A huge thank you to East & West Distribution and Mi-Store.se for loaning me this review-unit!
Premium on a Budget?
I previously reviewed the Xioami Mi Mix 2s which is the company’s flagship line of more experimental/innovative devices.
Xiaomi is however still at large known for making affordable mid-range devices powered by their own version of Android known as MIUI. The Redmi line from Xiaomi is a budget friendly mid-range series of smartphones. Partly a reason for Xiaomi’s growth, these affordable smartphones have been around for a while now. The Redmi Note 5 series (including the pro model) saw a sales number of around 5 million units in just about 4 months after launching in Februari
The Redmi Note 5 features a dual camera setup (marketed as AI cameras) sporting a primary 12 MP, f/2.2 lens as well as a secondary 5 MP, f/2.0 lens for depth information. The device is packed into an all metal build in a sleek presentation that comes in either Black, White, Rose Gold, or Blue color options. The front-facing selfie camera is a single 20 MP with an aperture of f/2.2. For internal power the phone relies on the Snapdragon 636 SoC coupled with 3/4 GB of ram and 32/64 GB of storage. The phone features dual-sim capabilities or the option to opt for a micro-sd card (up to 128 GB) instead of a second SIM-card.
Other hardware-specifications include a flagship-grade 4000 mAh sized battery, a headphone jack, the nowadays rare IR-blaster, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. Unfortunately there’s no NFC built in and the charging cable consists of an ancient micro-usb connector.
On the software-side we get MIUI, and while the phone launched with the 9:th version it has been updated to MIUI 10. On Xiaomi phone’s however, having the latest version of MIUI doesn’t always guarantee the latest version of Android. The Redmi Note 5 runs version 8.1, having being updated from 7.1 earlier this year.
The Unboxing experience is pretty straight forward. There are no particular bells and whistles included, but at least the free, soft rubber case is present. You get the phone, positioned underneath a standard folder with the case and a few informational notes. Underneath the phone we find the charging cable and adapter along with a sim-ejector tool.
Considering the price, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot more from the box. It is simple, and doesn’t take away from the main attraction that is the phone itself.
My device is the Blue model featuring 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. As you can see, the blue metal covers the back of the phone, while the front is all white with a very thin black bezel edging the display itself. There’s something very interesting with how the front glass kind of floats upon the frames.
After booting the phone up I was met by MIUI 9, almost making me worried that the 10-update was lacking. Thankfully it updated straight after. For a budget device, the Redmi Note 5 certainly comes with a full package of software features and I’m har to find something lacking from my previous encounter with the Mix 2s.
Placing the phone on the table I noticed straight away how the camera hump makes the phone wobble though. This device will not appreciate laying down while typing.
This phone is light (weight) to a point were it’s crazy.
The screen is of the modern 18:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 1080p, which I appreciate. It’s also lacking a notch. Looking at it head-on you get a lot of quality for the low asking price. This is an IPS LCD-panel with the ability to go both low and high in brightness. Funnily enough the bottom and top bezels are not symmetrical in width.
When holding the phone in hand it is mostly comfortable to the point of resembling the OnePlus 5T but with less of a curved back. The edges from were the back meets the frames is noticeable though. But I honestly think some people might appreciate this.
The volume-buttons has a satisfying click to them. The power-button leaves something to be desired though with a kind of mushy feeling. Both buttons do however match the blue color perfectly.
Without the case on the phone is slippery, like all metal-made phones are. I do however want to stress that the build-quality is supreme for the asking price.
I guess that’s part off the deal too. I am used to reviewing and using flagship phones for years now, and this phone can be had for as little as $159. We need to expect something less than from a $1000 phone, and at the same time the device delivers a lot more than you’d might expect.
I covered the software skin from Xiaomi extensively in my Mi Mix 2s review. That was a flagship however, and you expect a lot of features from a third-party Android skin. What’s impressive however is that the Redmi Note 5 seems to access most of those features such as full-screen gestures, Dual apps for having multiple social media accounts, Second space for locking guests out of selected apps, and the Xiaomi theme store.
The gestures are as good as on the Mix 2s, with the same back-gesture were you’re swiping in from the sides to go back. If you swipe in from the sides and hold you can also jump to the previously used app.
Flagship performance is of course not possible on a ship like the 636. I will however say that I’m impressed by the smoothness that MIUI 10 manages to bring to the mid-range table. While animations stutter more than I’m accustomed to on the OnePlus 6T, it’s not nearly as bad as I might have expected. Actually, it is fully manageable as it’s only micro-stutters in a few selected animations so far.
Xiaomi’s primary focus (and source of income) lies in software development and distribution, and it still shows. While this is far from stock Android, it’s still my favorite among the heavily modified skins out there. Mostly thanks to how well it performs.
I also think the design of MIUI is good on it’s own. However, when mixing with third-party apps (or even Googles own apps) using Material Design the design makes for a less coherent experience.
Xiaomi took a huge leap in camera performance during 2018, and not least it’s noticeable in the Redmi Note 5.
There is a feature for night-shots that are described as a computational long-exposure mode much like what more expensive devices feature. I haven’t been able to get it activated yet though.
In auto mode, the hone performs more impressively than one might have thought.
HDR kicks in when the phone decides that you need it. So just for the fun of it I’ll say it, this phone features auto-HDR while the Huawei Mate 20 Pro doesn’t.
Colors look pretty natural, and details are actually good. On the second image the left corner of the wall ended up pretty over-exposed though, but that’s one time so far.
The selfie camera also impresses in details, as soon as you turn off the pre-set beauty mode. Portrait mode on the selfie camera also does a good job in my initial testing, although just like the OnePlus 6T it might not be able to pull off HDR when it’s active.
My gut feeling makes me want to tell you that this is the sub-$200 phone to get at the moment. I’ll use the phone as a daily driver for a few weeks before concluding my full review.
Is there something in particular you’d like to know about the Redmi Note 5?
Let me know in the comments below!
This is Andreas @ The Mobile Swede, signing out.