When we talk of the budget segment in smartphones, among the first two companies that generally come to mind are Xiaomi and Lenovo (Moto). The sub Rs. 15,000 market in smartphones is very competitive, but these two companies have managed to rule the segment for quite a while now.
While there are many other players in the race, it is generally believed that these two brands offer value for money products. Lenovo’s K Note series and Xiaomi’s Redmi Note series have in particular been very popular. Xiaomi, a few months ago launched the Redmi Note 4 which took the legacy of the Xiaomi Redmi Note series forward and emerged as THE best selling smartphone of the year. Now after a brief period of silence, Lenovo has launched a new K Note, the K8 Note. Given its price and positioning, many are considering it to be a very gray cloud hovering over the position of the Redmi Note 4. But is this gray cloud just going to hover over the Redmi Note 4 or is it going to wash it away and make the K8 Note the new mid segment champion? We compared the two phones to find out which ruled the sub-Rs 15,000 segment.
Looks: Striking similar dark notes
If you put the two devices alongside one another, there are not any major differences at first glance. Both the Notes come with a 5.5 inch full HD screen and are also very close in terms of size. The K8 Note is slightly bigger and a little heavier than the Redmi Note 4, but there is no significant difference in terms of size or even in terms of looks. Both the Notes that we have are black which is a huge relief, as it rules out the possibility of leaning towards one device, solely because of its color (which happens a lot). Yes, there are a few differences. And they might seem minor, but in such cases where the two devices look so similar, these minor differences can change minds and impressions.
The bezels on the K8 Note are bigger than the bezels on the Redmi Note 4. This not only makes the K8 Note a little bigger but also makes it look a little too boxy. Whereas the Note 4 seems very proportional and the same size of the display is encapsulated in a smaller body, which is a plus point.
The next is the capacitive buttons. Both the phones have capacitive buttons on the chin, but the ones of the K8 Note are not backlit and are marked with dark gray colour while the capacitive keys are backlit on the Redmi Note 4. which when switched off, makes it looks like a plain jet black screen (whereas the b tutors on the K8 Note remain visible even when the display is switched off). Another point to the Note 4.
The backs of the phones are also a little different. The flash placement and the fact that the K8 Note comes with a dual camera are the two major differences on the back. None of the phones are actually bad looking. The Redmi Note 4 came in the market first, and its design has sort of laid down a template of sorts for the segment. We think this round goes to the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (black edition).
Winner: Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
Performance: A dragon snapped by MediaTek!
In purely hardware terms, many people will feel that the Note 4 has the upper hand over the K8 Note. The Redmi Note 4 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset bundled with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage which can be further expanded up to 128 GB via microSD card whereas the K8 Note runs on a 2.3 GHz deca-core MediaTek Helio X23 processor also coupled with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal memory which can expanded up to 128 GB with the help of a microSD card. Now, most people consider Snapdragon processors to be superior to their MediaTek counterparts, so this should be plain sailing for the Redmi Note 4.
But the story is different in practice. Both the phones sailed through multitasking easily. We used several apps and hopped from one app to another, and we did not face any lags, and neither of the devices seemed to slow down. Casual games like Subway Surfer, Temple Run, and Colour Switch also worked without any glitches. But the real hurdle came up in the high-end gaming zone for one of these devices. While many will think that the MediaTek processor may have taken the K8 Note’s ship down, we thought it actually played the role of an anchor instead and held it strong even in rough seas. The K8 Note performed well in the high-end gaming department. We played Asphalt Xtreme and NFS- No Limits on the device and apart from an odd lag here and there, the games worked just fine. The graphic quality of the games was not excellent but the performance of the K8 Note, at this price point, definitely was.
Our other contender, the Redmi Note 4, which runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset had a different tale to tell. While it worked smoothly in most of the performance test we put it through, the phone did not exactly rock the high-end gaming zone. We tried the same two games on the Note 4 as we did on the K8 Note, but we experienced more than a few lags and frame drops, and Asphalt Xtreme even crashed twice while we were playing the game.
The benchmark scores also narrate the same saga. The Redmi Note 4 scored 61852 while the K8 Note has scored 82951 on AnTuTu benchmark. The second round goes to the Lenovo K8 Note.
Winner: Lenovo K8 Note
Camera: Two is better than one!
The K8 Note has got dual cameras placed on its back – the combo of a 13 megapixel and a 5-megapixel shooter tries to offer deep bokeh – whereas the Redmi Note 4 comes with a single 13-megapixel rear shooter. Regarding performance, there was not really a fight between the two devices. The camera performance of the K8 Note was, hands down, better than that of the Redmi Note 4. The colors produced by the K8 Note were closer to reality while the pictures taken by the Redmi Note 4 had colors that were saturating a little.
Even in terms of detailing, the K8 Note had the upper hand. The close ups taken by the K8 Note had better detailing and even landscape, or portrait images were not getting as pixelated while zooming in as compared to the Redmi Note 4, where zooming in just a bit was an open invitation for grains and noise in the pictures.
The K8 Note’s dual camera is known to offer great depth of field, but in that department, we thought the phone was inconsistent, and the bokeh was not really up to the mark but nonetheless, the phone offers bokeh, and it sometimes works and sometimes does not. But it is still better to have a proper hardware generated option than one which is not even there in the Redmi Note 4 (which has a software bokeh one – the Tilt Shift mode).
Moving on to the front camera, the Lenovo K8 Note has a 13-megapixel front camera with an LED front flash while the Redmi Note 4 offers a 5-megapixel front shooter. The story is pretty much the same here as well. The Lenovo K8 Note’s front camera produced better selfies in terms of both, quality and color.
That said, we liked the camera app interface of the Redmi Note 4 better as it offers different features to play around with. Another problem with the K8 Note is that it’s Gallery app which is the Google Photos app, takes a couple of seconds to process the image. These may be a few little hurdles in the K8 Note’s camera journey, but we do not have any confusion about the fact that the K8 Note definitely has a better camera set as compared to the Redmi Note 4.
Winner: Lenovo K8 Note
Battery: Similar numbers, different durations
Both the phones come with batteries that are large and nearly similar in size – the K8 Note has a 4000 mAh battery, while the K4 Note has a 4100 mAh one. But just because the numbers are similar, it does not necessarily mean that the performance will be identical as well.
In this department, the Redmi Note 4 beat the K8 Note easily. The Note 4’s battery easily saw over a day with heavy usage and lasted for almost two days under moderate usage while the K8 Note saw a day with heavy usage and just over a day when used moderately. One of the reasons behind this we suspect is the Snapdragon 625 processor under the Redmi Note 4’s hood which is known for its battery management capabilities. Other than this, the K8 Note comes with Turbo charging and 15W Turbo charger that can easily give you a few hours of battery life in 15-20 minutes. But because the Redmi Note 4 simply lasts longer than the K8 Note, this round has to go to the Note 4.
Winner: Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
UI: Skin and Skinless!
In the past, Lenovo used to launch its devices with a layer of its in-house UI, the Vibe UI. But the company has taken a huge step with the Lenovo K8 Note and has decided to go with the basic route this time by making the device a stock Android one. On the other hand, Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 4 is powered by Android but has a feature rich OS layer of MIUI 8 on top. This pretty much makes the two devices poles apart.
As the K8 Note comes with stock Android, it definitely means this one is the more subtle one out of the two. There are no fancy features on the K8 Note and no third party apps or bloatware. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, on the other hand, does have a few amazing tricks up its sleeve, and also with Xiaomi’s own apps. The interface is still pretty clean, and clutter free as most of the apps are organized in separate folders. Apart from the fancy tricks like the IRCTC ticket format, the OTP copy option amongst other things, one thing that definitely earns the Redmi Note 4 some brownie points has to be its camera interface. The camera of the Redmi Note 4 is not really that impressive but the fact that MIUI 8 offers a lot of other features that you can use while taking the pictures, definitely help. What’s more, while the Note 4 was launched with Android Marshmallow, Xiaomi keeps updating its MIUI.
Lenovo, on the other hand, comes with Android Nougat out of the box but has a slightly spotty record when it comes to updates in the past, although it is promising to do better in the coming days. The user interface of the K8 Note is obviously clean, and we felt that the phone was a tad faster than the Note 4. It also has a great camera, but the camera is not really supported by a very feature rich camera app. As a result of which, there is only so much you can do with the phone, unless you get into app install mode.
All said and done; we think choosing a UI is a very person to person thing. Some might like the simplicity of the K8 Note while others may fall for the Note 4’s fancy features which is why we think it will be only fair to make this a tie between the two devices.
General performance: A difference of sight and sound
We think, in this round, the Lenovo K8 Note definitely has the upper hand over the Redmi Note 4. Although both the smartphones have 5.5 inch full HD displays, we thought the display of the K8 Note was a little better than the display of the Note 4. The colors were poppy and bright. It was not too loud, it was not too subtle, and while the display of the Redmi Note 4 is also pretty good, it seemed a little toned down in front of the Lenovo K8 Note.
The K8 Note also comes with Dolby Atmos headphone support that also improves its calling quality, recordings, and gaming experience – a segment where the Redmi Note 4 is just average. Another killer card that the killer Note has is the TheaterMax technology which is exclusive to Lenovo phones. This takes all the content present on the phone and takes it all to a bigger virtual screen with the help of simple VR glasses.
Apart from this, the K8 Note also has a dedicated microSD slot and two separate slots for SIM cards whereas the Redmi Note 4 has a single hybrid SIM slot. Both the phones are good in terms of call connectivity, and we did not face any call drop issues as such but keeping in mind all the plus points the Lenovo K8 Note has here, it is a no-brainer that this round goes to the K8 Note.
Winner: Lenovo K8 Note
Verdict: Who strikes the Higher Note?
There were six rounds in this face off, where the K8 Note has won by a score of 3-2 and one of the rounds was a tie. This definitely shows that the K8 Note may be a new device, but it has the features to shake even the most established devices in the category. The Redmi Note 4 won the looks and the battery rounds, but not by a mile. That said, the Redmi Note 4 is available for Rs 12,999, which is slightly lesser than the Rs 13,999 price tag of the K8 Note. Both phones are a great buy, but we think, all said and done, the K8 Note definitely hits a higher Note than the Redmi Note 4.