Xiaomi Redmi 5 review: The littlest Mi grows up

The budget Xiaomi for the rest of us
Xiaomi Redmi 5
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Is it just me or has Xiaomi been extremely active over the last couple of months? It seems like the Chinese tech giant has had a very bountiful harvest, releasing one new smartphone after the other.

Personally, I won’t say it’s a bad thing as they continue to disrupt the market and give consumers a lot more bang-for-buck choices. Take for example their latest smartphone I got to review, the Xiaomi Redmi 5. What used to be the company’s entry-level series has now inched its way into the mid-range segment and it’s got quite a lot to offer. So, here are my thoughts on the lowest-end Redmi 5.

Design & Build

Quite frankly, after reviewing the Mi A1 and then the Redmi Note 5A Prime, I was feeling a little unenthusiastic when it came to unboxing the Redmi 5. The reason for this was because I was half expecting to get another gold-coloured device. And at first I thought that was really the case as I was greeted by that familiar white facade.

But surprise surprise, the moment I turned the phone around, I was greeted with this very attractive metallic baby blue aluminium back. I couldn’t help but to let out a shout of joy. Now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and waiting for the day Xiaomi actually does away with this combination of white front and coloured back design for all their range of devices.

Much like what I said in the intro for this review, the Redmi line has really matured. The cheap plastic build is gone and now built using aluminium. So, it’s much more sturdily built yet still maintains a lightweight. With that said though, the device can be a little slippery, so it’s nice that Xiaomi threw in an ultra-slim silicone case with the phone.

Furthermore, this is Xiaomi’s second device to sport a 18:9 display besides the Mi Mix 2, which is pretty much in line with the current smartphone design trends. While it has a 5.7″ display, the phone is taller and not wider, making it comfortable to hold and operate one handed. The 18:9 display also means you get more screen real estate and less bezels.

Layout wise, nothing much has really changed except for the fact that the Redmi 5 no longer has capacitive buttons on the chin of the phone, instead, it now has software keys. Located on the front and right on top of the phone you will find the usual suspects such as the 5MP selfie camera, selfie flash, receiver and of course the proximity/light sensor module.

Right above that, you get the IR blaster, which is always welcomed; a microphone and the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is also always great to have. On the bottom, there’s the micro-USB port, which is kind of a bummer as I would have expected Xiaomi to equip all their 2018 devices with USB-C by now. The micro USB port sits between two speaker grilles, where like the Redmi Note 5A Prime, only one houses the speaker. While it gets quite loud at max volume, there’s quite a fair bit of distortion and it sounds a little muffled.

On the left side of the phone sits the hybrid SIM tray, which means the device supports dual SIM cards but if you want extra storage, you will have to forego that functionality. On the right, we have the standard volume rockers and power/lock button which are very clicky and tactile.

Finally, situated in the centre of the back of the device are the fingerprint scanner and 12MP rear camera. I’ve always been a fan of rear-mounted fingerprint scanners as I find that it’s the most naturally and easiest way to reach them. The Redmi 5’s fingerprint scanner is a real joy to use as it unlocks the device in a fraction of a second.

In terms of its build quality, I have to say I am very happy and impressed with what Xiaomi has done with the Redmi 5, a nice evolution or maturation of the series.

[nextpage title=”Hardware, Software, In the Box”]

What’s in the box

  • Redmi 5 unit
  • Ultra-slim case
  • Micro USB cable
  • Power adapter
  • User guide/Warranty card
  • SIM insertion tool

Xiaomi Redmi 5
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Hardware

If you don’t already know, Xiaomi released three variations of the Redmi 5. There’s the regular Redmi 5, the Plus and the Pro (which is really a rebadge Redmi Plus depending on market/region). The one I got to review was the regular Redmi 5, which is the lowest end of the trio.

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While this may be considered low-end, it still is quite a far cry from what we used to get in the previous generations of Redmis. For this variation of the Redmi 5, Xiaomi have equipped it with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor running at 1.8GHz and the Andreno 506 GPU, which is by no means a slouch.

On top of that, you can also choose between a 2GB RAM or 3GB RAM variant, with either a 16GB or 32GB worth of internal storage respectively. I’m privileged to be reviewing the 3GB RAM version. Out of the box, you have about 25GB of space left so that’s not too bad. But as always, if you need more, there’s the ever handy microSD slot.

As for its 5.7″ 18:9 aspect ratio display, it has a 1440×720 HD+ resolution and as per Xiaomi’s reputation, the display can either be very dark or super bright. Even under bright sunlight, I had no problem reading articles or text messages. The display also produces fairly accurate and vivid colours and has good viewing angles. I also noticed that texts were very crisp and had no bleeding whatsoever. Overall, I would say that this is a very good display for a “budget” device.

To keep the Redmi 5’s lights on Xiaomi have fitted it with a 3,300mAh battery. This is definitely one of the highlights of the device, however, one little complaint I would have for it is the fact that it doesn’t support fast charging.

Finally, the Redmi 5 supports networks up to 4G LTE, supports Bluetooth 4.2/HID, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4/Wi-Fi Direct / Wi-Fi Display, GPS, A-GPS and GLONASS. As icing on the cake, both SIM card slots support 4G LTE but much like any other device, you can’t set both on 4G simultaneously.

Software

In the software department, there’s really nothing much I can say because it’s essentially the same as when I reviewed the Redmi Note 5A Prime, which is a little disappointing as I was hoping MIUI would have made the leap to Android Oreo by now.

So yes, the Redmi 5 is still based on Android 7 Nougat with MIUI 9 laid on top. Again, it’s one of those things where you either love or hate. As for me, I really have no qualms about MIUI 9 as it is still very fast and fluid. The only downside for me would be the bloatware pre-installed with the device. Some of them do come in handy but others not so much.

But quite frankly, if you’re reading this review, you probably know what you’re in for when it comes to Xiaomi’s devices and MIUI.

Overall, I’ve no real complaints about the software other than the fact that it’s still on an older version.

[nextpage title=”Performance, Pros, Cons, Verdict”]

Performance

Now let’s get down to the bread and butter of the Redmi 5 – its performance.

Honestly speaking, though this supposed to be an entry-level device, it really didn’t perform like it. It won’t break any records in terms of synthetic benchmark scores but overall, the scores were decent and not jaw-dropping bad.

In a real-world situation though, the Redmi 5 did very well and I was satisfied with it. Granted, I’m not exactly a heavy user but I do tend to multitask quite a bit at times and even then the Redmi 5 held up its end of the bargain. I could jump from Whatsapp to Chrome to YouTube smoothly with maybe just a little bit of lag or stutter in between. However, that only happens if I had quite a bit of apps running in the background.

Xiaomi Redmi 5 benchmarks
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As for gaming and graphics, I would say don’t expect extremely pretty graphics from the Redmi 5. I was able to run my standard suite of games such as Into the Dead 2, Dead Trigger 2 and WWE Immortals with no problems save for lower quality graphics. The textures looked a little muddy and anti-aliasing was pretty much non-existent. Games like Asphalt 8 took awhile to load and was laggy while much like the Redmi Note 5A Prime, Injustice 2 didn’t load at all.

That shouldn’t a deal breaker as you should know that you are buying what is essentially an entry-level device. Plus, graphics don’t make a game great, it’s the replayability, gameplay and story that matters most.

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As far as battery life goes, the Redmi 5’s 3,300mAh battery and the efficiency of the Snapdragon 450 is a thing beauty. The Redmi 5 would easily last me a full day and a little bit more on an average day. If I’m going to talk about numbers, my best record was about 17 hours with about 9 hours of usage. Even at that point, I still had about 39% of juice left.

Even on a busier day when I had to do a fair bit of driving, which meant I had Bluetooth, Spotify and Waze on, the device still lasted a full day with about 20% left by the end of the night. So if battery life is a concern to you, you won’t have to worry much when it comes to the Redmi 5.

As per all my reviews, I usually like to end it with the performance of the cameras. The Redmi 5 comes packing a 12MP rear camera with a f/2.2 aperture, which is quite decent for a smartphone at this price. Similar to most budget devices, the performance is a mixed bag. In well-lit conditions, the camera is able to produce very nice shots with accurate colour reproduction and retains a lot of the details of a subject.

While the focusing lightning fast, which is great for moving subjects, I found that sometimes it didn’t quite focus on what I want it to, causing the images I took to lose sharpness and end up being a blurry.

Initially, I thought I would have the similar gripe I had with the Mi A1 and the Redmi Note 5A Prime as HDR isn’t turned on by default. However, with the Redmi 5, I’m actually glad that it isn’t because HDR on this device is really quite aggressive and tended to make brighten up the entire image thus causing colours to look faded and washed out.

Xiaomi Redmi 5 sample shot
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ISO 1600, 3.81mm, f/2.2, 1/25s

Another similarity you would find with the other two devices I reviewed previously is the fact that Redmi 5 just doesn’t do low-light photography very well. There’s plenty of noise, and details and sharpness are downright bad. Without Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) or even Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS), low-light photography is pretty much a no-no.

As for videos, the rear camera is able to record in Full HD resolution and much like stills, it does well in bright conditions, but falters in low-light. Without any stabilisation you’re going to need a tripo, very steady hands or a gimbal to capture moving subjects.

Moving on to the front, the selfie shooter is a 5MP camera with a f/2.0 aperture. Again, it does great in well-lit conditions but falters in low-light. This is to be expected from a smartphone of its caliber.

Overall, I would sum up the Redmi 5’s performance as very decent for a phone at this price range.

Pros:

  • Value for money
  • MIUI 9 is snappy
  • Good battery life
  • Decent overall performance
  • Solid & comfortable design
  • Vibrant 18:9 display

Cons:

  • MIUI is not for everyone
  • Still on Android 7.1
  • No water- or dustproofing
  • 720p display

Pricing and availability

The Xiaomi Redmi 5 retails for MYR599 (incl. GST) and is available for purchase at the Mi Online Store on Lazada Malaysia, the Mi Premium Reseller Store at Queensbay Mall Penang, Mobile to Go at SS2 Petaling Jaya, or at the Direct D outlets.

Verdict

Once again, Xiaomi has proven that they are still kings of the affordable smartphone segment. The Redmi 5 is a real good consideration for those looking for a value-for-money device. It is by no means perfect but it does what it needs to well especially in the battery life and day-to-day performance department.

If you are looking for something a little more powerful then I would suggest opting for the Redmi 5 Plus or the Redmi 5 Pro (when it eventually makes its way here). Both those devices have a much more performance-centric hardware package and the Redmi 5 Pro even comes with a dual-camera setup.

But until then, if you’re looking for an inexpensive device as a spare or as a gift to your parents or kids, you can’t go wrong with the Redmi 5.

[nextpage title=”Gallery”]

All shots are straight from phone with no editing done aside from the addition of watermark. Click to enlarge.

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SUMMARY & RESULTS

Once again, Xiaomi has proven that they are still kings of the affordable smartphone segment. The Redmi 5 is a real good consideration for those looking for a value-for-money device. It is by no means perfect but it does what it needs to well especially in the battery life and day-to-day performance department.

3.8

This may be the lowest-end offering of the Xiaomi Redmi 5 but it is very worthy of consideration especially if you're looking for an good smartphone that doesn't eat into cash for your "rice bowl".

Review

  • Design & Build

  • Hardware

  • Software

  • Performance

  • Pricing & Value for Money

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