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The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is currently the best smartphone you can buy in the sub 15K segment. It offers excellent performance, has a two-day battery life, both front and rear cameras are good and it has a sturdy build quality.
In just a few years Xiaomi has outshined most of its competition in the budget segment. While the older Redmi phones were good, the tides turned in 2016 with the launch of the Redmi Note 3, which was a superb phone in all regards. It won our best phone under the budget category award for the year and last year, the award was claimed by the Redmi Note 4. You can see a trend here, the phones were just that good. Hence, the new Redmi Note 5 Pro has a lot to live up to. Yes, there is the Redmi Note 5 as well, but this is the phone which is the true successor to last year’s Redmi Note 4.
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The new phone brings a dual camera and the Univisium display to the Redmi line, which thanks to Honor and many others, have become the norm in the category. However, that was more or less expected from a phone launching in 2018. That said, according to us, the newest aspect of the device is the chip that powers it. The Snapdragon 636 is not just a new chip, the Note 5 Pro is the first phone to bring it to India and combined with 4000mAh battery (again), Xiaomi might just have a winner at its hands.
Build and Design: New Design, same approach
With the Redmi Note 4 we had a small complaint about the width of the phone and with the Note 5 and the Note 5 Pro, that has been resolved. Xiaomi’s solution is to provide a taller 18:9 aspect ratio display. The taller 5.99-inch 2160 x 1080p display is still not the best size for a comfortable fit, even though the width is now lesser than Its predecessor. That said, it is definitely an improvement over the last phone. The display has rounded corners and thinner bezels, which add to the whole design appeal. The curved back does make the phone easier to grip, but at the same time, it feels heavy and does take some time getting used to. There is no improvement as such in terms of materials used and unlike the Moto G5s Plus or the Mi A1, the Redmi Note 5 still doesn't have a metal unibody. It still has plastic inserts on both the top and bottom of the metal back to incorporate the antennas.
The dual cameras at the rear also come with a rather pronounced camera bump, which means the phone rocks everytime you tap on the display if it’s on a flat surface. Ideally, the rather large dual camera module at the rear should have been sitting flush with the body and not jutting out. All that said, the Redmi series was never really about the looks. Over the years, it has maintained its utilitarian and accessible approach towards design and build quality, and this new variant is no different.
Display and UI: Nothing to complain about, except Oreo
Things get a little exciting as on this 18:9 display, the newer MIUI 9 feels at home. The 5.99-inch display here is just as good as we have come to see on Xiaomi devices. Xiaomi is still using an IPS LCD panel on the phone which has good viewing angles and good colour reproduction. The colour fidelity is not perfect, by default, the display is calibrated to push out slightly warmer tones, which looks quite pleasing to view in day-to-day use. We have no complaints about the touch response but, Xiaomi doesn’t specify whether the Redmi Note 5 Pro has Gorilla Glass on top for that added safety. One could guess that it has some kind of toughened glass but not the latest gorilla glass protection.
MIUI looks just as colourful as it has been over the years. The first thing we should mention that you are not getting Android Oreo out of the box. This is somewhat disappointing as Oreo is the latest version of the OS and brings not just added security but support for Contextual press-to-hold options, Adaptive icons, bundled notifications, better notifications controls, background app management, faster and better support for applications. Moreover, a recent poll done by Xiaomi itself suggest that customers not only prefer the latest Android, but the stock version of Android over MIUI. However, that poll was that taken down by the company.
On the Note 5 Pro, MIUI9 carries forward it's no app drawer approach and tries to offer some added features such as dual apps and second space. With dual apps, one can run separate accounts of the same service/app and the second space functionality provides separate user experiences for example for work and home. Both are available in the settings menu. Besides that, you get some pre-loaded apps such as Microsoft apps, Facebook, Amazon, Myntra and Amazon Prime Videos app. You still get the added tools (calculator, clock, file manager, etc) and Xiaomi also has its own app store on-board which seems completely unnecessary since Google Play store is already here.
The UI also seems to be optimised towards offering better battery life out of the box and keeps the brightness always a little lower than required. It works and we are happy for that, more on that later.
Performance: Pushing the envelope even further
The main feature as we mentioned earlier seems to be the new chip on the phone aka Qualcomm Snapdragon 636. Xiaomi told us that it is the “spiritual successor” to the Redmi Note 3, which got rave reviews thanks to the Snapdragon 650, which back in 2016 blew every other phone out of the water. Xiaomi wants to relive that success story and says that the company has been closely listening to its Mi fans and thus we have this phone. Manufactured on a 14nm process the SD636 uses eight Kryo 260 cores clocked at 1.8GHz and is more similar to the Snapdragon 660 which uses the same Kryo 260 core clocked at 2.2GHz. Qualcomm claims that the Kryo 260 allows for 40% better performance than the Snapdragon 630 powered by eight ARM A53 cores. Along with an Adreno 509 GPU, the Redmi Note 5 Pro just blazes past every other phone at the same price point in synthetic benchmarks.
The story is pretty similar in day-to-day tasks and we saw the phone outperform each and every budget phone we have tested at the same price bracket (currently available). Be it the loading times in Injustice 2, opening multiple apps or just switching between multiple heavy apps and games. We even opened all available apps on the phone which were more than 50 and even that couldn't bring the phone to a halt. However, during our use, the system always ran a little heavy with 600MB - 800MB free out of the 4GB of available RAM. The phone never felt slower in comparison to its rivals. When taxed to its limits, the Redmi Note 5 Pro does occasionally show signs of lag. Though the lag will only be perceivable if you have used a flagship class phone prior (for instance, OnePlus 5). Otherwise, you will be happy with the performance.
The other good thing we observed that the phone hardly gets warm after playing on the phone for an hour straight. Xiaomi says that the phone has a single pyrolytic graphite sheet which decreases the temperature by 1-degree celsius. The audio quality with the equalizer enabled is as good as any other phone under 25K and we have no issues with the quality and reception of calls.
Battery life: Still runs for two days straight
As we mentioned earlier, the UI on the device has a tendency to lower brightness slightly more than required and is more optimized to save battery life. That combined with a 4000mAh battery and a power efficient SoC means that you get up to two days of battery life out of this phone quite easily. The battery just won’t die in a day. We tried draining the battery with multiple apps in the background and playing Injustice 2 with headphones on and after two hours gaming, the battery went down by just 20% percent. If you haven't calculated that yet, that is almost 9-10 hours of heavy gaming. Streaming videos on the larger display is a joy and the battery life will easily move into double digits, even if you are watching everything in full brightness. We liked the battery life on the Redmi Note 4 and with that big bump in performance, we are loving the battery life on the Note 5 Pro.
Camera: The new best
It seems like Xiaomi has been not just listening to its Mi fans, but had an ear open to the feedback most of us reviewers provided last year about the camera. The new dual camera setup, though looks inspired offers much better results than its predecessors. You have a 12MP primary camera (Sony IMX486) with a sensor size of 1.25um and an aperture of f/2.2. The secondary 5MP camera is used for depth sensing only and has a sensor size of 1.12um with f/2.0 aperture.
In ample lighting conditions, the camera captures a good amount of details and has a punchy colour reproduction. The colour reproduction is a little exaggerated, but it's not too far off and at the end of the day will looks pleasing to the normal user. Low light image capabilities are equally good and the camera has good dynamic range. The images captured in low light conditions, retain details quite well and keep the colours in check. If you ask us, this is as good a camera as the Mi A1 and in some areas even beats the Mi A1. For reference, Xiaomi Mi A1 has been our top rated camera in the 15K segment.
The secondary camera at the back does not offer optical zoom, the main purpose is depth sensing. That said, it does help in the image quality and offering better subject separation. From all the images we have taken so far, the portrait images look better than most of its competitors. They carry plenty of details and the background blur is also quite good for the price. We also liked the fact that there is no beautify settings in the portrait mode, which means you will be getting natural looking portraits.
Compared to the camera quality, the video mode on the phone is rather disappointing. First, the video is cropped down to 8.3MP to produce a 1080p video, which is the max resolution the phone can shoot in and then the quality of the video is not great. Also, the phone cannot shoot in more than 30fps, even though the SD636 is capable of shooting up to 4K UltraHD capture @ 30fps and 1080p videos can shot @120fps
At the front, the phone features a 20MP IMX376 sensor which takes good images in all kinds of lighting conditions. There is a front-facing flash as well, which does blind you when you take the image, but the images do not look as burnt out as such. You also get software based portrait image, which lets you take that ‘Bokeh’ image with background blur and is decent at best, but not as good as the one you will get from the rear camera.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is quite simply the new king in its segment. It offers the sought after combination of performance (speed) and brilliant battery life. The display is good and both the rear and front cameras leave little room for any complaints. We just feel Xiaomi should have launched the phone with Android 8.0 out of the box and with USB Type-C. Xiaomi claims to be the number 1 smartphone brand in the country and has the ability to set the standard higher, so why not walk the talk?
That said, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro comes out as a winner and sets the benchmark for all mid-tier smartphones coming out this year. It is quite simply the best phone you can buy today at its price.