Xiaomi’s Redmi 1S comes with great expectations and it represents a big moment for the company’s India plans. The super affordable mid-range Phone goes on sale tomorrow and is expected to outpace the Mi 3 in terms of selling out on Flipkart. With a price tag of Rs 5,999, it also promises to shake up this market segment which is reserved for the very basic smartphones. The Moto E changed that to a certain extent, but Xiaomi takes it a step beyond. Is it successful?
KEY FEATURES OF REDMI 1S
- AGC Dragontrail Scratch Resistant Glass
- Expandable Storage Capacity of 64 GB
- Android v4.3 (Jelly Bean) OS
- Dual Sim (3G + 2G)
- 1.6 GHz MSM8228 Quad Core Processor
- 8 MP Primary Camera
- 1.6 MP Secondary Camera
- 4.7-inch Touchscreen
The Redmi 1S is no lightweight in terms of specs or in terms of its weight. The smartphone feels a little too chunky in the hand and the heft is quite palpable. In comparison, the Mi 3 is much lighter and also is a better fit in the hands.
We got the dark grey version of the phone and the plastic on the back is only slightly glossy, but it picks up fingerprints easily. Fingerprint smudges were also a problem when it came to the front of the phone, which features three red capacitive buttons and the LED notification light placed under the home button.
The back of the phone is removable and underneath a flashy orange battery grabs your eye. Above it are the two SIM slots and the microSD card slot. These can’t be properly accessed unless you pop the cover off. The power button and volume rocker are affixed to the case, so you will be changing them if you decide to pop another cover on.
The rear camera sits bang in the middle, with a flash underneath, while the single slit for the speaker grille is closer to the right edge. This position doesn’t really help as much of the time we found our hands muffling the sound.
We are not entirely happy with the type of plastic used on the Redmi 1S, but it does feel better than the Moto E’s material. In comparison to the Motorola phone, the Redmi 1S feels a little too chunky, but it does have an edge in terms of performance.
Display and performance
This is the biggest disappointment when it comes to the Redmi 1S. Performance is sorely behind what we expected with that chipset on board. The Moto E with a dual-core processor feels a lot snappier in comparison to the Redmi 1S even though the latter is packing a quad-core 1.6GHz CPU.
Unlike on the Mi 3, MIUI on the Redmi 1S feels a lot more sluggish. It booted very fast and for the most part operation is trouble free, but the Redmi 1S is a terrible choice for those juggling too many apps. MIUI on this one just doesn’t feel fleet-footed enough to handle multi-tasking well. It must be noted that the drop in performance only happens when there are too many apps running. I found myself using MIUI’s kill-all-apps button more often than I wanted to; it was a bit like going back to Gingerbread.
Of course it must be considered that most buyers of the Redmi 1S will not be pulling down too many apps. It is after all priced for the first-time buyers.
When it comes to the display too the phone is a let-down. At full brightness colours are perky, but turn it lower and the image turns insipid very quickly. It was quite finicky when used in sunlight too, jumping up and down in brightness quite erratically.
You will not find a better camera than this one at this price range and it really is spoiling users as earlier they would have had to shell out a lot more for such a camera. It’s not as fast as the Mi 3 camera, but more than adequate for casual shooting. Let’s face it you are not going to be doing any serious photography on the Redmi 1S. For other use cases such as Instagram and social networks, it’s more than enough. Here are some sample shots.
Xiaomi has added a new Lite Mode to the Redmi 1S which makes things even more simpler than the standard MIUI interface. Lite Mode gives users access to large buttons on the home screen, with the most basic apps added as default and others packed away. Users can choose the ones to be displayed on the home screen. It doesn’t seem to have a notification drawer, which makes things very complicated if you have experienced Android, and it’s really very plain to look at. But we imagine it would be just what someone moving from a basic feature phone would want to see at first before exploring the world of smartphone apps and customisation.
The Redmi 1S has all of the same MIUI features that we saw on the Mi 3, and many of the pre-installed apps can be uninstalled by the user without needing root. This is something we want more manufacturers to emulate. However, as we described above, MIUI on the Redmi 1S is not the most fluid experience.
This one is a mixed bag. Not because the Redmi 1S has a terrible battery. It just takes too long to charge even when used with the supplied charging unit. It took over 3 hours for us to go from 10 to 100, but once it was fully charged, we could easily use the phone for over 14 hours on the single charge. This was with just one SIM card inserted, pulling down 3G data and with Wi-Fi on for most part.
While battery life is great, we can’t say the same for the heating issues of the phone. It gets quite hot even when you simply have multiple tabs open in Chrome or are chomping through the unread pile on Reddit. It’s mildly annoying but certainly not a cause for concern.
There’s little doubt that Xiaomi another winner on its hands, but it needs a lot more polish on the performance side of things. In terms of appearance, we don’t have many complaints. We only wish the paint job had been slightly less glossy, but it’s a minor nit-pick.
It needs to roll out fixes for the Indian firmware in the weeks to come and improve the experience. We received a minor firmware update while using the phone, so the company is definitely making the changes required. Sluggish UI is not the best way to make an entry into the market, and the phone has enough firepower to actually utilise it better. In fact, with a dual-core processor the Moto E feels sprightlier. So yes, that’s a definite area for improvement.
That’s the only hiccup in our minds in the smartphone to beat in the entry-level segment. Once again, Xiaomi has managed to make much of the competition irrelevant with its cunning pricing strategy.
Asus has re-entered the smartphone market in India with their new Zenfone series announced at this year’s CES. The new series is available in four screen sizes – 4, 4.5, 5 and 6 inches. Today we’ll be taking a closer look at the Zenfone 5. With a starting price of just Rs 10,000 for the 8GB model, can it take the ‘budget-king’ crown away from the Moto G?
KEY FEATURES OF ASUS ZENFONE 5 A501CG (BLACK, WITH 8 GB)
KEY FEATURES OF ASUS ZENFONE 5 A501CG (BLACK, WITH 8 GB)
- 2 GB RAM
- Powerful Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- Android v4.3 (Jelly Bean) Upgradeable to v4.4 (KitKat) OS
- Expandable Storage Capacity of 64 GB
- 8 MP Pixel Master Camera with Auto Focus
- Intel Atom Processor with Hyper-Threading Technology
- 5-inch Capacitive Touchscreen
Design and Build
We’ve already talked about the design and aesthetics at great length in our unboxing and first impressions articles, so we’ll keep it short and sweet this time. The Zenfone 5, as with the rest of the family, has a simple candy bar design. It’s not too flashy and thanks to the changeable covers, it’s not boring either.
The phone is built mostly of plastic while retaining a premium look and feel. The Zenfone is also quite sturdy and durable and will easily handle a few knocks and bumps along the way. The placement of ports and buttons are pretty ergonomic and have good tactile feedback.
Overall, the Zenfone 5 is built well and although it might not be the flashiest phone on the block, many will appreciate its simple aesthetics.
The middle child of the family rocks a 5-inch IPS, HD display that’s also got a scratch resistant coating from Corning. The display is quite vivid and colours are fairly punchy. Viewing angles are pretty good as well. Asus also bundles an app which lets you adjust the colour temperature of the display to suite your needs.
The phone features Android 4.3 and the refreshed Zen UI, which is a big departure from Asus’s previous skins. The new theme follows a flat look for all the icons, which seems to be the trend these days. There’s a bunch of useful apps thrown in as well from Asus like Share Link and Remote Link. The heavily skinned version of Android doesn’t slow down a bit however, which is highly commendable. The app called ‘What’s Next’ throws up lockscreen notifications on the weather or any upcoming calendar appointments you might have.
The Zenfone 5 is powered by an Intel Atom Z2560 SoC which consists of a dual-core Clover Trial+ CPU running at 1.6GHz. The phone also features 2GB of RAM. Together, the chipset delivers better performance than MediaTek’s MT6582 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 SoC, which are commonly seen in phones in this price segment.
The Zenfone is available in 8GB and 16GB variants and both have expandable memory. The new look of the music player is very slick and easy to use. Audio is pretty loud as well through the loud speaker. The player lets you stream audio through DLNA as well and we have the standard EQ settings of Jelly Bean.
The Zenfone 5 supports dual-SIM functionality, 3G and 2G. We also get Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth v4.0, GPS and GLONASS. The phone comes with plenty of productivity apps like Tasks, Flashlight and an app called Omlet, which lets you share photos among friends.
The 8MP camera sensor features an aperture value of f/2.2 and manages to capture good low-light-shots. The camera interface is completely overhauled but is still easy to get around. The quality of pictures is pretty good as well for a budget offering.
The 2110mAh battery manages to deliver a day-long battery life and you can squeeze out even more with the power saving modes turned on. It came out of our 8-hour battery test with quite some juice to spare. This is a great advantage for the Zenfone 5.
Verdict and Price in India
The Asus Zenfone 5 starts at Rs 12,999, although at the launch, Asus said you could find it for as low as Rs 10,000, for the 8GB model. In our books, that seems like unbeatable value when you consider its rich feature-set and good all-round performance. It’s really hard to fault the Zenfone 5 as it doesn’t really stumble much in any department. The Moto G seems to have met its match, finally!
It’s easy to see why the Motorola Moto E is creating such a frenzy in the smartphone world. Finally, a tier-I brand has managed to offer uncompromised specifications that don’t ruin the Android experience. Moreover, you also get the latest version of Android and the promise of good after sales support. Motorola has done what Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony couldn’t – make Android likable for a beginner.
KEY FEATURES OF MOTO E
- Android v4.4 (KitKat) OS
- Wi-Fi Enabled
- FM Radio
- 1.2 GHz MSM8x10 Dual Core Processor
- Dual Standby SIM (GSM + GSM)
- 5 MP Primary Camera
- 4.3-inch Touchscreen
Design and Build
Although the Moto E bears a striking resemblance to the Moto G, the differences are noticeable once you start using it. The E feels extremely sturdy and well put together. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it the best built phone in its price bracket. The rubber-clad back cover offers nice grip and gives the phone a premium look.
You can swap out the back panel on your phone for other colours, should you choose to customise it. The cover is a bit of a pain to remove though. Underneath, you’ll find the two SIM slots and microSD card slot.
The 4.3-inch qHD display offers very good colours and viewing angles, making it ideal for gaming or catching up on a movie while travelling. The panel is not so good under direct sunlight however as it tends to wash out and the grid of touch spots is clearly visible. You even get a water resistant coating for the entire body and Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3.
The chrome strip at the bottom is the mouthpiece and the loudspeaker. The bundle includes a headset, charger and some reading material. There’s no USB data cable strangely, just like the Moto G.
What makes the Moto E so appealing is that it runs on stock Android KitKat 4.4.2 with some minor touches from Motorola’s end. The interface is smooth with barely any visible lag in the animations and multi-tasking. You get the usual suite of Motorola apps like Moto Assist and Migrate along with a new app called Alert. The latter lets you send out an emergency message to designated contacts in time or peril. You can also share your location with said contacts so your friends and family know where you are.
The snappy performance is all thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 dual-core SoC onboard and the 1GB of RAM. The latter makes all the difference as it allows more free memory for apps and also guarantees easily migration to future versions of Android.
We tried a bunch of graphically intensive games like Rayman: Jungle Run and Riptide GP and they all ran flawlessly, without any skip in framerate.
The Moto E features 4GB of onboard storage, out of which 2.21GB is usable. Worry not however, as you can easily add up to a 32GB memory card in the phone. One you insert it, the phone prompts you if you wish to move all the videos and photos over to the SD card. You can manually move installed apps over as well.
You’ll be happy to know that the Moto E also supports 64GB cards just fine. We tried this with a Sandisk Extreme SDXC card and it worked just fine. For audio, you get the same enhancements we’ve seen in the G and the X. The loudspeaker is surprisingly loud for a mono speaker and offers pretty good clarity too.
The Motorola Moto E is a quad-band GSM and 3G handset. You also get Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth v4.0, USB 2.0, GSP and GLONASS. USB OTG is not present however which means you cannot plug in a pen drive to transfer files on the move. The phone does support Miracast though, which lets you mirror your phones content onto a compatible TV.
The 5MP snapper is probably the only real let down on the Moto E. We guess Motorola couldn’t have added auto-focus as that would have made the Moto E seem like a much better prospect than the Moto G. As long as you’re not too close to the subject, the pictures are passable and more than adequate for social media sharing. The good thing is that the sensor manages to capture almost accurate colours. The sensor is actually a lot better than most 8MP snapper from local brands in this segment. Video recording is also good even though it maxes out at 480p.
The 1980mAh battery will easily give you a full day’s worth of usage. This is with a mix of calls, music, gaming and surfing the web over Wi-Fi. The standby time is pretty amazing as well since the battery barely drops even after hours of inactivity.
Verdict and Price in India
At a crazy price of under Rs 7,000, you can see why the Moto E has been a mega hit. Apart from being a handset from a reputed OEM, with extensive after sales support, you don’t feel short-changed when it comes to the features and performance. If you’re going to diss the Moto E because of its sub-par camera and the fact that it doesn’t have a front-facing one, then you’re missing the point.
The Moto E was designed to be beginner’s smartphone and for that, it does its job brilliantly. If you want a better camera or faster CPU, then you have the Moto G for that. Motorola has cleverly chalked out the specifications for the Moto E so it doesn’t eat into the sales of the Moto G, thereby justifying the price gap.
We’ve had great fun reviewing the Moto E, which is saying a lot considering it’s a no-frills smartphone. If we have to nit-pick, then we would say that the buttons couldn’t have used slightly better tactile feedback and perhaps a 3MP auto-focus camera would have been better than the 5MP fixed-focus.
If you are a first time smartphone user or wish to introduce someone to the world of Android, then the Moto E should be your only choice under Rs 10,000.