Redmi Note 5 Pro Review: Xiaomi’s new smartphone is a powerhouse
Is Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro the new budget champion?
Over the years, Xiaomi has emerged as a dominant force in the Indian smartphone market. It has even gone past Samsung in the last two quarters to become the top smartphone brand in India, according to recent IDC reports. A lot of credit for Xiaomi's meteoric rise goes to the Redmi Note 4, which became the company's top-selling phone in India.
This February, almost a year after Redmi Note 4 made its debut in India, Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro. The two smartphones are strategically targeted at the budget category, ₹10,000-₹16,000, to be precise. And just like other Android phones in this bracket, Redmi Note 5 and Note 5 Pro bring a combination of top-of-the-line specifications and aggressive pricing.
While Redmi Note 5 is your usual upgrade, Redmi Note 5 Pro is a far more intriguing smartphone. It packs the Snapdragon 636 processor with RAM variants up to 6GB, vindicating its Pro moniker. Aimed at power users, Snapdragon 636 processor is a top-of-the-line chipset under the Snapdragon 600-series and is 40% faster than the popular Snapdragon 630 SoC.
By the way, Redmi Note 5 Pro is also the first Xiaomi smartphone in the Redmi lineup to boast of 6GB RAM. Well, if well-optimised, 4GB RAM is sufficient to get your power use, but a little bit of RAM never hurts. But that's a discussion for another time.
We have been using Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro as our primary smartphone for more than a week. Here are our key takeaways.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is one of the first smartphones from the company in India to feature an 18:9 display, usually referred as full-screen phones or bezel-less phones. And just like other 18:9 phones out there, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro feels taller in shape.
Sporting a 5.99-inch front, the phone has a fair bit of bezels around the screen. Fortunately, it has mild curved corners that don't dig deep into your palm. The right edge houses the volume and power/lock/unlock buttons whereas the left edge has the SIM and storage slot.
The metal back panel houses a vertical dual-camera setup on the top left corner. The setup is quite similar to the iPhone X and seems equally protruding. The pronouncing camera bump means you have to be extra careful while placing your phone on a rough surface as it may end up getting dented or scratched. Then there's a fingerprint scanner at the centre, followed by the Mi branding at the bottom.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 wasn't big on looks and it looks like Redmi Note 5 Pro isn't either. In my opinion, the Mi A1 was the best-designed phone Xiaomi brought out in its budget category. And, of late, companies like Huawei have delivered phones like Honor 9 Lite that score big on design as well as premium feel.
Otherwise, Redmi Note 5 Pro performs well for its size. It fits well in palms and is light enough to carry around. We would have liked the volume buttons to be shifted a few millimeters south for easier access, but that is a common problem with all large-screen phones at the moment.
Apart from high-end performance, another USP of Redmi Note 5 Pro is the camera. After all, it's the first Redmi phone to sport a dual-rear camera, an increasing popular feature on modern Android phones. Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro sports a combination of 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel rear cameras. The two sensors come with f/2.2 aperture and f/2.0 aperture respectively. It comes with 1.25um sensors that allow the camera to capture more light than typical smartphone cameras. But that's just the specifications.
In our experience, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro's cameras offered mostly good results but remained far from mind-blowing. I took some really good photos from Redmi Note 5 Pro but some weren't outstanding. The colour reproduction was pretty accurate (maybe a little punchier) but the colours seemed a bit washed out on other occasions. Taking photos strategically can help you achieve good results.
The dual-camera setup allows you to create DSLR-like shallow-depth-of-field effect and, surprisingly, portraits taken with the phone came out pretty good. A lot of phones promise the bokeh effect, but don't really give a natural depth effect or struggle to get the sharpness of the subject right. Redmi Note 5 Pro does a good job on this front.
While Redmi Note 5 Pro thrives in good light conditions, it delivers pretty decent results in low-light conditions with minimal noise. There's also a manual camera mode that lets you customise ISO levels and white balance.
In my opinion, the biggest draw of the Redmi Note 5 Pro is its 20-megapixel front camera. It's very good. There are a few things that I really liked about the selfie camera of Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. For instance, the default beautification mode (Beautify 4.0) is not really over the top. Another thing I love about the camera is the depth mode, which takes really good selfies with the right depth effect while achieving decent levels of skin smoothening. There's a front flash as well, ensuring that selfies taken in low-light conditions look well lit.
The 18:9 screen on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro has a full HD+ resolution. It feels quite vibrant and is a treat for high-resolution multimedia streaming. The auto-brightness works pretty fast. The screen is slightly reflective, but that's something you can easily let go of.
The display is complemented by the MIUI 9 custom ROM-based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat. As the MIUI is familiar territory, it wasn't very difficult to get accustomed to the interface. The UI seems fluid and easy to launch. MIUI 9 already has tones of custom features, but the Android iteration -- Oreo -- would have made a lot more sense for a phone in 2018.
Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is super fast. During our usage, we didn't come across any performance lag. It handled graphic-intensive games like Marvel Clash of Champions and Real Racing with ease. Much simpler games like Temple Run and Subway Surfer ran fluidly on the phone.
On moderate to heavy usage, the phone delivered roughly one-and-a-half day of battery backup. My usage included extensive multimedia streaming, browsing and instant messaging along with a few hours of mobile gaming. If you're a light user, you can easily make the battery last for a longer period of time.
Note that we were using the 4GB RAM phone. I'd like to believe that the 6GB RAM variant will be much faster, but I am not really sure how much of a noticeable difference there will be when it comes to normal day-to-day usage.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro scores high on performance, battery life and selfie camera. The rear camera can be much better, but we can expect it to be improved through software updates in the future. Another perk of investing in the Note 5 Pro is that it will soon get the Face Unlock feature, letting you unlock the phone by just looking at the screen.
The Redmi Note 5 Pro is definitely a value-for-money gadget. In fact, it is perhaps one of the best Android smartphones under ₹16,000 at the moment. The Moto G5s Plus and Xiaomi Mi A1 are pretty close to the top spot, according to me.
So, should you buy Redmi Note 5 Pro or Redmi Note 5? Which variant of Redmi Note 5 Pro should you consider? Well, this depends on your usage. If you are a power user and want a superior camera, you may want to opt for the Redmi Note 5 Pro over Redmi Note 5.
As far as the variants are concerned, the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage model is good enough. The version with the extra RAM will cost you ₹3,000 extra.