Xiaomi’s Redmi line of smartphones has a large of fan base due to the fact that they’re incredibly affordable and usually feature decent hardware in its price range. If the Redmi Note 5A is an indication of the plans Xiaomi has for the Redmi line, then it’s quite likely those plans aren’t going to change anytime soon.
After spending some quality time with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A Prime, I believe the Redmi line has really reached its prime (pun intended) but with that said, I believe it will only continue to get better in the future.
Design & Build
When I first unboxed the device and held it in my hands, it hit me just how far smartphone designs have come and also how Xiaomi keeps getting better with their designs and build quality. Gone are the days of extremely plasticky dinky Redmi devices. If you have ever owned one of the Redmi Note 5A’s predecessors, you will no doubt get what I mean.
The Redmi Note 5A feels like a premium device. While its body isn’t adorned with metal, glass or ceramic, the polycarbonate unibody feels sturdy and doesn’t flex or have any creaks to it. The review unit I received came in a metallic Gold paint job. As you would probably know by now, I’m not a big fan of gold phones in whatever variations they come in. However, I do have to say that the combination of white on the front and metallic Gold on the back does give the Redmi Note 5A a subtle classiness.
Just don’t go tapping on the back of the phone because you will be greeted by hollow taps that immediately kills the illusion of a classy and premium device.
For a device that packs a 5.5-inch display and a 3,080mAh battery, the Redmi Note 5A is unbelievably slim, 7.7mm to be precise, and lightweight, weighing just 153g. Even for someone with relatively small hands like myself, holding and using the device one-handed was extremely comfortable.
Most of the features you’d expect from a Xiaomi device can be found in the usual spots around the phone. On the front, above the display lies the LED notification, 16MP front facing camera, ambient light sensor and “soft-toned” selfie-light. Below the display are capacitive keys in Xiaomi’s standard layout. Do take note that these keys DO NOT light up, which is a little bit of a shame but not a deal breaker.
As for the top of the device, there’s the 3.5mm headphone jack, IR blaster and microphone for noise reduction. On the bottom, there’s the micro USB port and two speaker grills with only one housing the downward firing speaker, the other houses the other microphone. Although the dual speaker grills do give the device a more uniformed look, it is very deceiving and does nothing to help enhance the sound of the speaker. With that said though, the speaker is quite loud.
On the sides of the device, the volume rockers and power/lock button is on located on the right. The buttons are responsive but feel just a little mushy. As for the left side, there’s only the 2+1 hybrid SIM tray. With that being said, one of the great things about the Redmi Not 5A is the fact that you don’t have to sacrifice a SIM card for a microSD card as the tray can actually fit all three in one go.
Finally, on the back of the device, there’s the 13MP camera, single LED flash and fingerprint scanner. As to be expected from most devices these days, the fingerprint scanner is accurate and fast and can even be used as a shutter button when using the camera.
[nextpage title=”Hardware, Software, In the Box”]
What’s in the box
- Redmi Note 5A Prime unit
- Micro USB cable
- Power adapter
- User guide/Warranty card
- SIM insertion tool
Now that the externals are out of the way, let’s focus on what makes this phone tick. Hidden under the polycarbonate body is a lower mid-range setup. At the heart of the Redmi Note 5A lies a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 complemented by the Adreno 505 GPU, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage (25GB usable). If that’s not enough, as I mentioned above, you can always expand the storage further with a micro SD card of up to 128GB.
Overall, the hardware package really doesn’t look like much but for those who aren’t really heavy users, the device should do the job nicely.
The 5.5-inch display has a 1280×720 HD resolution that has good colour accuracy and viewing angles. However, since this is a 720p panel, it just isn’t as sharp especially when it comes to text. I read quite a fair amount of articles on my phones, so it’s quite easy to spot soft edges and also minor bleeding around the texts.
As for brightness, while it specs sheet says it can go up to 450-nits, the display can actually go really bright or dark. When set to the lowest brightness setting, it’s almost as if it isn’t even turned on. When set on the other end of the spectrum, it can be a little blinding. For those with astigmatism, you have been warned. So with that being said, there’s really no problem with viewing content under direct sunlight.
However, with the combination of the power sipper of a CPU, lower resolution display and large 3080mAh battery, you have a phone that will easily last you an entire day.
Finally, the Redmi Note 5A Prime supports networks up to 4G LTE, supports Bluetooth 4.2/HID, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Display, WiFi Direct, GPS, AGPS and GLONASS. For additional brownie points, both SIM card slots support 4G LTE but you just can’t use them simultaneously.
Similar to most of Xiaomi’s offerings not named the Mi A1, the Redmi Note 5A Prime comes with the latest MIUI 9 laid on top of Android 7 Nougat. Much like most heavily skinned versions of Android, MIUI tends to receive quite divisive opinions. While I do prefer a cleaner and more vanilla version of Android, I don’t detest MIUI. In fact, I have quite a soft spot for it as it was my go-to ROM when I was still actively flashing ROMs to my devices; and before Xiaomi became a household name.
Xiaomi has also made it a point to ensure that each new iteration of MIUI keeps getting better and smoother. Yes, it still looks extremely cartoony but you can easily download a new theme to change it. Also, unlike older versions of MIUI, there’s very minimal bloatware pre-installed in the device.
Even with a much lower-end CPU, day-to-day usage was buttery smooth especially when I was multi-tasking that much. It does stutter once in awhile but it’s barely noticable.
If you’re a fan of MIUI, the new improvements and optimisation will make you love it even more. However, if you aren’t a fan or haven’t had any experience with it before, I’d say give it a go or just install a different launcher such as Google’s own, Nova, Action or any other launcher of your choice on top of it.
[nextpage title=”Performance, Pros, Cons, Verdict”]
About three to five years ago, when you purchased a smartphone in this price category, it was usually a gamble when it comes to its performance. Some devices would perform smoothly while others might just end up turning into a slideshow. However, with the constant improvements in hardware and software, the Redmi Note 5A Prime is more of the former. With that being said though, you will still have to keep in mind that this is a lower tier mid-range device.
When it came to synthetic benchmarks, it produced respectable scores for a phone of its caliber. Not jawdropping but not abysmal either. As for a more real-world performance, the device was snappy and zippy throughout my time using it. By this point I might sound like a broken tape recorder but I do have to stress that I am in by no means a very heavy user. I usually rely on my smartphones for sending messages on WhatsApp, Telegram or Facebook Messenger, scrolling through my Facebook or Instagram feeds, reading articles on Bleacher Report or Chrome and streaming music via Spotify.
I usually use aforementioned apps one at a time but even then, multitasking wasn’t a bad experience at all. I could easily switch from one app to another in a jiffy. It’s only when I forget to close certain apps that I do notice a slight lag to the device.
In terms of gaming and graphics, the Adreno 505 does okay. It was able to run games like Into the Dead 2, Dead Trigger 2 and WWE Immortals with minimal lag but of course the graphics settings had to be toned down a little. However, more intensive games like Asphalt 8 took about two to three minutes to load while Injustice 2 never loaded at all. So if you’re looking for a device that can play the most graphic intensive games, this device isn’t it. On the other hand, if you’re a casual gamer, then the Redmi Note 5A will work fine.
When it comes to battery life, it easily lasted me a full day with light to medium usage. My daily routine usually sees me unplugging the device at about 6.30am and calling it a day by 12.30am. Even then, it would probably have about 10-15% of juice left. Again, your mileage may vary, I use my devices very sparingly throughout the day but I do have quite a fair bit of push notifications on, so it’s safe to say that the power consumption is quite well optimised.
Now let’s move on to the cameras of the Redmi Note 5A Prime. As mentioned earlier, it sports a 13MP rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and also comes with Phase Detection Auto Focus technology. Like most cameras found on “budget” smartphones, this snapper is actually quite a mixed bag when it comes to the images it produces. Even when under good lighting conditions, images can sometimes lack detail and appear washed out. But then on other occasions, it can produce decent looking images with natural colours and a good amount of details.
HDR isn’t turned on automatically so you have to toggle it everytime you open up the camera app. However, this could be a good thing because while HDR helps to bring out more colours and details in images, it takes the devices a few seconds to actually produce it. Which I believe to most users is unacceptable as the “perfect” shot or moment would have passed you by.
Without Optical Image Stabilisation, things get a little blurry for the Redmi Note 5A Prime when caught in low-light conditions. Photos are extremely grainy and lack detail.
However, the main draw of this device might not actually lie in the rear camera but instead, the 16MP front-facing/selfie camera. But then again, it doesn’t really do that great of a job either. In good lighting condition, you can probably get a decent selfie that you wouldn’t mind using as your profile picture on Facebook or Tinder but in low-light conditions, you would probably have to do a lot of editing to make that photo work. Even with the front LED flash, photos were still grainy and lacked detail.
At the end of the day, I’d say the overall performance of the Redmi Note 5A Prime sits firmly between “Not Too Bad” and “Ho-hum”, which means to say it’s satisfactory.
- Extremely affordable
- MIUI 9 is well optimised
- Decent performance
- Good battery life
- Solid & comfortable design
- Support for 2 Nano SIMS & a micro SD card
- MIUI is not everyone’s cup of tea
- Non-backlit capacitive keys
- Lacklustre cameras
- Occassional lag and stutters
Pricing and availability
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A Prime retails for MYR699 (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.
With its incredibly affordable pricetag, it’s really hard to overlook what the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A Prime has to offer. While it may not exactly be the most impressive, it can still be a pretty good choice for parents looking to get their young ‘uns a new smartphone or for the more elderly group who really don’t need much when it comes to devices.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I believe that the Redmi line will just keep getting better and the Redmi Note 5A Prime is a good example of just how far the series has come. It has shed most of its plasticky exterior for something more classy and robust. Although it does come with some very obvious compromises, it still does pack what most consumers are looking for in a smartphone today.
All shots are straight from phone with no editing done aside from the addition of watermark. Click to enlarge.