Redmi 5 Plus (Note 5) Review

In a recent article, I reviewed Xiaomi’s Redmi 5, one of the best smartphone you can get for under S$200 right now. As promised, I am back today with a review of its larger sibling, the Redmi 5 Plus, also known as the global Redmi Note 5.

Special thanks to ECS for loaning me this demo unit for review.


Summary – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Pros:

  • Still very affordable
  • Case included in box
  • More screen due to 18:9 display ratio
  • Display’s colors more accurate than Redmi 5
  • Performance excellent for price
  • Improved rear camera under low-light
  • 4K video recording!!!
  • Louder and cleaner sounding bottom-firing speaker

Cons:

  • Camera now protrudes from rear
  • Low quality cable
  • Design getting stale?
  • Mediocre selfie camera
  • Battery not as good as predecessor

Pricing & Variants – Even More Affordable!

Affordable pricing, 3 colors to choose from and free casing?!!! Cable a little disappointing though.

You can get the Redmi 5 Plus at S$259 for the 32/3GB version and S$299 for the 64/4GB version. Compared to its predecessor (Redmi Note 4), pricing of the 32/2GB model stayed the same, while the 64/4GB one went down by S$10. Nice!

The Redmi 5 Plus comes in 3 colors, including the sexy new blue color that I have here. The blue color looks different under various lighting, so do not be shocked if the one you are holding looks very different from the pictures shown below.

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In the Redmi 5 Plus’s box, you get the usual set of accessories, including the user manual, a cable and a wall adapter. But unlike previous Redmi devices, a clear jelly case is also included in the Redmi 5 Plus’s box, essentially saving you a few bucks.

But like the Redmi 5, the cable included is shorter and lower quality than what we got in the past. Disappointing.


Design – Getting a Little Old?

Very similar to Redmi 5, until you take a closer look. Design changed little since 2016, getting a little boring.

The design of the Redmi 5 Plus’s rear should be very familiar to Redmi Note 3 and 4 owners. Ever since switching to metal body in 2016, the design of the Redmi Note series hasn’t changed much, receiving only slight refinements each year.

This is the first year a Redmi Note device shares a similar design with its smaller sibling from the regular Redmi series. Just like the Redmi 5, the 5 Plus’s rear camera protrudes, though not as badly and it is gone once you put the clear case on.

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There are a couple of differences though, most notably the curved edges on the rear and the antenna line design.

The edges on the back of the Redmi 5 Plus are curved, just like on the Redmi Note 4, to complement the arc of your palm when you are holding it. With it, holding such a big phone is a lot more comfortable, but I feel it also reduces the level of grip.

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I praised the Redmi 5 for its new antenna line design that allowed for a one-piece frame, but we do not see that here. Instead, Xiaomi went the opposite way with the Redmi 5 Plus, adding extra cuts and lines that gives it a more complex look.

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There are a couple of smaller differences between the Redmi 5 and 5 Plus. I noticed that the power button is smaller on the larger Redmi 5 Plus. Also, Redmi 5 Plus’s SIM tray ejection hole is on the tray itself. It is separate on the Redmi 5.

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The Redmi 5 Plus’s headphone jack is on the top left, while the Redmi 5 Plus has it on the top right. Lastly, the blue color for both devices are of a different shade, with the 5 Plus’s being slightly darker, only noticeable when you have both side-by-side.


Display – An Elongated 5.5″ 16:9 Display

Same 18:9 ratio as the Redmi 5 but more accurate colors.

The Redmi 5 Plus’s 18:9 display is 5.99″ diagonally but you can think of it as a 5.5″ 16:9 screen stretched vertically. The extra screen space provides numerous benefits in games and various apps, which you can read about in my Redmi 5 review.

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Sadly, the capacitive navigation bar has been replaced by on-screen ones, eating up part of the display. Just like in my Redmi 5 review, I recommend enabling “Hide soft buttons” in the settings app, which hides the navigation bar when not in use.

Apart from both having 18:9 ratio and rounded corners, this FHD+ IPS LCD panel is quite different from the HD+ display on the Redmi 5. It isn’t as warm, so whites doesn’t appear brownish. Also, colors are less oversatuated and more true to life.


Performance – Same Processor, Better Benchmarks?!!!

Powered by the Snapdragon 625 processor, same as Redmi Note 4, but does a lot better in benchmarks. Performs well even in graphic-intensive games.

Right under the hood, the Redmi 5 Plus is powered by the Snapdragon 625. This is a 3 years old processor, the same one on last year’s Redmi Note 4. It is a good processor, but there are better options now. So why is Xiaomi still using it?

Despite sharing the same processor, the Redmi 5 Plus performed significantly better than the Redmi Note 4 in benchmarks. (Both on MIUI 9.2) Redmi 5 Plus scored 868 (single-core)/4281 (multi-core) in Geekbench 4 and 76998 on AnTuTu.

But how does the Redmi 5 Plus perform in real life? Superb to say the least. It had close to no issues playing graphic-intensive games. Even when there were many players attacking on screen in 王者荣耀, the Redmi 5 Plus did not stutter.


Rear Camera – Improved Low-Light + 4K Videos!

Redmi 5 camera plus 4K video recording and slow motion! Better low-light photos compared to Redmi Note 4.

The Redmi 5 Plus uses the same OV12A10 sensor found in the Redmi 5 and as you may expect, they perform almost identically. Compared to the Redmi Note 4, low-light photos turn out a lot better, with more detail, less noise and better colors.

From left to right: Redmi 5 Plus, Redmi 5, Redmi Note 4

The Redmi 5 Plus comes with dual-tone flash on the rear, unlike the Redmi 5 with its single flash. In terms of video capabilities, the Redmi 5 Plus can record 4K and 720p slow-mo videos, both of which are absent on the Redmi 5. Sweet!


Front Camera – Mediocre, Like the Redmi 5’s

Selfie camera has poor dynamic range and struggles in low-light, new selfie flash isn’t very useful.

Redmi 5 and 5 Plus share the same 5MP OmniVision OV5675 sensor on the front and if you read my Redmi 5 review, you will know that I am not too impressed by it. Dynamic range is poor and under low-light conditions, photos turn out too noisy.

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The Redmi 5 Plus has the new front facing flash for selfies too, but it doesn’t do much to improve low-light photos. If you want to take selfies with the Redmi 5 Plus, use the rear camera.

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Audio – The Best on a Redmi Device Thus Far

Coming from an older Redmi device, you will be amazed by audio produced by the Redmi 5 Plus.

Placing the Redmi 5, Redmi 5 Plus and Redmi Note 4 side by side, with volume at max, I played a couple of songs via the bottom-firing speaker on all 3 devices. My results are as follows:

The Redmi 5 and 5 Plus are almost equally as loud, but the Redmi 5 Plus produces sound that is a little more lively. Both are leap and bounds better than the Redmi Note 4, whose bottom-firing speaker sound like thrash beside the two new phones.

The headphone jack on the Redmi 5 Plus is capable outputting audio that is louder than the Redmi 5’s and even the Redmi Note 4. Vocals are really clean and crisp on the Redmi 5 Plus, providing the best listening experience out of the three.


Battery Life – No Longer as Beastly?

Easily lasts a full day even on moderate use, but falls short of the insane 2 days battery life of its predecessor.

The Redmi 5 Plus is powered by a 4000mAh battery, 100mAh lower than last year’s Redmi Note 4. Can it beat the Redmi Note 4 in battery endurance? Unfortunately not. It seems that the Redmi 5 Plus’s battery isn’t as impressive as its predecessor.

I conducted 2 battery tests on the Redmi 5 Plus: The first is with moderate use, simulating how most people will use their phones. In the second test, I went all out and tried to drain the Redmi 5 Plus as much as I could with heavy gaming.

In both tests, either WiFi or mobile data was on most (>95%) of the time. Screen brightness was set to auto, though I did turn it up whenever it was too deem to be read. Non-Bluetooth headphones were used for audio consumption, if any.

For the moderate usage test, I played light games, listened to music, watched YouTube, browsed social media and surfed the web. Personal hotspot was turned on for an hour. The Redmi 5 Plus hit 40% by 10PM, with a screen-on time of 5h 32min.

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  • Total time 14h 19min
  • Screen-on time 5h 32min
  • 1h music
  • 1h YouTube
  • 28min Facebook
  • 30min browser
  • 53min light games (Leap Days, The Tower AC & Knife Hit)
  • 1hr hotspot

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Under this type of usage, the Redmi 5 Plus should get you through about 1.5 days on a single charge. While this result is not bad at all, I was expecting a lot more juice left at the end of the day, not just slightly better than the Redmi 5.

Next up, heavy usage. I played hours of battery-consuming games, mainly 王者荣耀 and The Greedy Cave. The device got charged a little when transferring files, but the amount is not very significant. It ended the day with 16% battery remaining.

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  • Total time 15h 13min
  • Screen-on time 7h 11min
  • 4h 7min 王者荣耀
  • 45min The Greedy Cave
  • 40min Facebook
  • Some photography and slow-mo recording

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With over 7 hours of SOT and close to 5 hours of heavy games, having 16% battery left is a very remarkable feat. The Redmi Note 4 performed better in my review of it last year, but the Redmi 5 Plus’s battery endurance is not far behind.


Software – Feature Packed but Unobtrusive

MIUI comes with a ton of features, most of which are really useful. No update to Oreo yet, but it has been confirmed.

Redmi 5 Plus runs MIUI 9.2 on top of Android 7.1.2 out of the box. An update is available right now, but sadly it isn’t the Oreo update. An update to Oreo has been confirmed by Mi India’s Jai Mani, but we do not know the release date at the moment.

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MIUI is very feature packed compared to stock Android, or even some Android skins like OPPO’s Color OS. But most of the features in MIUI 9 are not obtrusive and can be really useful, like the security app and one-handed mode for example.

If you are coming from a device running MIUI 9 or later, everything here should be really familiar to you; features here are mostly the same as what you would find on your old device, so there is no need to relearn how to use the device.


Conclusion – A Worthy Upgrade?

At under S$300, the Redmi 5 Plus is a very compelling device to get. With an 18:9 display, powerful Snapdragon 625 processor and a pretty good camera for its price, similarly specced devices from the competition would cost a lot more.

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But if you are coming from an older Redmi device, say the Redmi Note 3 or 4, should you switch to a Redmi 5 Plus? If you charge your phone every night, yes! Other than the battery life, the Redmi 5 Plus is better in almost every way.

But if you bought the Redmi Note 4 because of its insane battery life, the Redmi 5 Plus may not be for you. It can easily get you through a full day with some battery remaining, but anything more than 1.5 days may not be possible.

Last question: Redmi 5 or 5 Plus? In my opinion, there are only 2 factors you need to: screen size and storage requirements. If you need 64GB of storage, the Redmi 5 Plus is your only option. In every other aspect, both devices perform similarly.

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