Xiaomi heralded the age of affordable smartphones making the likes of Samsung and even local brands like Micromax take notice. The Redmi Note is no exception to Xiaomi's success in India. With a 5.5-inch HD display, octa-core processor, 2 GB RAM, 13 MP / 5 MP cameras and a price tag of just Rs. 8999, the Redmi Note is surely the device to beat in the sub Rs. 10000 segment. To an extent that's true but the company had to cut some corners to reach this price point. Find out more in our Full Review of the Redmi Note 3G.
- Vibrant Display, Wide Viewing Angles
- Good Cameras
- Excellent Pricing
- Good Build Quality
- Good Battery Life
- Low Speakerphone Volume
- Inconsistent Performance
- Apps Not Movable
- Still running outdated Android Jelly Bean
- Bit Heavy, Bulky
First, lets get the specs out of the way. The Redmi Note features spectacular specifications on paper, but how they translate to real world performance is entirely a different matter, but more on that later.
Here are the Key Specs of the Redmi Note 3G:
- 5.5-inch HD IPS Display
- 1.7 GHz Octa-core Processor, MediaTek MT6592
- Mali-450MP4 GPU
- 2 GB RAM, 8 GB ROM expandable up to 32 GB
- 13 MP Rear Camera with BSI Sensor, LED Flash, 1080p Video Recording
- 5 MP Front Camera
- 3G, Dual-SIM, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, FM Radio, GPS, USB OTG
- 3100 mAh Li-Po Battery
Here are the benchmark scores of the Redmi Note 3G, which are as impressive as the specs sound:
- AnTuTu: 32940
- Quadrant: 15115
- NenaMark 2: 61.6
- Vellamo Metal: 898
USB OTG is supported on the device, but apps are not movable to the external storage. You have about 5.4 GB available storage when you get the device which does fill up quickly if you install high-end games. GPS also works fine, and is able to locate quickly when you are outside. The magnetic field sensor also aides navigation.
The first time you hold the Redmi Note, you feel its size and bulk. Its not a small device by any means. Its 154 mm tall with a width of 78.7 mm, not the most single-hand use friendly device. Moreover, the 3100 mAh battery does add considerable bulk to the device. The Redmi Note 3G weighs in at 199 grams with 9.45 mm thickness.
On the left there is nothing, just the front panel meeting the glossy white back-cover. Moving to the right you have both the power/lock button and the volume rocker. Both are slightly textured and have a metallic color to them, seemingly a bit out of place. But they are sturdy and offer decent amount of travel.
At the top you have the secondary noise-cancellation mic alongwith the 3.5mm audio jack while the bottom houses the primary microphone and the microUSB to USB data-syncing/charging port. All ports are sturdy and cables don't wobble when firmly in place. There is something to be said about the build of the device, even at a budget price it does seem cheap.
At the back you have the primary 13 MP camera, LED flash just below it and then the speakerphone as well as MI branding at the bottom. Apart from that you have a clean surface giving the phone a very spartan look alongwith the Yin&Yang effect of the black front panel and white back panel. The back-panel is solid, doesn't bend or flex but is prone to fingerprints and smudges, although they are not that visible. The phone does tend to get a bit dirty especially the white back-cover which seems to attract dirt more than anything else.
Although there is no flair in design on the Redmi Note 3G, but there's something to be said about the overall aesthetic. More is less. The front panel houses the 5.5-inch HD IPs display clad in Corning Gorilla Glass 3 which makes it highly reflective. Just above the display you have the 5 MP front camera as well as the notification LED, proximity and light sensors alongwith the main earpiece, which is quite loud.
Below the display you can find the capacitive buttons, red in color and they are backlit as well. The bezels are considerably large, but then again you weren't thinking of using this phone in one hand anyway.
Overall the build quality is quite good but the hefty 3100 mAh battery does make the device rather bulky especially when compared to the Alcatel OneTouch Flash which features similar specs and battery weighing in at 40 grams less.
The 5.5-inch display is probably the best part about this phone apart from the huge battery. It is crisp, offers wide viewing angles and excellent color reproduction. There is no ghosting or freezing with even high-bitrate content. Moreover the touch-response is quite and effortless.
Although due to the highly-reflective nature of Gorilla Glass, outdoor visibility takes a hit and fingerprint smudges are another drawback. But you can clean them off easily by just wiping them off with a soft cloth. If you can get a matte screen-guard for the Redmi Note, it would be a true blessing. But overall I don't have any major gripes with the display.
Network & Call Quality
We didn't have any major network issues or outages even when we entered lobbies of large multi-storey buildings, in crowded environment or even during travel. But the noise-cancellation is really not that effective, be it wind noise or general commotion, its not filtered that well.
Other that that call quality is good, the earpiece is loud but the speakerphone disappoints. Although ringtones are more or less audible, you really can't carry on a conversation over the speakerphone even in a large hall. The speakerphone volume is just that low.
WiFi tethering, USB and Bluetooth Tethering all work fine, 3G speeds are also good especially if live in metro cities. The Redmi Note 3G is able to find location quickly using its inbuilt GPS with the aid of cell towers and aGPS. You also have a magnetic field sensor built in which aids navigation.
To begin with, this is by far the best camera on a smartphone you can get at this price point. Although it can't compete with the likes of mid-range Samsung and Sony smartphones but Xiaomi has done an excellent job with the 13 MP rear-camera's image processing algorithm. Images pop with color and good contrast levels, they are bright without being over-saturated and color reproduction is quite accurate.
Although you won't be winning any photography contests with the images taken, as the images do lack detail that a 13MP camera should otherwise be able to capture and are generally a bit fuzzy. But for your everyday celebrations, trips and social sharing, the Redmi Note's camera is more than enough. The front facing 5 MP camera too is able to take great selfies which are sharp and carries forward the good bits in image processing.
Auto-focusing is quick but when you try to take macro shots with distance less than 3-5 cms then you have to really on touch to focus more than autofocus. Generally images do turn out to be in focus, if the subject and you both are steady.
We have a separate Camera review for the Redmi Note including a 1080p video sample shot during day time. You can watch if above. The flash is quite useful in low-light scenarios but noise generally creeps in these shots.
Here are some image samples taken with the 13 MP rear camera of the Redmi Note 3G.
The speakerphone on the Redmi Note 3G is just too low in volume. Be it listening to music, watching movies or trying to carry on a conversation you just want the volume to increase even after you have clicked the volume rocker till the last remaining level.
Although the sound is crisp without any rattling or crackling but there just isn't enough of it. Probably not software issue and therefore I doubt that its fixable.
Music & Video Playback
The speakerphone is a bit of a letdown when you talk of music or video playback. But there are no issues with format support, stuttering and the likes. The default MIUI music player is a bit basic but you can download several from the Play Store, a good alternative is Google's own Play Music app.
You get inbuilt sound enhancement support based on the earbuds or headphones you use. You also have a configurable equalizer with presets. FM Radio is also supported alongwith stereo recording.
The Redmi Note can easily play 1080p videos without a hiccup and the basic formats including MKV, AVI, MP4, 3GP are supported and you can always install MXPlayer or VLC for Android to play other formats. Videos play smoothly without any ghosting.
The Redmi Note 3G still runs on the dated Android 4.2 Jelly Bean platform with MIUI v5 on top. So you get all the benefits of MIUI 5 which we saw on the Mi 3 and the Redmi 1S but running on slower, less secure innards.
Just like any other MIUI running device, the default launcher shows a grid on icons at the bottom which are fixed and the rest of the app icons appear on different homescreens. There is no app-drawer but you can organize apps into folders. MIUI is quite resource intensive but with 2 GB RAM the Redmi Note does way better than the Redmi 1S. There are no abrupt restarts, apps open smoothly but there is that slight hiccup when transitioning between homescreens.
There is infinite customization with MIUI, starting with themes, wallpapers, ringtones and more from within the OS. You can customize which quick toggles you want to see in the notification shade and their order as well. Widgets, homescreen animations and more can be added/changed by long tapping any homescreen. There is just too much customization available. You can completely make the Redmi Note your own brand of crazy.
You can access the task manager by long tapping on the menu button, which shows the apps that are currently running alongwith a clear button which would remove all of them from memory. The horizontal scrolling list of apps isn't the most intuitive way to see the apps that are running but it gets the job done.
You can customize what the capacitive button do on long tap, the volume rocker can be used to wake the device and more.
We tried web browsing on both Chrome as well as the default MIUI browser. In our experience all websites opened without any issues and pinch-to-zoom was quite fluid as well. But text and images took a little bit of time to render. There is a bit of a flicker when you are zooming in and out of a heavy image-rich webpage.
You get about 5.4 GB available storage out of the 8 GB ROM. Apps are not movable to the external storage but USB OTG is supported.
The most inconsistent thing about the Redmi Note is its performance. You will notice a bit of lag while moving through the different homescreens and in the interface in general. But opening and closing apps is a different story, there you won't find any lag. Its in-app performance, web-browsing, some animations, app-menus and the likes which show a bit of a stutter.
The moral of the story is that multitasking is slick, but the overall experience is less than optimal.
Coming to gameplay, the Mali-450 MP4 GPU is more than enough to play even the most demanding games and that's what we see on the Redmi Note as well. Although some of the higher end games do slow down with time and framerates decrease but gameplay is rather decent.
Moreover, the phone doesn't heat up while playing games, always a bonus.
So we though you would be easily able to get 2 days of use with the 3100 mAh battery but in reality its more like a full day and then some. With moderate usage you can push to 1.5 days of use with some light gaming, 3G data always-on with sync and a good few hours of music playback.
Although there are very few circumstances when you would have to charge the phone overnight. Upcoming KitKat or even Lollipop update can actually do wonders for battery-life due to core optimizations to Android itself. But its not coming anytime soon.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3G could've been the game-changer in the sub Rs. 10,000 price segment, but outdated OS, inconsistent performance and low speakerphone volume do add a bit of frustration.
Nevertheless, it comes with excellent cameras, a bright-large & sharp display and good battery-life. All-in-all the Redmi Note 3G is the phablet to beat in its price segment till the Redmi Note 4G arrives with a marginally higher cost, to take the throne.