Six months after its release, the Redmi Note 4 is still one of the best phones in the budget segment in India. There are plenty of options in this category — the Moto G5 Plus is Motorola's best effort yet, and the Honor 6X is similarly great. Then we have the likes of Smartron, with its sophomore effort considerably better than its first phone, and Lenovo's Z2 Plus has aged very well.
I used the Redmi Note 4 for a month back when it launched in January and rotated it as a secondary device on and off for the last five months. One of the main advantages of the Redmi Note 4 is the 4100mAh battery, which gives it excellent standby time and at least a day's worth of use on a full charge. Read on to find out how the device has fared six months after its release.
Great hardware in a new color variant
I initially used the gold color option of the Redmi Note 4, but I switched to the matte black variant in March. Of the two, I'm partial to the black color option, mainly because the black variant comes with a black front panel. The gold variant certainly gave the device a premium feel, but the black option with the silver antenna lines and camera accents looks much better.
Irrespective of whatever model you end up with, the Redmi Note 4 is a well-built device. The all-metal chassis gives it just the right amount of heft, and the subtle curves at the back make it comfortable to hold and use one-handed. The build quality is similarly top-notch.
The Redmi Note 4 has aged remarkably well, considering it took its fair share of tumbles. There aren't a lot of scratches on the screen, and aside from a few nicks on the bottom edge, the phone is relatively unharmed. The Redmi Note 4 certainly held up to everyday use much better than the Mi 6, which picked up a litany of microscratches at the front and back in just under three weeks.
The Snapdragon 625 chipset on the Redmi Note 4 was initially thought to be a downgrade from the Snapdragon 650 used in the Redmi Note 3, but that perception soon changed once people actually started using the device. The phone continues to be dependable when it comes to everyday performance even after 6 months of use.
One of the best features from a hardware point of view on Xiaomi phones is the presence of the IR blaster. The IR sensor allows you to use the Redmi Note 4 as a remote control for the TV, air conditioner, DTH box, and much more. I've been testing out the Sensy Smart Remote over the last month, and if you're using the Redmi Note 4, you don't need to buy the ₹1,199 puck-sized device — you can directly use Sensy's app to control your TV through your phone.
The display is still one of the best in this category, despite it not being an AMOLED panel. The colors are accurate, the screen is legible under harsh sunlight, and you can adjust the color saturation and screen temperature according to your tastes. With the speaker located at the bottom, the Redmi Note 4 also doubles up as a decent device for multimedia consumption. It's no Mi Max 2, however.
The one downside with the black variant is that it tends to attract a lot of smudges. That's because of the matte finish, and while it's a minor nuisance, it doesn't affect the way you use the phone. Overall, the Redmi Note 4 is one of the most reliable phones I've used all year.
Software is still lagging behind
Out of the box, the Redmi Note 4 ran a MIUI 8.1 build (8.1.10) based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, along with the December 1, 2016 security patch. Xiaomi announced a beta Nougat build for the phone at launch, but nothing materialized after that, as the device is still running Marshmallow 6 months after its debut.
While Xiaomi doesn't have a great track record when it comes to delivering platform updates, the manufacturer is rolling out security patches on time. At the end of July, the Redmi Note 4 is on the May 01, 2017 security patch. Xiaomi has announced that it is testing the Nougat update for the Redmi Note 4, and we'll likely see the update sometime next month. It's likely the device will make the switch to MIUI 9, which is on the horizon.
The software situation is certainly irksome, but Xiaomi isn't the only manufacturer lagging behind when it comes to rolling out updates. Honor announced the rollout of the Nougat update to the Honor 6X back in May, but my unit didn't receive the OTA update at the end of June. I had to manually flash the Nougat-based EMUI 5.0 build onto the device. Motorola seems to be the only company still focused on rolling out timely updates to its budget devices.
Although the lack of updates for the Redmi Note 4 is a letdown, there's plenty to like in MIUI 8. The ROM is loaded with customizations, including the ability to change every facet of the UI with themes, Dual Apps, display and battery optimizations, a built-in video editor, and several features localized to the Indian market. There's even a lite mode that simplifies the interface if you just want the basics.
MIUI definitely takes some getting used to, but it has its fans — over 200 million of them globally. I'm not a fan of how bloated the interface has become, but it'll be interesting to see if that changes with MIUI 9.
The camera situation on the Redmi Note 4 is certainly better than its predecessors, but the phone is prone to the same pitfalls as other devices in this segment. The Redmi Note 4 takes decent shots in well-lit scenarios, but there's far too much noise in photos taken under artificial lighting or in low-light conditions.
I don't use HDR anymore because it takes too long to process the images, and more often than not, it takes a few tries to get a passable image. The camera app offers a ton of features, including filters with live previews, a beautify mode, ability to take panoramas, and a manual mode that lets you adjust the white balance and ISO. Overall, the camera on the Redmi Note 4 is decent, but there are better options available.
Battery life continues to be great
If there's a trend to Xiaomi's phone launches in 2017, it's great battery life. With the energy-efficient Snapdragon 625 under the hood, the Redmi Note 4 consistently delivers at least a day's worth of use. The phone also doubles up as the ideal backup or secondary device thanks to its generous standby time.
On average, the battery life on the Redmi Note 4 is good for anywhere between four to five hours of screen-on time, spread out over the course of the day. When you do need to top up, you have to do so over MicroUSB, so if you're using the Redmi Note 4 as a secondary device like I have, you'll need to carry two sets of cables. Thankfully, it looks like Xiaomi has fully embraced USB-C, as the Mi Max 2 uses the new standard.
The only issue I have with regards to the battery on the Redmi Note 4 is the charging time — the phone takes just over two hours to charge.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 6 months on
The Redmi Note 4 is the best-selling device in India in Q1 2017, and it isn't hard to see why. The build quality is right up there with the likes of Samsung and LG, you get a lot of value for your money, and while the software situation isn't ideal, MIUI does offer a lot of features.
Of the three variants the phone is available in, the model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage is the best option as it has provides you with a decent enough buffer in terms of memory and internal storage. You do get a microSD card slot with the phone, but considering the minor ₹2,000 difference in cost between the 3GB model and 4GB version, you're better off picking the latter.
For ₹12,999, there still isn't a phone on the market that delivers quite as much as the Redmi Note 4. The fact that you can't just go to an e-commerce site and pick it up shows the sheer amount of interest in the device.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.