Just before Hugo Barra announced he was leaving the company, he and Xiaomi on Thursday introduced its latest phablet, the Redmi Note 4, in India. The design of the smartphone resembles that of the Chinese version, but the internal architecture has changed. Instead of the MediaTek Helio X20 SoC, the Indian version of the Redmi Note 4 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625, which is a shift from a tri-cluster 10-core A72/A53/A53 design to a full A53/A53 eight-core SoC. Meanwhile, despite the hardware switch, the concept of the device has not changed: the high-end flagship phone will retail at price-points below $200.

Hugo Barra, former chief marketing officer of Xiaomi, published specs and prices of the Redmi Note 4 phablet that will be available in India. The company has changed a lot about the device both inside and outside, possibly because the newcomer will eventually be available globally and thus will have different competitors than it does in China. In general, the new Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 remained the same: it is a 5.5” smartphone that comes in a metallic unibody chassis with rounded edges and antenna separated from the rest of the back cover using polycarbonate strips. The new Redmi Note 4 lineup will include matte black, matte gold and matte gray smartphones.

When Xiaomi introduced the Redmi Note 4 in China several months ago, the company used Mediatek's deca-core Helio X20 in a market where core-count can matter at this price-point (as in, it affects buying decisions). For the new version, Xiaomi uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC that features fewer general-purpose cores, has a single-channel memory controller and a modem with more bands. More importantly, the chip is made using Samsung’s 14LPP (14 nm FinFET, low-power plus) manufacturing technology and presumably has generally lower power consumption when compared to the Helio X20 made using TSMC’s CLN20SOC (20nm planar) fabrication process. In any case, Xiaomi says that the Redmi Note 4 with its 4100 mAh battery lasts 25% longer when compared to its predecessor (the Redmi Note 3 with a 4050 mAh battery), an indicator that the new unit uses components with lower power consumption.

On the other hand, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 650 that features two high-performance ARM Cortex-A72 cores as well as four low-power ARM Cortex-A53 cores, compared to the quad A53+quad A53 of the Snapdragon 625 in the Redmi Note 4. The octa-core A53 configuration will result in lower performance for this version of the Redmi Note 4 compared to the Helio X20 version and the older Redmi Note 3 Pro, especially for bursty workloads like web browsing.

In the last generation of mid-range smartphones, a number of companies were happy to take a 'hex' core design: big.Little using dual A72 and quad A53. This allowed the SoC to offer good peak performance, using some of the highest performing cores available at a high frequency, and move to the small cluster when in power saving mode. However, these designs were on 28nm - a popular but not leading edge process node. So far this year we've seen a number of devices announced that are ditching the pair of A72 cores for another set of quad A53 cores, on SoCs built on a 14nm node. The performance of the cores doesn't change with process node, but the power consumption does: using a 14nm S625 over a 28nm S650 means that battery life is up and up (on all else being comparable) however peak performance is generally down. The interesting intersection is if they compute the same amount of work and how much power is required: it is generally considered that a 14nm S625 still wins that one as well. This is despite the fact that the chip probably costs more, by virtue of the 14nm process. It would seem that vendors are willing to take the hit on price and performance in exchange for battery life (other devices announced include the honor 6X, Huawei Nova/Plus and the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom). Another downside of these S625 devices seems to be that some don't support 802.11ac. 

  Xiaomi
Redmi Note 4
2 GB/32 GB version
Xiaomi
Redmi Note 4
3 GB/32 GB version
Xiaomi
Redmi Note 4
4 GB/64 GB version
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
8 × ARM Cortex-A53 at 2 GHz
Adreno 506 at 624 MHz
RAM  2 GB LPDDR3 3 GB LPDDR3 4 GB LPDDR3
Storage 32 GB + microSD 32 GB + micromSD 64 GB + microSD
Display 5.5" 1920x1080 (403 ppi)
Network 4G: LTE FDD, LTE TDD
3G: WCDMA (DB-DCHSDPA, DC-HSUPA),
TD-SCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA
2G: GSM/EDGE

NB! Based on the S625 features.
Actual capabilities may be different.
LTE Down: 300 Mb/s
Up: 150 Mb/s
Fingerprint  Yes
Audio Hexagon 546 DSP, integrated speakers, 3.5-mm TRRS connector
Dimensions unknown
Weight ~175 grams
Rear Camera 13 MP, dual LED flash f/2.0 aperture
Front Camera 5 MP, f/2.0
Battery 4100 mAh
OS Google Android 7 with MIUI 8
Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, Micro-USB 2.0
Navigation GPS + GLONASS
SIM Size Nano SIM + micro SD/Dual Nano SIM
Colors Black, Gold, Grey
Launch Countries India
Price Rs. 9,999
$146
Rs. 10,999
$161
Rs. 12,999
$190

The Redmi Note 4 phone has a 5.5-inch FHD IPS display covered with 2.5D Gorilla Glass for protection. The Chinese version of the Redmi Note 4 claimed to have a maximum brightness of 450 nits, a contrast ratio of 1000:1, 72% NTSC color gamut as well as a special technology that improves visibility of the display outdoors, but we do not know whether the Indian version has the very same display panel too.

As for imaging capabilities, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 uses a 13 MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture, PDAF and a dual LED flash on the back as well as a 5 MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture on the front. Audio features of the Xiaomi RN4 include built-in speakers as well as 3.5-mm TRRS audio jack on top. Meanwhile, for local connectivity, the phone features 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 and a microUSB port. Now, while we understand that the Snapdragon 625 supports LTE, WCDMA, CDMA and GSM, but so far, Xiaomi has not announced specific bands for the Redmi Note 4 smartphone. In the best-case scenario, the handset supports everything the SoC does, but the manufacturer has not confirmed that yet.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 uses Google’s Android 7 with various enhancements by Xiaomi, including new security features of the MIUI 8 designed to simplify usage of the fingerprint scanner.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 was up for sale in India as of the 23rd January. For the prices, they will vary from Rs. 9,999 ($146) for the entry-level 2 GB/32 GB model to Rs. 12,999 ($190) for the high-end 4 GB/64 GB SKU.

Related Reading:

Source: Xiaomi/Twitter

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  • rhysiam - Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - link

    "It would seem that vendors are willing to take the hit on price and performance in exchange for battery life"

    Another huge motivator is that it allows vendors to market the phone as "octa" instead of "hex" core. How many consumers actually know that 2xA73 (or A72 for that matter) > 4xA53 for the "big" cores? That's a hard sell when all most consumers see/understand is 8 cores vs 6.

    As a question... is there actually any practical need whatsoever for quad cores on the "little" cluster (A53 or whatever)? Surely if there ever is actually sufficient workload to peg 3+ cores on the A53 cluster, the SOC would ideally fire up the "big" cluster anyway?
    Reply
  • Matt Humrick - Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - link

    Yes, there are workloads that utilize 4 A53 cores. OEMs can also tune the load threshold that migrates threads to the big cluster, so it could set the threshold higher to keep threads on the A53s and save power. Reply
  • rhysiam - Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - link

    So the background tasks/light workloads targeted by the "little" clusters are sufficiently threaded to regularly utilise 3-4 cores? Wow, that's interesting and not the response I was expecting. Thanks.

    Interesting that Apple decided to stick to a 2+2 arrangement for A10 then, especially given that they seem willing to throw die size at anything that'll improve either performance or battery life.

    I'd be curious to understand the sorts of workloads that can peg 3+ A53 cores on a phone without justifying firing up the big cluster. Anyone have insights on this?
    Reply
  • Pissedoffyouth - Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - link

    Web browsing. Light threads for image rendering and scrolling, a big fat core kicks in for JavaScript as it's single threaded. Remember, even the A72 isn't as heavily out of order as Intel's desktop CPUs they are still pretty narrow. So spreading a multithreaded parrellel workload over weaker cores can be faster and more power efficient. Reply
  • whitecliff90 - Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - link

    The redmi 4 prime and redmi note 4 use the same chipset, I sense cost saving. Reply
  • Hareesh - Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - link

    What will come 2GB ram variant ? Reply
  • Zak - Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - link

    Curious: does "redmi" mean anything in India or is it a play on "read me"? Reply
  • View From The Top - Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - link

    No it doesn't. Its the English translation for 'Hongmi', which is how Redmi phones are sold in China. Hongmi means Red Rice in Mandarin AFAIK.

    BTW, the phone was launched last Thursday, so it shouldn't have taken AT almost a week to report it!

    Either way, the article is littered with errors from start to finish! AT is going to the dogs since ALS left. The RN3 (SD version) supported 9 different LTE bands, this one supports just 3 - Band 3 and 5 (FDD) and Band 40 (TDD). They were disclosed on the launch day itself.

    Second error: Honor 6X is powered by the Kirin 655 SoC, not Snapdragon 625 or anything else by Qualcomm for that matter. Kirin chips are designed in-house by Huawei.

    Thirdly, the device comes with Android 6 Marshmallow with MIUI 8, not Android 7 Nougat. The Nougat update, however, is currently in beta and is expected to be rolled out OTA in the coming weeks.
    Reply

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