By: Samir Makwana, The Mobile Indian, Mumbai
Last updated : Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 16:37
Strong performance delivering Redmi 1s toughens the competition with smooth user experience, compelling hardware and great camera for the budget segment.
The display offers crisp text and pleasing visuals
Rear Camera offers great still images
Can run most Android games
Phone gets heated on using Wi-Fi and during gaming
Lacks Android 4.4 KitKat update
Time-bound, limited availability
Chinese Electronics company Xiaomi made its debut in India as Mi India with the "Flash Sales" marketing strategy and managed to impress thousands. Following the sale of about 95000 Mi3 smartphones, the company has now shifted its focus on the affordable budget handset - Redmi 1s.
Mi Redmi 1s offers 4.7-inch display with 720p (HD) resolution and has decent features. The Redmi 1s thus competes with the Motorola Moto E and ASUS Zenfone 4 mostly while there are many other such as Intex Aqua Style (2014), Micromax Canvas Fire 2, and Karbonn S2 Titanium to name a few.
The Redmi 1s is a smartphone level hardware and features loaded budget smartphone. We expect all the basic things such as telephony, imaging, music, videos, gaming, and overall performance to be just fine if not like the top end devices.
Mi India sent over the Redmi 1s retail unit to us for testing and following are our thoughts about the smartphone.
Build and Design
Most budget level smartphones offer run of the mill design with flimsy quality materials. Thankfully, the handset makers are getting serious about the budget segment and thus we now see sturdy looks and premium feel offering smartphones. The new Redmi 1s offers the standard design just like handsets from other Indian handset makers.
The Redmi 1s is 9.9 mm thick which is gracefully acceptable for a budget device and weighs 158 grams. Design of the phone appears to be minimal with capacitive buttons without backlight in the front. The volume buttons are on the right side while the Power button is just below it. The camera has been placed at the top center at the back with an LED flash just below it. The LED flash is one crucial thing which is absent in several smartphones at the budget segment.
The removable back panel of the smartphone carries a fine matte like design. There is a small slot on the right side bottom to put your nail and pull out the back cover. Back cover basically protects the twin SIM card slots and micro SD card slot. Also the red coloured battery rests around the slots. Even the area around these slots offers nice matte finish.
Redmi 1s has a micro-USB slot at the bottom and the standard audio port on the top. There is one microphone at the bottom of the phone and one just above the camera module at the back.
Mi's Redmi 1s is the budget level device for the aspirants who wish to enjoy mid-range device like feel with the materials used. Hefty looking Redmi 1s is also slightly thicker and heavier than the average budget smartphone. When compared to other top devices in the segment, the Redmi 1s delivers equal level of physical quality.
Fairly easy to use with a single hand, the Redmi 1s feels comfortable to the palm. Sliding aside the fingerprint magnet glass, the Redmi 1s can be called as one of the decent looking devices in the budget segment.
Rating for design: 7 out of 10
Redmi 1s features the hardware which is usually found in the mid-range smartphones. To start with, the Redmi 1s offers a 4.7-inch IPS LCD touchscreen with 1280x720 pixel resolution. The display has been made the ASI Dragontrail glass technology to offer protection against the usual wear and tear. Dragontrail glass can be titled as the budget equivalent of the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 technology with a different take. The Dragontrail glass is fingerprint magnet but can protect against normal wear and tear. However, whether the Dragontrail Glass loaded Redmi 1s is not shatterproof, for we didn't try that but several reports suggest the same. Nevertheless no one intentionally drops the phone. Visuals through the display is fairly decent and text appears crisp thanks to the pixel density of 312 pixels per inch.
Mi has housed the powerful quad-core 1.6 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 mobile chipset coupled with Adreno 305 GPU for graphics. This mobile chipset is usually found in the sub Rs 20,000 or Rs 15,000 mobile handsets. Slightly overclocked, the mobile chipset is paired with 1 GB RAM to ensure smooth functioning of the system and apps.
Mi has added the usual Dual-SIM configuration support that can accommodate two Mini SIM modules and also offer dual Standby modes. Apart from that, Redmi 1s offers WiFi Direct features with the WiFi 802.11 b/g/n support. The Redmi 1s also packages Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy and A2DP. Users can also enjoy the USB On-The-Go feature but the OTG cable is not bundled with the device.
The smartphone offers FM Radio which requires headset to be connected for accessing other radio stations. Yet again, there is no pair of headphones bundled with the package. For location based services, the phone offers GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS support. When it comes to additional sensors, Redmi 1s offers accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity and digital compass.
The Redmi 1s pretty standard hardware suitable for the budget level devices. However, the presence of 720p (HD) display and Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 mobile chipset will make it stand apart from the rest of the budget competitors.
Rating for hardware: 8 out of 10
By default, the Redmi 1s has 8 GB on-board storage out of which only 6.14 GB is actually accessible to the user. This is the standard on-board storage offered in most budget devices. There is a memory card slot at the rear that can hold up to 32 GB micro SD card. We have no doubts that the phone may be able to support 64 GB card with some tinkering but the phone might become slow and unresponsive with that. We really hoped that Mi India would bump the on-board storage.
Rating for storage: 7 out of 10
Software and User Interface
While the hardware and looks mostly remain the same, the only differentiating factor that usually works in this segment is the software. Mi India offers the Redmi 1s preloaded with the MIUI version 5 optimised on top of the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. While the company's Global VP, Hugo Barra has promised to release the MIUI Version 6, we are not sure about the arrival time. Basically the version 6 will be based on the Android 4.4 KitKat which is usually found in all new budget devices unveiled in sub Rs 10,000 segment. The biggest merit of Android 4.4 KitKat update is better utilisation of the RAM.
While the MIUI user interface is quite simple to use, it is certainly loaded with several features that can be discovered and used judiciously. Right from customising the Home screen to the launcher, several features have been added in the MIUI system. Simplistic and clean look clad MIUI version 5 keeps all the app shortcuts on the homescreens. There is no app drawer. Similar themed apps can be clubbed together in a folder with appropriate title. For instance, the Tools app folder on the homescreen offers collection of useful apps such as FM Radio, Calculator, Torch, Clock, Downloads Mail, Mi Cloud, Updater and Downloads. Similarly, all Google Mobile Services apps are clubbed together in the app folder called Google.
The transitions and animations are smooth as well as hiccup-free. At least with our review unit, we did not face any lag. For those who load several apps and games to fill up the on-board storage, there is obviously noticeable lag and that's where the lack of Android 4.4 KitKat hurts a bit. Users can easily access the Mi Themes Store to download and install entire Theme experience right from icons to transitions for free or pay for the paid versions.
The Security app basically takes of the unwanted files and fires up permission manager to keep a control on the data being accessed by different apps. Apart from that, one can also check for viruses if any and create blocklist from there.
Redmi 1s also features SIM management like other Dual SIM devices. There is an interesting feature called Lite Mode which basically strips down the resource intensive features in the MIUI. The user interface is brought to the bare minimum and large icons-fonts level. With the Lite mode, The users get to enjoy simple menus and homescreen. However, selecting Lite mode requires reboot.
Several hidden gems exist in MIUI like pulling down Messages window repetitively till bottom reveals a secret Private Messaging option. Also, users can block or group users from the Contacts menu. While the MIUI is absolutely bliss to enjoy, the lack of enough RAM does pinch at time. The basic icons and look are decent enough not to be fiddled around.
MIUI community has packed enough optimizations for the users to discover and enjoy above the native vanilla Android 4.3 Jelly Bean user interface.
Rating for software: 8.5 out of 10
Redmi 1s offers an 8 megapixel camera at the back with single LED flash just under it. With that, the Redmi 1s has already stepped ahead of the Moto E and Zenfone 4. Using the camera was totally a bliss and camera app offered ample amount of features for a budget phone. During daylight, the camera captures great quality of photos. Images are crisp and carry loads of details which did surprise us. The camera also clicked fairly decent images under low light conditions. Compared to any other device in sub Rs 10,000 range, the Redmi 1s camera certainly manages to impress us.
Apart from HDR and picture effects, we enjoyed Audio option in camera app settings which basically is a voice command triggered capture mode. So basically you can make any loud sound near the microphone at the back while pointing the camera at the subject and camera app on. Following that, the camera will run a three second timer and capture the image of the subject. Very interesting feature for the shutterbugs.
The camera is also usable to record full HD (1080p) quality videos. A 14-second video gets saved in .mp4 format and measures about 15 MB. So we recommend you to have a larger microSD card in order to record longer videos.
Users can enjoy live filters for both still images and videos to capture the images using a filter of their choice. By default, the camera records in 720p (HD) mode and one needs to select Advanced Settings in camera app settings to further switch to full 1080p HD mode. In the front, it has a 1.6 megapixel camera capable enough to hold video calls or click selfies.
The Redmi 1s has one of the best cameras amongst the budget smartphones. For those who have always wanted a decent camera clad budget device, the search ends at Redmi 1s. However, we would like to clarify that the quality is compared to that offered by the other devices.
Rating for camera: 8 out of 10
In past six months, several smartphone models were launched with quad-core mobile chipset and large screen display. The Redmi 1s too packs a quad-core mobile chipset that has been ideally targeted for the mid-range to higher mid-range devices. Before we head to the cosmetic benchmarks, we would like to state here up front that the Redmi 1s does warm up while clicking images, after gaming and when connected to the WiFi Network. We really hope that Mi India rolls out an update to fix this issue.
Before we talk about benchmarks, we would like to clarify that these benchmark are merely an estimates of the smartphone's potential. The actual real world performance may or may not be the same as represented in the figures.
In terms of Benchmarks, the Redmi 1s gave an impressive score of 20,727 in the AnTuTu Benchmark and in terms of comparison almost close to the Google Nexus 4. That is a big score for a budget level device. We tried to test the graphics with 3D Mark's Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark and the phone managed to score respectable 4474. That means it will play most of the games - casual and others in normal mode. Pushing the game's graphics settings to maximum will only make the phone stutter.
The rear speaker was as much loud as the other devices in the same segment. Apart from being reasonably audible, the speaker also offered clarity. Voice call quality was really decent for the smartphone has dual-mic noise suppression feature in order get best possible audio in loud environments.
Redmi 1s is packaged with a 2000 mAh capacity battery which is almost as much as the one in Moto E. The Redm 1s can easily offer full day usage with couple of calls, some web browsing including social networks, listening to music, gaming for a bit and watching a video or two. The phone did get little warm on the top at the back after a gaming session and the battery was sucked out significantly.
We noticed that battery was consumed faster if the location services were left on while gaming or browsing the Internet on the move.
Images by- Sushil Kumar
Mi India's Redmi 1s will be sold from today, 2 September, onwards only from the Flipkart website for Rs 5,999. The exclusive availability is going to be the double edged sword for Mi India. The simple reason company gives is that by online only sales, the company wishes to keep the price of the smartphone as low as possible. However, the registration and lottery system like flash sales have tend to disgruntle several interested consumers who wished to buy the Mi3. Quite obvious that similar experiences can be expected with the Redmi 1s flash sales. As a budget device, the Redmi 1s sets a new benchmark in the sub Rs 6000 segment which will be very difficult to beat. This benchmark is in terms of delivering competitive and latest hardware married with smooth user interface. The camera manages to surprise us with the results and the performance. However, the lack of Android 4.4 KitKat update, heating issues and online only availability might make one think have second thoughts about the smartphone. In case both these are fixed with an update, then Redmi 1s does become worthy recommendation.