Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 review: Hitting almost all the right notes

Can Xiaomi's latest take the mid-range crown?
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5
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The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 is finally here! It was the device I had been waiting to get my hands on ever since it was announced in India about two to three months ago.

However, ever the sceptic, I was afraid Xiaomi may have set the bar a little too high for themselves as what was on offer with the Redmi Note 5 seemed a little too good to be true.

So, the question is, does it live up to the hype or does it fall flat on its face? Continue reading my review of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 to see how it fares.

Design & Build

First impressions wise, the Redmi Note 5 looks a lot like the Redmi 5, which shouldn’t come to a surprise as this is essentially a scaled up version of the aforementioned device. It’s however just a smidgen taller and noticeably heavier.

Like I mentioned in my review of the Redmi 5, I was definitely a happy camper as the review unit I received came in the always classy all-black colour scheme. Other colours include Gold and Lake Blue.

The front of the device is unmistakably Xiaomi and while it is a little plain, I have to say I am a fan. Similar to the Redmi 5 and most of the newer smartphones making their way into the market, this smartphone sports a tall 5.99″ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Another similar trait the Redmi Note 5 shares with its little brother is the fact that it no longer has capacitive buttons, instead, Xiaomi has decided to keep it all digital.

I’m also really glad that Xiaomi hasn’t jumped on the notch bandwagon because I personally like the balanced “forehead” and “chin”. It definitely would be even nicer if Xiaomi had gone and fitted those two spots with front-facing stereo speakers. Other than that, the front of the device just houses the speaker, 13MP selfie camera, selfie flash and sensors.

As for the rear, you’re probably going to be bored of hearing this by now but the Redmi Note 5 takes cues from the iPhone X, especially when it comes to the dual camera placement. Putting that little fact aside, the slightly curved back and edges of the aluminium body make the Redmi Note 5 a joy to hold albeit being a little slippery, which is why the bundled ultra-slim case is a much welcomed addition. Located right smack in the middle of the rear is the fingerprint sensor and that’s about it.

The standard features are located around the familiar spots – extremely clicky and tactile volume rocker and power button on the right; hybrid SIM tray on the left; IR blaster and noise cancelling mic on the top and finally a micro USB port flanked by the 3.5mm headphone jack and single down-firing speaker.

Overall, there’s really not much to complain about the design of the Redmi Note 5 except for a few things. It’s comfortable to hold and feels extremely sturdy but is just a tad slippery.  It only has a single speaker but it’s loud and produces very clear sound with minimal distortion. My main gripe, why is this still using a micro USB port and not a USB Type-C port, Xiaomi?

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

What’s in the box

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

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5
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Hardware

Essentially, the Redmi Note 5 comes in three different variants but as far as I know, Xiaomi has no plans to bring the Pro variant, which comes with 6GB of RAM to Malaysia. The review unit I had was the one with 4GB LPDDR4X RAM and 64GB internal storage (expandable up to 25GB using a microSD card).

One of the major selling points for the Redmi Note 5 is the fact that it is powered by the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 1.8GHz octa-core CPU, which is built with the Kryo 260 cores usually found in Qualcomm’s higher-end CPUs such as the Snapdragon 660. The 14nm architecture also boasts enhanced battery efficiency and the Adreno 509 GPU is said to be able to run MOST of the latest games.

Speaking of battery life, the Redmi Note 5 comes with a sizeable 4,000mAh battery, which trumps most of the flagships we have in the market today.

In terms of display, Xiaomi has fitted this smartphone with a 5.99″ IPS LCD display with a Full HD+ 2160×1080 resolution. The display doesn’t disappoint as it produces accurate and vibrant colours and pictures retain an incredible amount of detail. The brightness can also be cranked up immensely so using it under direct sunlight is a non-issue. I also found text to be very crisp and clear with no bleeding whatsoever.

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As mentioned before, the Redmi Note 5 comes with a hybrid SIM tray where both SIM card slots support 4G+ LTE but when both SIM slots are used, only the primary slot supports LTE.

Other than that, it supports Bluetooth 5.0/HID, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5G Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Display, GPS, A-GPS and GLONASS.

Overall, I’d say the internal hardware package for the Redmi Note 5 is very impressive for a device at this price point.

Software

From what I understand, out-of-the-box the Redmi Note 5 is supposed to run on Android 7.1.2 with MIUI 9 layered on top. However, when I got the device, it had been updated to Android 8.1 with MIUI 9.5.

By now, you should know that MIUI is a skin that is heavily influenced by iOS as it doesn’t have an app drawer but on the plus side it has the extreme customisability and versatility that Android offers. As a whole MIUI 9.5 looks very similar to MIUI 9.

However, with MIUI 9.5 comes a bunch of new features and one worth mentioning is how you can remove the software buttons and go full-on gesture mode. It takes a bit of getting used to but it is actually quite intuitive.

With this mode enabled, you swipe from the bottom up to go to the home screen; do that same gesture but hold it for a few seconds to open the recent apps screen and swip from the left or right edge to go back when you’re in apps.

The overall experience of these gestures was smooth and easy to learn but I found myself very quickly reverting to the software buttons as I like being able to quickly double tap the recent apps button to jump back and forth two apps.

If you’ve been a fan or a long-time user of MIUI, you will definitely easily spot all the changes such as the new notification shade and grouping and also redesigned MI apps.

As a whole, MIUI 9.5 is more of an incremental update but it is extremely snappy and runs without a problem.

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

Performance

You can possibly tell by now that I am quite fond of the Redmi Note 5’s build and design and also the hardware it packs but it would all have come to nought if it didn’t deliver in terms of performance. On that note, I have to say that the performance of this smartphone didn’t disappoint at all.

On the synthetic benchmark front, it produced scores that were quite impressive for a device with its specifications and hardware.

Much like most users though, what really matters to me is the day-to-day performance of the device. How smooth it runs and if it enables me to multitask without constantly needing to close apps running in the background.

Once again, I am happy to report that the Redmi Note 5 doesn’t disappoint. I used the device for an entire month and most of the time the device just breezed through my daily tasks and routines. It would occassionally have the odd stutter and lag but closing an app or two sorted that out very quickly.

I am by no means a heavy user but I do tend to leave multiple social media apps such as Whatsapp, Telegram, Instagram and Facebook open alongside Spotify, Firefox and Bleacher Report open. Nothing too crazy and I believe it’s a list of apps that most users would have running day-to-day and it handled all of them with no issues.

Multi-tasking was a breeze as I was able to very easily go back and forth from one app to another. I could even edit photos on Snapseed while streaming music on Spotify with no issues. There were times where I even watched videos and was chatting on Whatsapp using the split screen feature and even that was no problem for the device.

As for games and graphics performance, the Adreno 509 handled my standard suite of test games which include WWE Immortals, Asphalt 8, Dead Trigger 2 and Into the Dead 2 with no problems whatsoever. The only one that proved to be a challenge is still the reigning champion, Injustice 2. That game was downright unplayable as loading took minutes, gameplay lagged and voices weren’t in sync.

The cherry on top of the icing on top of this ice cream cake is the battery life of the Redmi Note 5 as it is superb! My daily routine usually sees me unplugging my phone at about 7am and calling it a day at 12am. My usage varies day to day and on days where I’d barely touch the phone, I’d still have more than 50% of juice left by the end of those days. On a particularly less busy day, I even saw myself with about 60% of battery left. However, on one my very busy days, where I used Bluetooth and Waze and also streamed music frequently, I still had about 28% of battery by the end of the day.

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So with that said, if you’re an extremely light or frugal user, the Redmi Note 5 will easily last you a day no problem and might even last you half of the next day before needing a recharge.

Last but not least, Xiaomi have also fitted the Redmi Note 5 with a dual camera setup, which is in line with the current trends. On this device, we get a combination of a 12MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture and a 5MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture. The second sensor is used to create that bokeh (blurred background) effect, which is now a must for selfies.

All in all, the camera setup is really quite good for a device in this price segment. It’s fast to focus and is able to take beautiful shots with accurate colours and details especially in good lighting conditions.

One little gripe I have to mention is the same one when I reviewed the Redmi 5, when HDR turned on, it can sometimes cause photos to get very overexposed and colours were literally washed out quite severely. So do use HDR with caution.

In low light however, the pictures produced are a mixed bag. Sometimes they turn out very nicely while other times they come out grainy and blurry. This is due to a few reasons, the first being the 1.4 micron pixel size on the main sensor, which enables it to absorb more light and the dual-pixel autofocus system that helps it to focus on subjects faster. The lack of optical image stabilisation on the other hand, makes it easy for photos to appear blur especially if you have shaky hands or moving subjects.

With that secondary 5MP sensor, the Redmi Note 5 also excels in Portrait Mode as most of the time it is able to detect edges fairly accurately. It’s also a hit and miss but when it works, portraits look really good.

The front 13MP selfie shooter also performs adequately. Similar to most devices in this price range, it’s recommended that you take your selfies in well-lit conditions to get selfies with good colours and details. Even though it features a selfie flash, it can sometimes make photos get a little overexposed.

Pros:

  • Insane value for money
  • MIUI 9 is snappy
  • Impressive battery life
  • Support for QuickCharge 2.0
  • Good overall performance
  • Solid & comfortable design
  • Bright & brilliant 18:9 display

Cons:

  • MIUI is still an acquired taste
  • No USB Type-C
  • No water- or dust-resistance
  • No QuickCharge adapter

Pricing and availability

The Redmi Note 5 is priced at MYR799 for the 3GB RAM + 32GB storage version, and MYR999 for the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage version. The device will be available for pre-order starting 25 April exclusively on Lazada Malaysia. It will be available at all Mi authorised stores from 5 May 2018.

For more information, visit Mi.com.

Verdict

Without a doubt, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 is possibly one of the best devices the company has launched this year and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat especially for users who are looking for a fairly inexpensive device that performs close to flagship levels.

For the price you pay, the Redmi Note 5 is really quite a package as it checks just about every box that would satisfy most users today. Yes, some compromises had to be made but they don’t really detract any thing from the device as a whole.

#60secreview

Sample Photos

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

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 sample shot
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SUMMARY & RESULTS

Without a doubt, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 is possibly one of the best devices the company has launched this year and I'd recommend it in a heartbeat especially for users who are looking for a fairly inexpensive device that performs close to flagship levels.

4.3

The wait for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 to arrive was definitely worth it. If you're looking for a real bang for your buck device, look no further.

Review

  • Design & Build

  • Hardware

  • Software

  • Performance

  • Pricing & Value for Money

  • Show Comments (6)

  • Gan

    Any issues with the GPS? I’m on MIUI 9.5 and GPS just won’t lock on any navigational app have to reboot and it works and after a while it doesn’t…

    Seems to be a very common issue faced by a lot of users.
    Thanks

  • Naz Jk

    how about camera quality?

    • Vernon

      Not a bad camera at all. Check out the gallery page.

  • Gan

    Any issues with the GPS? I’m on MIUI 9.5 and GPS just won’t lock on any navigational app have to reboot and it works and after a while it doesn’t…

    Seems to be a very common issue faced by a lot of users.
    Thanks

  • Naz Jk

    how about camera quality?

    • Vernon

      Not a bad camera at all. Check out the gallery page.

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