Xiaomi Redmi review: Ultra-budget Android Redmi shines for Asia

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MSRP: $133.00

The Good The ridiculously cheap Xiaomi Redmi has a cool UI with plenty of usable features, a good camera, and a crisp 720p display.

The Bad The Redmi lacks 4G connectivity and 3D gaming performance was sluggish.

The Bottom Line Xiaomi's Redmi offers exceptional value for its low price, and blows all other budget handsets out of the water. If you're looking for a cheap Android smartphone without having to compromise performance, look no further.

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8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9

Review Sections

Known as the Xiaomi Hongmi ("red rice," in Mandarin) in China, the dual-SIM 3G Redmi is the first handset from the company that is officially available outside of China, Taipei, and Hong Kong, and is set to retail online for both Singapore and Malaysia.

It's the first time the company is launching a handset in countries where Chinese is not the main language, and to start off with a budget handset seems like a bold move, except for the fact the Redmi is more than what it seems. Despite a low price of just $133 (S$169), the cheap Android smartphone packs plenty of punch.

The Redmi's design feels pretty standard, it's your usual rectangular smartphone with slightly curved corners. With no sharp edges, though, the phone doesn't dig into your palm. The 4.7-inch IPS display sports a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, which means you won't have to worry about fuzzy fonts when browsing the Web.

The handset feels solid despite being made of plastic -- there's a comfortable heft in its 158g weight. The overall build quality feels very much like something Nokia makes, and that's a very good thing, especially for those who have encountered low-quality Chinese OEM handsets before.

Xiaomi Redmi (angled)
The handset has a 4.7-inch IPS display with a 720p resolution. Aloysius Low/CNET

The rear cover is removable, and you can also swap it out for a different color. Xiaomi will also be retailing a bunch of soft gel protective cases for just $7 (S$9), which add a different hue to the handset as well. I found the cases to be pretty well made despite their price, and this means you don't have to spend a bomb to accessorize.

Underneath the cover is where you'll find the removable 2,000mAh battery, and I'm told that you can also get an extra battery for just $8 (S$10), and in a different color, though no one (besides yourself) will ever see it.

The power and volume buttons are found on the right, and are easily in reach when holding the smartphone with one hand. Speakers are located at the back near to the camera, which means you won't block it with your palm when holding it.

While it only has 3G connectivity, the handset will work almost anywhere in the world. The phone also comes with dual-SIM capability, allowing you to easily have two lines active on your handset. However, only one SIM will have 3G activated (the second SIM supports GPRS data), and ideally, while you can use data on both SIMs, it's probably a good idea to use it on the 3G line for faster speeds.

The Redmi runs a modified version of Android, called MIUI v5. If you're a person who likes to tinker with your phone, or perhaps, have even rooted it and installed a few ROMs, then you may be familiar with MIUI. If this is your first experience with the OS, there are a few features that will reel you in.

Xiaomi Redmi (homescreen)
It's easy to customize the home screen. Aloysius Low/CNET

Right from the lock screen are a bunch of options when you touch the unlock key. You can swipe the button in four directions to either quickly turn on the camera, access your text messages or the phone dialer. Holding down the home button when the phone is locked will also turn on the flashlight, which is quite a convenient feature.

Once you unlock the phone, you'll find your normal home screen, but unlike stock Android, MIUI resembles iOS here, as there's no app drawer and your apps are located on the home screens. Like the Huawei Honor 3X, there's also a Themes app for you to customize the UI's look and feel.

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