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Xiaomi Redmi 2 review



With the Redmi 1S, Xiaomi managed to change the rules of the game, redefining the entry-level Android phones segment. The phone created a new benchmark with its solid build quality, superior performance and a great camera. The Chinese major known for its disruptive pricing, was not content and decided to improve on some of its shortcomings with the Redmi 2.

While the phone replaces its predecessor, the Indian market has seen a number of new players that pose a challenge to the Redmi 2. Will Xiaomi manage to retain the budget throne with its latest offering? We try to find out...

Build & design

Similar to its predecessor, Xiaomi Redmi 2 doesn't really boast of groundbreaking design but it's without doubt a solidly built device. The phone retains the very utilitarian, rectangular slab form factor we've seen on the Redmi 1S complete with the rounded corners and the red coloured navigation keys on the front (true to the 'Redmi' monicker) which give it a distinct look. The front panel also features a 4.7-inch display and an upgraded 2MP front-facing camera. There's an LED light just below the Home key that lights up to alert you whenever there's a new notification or the phone's battery needs your attention.

Redmi 2 sports a removable back cover that wraps around the edges. However, Xiaomi has replaced the black coloured cover with a white one. The cover has a matte finish and doesn't look frail. It is also less susceptible to smudges compared to the one on the phone's predecessor. There are no creaks and wobbles unless you press too hard, and the back cover fits snugly with the phone. It is also easy to take the cover off thanks to the small opening at the right hand side. We like the new black and white colour combination and feel it makes the phone less dull.



The back of the phone features an 8MP camera lens that slightly protrudes out, an LED flash and a speaker outlet in addition to some Mi branding. Removing the back cover reveals the 2,200mAh battery, two slots for micro sim cards and a microSD card slot.

Xiaomi will also offer back covers in different colours giving consumers the ability to customize their phones.

The metallic power and volume rocker keys are conveniently located at the right edge, while the micro-USB port is at the bottom edge. The 3.5mm headset jack sits at the top. The metallic keys offer good tactile feedback.

Overall, the Redmi 2 does not look very different from the Redmi 1S though its almost 25gram lighter and has slightly smaller dimensions. Having said that, the phone exudes a feeling of durability and is a well-built device for its price.

Display
The Redmi 2 sports a 4.7-inch 720p fully-laminated IPS display that has AGC Dragontrail glass protection.

The display is among the best ones we've seen at this price. Colours look vivid and brightness levels were optimum. Sunlight legibility was above average though the display is a little reflective. Viewing angles were really wide and there was no distortion.

Thanks to the higher display resolution, images and text appeared to be crisp and sharp. We also found the capacitive buttons and the touch screen to be extremely responsive.



The laminated panel has lesser gap between the display and glass so it feels more fluid and looks good. However, we did find that the display was susceptible to minor scratches with normal day to day use. So we'd recommend getting a screen protector.

Software
Xiaomi Redmi 2 runs MIUI 6, a new version of the company's operating system, based on Android 4.4 KitKat. The new OS boasts of a flatter design, smoother transition effects, better multitasking and notifications interfaces and gestures, among other features.

MIUI resembles Apple's iOS in design and navigation and doesn't come with a separate app drawer. It focuses on ease of use in addition to offering enhanced native apps, better notifications and things like call recording and call blocking.

One of the highlight features of MIUI is the ability to customize the user interface with themes, downloadable wallpapers and clocks. The Themes app offers a large number of free themes, each of which comes with a different set of icons, wallpapers, app switcher, font style, sounds, lock screen styles and even system apps. It's worth pointing out that some MIUI themes don't work with MIUI 6.

MIUI 6 allows users to identify, mark or block unwanted calls. It also supports batch organization of app icons and access to Notifications from any screen, including the lock screen (similar to iPhone). The new UI also offers floating notifications that show up at the top of the screen and are actionable. For instance, if you receive a phone call when you're taking a picture via the camera app, it will display a floating prompt on top of the screen with end and accept buttons. It also has iOS-like badge notifications that show the unread count on top of app icons.

Unlike the Chinese version, the Indian version of the phone comes preloaded with Google Play Store and all Google apps including Maps, Gmail, YouTube and Hangouts.

For a detailed review of MIUI 6 read our Xiaomi Mi 4 review.

Lite Mode

The Redmi 2 also offers a Lite Mode that features a simplified Home screen and menus. One can switch to the Lite Mode by going to the Settings and enabling the mode under the General Settings tab. The phone reboots to the Lite mode which looks a bit like Windows Phone with its big tiles for most core apps, large fonts and simplified versions of phone and messages apps. The Messages app also features a text to speech function to read out messages.

The Lite Mode is good for first time smartphone users and the elderly since it doesn't overwhelm with the hundreds of options, settings and apps part of the Android smartphone experience. One can reboot to the full-fledged UI mode by going to the Settings app and disabling Lite Mode via the system settings.

Camera

Xiaomi Redmi 2 sports an 8MP rear camera accompanied by an LED flash. According to Xiaomi, the phone's 5-element lens has an ƒ/2.2 aperture to capture more light, and 28mm wide-angle lens to cover a wider area. We have to say that the camera hardware of the phone is the best in the segment with similarly priced rivals lagging behind it by leaps.



The camera app is similar to the one on the Mi 4 and doesn't feature basic and advanced modes. Instead, there are three screens when you slide horizontally (in Still mode) - the first one featuring live filters, the middle one is the default camera interface and the last one has toggles for Panorama, HDR, Manual, Scene modes and a settings button. In video mode the interface is limited to two screens with one offering toggles for fast and slow motion video in addition to Settings that even lets you select full-HD video recording mode (default mode is 720p).

Some camera features including the Refocus mode and exposure time that come with the Mi 4 are absent since they're not supported by the phone's chipset.



Images captured by the camera in day light turned out pretty good with decent level of detail, accurate colour reproduction and decent contrast. Images shot in low-light were grainy but comparatively better than other phones available in the same segment. We did find a slight delay in focus but the end result was satisfactory. Photos taken in HDR mode had deeper colours and were devoid of shadows.

The front camera is also good for clicking selfies and for video calls. It also tries to predict your gender and age!

The rear camera can capture 1080p video and the quality of the output was satisfactory.

Performance
Xiaomi has endowed the Redmi 2 with a comparatively modern chipset. Even though the clock speed of the processor is lesser than that of the one on the Redmi 1S, performance wise, the new processor is much better.

Powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 64-bit quad-core processor with 1GB RAM and Adreno 306 GPU, it comes with 8GB internal storage out of which 5.75GB is available to the user. The phone also features a microSD card slot that supports storage cards of up to 32GB.


We did not notice major lag while navigating through the phone's menu, browsing the web and multimedia playback. However, the transition effects that come with MIUI 6 tend to slow down things a bit. Unfortunately, there's no way to turn these off. These effects are visible while opening and closing apps, expanding folders and switching between open apps. We noticed considerable lag while switching between apps and going to the home screen after opening a number of apps. We got a 'launching launcher' screen for a few seconds while going back to the home screen a few times.

Update: Xiaomi informs that you can disable transition, window and scaling animations through the Developer options settings. You'll need to enable the developer options by going to the 'About phone' menu in the Settings and tapping on the MIUI Version item for 7 times.

In synthetic benchmarks, Redmi 2 beats its predecessor by a small margin. The phone scored 20,309 in Antutu, 11,818 in Quadrant and 54.1 in Nenamark 2 benchmark tests.

The phone was able to play full HD video files without any problems.

Connectivity features of the Redmi 2 include 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and microUSB 2.0. The best part about the phone is that both its sim slots support 4G data. It supports both Band 40 (2300MHz TD LTE) and Band 3 (1800MHz FDD LTE) network bands for 4G covering all present and upcoming networks.

Redmi 2 offers good call quality and signal reception and we did not encounter issues while making calls even in areas where cell signal is relatively weaker. The phone was able to lock to GPS in a few seconds, without any hiccups. We could not test 4G LTE performance as there are no 4G networks in Delhi, at the moment.

Red 2 offers FM radio with recording capability and the app works even without plugging in headphones. We were also able to play most popular video and audio file formats. The phone offers customized audio settings for different kinds of headphones and offers excellent quality sound output with headphones on (no headphones are included in the box though).

The external speaker also offers loud sound output with decent clarity even at high volume levels. Although the outlet is located at the back, the sound does't get muffled on solid surfaces due to the phone's slightly rounded back and protruding camera lens.

The phone packs a 2,200mAh battery (removable) and will last you a full working day (15-16 hours) if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and use 3G data all the time. You'll be able to make about 1-2 hours of phone calls, play some casual games and browse the web in this time period. It lasted more than 22 hours with light to medium usage.

Your mileage may vary with different usage patterns. The phone offers two power modes and you can choose the balanced mode to save some juice. The phone supports Quick Charge 1.0 that speeds up charging.

Gaming
We were able to play games like Looney Tunes Dash, and Subway Surfers, without encountering frame drops or freezes. We were also able to play Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP 2 without encountering much lag or stutter.



Verdict
With the Redmi 2, Xiaomi has got another winner at its hand. At a price of Rs 6,999, the phone offers a great display (for its price), mid-range hardware and a good camera.

The dual-mode, 4G dual-sim make it the perfect future-ready, affordable device. Perhaps, Xiaomi can fine tune the software to reduce the minor performance niggles. Other than that, it's the best option if you're looking to buy your first smartphone. If you already own a Redmi 1S then we'll not suggest buying the Redmi 2 as it's only a minor upgrade.

The Lenovo A6000 is another decent alternative in case you're looking for similar phones in the price range.
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