Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G Review for Telus (Chinese Version)

Xiaomi has recently become the world's largest smartphone third largest smartphone maker, behind only Samsung and Apple (with Lenovo and LG rounding out the top five). It's not a well known name in Canada (or anywhere in North America) yet, even if it is the largest smartphone vendor in China.

Along with their MIUI operating system for smartphones (based on Android), Xiaomi has expanded into a wider range of consumer electronics, such as TVs, set top box and external batteries among other things. This review is for their Redmi Note 4G smartphone, a phone that has helped boost Xiaomi's overall popularity with a combination of solid specs, decent looks and a great value (not sold in North America, as far as I know).

Unboxing Redmi Note 4G Photos

Now we move on to the unboxing photos where we can see that the phablet is quite large, dwarfing the power adapter that comes with it...My main phone is the iPhone 5S and the difference is pretty noticeable.

Redmi Note 4G box waiting to be opened

Huge phablet display awaits you

Not much else in the box, battery and power adapter/cord

Plugged in and powered on with factory version of Xiaomi's MIUI operating system

Redmi Note 4G smartphone specifications (China Version)

I'll get the specs out of the way first. Decent Quad-core CPU, 2G RAM and a solid battery were the specs that I wanted from a smartphone. Enough so that web surfing is fast and I can play the odd game or two.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 MSM8928, Quad-core 1.6GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM + 8GB Flash Memory (Flash memory could be a concern for people, but not for my uses)
  • 5.5" HD IPS display (same size as iPhone 6 Plus, so it feels physically big)
  • 13MP rear camera | 5MP front camera
  • 3100mAh Lithium-ion Polymer Battery (better than iPhone 6 Plus it seems)
  • MIUI V6 based on Android 4.4 (too bad not Android 5.0)
  • 1280x720 resolution (720p was fine with me since it means longer battery life)

The cellular and wireless specs are where you need to pay extra attention if you want to buy this from China and bring it over to Canada; if the phone is not be compatible with your carrier, then it will NOT work at all. More on this later.
  • 4G FDD-LTE (1800/2100MHz)
  • 4G TDD-LTE (2600MHz)
  • 3G WCDMA (850/900/1900/2100MHz)
  • 2G GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz)

No Google on Chinese Versions (and How to Get Around That)

One thing that you will notice is the lack of any Google apps on the phone, which is really annoying. If you are in China that's really not a problem, since pretty much all of Google's services (including Gmail, Youtube, Maps, Play Store etc.) are all censored/blocked. If you are taking the phone to Canada you'd probably want to be able to download apps from Google's Play store. The easiest way I got around that was by downloading the "Global" version of MIUI. It's not that hard:
  1. Download the latest "Redmi Note 4G Global" MIUI ROM
  2. Connect your phone to the computer, and copy over the ROM file to the folder /downloaded_rom onto the SD card.
  3. Go to Settings > About phone > System updates > Menu button > Select update package. Choose the ROM, and Update now.
  4. Various Google apps, including the Play Store are now on your Xiaomi phone!

Choosing the "Right Version" of Redmi Note (for Telus)

Lots of lower end/inexpensive phones from overseas may not work with your local carriers (eg: Telus/Bell/Rogers), due to carrier frequency differences. After some research, I found out that each carrier only supports certain frequencies (eg: right now Telus operates 3G on WCDMA 850/1900 MHz. This was not easy information to find, since Google Search is blocked in China, and the Telus website was pretty much useless as you might expect...); so you have to check if BOTH your phone and carrier support the same frequencies, otherwise the phone is not compatible and will not work.

Redmi Note 4G cellular and wireless specs again:
  • 4G FDD-LTE (1800/2100MHz)
  • 4G TDD-LTE (2600MHz)
  • 3G WCDMA (850/900/1900/2100MHz) Note: AFAIK, Telus is compatible only with these two frequencies
  • 2G GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz)
Note: It does NOT match up with the 4G frequencies that Telus supports, so no 4G for me...But that was something that I knew about and decided I can live without. You'll have to decide if 4G is a must or not for you.

Something also to be aware of, is that carriers change the frequencies that they support. In the end, the Redmi Note 4G version that I got (there are different Chinese versions of the same phone so be aware), supports 3G WCDMA 850/1900 MHz, which is what Telus uses. At that point, all I needed to do was slap in my old SIM card (FYI, the Redmi Note takes a Mini-SIM card, not Micro or Nano size) and after crossing my fingers, I was able to make my first phone call.

Fast Web Browsing, Big Screen and Solid MIUI Experience

So after making sure it'll actually play nice with my carrier, making sure I have the right SIM-card size and getting my Google apps on the phone ...What do I think? For a middle of the road phone, I'm quite impressed for what they can offer in this range. For web surfing it loads pages fast enough (not faster than the iPhone 5S though). The large screen is also great for reading and viewing web pages. And MIUI (Global version) feels quite good actually, it's really fast and doesn't feel like bloatware at all. Now I know why Xiaomi is climbing the smartphone maker ranks so fast, from what I've see so far Xiaomi is making some good things happen.

Marketing photo of Xiaomi's Redmi Note

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  1. This web site was also useful to find out if your cell phone is compatible: http://willmyphonework.net/

  2. Unfortunately, my old Xiaomi phone's power button no longer works reliably, so it's pretty much unusable for me now. It's a black mark for the brand as far I am concerned. It's slipped a spot, with Huawei now the #3 smartphone maker, so quality/reliability is something they might want to take a closer look at.

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