Xiaomi Redmi Y2 review: the best budget phone for selfies is also a workhorse

Best cheap Android phones in 2018

Rating: 7.5/10

Yay:

  • Good selfie cameras, of course
  • Fast and reliable face unlock
  • Triple slots for two SIM cards and one microSD card
  • Polished software experience

Nay:

  • 720p display is not sufficient
  • Video recording quality is poor

According to Xiaomi, the Redmi Y1 was a huge success. And, why wouldn’t it be? It was the first time a Xiaomi phone was being endorsed by a big-ticket Bollywood star -Katrina Kaif. And, I guess it worked. 

While Kaif continues to endorse the next generation Y-series phone, that’s the only common factor between the Y1 and the Y2. Because, a lot has changed this time around. 

Read on to find out what I think of the phone that’s going for the selfie fans in 2018. I really don’t know if selfies are still a thing. 

Xiaomi Redmi Y2 design: inspired but neat and tidy

Not that it matters, but the Redmi Y2 is a rebranded Redmi S2, which was launched in China. The design of the Y2 follows the same ethos that Xiaomi has with its Redmi Note series this year. It comes with a tall aspect ratio display, fairly slim bezels, and an iPhone X-esque rear with vertically-aligned dual rear cameras.

One of the things that separates the Y2 from the Note 5 and Note 5 Pro (review) is that it is made of tough plastic instead of metal. But Xiaomi does a good job of masking that fact by creating a faux metallic look. Especially, the grey variant we received for review looks deceiving. I have no complaints about the use of plastic really because the Y2 is a well-built phone and does feel sturdy from the moment you take it out of the box. 

Now, one thing I don’t understand is why Xiaomi’s designers decided to add faux antenna lines on the top and the bottom. It is an entirely plastic body and therefore those lines are probably not of any functional use. I am not a fan.

That said, I am definitely a fan of the tapering edges on the rear. This design decision helps distribute the 170g weight of the phone evenly across the device. Therefore, the phone ends up feeling slim and compact in the hand despite being large. 

Also on the rear is the dual camera module that is ever so slightly raised. The fingerprint scanner on the rear is easy to reach and works fairly well too. As an alternative, you also get fastest, most reliable face unlock in this price range. It doesn’t work with a 2D picture and doesn’t unlock when your eyes are closed. Good job, Xiaomi. But let it be known, that face unlock on most Android phones is not a very secure option and Xiaomi (and other phone brands) are generally upfront about that. 

Flip over to the front and you will immediately notice that Xiaomi hasn’t used a 2.5D curved glass on the Y2. The display is, in fact, placed on a raised platform that creates a lip. So, when you are swiping for gestures from the edges of the display, the action doesn’t feel very smooth. Additionally, the top and the bottom bezels are huge. For a phone with an 18:9 aspect ratio display, that is definitely a letdown. Another issue with the phone is the use of a Micro-USB port. I am done ranting about this. 

There are two speaker grilles at the bottom flanking the Micro-USB port on either sides. Of these two grilles, only one functions as the speaker. On the top you get a 3.5mm jack and an infrared sensor. The left edge has the tray with slots for two nano SIM cards and a separate microSD card, which is definitely better than a hybrid slot. The power button and the volume rocker sit on the right edge. While these physical hardware buttons are easy to access and decently tactile, I’d have ideally liked ridges on the power button to be able to distinguish between the two. Like we saw on the Moto G6 Play (review).

Xiaomi Redmi Y2 display: good but you can get better displays in this price range

Xiaomi has decided to go for a 5.99-inch (720 x 1440p) IPS LCD panel on the Y2 with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Despite the 450 nits of brightness, the display feels slightly dull and sunlight legibility is not really the best in class. The viewing angles are good, though. And, the colour reproduction is pretty close to accurate too.

However, you are bound to notice the pixellation when swiping up apps from the home screen to close them. The 720p resolution doesn’t feel enough on a large 6-inch display. Up close, you are bound to notice pixels even in every day usage. 

Evidently, phones like the Mobiistar XQ Dual (review) and Xiaomi’s very own Redmi Note 5 offer Full HD displays in the same price range. So, display is one area where I am slightly disappointed with the Redmi Y2. 

Xiaomi Redmi Y2 software: MIUI goodness wrapped around Android 8.1

The Redmi Y2 runs the latest MIUI 9.5 software with Android 8.1 as the base layer. I have already said a lot about MIUI 9 in my review of the Redmi Note 5 Pro. But, with the new 9.5 update you get a few more features like the gestures, which are cool. And, you also get picture-in-picture (PIP) for apps that have enabled it. For example, Swiggy shows a map in PIP mode. As a regular user of Swiggy, I find it very useful. Also, the new notifications shade is pretty decent too. But the two finger swipe to reply is still pretty annoying. 

Having said that, the Y2 is primed to get the MIUI 10 update and I am more excited about that. I tried the beta out on the Redmi Note 5 Pro and I can say this with a fair amount of confidence that Xiaomi has something special in store for you guys. 

Xiaomi Redmi Y2 camera: good for the price

Obviously the Redmi Y2’s 16MP selfie camera is its main feature. It is supported by a soft flash module for low light scenarios. Also, Xiaomi has added HDR on the front for good measure. The AI beauty mode, with a deep customisation levels, from the Redmi Note 5 Pro has also been exported into the Y2. I am not a fan of any Beauty mode, so I am going to skip that conversation. But if — for some unfathomable reason — you like to paint your face white and your cheeks red, the Y2 does that using its software. Whether it is good or not, is something I will let you find out for yourself. 

As far as regular selfies go, the Redmi Y2 is plenty crisp for a phone under Rs 10,000. Especially, selfies shot in daylight offers a good amount of details. The colour accuracy is pretty natural by default too. What I like about the Y2’s front camera is the impeccable selfie portrait mode. It can identify two people in the same frame and that’s definitely a big, big advantage. Moreover, the cutout looks extremely natural and the software managed to identify even small strands of hair. As far as low light selfies go, the Redmi Y2 can capture a decent amount of details with the soft LED flash. That said, my only gripe with the Y2 is that it tends to soft focus on the subject. I had to take multiple captures to get the right shot. 

P.S. Click on the images for full resolution samples.

Now, this problem extends to the rear camera as well. The phone is slow to focus and you have to hold steady for a crisp shot. And yes, you can easily achieve a good crisp macro shot using the 12MP primary camera. Thanks mainly to the large 1.25um pixel size, which is incidentally the same size as the one on the Redmi Note 5 Pro. However, achieving a landscape shot with details across the corners of the image was slightly tough. Regardless if you have the patience, you can definitely achieve some good shots. 

Video recording on the Y2 tops out at 1080p. And, the video recording quality is average at best. The phone also keeps hunting for focus, so that’s a definite letdown. Thankfully, there’s EIS to stabilise videos.

 

Xiaomi Redmi Y2 performance: say hello to the ever-dependable but overused SD625

Internally, the Redmi Y2 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC. As far as the RAM/ROM combination is concerned, you get two SKUs: 3GB/32GB and 4GB/64GB. Xiaomi has already used this SoC on so many phones now, that by now everyone knows the power efficiency and capability of this 14nm chip. But like I said in my first impressions, it really looks like Xiaomi is trying very hard to get rid of its massive stockpile of SD625 chips from the plants in China. 

Regardless, you are assured of good performance. I mean, I barely noticed a stutter in my usage. Moreover, you can play games like PUBG at medium settings with no lag. So, that’s good. The biggest advantage of the SD625 processor is its 14nm FinFet tech, which works in tandem with the 3080mAh battery to provide great battery life. I easily got 4+ hours of screen on time on moderate to heavy usage, and that’s good. 

Weirdly though, the Y2 doesn’t support 5GHz networks for Wi-Fi, so you are stuck with slower speeds. As far as the sound quality is concerned, the single downward firing loud speaker gets plenty loud but it distorts at high volume. The same loudness is a feature of the DAC inside the phone. My 1More Triple Driver reference earphones got extremely loud but the details in the music was not as refined as the Mi A1.

However, the one thing that Xiaomi has fixed in the Y2 is the sound quality through the earpiece. Calls are clear and the mic is good too. But, I faced more call drops than usual. Let it be known that it could also be a factor of my Airtel connection. 

 

Should you buy the Xiaomi Redmi Y2?

While I have answered this question for all the phones I’ve reviewed at Mr. Phone, for the first time, I am struggling to find a single good answer for the Redmi Y2. To make it easy, let’s try to break it down:

  1. If you use the Redmi Y1, the Y2 is a good upgrade no doubt. 
  2. If you are someone who buys a phone on the basis of its selfie prowess, you cannot go wrong with the Y2 at this price. 

Let’s not forget the amount of infighting between Xiaomi’s own phones. This reminds me of the days when Samsung used to launch different models and SKUs within a very small price range. For example, the Redmi Y2’s the base variant costs Rs 9,999, whereas the higher-end variant will set you back by Rs 12,999. The Note 5 with a metal body and FHD+ display, but a single camera on the rear, costs Rs 9,999 as well. In fact, the 4GB variant is cheaper at Rs 11,999. So, which one should you choose?

Moreover, there are other good phones like the Honor 9 Lite (review), ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 (review), Realme 1 (review), and the Moto G6 Play (review) available for around the same price range. In fact, if you ask me, I would still strongly recommend the Redmi Note 5 Pro over all the other phones because it is tremendous value for money and a great, great smartphone. 

Which one would you pick? Do let us know in the comments section below. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?