If you’re looking for a sub-$200 Android phone that excels in all aspects, go out and buy Xiaomi’s Redmi 4 Prime. Oops, sorry — I just gave away the conclusion.
I just can’t help but feel there’s not much competition against Xiaomi’s latest budget-friendly smartphone. Heck, we even have a list featuring some of the reasons why it beats everything else.
Still, the Redmi 4 Prime deserves a full review, so here it is.
First, here’s a short introduction.
Situated at the top of the recently launched Redmi 4 line, the Prime is the costliest of the trio, but not by a huge margin. The price is pegged at $133 in China, with international pricing hovering around $170, depending on the distributor.
That’s an insanely great deal for a phone this complete — that’s if you can find one. Like most Xiaomi devices, you’ll have to purchase it in China or from one of the many gray market channels, and make sure it actually works on your mobile network.
It’s also important to note that the Redmi 4 Prime officially shares the same name as the standard Redmi 4. The Prime moniker refers to the higher-end variant, but you shouldn’t look for it when shopping online. To differentiate the two, remember that the Prime has its LED flash to the left of the rear camera lens, while the standard version has its flash to the right.
It’s an absolute pleasure to hold, albeit slippery.
With a 5-inch display, the Prime has dimensions similar to Google’s 5-inch Pixel flagship. Not that the two phones are in any way comparable beyond that, but the Xiaomi has a full-metal build its credit.
It’s kind of slippery, though, and despite hours’ worth of online digging, I can’t confirm if the display has any sort of protection, like Gorilla Glass or some other anti-shatter glass. Smartphone brands are notorious for keeping this type of info under wraps to hide their cost-cutting practices.
To be safe, look for a protective case. The Redmi 4 Prime is already quite thick at 8.9mm, so it’s not like you’re ruining its figure.
All the features you need are here.
Other than the lack of frontal protection, you get the complete package on the outside: a bright Full HD LCD display, very accurate back-mounted fingerprint scanner, hybrid card tray (has one SIM slot and space for either another SIM or microSD card), and best of all, 4G LTE connectivity.
It would take some nitpicking to complain about the few shortcomings, such as the use of the older micro-USB standard instead of the more future-proof USB-C port, and the lack of NFC, which could have been used for quick wireless pairing with other devices. Most users won’t mind these flaws, because really, this phone is way below $200 in the first place.
This is how all affordable phones should perform.
What’s really surprising is how Xiaomi was able to equip a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor into this handset. In case you’re unfamiliar with chipsets, this processor is something you’d find on much more expensive midrange smartphones — and not on a phone priced this low.
Seriously, we’re talking about power greater than anything found in our best budget smartphone feature from last month. And this phone costs as little as the cheapest entry on that list.
It goes without saying that the Redmi 4 Prime performs beyond any other phone at this level. Apps open quickly, most new games run without any hiccups, and keeping tasks in check is aided by 3GB of memory and 32GB of internal storage.
MIUI is much improved.
Anyone who’s experienced Xiaomi’s signature interface knows how much of an Apple iOS ripoff it is. But that’s in the past; now, the eighth version of MIUI is mature enough to stand on its own.
MIUI 8 behaves like it should — an Android Marshmallow skin through and through. This isn’t to say it’s any closer to the operating system it’s built on, but it’s a lot more Android-like this time, without losing any of the deep customizations MIUI is known for.
Can’t follow? All you have to know is that the Prime’s software is user-friendly and colorful, yet still offers lots of options for adjusting the look and feel of the interface.
These are better cameras than you’d expect.
Normally, when you discover a phone this cheap, it’s the cameras that take the biggest hit. That isn’t the case here, however; the Redmi 4 Prime’s 5-megapixel front and 13-megapixel rear shooters are surprisingly good, and not just for entry-level standards. These are some samples:
As you can see, colors are vibrant whether HDR mode is on or not, and the sharpness is fantastic all throughout each photo. Taking pictures at night wasn’t that bad either, but you’ll have to keep your hands steady since there’s no image stabilization to assist you. If all else fails, you can make use of the dual-tone LED flash.
Same sentiments can be said for video recording, except there’s one minor caveat: Audio recording turns into a jumbled-up mess when recording heavy bass. I experienced this firsthand at a concert; standing close to the speakers while shooting was a terrible idea.
OMG, this battery!
I can’t believe I’m saving this part for last: The Prime’s battery is such a beast! While it shouldn’t be much of a surprise with it having a large 4100mAh capacity, bigger phones with similar batteries simply aren’t as efficient as this.
I was able to record six and a half hours of screen-on time on a single charge, which included lots of time playing games, testing the cameras, and leaving my 4G LTE connection constantly on. If I were to tone each of those down, over seven hours of active usage is quite realistic.
This leads to an endurance of two days with heavy usage — three days if you play more sparingly. We can credit these numbers to the energy-efficient processor and display panel, as well as the lighter MIUI implementation.
My only knock against it is the lack of fast charging. Using the bundled charger, it takes more or less two and a half hours to fill up the Redmi 4 Prime from zero percent. It’s a small price to pay for over a day of use, though.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
There are only a few reasons why the Redmi 4 Prime might not be for you: It lacks NFC connectivity; charging times are painstakingly slow; and you might have a difficult time finding one.
The first two may not actually matter to most consumers, but the third reason definitely does. Unless you have a reliable gray market source, securing a unit in the US or any non-Asian country can be cumbersome.
If you do manage to purchase the Redmi 4 Prime, congratulations! You’ll have a tough time finding a better deal at this price point. The only possible threat is the pending release of the slightly pricier Mi 5c, although I doubt it’ll undermine any of the Prime’s qualities.
You can also consider the similarly priced Vivo Y55, but none of its specs — from the display resolution to the processor and memory — can match the Redmi 4 Prime’s.