Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 review — Xiaomi’s budget shooter
+ Great performer
+ Good battery life
+ Dual rear camera does a superb job with accurate bokeh effects
+ Value-for-money proposition is excellent!
- Slowdowns occur when multitasking
- Camera UI could be better to take advantage of great sensor
Xiaomi’s value-for-money proposition has always been great, but it gets a booster shot when it comes to the Redmi series. The budget lineup of a budget brand should be just ridiculously good in terms of value, right? We have the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5, which isn’t the latest from the Chinese smartphone giant but is still one of the best-specced Redmi yet. So lets take a closer look.
The Redmi Note 5 comes in the typical orange packaging Redmi devices come in. There are no images, just the clearly legible text so you know what you are getting.
The package contents are equally spartan, with just a 2A charger, microUSB charging cable, some basic user guide, a clear silicon case and the Redmi Note 5 itself.
There is no branding whatsoever on the front of the device. It’s clean, with the display taking up most of the space here. Over on the top we see the front facing camera and soft selfie-light LED. The bottom chin could have been home to the Xiaomi logo for a little differentiation in a time where every device is going the bezel-less route.
The rear of the Redmi Note 5 is pretty unspectacular, with metal taking up the center portion and plastic bits at the top and bottom ends for the antennae. I am not a fan of the vertical camera orientation that everyone is adopting since the iPhone X came out. I know some say it’s better for AR and what not, but I am not buying that excuse.
We find the few hardware buttons the Redmi Note 5 still has left on the right side. There’s the volume rocker and power button which actually feel pretty tactile to press on. The camera juts out a fair bit, so you would want to protect this with a case to prevent getting the camera hump scuffed up.
We have here the endangered 3.5mm port, a surprisingly large perforation for the microphone, microUSB port and the mono loudspeaker. Too bad Xiaomi has yet to transition to Type-C connections in their Redmi series.
Over on the top we have the secondary microphone and a rare IR transmitter. If you are like me, you will appreciate this over having to hunt for the right remote for your TV/air conditioner/media player.
|CPU/Chipset:||Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 (4 x Kryo 260 @ 1.8 GHz, 4 x Kryo 260 @ 1.6 GHz)|
|Display:||5.99″, 18:9 FHD+ (1080p) IPS display|
|Storage:||32GB eMMC 5.1 (expandable via microSD up to 128GB)|
12MP f/1.9, Samsung S5K2L7 sensor with 1.4μm Dual Pixel PDAF + 5MP f/2.0 1.12μm
Single tone LED flash, HDR, portrait mode
13MP f/2.0, 1.12μm pixel pitch
Beautify 4.0, soft selfie flash
|OS:||MIUI 9 based on Android 8.1|
|Connectivity:||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
FDD-LTE (Band 1/3/4/5/7/8/20)
|SIM:||Dual nanoSIM (second slot shared with microSD slot)|
|Battery:||Li-ion 4000 mAh (non-removable)|
The standout feature given its affordable price point is the large pixels on the rear camera. Usually smartphones in this price range will come with much tinier sensors, but this is an amazing sensor that stands to deliver amazing shots on par with flagships. But of course, great sensors do not directly translate to great photos, as the processing is crucial to make nice images.
The Snapdragon 636 chipset is no stranger already by now. We have tested the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro (M1) and ZenFone 5 based on the same chipset. It is a great lower mid-range chipset, offering a huge performance leap over the older Snapdragon 625/630 generation.
The Redmi Note 5 makes a strong showing in Antutu, but doesn’t come close to what the ASUS devices with the same chipset can deliver.
Here the performance is very much in line with what is expected of the Snapdragon 636.
Graphics performance is also in line with what we would expect of the Snapdragon 636 insiude the Redmi Note 5. It actually performs slightly better here as compared to the ZenFone Max Pro (M1), despite us finding that we can’t enable the higher settings on the Redmi Note 5 in games.
Productivity-related performance is also decent, besting the ZenFone 5 but falling way behind the ZenFone Max Pro (M1).
The battery life of the Redmi Note 5 is good too, clocking 10 hours and 36 minutes on the PCMark battery life test.
Real-life battery life saw me clocking more than 5 hours of usage consistently, with a mix of data and WiFi. Around 15 minutes of Google Maps knocks off just a mere 2% of the battery, while an hour of PUBG will chew 15% out of the battery bar. It can easily last more than a day of moderate usage before needing a recharge.
The Redmi Note 5’s 18:9 display allows it to be easily held in one hand without much issue. The screen is bright but colors are a little washed out, even on the Increased Contrast mode. This is not something you will notice immediately unless you are coming from a smartphone with a better display though.
MIUI 9 strays far from the stock Android experience, but it looks good to me. I really dig the gesture controls that allow us to use the whole screen for viewing whatever it is you want. You can opt for the more conventional navigation keys too. One thing MIUI has yet to add to their repertoire is an app drawer.
The dual rear-camera setup is probably the biggest upgrade Xiaomi has brought to the Redmi series thus far. The second camera is to enable depth perception for the popular portrait effects. The camera does deliver good shots actually, with usable portrait effects.
Images actually turn out surprisingly good for a smartphone of this caliber! Autofocus is very snappy, thanks to the Dual Pixel technology here in the spectacular sensor. Xiaomi could also work on their camera software, as the manual mode offered just allows users to adjust the ISO and white balance. The results are better than what I would expect from even my Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, which speaks a lot. There are some delays when opening the camera after some multitasking, or when processing a HDR shot, but at this price range, I am really satisfied with what I am getting out of it.
For RM749 the Redmi Note 5 is an affordable smartphone that does decently for its price. It offers a balanced package of performance and usability. Xiaomi definitely designed a winner at this price point, and we would love to award it our Gold PokdeWard for being an excellent smartphone at this price point, and more importantly, Xiaomi managed to outdo themselves in a market where they have few competitors, if any.
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