The phone has a headphone jack, plus it's officially certified as IP53 water and dust resistant, which is one of the easiest things to skip when you're trying to keep to a budget. And even as you look around the rest of the phone's features, it's not massively crippled in any way. Only further begging the question of how this thing is like £280 here in the UK, which is less than half of the price of the iPhone SE with the same amount of storage and no charger. Like, the screen is a nice big flat 1080p 120Hz panel that, let's put it this way, has enough contrast that it blends into the physical borders of the phone and almost completely hides the camera when you've got it up against a black background. It has a slightly over-sharpened look to it, which comes out when watching videos, but that's standard for phones this price. There's a set of stereo speakers, one on the front that uses the phone's earpiece, and then a more powerful one at the bottom. And they're not bad either. Even the software has been really strong for me. You know, I was half expecting it to be riddled with ads to make up for the low cost of the phone, but I haven't seen a single one. And the time that I've spent with this has given me the real chance to appreciate some of the more fun nuances of the MIUI 13 Android skin that it runs on. Like, for the photo editor they have built into the gallery, it's actually insane the amount of options it gives you. It's got everything from object removal, people removal, shadow removal, to the ability to swap out the sky using AI, make it look like it was snowing, to make a daytime shot look like it was taken at nighttime. This is the kind of really nerdy stuff that I get completely lost in. I've been messing around with all the sidebar features, and it's taken till now for me to realize it gives you an option that allows you to play YouTube videos with your screen off, which is usually meant to be a YouTube premium feature, but you can do it for free here.
MIUI has one of the most painless casting features. You just tap a button and you can be on just about any smart TV of any brand with nothing extra required. Plus the option to hide all your embarrassing notifications from showing up on the TV. My point being that software is yet another thing that isn't lacking here. There's fundamentally no difference between what you can do on a $300 Xiaomi phone and what you can do on a $1,000 Xiaomi phone. Or a 99. Come on, come on, come on. 100. Okay, stop timer.
Nine minutes 50. Okay, so they might've used some slightly favorable rounding, but I just witnessed a smartphone charge completely from empty to full in less than 10 minutes. That doesn't even feel real. I kind of feel like the phone is lying to me, but I can see the 100% battery in the corner and a sub to the channel would be meaned blowing.
The only remaining question marks then are the performance and this crazy sounding camera. And the performance is pretty good. This Redmi is powered by a mid-range chip called the Dimensity 1080, and it scores just under half of the top-end phones on benchmarks, which translates to still being able to play every modern game, but at closer to the entry-level settings as opposed to the ultra-beautified versions. However, because this is a very new mid-range chip, it does keep the phone very current with features. And it's the reason why this phone can have not one, but two 5G SIMs. Although, how much of a perk really is that? It gives it upload and download speeds that very much keep up with current flagships. Plus, it's what allows this phone to even support a 200MP camera resolution. And so, before we get to how Xiaomi's made this thing so affordable, we should talk about this. What does a budget 200MP camera even mean? Like if you were a non-techie person, you'd probably take that number to assume this is the best camera in the world. But if you're a techie person like me, you're probably thinking it's just a major marketing ploy made possible by a technicality. But the answer is actually somewhere between the two. Okay, to get one thing straight, smartphone camera sensors are nowhere near big enough to properly take advantage of 200MP of resolution. But here's the thing. Because it's shooting for such a high figure, then even though it doesn't reach it, it still lands way above most phones in terms of detail. Like check this side by side. On the left we have the Redmi using its 200MP mode, on the right we have the iPhone 14 Pro Max. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but I genuinely think you would have a hard time arguing for the iPhone here. And this is repeatable. Give it pretty much any well-lit scenario, and this $300 phone will take a more detailed photo than most flagships on the market, simply because of this insane resolution. Now that's not to say it's a better overall camera system. There's a lot of flaws here, like the fact that the video quality kinda sucks, or that the selfie camera on the front is mediocre, or that you can basically forget that this is a multi-camera system. Meaning that while technically as well as that main 200MP camera, you do have an 8MP ultrawide and a 2MP macro lens for close-ups, the quality gap is so vast, partly because the main camera's really good, partly because the secondary cameras are really bad, that you will almost always just be better off taking a few steps back or a few steps forward and using the main camera for everything. But still, the fact that in 30% of my photos this is a clear-cut winner versus my iPhone 14 Pro Max is kind of insane. So while I do think this would be a better phone if it was more balanced, if it had a lower megapixel count but a larger sensor, if it charged a bit slower but had a bigger battery, I definitely can't argue that this is anything but ridiculously great value hardware. So how do they do it for $330? Well you won't find out by looking at the phone. To really understand what they've done, you have to zoom out from that, and realise that Xiaomi's entire business model operates around a higher volume of sales instead of a higher profit per sale. And there's two sides to this. One side, which is good for the consumer, is that because they're not focused on profit per unit, they can afford to take a lower percentage cut per sale. No joke, literally 5% profit. But then the other side, which is less good for the consumer, is that to get the volume of sales, their strategy also relies on people upgrading their phones more often. And one of the most effective ways of doing that is to just give your budget phones less software support. So like, while this phone will get one major Android update, maybe two, if you bought a mid-range Samsung right now, there's a good chance you'd get four. Which saves Xiaomi a lot of manpower and therefore money, which they can also pass on to the consumer, and it makes their older phones obsolete faster, encouraging more of those upgrades. This is still a good phone, but just remember, nothing comes for free. To see why 5G kinda sucks right now, that video's here.