“We put Xiaomi’s latest budget smartphone, the Redmi 6A, through its paces”
The numbers don’t lie – budget-conscious buyers just cannot resist the siren call of Xiaomi’s Redmi series of smartphones. The company’s wallet-friendly offerings have sold in the millions and recently, the brand announced two more devices to take the tally up even further. Dubbed the Redmi 6 (first impressions) and the Redmi 6A, the smartphones come as successors to last year’s Redmi 5 and Redmi 5A, albeit with one important difference. After a really long time, Xiaomi has decided to opt for a MediaTek chip instead of Qualcomm’s trusty ol’ Snapdragon 400-series.
Now, when I reviewed the Redmi 5A last year, I was immensely pleased with the smartphone’s competitive pricing, and one could snag one up for as low as Rs 3,999. So then, is the pricier Redmi 6A worth the extra bucks you spend on it? Well, that’s what I’m here to find out. Stay with me.
Design and display
Design-wise, Xiaomi seemingly went back to the drawing board as the Redmi 6A looks drastically different from its predecessor, the 5A. The handset now features more prominent curves towards the back, which don’t just enhance the smartphone’s overall looks but also pave way for excellent one-handed usage too. During my testing, I noticed that the smartphone nestled comfortably in my palms and owing to the presence of chamfered edges and rounded corners, the phone didn’t bite even when I gripped it tightly.
Flip the smartphone and you’ll find noticeable changes in the display department too. Unlike last year’s model, the Redmi 6A has gotten the bezel-less treatment and the smartphone ships with a tall, narrow frame with an aspect ratio of 18:9. Therefore, not only do buyers get a bigger 5.45-inch IPS display with the smartphone, but there’s a slight bump in the resolution as well. While the Redmi 5A’s display shipped boasted HD resolution, the 6A’s panel ships with HD+ resolution, which means you’ll get more pixels along the smartphone’s vertical edge.
That said, the pixel density of the 6A’s display remains the same as its predecessor and consequently, the overall sharpness of the panel remains unchanged too. Regardless, the Redmi 6A offers a much better media consumption experience, solely because of its bigger display which is ideal for enjoying movies and videos.
Unfortunately, much like last year’s model, the Redmi 6A also lacks a fingerprint sensor. However, the company more than makes up for it by shipping the smartphone with a face unlock feature. Now, before you scoff at the idea of face recognition on a budget smartphone, hear me out. Not only did the Redmi 6A recognise my face in a jiffy, but I couldn’t fool the smartphone by using my portraits either. What’s more, unlike some other budget-oriented smartphones, I couldn’t unlock the Redmi 6A with my eyes closed. All in all, I had no problems relying on the Redmi 6A’s facial recognition to secure my personal files and data.
The Xiaomi Redmi 6A draws parallels to its predecessor in the camera department. Similar to last year’s model, the Redmi 6A also features solitary 13MP and 5MP shooters on the back and the front respectively. Consequently, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell if an image has been shot from the Redmi 5A or the Redmi 6A, just by looking at it with the naked eye.
However, if you put the images under the microscope, then you’ll notice that the Redmi 6A has a slightly better dynamic range as it captures more details in the shadows. All in all, for the price you pay for the smartphone, the Redmi 6A’s rear camera will not disappoint you.
The quality of selfies you’ll get with the Redmi 6A isn’t all that different from the 5A either. Under ideal lighting scenarios, you might be able to get away with a decent looking picture, but upon zooming in, you’ll find noticeable softening and grain in the pictures. What’s more, despite not sporting a dual-camera setup on the front, the handset will let you snap a portrait selfie. Unfortunately, the ‘blur effect’ isn’t as smooth as I’d like it to be and there’s noticeable softening around the subject’s edges when the pictures are clicked using the portrait mode.
Hardware and software
Xiaomi has done more than just give the Redmi 6A a cosmetic overhaul, mind you. Underneath the smartphone’s plastic chassis, you’ll now get a brand-new, entry-level, 12nm processor from MediaTek, dubbed the Helio A22 chip. The processor features four physical cores which can turbo up to 2GHz and the company claims that the chip is almost 37 percent faster and 48 percent more battery-efficient than the Snapdragon 425 processor powering last year’s Redmi 5A. My review unit of the smartphone shipped with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of built-in, user-expandable storage, but buyers can also pick the device in a 2GB / 32GB configuration as well.
Now, as far as the performance is concerned, I was quite content with the Redmi 6A. I’ll have to hand it to Xiaomi here as the smartphone didn’t stutter or lag all that much, despite shipping with 2GB of RAM. The UI animations felt fluid and the smartphone didn’t struggle when I was multitasking between CPU-intensive applications like Google Chrome and Apple Music either. You’ll obviously find faults with the processor if you push it too hard but for casual smartphone users, the Redmi 6A offers little-to-no compromises in the performance department.
As for gaming, the smartphone managed to run light games like Clash Royale, Hoppenhelm and Ping Pong King without breaking a sweat. Sure, the games do take a while to load but its smooth sailing once they’re in the memory. I even managed to run PUBG on the smartphone and got a few kills, albeit at the lowest graphics settings. That said, the game was far from playable and I was experiencing a lot of frame drops during intense battles. Therefore, I’d recommend buyers avoid running intensive games on the smartphone as they’ll probably crack open the smartphone in frustration.
Software-wise, the Xiaomi Redmi 6A boots Android Oreo v8.0 with MIUI v9 on top. In contrast, the Redmi 5A booted Android Nougat from the get-go. Now, if this isn’t your first rodeo with a Xiaomi smartphone, then you’ll know what to expect from the software – in-depth customisation features, support for gestures and the ability to run two versions of the same application. That being said, my favourite utility bundled with the software is the ‘second-space’ feature, which basically lets you install different sets of apps and add different accounts on the same smartphone. Think, separate users for Windows ported to Android.
Despite being fuelled by a relatively small 3,000mAh battery, the Xiaomi Redmi 6A managed to see me through the end of a busy day easily. My usage included some light gaming, listening to music on Apple Music, browsing social media apps like Instagram and Twitter and, texting my friends on WhatsApp. Despite pushing the smartphone’s battery to its limits, I managed to come back home with around 20 percent juice still left in the tank.
The Xiaomi Redmi 6A brings a host of improvements which make it a solid upgrade over its predecessor. For its asking price of Rs 5,999 for the 16GB storage model, the handset offers solid performance, good battery life, and a stylish design. You can go for the higher-end model as well, though that only offers twice the storage without increasing the RAM capacity, unlike earlier.
Now, Xiaomi has numerous smartphones priced under Rs 10K and for every Rs 1,000 increment in your budget, you can get a slightly better smartphone than the Redmi 6A. All said and done, if you don’t have a flexible budget and have your sights set on the smartphone, then the Redmi 6A will not disappoint you.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Stylish, ergonomic design
- Decent performer
- Good battery life
- Selfie camera could’ve been better
- Both variants only come with 2GB RAM