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Redmi 7A review: a near-Utopian entry-level smartphone

Xiaomi has been fending competition from the likes of Realme and others for a while now, however, that doesn’t seem to have deterred the brand in the least. After the success of the Redmi Note 7 series, the company has followed with the entry-level Redmi 7A, which comes in as the successor to the Redmi 6A. To find out whether the new smartphone is a big upgrade to its predecessor, I have had my SIM in it for the last week and here’s how I feel about it.

Design and display

As I observed in my first impressions, the Redmi 7A is pretty identical to the Redmi 6A in terms of design barring a few negligible changes. The camera placement is vertical now and the antenna lines are also missing, giving the Redmi 7A a much cleaner unibody design. Moreover, the Mi logo has been discarded in favour of “Redmi Designed by Xiaomi” text to indicate the transition of Redmi to an individual brand.

Redmi is offering the 7A in three colourways – matte blue, matte black and matte gold. I received the matte blue version and while the handset still has that low-cost Redmi vibe to it, it feels fresh. The Redmi 7A might not be the prettiest looking smartphone (cue the Realme C2), but it certainly is one of the most compact smartphones in the market right now. The smaller form factor along with the even weight distribution makes Redmi 7A extremely ergonomic.

During my week-long stint with the phone, I found myself wondering whether large displays are a worthy compromise for the comfort that comes from being able to use a phone one-handed like Redmi 7A. Moreover, the rounded corners and matte finish on the back ensure that you won’t drop the 7A easily. The matte finish also makes sure that the back panel remains pristine, which is a huge plus. The 7A flaunts a nano-coating layer, which protects it against accidental splashes.

The Redmi 7A is chunkier than its predecessor with a thickness of 9.5mm. However, I found myself liking the heft as it inspires confidence in hand. One good thing about the 7A is that the brand has moved the loudspeaker from the back to the bottom and it now sits on either side of the micro-USB port. This is a welcome addition since the audio output will not be muffled when the phone is placed on a flat surface. As for the audio, the Redmi 7A is reasonably loud for its price.

The power button and volume rocker sit on the right edge, within comfortable reach of your thumb due to the compact size of the phone. On the left, you will find the SIM card slot which houses dual nano-SIMs and a microSD card up to 256GB. The 3.5mm audio jack and a lone noise-cancelling mic sit on the top edge.

The Redmi 7A ships with a 5.45-inch IPS panel with a resolution of 1,440 x 720 pixels. However, it sports an 18:9 display, which is quite outdated in 2019. While the viewing angles, colours and text are good, I had a hard time with the brightness. I had to keep the brightness around 90 percent while indoors for legibility.

It also supports only Widevine L3 certification, which is obvious given its price. However, what this also means is that you won’t be able to stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube in HD.

Cameras

The Redmi 7A ships with a 12MP Sony IMX486 sensor on the back, which is also found on the Xiaomi Mi A2, Redmi Note 7 and ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2. Moreover, the Redmi 7A is the first phone to offer it under Rs 6,000 in India.

The camera app on the Redmi 7A is pretty straightforward with the preview, shutter button and selfie toggle at the bottom, in that order. Above that, you will find various modes like short video, video, photo and pro. On the top, you will find the flash, HDR, beautification and settings button. You can access timer, square picture and scene mode by tapping on the three line icon on the top. A heads-up for you, the HDR mode is toggled off by default on the Redmi 7A and I would advise turning it on always when you are clicking pictures.

The Redmi 7A undoubtedly comes with the best camera sensor at this price point, however, I was slightly disappointed by the shooter. The Redmi 7A manages to achieve good details and colours in broad daylight with HDR turned on, but pictures clicked in less than ideal lighting turn out grainy.

The Redmi 7A’s AI-backed low light enhancement is supposed to kick in while capturing low-light images, however, I couldn’t tell the difference. Furthermore, the missing secondary lens means that the camera on Redmi 7A cannot capture portrait shots. However, there is a workaround that is not as impressive as a dedicated portrait mode but it works. While shooting any person or object, simply tap on the subject to keep it in focus and click on the shutter button.  This way you will get a very light blur, giving the image a pseudo bokeh effect as seen below.

Redmi 7A camera sample bokeh effect

For selfies, you get a 5-megapixel snapper on the front backed by AI portrait and AI smart beauty modes. The results are the same as the rear camera, good details in ideal lighting but noise creeping in if the lighting is less than ideal. I couldn’t tell the difference between the HDR and the regular image. However, the beautify mode does make me look like a rather dark Japanese doll, therefore, it’s advisable to turn off the beautification.

For video recording, the cameras offer 1080p and 720p resolution at 30fps. As for modes, the Redmi 7A is missing slow-motion but offers timelapse.

Performance, software and battery life

Redmi has been marketing the 7A as the first Redmi series smartphone to come equipped with an octa-core processor. The smartphone features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor, which is a 2GHz SoC. Redmi is offering the handset in two variants – 2GB + 16GB and 2GB + 32GB. I have the former with me and while I wouldn’t call it power-packed, it gets the job done.

The Redmi 7A handles WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and basic games like Temple Run without breaking a sweat. The smartphone opens and closes apps pretty fast for an entry-level device. However, it does feel sluggish when you are shifting between apps or even different modes in the camera app. In its defence, the Redmi 7A offers better performance than most other smartphones in this segment.

On the software front, the Redmi 7A boots MIUI 10 based on the Android 9 Pie. Which means you get the signature drawerless interface and as much as I hate to say it, ads in the interface. However, during my time with the phone, ads were not intrusive indicating that the company is indeed working on reducing and eventually phasing out ads on its software. The best part about the interface is the system-wide dark mode, which is not only easy on battery but also easy on the eyes.

Coming to the battery, the Redmi 7A is the first-ever Redmi A series phone to come packing a massive 4,000mAh unit. While I didn’t run any benchmark, the battery lasted me a whole day and a half with constant Whatsapp, 4G, Facebook and occassional YouTube. There’s no support for fast charging and the Redmi 7A took close to 2 hours to charge fully from 5 percent, which was expected.

In terms of security, the Redmi 7A is missing the fingerprint scanner and instead relies on an AI-backed face unlock. The face unlock is pretty fast and accurate but struggles in dark.

The competition

Honestly speaking, there’s no other smartphone at this price point that even comes close to the Redmi 7A except for the Realme C2 (review). For the same price, you get identical cameras, similar performance, same battery and software. However, the Realme C2 has a more modern, larger 6.1-inch dewdrop notch display and attractive diamond-cut design on the rear panel.

Should you buy it?

With a price tag of Rs 5,999 for 16GB and Rs 6,199 for the 32GB model, the Redmi 7A is a bang on value for money offering. If you’re looking for an upgrade from an older smartphone or your first smartphone, you cannot go wrong with the Redmi 7A. However, if you are seeking a powerful phone for PUBG sessions and more, it’s advisable to stretch your budget a little and go for the Redmi Note 7.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Decent cameras
  • Day-long battery life
  • AI face unlock

What doesn’t:

  • Dated 18:9 display
  • No fingerprint scanner
  • Ads in MIUI

Photos by Raj Rout

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