Xiaomi’s Redmi series has had a phenomenal 2017. The series has officially helped Xiaomi cement its position as the number two smartphone vendor in India. In fact, the company is close to toppling Samsung, which has held the crown for several quarters. Xiaomi has followed its Redmi 4 series and Redmi Note 4 with another set of smartphones for the Indian market: Redmi Y1 and the Redmi Y1 Lite.
If one looks at the specifications and design, there’s no other way of saying this: Redmi Y1 series is a rebranded Redmi Note 5A for the Indian market. When I signed into my Google account on the Y1, the alert message from Google also read Redmi Note 5A. So yes, Xiaomi might say this is a new phone for India, but there’s nothing different here.
So what’s really new with the Redmi Y1 series and is it even needed when Xiaomi already has Note 4, Redmi 4, Redmi 4A in the market? In my opinion, the main proposition with the Redmi Y1 series is not the selfie camera, but rather the bigger 5.5-inch display. Now with Redmi Y1 Lite, Xiaomi suddenly has a big display to offer to users at a price of Rs 6,999.
It has lot more phones in the Rs 7000 to Rs 10,000 price point, which makes sense given this segment drives volumes in India. With Redmi Y1, it is throwing in a better selfie camera on board as well, though the Y1 Lite’s selfie camera is 5MP. I had the chance to review the Redmi Y1 with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage and here’s what I thought of the device.
Redmi Y1 Specifications: 5.5-inch HD resolution display (1280 x 720 pixels) | Qualcomm Snadpragon 435 processor | 3GB RAM + 32GB storage (expandable to 128GB ) | 13MP rear camera + 16MP front camera with LED flash | 3080 mAh | Android 7.0.1 with MIUI 9 beta
Redmi Y1 Price in India: Rs 8,999 for 32GB and Rs 10,999 for the 64GB
Redmi Y1, Redmi Y1 Lite review
Redmi Y1 and Redmi Y1 Lite are the mark of a new series in India, but if you look at the design and the overall look and feel of the devices, there’s nothing drastically new. In fact, when I placed the Redmi Note 4 on top of the Redmi Y1, the two phones were very similar in terms of size, design style. Of course, Redmi Y1 has a more prominent front camera with an LED flash next to it, which is missing on the Redmi Note 4. The Y1 series is not a metal unibody design, but has a metal finish to it on the back, which feels nice to hold.
In Redmi Y1, the camera is also tucked away on one corner, not placed in middle of the back cover like the Redmi Note 4. Redmi Y1 also has a fingerprint scanner on the back, just like some of the other Xiaomi phones we’ve seen in the past.
The white and gold colour combination of the Redmi Y1 unit we got for review has become the standard for many budget, mid-range phones. Still Redmi Y1 is a wider phone, thanks to the bigger display and compared to Redmi Note 4, this feels lighter, though I would not say it feels decidedly cheaper or of a poor build quality. This might not be a premium phone, but the overall look and feel is quite good for its price.
Redmi Y1 review: So what’s good?
Redmi Y1 has some positives in its favour. If you’re looking for a budget phone with a big 5.5-inch display, then Redmi Y1 series is the answer. Redmi 4 in contrast has a smaller 5-inch display, though of course some users will find that more preferable and easier to use with one hand. I prefer the older Redmi 4, simple because it is easier to use with one hand.
Xiaomi has consistently done a good job with its displays and Redmi Y1 does not disappoint. Sure, this is not a full HD 1080p display like the Redmi Note 4, but Redmi Y1 is meant for the budget audience that doesn’t want to pay more than Rs 9000 for its phone. If you can pay more than Rs 10,000 for a phone, I would lean towards the Redmi Note 4 with its higher resolution display. Still Redmi Y1’s display is bright and vivid with accurate colour reproductions. The viewing angles are good and if your main consumption is videos on social media networks like YouTube or Facebook or via WhatsApp, Redmi Y1 is suited to the task.
The second high point of this phone would be the battery. Redmi Y1 does not have a 4000 mAh battery on board like Redmi 4 series, but in my use this lasts over 12 hours, even with heavy usage. With moderate usage one can extend the battery life to a day as well. In the PCMark battery test, the phone scored 8 hours plus, which is quite good.
Coming to the Redmi Y1’s performance, I would say this is not all perfect but it gets the job done. I had no trouble multi-tasking on the phone or running games like Asphalt 8. But yes, when you are gaming, there is a noticeable lag in some instances. I would not say this is the fastest smartphone in Xiaomi’s house. But given the budget pricing, the performance is certainly better than what a lot of the competition is offering.
Redmi Y1 review unit I got is also running MIUI 9 beta build and the stable global build is expected to roll out soon for these phones. There’s a new standard theme from Xiaomi, a new Mi Drop app. One can also swipe right from the Home Screen and a personalised menu appears with cards, which can show notes, cricket info, details from the calendar, etc.
This is Xiaomi’s own take on what should ideally be a Google Now menu. Still, MIUI 9 has not given me any cause for complaints. The fingerprint scanner on the Redmi Y1 is also accurate and works quickly to unlock the phone.
Coming to the selfie camera is that 16MP number worth it? What about that selfie LED flash? The selfie camera is not bad, though if you are expecting super sharp selfies and think you’ll be transformed into Katrina Kaif, please temper those expectations. The 16MP selfie camera with beautify mode will make you look plasticky white, but in an Instagram friendly kind of way. The LED flash will make sure your face is seen even if you are taking a selfie in a totally dark room. Will you look attractive? Well that’s subjective, but I would lean towards a no.
Redmi Y1 review: So what’s not so good?
The camera is slow, both the selfie and rear camera. Especially in low-light, you’ll have to spend that extra couple of seconds to make sure you didn’t move the phone too quickly, if you want the object to be perfectly in focus. The selfie camera is nothing exceptional. If selfies are not really your thing, you might not see the fuss about the Redmi Y1 and that’s fine.
Results taken from the rear camera are not bad, but again there’s nothing drastically exceptional compared to earlier Xiaomi phones. Details are still missing, though it does handles colours quite well and there’s no over saturation. The camera still needs some improvement and perhaps Xiaomi can make some software tweaks to fix this.
The selfies also require some patience and I felt are not so sharp as they should be considering there’s a new camera being touted by Xiaomi. Finally, in terms of overall performance, there were times when the device would not respond to a touch command or would freeze when opening a link on the browser. Again these were minor issues, and I’m not sure if I should blame the beta version of MIUI 9 for these.
Redmi Y1 Verdict: Should you buy?
As I’ve said, the main proposition point with Redmi Y1 is the big display, not the selfie camera. The selfie camera is strictly above average, nothing exceptional. Think of these phones, Redmi Y1 and Redmi Y1 Lite as bigger versions of Redmi 4, though with lesser on board battery. If you are among those who need a big display on their phone, but can’t afford to pay more than Rs 8000 or Rs 9000 consider the Redmi Y1 or even the Y1 Lite.
These are solid phones, though not Xiaomi’s fastest offerings in the market. If you have money to spare, I would say get a phone with a bigger display and a better processor like Redmi Note 4. That for me is still Xiaomi’s best phone in the market.