Xiaomi Redmi Note review: Big, bold, and cheap to boot

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MSRP: $229.00

The Good The Xiaomi Redmi Note has a vibrant display, a sharp camera, dual-SIM capability, and an easy-to-understand interface. Even unlocked it's quite affordable.

The Bad The Redmi Note runs the aging Android Jelly Bean OS, and the glossy plastic back feels oily after prolonged use. There's also no 4G LTE.

The Bottom Line The Xiaomi Redmi Note delivers a great display and satisfying performance at a low price, but skip it if you crave the most cutting-edge smartphone features.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

Xiaomi's Redmi Note isn't a new flagship phone from the Chinese company. Rather it's an affordable dual-SIM device powered by MediaTek's octa-core processor that's under $160, £95, or AU$170.

While you'd expect Xiaomi would have had to make a bunch of compromises to hit such a low price, the Redmi Note is surprisingly packed full of useful features, including a 13-megapixel camera and a 5.5-inch IPS 720p display. The only thing lacking is it still runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but the custom MIUI skin does a good job of helping to hide the fact.

The Redmi Note is currently only available in Asia (China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan) but you can get it online from third-party retailers. It will cost HKD$1,239 ($159) in Hong Kong, RM509 ($157) in Malaysia, and S$199 ($154) in Singapore. Those prices convert to around £95 or AU$170.


Resembling a super-size version of the Redmi , the Note is pretty hefty. Its 5.5-inch screen has a lot of plastic around it, and that makes it heavy: 7 ounces (199 grams). While the weight does give a solidity to the phone, it can feel a tad too big when placed next to the smaller LG G3 , which has a similar screen size.

The Redmi Note's display may be the same size as the G3's, but the LG phone is noticeably smaller. Aloysius Low/CNET

But that's quite an unfair comparison, to be honest. The G3 is a top-of-the-line device engineered to be ridiculously small (for its screen size), while the Note is much cheaper, aimed at a less demanding market. That said, it's not like Xiaomi hasn't paid any attention to how the Note was designed.

Clad in glossy white plastic, the phone feels just like any other plastic phone on the market. The choice of color is a good one, as it helps to hide the inevitable fingerprint smudges you'd expect from glossy surfaces. As the cover is removable, you can swap it out for other designs if that's your preference, but those are only available in China for now.

The phone has rounded corners, which sit well in the palm. If you're using this phone to play games in a landscape orientation, you'll find it pretty comfortable to grip. One thing though: the glossy plastic back does feel slick after some use, due to residue left by fingerprints.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Also found at the back of the phone is a 13-megapixel camera that boasts a 28mm wide-angle lens with LED flash. The front shooter packs 5 megapixels.

Internally, the Note is powered by a 3,200mAh battery and runs off a MediaTek MT6592 octa-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz. There are two versions of the phone: the other uses the same chip but clocked at 1.4GHz and only has 1GB RAM. The 1.7GHz version, which this review is based on, comes with 2GB.

Onboard storage is limited to a mere 8GB but the phone has a microSD card slot for another 32GB of space. Lastly, there's no 4G connectivity, but the phone supports 3G connectivity, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Software and features

Like all Xiaomi handsets, the Note comes with MIUI, which is Xiaomi's take on the Android operating system -- in this case, Android 4.2.2 and not the latest, 4.4 KitKat. One of the included features is drawerless home screens similar to iOS. This means all apps appear right on the home screen.

Xiaomi's MIUI runs over Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

Other features include themes and Lite Mode, which makes its reappearance here -- it was left out on the Xiaomi Mi 3 . Lite Mode's supersize icons makes the phone much easier to use for people with visual impairments or who aren't too tech-savvy. If you have an elderly relative who has poor eyesight, the Note, with its large 5.5-inch display and Lite Mode, could be perfect.

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