Review: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 rules the budget roost

  • Packs a big screen, battery and power-efficient processor
  • Impressive dual cameras deliver quality images


Review: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 rules the budget roost


XIAOMI has proven yet again that it pulls no punches when it steps into the smartphone arena. The company's latest offering, the Redmi Note 5 is an aggressively priced mid-range phone that hints that the company is not letting up on its upward momentum.

Speculation was rife that the new model would go for well above RM1,000 but what we got was an RM999 model with more bells and whistles than we expected.

But price alone doesn’t necessarily mean Xiaomi has won but it is a compelling point to seeing just what the Redmi Note 5 is really made of.


You may be excused for mistaking the Redmi Note 5 for its older sibling, the Redmi Note 4. After all, they both sport a very similar chassis that is in line with Xiaomi’s recent models such as the Redmi 5.

To no surprise, the Redmi Note 5 crammed in a big 5.99-inch Full HD+ (2,160 x 1,080 resolution) display into a phone that typically houses a 5.5-inch screen. The large format 18:9 ratio, found on nearly every new phone this year, does not disappoint with sharp and colour-accurate images.

The phone has a sturdy build quality and is actually slimmer, by 45mm than its predecessor though slightly heavier at 180g.

Honestly, it isn’t a bad-looking design yet it does not strike as something groundbreaking or fresh.

Flip it around and it is apparent that the two are not the same as the Redmi Note 5 sports an iPhone X-esque dual camera system that is off centre to the left, leaving the fingerprint reader in the centre.


Review: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 rules the budget roost


The side button layout remains largely the same and it still sports a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is good news for wired headphone users. But the biggest gripe we have is the choice of a micro USB port instead of the now common Type-C USB.

Popping open the SIM tray, you will find that it is the of the hybrid variety where you can use both SIMs or delegate one to a microSD card to expand the memory. Whether you choose to permanently embed a microSD card into one tray depends on your appetite for content and whether you opt for the 64GB variant over the 32GB one.


Review: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 rules the budget roost



Taking a peek under the hood, the Redmi Note 5 comes with Qualcomm’s new mid-segment Snapdragon 636 octa-core processor, that is said to be 40% more powerful than its predecessor.

Our review unit was the top line variant that comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Below are the benchmarks that we ran on the Redmi Note 5.

Judging from the results, these are some very solid numbers that hit well above its weight class.


Review: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 rules the budget roost


Across the board, scores from Antutu, Geekbench and PCMark all look to be well above what a budget phone should be.

The 3D Mark score is to be expected, not mind blowing but it is very good for a smartphone in this category.

Under real-world conditions, the Redmi Note 5 didn’t give us anything to complain about at all, offering a good balance between performance and power efficiency. Everyday tasks felt smooth and responsive for the most part.

Switching between multiple applications and browsing on numerous tabs proved to be no trouble at all for the phone, no doubt helped by the 4GB of RAM.

Though it is not marketed as a gaming phone, the Redmi Note 5 held its own when we threw a plethora of games at it. Our go-to racing game, Asphalt 8 ran smoothly without any noticeable frame dips. The same could be said of more popular games like Arena of Valor and Mobile Legends.

The one game that proved to be too much for the Redmi Note 5 was Into the Dead 2, as we had to tone the graphics settings down to Medium in order for the game to run smoothly.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 series processors are typically known for their power efficiency, and this latest System on Chip (SoC) is no different. Paired with a massive 4,000mAh battery, the Redmi Note 5 easily lasted more than one standard working day, well into the second day with enough juice to last at least for another half a day.


Review: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 rules the budget roost



The Redmi Note 5 has one more surprise up its proverbial sleeve, and that’s it's shockingly good camera. Most budget phones typically have poor cameras but Xiaomi spared no expense to improve the Redmi Note 5’s camera.

The dual rear cameras, consisting of a 12-Megapixel primary camera that features large pixel size of 1.25um pixels (Correction: 1.4um pixels) , coupled with a 5-Megapixel secondary camera for adding ‘bokeh’ effects in photos. In practice, the image quality is surprisingly very good when we tested it out in bright and sunny conditions.

The camera is able to capture a high degree of detail, sharpness and colours. Focusing was quick and accurate, good at taking moving subjects.

Granted the Redmi Note 5 does not excel at low light shooting, it still managed to produce decent looking photos when we took it out for a walk in a night market.

Videos may be limited to Full HD but the quality is good enough for basic shooting. The electronic image stabilisation (EIS) works terrifically in keeping videos looking smooth.

It has a 13-Megapixel front-facing camera for snapping selfies. Xiaomi claims that it has an AI Beauty Mode 4.0 to enhance one’s looks. Quite honestly though, the ‘beautification’ mode is too aggressive and results in rather ‘unrealistic’ looking subjects. If you must use it, tone it down to the minimum to avoid looking like a Barbie doll.


Review: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 rules the budget roost



Review: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 rules the budget roostOne can’t help but admire the amount of value Xiaomi managed to cram into the Redmi Note 5. While the design doesn’t blow anyone’s socks off, it delivers all you could want in a modern smartphone from 2018.

A large FullView display? Check. Dual cameras? Check. Power efficient processor? Double check.

Yes, the Redmi Note 5’s internals are the true stars of the show. To no surprise, the power-efficient Qualcomm 636 provides that extra ‘oomph’ in power needed to balances between performance and efficiency.

The big surprise comes from the dual cameras which are fantastic for shooting quality pictures out in bright daylight. Low light shooting may not be the best but it still manages to produce respectable results

Priced at US$252 (RM999), you will be hard-pressed to find another phone that costs so little yet packs a ton of value.


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