I understand there’s a couple of Redmi Note 5s. This is the version that’s called AI Dual Camera in certain markets around the globe. And this is the 3GB RAM/32GB storage variant.
This is my first review of a Xiaomi phone. I have for long looked at them from afar. Never getting the chance to use one for a considerable amount of time to write a full review. But I have owned a Xiaomi 20000mAh Powerbank, and their WiFi Amplifier which I wrote about here some months ago. I however admire Xiaomi products, from their Notebooks, to the smart lights, air purifiers, home robots etc. And hope that some day their Kenyan branch will have all (or even most) of their products available locally. Importing stuff is impossible with the new taxes.
When I saw TechTrendsKe.co.ke with the Redmi Note 5, I snatched it from him, and refused to return it until I had used it for a considerable amount of time for a full review. I don’t know what I expected. I knew MIUI had no app drawer and from a glance had colours everywhere, so I expected to hate that. Spoiler, I didn’t. I love MIUI, and it is a dilemma seeing a skin giving Android power and a different experience, whilst comparing that to stock Vanilla Android which is always beautiful. Read my thoughts on MIUI vs Stock Android here.
I think that post comparing the two interfaces would be enough if you want to read about my software experience with this phone. The thing I’ve loved most about the device isn’t the good display or the good battery life, it is the software. It is different, and the gesture based navigation is my favourite part of it all. So check out that post before continuing with this review.
The Redmi line are Xiaomi’s most affordable smartphones. But when I held the Note 5, that wasn’t obvious. Meaning, though I have reservations about the design, I love the finish. It is a metallic finish. It is solid. My issue with the back design is that apart from ripping off iPhone X’s camera setup, the plastic at the top and the bottom (understandably for antennae and better reception) just doesn’t cut it for me. It is a design we’ve see for a while now. But since you won’t be looking at the back of the phone when using it, at least the front looks amazing. Yes, it resembles the Infinix Hot 6 PRO and the Hot S3, but that’s just that, the front is beautiful.
For what it is, you will not feel like it is a cheap phone when you carry it around. The design is unlike most phones in the market. The finish is good, from the edges to the buttons on the sides.
I’ve said it resembles the two Infinix phones on the front. But this is kinda where the resemblance ends. The two Infinix phones have a 720p panel. This boasts a Full HD+ display. And, there’s Corning Gorilla Glass protection. So it doesn’t scratch or break easily. I found this to be a good thing at it’s price point.
Disclaimer: I don’t think Jumia Kenya have their images right on their website concerning Xiaomi phones. This phone is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5. It has dual cameras in a vertical position. Jumia images show different devices with different camera placements from the Note 5, the Redmi S2, Redmi 5 Plus. So be careful while purchasing, so you be very sure which phone you’re actually getting.
The 1080p panel is amazing. Viewing angles, colour accuracy, brightness. And I know I’ve praised the Infiix panels, both the 720p on the Hot 6 PRO and the Hot S3, and the 1080p panel on the Infinix Note 5, but neither are as good as the panel on the Redmi Note 5. So here’s an image to try and show you the differences between the Redmi and the Android One.
Apart from the black strip around the Redmi Note 5 (which won’t be visible with a black version of the phone) you can see that the Redmi’s display is more on your face than that of the Infinix Note 5. It looks more sharper, more vibrant. I don’t know if you can really see this from the images. Maybe a real life interaction with the devices will be better. And to be honest, it isn’t a big thing. Both displays are good. But asked to choose, I’d go with the Redmi’s.
A 4000mAh battery is no joke. And I didn’t know Xiaomi’s UI is so good with battery life. I was always getting close to the same Screen-on-time with this phone as I was with the Infinix Note 5 which has a 4500mAh battery. I thought maybe I’m over-working the Infinix phone. Then I watched a review of the Xiaomi Mi A2 Android One device (which happens to be the Xiaomi Mi 6x re-branded). And the reviewer was saying the Android One version of the phone has noticeably poor battery compared to the MIUI version, yet the specs and everything (except from software is the same).
If you want to do 8hrs plus screen-on-time, you can do that with this device. It has no fast charging officially. The charger included in the box doesn’t support fast charging. But if you want to charge it faster, get a fast charger and you’ll see it juice up quickly.
The front camera is not good. I didn’t like it. Shots were blurry, even with little or no shake. And that’s about it.
The dual rear setup does a good job. I loved the portrait mode. I loved that point and shoots were fast and accurate. I don’t want to compare the cameras to the single 12MP on the Infinix Note 5 because both setups seem to work perfectly. Although, I am still kind of impressed that a single 12MP on the Infinix does an effective job as this 12MP+5MP setup.
Here are samples of pics in diferent conditions. Dynamic range is good, colours and details in pics are also well captured.
I didn’t expect it to work with my TCL TV. It does! If you have this phone, all you need for your TV setup is your phone as your remote. Especially if you have an Android TV Box. The IR blaster works with almost every device. And you can be that bad person switching of the TV when someone (who has the TV’s remote) is watching just to disturb them. I feel like an IR Blaster should be standard on all phones.
- User Interface: just go read my full review of MiUI here. It details gestures, arrangement of apps, shortcuts and much more.
- Fingerprint Scanner: fast and accurate
- Speakers: It is honestly louder than I expected. And there’s this sort of vibration you get when using the speakers so that it feels as if there’s an echo chamber within the device. I don’t know if that’s the best description, but I hope you understand. There’s a little bass, it is a single speaker so there’s no stereo effect, but it doesn’t distort even when very loud.
What could be better?
I don’t feel like there’s much that can be complained about with this phone. I personally don’t really feel the design with the cameras and the plastic at the top and bottom for antennae. I wish there was USB type-C because I am sure Xiaomi could have added that. I wish the front camera was better than it is. And that’s about it.
This phone is good value for money. MIUI is powerful and gives you an exciting Android experience. Having an IR Blaster sets it apart from all devices at this price point, and the battery life is just incredible. I don’t think you’ll regret owning this device.