facing camera. The rear camera supports 1080p video recording while the front camera supports 720p recording.


The camera app is similar to the one on the Mi 3, offering 'Simple' as well as an 'Advanced' mode with the latter offering granular settings for contrast, saturation, sharpness, anti banding, and exposure, among others. It also offers HDR, Panorama, Burst modes in addition to filters. The video mode offers standard and fast motion recording options.



Images captured by the camera in day light turned out well with decent level of detail and good contrast. Images shot in macro mode also look good.

Images shot in low-light, without flash, were grainy and full of noise, though. Video recording quality was above average.



We did face some issues trying to focus, especially while shooting close-ups. The front camera is also good for clicking selfies and for video calls.

Performance

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3G is powered by a 1.7GHz MediaTek MT6589T octa-core processor, and has 2GB RAM. It comes with 8GB internal storage out of which 6.3GB is available to the user. It also features a microSD card slot that supports storage cards of up to 32GB.

We noticed there was occasional lag while navigating through the phone's menu, browsing the web and multimedia and scrolling inside apps. The transition effects of MIUI also tend to slow down things a bit and unfortunately, there's no way to turn these off. These effects are visible while opening and closing apps and expanding folders.



In synthetic benchmarks, Redmi Note beats higher priced phones like the Moto G by a margin. The phone scored 32,237 in Antutu, 14,972 in Quadrant and 61.6 in Nenamark 2 benchmark tests.

The phone was able to play full-HD video files including MKV files without any problems.

Connectivity features of the device include 2G, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and microUSB 2.0. It also supports USB On-the-Go, so you can use an adapter (or a micro-USB equipped drive) to connect USB storage devices.

Redmi Note offers good call quality and signal reception and we did not encounter issues while making calls even in areas where cell signal is relatively weaker. The phone was able to lock to GPS without any hiccups.

It offers FM radio with recording capability. The phone offers customized audio settings for different kinds of headphones and offers excellent quality sound output with headphones on. However, the phone doesn't come with headphones and you'll need to buy them separately.

The external speaker also offers loud sound output though quality is average. The outlet is located at the back and the sound gets muffled when the phone is placed on a soft surface.

It packs a 3100mAh battery (removable) and will last you a more than a full working day (17-18 hours) if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and use 3G data all the time. You'll be able to make about 1-2 hours of phone calls, play some casual games and browse the web in this time period. It lasted more than 20 hours with light to medium usage.

Your mileage may vary with different usage patterns. The phone offers three power modes and you can choose the economy mode to save some juice.

Gaming

We were able to play games like Temple Run 2 without encountering frame drops or freezes. We were also able to play Asphalt 8 encountering minor lag and stutter occasionally.

Verdict

The Redmi Note is better than most budget phablets available in the market, when it comes to hardware specifications. The camera resolution is also higher and the processor, more powerful.

However, in terms of performance, the device slightly lags behind (quite literally) its budget sibling and other rivals.

At Rs 8,999, the Redmi Note delivers the bang for your buck if you're in the market for a good phablet with an excellent battery life and don't mind the occasional stutter and older operating system.

It's worth mentioning that the 4G variant of the phone will be the cheapest 4G device around when it launches in the coming weeks. If you want a more future-proof device at a slightly higher price, we would recommend waiting for the Redmi Note 4G.

If you're not really looking for a big screen, the Asus ZenFone 5 is also a good alternative. It comes with decent specifications and almost costs the same.

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