Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Review


Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 5 smartphone in India last week. As expected, it is the same Redmi 5 Plus that was introduced  in China back in December last year, which is not a huge upgrade except for the full-screen display, camera and the selfie flash. It is definitely worth the price, but should you get it? Let us jump into the review to find out.

Unboxing

We recently unboxed the smartphone, check out the video below.

Box contents

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 in Black color
  • 2-pin charger (5V-2A)
  • Micro USB cable
  • SIM ejector tool
  • Clear protective case
  • User guide

Video Review

Display, Hardware and Design

The main change in the Redmi Note 5 compared to the Note 4 is its 18:9 2.5D curved glass screen with gentle rounded corners. It has a large 5.99-inch Full HD+ display with a pixel resolution of 2160 × 1080 pixels and a pixel density of about 403 PPI. The display is bright, thanks to 450 nits brightness and has 1000:1 contrast ratio. Sunlight legibility is good, since it has a Sunlight display that uses hardware-level technology to adjust the contrast of each pixel in real time, so images are less affected by glare. It has 84% of NTSC color gamut, compared to 72% in the predecessor. It also has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection.

Since this has a 18:9 aspect ratio screen, you can pinch to zoom to fill the screen when you use apps like YouTube, but the content is cropped. Several apps support full-screen, but JioTV or Airtel Live TV apps don’t support full-screen, so you get weird black bars.

Under the display options there are different options to adjust colors and contrast based on your preference. There is also reading mode that lets you reduce the display’s blue light emission so it doesn’t cause eye strain when you are reading at night.

Above the display there is an earpiece along with the usual set of proximity and ambient light sensors next to it. It also has a gyroscope and a magnetic sensor, otherwise known as a magnetometer. There is also a 5-megapixel camera on the front with f/2.0 aperture along with selfie flash. There is also a notification LED next to the camera that glows in white color.

Even though there is a small bezel below the display, it uses on-screen buttons.

Coming to the button placements and slots, the power button and the volume rockers are present on the rights side, hybrid SIM slot is present on the left side, 3.5mm audio jack, secondary microphone and Infrared sensor  are present on the top, while the primary microphone, micro USB port and loudspeaker grill are present on the bottom. The phone is 8.05mm thick compared to 8.45mm thick Redmi Note 4. It is also just 75.45mm wide compared to 76mm width on the Redmi Note 4, but it is 158.5mm tall since it has a large 18:9 screen.

Same as the Redmi Note 3 and the Note 4, the Note 5 comes with the same hybrid SIM slot, even though the company has moved to dedicated slots in the Redmi 5A and the Redmi Y1 series. This accepts two SIMs or a SIM and a microSD card (up to 128GB).

On the back there is a 12-megapixel rear camera with dual-tone LED flash and a fingerprint sensor below it. Even though the phone is slightly slimmer compared to the predecessor, this has a slight camera bump, but the camera lens doesn’t get scratched when you place it on a flat surface since it has some kind of scratch-resistant glass.

Even though the phone has a large screen, it is compact to hold. It has a screen-to-body ratio of about 77%, slightly more than Redmi Note ‘s 73% screen-to-body ratio. Similar to the predecessor, it has a metallic finish in the middle, while the top and bottom parts of the back have plastic finish where the antennas are present.  It packs a 4000mAh built-in battery. At the launch the company said that similar to the Mi A1, Redmi 5A and other latest smartphone, this has dual pyrolytic graphite sheets that will help to diffuse and radiate heat quickly. Overall the build quality of the smartphone is good, even though the back has a similar design.

Xiaomi also bundles a clear case with the phone, so that you don’t have to worry about looking for one. This is definitely a welcome move.

Camera

The Redmi Note 5 has a 12-megapixel rear camera with 5-element lens, f/2.2 aperture and large 1.25μm pixel size, compared to 1.12μm pixel size on the Redmi Note 4. It also comes with dual-tone LED flash. It has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture and selfie flash.

The camera UI is familiar with other Xiaomi smartphones with flash and HDR toggles on the top, front camera toggle on the bottom along with option to select modes (Panorama, Timer (3 to 10 seconds), Audio trigger, manual mode to adjust white balance and ISO (100 to 3200), Straighten, Beautify, HHT (Hand held twilight), Scene and Tilt-shift to blur a part of an image. It has image preview window, camera and video buttons on the right side. For the front camera, it has beautify mode, pro mode and smart mode that guesses your age using facing recognition algorithm.

Coming to the image quality, daylight shots are good in bright conditions, but some images are a bit dull. HDR shots are better, and macro shots are good as well. Since the sensor has 1.25μm pixel size, low-light shots are decent, but there is still noise. Images with flash are good and the flash is not overpowering.  Daylight front camera shots are good, but in low-light there is a lot of noise in the image even when LED flash is on. Overall the phone has a decent camera for the price, and is an improvement compared to the Redmi Note 4.

Check out some camera samples below (Click the image to view the full resolution sample.)

HDR OFF
HDR ON

Low-light HHT mode

It can record videos at 4k resolution at 30 fps. Video quality is good and the audio is crisp, thanks to the secondary microphone. It has time-lapse as well as slow-motion video recording. The front camera can record 1080p videos at 30fps. It doesn’t have any kind of stabilization, which you can’t expect in the price range. Check out the video samples below.

Check out more Redmi Note 5 camera samples here.

Software, UI and Apps

It runs Android 7.1.2 (Nougat) out of the box with MIUI on top with Android security update for December 5, 2017. It will likely get the Android Oreo update, but no details about the time-frame yet.

MIUI 9 adds a lot of features including improved notifications, split screen, improved apps like Mi Drop to transfer of files between any Android device without requiring an internet connection. It also has new App Vault feature that shows shortcuts to access apps quickly by when you swipe left in the homescreen. You can add up to 8 shortcuts. There is also App lock  that lets you protect your apps with a password and the dual apps feature lets you run app like WhatsApp with two different accounts at the same time.

Out of 4GB RAM, you get 3.59GB of usable RAM, and 2.1GB of RAM is free when default apps are running in the background. Out of 64GB, you get 54.8GB of free storage since OS and apps take about 8GB of space. The built-in Cleaner inside the storage lets free up space by clearing cache and obsolete files.

Apart from the usual set of utility apps, Google apps and Xiaomi’s own set of apps, it comes pre-loaded with Amazon Shopping, WPS Office and Hungama apps. You can easily uninstall these apps.

Since the phone has an infrared sensor for remote function, it comes with Mi Remote that lets you control your home appliances easily. It worked flawlessly with Airtel Set-top box, Samsung TV and Panasonic AC. It also supports A/V receiver, DVD Player, Projector, Camera and more.

Fingerprint Sensor

The phone has a fingerprint sensor on the back. It immediately unlocks phone just by keeping your finger on the home button so that you don’t have to press it. You can add up to 5 fingerprints.

Music Player and FM Radio

The Mi Music Player is the default music player. There is also equalizer. It also has FM Radio with recording. Audio through the speaker is good. Since the speaker is present on the bottom, audio doesn’t get muffled when the phone is on a flat surface. Audio through earphones is good as well.

Dual SIM and Connectivity

It has the usual set of connectivity features such as Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 + 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, GPS + GLONASS. It also has USB OTG support that lets you connect external drives. It has 4G connectivity and also has Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) support for Reliance Jio, but it doesn’t support Airtel or Vodafone VoLTE yet.

Both the SIMs support 4G, but you can enable 4G only in one SIM at a time, while the other goes to 3G. You can set preferred SIM for a voice call, text and data from the SIM card manager. It also has LTE band 1 (2100MHz) for Vodafone 4G in some circles, unlike the Redmi Note 4 and few other phones that lack it.

Calling and Messaging

The dialer and messaging UI are similar to other Xiaomi smartphones running MIUI 9. Since this is a dual SIM phone, you get the option to select either SIMs when calling or sending a text message. There are no call drops and the earpiece volume is good.

Performance and Benchmarks

Coming to the performance, the phone is powered by an Octa-Core Snapdragon 625 Mobile Platform with eight ARM Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2.02GHz per core and has 3GB or 4GB of RAM depending on the model, same as the predecessor. The performance is good without any lags, but the company could be gone with a faster Snapdragon 630 SoC. It gets a bit heated on intensive gaming and 4G data use, but it doesn’t too hot to handle. It also has a Adreno 506 GPU that offers good gaming performance. That said, check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.

It scored 62620 points in AnTuTu Benchmark 6 and grabbed the fifth spot.

It scored 877 points in the Geekbench 4 Single-Core benchmark and grabbed the fifth spot again.

It scored 4345 points in Geekbench 4 Multi-Core benchmark and grabbed the second spot.

It scored 13810 points in the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited GPU benchmark and grabbed the third spot.

Battery life

Coming to the battery life, the 4000mAh (typical) / 3900mAh (minimum) built-in battery, is a bit smaller compared to the 4100mAh battery on the Redmi Note 4, but the battery life is good. It lasts for a whole day even with heavy use and with average use it lasts for two days, thanks to optimization in the MIUI 9.

Sadly, the phone doesn’t have fast charging so it takes about 2 hours to charge it from 0 to 100%, but 0 to 50% takes just 41 minutes. If you connect a Quick Charge 3.0 charger, it shows it is quick charging, but it takes the same time.

It achieved One Charge Rating of 18 hours and 23 minutes, which is pretty good for the phone with a 4000mAh battery. This is better compared to the Redmi Note 4 that scored 17 hours and 16 minutes One Charge Rating. We will bring you the complete set of battery life test results soon.

Conclusion

At a starting price of Rs. 9999, the Redmi Note 5 is definitely a value-for-money smartphone from Xiaomi. Even though this is not a major upgrade from last year’s Redmi Note 4 since this retains the same SoC and design, this has a large 18:9 display, slightly better camera and retains the same solid build quality, and offers good battery life as well. If you are tight on the budget, the Redmi Note 5 is a good choice, and for those who need a better camera and performance, the Redmi Note 5 Pro at a slightly higher price tag of Rs. 13,999 should be the choice.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 goes on sale every week exclusively on Flipkart as well as Mi.com starting from February 22nd at Rs. 9999 for the 3GB RAM with 32GB storage version and Rs. 11,999 for the 4GB RAM with 64GB storage version. It will soon be available from offline stores.It also comes with Rs. 2200 cashback offer and 100% additional 4G data for Reliance Jio customers. To summarize, here are the pros and cons of the smartphone.

Pros

  • 18:9 Full screen display is good
  • Good build quality
  • Good battery life
  • Decent camera

Cons

  • Same old design
  • Hybrid Dual SIM might not be preferred by everyone

Images by Siraj

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Author: Srivatsan Sridhar

Srivatsan Sridhar is a Mobile Technology Enthusiast who is passionate about Mobile phones and Mobile apps. He is currently using the Motorola Moto G4 Plus. You can follow him on Twitter @ssrivatsan and on Google+