Hands on: Xiaomi Redmi 7A Review

How much smartphone does £99 actually get you? Quite a lot it seems, based on the Redmi 7A's internals, display and whopping 4000mAh battery

First Impressions

The Xiaomi Redmi 7A has all the hallmarks of an affordable Android phone, but the collective effect is that it handles like a device worth at least twice as much.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £99.99
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 439
  • 5.45-inch 18:9 HD+ screen
  • 12-megapixel main camera
  • 5-megapixel front camera
  • FM radio w/o headphones
  • microSD up to 256GB
  • 16GB/32GB storage
  • 4000mAh battery
  • Splash protection
  • 2GB RAM
  • Dual SIM

For a brand that prides itself on offering value for money across its entire range, Xiaomi’s newly-launched Redmi 7A is the perfect embodiment of this ethos. Boasting an impressively capable smartphone experience for the ludicrously low price of £99.

While the phone has already launched in other markets including India, Ukraine and Spain, the super-affordable Redmi 7A is now making its way to the shores of the UK.

The phone’s hardware isn’t going to top any benchmarking tables, but navigating the user experience isn’t like wading through treacle either, as you may have expected, considering how little it costs.

With the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 already topping our best budget phones list, can the Redmi 7A also earn a place both in the lineup and in your pocket?

How much does the Redmi 7A cost?

In case you missed the biggest selling point of this phone, in the UK the Redmi 7A costs just £99.99 unlocked. Availability comes direct from Xiaomi’s Mi.com webstore, as well as its brick-and-mortar experience store in central London. It was made available from June in markets including India and August 22 in the UK.

Design – The Redmi 7A is built like a tank

While the phone’s budget nature is immediately evident, based on the simple polycarbonate unibody design and microUSB charging port, it feels extremely well put together.

Xiaomi Redmi 7A back angled handheld

There’s a big battery, which accounts for the phone’s thickness and weight, relative to its screen size, but the rounded back sits well in your palm, so it doesn’t feel cumbersome. As it’s finished in matte polycarbonate and not glass or metal, there’s no need for visible antenna lines either, and there’s no discernible flex in the 7A’s body – it’s unquestionably clean to look at and solidly built.

Xiaomi’s gone a step further with the 7A’s bodywork and actually treated the phone so that it’s a little more life-proof than your average budget blower; toting unspecified (which is to say not certified or IP-rated) splash resistance, which should offer peace of mind to first-time or accident-prone smartphone users who decide to pick up the Redmi 7A.

Xiaomi Redmi 7A microUSB closeup

There’s a standard 3.5mm headphone jack along the phone’s top edge – far more commonplace in the affordable phone market nowadays.

Unlike most budget phones that require you to plug headphones in to act as an antenna for their included FM radios, with the 7A, Xiaomi’s actually added an additional internal FM antenna. This means you can play tunes straight out the phone’s solo downward-facing loudspeaker (which lacks bass but isn’t terrible) without the need for headphones or data connectivity – not even the iPhone XS can boast such an ability.

Display – Surprisingly premium touches

The bezels around the 7A’s 5.45-inch display aren’t all that different in proportion to what you’d find on the likes of the £740 Google Pixel 3 and it even boasts rounded corners, which adds a premium touch to the viewing experience.

As for the display itself (as with most of this phone), it’s impressive considering the price. The 720 x 1440 resolution at the 7A’s screen size makes for competently-sharp imagery, plus colours and contrast are wholly acceptable too. Viewing angles are very weak, however, with instant brightness drop-off the moment you view the phone off-axis – this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, though.

Xiaomi Redmi 7A front straight handheld

Thanks in-part to Xiaomi’s latest MIUI 10 user experience atop Android Pie there are a number of smart display features on offer that I wouldn’t have expected to find on such an affordable phone.

While there’s no fingerprint sensor there is ‘AI face unlock’ using the single RGB front-facing 5-megapixel camera. In practice, in well-lit conditions, it works impressively quickly but low-light testing will have to wait for until the full review.

Dig around in the phone’s settings and you’ll also find a reading mode, which can be scheduled to turn on and off, deep customisation over the colour temperature and viewing experience, the option of a system-wide dark mode and toggles for advanced gestures like double-tap and raise-to-wake.

Performance – A Snapdragon that can cover the basics

On the inside, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 chipset is unabashedly humble but at the same time more than up to the task of delivering a usable and even enjoyable user experience, as you zip around Xiaomi’s heavily-skinned MIUI overlay.

2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage isn’t much to work with, out the box, but microSD expandability up to 256GB should grant most users the wiggle room they might crave. Some markets also benefit from a 32GB storage SKU, if expandable memory isn’t your bag.

You’ll probably be able to run Dr. Mario World and Candy Crush Saga without issue but don’t expect much out of PUBG Mobile or Fortnite from this low-priced mobile.

Battery – The Redmi 7A’s battery is as big as most flagships

Alongside the price, the conservative demands of the phone’s humble internals, paired with its huge 4000mAh battery, result in the promise of outstanding longevity. It’s a trick the Lenovo P2 pulled a couple of years back and should result in even greater usage times between charges on the 7A.

Balancing a battery of the same capacity as the one found inside the likes of a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 with such modest components is an instant win.

As mentioned earlier, the phone relies on an older microUSB standard but still accommodates 10W fast charging, which while slow by modern fast-charging standards, again beats the out-of-box 5W charger Apple throws in with its £1000 iPhone.

Camera – Mid-range camera in a budget phone

On initial inspection, like most of the hardware at play inside the Redmi 7A, the main 12-megapixel camera defies expectation with regards to quality.

The experience takes a little longer to load up than I’m used to, based on my day-to-day use of flagship Android phones, but to say it’s painfully slow would be a step too far.

As for actually taking snaps, overall quality looks decent, certainly better than I would have expected, just as with the 7A’s display. More testing and a deeper exploration of the camera’s quality and features will arrive come the full review.

Xiaomi Redmi 7A camera closeup

Xiaomi has used the same IMX486 Sony sensor in a number of its phones (such as the Xiaomi Mi A2) and it’s also found heading up the dual camera arrangement of this year’s Sony Xperia 10 Plus.

Xiaomi Redmi 7A – Early verdict

The Xiaomi Redmi 7A has all the hallmarks of an affordable Android phone; the thick, heavy polycarbonate build, the sub-Full HD resolution screen, the use of microUSB connectivity and the limited memory and storage options.

Xiaomi Redmi 7A front straight handheld

However, the collective impression is that the Redmi 7A looks, feels and handles like a phone at the very least double what it actually costs; with premium components, features typically reserved for far more advanced and higher-end handsets, and a few talents that help it stand out.

Also, did I mention it’s only £99?

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