The Redmi Note 2 was released in August in the Chinese market for about US$140. The Prime version, which comes with 32 GB of onboard storage, costs about US$156. If you want to buy it, however, you'll need to do this online as it's not officially available in the United States.
design and build quality
The Redmi Note 2 is not a smartphone with an exceptional design. The back cover can be removed along with the battery, unlike many other new phones on the market. The build materials used this second generation Redmi Note are plastic and glass.
This is not a device that is light or thin, but it still feels nice in the hands. Although it has a 5.5-inch screen and fairly large edges, the Redmi Note 2 is a good size and can easily be used with one hand. The sleep/wake and volume buttons are located on the right side of the device. It bears a striking difference with the Galaxy S6 Edge+ because Samsung chose to bring these same buttons on opposite side to make it necessary to use both hands to increase or decrease audio volume. With the Redmi Note 2, that's not an issue.
On the front we have a 5 MP front camera and a notification LED. The Redmi Note 2 can be tricky to hold; the edges are thick and resemble the Xperia Z2. At the foot of the display are capacitive buttons, which are a classic feature of Xiaomi design.
Regarding design, the Redmi Note 2 is not the most creatively put-together smartphone, but is definitely simple and functional.
The infrared sensor is a special feature, so to speak, of the Redmi Note 2. One issue it has is that the IR sensor is not compatible with some TVs, but still works with some third-party applications. But many smartphones, like those from Sony, no longer offer this option in newly launched models, but Xiaomi decided to invest in the technology.
Perhaps because the Redmi Note 2's design is simple, display quality is one of its highlights. The screen makes up about 72.2 percent of the phone's front surface area, coming in at 5.5 inches and with Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) and uses IPS LCD technology. To screen's quality, at least on paper, is the same as OnePlus 2, that is, we have a device with a decent screen and, for that price bracket, offers better viewing angles than what we see in the OnePlus.
With respect to image quality, the Redmi Note 2 display is satisfactory and, despite having a screen with balanced brightness, contrast, the overall vividness of colors could be better.
Watching YouTube and Netflix is a treat on this 5.5-inch screen, especially because audio quality is quite good. Using it for reading and web browsing is also good due to the fact that display brightness is not so heavy, meaning your eyes will thank you later in the day. This makes the overall user experience more natural and pleasant.
The Redmi Note 2 software, sporting MIUI 7, is based on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. The colorful MIUI interface is built from the source code of Android (AOSP), so the software has its own cycle of updates and features. The device I had for this review was Chinese, offering only English besides that. Also, to get Google apps, you need to flash the GApps package. If you prefer to import this phone online, keep in mind that there will be some software limitations, such as language choices.
The Redmi Note 2 does not have the traditional separate app drawer at the bottom of the home screen. On the homescreen is the application tray, as you'll find in Apple's iOS. To delete an app, simply hold the icon you want and push it toward the trash that appears at the top screen. The system has a do not disturb mode that can be configured according to your needs, as well as another option to configure the behavior of notifications.
MIUI has a shop with themes, lock screens, icons packages, sources, wallpapers and widgets. Other Xiaomi owner utilities are present in the Redmi Note 2, such as a data manager, antivirus, recorder, notepad, file manager and a weather app.
In general, MIUI 7 is surprisingly good and provides the ability to customize. So for those who like to customize their smartphones, the Redmi Note 2 is a smorgasbord.
The Redmi Note 2 packs a MediaTek Helio X10 octa-core processor up 2.2 GHz. This CPU is equivalent to the Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 minus the overheating issues. For graphics it has the PowerVR G6200 GPU. The device also comes with 2 GB of RAM and two variants of internal storage; 16 GB and 32 GB.
Added to this is the MIUI 7 system. This smartphone runs graphically advanced games, copes well with the multitasking feature and, during my testing, had no problems, freezes or crashes. However, as my unit came from China, many of Google's applications were not installed and I had flash GApps, which was some work.
At times, while charging the device, or under intense stress, the hardware (games or multitasking) of the Redmi Note 2 warmed a little, but nothing that is higher than expected in modern smartphones.
I'm not a fan of the speaker on the back of smartphones, let alone speakers with mono audio quality. However, the Redmi Note 2 offers good sound, especially when you cup it with your hand while watching video. Even when I placed the device under a desk with the screen facing up, the audio was not stuffy as there was a small ledge that served as a barrier to avoid contact of the speaker grill with the table surface.
Regarding audio, both the speaker and the microphone of this Xiaomi device did an excellent job. The sound was clean and clear, even in noisy environments or when you are on the street and the microphone is in contact with strong wind.
Before creating this Redmi Note 2 review, I had the chance to see a number of tests and, to my surprise, most sites considered its camera quality a negative point. However, I have to disagree. The camera of the second generation Redmi Note was above the standard of devices found today for less than US$200 on the international market. Starting with the camera software interface, as we can see below, the Redmi Note 2 offers manual camera mode, light exposure and manual focus as well as a series of filters.
Below you can see a gallery of images taken with the Redmi Note 2 cameras. You can see that the 13 MP rear sensor camera handles colors and focus well while providing a significant amount of detail in poorly-lit environments.
The front camera offers good image quality and video. The sensor will capture enough details that selfies won't be a problem.
The battery Redmi Note 2 has a capacity of 3060 mAh and a is a surprise for a smartphone of less than US$200. This smartphone, with QuickCharge 2.0, allows 60 percent charge of battery capacity in just 30 minutes. But despite this, it still needs nearly two hours to reach full capacity.
Now, even with good capacity, fast loading and the possibility to remove it, the Redmi Note 2 battery falls short for battery life. It won't take more than six hours of intensive use, on average, and around four hours of screen-on time and Wi-Fi enabled.
The 32 GB version of the Redmi Note 2 can be bought in China for a bargain. This device has everything you might need from a smartphone, both on the hardware and software sides. So if you're considering a Chinese smartphone with AOSP software and want to use it for at least two years, this is a good investment.
Despite the fact that MIUI is not such a simple interface to use, unlike Android devices from Motorola or Asus, for anyone who enjoys customization, this is an interface you'll love. The Redmi Note 2 is undoubtedly the best smartphone you can find today within this price range. And to answer the question of whether this really is a smartphone that faces competitors like thebLG G4, Galaxy S6 Edge+ or iPhone 6S Plus, I'd say, looking at the finer details, definitely yes. After all - it's no wonder that this smartphone had more than 1 million units sold since launch.
So, do you like the Redmi Note 2? Let us know in the comments.