Mobiles & Tablets

Xiaomi gives its budget star a refresh

| Updated on February 19, 2018 Published on February 19, 2018

The Redmi Note 5 doesn’t come with major changes but has some refreshes that make it a recommended buy for those on a shoestring

Mala Bhargava

For a good while after the Chinese tech company entered India, no one even knew how to pronounce Xiaomi. Well, look at it now, a virtual household name and the one name that instantly comes to mind when considering a good solid smartphone for a reasonable price. There are no end of low-priced phones everywhere you look, but nothing has quite carved out its place in the Indian market like the Redmi series.

The Redmi Note 5 has now arrived and if all else stays equal, looks set to take up from where the Note 4 left off. It doesn’t come with a big step-change of a difference though. Most noticeably, it still works on the Snapdragon 625 that the Note 4 did. But Xiaomi says the performance of that processor is stable and satisfactory all around, so they see no need to change it, specially as the customer it’s meant for is likely to be using the phone for much the same things, for now.

But it isn’t as if there are no changes. The most noticeable, if we’re looking at that, is that the screen has been brought up to current 18:9 standards — something Xiaomi itself started in 2016. Thinner bezels frame a pretty good display and slightly curved glass wraps into the rounded sides and corners to give the device that look of quality that Xiaomi has become known for. The back is all-metal and available in black, gold, rose gold and an exciting blue. The smartphone is as well-built as it ever was, solid, a little taller and narrower and a little bit heavier. One thing the Redmis are not is fragile.

Another thing the Redmis are not is slouches at performance. Not on Android Oreo yet, the Note 5 runs on Nougat 7.1.2 and is satisfactorily free of lag and stutter. Anyone who isn’t deliberately torturing that phone should be just fine with gaming, videos, the camera, and browsing or switching apps. The specs have been upgraded with the base model (there are variants) starting with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage and 4GB RAM with 64GB storage. The battery is a 4,000mAh and should easily last the day. The fingerprint sensor at the back is still very fast, unlocking with that signature ping that I rather like and keep playing with.

The Note 5 also runs on Xiaomi’s MIUI 9.2 and I have to admit to have become a little disenchanted with all that heavy customisation. More than once techies have wished the phone was just based on Android as Google meant it to be. But then, smartphones would be more alike than they already are. MIUI comes with a lot of useful features like Second Space with which you can install two instances of certain apps, tap to wake, and other gesture features. There’s also a ton of Mi apps, from themes to community forums and more. The whole suite of Microsoft apps are there, though that’s among the ones you can uninstall. Many of us like to have a brand new phone that’s more of a clean slate, but that is not to be.

The Redmi Note 5’s primary camera is a 12MP shooter with an f/2.2 aperture and bigger pixels meant to let in more light indoors, but shots can still be blurry and sharp details are lost. In good light, the camera does a pretty good job with colours, even capturing some that I’ve found notoriously difficult for most cameras. Macros are also good where others struggle when a subject is too close. In dim light, colours turn murky and depressing, though. I wouldn’t go by photos of a light source, because that’s not what shows how it’s faring. The 5MP camera is well, average, in a word.

Overall, this phone is still a major value for money buy. Not an upgrade for someone who has the Redmi Note 4, but for first-timers to the series or those with older phones, the Note 5 is a good one to consider. It does have competition, though, specially from Huawei right now with its Honor 9 Lite. Step up the budget a note and you need to consider the Note 5 Pro.

Price: Rs 9,999 and 11,999

Pros: Sturdy as ever, more options with variants, great battery life and standby time, solid performance, even better price for what one is getting

Cons: Those expecting big changes won’t find them, no NFC, no Android Oreo for now, a little heavy.

Published on February 19, 2018
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