Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 Review

Xiaomi is known for making affordable products that look and feel good, and the Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 is no exception. Despite only costing S$29.90, it looks better than most speakers in its price range. Should you get one?

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Design – Clean & Premium

With a metal frame all around the sides and very smooth matte plastic on the front and back, you will have a hard time guessing that this Bluetooth speaker can be yours at just under S$30.

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There are only 3 buttons on the Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2: the power and volume buttons, all located on the top of the speaker. The power button also doubles as a play/pause button.

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On the bottom of the speaker, you will find a pair of rubber strips that do a decent job at providing grip so your speaker doesn’t slide around or off a table. On the back, you will find the Micro USB charging port, as well as an AUX-in port.

The width of the Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 is only as long as the height of a Redmi 5, so is easily pocketable. Overall, I really like how simple yet classy the device looks. My only complain would be its matte white plastic, which gets dirty really easily.


Pairing & Controls – Easy to Use

You can turn on the Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 by holding on the power button. The notification LED, hidden behind the speaker grill, will flash red and blue, indicating ready to pair. Now, pair it on your phone like any other Bluetooth speaker.

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Once paired and connected, the notification light will turn solid blue and you will hear a long beep. To disconnect from the current device and play from another device, double tap the power button. To turn the speaker off, hold the power button.

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Alternatively, you can connect the speaker to your music device via a 3.5mm audio cable. It still requires the speaker to be powered on, but this might save your device some battery.

Whether you are using an iOS and some Android devices, the volume buttons on the Basic 2 can control your phone’s volume directly. Ironically, it is unable to control MIUI’s volume slider directly and uses a separate volume setting instead.

Holding the volume down buttons minimizes the volume instantly, while holding the volume up button will bring it up to max gradually. Nice touch. I do wish there was a way to skip or go to previous track using the speaker though.


Sound Quality – Very Good for Its Price

The Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 is loud enough to fill a large room with music. Despite only having speaker grills on the front, audio is still very audible from the back – just a little less shiok.

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The sound it produces is also pretty good, with great balance and relatively good level of details. Bass is also respectable for a portable speaker. You can find something better if you pay more, but for a S$30 Bluetooth speaker, I am very satisfied.

Compared to the original Mi Bluetooth Speaker from years ago, the Basic 2’s produces sounds that is richer and more natural. Bass is noticeably deeper and vocals sound warmer and clearer.

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Battery Life – Exceeding Expectations

Xiaomi claims that the Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 is capable of up to 10hrs of battery life. From my testing, under varying volume levels (between 40-100%), I was able to achieve over 12hrs of continuous music playback via Bluetooth. Sweet!

When the battery has about 5-10 minutes of charge remaining, the device will constantly beep to inform you about it. One thing annoying is that it does it even while you are charging and still using it. (Not sure if it is safe to do so though…)

To conserve battery, the Basic 2 will automatically switch off after 10 minutes of inactivity, even if it is connected to your device.


Microphone – There is One Built In?!!!

The Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 is a great way to listen to phone calls. But wouldn’t it be great if you can talk into the speaker directly? That was what the designers at Xiaomi thought, so they included a microphone in the Basic 2.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to record any audio with it due to the lack of support for Bluetooth microphone recording on Android and iOS. But testing it with my home phone, the microphone on the Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 is of decent quality.


Conclusion – Worth Every Penny!

Like most of Xiaomi’s device, the Mi Bluetooth Speaker Basic 2 offers excellent build quality and performance at a very affordable pricing. It looks modern, sounds pretty good and has excellent battery life. At under S$30, what more can we ask for?

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A Visit to Mi Store @ Bedok Mall

In October 2016, Xiaomi opened their first store in Singapore, Mi Home @ Suntec City. Since then, many more Xiaomi stores popped up around Singapore, including the new Bedok Mall authorized Mi Store, which officially opened today.

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Couldn’t make it to the grand opening of the Mi Store today? No need to worry. In this article, we will be taking a quick look around the Bedok Mall Mi Store and take a look at some of the new products that can be found at there.

The Mi Store is located in Basement 1 of Bedok mall, in front of Hot Tomato Express. (Speaking of Hot Tomato Express, influencers and Mi Fan Club members were given a treat there. The chicken wings were juicy and tender. Yummy!)

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If you were at the Bedok Mall this morning, you may have notice the super long queue outside of Mi Store. Why is everyone queuing? To celebrate its grand opening, Mi Store Bedok Mall has some amazing deals for customers, including S$99 phones.

At 11:30AM, the celebration commenced with cutting of ribbons and lion dance performance. After the first customer (who queued outside since 8AM) made her purchase, the Mi Store opened its doors to everyone else waiting outside.

Time to explore the new Mi Store! Xiaomi’s most popular products are here: Mi and Redmi smartphones, Mi power banks, Mi Headphones, as well as the Mi Band 2.

There are also products that were previously unavailable in Singapore, like Mi Notebook Pro, Mi Laser Projector and Mi Induction Rice Cooker. Note that some of these are export sets, so do ask Mi Store about warranty before purchasing.

The Bedok Mi Store also sells some pretty bizarre stuff you would never expect from Xiaomi, like towels, sunglasses and umbrella. There is also a Lego Mindstorms-like robot, which looks super cool and is very affordable at only S$129.

But perhaps the most exciting product in the Mi Store is the one hidden at a corner, behind a pillar, sitting in large cardboard boxes: the 43″ Mi TV. There were no display sets of the TV in the store and even the price tag was nowhere to be seen…

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While the things here are costlier than they are in China (due to shipping, rental, etc…), I really appreciate the fact that Xiaomi is bringing more and more products into Singapore.

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Congrats to Mi Singapore and Era International Network on the opening of the new Mi Store at Bedok Mall!

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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

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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.

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

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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.

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  • 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

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

Xiaomi Redmi 5 Unboxing & First Impression

In my Redmi Note 3 and Redmi Note 4 reviews, I praised them for their excellent bang-for-the-buck, offering superb performance and experience at a very low price. Now that another year has passed, we are getting a new generation of Redmi devices.

But this year, I will not be reviewing the Redmi Note 5, aka Redmi 5 Plus. Instead, we will be taking a look at the Redmi 5, its smaller and less powerful, but more affordable sibling. The Redmi 5 goes for S$179 (2/16GB) and S$219 (3/32GB) in Singapore.


Unboxing – Clear Case Now Included!

The Redmi 5 comes in a striking Mi-orange box about the size of the Redmi Note 4’s, but thicker. Isn’t the Redmi 5 a smaller phone? Why is the packaging thicker? Unlike Redmi devices from the past, the Redmi 5 comes with a clear case in the box. Sweet!

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Other than that, you are getting the usual stuff: an instruction manual, SIM removal tool, charging cable and wall adapter.

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First Impression – Refreshing, But is It Really Better?

Display & Form Factor

The most significant update to the Redmi 5 is without a doubt the new 18:9 display. With it, you get more space vertically compared to its predecessor, the Redmi 4X. According to Xiaomi, this will allow for more room in games, web browsing and apps.

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But that also make it a taller phone, so using it one-handed is not as convenient as before. The height of the Redmi 5 is comparable to that of the Redmi Note 4. Thankfully, MIUI has a one-handed mode, which can be enabled in the settings.

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Xiaomi is using an on-screen navigation bar on the Redmi 5, so for most apps, you are actually getting just a tiny bit more screen real estate than before. I would have preferred a navigation bar on the lower chin instead, like on previous devices.

Rear Design

The rear of the phone will look very familiar to Redmi Note 3 and 4 users, but it is a considerable improvement if you are coming from the Redmi 4X. The camera lens is slightly protruding, but this should not be a concern if you have a case.

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Front & Rear Camera

Let’s talk more about the rear camera. It is still 12MP, but each individual pixel has been bumped up in size, theoretically taking in more light and producing better photos. Unlike the Redmi 5 Plus, the Redmi 5 only has a single LED flash on the rear.

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Take a look at the photos below. The ones on the left are taken with the Redmi Note 4, while those on the right are taken with the new Redmi 5. Which is better in your opinion?

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More sample shots will be provided in my full review. Moving on to the 5MP front camera, Xiaomi added a single LED light, located beside the ambient light sensor. But even with the flash light, selfies turn out decent at most under artificial/low lighting.

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Others

The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is as quick as ever and setting up requires just a few seconds. An IR blaster is located at the top of the device, so is a headphone jack. The Redmi 5 comes in three color options: gold, black and a beautiful new blue color.

One thing that really disappointed me on the Redmi 5 was the Micro USB port. While not many budget phones have USB Type-C yet, I was expecting Xiaomi to be the one that pushes for it. We may have to wait another year or two to retire Micro USB.

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From my image comparing the size of the Redmi 5 and the Redmi Note 4 on top, you may have noticed that the Redmi 5 has certification markings on the back, which was absent on the Redmi Note 4. Would have been nice if it wasn’t there, but not a big deal.


Conclusion

With many manufacturers using the 18:9 display as an excuse to hike price, I am really glad that Mi Singapore maintained last year’s pricing for the Redmi 5. I am looking forward to testing in the next couple of weeks, especially the rear camera.

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Do you have any questions regarding the Redmi 5 or 5 Plus? Comment below and I will try to address them on my Redmi 5 review. Would you also like to see a review on the Redmi 5 Plus? If you are, also leave a comment and I will try to borrow one.