The successor to the world’s best-selling Android smartphone has arrived! The Xiaomi Redmi 6a is the heir to the legendary Redmi 5a and now takes the latest trends to the low-budget class: the display is in the 18:9 format, the phone is controlled via gestures and the front camera masters bokeh selfies. Instead of a beginner snapdragon you now get a CPU by MediaTek. Whether the latter is a disadvantage or provides a wonderful fluid MIUI, we’ll clarify in the test report.
How far can you get with a smartphone for only 105$? For example, you have to do without conveniences such as a fingerprint sensor, a stylish metal or glass case, or plenty of computing power. With the Redmi 6a, the smartphone is almost reduced to the bare minimum – but after the two weeks I can say that the concept works! This also explains why the Redmi 5a is the best-selling Android phone. In addition, the new 6a has a good chance to grab the title: it simply offers even more performance for the price. You can also have a look at the global version on the Xiaomi website: The differences are only with the frequencies.
Where can you save money to be able to offer the Redmi 6a so cheaply? If it’s too slow, you won’t use it, if functions are missing, you’ll get annoyed, the battery doesn’t cost much – save a bit on materials and camera … and save a little bit everywhere. In the end you get a smartphone for 105$, which raises the basic question: why spend the 10-fold amount? – Something is going wrong here. Normally I use a OnePlus 6 , before that I had a OP5, I’m a spoiled flagship user and mentally I prepared myself for two hard test weeks. You can read how it went in the Xiaomi Redmi 6a test report.
Design and build quality
The Xiaomi Redmi 6a is a 5.45-inch smartphone – 3 years ago this was still considered a phablet – today it is one of the most compact models, thanks to the new full-screen trend. The 6a measures 147.1 x 71.2 x 8.1 mm (9.3mmm at the camera lens) and weighs 145.8g. As usual, the front is made of glass, but you have to do without rounded 2.5D glass. Frame and rear are made of one plastic part. In the typical white-red box we find beside the Redmi 6a only a micro-USB cable and charger. In the global version a suitable EU plug is included. At least an already attached screen protector would have been desirable.
The Xiaomi Redmi 6a is available in different colours; in the Global version one colour variant is different. There are four different versions in China: Pink – front white, rear pink gold; Gold – white, gold; Blue – white, light blue; Dark grey – front black, rear grey. In the Global version pink is omitted and black is added: Front in black and also the rear in black. It reminds a bit of a Xiaomi Redmi 4X with black metal rear and fits better to the western imagination of a smartphone than the bright colors. Our Redmi 6a is the dark grey one and the silver on the rear is mixed with a little metallic – which makes a much more valuable optical impression.
The Redmi 6a lies comfortably in the hand, because the edges are nicely round, but also because the width and height is somewhat low. You really won’t find any sharp spots, only the edge above the display is unusual. Instead of 2.5D glass there is a minimal transition here: but if the smartphone falls down it could save the life of the glass. On the rear there are two notches that are supposed to imitate the reception strips optically. This is also where the loudspeaker is: the positioning seems strange, but I like it. Often this is how you get a body or something where the sound reverberates. On top of it you find a lasered Mi-logo. The camera unit looks a bit like a Dual-Cam: the LED flash is next to the sensor. On the left side there is a SIM slot. The Global version has two Nano-SIM slots and a micro-SD connector. In the China version, however, only dual SIM or memory expansion can be used. Opposite are power button and volume control. In the Redmi 6a there is also a microUSB port at the bottom and a 3.5mm jack connector at the top.
The probably biggest point of criticism is the use of plastic instead of metal. It feels less high-quality and… that’s it. The Redmi 6a doesn’t raise any criticism regarding the build quality and you also don’t get the feeling that it is fragile. Instead you use it normally, especially less carefully than a dual glass flagship.
The 18:9 display is now also available in the cheapest Xiaomi model – the Redmi 6a is equipped with a long 5.45-inch display. With the 18:9 panel, the screen resolution increases to 1440 x 720 pixels, resulting in a pixel density of 295 PPI. It isn’t totally past the retina limit, but in normal use it doesn’t bother anybody. Experienced eyes will probably notice one or two pixels on round icons, which shouldn’t bother anyone in the Redmi 6a class. But thanks to the 18:9 format you get a higher screen-to-body ratio: instead of 69% with the Redmi 5a it is now 72%.
An IPS-LCD panel is used – Xiaomi actually does a good job here. Colours are natural, the contrast can be greatly increased in the settings and the image can generally be adjusted. Only in extreme angles the colours change. But with such a small display it shouldn’t happen that often. The AMOLED panels spoil you with the enormous contrast range, but with the Redmi 6a black unfortunately drifts to grey, depending on the brightness. The latter is sufficiently high: the display shines with up to 350 cd/m² and was also perfectly usable in the summer heat. Last but not least: the touchscreen recognizes 10 points at the same time. Inputs are implemented precisely, but sometimes the Helio A22 doesn’t quite keep up: Typing mostly happens smoothly – but if you are used to a flagship, you might find it still too slow. The display glass doesn’t smear quickly and even after a day of use the finger glides cleanly over the panel. Gorilla glass is not explicitly mentioned, but there is some chemical hardening on the display glass: after our test period there are no traces to be found with the naked eye.
In comparison to the predecessor, the sensor keys at the lower part of the device are now omitted. You either let them fade in as on-screen buttons and lose a small part of the usable display or you fall back on MIUI’s gestures for control. At first I had doubts whether the smallest processor could execute the commands fluently, but these are unfounded. Here and there the animations are not quite clean, but as a replacement for the on-screen buttons, the gestures are suitable even in the smallest Redmi.
System & performance
New in a Xiaomi Redmi is of course the processor – and many have cursed at the idea that Xiaomi returns to Mediatek. The Redmi 6a is equipped with the new Helio A22: the quad-core clocks up to 2.0 GHz with its four ARM Cortex-A53 cores. As graphics solution the PowerVR Rogue GE8320 with 650 MHz is integrated. The latter is also used in the Redmi 6, but the Helio P22 has eight instead of four cores there.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result
The benchmarks are also a reason to be happy: in the AnTuTu benchmark, the smartphone could gain a lot and outperform not only the predecessor, but also the whole MT6750T armada. In terms of games, the phone behaves like the Redmi 6. PUPG works, but in hot matches it’s no fun because of the lags. Asphalt 8 can be played with low details and smaller games are no problem.
The Redmi 6a is available with 2GB RAM and 16GB system memory for 549 Yuan / approx. 80$ & with 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM for 669 Yuan / approx. 99$. The system memory has a reading speed of 268 MB/s and a writing speed 85 MB/s. The main memory has a speed of 3.5 GB/s.
We got the small memory version of the Redmi 6a with 2GB RAM + 16GB ROM for testing. The RAM doesn’t reach its limits so quickly – MIUI effectively prevents the system from slowing down – but the memory was gone after installing all necessary apps (those which you use regularly). In the Global version it doesn’t really matter, since you have a microSD slot available anyway: 3 real slots with 2 x Nano and 1 x micro-SD.
MIUI 9.6 on Redmi 6a
Where is it? The whole world is waiting for MIUI 10, while Android 9 Pie is already being distributed for the Google Pixel smartphones. MIUI 10 will be distributed in the second wave for the Redmi 6a and should be on the budget-miracle in October at the latest. The Redmi 6a is currently running with MIUI 9.6, which is based on Android 8.1. The security patch is as of June 2018.
The Redmi 6a smartphones in the Global Version / Global Edition will all be shipped by the end of August and have the official Global ROM. Our 6a still runs with the Chinese ROM, but fortunately English is available as an option. You can easily install the Google Play Store with these instructions and with the “More Local” app you can get your apps many languages. The Play Store often gave us an error message during the download – it really needs all permissions in the Permission Manager and you may have to try downloading it several times.
Then everything ran smoothly, but you don’t encounter these complications in the global version. Beyond that I can only praise MIUI on the small Redmi 6a! If Android usually doesn’t run that smoothly on the cheap test devices, it is much more pleasant on the 6a. Here and there you clearly notice that it is not a top smartphone and also a Redmi Note 5 certainly ofers a different speed. With some apps, such as Spotify, you have to forbid MIUI from throwing it out of the main memory, otherwise the music simply stops at some point. Otherwise, the Mediatek A22 will only get credit for the speed and MIUI also improves the budget smartphone immensely. We are excited about Android Go and what it will do in the cheap price range; but we wouldn’t wish for a Redmi 6a with Android One “Go”.
The Xiaomi haters have to be really strong now: you cannot call the two sensors in the Redmi 6a a “toy camera”. With good software and adaptations, you can take some nice pictures with the extremely cheap Redmi 6a. On the rear an Omnivision ov13855_i with 13 MP is used with an aperture of f/2.2. The auto focus works with PDAF. On the front it is a sensor by Samsung: s5k5e8yx_i with 5MP resolution. It also creates bokeh selfies using the software and unlocks the smartphone via Face Unlock.
Compared to its predecessor, the camera quality hasn’t improved significantly – nobody would be thrilled about the pictures – but the photos taken don’t have to be hidden either. When there is a lot of sun, the background is often overexposed and at the edges the shots lose a bit of detail. However, the object in the focus is beautifully staged and the background is washed out by the focus in close-ups. Normal shots would look even better with brighter colours, and therefore, an auto HDR mode is also available.
Xiaomi’s camera software has developed well over the last few months. You get a lot of features and the software gets the best out of every sensor. This also applies to the front camera. First again: bokeh selfies in a 105$-smartphone! But you notice that the 5MP resolution quickly reaches its limits: zooming in is less advisable and HDR doesn’t really make the picture look nice either. But the selfies are okay and are enough to be sent to your friends. Video recordings are only possible with 30fps and with a maximum of 1080p. Finally, an absurd comparison: Redmi 6a and OnePlus 6. We do not comment on that, but the difference is not as extreme as many people imagine.
In terms of connectivity, there are a few differences between the Chinese and Global version – in our favor. Our Redmi 6a comes with a single SIM slot, a so-called hybrid slot: here you can either use two Nano cards for dual SIM operation or a Nano SIM plus a micro-SD card for storage expansion. But that doesn’t matter, because in the Global version, which we definitely prefer, there are two slots and three cards, two Nano SIMs and a memory card with up to 256GB, can be used simultaneously. With the SIM cards you can use all necessary frequencies.
- GSM (B2/3/5/8)
- WCDMA (B1/2/5/8)
- TDD-LTE (B38/40)
- FDD-LTE (B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/20)
The China version on the other hand offers other LTE bands:
- TDD-LTE (band B34/B38/ 39/40/41 (100MHz))
- FDD-LTE (band B1/3/5/7/8)
I don’t have any problems with the China version and could always enjoy great reception – but that depends on the network coverage and where you are located. Reception and data throughput benefit greatly from the plastic housing. Telephoning also works with the smallest offshoot of the Redmi series. On the smartphone there is a microphone at the top and bottom and if you enter the code “*#*#86583#*#*” in the dialer app, you get VoLTE. This is sufficient for very clear conversations. The SAR values are also quite good: Head: 0.79W/kg / Body: 1.18 W/kg.
The plastic rear also helps the other connectivity standards: WiFi is only available in the n-standard and 2.4 GHz, but that’s enough. At the beginning I had the problem that the connection didn’t hold up when the screen was locked. But Xiaomi already fixed this bug after two days with an update and since then everything works as it should. Bluetooth is available in version 4.2: in the car I use it for Spotify and here the connection is always established by itself. The Xiaomi Redmi 6a finds the GPS signal fast and the position is located within 20 seconds to an accuracy of 2m. The following services are available: GPS, A-GPS, BeiDou and GLONASS – additionally an electronic compass supports the navigation. If you are walking on foot with a Redmi 6a and a Mi8, the flagship does its job slightly better, but the 6a can also be used very well. When navigating on the motorway and a short piece of country road there were no problems and we arrived at our destination without it getting hectic. In between the data connection was interrupted for a short time; but in the Global Version this won’t be a problem anymore. Of course, metal and glass are much nicer to look at and to touch, but here you definitely profit from the plastic. The range of sensors is limited to the minimum: acceleration, light, proximity- but this is sufficient for the price class.
For biometric unlocking there is unfortunately no fingerprint sensor available in the budget smartphone – considering the price, you will certainly forgive the Redmi 6a. But once again Xiaomi’s ingenious software is used: the little miracle thing cannot only do bokeh selfies, but also unlocks the phone with the help of your face. This also works very reliably: by far not as fast as with a OnePlus 6, and not in the dark as with the Xiaomi Mi8, but Face Unlock works. The trick is that you simply look at the lock screen for a second and don’t want to use the pin / pattern prematurely. Face Unlock is of course not very safe and can be tricked – but it is probably the most convenient unlocking option.
The battery life of the Xiaomi Redmi 6a is probably the only setback compared to its predecessor. But with the change from Qualcomm to Mediatek this was also foreseeable. The 6a again houses a 3000mAh battery – just like its predecessor. With the larger display and the less economical processor, the Redmi 6a unfortunately loses almost two hours in the battery benchmark.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
But it’s not as bad as it sounds. With 8 hours of active use, everyone gets through the day and the standby optimization is brilliantly controlled by MIUI. If you don’t use the budget phone, it stays economical – users that only use the phone occasionally fall exactly into this category. I managed to follow my usual usage pattern with the Redmi 6a: over two days I had almost 5 hours display-on-time with a few hours Spotify streaming on top. But in the evening of the second day the 6a’s battery died – here you have to recharge if necessary. But you literally notice how the percentages fall when the computing power of the Redmi 6a is needed. In the streaming test you need 8% per hour at full brightness.
For charging the Xiaomi Redmi 6a there is unfortunately no quick charging possibility available and so you have to accept 5V / 1A. The phone is fully charged only after almost exactly 3 hours. For 30% the power supply needs 50 minutes. This makes the cheapest smartphone by Xiaomi, just like its predecessor, a candidate that should be plugged in overnight. A quick charger or a Power IQ power supply from Anker will do a little good in terms of the charging time, but 10-20 minutes won’t make a great difference either.
Conclusion and alternative
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*Prices include shipping and toll. Intermediate changes of prices, ranking, delivery time and costs possible. Prices last updated on 20.09.2018