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It was July 8, 2014 when Xiaomi made its entry in the Indian market with the launch of ambitious Mi 3. The mid-range smartphone was an instant hit despite the fact that it belonged to a company which came out of nowhere from the neighboring country- China. Xiaomi didn't just there stop there. It added more products to its portfolio and the brand's popularity and reach spread like a wildfire.
But it was not an overnight success for Xiaomi. The company did its homework quite well and gave Indian audience the exact bargain they were looking for- 'Crazy price and high-end specs'. The strategy did wonders for the brand and for Indian consumers. It also started a war among other smartphone manufacturers to deliver products at much lower price-point without compromising on features and hardware.
I experienced something similar this month when Xiaomi announced three new devices in the Indian market- Redmi Note 5, Redmi Note 5 Pro and the much awaited Mi TV 4. But the excitement this time was not for the company's new smartphones, it's for the Mi TV.
Xiaomi's new phones are excellent and make for great value for money packages; however they are just not as groundbreaking as the Mi 3 was. They might pack all the new features matching the current market standards but for some reason, they don't come out as revolutionary products. But the Mi TV does. However, we are not talking about the Mi TV today; instead we will focus on Redmi Note 5, the successor of the highly popular Redmi Note 4 which was the top selling device of the year 2017 in the Indian market.
Xiaomi has followed the same pricing strategy (if not the hardware strategy) and has introduced Redmi Note 5 at an aggressive price-point of Rs. 9,999 for the 3GB RAM+32GB storage variant. With Redmi Note 5, Xiaomi aims to continue the same success, but can it help Xiaomi achieve the same? Let's find out.
Design and Build
Redmi Note 5 is basically a Redmi Note 4 with a taller 18:9 aspect ratio display. While the design is very practical and looks premium, it has started to feel dated in the year 2018. To some extent, the tried and tested look and feel of Redmi Note 5 can disappoint consumers who were expecting a new design with the new Redmi device.
Nevertheless, Redmi Note 5 is solid and feels very reliable in hands. Just like Redmi Note 5 Pro, the Redmi Note 5 also offers comparatively more screen-to-body ratio than company's previous mid-range handsets. And with the new 18:9 aspect ratio display, Redmi Note 5 feels taller and slightly narrower than the previous generation Redmi Note handset.
18:9 aspect ratio screen
Xiaomi has once again followed a symmetrical design approach with the new Redmi Note 5. The rear camera module, dual-LED flash light and the fingerprint scanner is centrally aligned that gives the handset a clean and minimal look and feel. Redmi Note 5 is also slimmer than the previous Redmi Note 4.
The design is not entirely metal. The top and bottom of Redmi Note 5 have plastic ends with metal finishing that house the antennas for connectivity. Redmi Note 5 has rounded corners and curved edges for comfortable handling. The buttons are placed ergonomically for easy in-hand feel.
There's no Type C port but the standard USB 2.0 charging port. A 3.5mm headphone jack is placed at bottom and you will find and an IR blaster at the top of the handset. Overall, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 fails to bring anything new and interesting in design department. It's the same old Redmi Note 4 with some required timely refinements.
Vibrant 18:9 aspect ratio screen
Display is by far my favorite feature of Xiaomi Redmi Note 5. I have tested almost every handset in budget and mid-range price segment and the new Redmi Note devices have the best-in-class screens. The smartphone sports a 5.99-inch display with 18:9 aspect ratio. The IPS screen comes with 2160 x 1080 resolution that translates to a pixel density of 403ppi. The display is vibrant and offers better contrast ratio than other smartphones in competition like Honor7X, and Moto G5S Plus. You also get Gorilla Glass protection, however Xiaomi hasn't mentioned about the generation of Gorilla Glass used to protect the screen.
On the software side, the display settings allow you to change the contrast level as per your requirement. Besides, you can also turn on the Reading mode to reduce Blue light effect on your eyes.
Overall, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 offers best-in-class screen in its respective price-point.
Capable Camera hardware
The Redmi Note 5 sports a 12MP single camera setup that works on f/2.2 aperture, which is nothing extraordinary. What's worth noticing here is the pixel size- the 1.25 μm that makes a noticeable difference in everyday performance. The rear camera also comes equipped with PDAF. For selfies, the smartphone features a 5MP front-facing camera that comes with Beautify 4.0 mode and can record videos at 30fps.
Good Image Output in daylight
With larger pixel size, the camera on Redmi Note 5 is now much better than its predecessor while capturing images in challenging light conditions. The autofocus is snappy and camera does a great job in daylight conditions while you take portrait and landscape shots. Redmi Note 5 is also a good everyday camera smartphone for macro shots.
Besides, as I have mentioned in the first impressions of the new Redmi devices, the camera on Redmi Note 5 is even better at capturing accurate color tones as compared to Redmi Note 5 Pro. One reason can be the difference in color reproduction by the IPS LCD screens on the two variants.
Improved performance in challenging light
Low-light performance is improved but the image output is still marred with noise and loss in detailing, which is usually a common thing with budget and mid-range smartphones.
The selfie camera on Redmi Note 5 works on a brighter F/2.0 aperture as compared to its rear counterpart. The selfie output is good in favorable light conditions. And when we talk about selfies, Infinix Hot S3 is also an option that is worth checking out. The smartphone features a 20MP front-facing shooter which is by far the best selfie camera in sub Rs. 10k price-point.
Overall, Redmi Note 5 is a good budget camera smartphone that gets most of the things right. Redmi Note 5 Pro proves to be a better overall camera phone as it can deliver appealing bokeh shots and also features a better selfie camera.
Hardware and Software
Redmi Note 5 runs on the same old Snapdragon 625 chipset that powered up the Redmi Note 4. The CPU is paired with 3GB and 4GB RAM options. On the other hand, Xiaomi has shipped the Redmi Note 5 Pro variant with the new Snapdragon 636 chipset. We were using both the phones side by side and found that the Redmi Note 5 Pro did feel pretty fast, even snappier than the Redmi Note 5 in app loading and general screen animations.
This doesn't mean Redmi Note 5 feels sluggish. The smartphone is very much capable to handle everything you throw at it without any performance issues. Multitasking is smooth, apps load instantly and even heavy games run without any noticeable frame drops. At a price-point of Rs. 9,999, the 3GB RAM variant of Redmi Note 5 makes for a very good everyday Android smartphone.
The only letdown is the dated Android software. Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 runs MIUI 9.2 which is based on the old Android 7.1.1 Nougat. MIUI 9.2 is not at all a bad UI, indeed it is very feature rich and efficient; however the fact that Xiaomi is still stuck with the old software in 2018 is quite disappointing.
Nonetheless, the MIUI 9 is feature rich, efficient and looks much more refined than company's previous MIUI versions. You get Gesture support, one-handed mode, Mi Mover, iOS like Quick ball shortcut widget, Second space to manage apps and data and a dedicated screen to show important updates, news, calendar events, etc. when you swipe right on the homescreen. Besides, MIUI 9 also allows you to change UI themes, capture images with fingerprint scanner, 5GB of free cloud storage and a lot more.
Battery and Connectivity
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 draws its power from a respectable 4,000 mAh battery unit, which is 100 mAh unit smaller than the battery that powered Redmi Note 4. However, the battery unit combined with MIUI 9 and efficient CPU will not disappoint you. The smartphone can easily last a day and even more depending upon your usage pattern. Xiaomi hasn't given any concrete answers on the Quick Charge support for the new Redmi devices nor is the company shipping a fast charger in the package. You only get a standard 5V, 2A charger in the box; however the smartphones do support Quick Charge 2.0, if not the latest Quick Charge 3.0 technology. Make sure you buy a certified quick charger to fast charge the Redmi Note 5's 4,000 mAh battery unit.
As far as connectivity is concerned, Redmi Note 5 supports 4G VoLTE and has Wi-Fi 802.11, Bluetooth, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a micro-USB. You also get an IR blaster to control smart appliances from your phone.
Redmi Note 5 is a great value for money deal for price conscious consumers. However; if we take a closer look, Redmi Note 5 Pro is the reasonable upgrade to the last year's Redmi Note 4. The biggest change is the new vibrant 18:9 aspect ratio screen which offers best-in-class multimedia performance in sub Rs. 10,000 price segment.
The camera has also got some significant upgrades but it is still not groundbreaking. Besides, the repeated design and dated Android OS are two major factors that can prove to be a deal breaker for Xiaomi this time. Last but not the least, a dedicated microSD card slot will add more value to company's much loved mobile devices in everyday usage.