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Xiaomi Redmi 4A review: Breaking the entry-level smartphone price barrier

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 5 June 2017, 14:44 IST

Before I begin telling you about Xiaomi's Redmi 4A, let me just get one thing out of the way. When I wrote my review of their Redmi Note 4 device I had said that it is a "budget beast of a smartphone lacking any USP". Clearly, I skimmed over the most important USP of all Xiaomi devices. That being, price!

Xiaomi, at least in India, is breaking through price barriers and lowering the entry cost for each segment of smartphones that exist.

  • In the flagship-killing space, it launched the Mi5 back in March of 2016 at Rs 24,999.
  • In the mid-range smartphone space, it launched Redmi Note 4 starting at Rs 9,999.
  • It also launched the Mi Max, it's "largest smartphone yet" at just Rs 14,999.
  • There was the Redmi 4 that was most recently launched at Rs 6,999.
  • Finally, it launched the Redmi 4A at a low price of Rs 5,999.

Let me also just say that for Rs 6,000, you will not be disappointed at all. Barring the fingerprint scanner on the Redmi 3S (priced at Rs 8,999), this is a much better phone.

Okay, maybe the camera might be a tad bit weak, but who can really complain at the price point that the Redmi 4A is selling it. The entry-level price point for a good smartphone (we don't even want to talk about Jivi here) has been lowered, and only Xiaomi could pull that off.

NOTE: I'm yet to try Redmi's newest device, Redmi 4, for more than a couple of minutes.

On to the hardware. Smartphones may come in all shapes and sizes but Redmi 4A's chubbiness is not to be mistaken. It may not look "slim and sexy" and it may not even feel "light and powerful" but it is a durable phone punching above its weight that won't empty your wallet.

The only negative irking consumers of Xiaomi smartphones is that between pre-ordering and day-of-sales, the units get sold out pretty quickly. Xiaomi may have done away with flash sales but this process, whilst better, isn't the open sale consumers want. Then it is a daunting task of waiting another week or two to try one's luck again. This is in the hopes that you'll be able to purchase the smartphone you have carefully chosen after days of consideration is a tiring process.

The way around all of this is to go to a Mi Home store, where the smartphones are always in stock, and purchase one. Unfortunately, the only Mi Home store at the moment is in Bengaluru. Xiaomi does plan to open stores in Mumbai and Hyderabad within three months from now and later in Delhi and other cities.

Plus, the purchase will only happen if you are one of the lucky few who logs in at just the right time and has an internet connection to back you up!

Design and build

While Xiaomi's mid-rangers are sporting metallic builds these days, the super budget smartphones are not.

The Redmi 4A, being the cheapest phone Xiaomi has in its portfolio, comes with a polycarbonate finish. The volume and power buttons are located on the right side while the SIM card tray is on the left side. The 3.5mm jack is located on the top with a micro-USB port on the bottom.

The lack of sharp edges around the phone ensures a good grip. There is a 13-megapixel rear camera that is housed inside a metallic ring right next to the LED flash. On the top, there is an infrared blaster.

The 5-inch display has solid, thick bezels at the top and the bottom. The build quality is one that will suit one-handed usage and won't break upon dropping the device. It won't invite any onlookers during a metro ride and it won't be winning design awards. Still, at this price point, it is more than one can ask for.

Display

The 5-inch IPS LCD display comes with a 1280×720 pixel resolution. Whilst seeming a tad bit small, the colours look good and the viewing angles are acceptable.

Even under the harsh sunlight, I had absolutely no problems using this phone after boosting the brightness. There is just one thing that you shouldn't do while using the phone. Do not select the text size as 'small'. If you do so, it may be illegible.

When I decided to watch a YouTube video on the device, I was unimpressed. The colour reproduction is good but it seems a little washed out.

Software

The fact that this phone runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with MIUI 8 skin in 2017 is a disappointment. It's the same as that of Redmi Note 4, which isn't bad, but having Nougat at this price point would be a killer touch.

The one thing that stood out, not entirely for good reasons, is the screenshot thumbnail. Hold down the volume down and power buttons and you'll notice a lag.

Once the screenshot is eventually taken, you'll notice the screenshot bobbing in the top right corner. Then you must click on it for it to expand and give you options of what you want to do next. Which is truly bizarre.

The other feature you'll come to like on this phone is that of Second Space. It's an app that lets you create multiple profiles, something consumers have been used to on laptops and desktops. You may want one profile for home and another for office. That is totally doable on the Redmi 4A.

Performance & battery life

As far as daily execution of tasks (checking email, calling, sending WhatsApp messages and more) goes, this phone does not falter.

With a Snapdragon 425 and 2GB of RAM, it runs smoothly with the occasional lag. Sometimes, when switching between apps, or ending a call or multi-tasking, this phone would come to a halt. Then again, give it a few seconds and it is back running at normal speeds.

Gaming is an absolute no go, besides maybe the lightest of games out there. With a phone not equipped for running games and just 10.3GB of usable space, you're better off not downloading any games, even though you can stick a microSD card into the phone.

One thing that I was pleasantly surprised with is that the phone doesn't heat up much. No apps shut down and never once did I feel the need to take the phone out of my hand and put it on the table.

Call quality is excellent (obviously, this is also dependent on your network signal strength) and even WhatsApp videos worked pretty decently.

Think Lenovo K6 Power (REVIEW) or any of the ASUS Zenfone Max series phones (REVIEW and REVIEW) and couple that with Redmi 4A's low-powered Snapdragon chipset and you get some pretty epic battery life, touching two full days at times.

This is strictly without any gaming, with minimal video being watched, and with heavy usage of WhatsApp, camera and browser.

The Redmi 4A packs in a 3,120 mAh battery which does it wonders. With a mix of heavy and light usage, I was able to last until the next morning before I had to pull out the charger.

Camera

The camera impressed me in good lighting and in places with not too many objects floating around. At a distance of ten feet from the computer, the camera was able to capture an image that when zoomed in, could read the text pretty easily. The front facing camera is even less deserving of praise.


Beyond that though, don't expect any miracles from the camera. There is a 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash that doesn't capture much detail beyond a couple of feet. Take any close-ups, with whichever camera, and you'll be disappointed.

Don't expect wonders from the camera but if you just want to show someone what's outside your office window, this will do just fine.

Verdict

At a price of Rs 5,999, this really is the new king of entry-level smartphones. It's a full on value for money smartphone.

From battery life to the build of the smartphone, to durability, this phone has impressed me in many ways. The lag that pops up occasionally may be a downer for many, but at that price point, you can't really expect a more powerful processor in this device.

In terms of the competition, there is nothing that stands up to the calibre of the Redmi 4A. Heck, the Redmi 4A outshines the Redmi 3S.

It's a compact phone that has an ease of using most other budget smartphones can't claim and it's reliable. With good battery life, a decent screen and a usable camera, this phone does wonder for the price.

You get a lot of bang for the bucks you spend. Compared to the Redmi Note 4, this lags behind in every aspect. If you're looking at moving from feature phones to smartphones or just looking at a second device, this is the one you have to get!

I cannot wait to see what Xiaomi does next when the Redmi 5A (or whatever they want to call it) is released sometime next year.

First published: 2 June 2017, 18:22 IST
 
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.

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