Xiaomi Redmi 2 Review
Interface and Functionality
MIUI version 6, running on top of Android 4.4 KitKat, is a nice skin with a lot of useful features, but many of them are made for China, and we had issues with some apps.
The Redmi 2 runs on Android 4.4 KitKat with the MIUI 6.0 skin on top of it, and this skin really is the star of the show. MIUI is one of the most profound and deep attempts at customizing the stock Android interface to the point where it’s hard to recognize you have Android running on the phone.
Yet, in our modern, Android 5.0 Lollipop times, some elements like the keyboard for instance, look decidedly quaint. Will the Redmi 2 get updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop? It certainly has the needed hardware in the form of the 64-bit Snapdragon 410, but Xiaomi has not said anything officially yet.
Going back into the intricacies of the MIUI 6 skin, it’s a note-worthy skin for a few reasons: the fact that all Xiaomi phones - from the most expensive ones to the cheapest like the Redmi 2 - support an almost identical user experience. Some of the signature features include the fact that it is well optimized to run, with smooth, good-looking animations, extensive customization options, and support for themes.
With Xiaomi’s clear focus on the Chinese market, though, the nagging question about the MIUI skin is whether it’s well-tailored for use to those outside of China. The answer is ‘not really’. Even though MIUI v6 is well translated in English, there are still some places where you bump into Chinese characters or services that you don’t understand or that are not relevant. The Mi account that Xiaomi invites you to create - which is akin to an iCloud account, granting you access to cloud storage and purchases in the Xiaomi store - is basically an almost all-China affair, and most of the themes are also made with the Asian customer in mind. Then, there are some issues: the default font on the Redmi 2 breaks when trying to display Cyrillic characters. Not an issue that will affect everyone, but still this is the first time we see such a problem on Android (you need to manually go into Themes -> select Category -> tap on Components -> go into Fonts, and find a more universal font to fix this).
Xiaomi’s stock apps all feature well-refined design, but some of them are again tailor-made for the Chinese market: the video player allows you to catch up with the latest Chinese TV soap operas and other TV series, and you can even stream full movies for free directly from the app. This would qualify as piracy in the Western hemisphere, but apparently this is how China operates. Then, even if you try this streaming feature, all of that available content is streaming from China, meaning it has to go through the Great Firewall, which slows down streaming speeds, making the feature practically useless.
Then, it seemed like there were particular issues with some particular apps: the camera crashed on us a few times, and both Facebook and Facebook Messenger would take an eternity to load. Since Facebook is an essential app, showcasing such unsatisfying performance puts the Redmi 2 at quite the disadvantage.
It’s not all bad, of course, the interface runs mostly lag free and has some soothing smoothness to animations. In the form that it is presented in the Redmi 2, though, it just does not seem fully ready to present itself outside of mainland China.
Processor and Memory
The 64-bit Snapdragon 410 system chip with 1GB of RAM is pretty much everywhere in mid-range devices, and the Redmi 2 has it as well.
The Xiaomi Redmi 2 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916), a 64-bit chip with four Cortex A53 cores running at up to 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM, and an Adreno 306 GPU. There is one key tune-up option that you need to be aware of before we go into further performance details: in Settings -> Battery -> Power Settings, you can select between two modes for the phone, a Balanced and Performance mode. Performance would squeeze the most out of the silicon, while the default Balanced mode would put brakes on the silicon in order to maximize battery life.
We do notice some slight stutter in the Balanced mode, so we would rather recommend running the phone in Performance mode.
In that mode, performance is good, but we can’t say that it’s great. We have precedents like the Motorola Moto G (2014 edition) that runs very quickly and very smoothly, so the Redmi 2 definitely feels a bit slower than the slightly pricier Moto G.
Turning over to gaming and graphics performance, the Adreno 306 GPU does a decent job. Casual games as well as more intensive titles run on the Redmi 2 without much of an issue.
For internal storage, you have the very limiting 8GB on board (of which only around 6GB are available to the end user), but luckily the handset also supports expandable memory via microSD cards of up to 64 gigs.
Internet and Connectivity
The stock browser does a good job for surfing the web, but 4G LTE connectivity is limited to just a few bands that are not supported in the United States.
The Redmi 2 comes with a custom browser that features a nice, well-tailored to touch design and it is a fairly fast performer when it comes to loading pages. When you try to scroll around, though, it seems that there is some issue with the screen refresh rate, as content starts to blur slightly. It’s not a terrible issue, but still worth mentioning.
In terms of connectivity, you have 4G LTE on board, but with fairly limited support for bands. The Redmi 2 supports bands 1 and 3 on FDD-LTE, which are the bands used by the majority of European carriers, but there’s no support for bands 4 and 2 which are required for most carriers in the United States. We still urge you to check your carriers’ supported bands to ensure that LTE will work for you, but otherwise, you can rely on good old 3G connectivity.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Redmi 2 is a dual-SIM phone. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS.