Reviews

Redmi Note 7 Review: Best budget option?

There’s nothing like it

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When you hear the words “budget smartphone,” a lot of things come to mind. The first is obviously its price followed soon by what features this phone possibly gave up. As such, budget smartphones often come with your typical entry-level features for a reasonable price. That was, until Xiaomi released budget smartphones that defied that norm.

The Redmi Note 7 has features that you normally see on most midrange smartphones today. It’s just that, well, it’s actually a budget smartphone. However that happened, we will leave it to Xiaomi, but the real question is: Is it actually worth it?

It has a 6.3-inch display with a teardrop notch

A rubber case is included…

… and so is a USB-C port at the bottom

The glass back comes with a fingerprint sensor and the dual AI camera

Impressive overall performance

Performance-wise, this phone ticks all the boxes. It’s pretty fast, responsive, and the UI feels seamless thanks to Android 9 Pie, MIUI 10, and a Snapdragon 660 chipset. I did toggle the display to go on full-screen mode without the navigation dock, and honestly, the gestures work so well. I got used to the full-screen mode within the first two hours of using the phone.

Apps work very well with this Snapdragon 660 plus 4GB RAM combination. Even gaming on this phone is solid, given that most games work best with 4GB RAM — except Fortnite! I mean, you can install the game but eventually, you can’t play it. Personally, I found this to be a bummer.

Nitpicking the design

I found this phone well-designed at first. The moment I started using it more extensively, I noticed some things that I felt were missed spots. First, the light indicator being at the bottom didn’t bother me, but it was a faint white color every time a notification would pop up. At the very least, it should have been a different color when you’re charging the device.

Second, the fingerprint sensor is easy to register on, but is hyper-sensitive. There were times I had to wipe my finger squeaky clean first before unlocking the phone. Sometimes, it took longer than three seconds to open the phone through the fingerprint sensor — which I felt was too slow.

Third, the glass back of the phone is such a fingerprint magnet, so it’s good that they included a jelly case. I do appreciate that the case had a “Designed by MI” tag on the left side, however. What I found iffy about the case is, well, it’s also a fingerprint and dirt magnet. If you’re a neat freak, I don’t think you’d like that for your phone or its case.

Superb battery life

In my opinion, it is a huge plus for any smartphone to have a USB-C port. But on a budget smartphone, a 4000mAh battery and a fast charger to pair it with? What more could you ask for, right? Not only will the phone promise longevity with battery life, but it’s also pretty quick to replenish!

As my daily driver, one full charge meant a day and a half of regular use. It was good enough to scroll through social media, watch videos, play games, and listen to music with some charge left. It took around two hours to charge the phone from zero to 100 — mind you, when using the brick. Just plugging the cord to a computer takes a bit longer.

The cameras are just… par for the course

Other than the battery, one of the biggest features anyone looks for in a budget smartphone is the camera setup. Oftentimes, I think that budget smartphones don’t necessarily stand out with their cameras. Then, I found out that the Redmi Note 7 has a 48-megapixel AI shooter with a 5-megapixel depth sensor and my expectations became a little higher.

But, I may have spoken a little too soon. First, the colors on images are vibrant but details are often left out. I can clearly see the different colors on the image upon first glance, and I was impressed with how they popped. However, every time I zoom in to look closer, details turn out blurry or grainy — almost washed out. When taking pictures at night, I found the camera subpar even with its built-in Night mode.

Second, if I want detail over color, I have to switch to HDR (48MP for Pro mode), and honestly, even with those on, some details don’t get any clearer. I tried shifting the focus of the lens toward different objects in the foreground and background, and details slightly improved. However, the same thing happened when I zoomed in on the picture: details blurred or grained. Despite these, however, I am impressed with the number of modes supported and the AI capabilities like scene detection and blur effects.

The 13-megapixel front camera was decent at best for me. I took some selfies both in well-lit and much darker conditions, and whatever thoughts I had for the rear camera are the same ones here. 

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Redmi Note 7 did not disappoint in a lot of aspects. From the overall performance to its features and battery life, this budget smartphone already serves as a great deal for anyone. 

If anything, one deal breaker for the device is its cameras and how they focus more on color than detail. If you’re looking for a budget option with cameras that focus more on detail, I recommend going for the Realme 3 for the same price.

The Redmi Note 7 is a definite bang for the buck smartphone, at PhP 9,990 (US$ 190) for the 4GB+64GB option and PhP 7,990 (US$ 155) for the 3GB+32GB option. If you want more storage, you can opt for the 4GB+128GB model at PhP 11,490 (US$ 220).

Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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Reviews

LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

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Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

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Accessories

Redmi Earbuds S review: Affordable TWS without compromises

Making TWS earphones more accessible

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Truly wireless (TWS) earphones have been around for a while. Apple kick-started the hype with the launch of the AirPods and numerous brands have released alternatives since. However, they’ve always been very expensive.

With brands keen on ditching the headphone jack, users are often left with no option but to find wireless options. Redmi phones continue to have a headphone jack, but the brand also wants to remain focused on its target — deliver quality products at an affordable price.

The Redmi Earbuds S is the first TWS offering in India under the Redmi brand. While the brand stands strong in the smartphone segment, it has some cut-throat competition from realme. With a price tag of INR 1,799 (US$ 24), does it have enough firepower to take on the competition? If you’re looking for an entry-level TWS solution, can you trust the Earbuds S? Let’s find out!

Not AirPods knock-offs

If you’ve been following the TWS market, the Earbuds S will look familiar. These are sold as the AirDots S in China and many have ordered them previously via international marketplaces. In India, Redmi is calling them the Earbuds S and these could land in more south-east Asian markets soon.

While the trend is to follow Apple’s design language, the Earbuds S is going against the flow. It has its own distinctive design that looks nothing like a cheap knock-off.

The pill-shaped case is compact, feels solid in hand, and has a subtle curve on the bottom. The case size is perfect and it’ll always slide into your pocket smoothly.

Each earbud weighs just 4g and the in-ear design is immensely comfortable. I’ve worn them pretty much all day long and never felt any irritation, pain, or slightest of inconvenience. The snug fit also ensures adequate noise isolation and wearing them while driving for calls is seamless.

There’s not much to talk about with the design since it’s basic and gets the job done. They’re built out of plastic and its clearly evident at first sight.

I won’t count this as a drawback since it helps reduce overall weight and I wouldn’t expect metal or premium construction at this price.

Easy to use, fairly straightforward

The lid is very basic but has a satisfying feel to it when closing. Unlike the popular AirPods, these sit in your ears at a 45-degree angle. Paired along are two earbud tips to suit your ear canal. I didn’t have to use them and the standard size that comes along worked fine.

Using them is a very straightforward process. Open the lid, remove the earbuds, and wear them.

They’ll connect to your phone as soon as they’re disconnected from the case. I’ve never faced any connection issues so far. Each earbud has a button for quick controls such as music playback options and calling up Google Assistant.

On the flip side, you can’t rely on the earbuds to change the volume level or play a previous song. That can only be managed via your phone.

Pressing the button thrice will trigger the low-latency gaming mode. A feature that’ll be very handy while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile or Mobile Legends.

Each earbud has an indicator light that shows the status. Red means they’re charging while white means successful connection establishment. Lastly, they’re IPX4 certified, meaning sweat resistance. This obviously translates to a perfect workout session.

Punchy bass, relatively good audio

This is where I was surprised the most. Considering the nifty features it already has, I expected some kind of compromise in this department. And, I was wrong.

It has 7.2mm drivers and delivers punchy bass — a must-have for Bollywood music. Mainstream genres like pop sound amazing and if you’re not an audiophile, you won’t have any complaints.

The maximum volume is sufficiently loud and coupled with good isolation, even a busy market street is easily navigable.

However, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, these aren’t meant for you. The low frequency takes over while the mids are flat. You can use an equalizer to change the settings but the inherent tuning is in favor of bass-heavy music.

Furthermore, these connect via the SBC codec and there’s no support for aptX. I wouldn’t call this a drawback because the brand has to cut corners to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Adequate playback duration

Xiaomi claims the earbuds can deliver up to four hours of playback on a single charge and I’ve reached 3 hours 45 minutes in one go. So, their claims aren’t farfetched.

The case can charge the earbuds fully twice, delivering a total of 12 hours of playback in one go. If you’re going to use them for conference calls, music, and other work-related activities, they’ll easily get you through a working day.

The case takes almost two hours to charge fully. For frequent travelers, this can be a major drawback. Furthermore, the case charges via a microUSB port instead of the now-standard USB-C. Don’t forget to carry that extra charging cord along!

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

Yes. It definitely can. While there are a lot of minor additions I’d want to see, the price brings me back to reality.

In a nutshell, they’re designed aptly, deliver ordinarily better audio, and have 12 hours of playback. For US$ 25, there’s no better deal available. Keep in mind, the Redmi Earbuds S are making TWS earphones more accessible to everyone.

If you’re looking for top-notch audio quality, there are premium offerings like the OPPO Enco Free, Galaxy Buds, and 1More Truly Stylish. On the affordable side, realme Buds Air Neo and OPPO Enco W31 can be alternatives but are still priced considerably high.

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