Xiaomi has made remarkable strides with its latest smartphone, the Redmi Note 4, offering an insanely value-for-money handset that is priced way less than is expected of a phone with its specs.
The Chinese smartphone firm's strategy has always been to underprice the market for low- and mid-tier phones. The Note 4, which was launched here two weeks ago, might be its most aggressively priced phone yet, considering the quality of its hardware.
Going by its $259 price tag alone, the Note 4 may seem like a budget smartphone.
Yet it is anything but one, featuring an all-metal unibody for the first time in the Redmi Note line, a feature which is more commonly seen on more expensive phones.
Its front still looks generically basic, though, with a glossy plastic build that Chinese smartphone manufacturers seem particularly enamoured with.
But this all adds up to a phone that feels surprisingly sturdy and premium, more so than other phones by competing brands in the same price range.
The specs are also impressive for a phone this cheap - a Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 5.5-inch full-HD display.
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 (Octa-core 2.0GHz)
DISPLAY: 5.5-inch, Full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 401 PPI pixel density
OPERATING SYSTEM: MIUI 8 (Android 6.0)
MEMORY: 32GB (microSD expandable to 128GB), 3GB RAM
CAMERA: 13MP, f/2.0 (rear); 5MP, f/2.0 (front)
BATTERY: Non-removable 4,100mAh
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
This all means that app performance is snappy and perfectly serviceable for daily multitasking. Xiaomi also managed to squeeze a 4,100mAh battery into the Note 4, which held out for slightly over a day of moderate use.
This is a phone that I grew confident with, carrying it out the entire day without worrying about a powerbank, although only time will tell if its battery will degrade over time.
It also has a rear fingerprint sensor. It's not the fastest sensor out there, but it works remarkably well save for some instances when it fails to register my slightly misaligned finger.
Despite these impressive features, it has to sacrifice something because of its low cost. There's no near-field communication, which means making contactless payments using the phone is out of the question.
As is expected of a low-tier smartphone, the Note 4 still retains some slightly older tech, such as a micro-USB port for charging rather than USB-C.
But it's not too shabby on the camera front, with a 13-megapixel rear camera that is more than capable of taking smartphone shots.
I was particularly impressed by its white balance, which managed to even out harsh yellow lighting into more pleasing cooler tones.
It does struggle in low-light scenarios, however, producing grainy, noisy photos.
The Note 4 runs Xiaomi's latest operating system, MIUI 8, which is a skinned version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, out of the box.
Be prepared for a host of Xiaomi-developed bloatware, such as Mi Forum and Mi Cloud. Some of these can be uninstalled, but those that can't will reside and take up space on the phone.
There are some user experience eccentricities to the Note 4 as well. For example, after you open an app that's located inside a folder and not directly on the home page, hitting the Home button takes you back to the folder instead of to the home screen.
It's rather inefficient as the Home button is commonly understood to be used to return to the home screen quickly rather than to go one screen back.
•Verdict: The Redmi Note 4 is great value for money, offering almost mid-tier specs at a budget price. It's not as clean as other Android phones and lacks some useful features, but is easily one of the best budget phones in the market.