Xiaomi Redmi Note 5, Note 5 Pro first impressions: unbeatable value-for-money phones

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro

On Valentine’s day 2018, Xiaomi decided it was a good idea to call a few tech journalists over to The Lalit hotel in Delhi. The company was going to launch new phones and the hype preceding this day was expected. And like many tech nerds out there, I decided to spend the first half of February 14 with Xiaomi instead of my wife. She is obviously pissed. 

But man, it was a good decision or what! From the powerful new Redmi Note 5 Pro to the stunning Mi TV 4, Xiaomi hit the ball out of the park with the launch event.

In all honestly, it’ll take a lot for other brands to top Xiaomi India’s extravaganza. Moving on, I managed to spend some time with the Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro. Here are my first impressions of the phones. 

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5: Redmi Note 4++

Let’s start off with the Redmi Note 5. The more affordable variant of the two shares some similarities with last year’s Redmi Note 4. It has the same Snapdragon 625 SoC and comes in two variants: one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of ROM, and the other with 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. These variants are priced at Rs 9,999 and Rs 11,999, respectively. I think the pricing is just bang on. The phones offer so much value-for-money that even Gaffar market’s deals feel expensive in comparison. 

Redmi 5 front facia

The first thing you will notice is the subtle but effective modernisation of the design language. The Redmi Note 5 now has a taller 5.99-inch FHD+ display with an aspect ratio of 18:9. It definitely looks a lot like the recently launched Redmi 5 Plus in China. But, I’m still slightly miffed that Xiaomi hasn’t moved to USB Type-C yet and continues to uses the archaic Micro-USB standard. The fingerprint scanner is on the rear and feels convenient to reach as well. The metal build and the overall design is quite reminiscent of Xiaomi’s previous Redmi phones. For some Xiaomi fans, the familiarity in design is quite reassuring. Ergonomically, the phone is quite comfortable to hold and use with one hand, despite the tall display. 

On the flipside, despite moving to a taller display there are ample bezels on the left and the right of the display. So, calling it a bezel-less phone would be doing disservice to actual bezel-less phones. 

Redmi Note 5 camera

The phone runs Android Nougat 7.1.1 with MiUI 9 on top of it. Yes, Android Nougat in a phone launching in 2018 feels like a major drawback, but trust me MiUI is pretty feature-rich and well-optimised. All the new MiUI 9 Features like split screen and actionable notifications are also present on the Redmi Note 5. I will have to spend more time with MiUI 9 to give you a full verdict. 

As far as performance is concerned, in whatever little time I spent with the phone it felt smooth. And most of us area already aware that the Snapdragon 625 is a pretty dependable chipset. 

Unlike its more expensive sibling, the Redmi Note 5 has a single 12MP shooter and a 5MP camera on the front with an LED flash. I need more time for a full verdict on the cameras. But here are a few samples for you to see in the meantime. 

Redmi 5 image sample

Once again, there is a large 4000mAh battery and I expect the Redmi Note 5 to be a powerhouse in that regard. You can expect a review from us soon. 

Redmi 5 image sample

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro: fights the competition with raw power

Now, about the Redmi Note 5 Pro…I think this is the phone most users will be interested in buying. Primarily because, it has a more powerful Snapdragon 636 SoC and dual cameras on the rear. Oh, and the Redmi Note 5 Pro is the first smartphone in the world with the 636 chip. 

At the launch, Xiaomi showcased the AnTuTu score for the Redmi note 5 Pro and it was somewhere around the 1,10,000 range. Trust me, that is an insane number! The only phone that comes somewhat close to this score is the Honor 9 Lite with an AnTuTu score of around 88,000. However, I don’t know if this is the score for the 4GB or the 6GB RAM variant yet. Can’t wait to get my hands on the Redmi Note 5 Pro to actually test this powerhouse of a smartphone.

Redmi Note 5 Pro camera

Just like its more affordable sibling, the Redmi Note 5 Pro also comes in two variants: 4GB of RAM/64GB of internal storage, and 6GB of RAM/64GB of internal storage. These variants are priced at Rs 13,999 and Rs 16,999, respectively. 

There is no mistaking the fact that the Note 5 Pro looks strikingly similar to the iPhone X from the rear. Rest of the design is very similar to its affordable sibling. In my opinion, the phone has a lot of flair and looks really good. There is the same 5.99-inch tall display, that takes up most of the front panel. 

<rant> I can’t fathom why Xiaomi is doggedly avoiding USB Type-C on its Redmi line of phones. Heck, even the Mi A1 has USB Type-C but the Redmi Note 5 Pro doesn’t. I am sure a phone with the ‘Pro’ moniker in its name is aimed at more advanced users and therefore the right target audience for USB Type-C, considering it isn’t quite an ubiquitous standard yet. </rant over>

Redmi Note 5 Pro USB type-C

Moving on, the MiUI 9 software experience as it is on the Redmi Note 5, because I need to spend more time with it. So, I’ll skip the details and jump right into the camera setups instead.

Looks like Xiaomi is really taking the fight directly to its competition. Apart from bumping up the megapixel count to 20MP on the front camera, it also uses the IMX376 sensor. There is also an advanced beautification mode – Beautify 4.0 – which clears up your face. I am not a fan of any software-based beautification modes but for fans of selfies, this will matter. Oppo and Vivo, beware! I had time to take a single selfie. You can check it below. 

Redmi Note 5 Pro selfie sample

On the rear, you get a 12MP primary camera and 5MP secondary camera. The 12MP sensor uses a 1.25 um pixel size, which means bigger pixels and more details. The Mi A1 has a bigger pixel size as well. Check one image sample below. 

redmi note 5 pro regular sample

Obviously, there is a secondary 5MP camera and it is used for depth sensing. Xiaomi claims the Portrait mode can do better edge detection than the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2. Well, I doubt that it is entirely true but I have to check it out. Here’s a sample for you to see. 

Closing notes

Here’s the simple conclusion based on my first impressions: the Redmi Note 5 is essentially a Redmi Note 4 with a new, more modern design. On the other hand, the Redmi Note 5 Pro is a phone made for 2018. It offers raw power in a neatly designed package. 

I can’t wait to try the phones for a longer duration but until then colour me impressed. Remember this though, first impressions can be deceiving. 

What do you think about these phones? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?