Hey everyone. It has been quite some time since I’ve done a phone review (due to lack of phones to review =P). But now I’m back with a review of the value for money Redmi 1S. I know it is a little late and numerous sites have already reviewed it some time ago but it never hurts to get yet another opinion on something before buying it, right? The full review (very lengthy) comes up right after the break but here is a recap of this phone’s main features.
Screen: 4.7″ 720×1280
Processor: 1.6GHz Quad-core
Storage: 8GB (microSD supported up to 64GB)
Camera: 8MP back, 1.6MP front
Full spec listings are available at GSMArena or Xiaomi Malaysia websites.
Redmi 1S Full Phone Review
The Redmi 1S is the cheapest of the trio of phones officially made available by Xiaomi Malaysia. With the price of RM419 for respectable list of specs, this phone should be in the consideration list for folks looking to venture into the smartphone world for the very first time and even for some casual users. In this review, we’ll take a look at what’s good, what’s bad and hopefully that will help you to decide whether this phone is for you or not. Unlike my earlier pages (Nexus 4 and Galaxy S2), I’ve decided to break the review into several smaller parts to ease my writing as well as making it (hopefully) more organized. Before going into that, what you get when you order the RM419 device is the phone, the removable battery, some manuals, two micro SIM card adapters, a USB cable and a wall socket charger (which in Malaysia’s case, is the 3 point plug type). Now, let’s get going.
The easiest way to say it is that the Redmi 1S is a conventional touch screen phone. The front consists of the 4.7″ screen, the capacitive touch buttons, front camera, phone speaker and the usual sensors. The bezels around the screen are not narrow like those of high end phones but they shouldn’t bother the casual user much. The speaker’s placement is very similar to that of the Nexus 4 in that it resides right at the top edge of the phone instead of being lower down. However, I believe that the holes of the Redmi 1S speaker grill is larger than those present in the Nexus 4.
The back of this phone has the 8MP camera with the flash LED slightly below it and a noise cancellation/reduction microphone above it. A loud speaker grill can also be found to the right of the camera module. The material used for the back cover (which is removable to get access to the 2 SIM card slots, microSD card slot and the removable battery) feels good in the hand and doesn’t seem prone to slipping. The back cover also extends to the sides, top and bottom of the phone. This means that removing the back cover will remove the volume and power buttons on the right side of the phone as well. One of the benefit of having a removable back cover is that the SIM cards and microSD card do not require an eject PIN to remove when need to change.
Back to the front of the phone, the 3 capacitive buttons below the screen are the menu, home and back (in left to right ordering). The downside of these capacitive buttons is that they are painted red with no backlighting available. This means that they can get pretty hard to see when you try to use your phone under bright lighting conditions (i.e. under the sun). After some time with the phone, users should be able to get used to the placement of the buttons which will somewhat lessen the problem. However, I would like to see an option to enable on screen keys (like what the OnePlus CM software has) which should make it easier to see the keys, despite having to sacrifice some screen real estate. Either that or just have backlighting for the keys. The Redmi Note has it and it only costs slightly more than the Redmi 1S (most of the difference should be due to the larger screen) so I don’t really see why the Redmi 1S couldn’t have that.
In terms of weight, the Redmi 1S weighs in at a slightly hefty 158g. In comparison, the Xiaomi Mi3 weighs in at 145g despite having a larger 5″ screen and a 3050mAh battery while the Nexus 4 with a similar screen size, slightly bigger 2100mAh battery and glass back weighs in at only 139g. This may not be bad as the weight isn’t excessive and it does adds to the appearance that the Redmi 1S is a solid and sturdy device, which it is.
All in all, except for the minor problem with the non-backlit capacitive keys, I am quite pleased with the design and built of the Redmi 1S. Thus, I’m giving it the rating of 8/10.
This section is going to be a little short. There isn’t really anything much to say about the screen. It is a beautiful 4.7″ of 1280 x 720 pixels which is very similar to the one on the Nexus 4 in my opinion. But at full brightness, it is noticeably brighter than my Nexus 4. At minimum brightness, it is very very dim, hardly usable. When you turn on automatic brightness, you can still adjust the brightness level to increase or decrease it based on your preference. I believe that this is the same way as how Google does the Adaptive Brightness for the Android L developer preview release. Viewing angles of the display is good with little loss of clarity when you shift it or tilt it. The display also has the capability to change the Color Temperature with 3 presets of Warm, Standard and Cool. Color Saturation options are between Brilliant and Standard which gives further customization possibilities. After having experience with 1080p screens (like the Nexus 5 or the Xiaomi Mi3), I do prefer those screens but all in all, nothing that I’d complain about for a RM419 phone. Therefore, I’m giving it a rating of 8/10.
Coming form the Nexus 4 camera, I can say that the Redmi 1S camera is better. Though both are listed as 8MP cameras, the Redmi 1S captures photos which are clearer and with more details in most situations. In normal mode, it is also a very snappy camera, allowing you to capture shot after shot with little to no lag time in between. The casual user would most probably be pleased with the results of the camera.
Like most smartphone cameras now, there is also a High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode which increases the time to take a shot to about 4-5 seconds. In some of the shots I did with HDR mode turned on, the photos would have something like a double image, which could be perceived as blurriness. It could be caused by slight shaking of the hand during the HDR shots and the lack of Image Stabilization of any sort.
MIUI also adds the Hand Held Twilight (HHT) mode, which I presume would be used during low light situations where the camera needs to be held steady longer to get enough light. I tried this mode and found that it takes slightly longer than the HDR mode, around 5-6 seconds, to capture its shot. The result is an image that is softer.
Panorama mode is also somewhat of a mandatory camera feature these days and MIUI is no exception. It doesn’t have the 360 degree camera a.k.a. Google’s Photo Sphere though. The panorama mode takes photos which are somewhat out of focused. I’m not sure if this is caused by me moving the phone too fast or the software not focusing properly though.
Two main operation modes are present for you to switch between. The default is the Simple Mode which only really lets you access Panorama Mode, Audio Mode, Filters, HDR Mode and HHT Mode from the view finder. An extended settings page can be opened up to show more options as well as to switch to the Advanced Mode.
The Advanced Mode presents users with more options. In addition to the modes present in the Simple Mode, Advanced Mode opens up Scene, White Balance, Exposure, ISO and Focus. It also allows you to select the resolution of the photos as opposed to Simple Mode which only allows you to select between the default 4:3 aspect ratio and the 16:9 aspect ratio.
Users who buys the Redmi 1S aren’t really going to be looking for a top notch camera with a gazillion functions. Most likely, they’d be looking for a simple and usable point and shoot with some basic options. In this aspect, the Redmi 1S camera does fine. The Simple Mode hides confusing options for the regular user while those looking for more control can simply switch to Advanced Mode. The lack of Optical Image Stabilization is not surprising in this phone but I would have thought that there would be some software Image Stabilization to reduce the effects of a shaky hand. Despite this, the camera still gets a respectable rating of 7/10.
Packing a 1.6GHz Quad Core Snapdragon 400 soc with 1GB of RAM, on paper this phone is similar to a top end Galaxy S3 from over 2 years ago, which isn’t bad as casual users would not be looking for a super phone with powers to rival a supercomputer. All they need is a simple phone which can perform their basic needs flawlessly and maybe with a bit of flourish. With this in mind, let’s take a look. First off, the UI. The phone comes with MIUI V5 which is based on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Animations in the UI is mostly fluid and with little to no lag. One thing to note is that if you group a number of apps into a folder and open that folder, there could be a small delay before it pops up. In day to day operations like typing messages, making calls, surfing the web, checking Facebook, this phone is up to the task, processor wise.
My main concern is on the RAM. With 1GB of RAM and this phone still haven’t been upgraded to KitKat, I have found on a couple of occasions that the task switcher would suddenly pop up to show me that I only have around 100MB of RAM left and asks me to perform a cleanup (i.e. closing some applications). It happened while I was trying out Google Now Launcher which is available on it. True to the warning it gave when I tried to enable Google Now Launcher as the default launcher, performance was impacted. After uninstalling it, the warnings that I’m running out of RAM were reduced.
This is currently not a phone to be playing large games on or performing a lot of multi tasking due to the average amount of RAM. This was my main concern before purchasing this phone and I was right. The 1GB of RAM is a wall that some users will hit while others with less demanding app usage will not. Before purchasing this phone, I advise you to consider your phone usage behavior well. Unlike internal storage which can be expanded via microSD card, the RAM cannot be increased.
For those interested in numbers, here is the list of results that I’ve obtained:
Antutu Benchmark 4 – 19484
Antutu Benchmark 5 – 20246
Linpack Single Thread – 108.874 MFLOPS, 0.77 seconds
Linpack Multi Thread – 254.399 MFLOPS, 0.66 seconds
Quadrant Standard – 10731
I’ve been using it as my secondary device for a couple of days now and I’m pretty happy with it. Performance was still solid if not spectacular and gets a rating of 6/10 (or 8/10 for casual users).
Ah battery life, a very subjective topic. After setting up the Redmi 1S the night before and switching into Lite Mode, I fully charged it for my workday. I had 3G data turned on the whole day and GMail syncing in the background. As it was a busy day, I did not have much time to play with the Redmi 1S. I did show it off to some of my friends and they spent a few minutes with the phone. After almost 10.5 hours with 33 minutes of screen on time (but 3G data and GMail syncing on throughout), I still had 85% of battery life left. What this tells me is that this phone has great standby battery power consumption.
On my second night, I started installing more apps and using it more. On my third day, I fully charged it for my workday as usual. Within 2.5 hours with 34 minutes of screen on time (3G data, GMail, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Hangouts syncing on throughout) which included some photo taking and screen shot taking, the battery dropped to 87% which was acceptable (approximately 15% for 30 minutes of screen time so far). By the end of the day, there was 32% left after 17.5 hours with 2.5 hours of screen on time. The next morning (did not charge at night), the phone registered slightly over 23 hours with almost 3 hours of screen on time and the battery life dwindled down to 5%. At this point, something weird begun to happen. I tried to capture a screen shot of the settings screen but the settings kept restarting, making it impossible to get a screen capture. A reboot fixed it but I’m still not sure what caused it.
This is a reasonable performance for a 2000mAh battery as you should be able to make it from morning till the night in a single full charge. Even if you think you can’t make it through the a full day, the battery is removable and Xiaomi is selling additional Redmi 1S batteries and battery chargers to keep your spare Redmi 1S batteries fully charged. A demanding user can simply charge up both the phone and the spare battery overnight and swap them during the day when needed. Best of all, the additional battery and battery charger costs only RM25 each. That’s a total of RM50 if you buy both. I bought the accessory bundle which costs RM64 (individual cost RM80) for a set of screen protectors (Xiaomi generously gave 3 pieces), a soft gel case, a spare battery and a battery charger. Due to the ability to switch batteries and having a cheap battery charger accessory bundle, battery life gets a rating of 7/10.
Lite Mode is, as the name implies, a mode that is very simple and meant for the less tech savvy or elderly who are switching to the world of smartphones for the first time. However, this is not to say that this mode is unusable for the normal user. In the Lite Mode, the regular MIUI interface is gone. What you get instead are screens with 6 large icons or buttons per screen and large fonts in most areas. A favorite contacts screen is also available to the left of the default home screen.
The icons, including the favorite contacts, can be rearranged, removed and added as required to customize for each user. This allows you to hide even system apps which might not be used and show only apps which are relevant to the user (of course, the user can simply tap on the Apps icon and reenable them). Once the apps have been set in place, you can choose to lock the home screens to prevent accidental removal/reorganization of the apps. This makes it easier for the intended users to remember where each app is and won’t have to worry about the apps suddenly being in different screens.
Also, in this mode, the notification shade is turned off by default. I found this a bit odd but it is easily enabled. One thing to note is that the Lite Mode is only going to change certain system apps. Other apps and even the notification shade and settings page will behave normally without the larger fonts.
Lite Mode mostly delivers on what its supposed to do and those few people that I’ve shown it to seem to be impressed by it. For the elderly whose eyesight may be on the decline, the Lite Mode’s larger fonts (in most main areas) are a welcome and large and easy to hit icons are another bonus. Heck, even I turned on Lite Mode and enjoyed using it the first couple of days. While there are improvements that can be made, like a Lite Mode version of the notification shade for example, Lite Mode in its current form is acceptable and usable. With this, it gets the nod from me and a rating of 8/10.
The Redmi 1S isn’t the company’s flagship and it knows it. It lets the Xiaomi Mi family take that crown and it settles for being the assistant. But that doesn’t mean its cheap without being good. It lacks a 1080p screen but a 720p screen is still a good screen. Especially when it has good colors, brightness and viewing angles, which Redmi 1S has. The camera doesn’t match up too well with the flagships which packs 13MP, 20MP or more but it still delivers some pretty nice photos. The 1.6GHz quad core CPU does a decent job handling MIUI V5 OS running on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Lite Mode is a decent alternative to the stock UI and offers an experience that is simple to understand with fonts and icons that are large and easy to use.
If your budget (and pocket) can stretch, the Redmi Note may be a worthy upgrade. For just RM90 more, you’d get an Octa Core processor (that’s 8 cores), double the RAM to 2GB, upgraded camera to 13MP back and 5MP front and a bigger screen size of 5.5″. But bigger isn’t always better and for those of you who are looking for a 5″ or less phone, this is a good phone. A comparison that was recently done between the Xiaomi Redmi 1S, Xiaomi Redmi Note, Huawei Honor 3C and Asus Zenfone 5 concluded that the Redmi 1S is the best choice for a budget smartphone. You can read it over at Lowyat.NET.
Also, I have to mention that Xiaomi has announced an LTE version of both the Redmi Note and the Redmi 1S. While pricing and availability for Malaysia is not currently known yet, I don’t think you need to wait for those. For starters, LTE availability in Malaysia isn’t exactly widespread at the moment and chances are, when LTE is widely available (and affordable), you will be ready to upgrade to your next phone from the Redmi 1S. Also, the Redmi 1S and Redmi Note (both 3G version) are dual SIM phones while their LTE versions will be single SIM only. Some people who need and/or want dual SIM phones should get the current 3G versions.
My 2 biggest issues with this phone are what I entered into this review already knowing, the non-backlit capacitive buttons are not that great to use and the 1GB of RAM is proving to be not sufficient for my usage. The non-backlit capacitive buttons of the Redmi 1S can be rectified by sacrificing some screen real estate, which I would gladly do, or by just getting used to the phone to know where the buttons are instinctively. The lack of RAM however, is an issue that exists for me but not everyone as long as you keep the stock launcher and your app counts low.
In the end, as long as you can manage the 2 issues I’ve pointed out above, the Redmi 1S can prove to be a solid smartphone for you at a low price of RM419 (considering that a Galaxy Ace was sold at RM700 or a few years ago). Overall, this phone gets a solid rating of 7/10 from me. With this, I end this very lengthy review and hope that I’ve helped you decide on whether you should get this phone or not.
Sample Photos (Redmi 1S vs Nexus 4):