Technophile

Redmi Y2: Fuelling vanity at affordable prices

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan | Updated on June 10, 2018 Published on June 10, 2018

Xiaomi’s second generation selfie phone is a considerable upgrade compared to its predecessor

Not a lot of time has elapsed since late 2016, when Apple gave the world a dual camera with the iPhone 7 Plus and had us gushing over the portrait mode that eliminated the need for a DSLR. Unless of course, one was a serious photographer. At that time, if I’d have told you that you would get the same feature in less than Rs 10,000, you’d have probably scoffed at the idea.

But almost two-years is a lot of time in tech parlance. OnePlus brought the dual camera and the portrait mode to the OnePlus 5 last June at about half the price of an iPhone 7 Plus, and since then, there has been no looking back for budget phone-makers. So much so that every smartphone-maker worth its salt now has a dual camera mobile to boast of in its line-up.

Leading the charge for obvious reasons is Xiaomi. It is safe to say that this Chinese company has redefined the meaning of the word ‘budget’, and has become the country’s leading seller of smartphones thanks to its all-rounder products that users seem to love.

But, the company was a late entrant to the selfie mobile segment. And in a market as obsessed with vanity and social media as ours, a selfie mobile catering to the needs of the current generation was what was missing from Xiaomi’s portfolio. The company acted on that with the Redmi Y1 that came out last November. And now, it has brought in the second generation of the phone, the Redmi Y2, which was developed after taking into account feedback from the Y1. And yes, you get a dual camera for Rs 9,999, which is what the base variant costs.

Contemporary design

We got the same variant to review and on unboxing it, you notice that the phone follows contemporary smartphone design with thinner bezels and the fingerprint sensor on the back. In fact, the Y2 resembles the Redmi Note 5 Pro a lot, especially from the back. In fact, it even shares the same primary camera set-up, but more on that later.

The back is plastic, but no complaints about the look or feel thanks to the metal finish. However, it’s a large phone and not the most comfortable for quick one-handed use. There are two speaker grilles on the bottom along with the USB port (still not type C, despite many budget phones now getting it) and it also retains the 3.5 mm jack on the top. Power button and volume rockers are on the right and the SIM tray on the left, which gets a dedicated Micro SD slot apart from two SIM slots — very handy for us Indian users who want it all.

The vertical dual camera orientation on the back makes it look a premium phone and belies its budget credentials, especially in the gold hue option that Xiaomi offers. It feels nice and slim to hold and there’s a transparent case provided in the box. Dark antennae lines running on the top and bottom of the phone’s back add to its appeal. The bezels on the front are white and again, they make it look premium.

All-round performance

It’s interesting that Xiaomi has gone with the Snapdragon 625 chipset to power the Y2 despite it being a tad dated. The approach seems to have worked because the chip is a very capable customer and this is evident in the way the phone functions. It might have also just helped Xiaomi keep the price lower instead of going in for the latest from Qualcomm. The 625 powers a lot of phones, some of them from Xiaomi’s stable itself, like the Mi A1, and is a proven processor. The 3 GB RAM variant comes with 32 GB internal memory and handles everyday tasks smoothly. Multi-tasking is also tackled well and unless and until you really put it through the grind with games like Asphalt Airborne, there’s little or no lag.

Using gestures to navigate your way around the phone is simple and while it may not be buttery smooth as on more expensive phones, it does the job. The display is nice and bright but you might need to squint a little under direct sunlight. The 3,000 mAh battery lasted us a day on most counts unless you use the camera a lot or use it for prolonged gaming. The phone went from almost zero to 100 per cent in about two-and-a-half hours. The loudspeaker does leave you wanting for more volume.

MiUI 9.5 is simple enough to use and has handy features. The best part is that preloaded apps like Facebook, PhonePe, Amazon, etc can be uninstalled, freeing up space. Personally though, the absence of an app drawer is irksome. The software is based on Android Oreo 8.1.

Camera in focus

Let’s talk about the 16 MP selfie shooter first, this phone’s USP. According to Xiaomi, their AI has adapted to Indian facial habits and accessories like Bindis, which were treated as blemishes earlier, are now left untouched.

The selfie camera churns out enhanced images that are ready to be shared on social media without requiring much editing or filtering on the user’s part. And while most customers will love it for this, there are some who could find the images a little too manufactured. There’s too much brightening and whitening that goes on and some pictures could come out looking over-exposed or chalky. The portrait mode on the selfie camera works well and is fun to use. The selfie camera offers functions with which you can enhance the size of your eyes, make your face look slender, and lighten your skin tone. Overall, it does what it’s supposed to do.

The rear camera is mostly a winner. And Xiaomi should really be advertising this as much as the front camera. The portrait mode especially is a pleasant surprise and the shots come out well, with vibrant reproduction of colours and good edge recognition. Sometimes, the background could look over-blurred, but even this isn’t too big a problem. As is obvious, the portrait mode works this well only under good lighting conditions and the results deteriorate under low light or indoors. Then again, there’s only so much a phone that costs this much can do.

Regular pictures are neat and sharp under daylight, but could sometimes be a little softened, or pastel-like. Lowlight images see soft colours and fall prey to noise.

Verdict

We asked Xiaomi if this phone can cannibalise the Redmi Note 5 or the Note 5 Pro, given that it’s cheaper, but the company thinks the smartphone market in India has matured enough to pick a phone based on utility rather than just the price. And in this case the Y2 is an out and out selfie and camera offering, whereas the Note series phones are all-rounders. There’s also a 4 GB RAM version with 64 GB memory and Xiaomi’s got most things right, with this one.

Price: Rs 9,999 (3 GB), Rs 11,999 (4 GB)

Pros: Good overall package, attractive looks, capable cameras for the price

Cons: Underwhelming audio, slight lag during gaming at times

Published on June 10, 2018
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