Xiaomi RedmiNote 4 review: The heir apparent
A couple of years ago, my headline for the review of the Xiaomi Redmi 2 read ' the return of the king' on a website not far away from here. It says something about how good a product Xiaomi makes. Then in 2016 came along the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 which took the Indian market by storm. Xiaomi says that it sold 3.6 million of these phones in India alone and its revenues in India crossed the $1 billion mark while its sales in China have petered along and it has failed to meet its targets two years in a row. Business aside, the Redmi Note 3 was a disruptive phone for its price and in my review, I called it the 'Rahul Dravid of smartphones'. In many ways, the Redmi Note 4 is the heir apparent. Now, Xiaomi doesn't have it as easy as it had things last year because the competition has woken up. But despite all this, the Redmi Note 4 is one hell of a phone and easily the best smartphone that you'll get for less than Rs 15,000.

The Good

From the get-go, it can be argued that every aspect of the Redmi Note 3 has been improved. Yes, this is an iterative update, but a sweeping update which means each every frailty of the phone has been addressed and the end result is fewer compromises and a more holistic premium smartphone experience for a sliver of the cost.

The biggest update comes in the form of the rear camera. It is a massive upgrade coming from the Redmi Note 3. Yes, it has a 13-megapixel resolution sensor with a f/2.0 aperture and PDAF system, but the image quality is a world apart.

The image quality is superb and it is actually quite close to something like the OnePlus 3 and on par with the Moto G4 Plus. The Xiaomi folks told me, the benchmark for the camera was the iPhone 6 and boy they do come close.

You get perfectly balanced images from the Redmi Note 4 which have ample amounts of detail, natural colours and decent levels of saturation. In low-light too, the image quality is a big improvement and it is possible to capture usable shots. The problem is that when taking close up shots, I felt the focusing was difficult because you couldn't the phone very close to the subject, but other than that, this device has possibly the best camera for a phone which is priced at less than Rs 15,000.

Video performance of the phone has also improved by a good deal, and it is possible to take some nice videos with this phone. The 5-megapixel camera also takes some good videos and selfies which are another improvement in the kitty of the Note 4. This could be due to new hardware or better software, but seriously who cares as long as it is better.

This time around Xiaomi is using a 2.5 curved cover glass for the Redmi Note 4's display. It still has a 5.5-inch 1080p LCD display, but this too is an improvement over its predecessor. It has richer colours and an overall brighter screen; the curved glass is also a nice premium touch which enhances the feel of the screen. All in all, this is a great screen for watching video, reading text, playing games or even shooting images for that matter.

Xiaomi has also refined the design. While it still has a metal unibody design, the Redmi Note 4 certainly looks like a classier phone than its predecessor. The metal chamfers are subtle, yet visible, the phone is slimmer at 8.3mm and the curved glass on the front makes the phone look sexier. The back is also beveled in such a slight way that it fits snugly in the palm. The speaker grills have also been moved to the bottom end next to microUSB port which means that it is more audible and from a design perspective it looks cool. Overall, while the Redmi Note 3 was slightly boring to look at, the Note 4 is much more attractive.

But all these improvements aside, one of the bigger improvements come in the form of sustained performance. Compared to a phone like the OnePlus 3 side by side, I often found almost no perceptible difference in the performance of the Note 4. Xioami has outfitted the phone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 eight-core processor coupled with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage which makes this anyway a hell of a package but looks like Xiaomi has optimised the heck out of the package to eek every ounce of performance out it.

Similarly, if you talk about gaming, I ran games like Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt 8 and the graphics were quite similar. Frame rate issues were also few and far between, and the heat management was never an issue. In fact, I don't remember this phone heating up even once, even while charging which is quite incredible.

Talking of charging, the battery life, again was awesome and I constantly managed in excess of 40 hours out of this phone on a single charge. While it still isn't the fastest charging phone, Xiaomi has made sure that it charges faster than its predecessor.

As usual, the software on the Redmi Note 4 is Android 6.0 Marshmallow skinned with the Mi UI 8 which is one of the better Android skins around. It is quite straight-forward to use and is tooled like Apple's iOS which makes things simple for a lot of people.

The Bad

The bad isn't bad per se, but it is more of a boring. The big takeaway is that this isn't the incredibly disruptive smartphone that took the Indian market by storm last year. This time around it feels like a refinement of the same. Basically, Xiaomi set about to fix everything that wasn't ideal with the Redmi Note 3.

By some metrics, this phone may also feel like a downgrade as it now uses the Snapdragon 625 instead of the Snapdragon 650 which is based on a superior architecture. Now, there are pros and cons, but Qualcomm promotes the 650 as a superior chip than the 625, but in real-world performance, I didn't face any issues. In fact, when augmented with 4GB RAM, I found the package on the Redmi Note 4 to be better, but the question is how many will feel the same way
Additionally, image quality in low-light is still not comparable to older Xiaomi phones like the Mi 4 and video in loud conditions isn't very usable because of distorted audio.

The Redmi Note 4 is yet another case of a smartphone running a version of Android that's more than a year old. In this case, the phone also doesn't fully support Android Marshmallow functionality like Google now on tap.

Should you buy it?

Long story short. Yes. Yes and Yes. Buy the Redmi Note 4 because it is fast, reliable, affordable and while doing so it will give you a very good camera and battery life that's akin to a roadrunner. It is the ultimate refinement of the Redmi Note 3 which is high praise because that phone now is a bit of an icon - just like Rahul Dravid was for the Indian cricket team. While India hasn't found the ultimate heir to Dravid, it seems like Xiaomi has found the heir apparent. It is the Redmi Note 4.