Two years ago, I wrote my first smartphone review, one about the Redmi Note 3 on Mi Community. Last year, I reviewed its successor, the Redmi Note 4. So lets keep up this tradition and review the recently launched Redmi Note 5.
Huge thanks to ECS for loaning me this brand new review unit.
Summary – A Budget Phone with Great Cameras!
An improvement from the Redmi Note 4 in most aspects, especially in the camera department. Worth upgrading to.
- Affordable price tag
- Clear case included
- Beautiful 18:9 display with great viewing angles
- Excellent performance for price
- Rear cameras focus quickly with dual pixel autofocus
- Insane low-light photos considering price
- Selfie camera has plenty of details
- Refined camera app
- Bottom-firing speakers sound better than RMN4’s
- Camera protrudes even with case
- Design getting stale
- Battery life not as good as Redmi Note 4
Xiaomi’s Confusing Naming Scheme
Not the same as Redmi 5 Plus. Similar to Redmi Note 5 Pro, but with different set of cameras on the front and rear.
You may have noticed that I wrote a review about the Redmi 5 Plus, aka Redmi Note 5, a while ago, so why am I reviewing it again? The answer is: I am not. The device in today’s article is a different Redmi Note 5 and you can thank Xiaomi for that.
The device I reviewed earlier is known as the Redmi 5 Plus in Singapore, while India calls it the Redmi Note 5. Meanwhile, the one we will be taking a look at today is called Redmi Note 5 in Singapore, and Redmi Note 5 Pro in India. Confused?
My last point was only partially correct though, and that is a very common mistake. While the local Redmi Note 5 may look the same as the Redmi Note 5 Pro, they are different device. Don’t worry, even the official Xiaomi Lazada store got confused.
While most of the specs are the same, the front and rear cameras used on the two variants are very different.
On paper, we are getting are the superior cameras, with larger pixels and greater aperture that theoretically result in better under low-light photos. Also, our variant has dual pixel autofocus, which is allows the camera to focus really quickly.
Pricing & Variants – Very Affordable
S$299 for 32/3GB, S$349 for 64/4GB.
The Redmi Note 5 comes in 2 storage/RAM configurations in Singapore. The 32/3GB version will cost you S$299 and is only available in black and gold. Meanwhile, the 64/4GB one goes for S$349 and comes in blue, black or gold.
Design – Getting Repetitive…
Design isn’t too different from previous generations, new 18:9 display and dual camera setup on the rear.
There honestly isn’t a lot to talk about the Redmi Note 5’s design. It is very similar to the Redmi 5 Plus, with the most noticeable difference being the dual rear cameras at the top left corner, which resembles the iPhone X’s dual rear cameras.
But like I have repeated myself in the Redmi 5 and Redmi 5 Plus review, this design is getting kind of stale at this point in time. While Xiaomi has tweaked the design slightly to improve its looks each year, it is still reminiscent of the Redmi Note 3.
On the front, we are getting an 18:9 5.99″ display, like on the Redmi 5 Plus. The front camera, flash and ambient light sensor position are mirror imaged though, the screen protector is slightly different for both devices. Just Xiaomi being Xiaomi.
On the top we have an IR blaster for remote control and a microphone. Meanwhile, at the the bottom, you will find the single speaker grill, micro USB port, another microphone, as well as the headphone jack. Very similar to the Redmi 5 Plus.
The rear cameras protrudes quite a bit even with the included case, so I place it down with screen facing the table most of the time. Annoying, but if it is required for the superb camera, which I will cover in a short while, the compromise is worth it.
Display – 18:9, Like Most of 2018’s Budget Phones
Similar to Redmi 5 Plus. Enable full screen gestures to make full use of the 18:9 display.
Redmi Note 5 uses an 18:9 5.99″ FHD+ IPS LCD panel, like the Redmi 5 Plus, but they are not the same panel, with colors appearing deeper on the Redmi Note 5. Redmi Note 5’s display is slightly on the cool side and viewing angles are excellent.
By default, the Redmi Note 5 uses on-screen navigation buttons. If you find that a waste of screen estate, you can enable full-screen gestures, which hides the on-screen navigation bar and uses iPhone X-like gestures for navigation instead.
A flaw with this full screen gestures though is that you are no longer able to access one-handed mode.
Performance – New Snapdragon 636 Processor!
Very powerful processor for the price.
Powered by the Snapdragon 636 processor, the Redmi Note 5 is the most powerful Redmi device til date, scoring 1320 single-core and 4845 multi-core in Geekbench 4.0 and a whopping 117495 in AnTuTu benchmarks. Not bad for a S$349 device.
But benchmarks do not always reflect the true performance of a device, as seen from my Neffos N1 review. So how well does the Redmi Note 5 perform in real life? Very well actually.
Scrolling through MIUI is as smooth as ever, browsing social media is a very pleasant experience and light games run without issues. Even in graphic intensive games like PUBG and 王者荣耀, the Redmi Note 5 runs smoothly with little to no stutter.
Rear Camera – Is This Really a S$349 Device?!!!
Takes very impressive low-light photos for a budget phone, focuses really quickly due to dual pixel autofocus.
There are two reasons to get the Redmi Note 5 over the more affordable Redmi 5 Plus and one of them is the gaming performance, as seen earlier. The other is camera performance. On the rear, Redmi Note 5 is equipped with a pair of cameras.
The main camera is 12MP with f/1.9 aperture, with pixel size of 1.4μm. Theoretically, this makes the Redmi Note 5’s rear camera a beast under low light. It also has dual pixel autofocus, which allows it to focus really quickly on subjects.
In fact, it focuses so fast that you do not even see the circle icon that shows it trying to hunt for focus in the app. You can compare it to the Redmi 5, shown below. So much faster.
Here are some photos taken with the Redmi Note 5’s rear camera. With good lighting, the Redmi Note 5 takes beautiful images with accurate colors. But this is what we have come to expect from most phones, even budget ones under S$200.
Moving to low lighting conditions though, this is when things get unbelievable. Photos turn out a tad bit over saturated, but are well focused, with plenty of details and the sky actually looks black, not overexposed like on similarly priced devices.
However, that does not mean that the Redmi Note 5’s rear camera can compete with modern flagship device’s camera under low light. At night, the Redmi Note 5 still struggles with moving objects, especially smaller ones like this flower.
Meanwhile, its 5MP secondary camera is used mainly for depth sensing, allowing for beautiful bokeh photos, like the ones you see below. It is not perfect at detecting edges though, especially when it gets dark or when the subject is to complex.
While the Redmi Note 5’s rear camera setup is still no fight for modern day flagship devices, it is leaps and bounds better than what we have ever seen on any budget device.
As for videos, the Redmi Note 5 can record up to 1080p. There is electronic image stabilization and it does quite a good job, though I have seen better. Like with photos, the Redmi Note 5 focuses really fast in videos, so they look very good.
At night though, you will see a lot of noise and a lot of details are lost, but colors still look good. I would say that the video is just barely usable. Hence, if you need to record videos at night, you might still want to pay more for flagship devices.
Selfie Camera – Bokeh on Selfies!
Finally getting bokeh selfies on a Redmi device!
On the front of the Redmi Note 5 we have a 13MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. Pictures turn out pretty good for a S$349 device, with plenty of details but colors tend to be a little washed out, like most smartphone selfie cameras I have used.
What is a selfie camera without Beautify? On the Redmi Note 5, AI is used to determine the best beauty profile. This results in selfies that hides most of your facial imperfections, yet without the “unnatural” look that haunts previous versions of Beautify.
Also, through the use of AI, Xiaomi brings portrait mode to the front camera. The edge detection is pretty commendable considering that there is no secondary camera. But it has difficulties detecting small objects, like earphone cables.
Audio – An Improvement Over Its Predecessor
Audio from headphone jack sounds great, bottom-firing speaker is a huge improvement from the Redmi Note 4.
Listening with my JBL Synchros S300i headphones, I compared the Redmi Note 5’s headphone jack output to the Redmi 5’s. Redmi Note 5 had less emphasis on bass while the highs it produced had less distortion compared to the Redmi 5.
I found listening to Redmi 5 to be more lively and magical, while the Redmi Note 5 sounded more natural. Despite their differences, I will say that both sound very good when you put them against other phones in the same price range.
As for the bottom-firing speakers, both can get quite loud, but clarity is quite a bit better on the Redmi 5. But compared to Redmi Note 4’s bottom-firing speaker, the Redmi Note 5’s is just so much cleaner and louder. Big improvements.
Battery Life – 1.5 Days of Regular Usage
Very long endurance, though not as long as its predecessor.
When the Redmi Note 3 launched, its huge 4000mAh battery made it an endurance beast. Then, with a less power hungry processor and a slightly larger 4100mAh battery, the Redmi Note 4 had even better battery life than its predecessor.
Then, Xiaomi went back to a 4000mAh battery on the Redmi Note 5. The Redmi 5 Plus that I reviewed earlier also had a 4000mAh battery, but its endurance wasn’t as impressive as I had hope. So how is the endurance of the Redmi Note 5?
Unfortunately, not as good as the Redmi Note 4. I only had time to conduct a single light to moderate usage test and on a single charge, the Redmi Note 5 lasted for 2 full days with 5h sot.
- Total time 1d 14h 33min
- Screen-on time 5h
- 1h 3min 王者荣耀
- 40min Soul Knights
- 45min Facebook
- 53min music
- >2h hotspot
Most people will spend more time on their phone than I did during the test, so on regular usage, the Redmi Note 5 should last about 1.5 days, similar to the Redmi 5 Plus. It is very good for a smartphone, but Redmi Note 4’s battery life was better.
Software – New Camera App Layout
MIUI stays mostly untouched, except for new camera app.
Redmi Note 5 runs MIUI 9.5 on top of Android 8.1 Oreo. Xiaomi likes to keep the software experience universal across their device, so the features you will find here is mostly the same as what you would find on other Xiaomi devices.
One notable change though is the camera app. Instead of a menu for the different modes, you now get to switch between modes with a swipe, like on iOS. Xiaomi also replaced the old color filters with new ones, while removing all the effect filters.
MIUI is very feature-packed, yet it doesn’t feel too bloated. All of the features in MIUI are very well implemented and only features that will add convenience, like currency converter, are included in MIUI. No gimmicky features, minimal bloatware.
Conclusion – Camera Phone on Budget!
If you are on a tight budget and need a phone with good camera, the Redmi Note 5 is your best option right now.
In recent years, budget devices are getting so good that you can find ones that perform exceptionally well in various aspects: build quality (Neffos N1), performance (Redmi Note 3) and battery life (Redmi Note 4). But camera wasn’t one of them.
Until now. As one of the costliest part of a smartphone, camera is often the factor that separates budget devices from premium devices. Redmi Note 5 is trying to change that and while its camera is still not up there yet, it is very close.
If you are currently using a Redmi Note 4, should you get a Redmi Note 5? Yes! Unlike moving from a Redmi Note 3 to Note 4, the improvements brought by the Redmi Note 5 is pretty drastic and it is better than its predecessor in almost every way.