Xiaomi, India’s leading smartphone vendor for the last two quarters, is back with two new Redmi Note phones, the Redmi Note 5 and the Redmi Note 5 Pro. For Xiaomi, India is one of the most important markets where it has tasted success outside of China. Overall, 2017 was a great year for the company which is now back in the top five list of global smartphone vendors. More importantly, it continues to do well in India, one of the few markets where the smartphone segment is still growing. In Xiaomi’s home market of China, smartphone growth has stagnated and even declined in terms of shipments for 2017, according to research firm Canalys.
This also explains why the Redmi Note 5 Pro is making its global debut in India, and not China. The Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, dual cameras at the back, an improved 20MP front camera, along with the promise of Face recognition. Redmi Note 5 Pro is also priced higher than the regular Redmi Note 5. The new Redmi Note 5 Pro starts at a price of Rs 13,999 for the 4GB RAM option, while the 6GB RAM variant is priced at Rs 16,999. We have used the 4GB RAM variant of the Redmi Note 5 Pro now for nearly two weeks and here’s our review.
Redmi Note 5 Pro specifications: 5.99-inches FHD+ display (2160 x 1080 pixels) with 18:9 aspect ratio, LCD IPS | Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 octa-core processor at 1.8Ghz | 4GB/6GB RAM + 64GB storage, expandable to 128GB | 12MP+5MP rear camera + 20MP front camera with LED flash | 4000 mAh battery | MIUI 9 with Android Nougat 7.1.1
Redmi Note 5 Pro price in India: Rs 13,999 for the 4GB RAM/Rs 16,999 for the 6GB RAM
Redmi Note 5 Pro review
For Xiaomi, Redmi Note 4 was a best-seller and the company shipped nearly 9.6 million units of this phone in 2017 alone, a big number for the Indian market. Redmi Note 5 Pro is supposed to take that performance to another level. As expected, there is a lot of hype and anticipation around this phone. There’s a new processor on board, new display, a dual-rear camera, and Xiaomi has added Portrait mode for both selfies and the back camera.
In terms of design, there are two major changes. The display is now 5.99-inches with an aspect ratio of 18:9 and FHD+ resolution. The Redmi Note 4 had a 5.5-inch display with prominent bezels, but the new phones have reduced bezels on the side, top and bottom. Both the Redmi Note 5 Pro and Redmi Note 5 have not completely eliminated the side bezels, though this is a taller display with more viewing space. For videos, especially on YouTube, with its ‘Zoom to Fill’ feature, this does make for a better experience for the user. Xiaomi has opted for in-screen buttons and the fingerprint scanner remains at that back.
Redmi Note 5 Pro’s other big design change is the dual rear camera, which is vertically aligned and will remind users of the iPhone X, though this does not look so elegant. Xiaomi has opted for two RGB sensors on the Redmi Note 5 Pro and not picked the telephoto and wide-angle set up which worked so beautifully on the Mi A1. The front camera is now 20MP with selfie flash and Portrait mode option as well. Xiaomi is expected to add face recognition for unlocking the device in March 2018 via an OTA update.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro: What’s good?
Redmi Note 5 Pro’s display is a big plus point for this phone. The good thing is that Xiaomi is bringing the trend of edge-to-edge displays to its budget phones and with this one, the company gets it right. The display quality is top notch as on most Xiaomi phones, with good colour reproduction, though there’s not much to differentiate the Pro and the regular Redmi Note 5 on this front. Of course, what stands out is the extra viewing space, the thin bezels and the overall brightness of the display. The Redmi Note 5 Pro should be good enough for daily use even with under 50 per cent brightness.
The second big change on the Redmi Note 5 Pro is the camera, which I feel has some positives, but there are some issues too, which I will point out later in the review. Redmi Note 5 Pro’s 12MP+5MP camera relies on two RGB sensors and has a Portrait mode as well. The big question is whether Redmi Note 5 Pro’s rear camera is a huge improvement over Redmi Note 4?
I would say yes. The shots are crisper and there is a lot more detail in the images, though I feel the colours in some photos could be brighter. Yes, some pictures come out stunning, provided you have ample lighting, and when you zoom in, details are intact, which is good to see. Coming to the Portrait mode, it is good, but needs some more work.
Some shots I took came out stunning, but it does take long to focus even outdoors when the lighting was fine. This mode does require some patience with Redmi Note 5 Pro unable to make up its mind on whether you are too close to the object or need to move farther away to get the depth effect. However, the Portrait mode works well even with small objects, which is a struggle for most phones.
The selfie camera is a huge improvement over the Redmi Note 4 and the Portrait mode is not bad at all. In fact, if you have the lighting and strike the right pose, the Portrait mode on the selfie camera is impressive for its price.
When it comes performance of the Redmi Note 5 Pro sports the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor with Xiaomi claiming a “flagship” performance. In our Antutu benchmark tests, the phone scored above 100,000 plus, which is rare on most phones under Rs 20,000. Games like Asphalt 8, Lara Croft Run worked without any hiccups, and opening multiple tabs on Google Chrome, switching between multiple apps was not an issue on the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with 4000 mAh battery and the device should easily last more than a day with moderate to heavy usage. Battery management is not an issue on the Redmi Note 5 Pro series, though there is no fast-charging on offer here.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro: So what’s not good?
When it comes to performance, I did have one instance where the device did not start for me. I thought this was because the battery had run out, but plugging it back in showed 75 per cent charge. A long press on the power button did get the device back on, but still I was surprised by the problem. While the device does not heat up with prolonged usage, when I had the camera open for more than 10 minutes, I could feel it getting slightly warm on the top. But this was nothing unbearable.
Redmi Note 5 Pro’s lack of fast charging, no type-C USB port is a miss, especially since this variant has Pro added to its name. One major negative would be that this is not on the Android Oreo, unlike its nearest rival Honor 9 Lite. This is a big miss from Xiaomi.
Finally, let’s also talk about the Portrait mode and the camera. It does take longer to focus and I felt the experience on Mi A1 was better. In some Portrait photos, the subject’s skin is too red and the camera needs more software tweaks to get it right. In some photos, I also noticed the object appears blurred and the edges are not in focus. Also, the video recording quality should have improved and Xiaomi’s 1080p is not the sharpest yet.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro: Verdict
If you have the Redmi Note 4 or even the older Redmi Note 3, upgrading to the Redmi Note 5 might not be so appealing, given the processor is still Qualcomm Snapdragon 625. The Redmi Note 5 Pro has a lot more points in its favour, including the better processor, improved camera with newer features and yes that big display.
For those with a budget under Rs 15,000, I would say Redmi Note 5 Pro is one of the best options to consider in the market right now. Otherwise there is the Honor 9 Lite, which has a glass and metal design, and great dual cameras on the front and back, along with the latest Android Oreo.