Xiaomi Redmi Note 5

2017 was a great year for Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi. The company rose to fame with the Redmi Note 4 which went on to become the bestselling smartphone in India. 

Xiaomi sold more than 9.6 million units of it. It was crazy. Redmi Note 4 became the go-to phone for anyone looking to purchase a smartphone under-Rs 13,000 and its popularity spiked in leaps and bounds. 

Last year also saw various OEMs taking the plunge into providing dual cameras and 18:9 aspect ratio displays and companies like Honor went a step further to bring a quad core camera system.

With Redmi Note 5 now in India, Xiaomi aims to reiterate itself as the king of budget smartphones. But in all this competition, can it make do with an old wine in a new bottle? We find out.

Redmi Note 5 price and release date

Xiaomi's Redmi Note 5 was launched in India on 14 February. The phone is Flipkart exclusive and is available in two variants starting from Rs 9,999 for the 3GB/32GB variant and Rs 11,999 for the 4GB/64GB variant.

Design

When we first unboxed the phone and held it in our hands, it didn't feel any different from the Redmi Note 4. It isn't that much different from the older version – at least from the back. 

The Note 5 has a slimmer and a lighter profile when we compare it with last year's Note 4. One can argue that there wasn't anything wrong with the design so they didn't upgrade it, but using the same design language again is a bit of a bummer considering it's being portrayed as an ‘upgrade’.

The rear panel of the phone is made out of aluminum while the top and bottom ends are plastic, accented by antenna bands. The phone is 8.1 mm thin and weighs just around 180 grams. The Note 5 has got some weight to it which makes it feel sturdy. The fingerprint sensor on the rear panel is fast, which is nice.

There's a camera protrusion which wasn't present in the earlier version but is something users will have to deal with on the Note 5.

The biggest difference, however, comes when you look at the front of the Redmi Note 5. Gone are the thick bezels and with them, the capacitive navigation buttons. As minimal bezel display becomes a norm for smartphones, letting go of dedicated navigation keys is an absolute must.

If it hadn't been for the front, differentiating Redmi Note 5 from the Note 4 would have been a difficult task. Regardless, the Note 5 feels solid and is well worth the asking price.

Display

The Redmi Note 5 comes equipped with a 5.99-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio display which has a FullHD+ resolution (2160×1080 pixels) and a pixel density of 403ppi. The display is one of the most predominant changes there is in this version. Xiaomi jumping the bandwagon on bringing 18:9 aspect ratio displays to the mid-range segment speaks volume about this recent shift in the smartphone market.

In our usage, we found the display to be bright and crisp with good viewing angles. It is a bit on the warmer side of things but that is very negligible and users won't face any problems.

Sunlight legibility is fairly good when it comes to readability. It's not the best, but for the price, it's more than justified.

Reproduction of images on the screen and colors are accurate but because of a slightly warmer tone in the display we noticed earlier, some colors looked washed out.

Overall, consuming content on the Note 5 – such as watching videos – shouldn't be a problem for a general user.

Interface and reliability

Redmi Note 5 runs on Android 7.1.2 under Xiaomi's custom MIUI 9 which isn't the very best user interface for Android smartphones but has its perks. MIUI is a pretty customisable skin that comes with a really neat set of features. Users switching from other Xiaomi smartphones wouldn't feel much change in the interface as MIUI 9 is being seeded to most Xiaomi smartphones.

During our usage, we didn't encounter any kind of lag or bug and our experience remained smooth throughout. MIUI offers tons of features like support for multi-window, smart notifications, efficient memory management among others which keep the functioning seamless.

There's a different kind of joy when you are working on stock Android as it gives you a clean and a slick place. MIUI has tiny little enhancements like copying an OTP from the text message that's just arrived without opening the box.

Getting through a day's work with the Redmi Note 5 shouldn't be a big problem for the phone and users in general.

Specs and Performance

Here's where things get interesting. The Redmi Note 5 uses the same processor as its predecessor. While Qualcomm has already announced Snapdragon 636 which is found on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the company decided to stick with their dependable Snapdragon 625.

The SD 625 is a tried and tested chipset which made way to nearly every mid-segment smartphone. It tackled whatever we threw at it which including a 24GB video file – and this thing was able to play it.

The octa-core chipset is backed by 4GB of RAM and an internal memory of 64GB.

Redmi Note 5 was able to run games like Injustice 2, Asphalt 8, Shadow Fighter and Tekken without any jitters. Though Injustice 2 did have some occasional frame drops.

Multitasking is a breeze with the Note 5 as it works seamlessly while switching from one app to the other.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 625 is one of the most efficient SoCs out there and does the job well. However, Xiaomi could have taken it a step further and actually updated the processor with 636 to ensure more shelf life and even better performance.

Camera

Redmi Note 5 comes with a 12-megapixel rear camera which has an aperture size of f/2.2 and is backed by phase detection autofocus (PDAF) along with dual tone dual-LED flash.

What's intriguing is the fact that this is the same camera that made it to Xiaomi's Android One smartphone, the Mi A1. The images created by the camera on the Note 5 are on par with what the competition has to offer.

Pictures made by the camera are really good and detailed. The color reproduction is more or less accurate. We found a warmer tint always making an appearance with the pictures. But that won't deter a user, it isn't noticeable unless one actually goes looking for.

The small f/2.2 aperture also helps in reducing picture noise resulting in more crisp shots.

However, low-light shots from the camera weren't as good as expected. Pictures were washed out and lacked details accompanied by a lot of noise.

There's a manual mode as well but it only allows ISO and white balance adjustment – which is a letdown.

The 5-megapixel front-facing camera does a decent job as far as selfies are concerned. Pictures from the front camera were sharp with natural colors.

For the price, the camera on Redmi Note 5 does a fine job. Users making the investment wouldn’t be disappointed in the quality of pictures.

Battery life

Just like its predecessor, Redmi Note 5 also comes with a battery capacity of 4,000 mAh. On a single charge and considering our heavy usage, the phone lasted us for a day and then some before dying out. For a moderate user though, the phone will manage a day and a half’s worth of charge.

As far as charging this beastly phone is considered, it took us almost two hours to fully charge it. We used the regular 5V adapter provided in-the-box for charging.

Again, the battery life provided by the Note 5 is fairly normal. There’s nothing extraordinary about it and there is nothing inferior about it either.

Verdict

The Redmi Note 5 is not a major upgrade over its predecessor. Just modifying the display on the phone isn’t enough to call it a ‘worthy upgrade’. If Xiaomi wants to lay claim to the throne once again, it has to stop shooting with one hand tied behind its back.

There’s nothing wrong with the Note 5 except for the fact that it doesn’t look like an upgrade. It’s more like a tweaked version of the smartphone that made waves last year. And the company is banking everything on that. 

Note 4 users should very well stay put and resist the urge to get the Note 5 and check out the Redmi Note 5 Pro instead. 

For everyone else who is looking to invest in a smartphone that has all the latest features, is powerful and looks good, Redmi Note 5 is a stepping stone.

Siddharth Chauhan
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