Hands On: Redmi Note 5

Xiaomi's Redmi Note 5 (Imahe: Xiaomi)

The budget phablet that punches well above its weight



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12 December 2018 | 0

While some Chinese manufacturers of smart phones are now more or less household names, there is a recent entrant to the Irish market that may not be quite so well known.

Sometimes called “China’s largest start-up”, Xiaomi grew out of a business model initially focused almost-exclusively on online flash sales and razor-thin hardware margins (with a profit usually later made up for by software revenues). Now available here exclusively with Three, Xiaomi is a pretty major player in overseas markets with a reputation for not just offering cheaper alternatives to established brands, but also bringing its own innovations to the space. For example, the recent Mi Mix 2 relocated the front-facing camera to the bottom edge of device to pave the way for a slick bezel-less (and notch-free) upper edge.

The blueprint for Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 is not quite as creative but it lives up to the company’s reputation, nevertheless. It is a budget device that packs a lot of value, particularly if you are the kind of user who favours a larger screen and are not too fussed about camera quality.

In terms of design, the Redmi Note 5 does not exactly break the mould but it does boast an impressively-high level of build-quality for what is, by comparison to local brands, a pretty low asking-price.

For €199 on prepay, but free on many bill pay plans, we are talking about a smart phone with 153mm (5.99-inch) FHD display, 18:9 aspect ratio, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 636 processor and a hefty 4000mAh battery. On paper, Xiaomi are offering a lot of phone for a not a lot of money here.

Then, in terms of the look and feel of the thing, the Redmi Note 5 boasts a classic aluminium unibody that comes off as very comparable to what Oppo and OnePlus have put out in recent years. Sure, it may not feel quite as luxurious to hold as a Samsung Galaxy S9 or Huawei P20 Pro, but for a fifth of the price, it more than holds its own.

Better yet, despite the price-tag, the Redmi Note 5 rarely feels like a budget device. It has a fingerprint sensor on the back but also boasts a fast and reliable version of the face-unlock feature found in other smart phones. It also proved surprisingly scuff-proof.

Part of this appeal comes down to the sheer polish of the MIUI Android skin. Having not really played with Xiaomi’s take on Android before, it is impressive. It was immediately understandable, usable and easy to customise — coming off like a tasteful middle ground between Oppo’s often-overwhelmingly friendly ColorOS and Huawei’s more utilitarian EMUI.

What is more, despite the absence of a flagship processor like the Snapdragon 835 and 845, the Redmi Note 5 ran like a dream. Apps loaded and closed fast, and it rarely felt as if it got bogged down by multitasking. Even games like The Elder Scrolls: Legends and Paladins: Strike ran surprisingly-well on this thing, with the usual caveats that high-intensity mobile experiences are subject to some pretty hard limits, even on the best hardware.

In terms of everyday performance, the Redmi Note 5 delivers in all the ways one would want. When it came to benchmarks, the Redmi Note 5 continued to deliver competitive results and punches well above its weight when it comes to price-tag.

It was initially compared to the Huawei Y5, Moto E4 and 2017 Nokia 6 but quickly found it outpaced those devices easily, and so moved towards to mid-tier fare, such as the Xperia XA2 and HTC U11 Life.

Though the Redmi Note 5 excels when it comes to performance, its photographic potential is held captive by many of the same hard limitations faced by other budget smart phones. If there is any area of the device that struggles, it is this.

It is impressive that Xiaomi have managed to pack so many camera features into the Redmi Note 5, and the HDR function on the camera does delivering some-often sizzling results, our overall verdict on the Redmi Note 5’s camera was one of what would be expected — this might be budget smart phone photography at its best, but it is still budget smart phone photography. As could be expected, low light images fared poorly and made for a stark contrast to the capabilities of other devices on the market.

It is possible to capture decent outdoor shots, but it is impossible to put it in the same league as some of the heavy hitters out there in the 2018 smart phone landscape.

Battery life
In terms of every day battery-life, it would easily make it through the usual 9-5 work day and often into a second day of active use as well. Even if  the Note 5 was left without an overnight charge, there was still plenty of juice left to work with.

That makes fourteen or more hours of average use here, though, as always, your mileage may vary. Particularly, if you watch or film a lot of video content or crank the brightness way up.

The Redmi Note 5 boasts Quick Charge 2.0 fast charging, but does not offer wireless charging.

Bottom line
All things considered, the Redmi Note 5 Pro is an impressive piece of budget tech — so long as you are happy to settle with its compromises, such as camera performance.

Between the solid material design and build-quality, performance that punches above its price-bracket and slick software experience, the Redmi Note 5 is a smart phone that is very easy to recommend. What is more, even with the usual caveats surrounding importing smart phones, it is priced low-enough that, should you be looking for a low-risk introduction to the Xiaomi brand, this is probably the place to start.

Xiaomi phones are exclusively available from Three in Ireland.




IDG News Service

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