Nokia X vs Xiaomi Redmi: budget smartphones face-off

These budget smartphone make every cent count, but there can be only one

These incredibly affordable phones aren’t your usual dumb feature phones. No sir, they are full-fledged smartphones, powered by none other than Google's Android operating system.

Well, almost. In one corner, we have the Nokia X, a RM399 Android smartphone lacking key Google features. Up against the established brand name from Finland is up-and-rising Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi’s Redmi, priced at a mere S$169 (RM438).

Two smartphones, with specs that aren’t too shabby and able to dish out a decent performance, battle it out to take its rightful place as the most affordable smartphone.

Let the games begin.

READ MORE: Xiaomi Redmi review

Build: Life in plastic, it’s fantastic

The Nokia X’s polycarbonate body might look fairly blocky in contrast to the sleek supermodel smartphones of today, but it gives a substantial grip. The plastic-clad Redmi is slightly curvier with rounded corners and edges. Except for their respective logos on the back, there are no additional embellishments to muss up the matter, but that’s hardly needed given the substance of these phones.

Nokia X vs Xiaomi Redmi: budget smartphones face-off

Reminiscent of the shade scale of the iPhone 5C, the Nokia X comes in 6 eye-popping colours, but that’s as far as customisation goes. While the Redmi comes in flavours of dark grey or bright red, glossy or matt, it extends choice even further with its range of soft gel covers in colours of white, rose, blue, yellow and black

In terms of portability, the Nokia X tips the scales at a lighter 129g while the Redmi weighs in at 158g. While that reads a heavier 29g, that sort of weight difference hardly registers in your hands.

Winner: Xiaomi Redmi

Display: we want more pixels

The Redmi’s 4.7in display dwarfs the Nokia X’s paltry 4in. And when it comes to what really matters, which is the pixel density, the Xiaomi Redmi’s 312ppi still comes out tops over Nokia X’s screen resolution of 800 x 480 pixels across its 4in working out to 233ppi.

Even if you don’t believe the numbers, the clarity of the Redmi’s display under direct sunlight can’t be matched by the Nokia X. Both displays are using the same IPS panel, but the Redmi’s still a notch above the Nokia X in terms of viewing quality.

Winner: Xiaomi Redmi

Performance: the core question

Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1GHz processor, the Nokia X got a little too jerky for our liking. Not exactly the tried and tested blazing force its old-school smartphones (by the standards back then) was famed for. The Redmi carries a MediaTek quad-core processor that clocks in at a reliable 1.5GHz. Compared to the Nokia X, the Redmi delivers a buttery smooth performance, with swift screen transitions, short app loading time and a fluid user interface.

The winner is pretty clear.

Winner: Xiaomi Redmi

More after the break...

Camera: five is better than three

Pitting the Redmi’s 5-megapixel snapper versus the Nokia X’s paltry 3-megapixel sensor seems like an unfair fight. And that, it is. Images taken by the Redmi are definitely sharper and have more details than those from the Nokia X. In daylight conditions, both cameras perform their job well enough. Throw them to work at a nightclub, and you’ll see equally grainy photos. Beyond its imaging capabilities, the Redmi’s audio capture function, which snaps the shutter once it hears an audio cue, leaned our vote towards it.

Winner: Xiaomi Redmi

Operating System - The heart of the matter

Remember those times you hesitated about a Nokia phone because of its limited Windows app ecosystem? Now, forget them. Welcome to the new world of Android on a Nokia machine. Never will you need to complain about limited apps and an uninspired ecosystem.

Or so we thought. Most of the Google services you’re familiar with, such as Maps, are replaced with Nokia’s Here navigation app. On the bright side, Here is a powerful navigation tool comparable to Google Maps.

Meanwhile, Xiaomi’s true prowess shows in MIUI, a highly customisable user interface with so many features, it’ll take you months to exhaust the list. From hiding private messages, locking an app to the background and customising the user interface with a wide selection of Themes, the Redmi showcases the flexibility of Google’s mobile operating system.

It’s a close fight, but there can be only one winner.

Winner: Xiaomi Redmi

Battery: live long and prosper

The lifeforce of these smartphones aren’t to be scoffed at. With moderate usage, the Redmi stayed alive for nearly two days, a feat that’s rare in today’s smartphones. Likewise, the Nokia X is an equally battery-sipping device, clocking 31 hours of usage with 57% left in the battery bank.

But the caveat of all smartphones stays true - abuse it with heavy usage of data download, movies and music playback, and you won’t see such high mileage. Even so, the extremely conservative use of power in both smartphones have made it impossible to choose, leading to one conclusion.

Winner: Draw

Verdict

The Xiaomi Redmi outpowers, outshoots and out-everything else the Nokia X throws against it. Although it might be a newer name in the game as compared to the Nokia and Android heritage of the Nokia X, fresh blood is exactly what the game needs to stay ahead of the curve.

For the same price point, the Redmi delivers even more, creating the best value-for-money deal that’s impossible to refuse.

Against the Nokia X, the Redmi wins hands-down. Beyond the budget smartphone range, even Samsung, Sony, HTC and Apple have to rethink their strategies and be wary of the rising smartphone maker from China.

Additional reporting by Elissa Loi

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