Making a purchase decision about a smartphone these days is no longer the simple process it was about half a decade ago. And it can get particularly tricky if you happen to be looking for something in the relatively affordable smartphone segment (say, sub Rs 20,000 – check out our buying guide incidentally). Barely a few weeks into 2017, we are already seeing a remarkable improvement in quality in this segment. Competition is intense with each phone bringing in so much to the fight, and victory or defeat being denied by razor thin margins. And one of the most intriguing battles in this segment is the one between two phones that have hit the market in recent days – the Lenovo P2 and Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. Both look to deliver great performance and stunning battery life at relatively affordable prices. But which of these power houses is the one for you?
Looks and appearance
Separated by less than 5 grams in weight, both the phones are very well built. Lots of metal in them, chamfered edges, shiny portions, good feel in the hands and well built and fit buttons. As slippery as they both can get, we favor the P2 with its curved back, and thinner frame by just a bit in spite of packing a bigger battery compared to the Redmi Note 4. You gotta give it to Lenovo here for its innovative R&D that has made this possible. Though both phones look relatively routine and similar, the P2 has a more premium look and feel to it (that might have changed if Xiaomi had launched its stunning matte black version of the Note 4 right away in India, but alas, that has not happened).
The fingerprint scanner positioning on the P2 is on the front which we prefer and the one on the Redmi Note 4 is on the back, which many have got used to. Hence it boils down to one’s preference. The Redmi Note 4 has a trio of capacitive buttons, backlight thankfully but the light is so dim that it is really hard to tell unless it’s pitch dark – you are better off getting a grey colored variant with no metallic etching on their borders. The P2 has another advantage of cool functionally termed as U-Touch on the fingerprint sensor that allows you to customise its use, with an option to bring up the onscreen navigation buttons.
The words “Super AMOLED Full HD” turns a lot of heads, and gets eyes sparkling too and that delight is what the Lenovo P2 brings to the table with its display packing 401 pixels per inch. The Redmi Note 4 with the same pixel density has a full HD screen that is no slouch either. The Lenovo P2 comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection on top, while the Redmi Note 4 has no ‘branded’ protection for the display. In any case, we recommend using a tempered glass on both the phones for extra protection.
Upon keen observation, the P2’s display renders the blacks much better. The touch sensitivity and hence the experience is also slightly better on the P2. So if you are someone (like us) who is picky about the display and touch you would lean onto the P2 but on a day-to-day usage, either of them will keep you “happy” equally with that 2.5D curved glass not poking you when you work the contents across screens or making those swipes.
Software and UI
Take a dive into the software that runs the phones and this is where the phones reside on different galaxies! Lenovo chooses to keep Android Marshmallow pretty close to stock while Xiaomi, as we all know, has bundled in a ton of features into its iOS lookalike variant of Android Marshmallow, the nuances of which can keep you busy for months as you go about discovering how they work. So would it be unfair to compare the two operating systems? Yes and No, as it depends on how you view it and what your preferences are. Some see the tons of features and customisations as advantages and some feel it’s just bloat. But given the fact that both run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 Octacore SoC clocked at 2.0 GHz, 3GB/4GB of RAM and Adreno 506 on paper, things should work well.
And they do! It is a no-brainer that the P2 with its near stock Android is smooth and snappy, and very efficient on multitasking too. We got through most of our heavy work on it with no issues. The performance on the Redmi Note 4 was a pleasant surprise! We have been using the Redmi Note 3 since the day it was launched and it did not feel very snappy – the complete opposite happens on the Redmi Note 4. MIUI feels so active out here as if it was sitting there ready to take your commands and run with them. Multitasking is good, but at times, it is a tad inconsistent, as it dropped the intensive game at times while it kept it running in other cases for the same set of open apps.
Both phones come with dual-profile/mode/secure zone options that let you configure multiple accounts of social media and in both cases, this process is painfully slow. MIUI 8 has its advantages if themes are what you are into and can make the phone look different every day, while Lenovo has limited options on that front. For everyday usage, both phones will keep you happy (again? Yes, again).
All that goodness continues with the gaming as well. Of course, you will not have the experience of gaming on a flagship, but the gaming performance on both the phones is pretty good. Expect occasional frame drops, fraction of a second jerks and slower than zippy game loading. But even on extended gameplay, both phones never showed signs of overheating or tiring out. And during all of this, the battery is a miser, a very good miser at that. Which of course, takes us to what many might consider being the strongest suit of the two devices.
Lenovo’s P2 comes with a massive 5100 mAh battery with 24W super fast charging that takes the phone from 0-100 in around 2 hours while the 4100 mAh battery on the Redmi Note 4 takes around 2.5 hours to charge fully with not-so-great QC 2.0 fast charging. With around 1000 mAh separating the phones, we set out to do some tests to let you know how much of a gain one would have if they chose the P2 – and the answer to that is SIGNIFICANT!
Let us explain. We charged up the phones to their maximum and started loading the same tasks across both. By the time both phones drained out till the 30 percent mark we took the screen on time readings – P2 had 16 hours 30 minutes while the Redmi Note 4 had 11 hours 26 minutes. We tried this multiple times and got similar results. Forget the screen on times as they can be very subjective and very tricky to assess as usage patterns, network strengths and loads vary from user to user and are never the same. Bottom line – if you were to pick up the P2, you would have a gain of anywhere between 20-30 percent. Now is that negligible or significant? Absolutely significant if you’re particularly interested in battery performance. And with a super fast charging ability to sweeten the deal, the P2 has a definite edge.
As much as Xiaomi brags about the cameras on its phone, we are yet to see those claims come true. We saw it with the Redmi Note 3 and it is the same with the Redmi Note 4 but with slight improvements in the performance. The focusing speeds on the 13.0-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and PDAF are far better than the one we have seen on the Note 3. When this is compared with a similar configuration on the P2’s primary camera, the outputs vary.
The field of view is around 15 percent larger on the Redmi Note 4. The colors are more saturated (green leaves look yellowish) as compared to a much closer-to-truth output on the P2. Images are a tad sharper and this observation holds good in low light too. Macros come out well on both phones with the P2 having a better dynamic range of the two. The Lenovo P2 comes with support for 4K Video recording, while Redmi Note 4 maxes out at 1080p. When it comes to FHD videos, both phones produce very similar results with the microphone performance being better on the Redmi Note 4. The front facing 5.0-megapixel camera on both are decent with the P2’s handling light better and coming out with sharper images. In short, neither of them are best-in-class when it comes to photography.
Connectivity and fingerprint scanner
When it comes to telephony, the signal reception is just around the acceptable range. We tested it alongside with Moto Z Play which did much better (as expected!). The earpiece on the P2 is slightly feeble as compared to the Redmi Note 4 and we caught ourselves asking the other side to repeat themselves at times even with the slightest of background noises. Redmi Note 4 comes with an IR blaster and works well – an advantage for sure.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth worked with no issues and both phones can share their power with other devices via USB OTG which also works for data transfers. The fingerprint scanner on both the phones work well but are a tad slow when compared to the leaders out there like Google Pixel, OnePlus 3T (just to bring a perspective).
Pick any one – you will be happy!
The Lenovo P2 starts at Rs 16,999 (for the 3 GB RAM variant) and has a 4 GB RAM variant at Rs 17,999. The Redmi Note 4 starts at Rs 9,999 (for the 2 GB RAM variant) and has the 3 GB/4 GB variants at Rs 10,999 and Rs 12,999 respectively.
Cutting the chase, does that extra price on the Lenovo P2 justify itself? We did feel it is slightly pricey but to an extent, the Super AMOLED screen, feature rich fingerprint scanner, marginally better camera, better multimedia capabilities (speaker & TheaterMax), super fast charging with the additional benefit of a larger battery, give the device an edge over the Redmi Note 4. But the overall experience on the Redmi Note 4 itself is not bad at all. If you are still indecisive, make a decision by tossing a coin – you would be happy with either. In the end, it is the needs and preferences you opt for that define your budget and hence the final choice made. We found it tricky to decide ourselves. What did you decide? Do tell us!