The Redmi Note 5 is one of the two smartphones launched on February 14 in India by Xiaomi. The other one being the Redmi Note 5 Pro – see our launch report and the phones’ specifications here.
Essentially, the Redmi Note 5 is nothing but the Redmi 5 Plus which is already sold in its domestic Chinese market. For India, it seems Xiaomi renamed it to Note 5 so that it fittingly appears as a smaller sibling to the slightly better-equipped Redmi Note 5 Pro. Seems like a clever bit of marketing as it gives an impression of an all-new device for the Indian market. The Redmi Note 5 has been launched at a competitive starting price of Rs 9,999.
On that note, we have been using this handset for quite some time now, about a month to be closer to spot on, and it has been a mixed experience so far. At almost 10k, the Redmi Note 5 resides at the starting point of the mid-range segment with a spec sheet that will hardly knock anyone off their feet.
Redmi Note 5 SPECIFICATIONS
Processor and GPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Adreno 506
Display: IPS LCD 5.99 inches, 18:9 aspect ratio, 1080p x 2160p resolution (Full HD+), 403 ppi
OS: Android Nougat 7.1.2, MIUI 9.2
RAM & Memory: 3 GB RAM / 32 GB storage, 4 GB RAM / 64 GB storage, expandable up to 128 GB
Camera: 12 MP lens with f2.2 aperture, Phase Detection Autofocus, HDR, Portrait mode, Panorama, dual LED dual tone flash, 4k video at 30fps, 1080p video at 30fps, 5 MP front camera
Other Features: Fingerprint sensor, 3.5 mm audio jack
Price: Rs 9,999 for 3 GB RAM/32 GB storage variant and Rs 11,999 for 4 GB RAM/64 GB storage variant
Any smartphone is likely to appear almost entirely faultless right out of the box given the absolute fresh feel of the operating system, while the spotless body further adds a sensation of refinement as well. Hence, the early impressions may not be the accurate indication of a handset’s true performance capability. It is when the phone has been used continuously for a few weeks at least that its actual performance can be realized.
And so, we are bringing you the Pros and Cons of the Redmi Note 5 (or the Redmi 5 Plus) after one month of usage.
Build Quality: The build quality is one aspect which has seen a major improvement in a wide range of handsets among other things. The Redmi Note 5 has a metal unibody design for the most part but the top and bottom portions, where the antenna lines reside, is made out of plastic. The difference is not really perceptible unless you notice that there’s a minor colour difference between the plastic portion and the rest of the bodywork. Having said that, it is hardly a big deal and overall, the phone looks good. And the best part of it all is that the phone feels less slippery to hold compared to other devices like the Xiaomi Mi A1 and the Honor 7X.
Full screen-like Display: As far as the display is concerned, the Redmi Note 5 is the smartphone of today. Featuring an IPS LCD display measuring 5.99 inches with an aspect ratio of 18:9, the Note 5 delivers an impressive Full HD+ resolution which has a colour accuracy of up to 84%. Not bad.
Decent Camera: Given that the dual camera setup is becoming quite common in the smartphones nowadays, the single-lens camera on the Redmi Note 5 might appear a little handicapped as far as on-paper credentials are concerned. However, the 12 MP unit does a fine job in its segment of capturing some decent looking images. Even with an uninspiring small aperture size of f2.2, the images are quite detailed and sharp along with pretty good colour reproduction. Of course, this is all relative to its segment as the images are in no way comparable to any of the prominent flagship devices.
Hasn’t Hung Yet: Possibly the biggest worry of any smartphone of this segment is performance. And after using the Honor 7X and not being impressed by it really, I was not much hopeful of the Redmi Note 5 either. While it does stutter every now and then, it hasn’t hung so far and definitely not to a point where the user would be forced to reboot the phone. This includes indulging in some graphic heavy gameplay as well, like playing the Asphalt 8 car racing game. It has clearly performed better than the Honor 7X so far.
Below are a few camera samples from Redmi Note 5.
Performance: While it has been a decent experience using the Redmi Note 5 so far, the performance is also its weak point. Even with the more powerful 4 GB RAM variant which is what we have. We do understand that any handset which is at the starting point of the mid-range segment is not going to win hearts with its performance, having said that, it is unpleasant to experience any lags (momentary or longer) especially when they occur during regular usage.
Lack of Updates: For many users, including myself, receiving regular updates is a big deal and a major deciding factor while buying a smartphone. It is one of the reasons that I personally prefer iPhones. And this is where Xiaomi disappoints with the Redmi Note 5. Even as the company’s latest device, it still ships with the Android Nougat 7.1.2 instead of the Android Oreo. Interestingly enough, Xiaomi’s own Mi A1 is an Android One handset which means it is bound to receive regular and fastest updates from Google for at least 2 years or so.
MIUI: A custom skin over a stock OS is a matter of personal preference. Xiaomi has done its own customization to the stock Android Nougat and it is called MIUI. In the Redmi Note 5, it is MIUI 9. While it brings its own sets of default apps and functionalities, I’m neither a fan of the MIUI interface nor its dedicated features. For a person like me, it is the stock android all the way and I would rather go for something like the Moto G5S Plus even when I will have shell out 3-4 thousands more.
Battery Life: With a 4,000mAh battery, expectations are undoubtedly high with respect to battery life. Mostly under normal usage (which means no heavy app usage, no video recording and mild use of the camera) including 6 to 7 hours of standby time, the Redmi Note 5 delivers quite easily as it goes up to 1 and half days before needing the charger. However, heavy usage tends to unexpectedly bring down the battery life by up to 20 to 30% in under an hour. In situations like these, the handset demands to be connected to the charger sooner than one might expect.
Build Quality Could Be Seamless: While the handset looks and feels good, there’s a noticeable divide on both sides of the antenna lines at the top and bottom of the bodywork. This gap is easily noticeable to the touch even subconsciously. It is not a big deal but it could have been a seamless design with a little more effort by Xiaomi’s design team. Also, like we mentioned earlier, there’s a noticeable difference in the colour shade on the plastic and the metallic parts of the body.
At a starting price of Rs 9,999, there is not much to complain about the Redmi Note 5. If we have to describe it in one word, we would say that the Redmi Note 5 is a decent handset instead of calling it good. The camera is decent along with the display and the overall design while the performance leaves things to be desired. It is good to look at and feels good to hold as well, but it is mostly just that. At a few thousand rupees more, there are handsets in the same segment that are better at everything.