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Xiaomi Redmi 2 review: Value, but not without cost

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The Good The affordable Redmi 2 sells for a mere $120 or £80 and offers features such as dual 4G SIM slots and Xiaomi's easy to use MIUI OS. The 8-megapixel camera takes pretty good shots as well.

The Bad The phone's low 1GB of RAM will adversely affect performance when running a lot of apps, and it runs an older version of Android.

The Bottom Line The low price of the Redmi 2 makes it an appealing option, but you'll be better off paying a bit more for Xiaomi's more premium offerings if you can afford to do so.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.6 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Camera 6
  • Battery 7

Review Sections

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is well-known for its low-cost, high-quality products, but unfortunately, the Redmi 2 fails to live up to expectations. That isn't to say the sub-$120 (roughly £75 or AU$140) smartphone is a bad device, but slight performance issues hamper what would otherwise be a great phone for its price.

First and foremost, the Redmi 2 is a budget phone, so it's not using the fastest processor possible or packing a lot of RAM. This can lead to noticeable sluggishness when more resource-hogging apps such as Facebook Messenger start running in the background. But if you don't use that, the phone can run pretty smoothly.

Performance issues aside, the phone does come packed with features, including the latest version of the company's easy-to-use MIUI, dual-SIM 4G capabilities and an 8-megapixel rear camera that takes surprisingly decent shots in good lighting.

If you're looking for a cheap phone, this is probably a good buy, though if you live in the US, UK or Australia, you'll have to get it from online resellers at a slight premium. Unfortunately, Xiaomi doesn't sell its phones in stores in those countries -- it's still focused on Asian markets such as India, but those in South America, in particular Brazil, may soon get the chance to purchase one when the company moves forward with its expansion plans.

Design

  • 4.7-inch, 1,280x720-pixel IPS display (312ppi)
  • 5.3 by 2.7 by 0.4 inches (134 by 67.2 by 9.4 mm)
  • 4.7 ounces (133 grams)

Like the original Redmi, the Redmi 2's design keeps it simple. What you get is a dull-looking rectangular phone with rounded corners and a plastic rear. It's not much to look at, but it seems Xiaomi has gone with a more basic design to keep costs down.

The Redmi 2 greatly resembles the original phone, down to the position of the rear camera, volume and power buttons (located on the right side). The key difference, however, is that the Redmi 2 is slightly smaller when placed side by side, as you can see in the picture below.

The Redmi 2 (right) is slightly smaller than the Redmi 1S, but the size of the screen is the same. Aloysius Low/CNET

Under the rear cover, you'll find a removable 2,200mAh battery, a microSD card slot and two 4G SIM slots sized for micro-SIMs. The battery's slightly larger in capacity compared to the Redmi (2,000mAh), but a larger battery is necessary since the Redmi 2 runs on 4G LTE (instead of 3G only, like the Redmi).

The 3.5mm audio jack is located along the top edge, while the Micro-USB port if found on the bottom right edge of the phone. Interestingly, the phone's speakers are found next to the rear camera instead of lower down at the bottom like most other phones.

Weighing at 133 grams (4.7 ounces), the phone packs quite a heft in the hands, delivering a solid reassuring feel. The 4.7-inch IPS display is also bright and viewable under bright sunlight, and stays that way when viewed from pretty much any angle. The handset sports a 1,280x720-pixel display. Not an impressive spec, but not too shabby either for its price.

The 4.7-inch display is bright and vibrant. Aloysius Low/CNET

Hardware and software

  • 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410
  • 8GB of storage
  • 1GB of RAM
  • Expandable storage
  • 2,200mAh nonremovable battery

Powered by a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, the Redmi 2 packs 1GB of RAM and 8GB of onboard memory. It also microSD card support for up to 32GB of extra storage.

As mentioned, the phone supports 4G, and in particular LTE bands 3, 7 and 8 on the FDD LTE standard. This means the phone will be able to use 4G in markets such as UK and Australia but not in the US.

Software-wise, the phone is powered by Android 4.4 but runs Xiaomi's own MIUI 6.0. The custom skin adds quite a bit of features to the phone, including my favorite feature, which lets you shift apps around by tapping and holding on an app and using another finger to flick to another screen. And while it's not running Lollipop, Xiaomi's MIUI includes plenty of useful thoughtful features last seen on the Mi 4i.

While the UI is similar to iOS, with apps located on the home screen, the drop-down notification menu is more closely related to Android and comes loaded with shortcuts that give you quick access to turning the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off, and putting the phone in airplane mode, among other things. You can also quickly turn on the flashlight from the lock screen by holding down the button, a feature I'm told was added after suggestions from Xiaomi's customers.

Other features include the ability to select different themes, and an easy mode that changes the UI into something simpler with bigger dial pads and icons. That's perfect for users who aren't as familiar with modern smartphones.

One thing that Android users should take note of is that like most Chinese-designed UIs, the phone doesn't have an app drawer -- as mentioned, apps are all located on the home screen. It's a mixture of Android and iOS, so if you're familiar with either system, it shouldn't take you long to get used to the phone. Check out the screenshots below for a look at the UI.

xiaomiredmi2ss-02.jpg
Xiaomi's phones use MIUI, which is a custom skin on top of Android. In the Redmi 2's case, it's KitKat. Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET
xiaomiredmi2ss-03.jpg
MIUI has a very clean and flat look, though like iOS, it stores the apps on the home screen instead of an app drawer. Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

Camera

  • 8-megapixel rear camera
  • 1080p HD video
  • 2-megapixel front-facing camera

The Redmi 2 comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a front 2-megapixel shooter. Interestingly, unlike most budget handsets in the market, the Redmi 2's camera does offer decent performance, and has a speedy shutter to boot. Startup time is a little slow, but that's mostly due to the phone's processing power, which I'll talk a bit more in the following section.

On the rear you'll find an 8-megapixel camera. Aloysius Low/CNET

The Redmi 2's camera also comes with HDR mode, a countdown mode for taking better selfies, panorama and a manual option if you like to tweak things. There aren't any overly complicated features to the camera app -- a good thing, in my opinion.

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