The arena of budget smartphones is literally exploding with several options for all kinds of needs and tastes. Once considered to be suitable only for those with limited needs or a strict budget, the capabilities of these devices have increased tremendously while still maintaining affordable price points. The process of commoditization has certainly helped to reduce component prices as the smartphone becomes the most adopted tech product of any other device. At the same time, new marketing techniques like that from Xiaomi are also further helping to ensure price points of decently adequate phones remain affordable. Despite these movements, tech vendors are busy trying to maintain differentiating factors or features to trump their competitors and that's what makes evaluating these gadgets interesting to us/
Having focused on a massive roundup of budget 4G phones, budget phablets (on HWM), we then turned to focusing on even more affordable devices with dual SIM capabilities as established in this comparison. So after handling and testing the ASUS ZenFone 5 (retail edition), HTC Desire 616 and the Xiaomi Redmi 1S for some time, here's how they stack up after we've grilled them across various aspects:-
|ASUS ZenFone 5||HTC Desire 616||Xiaomi Redmi 1S|
Here's a summary of each smartphone for this comparison and their final standings:
For the ZenFone 5, we really like its soft touch, matte texture on the rear, as it delivers excellent handling. The build quality is great for the price consumers are paying. One other hardware aspect that the phone is different from the competitors is 3G data connectivity support on both micro-SIM slots.
On the software side, ASUS offers a simpler, modernized interface that will appeal to the mainstream consumers. It boasts some useful features such as What's Next and Do It Later to help you stay up-to-date on your schedule and tasks. That said, lags are still noticeable, and that's despite it having 2GB RAM. Hopefully with time, the ZenUI can be better optimized to overcome this. It is however better than the initially tested 1GB RAM edition.
When it comes to benchmark performance and actual usage, the ZenFone 5 consistently met, or exceeded some of our expectations, especially in the imaging department.
While it is not the most affordable of the lot, the S$249 ZenFone 5 provides plenty of bang for your buck. Its main drawbacks are the non-removable battery and the occasional micro-lags that we've observed.
To be honest, the HTC Desire 616 did not meet our expectations. Considering that it has delivered quite a few capable smartphones this year (even in the mid-range and entry level segment), we felt that the Desire 616 is a disappointment.
Compared to the competition, the glossy rear of the Desire 616 is a letdown since it makes the phone look unsightly with fingerprints and smudges. In other areas, it wasn't delivering as well as its more affordable competitors, such as in general responsiveness, imaging quality and battery life. By using a customized version of Sense UI to accommodate the phone's hardware, some features on the latest version of the UI wasn't available on this phone, but more importantly, we expected a better usage experience fit for the device, which unfortunately it didn't deliver. In essence, there's nothing outstanding about this device.
Overall, there is little reason to recommend the S$298 Desire 616 to any consumer when there are better alternatives. Sure, the octa-core processor performed decently in synthetic benchmarks, but it can't address the issues we've highlighted above.
Although it is positioned as a slightly upgraded variant of the original Redmi, the Xiaomi Redmi 1S brings nothing really new to the table.
You get the same design, handling, user interface, battery and imaging performance. What will appeal to consumers are its price tag and MIUI V5. The latter offers plenty of customization options for consumers who like to control how their phones look and function.
For the same price of S$169 as its predecessor, you get more internal storage and a more capable processor. In our usage, the Redmi 1S is definitely a notch more responsive than the original Redmi. Therefore, it is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to get the most affordable Android smartphone without sacrificing too much on other attributes. Yes, it's a tie with the ZenFone 5 where the overall rating is concerned. Your job now is to decide whose flaws you're willing to overlook.
Editor's note: In case you're deciding between the original Redmi (say, you found someone selling it) and the Redmi 1S, we'd say go for the Redmi 1S. Compared to its predecessor, the improvement in UI responsiveness is obvious, and we credit that to the Snapdragon 400 processor. The original Redmi is a no-brainer if you're looking for a dual-SIM phone at the beginning of the year, but as we've pointed out at the start of this roundup, times have changed and even the upgraded Redmi 1S is facing strong competition today.