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Xiaomi Redmi 1S Review

Local brands have a lot to worry about now that he disruptive force that is Xiaomi has finally made it to Philippine shores. Their first salvo was the powerful Mi 3 that sold for a little over Php10K, which the Chinese manufacturer followed up only recently with the 5,200mAh and 10,400mAh power banks, which sold out in just 10 minutes! Now, Xiaomi plans to take an even bigger bite of the local market with its Redmi 1S flash sale tomorrow.

Screen

The Redmi 1S will be aggressively priced at just Php5,599, once again delivering a mix of great specs for the value. This is a midrange phone we’re talking about that’s basically selling at entry-level pricing. But is the Redmi 1S all it’s been hyped up to be? Recently, some local brands have been introducing even more compelling handsets than before, which makes you wonder if it’s really worth the trouble having to keep your trigger finger at the ready when the Redmi 1S finally happens tomorrow on Lazada.Thankfully, I was given a review unit to put to the test, and thus, this Xiaomi Redmi 1S review was born.

What’s in the Box?

While the Mi3 and Xaimi power banks have sold like hotcakes recently, a lot of people still aren’t into the whole online shopping thing, even with an e-commerce store that’s as trusted as Lazada. One issue is that the goods can get damaged in the middle of transit. Well, Xiaomi has addressed this to a surprisingly extreme extent, as the retail box that the phone and its accessories comes in is incredibly durable. During the local launch of the Redmi 1S, Hugo Barra actually stood on top of the box with both feet on it and nothing else to support his weight. One of his Powerpoint slides even showed 2 people with all of their weight on the box. How’s that for durability?

Box Contents

Of course, folks won’t be buying the Redmi 1S for its box, so let me go ahead and outline the contents. Here’s what you get:

  • handset
  • Micro USB cable
  • charger
  • quick start guide

Interestingly, there’s no headset included. Of course, with the Mi In-ear Headset being as affordable as it is, you might as well get that and not bother complaining about this intentional oversight.

Build Quality and Design

Front

The Redmi 1S shares the same squarish body with rounded sides as the Mi3. You’ll find the gorgeous Sharp-manufactured 4.7 inch IPS screen on the front, bordered on either side by disappointingly thick bezels.

Front Camera

The bezel on top doesn’t waste much space accommodating the earpiece, front camera, and proximity and light sensors.

Capacitive Navigation Keys

However, the bottom of the screen is much thicker Surprisingly, the capacitive keys aren’t backlit. To remedy possible visibility issues, it seems that Xiaomi has given them a red tint instead. Of course, you’re still not going to see them in a dark room, but then, you’ll probably get used to the key placement anyway.

Left Side

The left side is bare of any hardware features.

Right Side

On the right, there’s the volume rocker, power/lock button, and a small notch toward the bottom to help with prying the battery cover off.

Top

On top is a 3.5mm headset jack.

Bottom

On the bottom is the micro USB port and a microphone pinhole for taking calls.

Back

At the back is the primary camera with its LED flash, another microphone pinhole for noise-cancelling on top of it, mall slit for the loudspeaker a little to the side, and the Mi branding toward the bottom.

With Back Cover and Battery

Removing the cover will reveal the battery compartment, along with 2 SIM slots and a micro SD card slot.

While the quality of the materials and build quality feels just as premium as the Mi3. the design leaves a bit to be desired. Of course, the Redmi 1S isn’t meant to be a super-sleek flagship, but it’s a little hard to ignore the chunkiness and weight of the phone.

The Screen

Screen Wide Angle

The Redmi 1S features one of the most gorgeous screens I’ve ever seen on a phone of this price point. It’s a 4.7 inch IPS panel, but one that’s made by Sharp, one of the best display makers out there. It isn’t just the color reproduction that’s pretty good, but the viewing angles as well, which is impressive considering it doesn’t use OGS in its construction.

Screen Wide Angle Closeup

That it’s slightly smaller than some of of the competing phones in its price point shouldn’t be an issue. It’s incredibly accurate, registering my touches even when I shrunk down my Swiftkey keyboard to the smallest setting.

The Chipset

Antutu

The Redmi 1S is driven by a modest 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad core processor coupled with an Adreno 305 GPU. It’s not the fastest SoC, but it’s not like you’ll notice. Navigating through the UI is fast and snappy, and executing and running apps is a breeze for this little pocket monster. You wouldn’t know it, but the chipset is actually powerful enough to deliver more than 20,000 points on Antutu.

Software and UI

The Redmi 1S runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Xiaomi’s custom MIUI skin on top. Unlike stock Android, the UI has been tweaked to eliminate widgets from the homescreen. The app drawer has also been eliminated so the only place you can access apps is from the homescreen and dock. Also, icons are given a rounded square look, giving the UI an iPhone-esque appearance.

Don’t let the simplistic appearance fool you though. The homescreen may look less cluttered, but there is a ton of customization that can be done to the overall UX, more so compared to stock Android. Almost every aspect of the UX has some level of customization, and even the little things have been given a tweak. For example, the Settings has been separated into Quick Settings and General Settings. There’s also access to Sound Optimization settings when headphones are plugged in, not to mention Equalizer settings!

Telephony and Wireless Connectivity

Every phone should function as a phone and smartphones like the Redmi 1S are certainly no exception. As a messaging device, there’s little issue with composing text messages or emails on the Redmi 1S. The screen is just big enough that it’s comfortable to type on even in portrait orientation. It’s also a fairly comfortable fit in the hand when taking and making calls, thanks to its rounded sides and the fact that it’s length is just right that the mic is situated right near your mouth when holding it to your ear.

Back Cover Removed

As far as network connectivity, the best you’ll get is 3.75G/HSPA+, which is fast enough for most people. To be honest, LTE coverage still kind of sucks here in the Philippines. Our local telcos can tout their 4G rollouts all they want but unless it actually reflects in more areas not named Metro Manila, I could give less of a hoot.

Imaging

The Redmi 1S is equipped with an 8mp rear-facing camera and a 1.6mp front camera. They’re pretty basic on paper but the actual performance is quite good. Color reproduction is spot on in good lighting and there’s very minimal noise.

Camera

The camera app also comes with a few extra features, some of the most useful ones being the built-in filters with live preview, macro focusing, and manual control over ISO. That’s on top of the usual features such as panorama, white balance settings, scene modes and control over exposure. No, don’t expect DSLR-level control, but experienced smartphone photographers will definitely appreciate the extras.

Anyway, enough of that. Here are a few samples for you guys to check out.

Original Image

Here’s an afternoon shot in bright outdoor lighting.

100 Percent Crop

Here’s a 100% crop from that shot. For an 8mp camera, that’s a lot of detail it manages to capture.

Razon's Map

This is a map of Pampanga that hangs from the wall of a local Razon’s.

Pizza

And of course, here’s an obligatory food shot :)

Entertainment

Videos

Whether you’re into watching hours of movies or listening to several thousands of songs from your library, the Redmi 1S won’t disappoint. As mentioned, the Redmi 1S sports a really good screen and this contributes to the overall viewing experience when watching movies. The screen may not be that large, but for personal use, it’s good enough.

Sportify

However where the Redmi 1S really impresses is its audio playback. In case you didn’t already know, Xiaomi has also made the Mi In-Ear Headset available in the country so if you happen to own one along with a Redmi 1S (or Mi 3), you can actually optimize the output for these specific headsets. And it’s not just the ones that are available in the country. If you happen to own any other Mi-branded headset, the Redmi 1S can optimize output for it.

Of course, if you already have a decent pair of headsets, you can still optimize the output by tweaking the built-in equalizer. Yes, the Redmi 1S actually gives you access to the equalizer settings. I actually had to pay to get that same functionality through Power Amp.

Camera Angle

And it doesn’t just sound good when wearing a pair of headsets. The Redmi 1S also sports a fairly decent loudspeaker. The output isn’t that strong, but you’ll never get that “tunog-lata” sound. The bass gets thrown out the window, but it’s perfect for a few acoustic, jazz or classical tracks.

Gaming

The Redmi 1S is equipped with a fairly capable Adreno 305 GPU. To test the phone, I played some of the more popular games on the Play Store. Of course, some of you may have gotten tired of Minion Rush and Dead Trigger 2, so I switched to Spider-man Unlimited and Plants Vs Zombies 2. I stuck with Real Racing 3 though. Anyway, here’s how the Redmi 1S fared.

Amazing Spider-man 2

Similar to Minion Rush, Spider-Man Unlimited is a runner that tests your reaction time. Unlike Minion Rush, Spider-man is a bit more forgiving in the graphics department. The game still looks good, as evidenced by this screenshot. Responsiveness was also very good, reacting to my swipes with no perceptible delay.

Plants vs Zombies 2

Plants Vs Zombies is a little different because it doesn’t push your reaction time as much as it does your ability to think on  your feet. The game starts out pretty easy, but it quickly gets busy. especially when a wave of zombies comes around. It’s during these moments that low to midrange GPUs can’t keep the frame rates smooth. However, the Redmi 1S performed surprisingly well here. It was only 1 line of zombies in this particular wave but if there was a drop in frame rates, I didn’t notice it.

Real Racing 3

The last game I tested the phone on was Real Racing 3. It’s a favorite of mine because of its realistic graphics. Racing games can really put your reaction time to the test and having a handicap of delayed responsiveness can ruin the gaming experience. Thankfully, the Redmi 1S runs it just fine. In fact, the opening cinematic that uses the in-game engine didn’t experience any delay audio sync problems that slower phones tend to have.

Battery Life

Battery History

For a sub-5 inch smartphone, the Redmi 1S’ battery capacity is satisfyingly large. It packs 2,050mAh and the standby time is spectacular. This is even with 2 SIMs inserted and regularly connected to WiFi. The phone would often last me 5 days without a charge when I wasn’t using it.

So Should You Buy the Redmi 1S?

Mi Logo

On paper, the Redmi 1S’ specs are solid, but unspectacular. You could probably get something similar from a local brand, although the Redmi 1S would still end up giving you better value.

Back Cover

However the overall user experience isn’t just about the specs. The amount of polish that has gone into the Redmi 1S really has to be appreciated. Much of it has to do with its custom skin, MIUI. It isn’t just that there are a ton of customization options. After all, a lot of the bloated skins out there have a lot of customization built in (*cough, Touchwiz sucks!). It’s that it’s all implemented so smoothly that it just works.

The Redmi 1S is selling for an SRP of Php5,599 and tomorrow’s flash sale (September 25) will also include a special promo where you just add Php10 and get a choice between 6 accessory bundles that each include a screen protector, back cover, and soft case. So basically, you can get Php875 worth of accessories for just Php10! Seriously, what’s not to love?!

Redmi 1S Specs

  • 4.7″ HD IPS display (720 x 1280 resolution, 312ppi)
  • 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 MSM8226 quad core processor
  • Adreno 305 GPU
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with MIUI custom UX layer
  • 1GB RAM (873MB accessible)
  • 8GB ROM (5.72GB user accessible), expandable via micro SD
  • 8mp rear-facing autofocus camera with LED flash
  • 1.6mp fixed focus front camera
  • 3.75G/HSPA+
  • WiFi b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • 2,050mAh battery
  • Price: Php5,599

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