Xiaomi has had one heck of 2017 in India. Building on the success of the Redmi Note 4, Redmi 4A, Redmi 4, and the Mi A1, the company managed to surpass Samsung and become the largest smartphone vendor in the country.
More than a year after it first launched the Redmi Note 4, Xiaomi has now launched the Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro in India. The company has taken a very interesting approach by launching the ‘Pro’ variant of the Redmi Note 5. Aimed at power users, the Redmi Note 5 Pro shares the same exterior as its regular sibling but comes with significantly more powerful internals.
So, how good of a handset is the Redmi Note 5 Pro? Like the previous Redmi Note devices before it, does the Redmi Note 5 Pro also set a new benchmark in the value for money and best bang for buck department? Let’s find out in our review.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Review
Design & Display
In terms of design, the Redmi Note 5 Pro looks very similar to the Redmi 5 Plus which was unveiled by Xiaomi earlier this year in China. The front is dominated primarily by the 5.99-inch 18:9 aspect ratio display, and it is flanked by relatively small bezels at the top and bottom.
As for the rear design, Xiaomi has essentially taken the Redmi Note 4’s design and stretched it to make it taller. The sides of the rear panel do curve at the edges like on the Redmi Note 4, though the curvature is slightly more here and the finish better. This helps in making the Redmi Note 5 slightly easier to grip and even helps in improving the in-hand feel. The top and bottom panels of the rear are made of plastic though and act as an RF window for cellular and Wi-Fi connections. The fingerprint scanner is also located at the rear and so is the dual-camera setup whose protective glass looks like a direct rip-off of the iPhone X’s module. The bottom edge of the device houses the microUSB port in the center, with the headphone jack and a microphone flanking it on the left and the mono speaker located on the right. The volume and power buttons are located on the right edge, with the left edge housing the SIM card slot. The top is empty except for the IR blaster and a secondary microphone for noise cancellation and video recording.
Thanks to the added heft and a better fit and finish from Xiaomi, the Redmi Note 5 Pro feels more premium to look and hold than the Redmi Note 4. The protruding camera setup at the rear might not be liked by everyone though, both in terms of its placement and design.
The Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with a 5.99-inch 18:9 FHD+ display. There are hardly any issues with the display. It gets plenty bright, though you will need to squint your eyes to be able to see anything in direct sunlight. It also has decent viewing angles but there’s discoloration at extreme angles when you view the display from the side. And Xiaomi has boosted the color saturation to make the display pop but this also throws color accuracy for a toss.
Software and Performance
Like with every other Xiaomi device, the Redmi Note 5 Pro also runs on MIUI 9 which is based on Android 7.1 Nougat here. While Xiaomi does regularly update MIUI with new features and enhancements, MIUI is now looking stale and requires a UI revamp. MIUI 9 is also not everyone’s cup of tea despite Xiaomi making some improvements in recent months to better cater to the taste of its international audience. This includes switching the notification bar behavior to that of stock Android which means you finally get access to gestures like one-finger swipe down to expand unread notifications, swiping left/right to dismiss notifications and more.
If you don’t mind how MIUI 9 looks and some of its behavioral quirks, you are surely going to appreciate the plethora of customization options and features offered by it. This includes the ability to run two instances of the same app, having two different ‘spaces’ for work and personal profiles, ability to tweak almost any aspect of the UI, and more.
For the Redmi Note 5 Pro, Xiaomi has updated MIUI 9 to add support for face unlock. This feature relies solely on the 20MP front camera and works surprisingly really well irrespective of the lighting conditions. And like Google, Xiaomi also uses machine learning and AI to offer a Portrait mode for the selfie camera.
With a powerful Snapdragon 636 chipset running at 1.8GHz and plenty of RAM (4/6GB), the Redmi Note 5 Pro is an absolute beast when it comes to performance. The Snapdragon 636 is the first mid-range chip from Qualcomm to feature its custom Kryo cores which have generally been used by the chip maker in its premium Snapdragon 800 chipset. The powerful chipset means that the Redmi Note 5 Pro absolutely kills its competition in the benchmark department and posts some staggering scores for a mid-range device. The handset manages to score well over 110,000 points in AnTuTu and over 3000 points in GeekBench which put it well ahead of its competition.
This raw horsepower also translates into excellent real-world performance, with the Redmi Note 5 Pro performing like a champ in daily use. The usual day-to-day activity like browsing the web, chatting on WhatsApp, Slack, Hangouts, or using Instagram hardly pose a challenge for Mi’s latest mid-ranger. Even while playing heavy games like Asphalt 8 or Asphalt Xtreme, the Redmi Note 5 Pro never skipped a frame or showed any signs of stuttering.
The Redmi Note 5 Pro is being billed as India’s camera beast. This is high praise from Xiaomi especially since its previous phones were never really known for their imaging performance.
With the dual-camera setup on the Redmi Note 5 Pro though, Xiaomi is turning a new leaf. The primary 12MP sensor makes use of a Sony sensor with large 1.25um pixels and an f/2.2 lens. This is paired with a 5MP depth sensor from Samsung used for capturing depth information which allows the Redmi Note 5 Pro to apply fake bokeh effect in photos.
The Redmi Note 3’s camera was downright dismissal and while Xiaomi made some improvements with the Redmi Note 4’s 13MP shooter, its performance in low-light still left a lot to be desired.
With the Redmi Note 5 Pro, Xiaomi has managed to surpass its previous efforts in this department. The primary 12MP shooter is able to capture some excellent photos with plenty of details and dynamic range. You will have no complaints about the photos taken outside or with plenty of light around and you will actually be surprised at the amount of details the 12MP sensor manages to capture. In low-light, things are not as impressive but even then, the Redmi Note 5 Pro performs far better than its predecessor and even slightly better than the likes of the Honor 7X in challenging situations.
Its the Portrait mode which has failed to impress me. The primary 12MP camera uses the secondary 5MP depth sensor to apply a depth effect to photos. The problem is that since the frame is too wide, portrait modes taken on the Redmi Note 5 Pro do not turn out to be that impressive. The frame needs to be a bit tighter to ensure that the focus is solely on the subject. As for the depth effect applied to the photos, it works more often than not but it still has plenty of room for improvement.
The front 20MP selfie shooter is also able to capture detailed selfies, though Xiaomi’s Beautify mode does smoothen one’s skin excessively. The inclusion of a selfie light also helps in low-light scenarios as it ensures your selfies are properly lit. Xiaomi uses AI to offer a portrait mode for the selfie camera as well. The bokeh effect added in selfies works pretty well, though there’s still plenty of room for improvement as the edge detection can fail in slightly challenging conditions.
The Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with a 4,000mAh battery — the same as its predecessor. Coupled with a bigger display and a more powerful processor, this should have translated into the Redmi Note 5 Pro offering worse battery life than its predecessor. However, I am happy to report that in my testing, the handset has managed to deliver almost the same battery life, if not more, as the Redmi Note 4.
In regular use primarily over Wi-Fi, I managed to get a screen on time of over 8 hours over a period of 1.5-2 days. With light use, I constantly managed to get almost 3 days of battery life from the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
The Redmi Note 5 Pro also supports Quick Charge 2.0, though Xiaomi only bundles a 2A charger with the device. With the stock charger, the handset takes around 2 hours 45 mins for a full charge which is definitely on the higher side. Using a Quick Charge 2.0 charger did not bring about any significant reduction in charging times.
If anything, the long charging times on the Redmi Note 5 Pro remain my only gripe with the handset.
Over the last couple of years, Xiaomi has managed to set a new benchmark on what a smartphone should deliver with every new smartphone that it has launched. And with the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the company has managed to once again set the bar even higher. The Redmi Note 5 Pro stands true to its ‘Pro’ moniker and excels in almost every aspect, including camera performance which has usually been a sore point for Xiaomi devices.
If you want a smartphone within Rs 20,000 – Rs 25,000 and live in a market where Xiaomi sells the Redmi Note 5 Pro, there really is no reason for you to not buy this handset. In fact, there’s really no reason for you to buy any other handset over the Redmi Note 5 Pro maybe except for the fact that it is so damn hard to buy the handset.