Xiaomi Redmi S2: a better Redmi Note 5A

Jun 18, 2018

The Xiaomi Redmi S2 (also known as Redmi Y2 in India) has many points in common with the Redmi Note 5A (also known as Redmi Y1 in India...).

Like the Redmi Note 5A before, it is another affordable entry level smartphone built around strong cameras...but offering an even better value for the same price.




Specifications:

Dimension: 160.7 x 77.3 x 8.1 mm,
Weight: 170 grams
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, octa-core 2.0 GHz
Memory: 3GB RAM, 32GB ROM (sample reviewed).
Also available in 4GB/64GB
Software: Android 8.1 Oreo, MIUI 9.5
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS
GSM frequencies (Global version):
2G bands GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
4G Network LTE band 1(2100), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 20(800), 38(2600), 40(2300)
Camera: Rear: Dual either IMX486 or OV12A10 + 5 MP S5K5E8 + Flash
Front: 16 MP S5K3P8SP + Flash
Battery: 3080mAh 5V/2A

Unpacking and first look:
The Redmi S2 is not particularly heavy with its 170g but quite a slab quite a slab with its dimensions of 160.7x77.3x8.1mm (6.33x3.04x0.32in), and will definitely require a bigger pocket than it predecessor (153x76.2x7.7mm / 6.02x3.00x0.30in, 153gr).

It comes in a box with the strict minimum: the phone, an ordinary 5V/2A charger, a clear silicone case and a SIM pin.


For Xiaomi, the Redmi range is not worthy of a USB type-C connector so the good old micro USB remains.


The hybrid SIM drawer can embark 2 nano-SIM cards and 1 microSD altogether.



On the top side we find the traditional Xiaomi's IR LED transmitter beside the microphone and a headphones connector.



Cameras:

The S2 is a selfie phone, so the front camera has the stronger resolution with 16MP and even a soft flash.
There a choice of advanced filters to beautify yourself but no funny ones like in the Note 5A (squeeze, stretch , fisheye...)




The rear side has a (Omnivision or Sony, you don't choose) 12MP f/2.2 paired with a 5MP Samsung sensor and a LED Flash, all grouped in a big, bulky, protruding block. This can make the phone wobble a bit when used on a flat surface, but so does the Mi A1 with its thinner block.




The main functions are selected via a tiny horizontal scrolling menu. This unfortunately includes the video mode selection which would be more convenient with a dedicated button.

To take portraits with the selfie side, just select the "Photo" mode, and the camera will offer a dedicated depth effect button.

The "Portrait" mode for doing pretty much the same thing, but with the other side where the double rear cameras will be used together. The results from either side looked comparable to me.


Different formats are available, 4:3, 16:9 and 18:9. Video has slo-mo, time lapse, and makes good use of the gyro-EIS. SD/HD and FHD@30fps resolutions are available.

In most case, the pictures are very good, even in low light condition. In rare case, the focus was not on the intended subject and the white balance seems sometimes a bit off.










Display

That huge 5.99" with its 18:9 aspect ratio is beautiful. The resolution is "only" 720x1440@268dpi, but, like its predecessor, it looks as good as my full HD Mi A1.


The S2 has a very bright display, stronger than Mi A1 and Redmi Note 5A at their max. Adaptive brightness is reactive, and you can see the brightness slider changing in real time, but it sometimes tends to plunge too deep and stay in the low intensity, leaving the screen too dark.


Sound:

As most Xiaomi phones, the sound from the S2 speakers is loud and clear.


Recording is a different story as almost all the Mi and Redmi's have troubles to keep their ANR (Active Noise Reduction) from isolating the voice from the ambient sound, especially the music. It's particularly irritating when shooting  videos during a concert or jam sessions.
Xiaomi worked made some progress on it since last year, so the recording quality has upgraded from terrible to just not-so-good.

Wifi: No 5GHz! What were they thinking?
The 2.4Ghz band works as expected with reception as good as the Mi A1.

But now comes the (only) bad surprise with this phone: There's no 5GHz!
Even the cheapest tablet has that!

Image result for anim gif wtf

This can be verified by checking the hotspot settings, offering only the 2.4Ghz band, and with tools like AIDA64 or WiFi  Analyzer.





Fingerprint scanner for all and Face recognition for some
The fingerprint scanner is lightning fast as usual with Xiaomi and there's a second cool way to unlock your screen: the Face Recognition, and a fast one!
However, for some reason, this option is only available to some countries.
I tried many of them (US/Europe/Africa) and could only use the face recognition once set to India (settings > System & Device > Additional settings).


Performance:
Geekbench score 845/4350 is unsurprisingly identical to the Mi A1 (857/4167) as they both use Xiaomi's beloved Snapdragon 625. The Redmi S2 does great with games and even feels a bit snappier than the Mi A1 in general.

Battery:
The same 3080 mAh as in the older Y1 and similar play time, which is good given the bigger screen.
The efficiency-focused Snapdragon 625 is no stranger to the longevity of the battery, which compares to the Mi A1.

Conclusion: more for the same price!


The Xiaomi Redmi S2 is a very enjoyable phone built around a solid set of cameras. It is still a selfie-centric phone but the rear camera is still doing a great job.

Compared to the Redmi Note 5A released 6 months ago, almost everything has been improved: bigger and brighter screen, stronger CPU, latest Android version,...
What didn't change: the 3080 mAh, the micro-USB connector, the lack of 5Ghz band, and the price.

The 3GB RAM / 32GB ROM is available in Gold, Pink and Silver for 124.94€ / 145.99$ @ Gearbest and the price of the 4GB RAM/64GB ROM version starts around 145€ / 168$  

Both version offer good bang for buck.

See also: Redmi S2 accessories

Good:
  Good cameras on both sides
  Big, bright, colorful screen
  Instant fingerprint and face unlock (for regions allowing it)

Less good:
 No 5Ghz Wifi band


Special thanks to Leah @ Gearbest.com
for providing me with this sample!



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