Redmi 5 Review

The first brand that comes to most people’s mind when thinking of budget phones would be Xiaomi’s Redmi. Since its inception in 2013, the Redmi series has been known for offering incredible specs and beautiful design at an affordable price.

In this review, we will be taking a look at the Redmi 5, successor to last year’s Redmi 4X. With a new 18:9 display, an improved design and a more powerful processor, is the Redmi 5 a worthy upgrade from the Redmi 4X? Without further ado, let’s begin.


Summary – One Big Step Forward

Pros:

  • Sleek design brought over from Redmi Note series
  • Clear case included in the box
  • Taller display due to new 18:9 ratio
  • Improved bottom-firing speakers
  • Excellent performance for price
  • Respectable battery life
  • Better looking photos under low light
  • Very affordable

Cons:

  • Rear camera protrudes
  • Mediocre selfie camera
  • Included cable shorter than usual and feels cheap

Pricing, Variants & Accessories

Still as affordable, now with free case! Cable feels cheap though. A version with larger screen is also available.

The Redmi 5 comes in 2 storage configurations: For S$179, you get 16GB storage and 2GB RAM while S$219 gives you doubles the storage and 3GB RAM. The one I got for this review is 16/2GB, but I highly recommend getting the 32/3GB one instead.

The Redmi 5 comes in 3 colors: black, gold and blue.

If you are a fan of larger displays, there is also the Redmi 5 Plus, aka Redmi Note 5. That is also sold in Singapore, starting at S$259 for the 32/3GB version. I am trying to get one to review on a later date, but for now, we shall only look at the Redmi 5.

Unlike previous devices, Xiaomi included a free clear case with the Redmi 5 and that instantly saves you about S$10. The wall adapter is the same as those that came with last year’s devices, with a retractable earth pin that makes it compact.

However, I did notice that the included Micro USB cable is shorter than usual and its plastic housing at both ends feel cheap. It is usable, but looking at the cables included in other Xiaomi products, we know it could have been a lot better.


Design – A Classier Non-Note Redmi

Design carried over from Redmi Note series. Taller display taller phone, camera now protrudes.

For the past two years, non-Note Redmi devices had designs that were different from their Redmi Note siblings. But that is about to change this year, with both the Redmi 5 and Redmi 5 Plus (aka Redmi Note 5) sharing an almost identical design.

IMG_3050-min

If the design looks familiar, that is because it is similar to the one on the Redmi Note 3 and 4. Redmi Note series users might be a little disappointed by this, but Redmi series users will like it. This design is a lot sleeker than the Redmi 3s and 4X’s.

Build quality is on par with last year’s Redmi Note 4; that is to say, excellent for a device in its price range, but lacks the heft and cold metallic feel of costlier premium mid-range smartphones

On the front is a 5.7″ 18:9 display – sounds huge but it is just a 5.2″ 16:9 display stretched vertically. The Redmi 5 is as tall as the Redmi Note 4, but its width is similar to the Redmi 4X’s.

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Xiaomi removed the capacitive navigation keys, which is a strange move considering that there is still plenty of room in the bottom chin for it. Another questionable design is the rear camera, which now protrudes, even with the included case (very slightly).

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Not all changes are bad though. The hybrid SIM tray now faces upwards, so you can switch SIM cards while looking at the display at the same time. The antenna lines has been redesigned as well, so we now have a frame that is one solid piece.

On top, we still have the IR blaster, headphone jack and a microphone. Once again, the Micro USB port is located at the bottom of the device with a bottom-firing speaker to its right, while the left “speaker grill” houses another microphone.

You may have noticed the additional black dot above the display. (The first one from the left) That is the new selfie flash. To its right are the ambient light sensor, earpiece, front-facing camera and on the extreme right is a white notification light.

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Display – 18:9 = More Usable Screen Space!

More space for reading articles and larger view in games. Hide on-screen navigation bar for the best experience.

The 18:9 5.7″ HD+ IPS LCD on the Redmi 5 produces vibrant colors. Though not accurate, images look very pleasing on this display. It is a little on the warm side, but that can be corrected by selecting “Cool” in the settings, under “Contrast & Colors”.

As mentioned earlier, the Redmi 5’s display is basically an elongated 5.2″ 16:9 display. Reaching all 4 corners with one hand can be a bit of an issue now that the display is so tall, but if you can live with it, 18:9 offers some pretty cool advantages.

In games that support 18:9 ratio, you get a wider field of view. That can be useful in games like 王者荣耀, where you can spot enemies that are further to your left and right.

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If you surf the web, browse social media or type documents frequently, you will love the 18:9 display too. The extra screen real estate allows for more words to be displayed on the screen and the experience you get from this is truly amazing.

L – Redmi 5, R – Redmi Note 4

The Redmi 5 uses on-screen navigation buttons, which occupies a significant portion of the display. To make full use of the display, enable “Hide soft buttons” in the settings. This will hide the navigation bar. To make it appear, swipe up from below.

Sadly, not all apps support 18:9 ratio at the moment, including popular ones like Facebook Messenger Lite and Geekbench 4. In these apps, you will see ugly black bars on the top and bottom. Hope more app developers will add 18:9 support soon.

Screenshot_2018-03-04-21-07-29-650_com.facebook.mlite


Performance – Good Enough for Most Games

Snapdragon 450 in the Redmi 5 is able to play most graphic-intensive games with little hiccups. But if you are really into gaming, this is not for you.

The Redmi 5 is equipped with Snapdragon’s 450 processor, known to many as a lite version of the Snapdragon 625. How does it perform in benchmarks and real-world usage? Pretty well actually, even on the 2GB RAM model that I used in this review.

MIUI 9 runs really smoothly on the Redmi 5 and light games did not show any sign of stuttering. For graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 8 and 王者荣耀, you do get the occasional lag, but only when there is too much action going on.

IMG_3031-min

Fresh out of the box, Redmi 5 scored an 69807 on AnTuTu and 768 (single-core)/3521 (multi-core) on Geekbench 4. For Geekbench 4’s compute benchmark, which tests for GPU performance, the Redmi 5 scored 3125 – not too shabby.

But you know what they say about benchmarks – take it with a pinch of salt. The thing that truly matters is how a phone performs day-to-day and from what I can see, the Redmi 5 does a great job, especially when you consider how little it cost.


Rear Camera – Better Low Light Photos!

Redmi 5 can take fantastic looking pictures under good lighting. As lighting gets less desirable, noise starts to creep in but colors are maintained well.

The Redmi 5 has a 12MP rear camera with f/2.2 aperture, but what makes it special is the 1.25μm pixel size, the largest we have seen on a Redmi device. With this, we can expect Redmi 5’s camera to perform much better than its predecessors in low light.

These specs sound a little familiar. Is this the same IMX386 sensor found in the Mi Max 2? Unfortunately not. Typing *#*#64663#*#* into the dialler revealed the sensor to be OmniVision’s OV12A10, the same one used in Mi A1’s primary rear shooter.

Under bright daylight condition, Redmi 5’s rear camera performs really well, producing photos with plenty of details and relatively accurate colors. Moving into artificial lighting, photos start to lose a bit of detail, but are still pleasant looking.

Click on the images above to view it at full quality.

Under less desirable lighting, we can see noise start to really creep in, but colors are still well presented and images still look good. This is a huge improvement from previous Redmi devices, where photos often turn out unusable, decent at best.

Click on the images above to view it at full quality.

As you may expect from a phone in this price range, taking low-light photos can be a little challenging. It takes about 2 full seconds to take a photo at night and if you move away before it completes, you are guaranteed to get a blurry photo.

Xiaomi’s HDR mode gets its job done most of the time, but it tends to oversatuate images, as you can see from the image below.

IMG_20180311_135108-min

Next up, videos. It is weird that the default resolution is HD, which looks horrible. You can change it to FHD in the settings and videos will turn out a lot better. But even then, it isn’t very ideal for vlogging. What are you expecting at this price?


Front Camera – Selfie Flash? No Thanks!

A smart beautify feature and selfie flash will not make a crappy front camera take good selfies.

Beautify 3.0 on the Redmi 5’s 5MP front shooter works really well on auto mode, but I wouldn’t call the photos Instagram worthy as the quality of the camera itself is pretty meh. There is plenty of details, but dynamic range can be a little problematic.

IMG_20180312_101802

Another new feature of the selfie camera on the Redmi 5 is that selfie flash. Taking selfies with it in complete darkness results in a noisy, unusable image. As it isn’t very bright, using it for taking selfies in a well lit room isn’t helpful at all.

The only time where it can be a little useful is when there is a light source in front of you that isn’t too bright. In that case, the flash brighten up your face a little, but the image is still full of noise and isn’t something I would put on social media.

IMG_20180312_210028


Audio – Surprisingly Good Bottom-Firing Speaker

Audio from the Redmi 5’s bottom-firing speaker and audio jack is considerably better than the Redmi Note 4’s.

The bottom-firing speaker on the Redmi 5 is excellent, producing sound that is a lot clearer and cleaner than the Redmi Note 4. At max volume, it is noticeably louder than the Redmi Note 4, but not loud enough for you to start a party.

As for the audio coming out of the headphone jack, it isn’t as loud as on the Redmi Note 4, as tested on my JBL Synchros S300i. Clarity is slightly better and mids are more prominent on the Redmi 5, so overall it is better than the Redmi Note 4.

IMG_3056-min

Lastly, call quality. The earpiece is loud and clear, but the microphone is just average in my opinion. The audio it picks up is loud enough, but doesn’t sound very natural. I would say that the Redmi Note 4 does a slightly better job.


Battery Life – Enough to Last Through a Busy Day

While not as beastly as its larger sibling, Redmi 5’s battery can easily get you through a full day on a single charge, even on a day with non-stop heavy usage.

Everyone uses their phones differently, so we will be testing out 3 different scenarios in this battery test. For the first two test we put the Redmi 5 under moderate to heavy usage, simulating the smartphone usage of most people.

To keep the tests realistic, SIM was always inserted, either WiFi or mobile data was on most of the time and hundreds of WhatsApp messages were received each day. Display brightness was set to auto and only adjusted when not bright enough.

In the first test we play some light games, social media browsing, YouTube and listen to music via regular headphones. By 10PM, the phone had 22% battery left, with a screen-on time of 6h 32min. This is fairly impressive considering its 3300mAh battery.

Screenshot_2018-03-13-22-00-06-765_com.miui.securitycenter.png

  • Total time 14h 50min
  • 6h 32min screen-on time
  • 1h 20min light games (Leap Day, Knife Hit & The Tower AC)
  • 40min Facebook
  • 16min Browser
  • 1h 14min YouTube
  • 41min music

IMG_20180313_220108.png

The next test is similar, but with a reasonable amount of time spent on playing graphic-intensive games. Under this type of regular usage, the phone lasted through the entire day with 27% left by 10PM, with a screen-on time of 5h 43min. Not bad.

Screenshot_2018-03-05-22-10-26-988_com.miui.securitycenter

  • Total time 15h 52min
  • 5h 43min screen-on time
  • 1h 44min of 王者荣耀
  • 1h 3min of Facebook
  • 25min Browser
  • 20min music

Screenshot_2018-03-05-22-10-52-633_com.miui.securitycenter

For the final test, I tried to push the Redmi 5’s battery to its limits. I played close to 4 hours of graphic intensive games, listened to music via Bluetooth headphones and watched YouTube. By 8:30PM, the Redmi 5 was down to 8% battery.

Screenshot_2018-03-09-20-31-27-602_com.miui.securitycenter

  • Total time 13h 34min
  • 6h 20min screen-on time
  • 1h 30min Heir of Light
  • 1h 12min 王者荣耀
  • 1h 14min Alto’s Adventure
  • 19min YouTube
  • 5h 45min music via iBFree Bluetooth headphones

IMG_20180309_203223

While it was not be able to last past 10PM under such heavy usage, it gave me enough time to eat dinner, then return home to charge it. In Geekbench 4’s battery test, Redmi 5 scored an impressive 4738, draining from full to 1% battery in 11h 18min.

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This may not sound much compared to the Redmi Note 4 with its ginormous 4100mAh battery. But I never had to charge the Redmi 5 before reaching home at night in any of the tests and that itself is something to be proud of. Great job Redmi 5!


Software – Making Use of the 18:9 Display

A couple of features in MIUI that will make your Redmi 5 experience even better.

Out of the box, the Redmi 5 runs MIUI 9.2 on top of Android Nougat. As there too many features in MIUI to cover in a single article, let alone here, so I will only be going through those that complement the 18:9 display experience.

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First up, reaching the corners of such a tall display can be strenuous. A simple fix would be to enable one-handed mode. Swipe left/right from the home button and the screen will “shrink” to the side you swiped, making one-handed use a lot easier.

IMG_3069-min

Next, if you are going to hide the navigation bar like I have recommended above, swiping up from the bottom of the screen to make it appear can be a little troublesome. An alternative to the navigation bar is quick ball, something like iOS’s AssistiveTouch.

IMG_3071-min

Unlike the navigation bar, quick ball doesn’t have a fixed position on your screen so your entire screen can be used by the app. When not in use, you can swipe the ball to one side to hide it, freeing up your screen (almost) completely.

Lastly, we have split screen. The display is 18:9 – some would rather call it 2:1. So when you split it you are getting two squares? Not really… Unfortunately, the navigation bar cannot be hidden in split screen. Not sure if that is a bug or a “feature”.

Screenshot_2018-03-12-18-00-57-911_com.facebook.katana

That said, you are getting slightly more area for each app compared to a 16:9 display, so apps will be less squashed in split screen mode. I hope Xiaomi will release an update that allow us to hide the navigation bar in split screen mode soon.


Conclusion – More Than 18:9 Display

Worth upgrading to, but DO NOT get 16GB model.

Prior to picking up this Redmi 5 from Mi Home, my impression of it was that it is just a taller Redmi 4X (or a thinner Redmi Note 4). But after a week, I have learnt that there is a more to this phone, including many subtle changes that are often overlooked.

These changes may be small, but together with a taller display, a better camera and a sleeker design, it all adds up to a much better user experience. Unless you get the 16/2GB version like me… Do not get the 16/2GB version. I repeat, DO NOT!!!

2GB of RAM is still alright in 2018, but 16GB of storage isn’t. Even with just 3 games installed and a couple of photos, my Redmi 5 is on the verge of running out of space. If you are going to use it as a daily driver, 16GB is definitely not enough.


Future Improvements

Hope to see dual rear cameras, USB Type-C and a brand new design in the next Redmi.

While I did praised the Redmi 5 a lot in this review, there are some changes I would like to see in future Redmi models.

Digital zoom was used to take the photo below. It turned out alright, but I am sure that it would have been better if the Redmi 5 had dual cameras for optical zoom. Not sure how feasible it would be for a phone at this price, but I wish the next Redmi has it.

IMG_20180312_100117

It is a little disappointing to see that Redmi 5 is still using Micro USB instead of USB Type-C. With so many devices now using Type-C, from laptops to SSDs, carrying a phone with Micro USB means having to bring an additional cable wherever you go.

As the leader of the budget segment, Xiaomi has a lot of influence over trends. All they have to do is release a Redmi device with Type-C and their competitors will follow suit. Looks like we still have to bear with Micro USB for another year.

Finally, the design of next year’s Redmi has to change drastically, especially for the Redmi Note series. The current style has been used on the Redmi Note series for 3 years now and people are getting tired of it. Using it again next year would be risky.

Oh, and please stop making 16GB phones.

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