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Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Review - Believe the HYPE!

Huawei Nova 5T
On paper, Xiaomi's most exciting affordable phone in the Philippines is the Redmi Note 5. As a matter of fact, it impressed us right off the bat.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Review - Believe the HYPE!
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 review

We even dubbed it as the "phone to beat" in its class in our unboxing and first impressions article few weeks back.

Now, here's our full review! Is it worth the hype?


Display Quality

Big and bright display
Big and bright display

One of the highlights of this handset is its big 5.99-inch IPS panel with a tall 18:9 screen aspect ratio.

Big screen, nice quality!

It simply means that it has a wider field of view versus other phones with traditional screen aspect ratio. It would also provide a better viewing experience than most of those old type of screens.

Xiaomi also paired it with FHD+ 2160 x 1080 resolution which is sharp enough at 403 pixels per inch. It has nice color reproduction with cool tones. Viewing angles are excellent too. It can also go bright enough at around 450 nits.

This device also has an option to adjust the color tone (warm, standard, cold) and even increase the contrast in the display settings.

The auto brightness of this device is also accurate. We also like that it has a reading mode which reduces the blue light emission of the display.

Lastly, this device has 10 points of touch. It is great for those who types fast, multitask a lot, and playing games with multiple controls.

Audio Quality

The audio output of the Redmi Note 5 is a pleasant surprise for a mid-range handset with a single speaker setup only.

It has crisp enough details with good vocal quality and acceptable separation.

It can also go loud enough. Distortion is not that noticeable on max volume. Listening to music outdoors is possible.

Lows and bass response are still weak though.

For headphones, it still has 3.5 mm headphone audio jack. Xiaomi failed to specify if it has a dedicated HiFi DAC, but that's fine, this phone is a pretty capable music player.

Audio output is on the warm and bassy side. It has clear emphasis on the lows as its bass response is quite wide and deep. It can even produce sub-bass with good decay.

The mids on my balanced IEM is a bit muddy though. But, those who are very particular to audio quality will notice it. Highs has decent sparkle. It also has good instrumental and details separation and layering.

By default, it can't play high bitrate lossless audio files. But, it has support for those type of heavy audio files. All you need to do is download a separate app like Foobar2000 Mobile to enjoy higher quality tunes.

Bluetooth music playback is respectable too. It is still not as good as wired audio, but the output is loud enough and decent on my favorite Bluetooth headphones.

Microphone quality is not great, but it is also not bad. It is safe to say that it has average performance.

Battery Life

Sadly, our PC Mark battery test keeps crashing. But, the Redmi Note 5 with 4,000mAh battery has stellar battery life.

Good battery performance!

In our actual test, it lasted for a bit more than 11 hours from 100 percent to 4 percent. It is equivalent to almost 6 hours of screen on time.

Our usual smartphone workload include 4G LTE data or WiFi on all the time, auto brightness, taking lots of photos, playing games occasionally, and doing basic SMS or phone calls from time to time.

Charging time is average. The 2A USB wall charger of this handset can charge the phone from 0 to 100 percent in 2 hours and 30 minutes.

It would have been better if Xiaomi added Qualcomm's Quick Charge tech though. But for the price, I'm not complaining.

Camera

The camera UI

At the back, the Redmi Note 5 is equipped with a powerful dual camera system. It has a 12MP f/1.9 primary sensor paired with a secondary 5MP f/2.0 sensor. Xiaomi also added a Dual Pixel PDAF tech for blazing fast and accurate focus. It is the cheapest smartphone with that type of autofocus yet.

The interface of Xiaomi's camera is still simple and easy to use. It has auto HDR, beauty, portrait (depth effect), HHT (night mode), and scene (white balance).

It also has a pro mode. But, it only has white balance and ISO (100 to 3200) adjustments. Unfortunately, you cannot control the focus, shutter speed, EV, and etc.

Best image quality for the price!

In terms of shooting quality, the Redmi Note 5 is probably the best in its class! It has truly fast focus and shutter speed. Shooting close-up images are also possible even under artificial dim indoor scenes.

As expected, photo quality is mostly hit or miss. In our comparison, it was even able to go toe to toe with other more expensive mid-rangers like the Huawei P20 lite and ASUS ZenFone 5.

It has plenty of details most of the time. Color reproduction is also quite nice and balanced. It has some hint of saturation when needed. Most of the photos we took are also well exposed.

Portrait shots are also good! It can produce bokeh shots with creamy looking background blur. We also noticed that its edge detection are also cleaner than most phones we tested at this price point. The field of view is just a bit narrower than usual.

Indoor shots under artificial light are also decent. It has good colors and nice details most of the time.

Lowlight shots are also better than most for the price. Again, we were surprised that it can go toe to toe with other more expensive mid-range phones.

However, contrary to Xiaomi's presentation during their last keynote, don't expect it to compete with flagships camera phones. 

Rear Camera Samples

HDR
HDR
Taken around 6PM
Taken around 6PM
Portrait mode
Indoor shot
Indoor shot
Close-up
Close-up
Lowlight 1
Lowlight 1
Lowlight 2
Lowlight 2

For selfies, the it has a 13MP f/2.0 sensor with softlight LED flash. It has auto HDR, depth effect, and filters. We also noticed that it has tap to focus mode and age detection.

Xiaomi also highlighted that it has A.I. tech to help you improve your selfies. But, we failed to see the auto face beauty found on OPPO and Vivo devices. It has level 1 to 5 of face beauty only.

You may also adjust it to make your face slender, eye size, tone, and smoothing of your skin.

In terms of picture quality, it works well in scenarios where there's natural light. Other than that, photo selfie quality is hit or miss. There are times where it'll shoot sharp images, but there are scenes where it'll look soft and have less details.

We also find the smoothing of its face beauty more aggressive than other selfie phones. Anything above face beauty level 2 could make your face look to soft.

The depth effect is nice even if it doesn't have a dual camera setup though.

Lowlight selfie performance is decent.

Selfie Camera Samples

Good daylight selfie with depth effect
Well-lit indoor
Well-lit indoor
Well-lit indoor
Soft looking indoor selfie with face beauty and depth effect
Lowlight selfie with face beauty and LED flash
Lowlight selfie with face beauty and LED flash


For videos, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 can shoot up to 1080p 30 fps in quality using the back camera and the selfie camera. Both the back and front cameras even has EIS software  stabilization. Unfortunately, it has no 4K mode. But, it has the best stabilization at this price point.

Video Samples


Performance

Good AnTuTu scores
Good AnTuTu scores

The Redmi Note 5 has one of the best specs for the price too! It goes with the mid-range grade 1.8GHz 64-bit Snapdragon 636 octa-core processor paired with Adreno 509 GPU. It also has large enough 4GB RAM and enough 64GB of expandable storage.

Actual performance is great! Hiccups on most apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and etc. are not noticeable. Switching from an app to another is also smooth most of the time.



This device is also good for gaming. In the under PHP 20K range, there are very few phones (Helio P60 devices) with better actual gaming performance. PUBG on max settings is playable. NBA 2K18 on high settings with no cloth simulation is super smooth.

Thermal management is also decent. The phone won't get hot even if you are playing heavy games with 4G LTE data on.

On the software part, this phone boots with Android 8.1 Oreo OS w/ MIUI 9.5 skin. Like other Xiaomi devices, it still has no app drawer by default. But, bloats are minimal. Most of the "bloats" are also useful.

In particular, I personally like that it has security (to optimize your device), themes, Mi Remote (to use the IR Blaster), and removable Facebook app.


Only the MIUI Forum app is not useful for me, but it could be useful for others.

The fingerprint scanner of this phone is also fast and accurate. However unlike other mid-rangers, it has no face unlock tech yet.

The rest of the features of this phone works. GSM signal is mostly strong, 4G LTE is fast (in areas with good signal quality), OTG is present, GPS is stable, and gyroscope works in VR apps.

Pros - Good build quality, 6-inch big FHD+ 18:9 screen, powerful performance (for the price), good battery life, great back cameras, IR Blaster, low price
Cons - Selfie camera is hit or miss, not on USB Type-C

Verdict

Hype is REAL! For us, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 is the best smartphone that you can buy at this price point.

For just PHP 11,990, you'll get a metal clad build, 6-inch FHD+ 18:9 screen, speedy Snapdragon 636 chip, good battery performance, strong and the mid-range dual cameras to beat.

It's a LEGIT bang for the buck smartphone!

Build / Design - 4
Display - 4
Audio - 4
Battery - 4.25
Camera - 4.5
Performance - 4.5
Average - 4.208 / 5
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