Well-priced Redmi 2's hard to beat
FOR the same price as last year's popular Redmi and Redmi 1S budget smartphones - $169 - Chinese handset-maker Xiaomi's Redmi 2 sports a number of upgrades.
Announced on Jan 4, the Redmi 2 is the company's first smartphone to come with a 64-bit processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chip, which is an upgrade over the 1S' Snapdragon 400.
The Redmi 2 also has two 4G SIM card slots, compared with a 3G SIM card slot and a separate 2G slot for its predecessors.
There's also the new MIUI 6 operating system, based on Android 4.4 KitKat, on the Redmi 2. The phone is thinner, lighter and has a slightly better battery.
But is the Redmi 2 a worthy upgrade for current Redmi and Redmi 1S users? Will it attract new users over to Xiaomi's camp?
The Redmi 2 is similar to its predecessors in many physical aspects, such as its 4.7-inch 720p display, standard layout of capacitive navigation keys below the screen, and the power and volume buttons along the right side.
But after holding the Redmi 2, one obvious difference is its weight. The Redmi 2 weighs only 133g, 25g less than its predecessors.
The second significant change you will notice is the improved handling. The Redmi and Redmi 1S come with a grey back cover that has a matte finish. With the Redmi 2, Xiaomi improved the quality of the matte material used, which feels good and offers a better grip.
Xiaomi claims that the back cover is fingerprint and grease resistant.
The Redmi 2 is also slightly narrower (67.2mm versus the 1S' 69mm) and thinner (9.4mm versus the 1S' 9.9mm).
One downside is its limited storage space of 8GB, although it supports microSD cards up to 32GB.
4G DUAL-SIM SUPPORT
The Redmi 2 is one of the few phones in the market to have two micro-SIM card slots that support 4G.
This eliminates the hassle of manually switching cards just to enjoy fast 4G connectivity. Still, only one SIM card slot can be used for 4G connectivity at any one point.
The Redmi 2 can reach 4G Long-Term Evolution speeds of up to 150Mbps, which is comparable to Apple's iPhone 6.
For now, the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS is the only Android version to support 64-bit processors. This means that the Redmi 2's MIUI 6, which is based on Android 4.4 KitKat, is unlikely to maximise the full potential of the phone's Snapdragon 410 chipset.
The Redmi 2 performed only slightly better than the Redmi 1S in the Quadrant test, which evaluates a device's central processing unit, memory, data transfer and 3D graphics performance.
HTC's Desire 510, which launched at a price of $268, has the same processor as the Redmi 2, but performs better due to a lower-resolution display and perhaps better optimisation.
In terms of actual user experience, we were not entirely satisfied with the Redmi 2. Despite Xiaomi saying that 1GB RAM is sufficient for the Redmi 2, we found navigation to be sluggish from time to time. This is apparent when opening and exiting apps - the interface pauses to accomplish the action. However, considering the phone's positioning and price tag, you really shouldn't expect anything more.
The Redmi 2 managed to last close to six hours in HardwareZone's standard battery test for mobile phones, which includes looping a 800 x 480-pixel video at maximum brightness and volume, and constant data streaming through e-mail and Twitter.
This translates to a slightly longer battery mileage of about 7 per cent compared to the Redmi 1S, and 13 per cent compared to the Redmi.
The Desire 510 and Galaxy Ace 4 LTE lasted over seven hours mainly due to their lower resolution displays.
Xiaomi bumped up the imaging hardware on the Redmi 2. It boasts an 8MP BSI camera sensor with 5-element lens. It retains the f/2.2 aperture and 28mm wide angle lens too. The camera's image quality is quite decent with sufficient amount of detail captured and good dynamic range.
The front-facing camera has been upgraded too. You get a 2MP camera sensor (up from 1.3MP) and it comes with a software feature that "intelligently guesses age and gender" to apply 36 smart filters.
The Redmi 2 delivers a package that few could match. You get a decent 4.7-inch 720p display, a capable 8MP rear camera, 4G connectivity on both SIM card slots and the new MIUI 6 OS. For its price tag, there's really nothing more you could ask for.
Our main annoyance with the Redmi 2 is the occasional sluggish performance. The 1GB RAM is barely sufficient to deliver a smooth user experience and we hope Xiaomi will look into this.
But those hoping to get the phone may have to wait. It went on sale on Xiaomi's Singapore website on Tuesday, but is currently out of stock. However, the Redmi 2 will be on sale again on the website next Tuesday at 12pm.
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