Review: Xiaomi Redmi 2

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

A year after the sale of the Redmi 1S, Chinese hardware and software company Xiaomi has released another supposed value-for-money smartphone in the Redmi 2 exclusively through Lazada Philippines. Right now, you can still get it for a mere P5,999 unlocked.

In our review of the Redmi 1S on Yahoo, we noted that it’s among the fastest and most capable budget handsets around, though we wouldn’t happily recommend it over discount octa-core Androids that cost the same. It didn’t help that the Redmi incumbent suffered from software-related problems that left us stumped and concerned. And while it has received generally positive reviews in the Philippines, the phone wasn’t the local smash hit Xiaomi hoped it would be.

But that’s behind us now. Fast-forward to 2015, and we’re looking at Xiaomi’s second attempt at wrestling some market share from homegrown brands and gaining traction in the low-end segment. Boasting a smaller and thinner design, improved internals that can take advantage of faster mobile-data speeds (albeit with a huge asterisk, which we’ll discuss shortly), and an updated user interface based on Android KitKat, the Redmi 2 improves on the original in every way imaginable.

But has it improved enough to appeal to a more critical local audience that is seeing an unprecedented surge in low-cost, high-value offerings? Find out in our review of the Xiaomi Redmi 2.

Specs of the Xiaomi Redmi 2 (Price in the Philippines: P5,999):
* Dual SIM
* LTE
* 1.2GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 CPU
* Adreno 306 GPU
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
* 4.7-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 2 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,200mAh battery
* Android KitKat 4.4.4

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: The Redmi 2 takes a lot of inspiration from its predecessor, as is usually the case with smartphone sequels. But there are slight improvements to the all-plastic body that make it easier to handle and hold. The bezels surrounding the screen have been reduced, and the left and right sides of the phone are thinner and feel more tapered toward the front panel. Speaking of the front, it’s less angular than it used to be, giving the phone just enough of a modern slant without taking a new approach to design.

Buttons still lack backlighting. The omission is particularly jarring because there are cheaper handsets out there that come standard with backlit keys.

The button placement remains ideal, with the volume rocker and power button located in easy-to-reach places on the right-hand side. Xiaomi’s familiar trifecta of navigation keys in red can be found below the display, except this time, the Chinese tech startup has swapped out the menu shortcut for the multitask button by default, which we very much appreciate (no more long-pressing the menu button to switch between apps!).

Alas, the keys still lack backlighting, making them difficult to use in the dark. The omission is particularly jarring because there are cheaper handsets out there that come standard with backlit keys. On a more positive note, the Redmi 2 has a multi-color LED notification light beneath the home button that lets you know when you’ve missed a call, text message, or email. It can light up in different colors depending on the type of notification it wants you to see.

At 4.7 inches, the IPS panel narrowly misses our sweet spot in terms of display size. Sure, it’s neither too big to operate single-handedly nor too small for typing accurately, but there isn’t enough screen real estate here for enjoying lengthy YouTube videos and games with onscreen controls. Then again, we probably shouldn’t be surprised; for all its merits, the Redmi 2 is an entry-level product, after all.

Screen resolution maxes out at 720p, resulting in a decent pixel density of 312 dots per inch. The display is every bit as crisp and vibrant as the ones on competing models. Its brightness levels and viewing angles are par for the course for the category. It’s also as durable on paper, thanks to a protective layer of second-gen Corning Gorilla Glass.

The screen puts on a good show, but it’s nothing special in the smartphone landscape where more is usually, well, more.

Overall, the screen on the Redmi 2 puts on a good show, but it’s nothing special in the smartphone landscape where more is usually, well, more more real estate translates to quicker, more precise typing and more pixels mean less squinting when watching movies or reading emails. And despite our lack of enthusiasm about it, display quality is a marked improvement over what preceded it.

Now, let’s talk about the Redmi 2’s 2-megapixel front-facing camera and the slightly protruding 8-megapixel rear-facer around the back of the device: Both sensors do a better job of taking pictures than their megapixel count suggests. And to get the most out of them, Xiaomi has included several effects and shooting options such as HDR, manual, and panorama modes in the stock camera app. The company even goes the extra mile, offering a beauty mode that uses facial-recognition algorithms to detect your gender and age before “beautifying” your mug using predetermined settings.

The Redmi 2, with its wide aperture of f/2.2, gets the job done — even as the light is fading.

It’s hard enough to find a phone in the bargain basement that can deliver quality shots outdoors and in good lighting conditions, let alone a decent shooter when lighting isn’t the best. But the Redmi 2, with its wide aperture of f/2.2, gets the job done — even as the light is fading. It also automatically scans QR codes on the viewfinder and shoots serviceable videos of up to 1080p.

[minigallery id=”598″ prettyphoto=”true”]

Photos taken with the Xiaomi Redmi 2. Click on and expand each picture for the high-res version.

Powering the phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor that runs Android KitKat 4.4.4 as fluidly as any budget device on the market. It comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, expandable up to an additional 32GB via a microSD card. LTE connectivity is also part of the package, though in the Philippines, the Redmi 2 only works on Globe Telecom’s 4G network, leaving out the better part of the country’s smartphone-owning public that are Smart subscribers. It’s unfortunate that Xiaomi didn’t include more bands on such a mass-market product.

Our review sample can handle graphically-intensive games like Real Racing 3 and Shadow Fight 2 without any issues. Regrettably, the same can’t be said of more demanding titles like Mortal Kombat X, which it struggles to run at a decent frame rate.

There are rare times when going back to the homescreen takes longer than usual, which probably has something to do with the heavily skinned MIUI interface Xiaomi built on top of Android.

Our real-world testing mirrors benchmark numbers, and on the latest version of AnTuTu Benchmark and Geekbench 3, the Redmi 2 managed respectable scores of 19,995 and 1,424 (multi-core test), respectively. The 2,200mAh removable battery inside our unit typically lasts a day and a half on a single charge with reasonably constant use that includes texting and Web browsing on Globe’s LTE network. In our anecdotal battery test, which entails putting an HD video on loop while WiFi is switched on and brightness is set to 50 percent, the Redmi 2 held on for 8 hours and 5 minutes.

What we’ve found unusual so far is there are rare times when going back to the homescreen takes longer than usual, which probably has something to do with the heavily skinned MIUI (pronounced “mee-you-eye”) interface Xiaomi built on top of Android. But hey, at least MIUI on the Redmi 2 is nowhere near as buggy as on its predecessor.

Is the Redmi successor enough of an improvement to succeed where many others have failed? Sure, though support for more LTE bands would have made it an easier sell.

All told, the Redmi 2 is a great handset at a great price. For P5,999, you’re looking at a solid hardware designed for one-handed use and a pair of cameras that perform above the industry average. This is exactly the sort of device Xiaomi needs to impress a budget-conscious crowd. This is exactly what we hoped the Redmi 1S would be.

So back to our original question: Is the Redmi successor enough of an improvement to succeed where many others have failed? Sure. However, our opinions may not reflect the fickle whims of bargain hunters in the Philippines. Support for more LTE bands would have made the phone an easier sell. It’s also worth noting that there are other slightly more expensive options out there that come with larger displays and beefier specs. The Meizu M1 Note and Firefly Mobile Intense 64 LTE sell for a couple of thousand pesos more and offer a better smartphone experience.


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Ramon Lopez

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Reviews editor: Ramon "Monch" Lopez has 10 years of professional experience creating and editing content for print and digital publications such as Yahoo. He headed the gadgets-merchandising division of one of the Philippines’ largest retail operators somewhere in between. His latest addiction is the comments section of viral Facebook posts.