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

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MIUI's Lite Mode in action. Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

I've written quite a bit about MIUI in the Xiaomi Mi 3 and Redmi reviews, and there's basically no change to the UI here. So instead of repeating everything, I'll pick out the one feature I really like about it.

The ability to quickly move apps from screen to screen simply by tapping and holding an app, then using another finger to swipe and change the current page, is really helpful. It's intuitive and easy, and makes me wonder why other manufacturers haven't implemented something similar. On most phones you have to drag an app to the edge of the screen to change the page, which is fiddly and takes longer.

Camera

Given how little the phone costs, you'd expect Xiaomi to have settled for cheap, low-megapixel cameras, but that's not the case here. While it doesn't have built-in optical image stabilization, the rear 13-megapixel camera is as fast as those in most high-end phones. Do note, however, that the camera lacks a backside-illuminated sensor, so low-light shots won't give results as good as you'd get from the higher-end flagship smartphones.

As for the image quality, I found pictures to have plenty of detail. I particularly liked the macro shots, which had a pleasing-looking depth of field. Like the Mi 3's camera, the Note's keeps it simple without any special tricks, but comes with the standard slew of filters, panorama mode, and HDR.

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Outdoor test shot (click to enlarge). Aloysius Low/CNET
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Indoor test shot (click to enlarge). Aloysius Low/CNET
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Macro test shot (click to enlarge) Aloysius Low/CNET

Performance

Like the Huawei Honor 3X , the Note comes packing a "true" eight-core processor. Unlike Samsung's Exynos octa-core processors, which have a "4+4" configuration in which slower cores take over to save power when heavy processing isn't required, the MediaTek MT6592 uses all eight cores at the same time.

Xiaomi's MIUI is pretty well optimised, and I didn't encounter any sluggishness with the phone like I did with the Honor 3X. On the Quadrant test, the phone scored 16,836, which isn't too far behind this year's flagship phones, which typically score in the 21,000-to-23,000 range. On Linpack, the Note achieved 287.8MFLOPs over 0.59 seconds, which is similar to the performance of the midrange LG Optimus L90 , which is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor.

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The Quadrant benchmark score. Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

Call quality

I had no problems making phone calls. Sound was crisp and clear, very similar to what I encountered with the Xiaomi Mi 3. The Note's speaker volume was also sufficiently loud, though the speaker is located at the rear, which means you may need to use your cupped hand to bounce the sound to your ears in noisy environments.

Battery life

Loaded with a removable 3,200mAh battery, the Redmi Note should easily last you a full day and beyond. I'm still testing the battery life of the phone, so check back for an update pretty soon. There are also power settings that let you configure performance to maximise your battery life.

Conclusion

While you won't be able to easily get your hands on the Xiaomi Redmi Note outside of its launch countries, some third-party online retailers stock the phone at a premium and ship worldwide. That's at the risk of not having a warranty, however, and should the phone break down, it will be hard to get it serviced.

As always, Xiaomi has packed plenty of value into the phone, and the Note easily beats its competitors hands-down on that score. While it doesn't have 4G, compared with the non-LTE version of the Moto G , which retails at $179 or around £100 or AU$240, the Note seems like a much better deal.

Xiaomi's Redmi Note is likely to be a hit with business travellers as well as folks who want to try out a good Android phablet without having to pay a premium. You'd be well served by this phone.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

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