Redmi Note 5 Pro Review: The all-round package


Xiaomi took the budget segment of India by surprise when they revealed a Pro version of the very famous Redmi Note series in early 2018. But honestly, it was an upgrade that was needed badly in the Note series. Xiaomi has been in the budget game in India for some 5 years now and competition is definitely heating up. With brands like Honor and Lenovo stepping up their game in the Rs 15,000 bracket, it was time Xiaomi displayed why it has been the best seller in India.

We have used the Redmi Note 5 Pro extensively after unboxing it 10 days back. And for the most part, our experience has been very pleasant. To think of it, It’s remarkable how much value Rs 15,000 can now get you. In essence, the Redmi Note 5 Pro symbolizes Xiaomi’s perfect budget smartphone.

We won’t bother you with specs here although we will list them in one place below. Our main focus will be on giving you an idea of user experience.

  • 5.99-inch (2160 × 1080 pixels) Full HD+ 18:9 2.5D curved glass display with 450 nits Brightness, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Protection
  • 1.8GHz Octa-Core Snapdragon 636 14nm Mobile Platform with Adreno 509 GPU
  • 4GB / 6GB LPDDR4x RAM with 64GB storage, expandable memory up to 128GB with microSD
  • Android 7.1.2 (Nougat) with MIUI 9
  • Hybrid Dual SIM (nano + nano / microSD)
  • 12MP rear camera with dual-tone LED Flash, Sony IMX486 sensor, 1.25μm pixel size, f/2.2 aperture, PDAF, secondary 5MP camera with Samsung sensor, 1.12μm pixel size, f/2.0 aperture
  • 20MP front-facing camera with Sony IMX376 sensor, f/2.2 aperture, LED flash, 1080p video recording
  • Fingerprint sensor, Infrared sensor
  • Dimensions: 158.6×75.4×8.05mm; Weight: 181g
  • 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4GHz + 5GHz), Bluetooth 5, GPS + GLONASS
  • 4000mAh

Build Quality of the Redmi Note 5 Pro

Redmi Note 5 Pro

In terms of build quality, Xiaomi keeps the 2-year old design language intact, especially when you look at the metallic back of the phone. We feel that Xiaomi could have done better, had they gotten rid of the silver linings on the top and back. The Mi A1 looks great in this respect blending the antenna lines with the edges. The metallic finish also has its pros and cons. It provides a great grip as compared to the slippery finish of glass designs like the Honor 9 Lite. However, the Honor 9 Lite looks just awesome with its shimmery liquid-glass like build. But it also slips on any surface with even a little tilt. The Redmi Note 5 Pro is also quite sturdy as there are no squeaks like some plastic phones. The volume and power buttons are tactile and don’t wobble which is nice to see.

The Redmi Note 5 Pro is a bit heavy compared to some phones with 3000mAh batteries like the Mi A1. It tips the scales at 181 grams but it is a trade-off we are willing to make for long battery life. Still, it is the thinnest phone Xioami has made in the Redmi Note series with 8.05mm thickness. It is a tad bit taller than the Redmi Note 4 but width difference is almost unnoticeable. Still, one-hand usage is very hard because of the 6.0-inch screen and the elongated 2:1 aspect ratio. Especially, with my big hands, I still couldn’t use it that way.

Redmi Note 5 Pro

One more thing, the vertically stacked dual rear camera protrudes a bit from the chassis. If you use the phone without a case it will not stay flat on its back which is a bit of an annoyance. The camera module might accumulate scratches in the long term due to this. For, that it’s recommended that the bundled silicone case be used with it.

Performance of the Redmi Note 5 Pro

Casual use

With the Snapdragon 636 SoC, the Redmi Note 5 Pro was bound to see increments. The new SoC comes with Kryo 260 Cores sharing its DNA with the Snapdragon 660 SoC. Unsurprisingly, the handset absolutely flies through casual usage tests. The app animations are buttery smooth and there isn’t anything to complain about in that respect. But, you might not find much of a difference compared to the Snapdragon 625 chip. The handset also does reasonably well in multi-tasking too. We found at least 4 to 5 apps remain in memory and don’t have to be reloaded. This is for the 4GB variant, the 6GB variant could even be better than that.

Gaming

In terms of gaming, I did not notice any lag whatsoever. I tested the handset with graphics intensive games like Modern Combat 5, and Asphalt 8. Although I don’t game for long periods of time, the Redmi Note 5 Pro simply ran through it like a champ. Less resource intensive games like Clash of Clans were a joy to play on the bigger 6.0-inch immersive screen.

For heavy games, I tried Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5 among others. Suffice to say that it ran them without any frame drops whatsoever. Even with maxed out graphics, the Snapdragon 636 chip shows its class. In a nutshell, heavy gaming shouldn’t be a problem since these two are graphics intensive games.

There have been some user complains about specific games that are not playable on the Redmi Note 5 Pro like Modern Combat 5. Some users have said that the game asks them to use R and L button on their gamepad when there was none connected. There are others which are facing gyroscope issues and some are facing frequent screen locks. While I did not face any such issues whatsoever, I’m sure these can be fixed with an OTA update, hence they are not a deal breaker. Xiaomi was quick to issue a bug fix for the headphone low volume issue on the handset. We’re hoping these new found issues will be taken care of in similar fashion.

All in all, the Redmi Note 5 Pro performance is what sets it apart from other mid-range handsets. Especially, in gaming, where the Snapdragon 625 can get hick-ups from time to time, the Snapdragon 636 does not need to pause for a second. The Honor 9 Lite, in comparison, is quite noticeably sluggish at specific times. For example, it stutters at the downpour of data when you turn on the internet after a period of being offline. With the Redmi Note 5 Pro, we only had such an issue once. After that, there have been no such stutters.

Sound and call quality

I tested the handset over the Jio 4G network in Gujarat. And network reception was fairly good. Call quality was also great and overall I don’t have any issues in this department. Audio output via the speaker was standard. It wasn’t anything exceptional but it does the job. I found it to be better than the Honor 9 Lite speaker.

Battery Life of the Redmi Note 5 Pro

Xiaomi’s battery otimization is top-notch

One of the main focuses of MIUI 9 was battery optimizations. And Xiaomi has done its job well. The 4,000mAh battery lasted me the whole day easily with juice left in the tank to take me at least through the night. To give you an idea, my phone remains on Wi-Fi the whole day. Occasionally, I switch to data which is rare. My typical day involves lots of YouTube video content, football watching, and gaming like Clash of Clans. Also, I use Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn frequently the whole day. However, gaming and video content is reserved for the latter part of the day after evening.

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Most of my charge remains intact till then. As I am writing this at 8 PM night, my current charge is at 58%. That is when I haven’t used it for much video content today. Stand-by times are also great as the handset drains 3% to 5% max for the whole idle duration of the night.

Redmi Note 5 Pro

One particular complaint is that it lacks fast charging or USB Type-C. Without it, the Redmi Note 5 Pro takes much more time to charge. I don’t have issues with that as I charge just once at night. But more heavy users will probably feel the lack of fast charging much more.

In conclusion, Xiaomi has hit the sweet spot between phone thickness and battery size. Most mid-range phones like the Honor 9 Lite compromise on battery life with a 3,000mAh package. The Redmi Note 5 Pro gets full marks for a bigger battery.

Software (MIUI 9) and Display

The thin-bezel 6.0-inch display grabs attention

The bigger screen did spoil me for other thick-bezel devices. I didn’t notice it until I took the Redmi Note 4 in my hand and played with it. While the bezels didn’t seem awful, they did distract me more from the content. The big screen creates punchy colours and daylight legibility is also great. The display definitely makes the upgrade worthwhile. So, yeah, the 6.0-inch display is definitely a plus. The display has a blue light filter that can be set to kick in at night for eye-protection.

I particularly added a section for MIUI 9 because I think it is a distinguishing aspect of  Xioami in varied ways. Honestly, it is a polarising subject, and there’s bound to be likes and dislikes. However, I strongly believe that Xioami can win fans if it provides choices. For example, MIUI 9 does not have an app drawer. Is it that hard for the company to provide the user a choice to enable or disable the app drawer? I’m sure, many people avoid Chinese skins for the same reason. With a built-in option for enabling an app drawer, Xiaomi can win precious users and admiration as well.

Redmi Note 5 Pro

Similarly, the battery is adequately big and the software is oiled well to make it last longer. But Xiaomi can still give users an ultra power saving mode. Currently, the battery saver on MIUI 9 is very coarse letting users just monitor background apps. An ultra power saving mode would prove invaluable for heavy users as well as average user who travel a lot.

Some things in MIUI 9 do need more work. For example, Quick Replies made it to Android with Nougat. MIUI 9 also has Quick Replies that allows you to text right from the notification shade. But It works with 2 finger swipe gesture. In fact, If not for my friend, I thought MIUI 9 didn’t have Quick Replies. Normally, you’d just need to tap to begin a quick reply. Why make it so hard, Xiaomi? Also, notifications are not bundled together in MIUI 9 which means you’ll have a long list of them. I couldn’t help but notice this. Again, these things aren’t deal breakers but Xiaomi can focus on them to make MIUI 9 an unparalleled favourite skin of Android.

All this doesn’t take away from the fact that MIUI 9 has its strong positive points as well. It has a very good and active Theme Store with lots and lots of themes. Users can now also tweak just specific aspects of the UI like the fonts or wallpaper, or icons. It is zippy and fast too. The battery optimization is really good. It also comes with a good balance of features that add value like the Second Space feature, dual apps feature and double tap to wake feature. There’s more but we like these a lot.

Redmi Note 5 Pro
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The Redmi Note 5 Pro, in particular, also has Face Unlock. We used Face Unlock and it works for the most part. The feature does need polishing as it did fail to recognize us in well-lit conditions as well sometimes. However, don’t expect it to work well on low-light conditions. In terms of accuracy, we think the Honor 9 Lite does a good job and we were impressed with its accurate detection.

Camera

We’re looking at Xiaomi’s best Redmi Note cameras to date

Xiaomi has aptly named the Redmi Note 5 Pro a “Camera Beast”. The dual shooters of the consist of one 12MP shooter and a secondary depth sensor of 5MP. The UI of the camera is pretty simple. Sadly, HDR is not enabled by default. You have to turn it on or off. The primary sensor is of 1.25µm size and f/2.2 aperture, while the secondary camera has 1.12µm sensor and f/2.0. Portrait mode works great on the device.

The front camera delivers accurate colour reproduction and a good amount of details. Low-light photos are also much better now. The Bokeh effect is also impressive as the edge detection algorithm is bang on. As for video, the Redmi Note 5 Pro doesn’t support 4K recording for now but it does have EIS. And it does a good job at image stabilization. Also, the quality from the photo section part is carried forward to the video department.

The front camera which has been largely neglected thus far has received a substantial 20MP upgrade. Thankfully, this lets Xiaomi compete with the Oppos and Vivos of today. There’s a Beautify feature for selfies that has 5 levels of customization. However, it doesn’t turn you into an anime character like some other phones do. In our testing, we were very pleased with the extra amount of detail the sensor can collect. Xiaomi has finally covered a major shortcoming in its Redmi Note series.

Our Opinion:

It is a killer deal

If you’re in the market for a budget phone under Rs 15k or Rs 18k, you cannot afford to forget the Redmi Note 5 Pro. It should be your first priority. The processor is exceptionally a great performer at this price point. And Xiaomi has placed the bar very high this time around. It will take one hell of a handset to beat the Redmi Note 5 Pro. As of now, it sits unrivalled at the with a Rs 14k price tag. The handset not only has a very powerful processor, it also boasts a great thin bezel display, a reliable battery, and finally a great camera. It is defnitely the all-round budget beast.

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