Xiaomi tarnished its reputation in India with its out-right insulting way of selling phones, flash sales. But that didn't deter lacks of people trying to get one Mi 3 or Redmi 1S, while most returning empty handed. Why you ask people would go to such lengths, the pricing? The Redmi 1S comes with a 4.7-inch HD IPS display, quad-core Snapdragon 400 with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB expandable storage, 8 MP primary and 1.6 MP front-camera: priced at Rs. 5999. That’s why Xiaomi, in a very-very short time has able to capture both media attention and marketshare. But specs alone don’t matter, what’s more important is user-experience, right from when you click that Buy button down right to actually using the phone. That’s where it falters, but there’s more to the story. Find out in our Review of the Xiaomi Redmi 1S.
- Good Display
- Decent Build Quality
- Good Cameras
- Software Features, Ease of Use
- Heats up in General Use
- Below Average Performance
- Battery Drain
- MIUI too Resource Intensive
- Apps, Games Crash
Don’t get me wrong, you are getting real value for money here with the Redmi 1S. With specs equivalent to the Moto G at half the price, you just can’t go wrong. Here are the key specs:
- Display: 4.7-inch HD IPS, 1280x720 Pixels 312 PPI, Dragontrail Scratch Resistant Glass
- Processor: 1.6 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 MSM8228
- GPU: Adreno 305
- OS: Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with MIUI on top
- Camera: 8 MP Rear Camera with BSI Sensor, 1.6 MP Front Camera
- Memory: 1 GB RAM, 8 GB ROM expandable up to 64 GB
- Connectivity: 3G, Dual-SIM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM Radio, GPS
- Battery: 2000 mAh
Out of the 8 GB ROM you have about 6.14 GB as Internal Storage and you can’t move apps to the SD card. USB OTG is also supported. GPS too works well on the Redmi 1S and it is able to find location quickly when you are outside.
This is an excellent mix of specs and we sure got good results in our benchmark tests which you can see below:
- AnTuTu: 21390
- Quadrant: 11015
- NenaMark 2: 57.1
- Vellamo HTML 5: 1693
- Vellamo Metal: 891
These are excellent results when it comes to the Snapdragon 400 SoC, you can see a detailed comparison in our Benchmarks post.
The first impression you get when you see the Redmi 1S is that its bulky. To an extent that’s true as well since it weighs in at 158 grams, which is a bit much considering it houses a 4.7-inch display and relatively thick as well just shy of 10mm. You can easily use the phone in one hand thanks to the rounded sides, but the overall boxy look of the phone doesn't help its cause.
In the front you have the usual set of proximity and light sensors right up top with the 1.6 MP front-facing camera alongwith the earpiece which has a black grill, just below it is the 4.7-inch HD IPS display which is protected from scratches by Asahi Dragontrail Glass. There is a bit of a lip to the front panel as well which might protect the display in case of a face-front impact. Then there are the capacitive buttons for Menu, Home and Back, in that very order. They are colored Red (Redmi) and don’t light up and there’s a RGB notification LED just below the home button. The Notification LED is a bit finicky and works when it wants to.
Moving to the left you will see a barren landscape with a dual-tone finish given the front-panel is glossy black while the rear is dark grey (Metal Grey). At the top you have the 3.5mm audio jack while the micro-USB port has been shifted to the bottom of the device.
The power button and volume rocker can be found on the right, both sturdy with good feedback. Moreover, they are placed in the correct place so that they are reachable with just your thumb. But when you actually get around to doing that, you can hear the back-cover creaking at the lower-left and back. Not something I like, at all. It makes the device feel cheap and not well made. This is not an isolated issue, we have heard other people complain of build issues as well.
At the bottom you have the micro-USB data-syncing and charging port alongwith the primary microphone. Moving to the back you have the 8 MP primary camera with BSI sensor, LED flash, secondary noise cancellation microphone as well as the speakerphone. The design is quite restrained which is not necessarily a bad thing. The shiny embossed “MI” logo at the bottom breaks the monotonicity of the back-cover. The back-cover in itself seems sturdy, has a matte finish which makes it easier to grip but when on the phone it begins to creak.
On opening the back-cover you are greeted to two full-size SIM card slots and a micro-SD card slot which can take up to 64 GB cards. Just below the SIM card slots there’s the battery compartment which houses the phone’s 2000 mAh battery. Overall the build of the device is nothing to write home about, given the price I could have let the bulkiness go but with the creaking back-cover this definitely gets a minus.
The 4.7-inch HD display is a huge plus on the Redmi 1S. Its bright, sharp and has good color reproduction. Colors might seem a bit warm, but I would still give it a thumbs up. Being an IPS panel it has wide viewing angles and is quite viewable outside.
The glossy scratch resistant glass in the front does make the display a bit too reflective and is also prone to fingerprints, but hey, you can’t win them all. There was no ghosting or freezing when we played games or even in general use. The touch response is quick as well. You can also customize the color profile of the display in terms of color temperature an saturation with presets.
Network & Call Quality
We didn't have any major network issues with the phone but call-quality could definitely have been better.
Even with the dual-mic noise cancellation sound just isn't that clear, moreover the earpiece just isn't that loud. However, calls over the speakerphone seemed fine, which is loud and doesn't crackle at full volume.
Wi-Fi Hotspot, USB and Bluetooth Tethering is also available, they work fine. USB OTG is also supported on the device as is FM Radio. Moreover on the connectivity front the Redmi 1S is a dual-SIM 3G device. GPS with GLONASS support is also present and it is able to locate quickly when you are outside, moreover with the help of Magnetic Field Sensor, navigation is better. There is a clever Do Not Disturb mode which blocks all notifications when enabled, you can also set a time when the DND mode will automatically be enabled everyday.
The Redmi 1S comes with a 8 MP primary and 1.6 MP front facing shooter. The Camera UI is easy to use and comes with several advanced settings including ISO control, exposure settings and more. You can capture 1080p videos with the rear camera which come out sharp with clear audio thanks to noise-reduction.
Image quality is decent as well, especially in well-lit conditions. Color reproduction is generally accurate but you have to rely on tap-to-focus since auto-focusing is not that quick. But in brightly lit conditions, the BSI Sensor equipped camera tries to overcompensate, making images a bit over-exposed.
Color saturation in images tends towards a cooler hue most of the time.
Music Playback & Bundled Headset
You don’t get a bundled headset with the phone, so you are left with your old cans or run out to get a new pair. Music playback is rather good on the Redmi 1S. Listening to music over the audio jack is a better experience even with budget earphones. Moreover you can customize the sound quality with Xiaomi's sound engine which is inbuilt.
It improves sound quality quite a lot but does add a little digital distortion or smoothing to the mix which might be a bit off-putting to the audiophile. You can get a purer sound quality by disabling the sound effects altogether. But the speakerphone on the Redmi 1S is not that loud, its clear and doesn't crackle but you are left wanting more.
The music player is pretty basic however, you do have shake to skip feature which allows you to move to the next song in a playlist by just shaking your phone. There are no issues with music playback, there is no jitter and almost all audio codecs are supported including MP3, AAC, WAV, OGG right out of the box. FM Radio also works well, you also have FM Recording built-in.
You can play 1080p videos on the Redmi 1S without a hitch and they look stunning on that 720p HD IPS display. There is no ghosting or freezing. Videos look sharp and vibrant on this display.
AVI, 3GP, MP4 videos are supported out of the box and you can get support for more with the MXPlayer and other such multi-format video players available in the Play Store.
The Redmi 1S runs a heavy skin over Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. It is so heavily customised that it looks more like iOS than Android. Starting with the launcher, you don’t have a separate app drawer instead you just have homescreens with rows of apps and widgets. There is a bottom bar which remains fixed, like iOS. Xiaomi has said that it will be updating the Redmi 1S to Android 4.4 KitKat soon. But for the time-being, MIUI is a really heavy, resource-intensive skin which makes the device feel clunky in its software as well. This degrades performance, sometimes to even a stand still and the phone crawls to a halt, abruptly restarting or prompting you to restart it to get things working again.
But MIUI is infinitely customizable. You can install a number of themes to change the entire look of the OS alongwith the lockscreen, notification toggles, wallpaper as well as sounds. You can add widgets by long tapping on any of the homescreens, change the wallpaper or even the transitions between them.
The notification shade can be customized with the toggles you want. I particularly found the screenshot toggle as well as the brightness slider much useful.
In the default settings the home button opens up Google Now on long tap while the menu button, on long tap opens up the task manager which just shows a horizontal scrolling list of apps alongwith option to clear memory.
Even this is customizable so you can say what the capacitive buttons should do on long tap.
As I had said earlier, there is a small notification LED just below the Home button. You can customize it with what color it should show for various apps or events.
You also have a security app built-in using which you can clean cache, run a virus check, create a blocklist for calls and messages alogwith app permissions.
The Redmi 1S comes with Swiftkey keyboard pre-installed with gesture functionality. Web-browsing is smooth over both the default as well as Chrome browser. Scrolling is fast and pinch-to-zoom is fluid, however text & image rendering does take a little bit of time. The display is sharp which does make viewing text easier.
You get about 6 GB of internal storage available out of the 8 GB ROM. Apps are not movable to the external storage but USB OTG is supported.
In terms of general use the UI does become a bit bogged down if you have several apps open. RAM optimization is not something that the Redmi 1S is good at. With heavy apps or many tabs open in Chrome you would see a considerable loss in performance as well as lag. Moreover, the phone heats-up in general use as well as during gaming, which is a serious downer. It doesn't matter what you are doing on the phone, even normal tasks like calling, reading emails heats-up the Redmi 1S considerably.
We also saw apps crash as a result of poor RAM management. But these issues were more or less resolved with the new update. However, we have seen a bit of thermal throttling at work here with gaming and general use. The Redmi 1S goes get heated up in general use as well.
Gaming is a hit and miss with here. Most high-end games are playable but you would see that occasional lag here and there along with framedrop. But the major issue here is over-heating, the Redmi 1S heats up with just a few minutes of gaming.
The display however performs well, there is no issue with multitouch and no freezing either.
You can get upto a day of medium use and with heavy use including gaming for more than 10 minutes you will have to charge the phone overnight. But WiFi as well as using the camera drains battery really fast.
The Redmi 1S took the Indian market by storm, given its excellent specs on paper for a budget price of Rs. 5999. But that doesn't translate into usability. It heats-up in general use, the UI becomes unresponsive at times, apps crash and the performance degrades over time.
So what’s killing this promising device, in a word it’s the software. The heavy MIUI skin uses too much RAM on its own leaving very little for the apps. Although Xiaomi has already sent out a few updates to address this issues, we still are far from seeing a complete resolution. Therefore, for the time being you should give the Redmi 1S a miss till we get a complete resolution of its software issues or you can keep this phone as a backup.