Introduction

The Redmi Note is Xiaomi's first phablet based on the solid Redmi 1S, which learnt from the Moto X and tried to repeat its success. We cannot think of a better example to follow in terms of sales potential and, with the right touches, the phablet can hope of a similarly warm reception.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note official pictures

The Xiaomi Redmi Note is undeniably related to the Redmi 1S and one fringe benefit of the bigger screen is the phablet doesn't feel as thick as the phone. The flipside is lower ppi and lack of screen protection. The whole thing is powered by MediaTek's MT6592 chipset with an octa-core processor, capable of running as many cores as needed instead of handling them in fours. A 5.5" IPS display of 720p resolution goes with a 13MP rear and a 5MP selfie camera.

Now, let's take a closer look at the Redmi Note key specs.

Key features

  • 5.5" IPS 720p capacitive touchscreen with 267pi pixel density
  • Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with MIUI v.5
  • 1.7GHz octa-core Cortex-A7 CPU; 2 GB of RAM; Mali-450MP4 GPU; MediaTek MT6592 chipset
  • 13MP camera with LED flash, 1080p video capture
  • 5MP front-facing camera; 720p video recording
  • 8GB of built-in memory, expandable via a microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
  • Dual-SIM
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated microphone
  • 3,200mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • No KitKat yet
  • Thick and heavy
  • Sub-300ppi pixel density
  • No hardened glass for screen protection
  • No LTE (single-SIM 4G version available)

The Redmi Note phablet is a first for the up-and-coming maker but so was the Mi Pad tablet. For that, Xiaomi went squarely after the iPad mini while this time they're more willing to play it safe. That said, the Note in Redmi Note can certainly be taken the wrong way.

The truth is, the Redmi Note is a midrange phablet with a 5.5" display, decent processing power and a capable camera. An upscaled version of the Redmi 1S, with a few changes to the hardware package and a due resize of the highly customizable MIUI launcher. The Xiaomi Redmi Note is a dual-SIM device just like the smartphone it's based on. You can trade the dual-SIM support for LTE connectivity in the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note live pictures

We are losing no more time with introductions. The shrink wrap's about to be torn to get a closer look at Xiaomi's first phablet, the Redmi Note.

Unboxing the Xiaomi Redmi Note

All Xiaomi retail boxes look alike - made of recycled paper and said to support up to 300 pounds (136kg) of weight - you know, in case you need to put a fridge on top.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note retail box

Unfortunately, the box contents cover just the basics - an A/C adapter and a USB cable. There is no headset in the box.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 360-degree view

Xiaomi Redmi Note spreads at 154 x 78.7 x 9.5 mm - that's 5mm taller and just 1mm thicker than the Galaxy Note 3 Neo. The Redmi Note is a lot heavier though - at 200g it is among the heaviest phablets we've met so far.

Design and build quality

The Xiaomi Redmi Note, being an affordable phablet, isn't expected to be a good looker. Its entire front is painted in black, with nice red accent on the capacitive keys. The removable rear cover is made of glossy plastic, which is prone to fingerprints and smudges.

We never expected high-quality and fancy materials at this price point, but we would have appreciated matte finish rather than glossy plastic. On the other hand, the glossy materials aren't that bad as long as you can keep the device clean of smudges - in this particular case that's not an easy task.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note

There glass over the screen isn't boasting a special protection layer (Gorilla Glass, Dragontrail), so you should be extra careful if you want to protect your Redmi Note from scratches. But the all black front looks great indeed and the red keys definitely make the Redmi Note stand out.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Handling the Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note is a massive and heavy phablet. It is well built, without any squeaks or creaks, but the 200g weight make it a bit unwieldy. The glossy plastic and the extra slippery feel that comes with it don't help either.

Controls

Xiaomi Redmi Note doesn't bring any surprises when it comes to its controls. We've already mentioned the capacitive keys below the display, marked with red icons. Above the massive 5.5" IPS display we find the earpiece, a couple of sensors and the 5MP selfie camera.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

A peek below and above the display

There is nothing on the left of the Xiaomi Redmi Note. The power/lock key and the volume rocker are on the right.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The left is completely bare • the lock key and the volume rocker on the right

As usual the top of the Xiaomi Redmi Note houses the 3.5mm audio jack and the secondary microphone intended for active noise cancellation during calls and stereo sound recording for your videos.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The top and bottom of the Xiaomi Redmi Note

The bottom of the Redmi Note has the microUSB 2.0 port and the primary microphone.

The 13MP camera lens is at the back coupled with a LED flash. The loudspeaker grille is also around, at the bottom left corner. The camera module projects about a millimeter.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The 13MP projecting camera module at the back • the loudspeaker grille

The Redmi Note's rear cover is removable and gives you access to the also removable 3,200 mAh battery, the two mini-SIM beds and the microSD card slot. None of the cards is hot-swappable, you'll need to remove the battery if you need to pop up the memory card.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The two SIM slots and the microSD card slot

Display

Xiaomi Redmi Note relies on a 5.5" IPS display of 720p resolution, which makes up for a pixel density of 267ppi. There is no special protection for the display, just a regular glass. You should be more careful while handling the Redmi Note as it might accumulate scratches faster.

Xiaomi Redmi Note

The 5.5" IPS display of Xiaomi Redmi Note

Here is the display matrix of the Xiaomi Redmi Note shot with our digital microscope. Taking a closer look at it reveals a standard RGB arrangement of the sub-pixels that make up the Xiaomi Redmi Note LCD panel, not that we've expected anything else.

Xiaomi Redmi Note

The display on the Xiaomi Redmi 1S is decently bright at 100% with great contrast and colors. Unlike the Redmi 1S, the Redmi Note remains nicely bright at its 50%, setting. The color reproduction is the same as on the 1S, but the contrast is somewhat worse. The major difference is visible only in completely dark rooms though.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo 142 389
Xiaomi Redmi Note 0.3 305 1001 0.52 536 1016
Xiaomi Redmi 1S 0.08 158 1437 0.45 615 1370
Sony Xperia M2 0.33 325 989 0.64 643 1000
Sony Xperia T2 Ultra - - - 0.49 634 1287
Huawei Ascend Mate 0.23 222 982 0.67 711 1053
Nokia Lumia 1520 0.22 263 1174 0.43 522 1207
Xiaomi Mi 3 0.18 142 809 0.61 557 907


The sunlight legibility is a lot better than on the Redmi 1S as the screen glass is notably less reflective. You should be OK seeing what's on the display in the bright sunny days even if it won't be a pretty sight. The far superior sunlight legibility has another meaning too - while the Redmi 1S panel has higher contrast in complete darkness, the Redmi Note quickly catches up when the ambient light increases. So while the smartphone might be better in your bed, in your house or office the phablet offers better contrast and in turn image quality. .

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Windows _phone_ 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

As a nice option, Xiaomi is letting you customize the color temperature and saturation of your Redmi Note's screen. Glove mode is available too, but you probably shouldn't leave that turned on if you don't need it because it may drain your battery faster.

Finally there is an option to prevent accidental unlocks of your screen, while the _phone_ is in your pocket. If enabled, you won't be able to unlock the screen while something is covering the proximity sensor. Again, that would take its toll on the battery life.

Battery life

Xiaomi has put a 3,200mAh battery inside the Redmi Note and it is removable, so you can replace it anytime you want or carry a spare if you need to. We ran our battery test and the Xiaomi Redmi Note scored an endurance rating of 55 hours, which means you can count on over two full days if you do an hour each of calling, web browsing and playing video per day.

Xiaomi Redmi Note

The phablet showed great endurance during the 3G call and standby tests, but the big screen took its toll on web browsing and video playback performance bringing the overall score down. This suggests that heavy users will actually be getting rather limited power autonomy, while those who mostly use their phones for calling will be able to get more than our rating suggests.

Connectivity

The Xiaomi Redmi Note is a dual-SIM phone with dual stand-by. It works with mini-SIM cards, but 3G data speeds are only available on the first SIM. Here's the list of supported standards:

  • Tri-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz (SIM1 & SIM2)
  • Dual band WCDMA/HSPA 1900 / 2100, 21 Mbps (SIM1)

LTE is the obvious thing missing here, but that's hardly a frequent occurrence among the phones as affordable as the Xiaomi Redmi Note. In fact this one has an LTE version, but that's single-SIM only and is only available in China.

The rest of the connectivity features include Wi-Fi b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct and hotspot. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS, plus an FM radio with RDS.

There is a microUSB 2.0 port for charging and data connections. Media transfer mode is supported for accessing the phone's built-in memory and microSD card over the USB cable. The microUSB 2.0 port can also be used in USB On-the-go mode for connecting USB peripherals such as pen drives, keyboards or real USB hard drives.

User interface - Android Jelly Bean with MIUI v.5

Xiaomi Redmi Note runs on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean skinned with company's proprietary MIUI v5. The MIUI ROMs have been around for a while and are fairly popular among the Android community. Xiaomi's customizations run very deep and replace everything including all Google services, but the good news is you can get them from the Mi Market app. The models sold outside China come with the entire Google package pre-installed.

And while the now dated 4.2 isn't great, you'll be glad to know that Xiaomi already announced the new Android 4.4 KitKat-based MIUI v.6. It brings is a complete UI overhaul with flat looks, updated system apps, among other updates. It should become available on the Xiaomi Mi lineup later this year.

Here's quick walkthrough of the MIUI v5 on video to get you started.

The lockscreen looks very familiar and we've already seen similar in Huawei's Emotion UI. There is centered circle with shortcuts in the four cardinal directions: a simple unlock to the South, start the camera to the North, messaging is to the East and the dialer/call log is to the West.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The MIUI v5 lockscreen

Beyond the lockscreen is the Android homescreen with four customizable shortcuts docked at the bottom by default, but you can dock up to five items. You can have any app there or even folders with multiple items if you will.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The MIUI homescreens • there is no app drawer

There is no app drawer - anything you install pops up on your homescreen, which can have unlimited panes. There're no shortcuts and the usual routine of removing icons (dragging them up to a recycle bin at the top of the screen) will uninstall the corresponding app. There is a pop-up for confirming the action though, so you can't accidentally uninstall apps.

Homescreen widgets are available, too - tap and hold on the homescreen, then choose Widgets. There are some interesting options available, but of course, you can get even more from the Play Store.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Customization menu • widgets • wallpapers • transition effects

Homescreen effects are available from the customization menu. You can change themes, too. A theme will change your homescreen wallpaper, lockscreen style, system icons, system font and the sound profile.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Themes repository • Applying a new theme

The notification area has two tabs - the first one holds all notifications, while the second is a 4x4 grid of toggles. You can add, remove and rearrange toggles. The Quick Settings tab is the one that opens by default unless you have unread notifications. This sort of behavior does make sense in some scenarios but it certainly is a bit confusing at first.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Toggles • Notifications

Xiaomi provides its own app repository and cloud service for content syncing between devices. While the Mi Market somewhat mirrors the Play Store functionality, Mi Cloud is a different story.

Each Mi Cloud account is granted 5GB of free storage. You can use it to backup contacts, messages, your entire gallery, call log, notes, settings, voice recordings, Browser content (history, tabs, webapp data) and your music library. Sounds familiar? Yes, indeed! Xiaomi's sync and backup service shares lots of similarities with the Apple iCloud. There is even a free Cloud Messaging option that allows Xiaomi users to exchange messages over the internet connection instead of being billed for SMS.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Configuring Mi Cloud and Cloud Messaging

Finally, if you signed in with your Mi Cloud account, you can opt for the Find device function - a handy feature in case you misplace your Xiaomi Redmi Note or someone steals it.

Finally, Google Now integrates with your Google account and can access your daily routine, internet searches, email, etc. and give you information relevant to your interests and daily needs.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Google Now

It provides traffic information to your work or home, knows the scores of sports teams you follow and gives you the weather forecast for your location. It's great for at-a-glance info, but can handle voice input as well.

Performance

The Xiaomi Redmi Note is powered by the MT6592 chipset with an octa-core processor - this is a set of eight Cortex-A7 cores, each running at up to 1.7GHz. It uses the Mali-450MP4 quad-core GPU and 2GB of RAM. There's no OpenGL ES 3.0 support, which is only added by Android 4.3 and later.

You should be aware of the somewhat downgraded version of the Redmi Note. It has utilizes the same MT6592 chipset, but with lower CPU clock at 1.4GHz and 1GB of RAM. If you are to buy a Redmi Note, you should read carful and check the specs of the model you are getting.

Before we begin, it's worth noting that our anti-cheat benchmark versions detected no foul play.

We've lined up a selection of large-screened quad and octa-cre midrangers, some of which use the same chipset as the Redmi Note. The Alcatel Idol X+ is based on the MT6592 chipset but the CPU is clocked at 2GHz, while the HTC Desire 616 CPU is clocked at 1.7GHz but has half the RAM. Xiaomi Redmi Note bested the Desire 616, came close to the Gionee Elife S5.5, which has a virtually identical chipset, but the 2GHz Alcatel Idol X+ claimed the top spot as expected.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Alcatel Idol X+
    2842
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    2581
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2435
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    2172
  • HTC Desire 616
    2125
  • Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G
    1522
  • HTC Desire 816
    1510
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1492
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1359
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1159

The Xiaomi Redmi Note posts competitive results on the compound Basemark OS II benchmark, very close to the more powerful Desire 616. Its single-core performance is great, while the multi-core, quite expectedly, is excellent.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • HTC Desire 816
    520
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    492
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    452
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    434
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    394
  • HTC Desire 616
    378
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    275

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    1781
  • HTC Desire 816
    1739
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    1701
  • Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G
    1666
  • HTC Desire 616
    1533
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1435

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • HTC Desire 616
    12986
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    12771
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    8941
  • HTC Desire 816
    7071
  • Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G
    6662
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    4875

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan failed to run as it requires OpenGL ES3.0, so we had to go with 2.7 T-Rex. The quad-core Mali-450MP4 can double the performance of Adreno 305 found in Snapdragon 400-based phones (like the Desire 816 and Xperia T2 Ultra).

When dropping to the native 720p resolution of the Xiaomi Redmi Note is on par with other 720p octa-core smartphones, and slightly better than the Adreno 305-powered in the HTC Desire 816.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    15
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    10.9
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    10.8
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    9.8
  • HTC Desire 616
    8.7
  • HTC Desire 816
    5.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    5.8
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    5.8
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    5.7

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    25
  • HTC Desire 616
    13.4
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    13.3
  • HTC Desire 816
    11
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    10.9
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    10.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    10.6
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    10.6
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    10.3

The web browser speed depends on fast single-core performance for JavaScript and the Xiaomi Redmi Note does great.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    12201
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    12416
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    12470
  • HTC Desire 816
    13564
  • HTC Desire 616
    16953
  • Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G
    20366

All those cores didn't help the Redmi Note in the more compound BrowserMark 2.1 - it has the same screen resolution as HTC Desire 616 but failed to keep up. The Gionee Elife S5.5 with the same octa-core processor lagged behind because it renders at more than twice the resolution (1080p vs. 720p).

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G
    822
  • HTC Desire 816
    774
  • HTC Desire 616
    683
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    588
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    432

In the end, the octa-core processor of lower-powered cores is not quite the benchmark beast, but it does quite well in day-to-day usage. The GPU beats the wide-spread Adreno 305 and will do well at HD games, but the lack of OpenGL ES 3.0 can limit the game selection until Xiaomi releases an update.

Contacts and telephony

The dialer and the phonebook share a single app although there are two shortcuts. The app uses a tabbed interface - recent with dialer, then there's the contact list and directory (a.k.a. groups).

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The Phonebook

Contact info is displayed as a list of all available details. Custom ringtones can be selected for each contact and duplicate contacts can be merged into a single entry.

The dialer supports Smart dialing and works great - it's looking up both names and phone numbers so you always find what you need.

Xiaomi Redmi Note supports voice call recording and it can do it automatically on each call if you like. You can also assign an answer gesture, pre-define quick responses upon reject, there is even support for internet calling.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The Dialer • settings

There are even more call settings if you dig deeper into the menu - flip to mute the ringer, turn on/off the proximity sensor, lock automatically once slipped in a pocket, it can even mute calls from unknown numbers.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note scored a Good mark on our loudspeaker tests, meaning you'll hardly miss too many calls and notifications - still it might be a good idea to keep a closer look at it in a noisy environments.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 67.3 65.7 66.5 Below Average
Xiaomi Redmi 1S 66.9 65.9 71.7 Average
Xiaomi Redmi Note 65.9 66.7 75.7 Good
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo N7505 68.4 64.4 75.8 Good
Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 66.5 66.6 75.7 Good
Sony Xperia M2 66.6 66.7 75.7 Good
Sony Xperia T2 Ultra 74.0 66.6 75.7 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 73.5 67.7 78.7 Very Good
OnePlus One 74.8 73.5 80.2 Excellent


Messaging and email

The messaging department is pretty standard - there's a list of all bubble-styled conversations organized in threads, with New Message and Search keys at the bottom and a settings button next to it.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Messaging

Attaching multimedia to a message will automatically turn it into an MMS. You can add everything from photos, videos, audio to general files. There's even a full blown slide editor if you want to make full use of the MMS standard. The Attach location option is pretty nice too.

Moving on to email, the Gmail app (if included) has handy shortcuts at the bottom of the screen and supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The default app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there's no unified inbox.

There is also a generic Email app for all your other email accounts and it can handle multiple Exchange, POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online, side by side with the standard local ones such as inbox, drafts and sent items.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Gmail • Email

MIUI offers two keyboards by default. The first one is Google keyboard - it has always been pleasure to use and is one of the most preferred Android keyboards out there. On this screen the keys are comfortably large in both portrait and landscape mode. There is support for gesture typing, handwriting and voice input.

The second one is the wide-spread SwiftKey. It is chosen by default since the initial setup, but you can change it later from Settings. It is among the best we've seen to date, heavily relying on swype input.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Google keyboard • Swiftkey

Image gallery

The Xiaomi Redmi Note comes with a custom Gallery app. It defaults to your camera roll with two shortcuts at the bottom that will take you to album view of your local images and album view of your cloud pictures. You can't change this view, nor can you customize the default folders.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Gallery

The available features when viewing a single image are pretty standard - set image as wallpaper/contact image, share it, delete it, enter edit mode or just get more info.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Viewing a single image • options

The integrated editor offers various effects, frames, tools (crop, mirror, straighten, rotate, fisheye, doodle) plus light adjustments that let you bring out the shadows or the highlights.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Editing an image

Music player

The MIUI music player is a custom app with a well-laid out, easy to navigate interface. It has a huge visualization screen doubling as a Now Playing windows. Below you get four non-customizable tabs - All Songs, Artists, and Playlists.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Music Player

The player has cool 3D effects, transitions and transparent elements, especially on the expandable Now Playing section.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Now Playing screen

Xiaomi's Music app offers customizable equalizers with a few default presets already available for use. You can also try Xiaomi's MiSound enhancer, which comes into play when you use headphones, and especially, a Xiaomi-branded set.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Audio enhancements and equalizers

Finally, you can edit song info and you can also enable automatic song info download in case the ID3 tags are empty. Lyrics can be downloaded, too.

FM radio

The phone has an FM receiver and supports radio recording. There is a sleep timer as well.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

FM radio app

Video player

Xiaomi Redmi Note does not feature a separate video app. Instead you have to browser your files via the image gallery or the file explorer app. We suggest using the latter (Explorer), because the Gallery doesn't recognize MKV and WMV files.

The video player interface is very basic interface but there is rich video codec support. It managed to play everything we threw at it (including MKV and WMV files). The AC3 audio codec is supported too.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Video player

Subtitles and pop-up play are not supported by the MIUI's video player.

Audio output disappoints

Audio output is the one area of modern day smartphones that Xiaomi is yet to master. Even the company’s Mi 3 and Mi 4 flagship didn’t do particularly well here, so it’s hardly surprising that the Redmi Note is downright disappointing performer when used as a portable music player.

When connected to an active external amplifier the Redmi Note performance is passable at best – it posted a few very good scores (signal-to-noise, dynamic range and stereo crosstalk), but its intermodulation distortion was above average and the frequency response wasn’t particularly good. On the positive side, volume levels were well above average.

Plugging in a pair of headphones causes a moderate increase in stereo crosstalk, but that’s one of the best things that could be said about the Redmi Note here. Intermodulation distortion went through the roof, while frequency response went all over the place. Volume levels plummeted as well, adding up to a disappointing overall performance.

And here go the detailed results so you can check them out for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Xiaomi Redmi Note +0.09, -1.23 -88.4 88.4 0.056 0.252 -85.2
Xiaomi Redmi Note (headphones attached) +0.83, -6.73 -84.0 86.7 0.196 2.354 -63.5
Xiaomi Redmi 1S +0.08, -0.02 -95.4 88.4 0.0045 0.028 -82.3
Xiaomi Redmi 1S (headphones attached) +0.03, -0.07 -95.3 88.2 0.0090 0.032 -52.8
Oppo R819 +0.04, -0.09 -92.4 92.3 0.017 0.045 -87.9
Oppo R819(headphones attached) +0.58, -0.13 -91.0 90.9 0.015 0.438 -48.7
Nokia Lumia 625 +0.13, -0.10 -90.3 90.3 0.013 0.355 -82.5
Nokia Lumia 625 (headphones attached) +0.24, -0.00 -90.2 90.2 0.014 0.460 -83.8

Xiaomi Redmi Note frequency response

Xiaomi Redmi Note frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

Decent 13MP camera

Xiaomi Redmi Note features a 13MP camera, equipped with a LED flash.

The interface is fairly simple - everything is placed at the two side bars. On the left you get front camera shortcut, camera/camcorder switch and flash settings. The right sidebar has the settings toggle, the camera shutter and the gallery shortcut.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Camera UI

The settings offer HDR, scenes, focus mode, white balance, exposure and ISO manual settings, among others. The Face Detection switches is within the additional settings.

Xiaomi Redmi Note camera resolves a decent amount of detail although that comes at the price of rather high noise levels. The smartphone's camera renders colors well - slightly oversaturated, but not too much to create an unrealistic effect. Not quite the best 13MP samples out there - but certainly among the finest in this price range.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note camera samples

The HDR mode is conservative adding up just a little bit of extra detail in both the highlights and shadows.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

HDR off • HDR on

Panorama shots are available too - you can capture both landscape and portrait panoramic photos at about 180 degree. Shooting is easy but the stitching takes more than a minute to complete. The end result is rather disappointing though - the landscape shots come in 2300x400px pixels while shooting in portrait mode results in the somewhat more usable (but again far from great) 3000x800px.

While the panoramic images are stitched very well, the quality and resolution are below the competition.

Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note panorama samples in landscape and portrait modes

Photo comparison tool

The Xiaomi Redmi Note is more than capable of carrying its own weight in our Photo Comparison tool. You can see it puts up a good fight against the other snappers we've tested and comes on top even against some far pricier options.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Xiaomi Redmi Note in our photo quality comparison tool

1080p video recording

Xiaomi Redmi Note camcorder has the same UI as the still camera. It supports time-lapse videos with customizable snapping interval.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Camcorder UI

The Xiaomi Redmi Note is capable or recording up to 1080p@30fps. The bitrate of the samples is 17 Mbps, audio is captured at 128 Kbps with 2 channels (read stereo).

The detail levels in the 1080p videos are decent if not quite mind-blowing. Colors and contrast are very good, though and with the framerate consistent at 30fps the videos are more than usual.

And here is a 1080p video we've uploaded on YouTube.

You can also download the 1080p untouched video sample taken straight off the Xiaomi Redmi Note.

Video quality comparison tool

The Xiaomi Redmi Note enters our video comparison too. There are plenty of 1080p camcorders you can compare it with. It slightly above average in detail and colors, while contrast is very good.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Xiaomi Redmi Note in our Video quality comparison tool

MIUI Browser

The Xiaomi Redmi Note comes with the feature-rich MIUI Browser. It does a great job browsing, syncing with your Google account, supports downloads, there is a night mode, too. It is as fast as Chrome, but does not support Find on Page or copy text (only links). On the positive side, it has a built-in Reading mode, which isn't available in Chrome. It enlarges the text font and strips away unneeded elements, leaving only the article you are reading in focus.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Mi Browser

Unfortunately, the MIUI Browser didn't handle pressure particularly well - it couldn't handle our battery-test browsing script for more than three minutes without crashing.

That's why we suggest you install Chrome, at least as a backup, just in case you need to avoid crashes or you need to find something on a page. Plus it can sync with your Google account easily.

Other pre-installed apps

The Xiaomi Redmi Note offers a great file managing app called Explorer, but there is no document viewer/editor pre-installed. There are plenty of free options in the Play Store (even ones made by Google), so this shouldn't pose a problem.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Explorer

Xiaomi Redmi Note also features the WPS Office suite, which supports creating, viewing and editing office files (docs, xls, ppt).

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

WPS Office

The MIUI v.5 also offers a useful Security app. It can scan your phone for malware, manage your blocklist, manage or restrict your data usage, configure battery behavior, clean some RAM, it can also manage the permissions of your installed apps.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Security app

The custom Calendar looks good, syncs with your accounts including Google, and offers Day and Month views.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Calendar

There are also the standard sound recorder, notes, flashlight, calculator, clock, and weather apps, among others, that are a given in any self-respecting Android package nowadays.

By the way, you can activate the torch from the lockscreen by a tap-and-hold on the Home key.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Voice recorder • Notes • Calculator • Weather

When it comes to getting around, the Xiaomi Redmi Note relies on Google Maps and Navigation. Naturally, if Google Maps isn't installed on your unit, you can get it for free from the Android Market. The app offers much of the same functionality as its web-based counterpart, although you will need a data connection to take full advantage of the navigation features. Street view mode with digital compass enabled is an especially neat thing that you should definitely check out if you haven't already.

Whatever you may be missing, you'll find it in Google's Play Store.

Final words

The Xiaomi Redmi Note is a solid package but we would've expected nothing less from a phablet based on the credible Redmi 1S. Xiaomi's prices are hard to beat and that stands for the phablet as well. The bigger screen and octa-core processor have made it clearly more expensive than its smartphone counterpart, but if you count the upgraded cameras the markup isn't all that big.

Xiaomi Redmi Note

The Redmi Note comes with a big and reasonably good 720p display, an octa-core processor, quality imaging including a high-res selfie camera, dual-SIM capabilities and a robust 3,200 mAh battery, all for less than 200 euros. As always you need to factor in the shipping and complicated support, but even then the price is certainly tempting.

Xiaomi has consistently shown uncompromised performance and fewer hidden catches than most people may be wary of with Chinese makers. The Xiaomi Redmi Note is a cheaper but capable enough alternative to even already affordable phablets. It is among the cheapest devices in its class and yet it has so much to offer.

Xiaomi Redmi Note key test findings:

  • Build quality is good, the glossy finish a little off-putting
  • The screen is good both inside and outdoors
  • Battery life is only average
  • Dual-SIM connectivity, 3G on SIM 1, Wi-Fi n, FM radio
  • We rated the speaker loudness as Good
  • The MIUI interface is simple but highly customizable. You don't get as many extra features as in other proprietary skins. The sooner it gets KitKat the better.
  • The performance (speed, multitasking) is great for the price
  • The audio quality disappointed
  • Camera takes good photos and decent 1080p videos, particularly for the price range
  • Audio and video codec support is quite comprehensive

There is no department where the Xiaomi Redmi Note was a disappointment and it even managed to deliver above expectations in some: it shoots great photos, the display is above average in the sun. The lack of 4G is to be considered, especially against some of the more prominent rivals but the choice between dual-SIM and 4G data speeds may actually work in Xiaomi's favor.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G

As for the real competition, there aren't too many devices able to match its sub-€200 price tag. The Redmi Note probably has no delusions of being equal to an Xperia T3 or an HTC Desire 816 but it's worth noting that it offers better processor than the Snapdragon 400 inside these two for a notably lower price. Plus, its camera is at least on par with the two rivals'.

Sony Xperia T3
HTC Desire 816

Sony Xperia T3 • HTC Desire 816

The Sony Xperia T2 Ultra is closer pricewise, being older. It offers an even bigger 6" display, matches the 13MP camera and runs a more recent Android KitKat. Its hardware is inferior though - four Cortex-A7 cores instead of eight, and half the RAM of the Redmi Note. Sony's phablet has a dual-SIM version too.

Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
Sony Xperia T2 Ultra dual

Sony Xperia T2 Ultra • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra dual

The Snapdragon 400-powered 5" LG Bello and the 4.8" Xperia M2 are covering the basics, but none of them can match the Redmi Note on screen size and the camera quality. The Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime features a clearly inferior 5" qHD display, but runs on the 64-bit Snapdragon 410 chipset. The Grand Prime will offer snappier performance and the latest Android KitKat coupled with TouchWiz. Finally, the 5" HTC Desire 616 Dual SIM runs on the same chipset, but with less RAM, and its camera isn't as impressive as the Redmi Note's.

LG L Bello
Sony Xperia M2
Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
HTC Desire 616 dual sim

LG L Bello • Sony Xperia M2 • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime • HTC Desire 616 dual sim

The LG G3 Stylus recently launched on the other end of the globe as an affordable phablet with a 5.5" display, Snapdragon 400 chipset, a 13MP rear camera and a stylus. LG had a great price in mind and if they can match it globally, the LG G3 Stylus is worth a look. It's another qHD screen phablet - the kind that's most likely to get close to the Redmi Note's asking price.

LG G3 Stylus

LG G3 Stylus

Alcatel Idol X+ and Gionee Elife S5.5 are powered by the MT6592 chip with higher 2.0GHz octa-core processors, and both feature 5" 1080p displays. Due to the higher screen resolution the graphics performance isn't as good as the Xiaomi Redmi Note's, but the CPU is slightly faster. The Gionee also comes with a super slim waistline and a build that's hard to come by at even double prices.

Alcatel Idol X+
Gionee Elife S5.5

Alcatel Idol X+ • Gionee Elife S5.5

Finally, the Acer Liquid X1 is probably the perfect match for the Xiaomi Redmi Note. It has a 5.7" IPS HD display, runs on the same MT6592 chipset with an octa-core processor, even has a 13MP rear camera. It will be released any moment now and hopefully be as affordable as the Redmi Note.

Acer Liquid X1

Acer Liquid X1

Xiaomi Redmi Note packs everything it needs to offer a solid user experience - a feat that's yet to be repeated by another phablet at this price point. Corner cutting is the name of the game here, but we were pleased to find that Xiaomi made lots of correct calls - the core experience is all there with only niche extras getting the axe. It may not be quite as cheap as its smartphone sibling to become an impulsive purchase, but it looks like one you won't regret.

Unboxing the Xiaomi Redmi Note

All Xiaomi retail boxes look alike - made of recycled paper and said to support up to 300 pounds (136kg) of weight - you know, in case you need to put a fridge on top.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note retail box

Unfortunately, the box contents cover just the basics - an A/C adapter and a USB cable. There is no headset in the box.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 360-degree view

Xiaomi Redmi Note spreads at 154 x 78.7 x 9.5 mm - that's 5mm taller and just 1mm thicker than the Galaxy Note 3 Neo. The Redmi Note is a lot heavier though - at 200g it is among the heaviest phablets we've met so far.

Design and build quality

The Xiaomi Redmi Note, being an affordable phablet, isn't expected to be a good looker. Its entire front is painted in black, with nice red accent on the capacitive keys. The removable rear cover is made of glossy plastic, which is prone to fingerprints and smudges.

We never expected high-quality and fancy materials at this price point, but we would have appreciated matte finish rather than glossy plastic. On the other hand, the glossy materials aren't that bad as long as you can keep the device clean of smudges - in this particular case that's not an easy task.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note

There glass over the screen isn't boasting a special protection layer (Gorilla Glass, Dragontrail), so you should be extra careful if you want to protect your Redmi Note from scratches. But the all black front looks great indeed and the red keys definitely make the Redmi Note stand out.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

Handling the Xiaomi Redmi Note

Xiaomi Redmi Note is a massive and heavy phablet. It is well built, without any squeaks or creaks, but the 200g weight make it a bit unwieldy. The glossy plastic and the extra slippery feel that comes with it don't help either.

Controls

Xiaomi Redmi Note doesn't bring any surprises when it comes to its controls. We've already mentioned the capacitive keys below the display, marked with red icons. Above the massive 5.5" IPS display we find the earpiece, a couple of sensors and the 5MP selfie camera.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

A peek below and above the display

There is nothing on the left of the Xiaomi Redmi Note. The power/lock key and the volume rocker are on the right.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The left is completely bare • the lock key and the volume rocker on the right

As usual the top of the Xiaomi Redmi Note houses the 3.5mm audio jack and the secondary microphone intended for active noise cancellation during calls and stereo sound recording for your videos.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The top and bottom of the Xiaomi Redmi Note

The bottom of the Redmi Note has the microUSB 2.0 port and the primary microphone.

The 13MP camera lens is at the back coupled with a LED flash. The loudspeaker grille is also around, at the bottom left corner. The camera module projects about a millimeter.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The 13MP projecting camera module at the back • the loudspeaker grille

The Redmi Note's rear cover is removable and gives you access to the also removable 3,200 mAh battery, the two mini-SIM beds and the microSD card slot. None of the cards is hot-swappable, you'll need to remove the battery if you need to pop up the memory card.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Xiaomi Redmi Note

The two SIM slots and the microSD card slot