Xiaomi Redmi 5 first impressions: Better value than ever, but the competition has already caught up

What used to be a segment run by local smartphones brands was taken over by Xiaomi a few years ago with the launch of its Redmi range of budget-conscious smartphones. It’s 2018 and after the successful Redmi 4 last year, it’s now time for a new Redmi 5 that is once again priced competitively for what is available on offer.

Xiaomi Redmi 5.

Xiaomi Redmi 5.

However, Xiaomi's focus on the budget segment has allowed other brands like InFocus and Infinix to sneak in and offer newer technologies in the entry-level segment. Xiaomi, despite being a leader in the segment, was surprisingly late in delivering a "fullscreen display" to the market.

While we saw a beautiful edge-to-edge display on the Mi Mix 2, it was priced way too high. In the meantime, brands like Honor switched to the new 18:9 display on the fly and quickly adapted to the new trend. Xiaomi was left behind. We saw the first implementation of the new taller displays only in early 2018 on Xiaomi’s much-loved Redmi Note range 5 range. As pointed out in my review of the Redmi Note 5 Pro, this phone was so highly rated not for its display or features, but for its class-leading camera. Taller 18:9 displays had already entered the market by then.

Xiaomi Redmi 5. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

Xiaomi Redmi 5. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

And now comes the humble Redmi 5, which is already late to the full screen party. Luckily, with a Rs 7,999 base price and a new Snapdragon 450 SoC inside, it seems good enough (at least on paper) to take down the competition.

Build and Design

We received the 3 GB RAM + 32 GB model which is priced at Rs 8,999. While the price tag may sound confusing in comparison to Xiaomi’s very own Y series phones and the recently launched Redmi 5A, you really have to hold the above mentioned smartphones and then the Redmi 5 to find why out why I think the pricing makes sense.

It looks really good. In fact, most people I showed the phone to assumed it was priced in the budget range between Rs 12,000 to 15,000.

Despite its plastic chassis, it sure does not feel cheap. It’s overall design is far slimmer than that of the chubby Redmi 4 and this increases its overall appeal.

The phone features a 12 MP camera at the back. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

Rear panel layout. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

The back plate, as on the Redmi 4, is made of metal. This one catches fingerprints quite easily, but unlike on the Redmi 4, they can also be wiped off easily.

There’s a nice curved-edge glass panel on the front, but the profile of this phone is mainly flat with rounded corners and sides, which makes it good enough for one-handed use, despite its large size.

Display

While this may not feel like a large phone, it does pack in a 5.7-inch display. This would be Xiaomi’s fourth smartphone to feature an 18:9 display after the Mi Mix 2, the Redmi Note 5 and the 5 Pro.

The display is covered in 2.5D curved edge glass and sports a resolution of 1440x720 pixels, giving it pixel density of 282 PPI.

The Redmi 5 features an HD+ display. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

The Redmi 5 features an HD+ display. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

Xiaomi claims that it offers a 72 percent NTSC colour gamut, and in my limited hands-on time with the device, I think it easily gets the job done.

Chipset, Storage and RAM

With a shiny new Snapdragon 450 inside clocked at 1.8 GHz, 3 GB RAM and Xiaomi MIUI as on OS, I expected little lag and so far, the experience has been far better than all of its predecessors (4A, 5A, 4). The phone is also available in a 2 GB RAM + 16 GB or a 4 GB + 64 GB configurations at Rs 7,999 and Rs 10,999. The top-of-the-line model does seem a bit pricey for what it’s offers. Storage can be expanded using a microSD card, but you will have to sacrifice one your nano SIMs for it.

The choice of the Snapdragon 450 is an interesting one. Where the SD430 series is possibly more a power-efficient design, the SD450 is far more powerful in the graphics department. This should offer a much smoother user experience.

OS and Software

As with all things Xiaomi, there is always a custom UI involved (we have seen that on the Mi TV 4 as well) but it comes with a robust set of features and seems decent overall.

With the Redmi 5, you get MIUI 9 with Android 7.1 Nougat as the base Android software. The security patch is not the latest one and is dated January 2018.

The software feels smooth and I have not come across any lag so far. The icons looks a bit special and different from what I saw on the Redmi Note 5 Pro in the sense that they're not flat but come with a slight gradient on them. Clearly, Xiaomi is tweaking its design with each update.

I will have to reserve the rest of my opinions for the full review, by which point I would have loaded up the phone with applications. So far, everything seems just fine.

Camera

The Redmi 5 packs in a 12 MP sensor with 1.25 µm pixels in the primary camera with a 5-element lens and an f/2.2 aperture. The rear camera also features a single LED flash with a PDAF system for autofocus. It’s also capable of recording Full HD video at 30 fps.

The front camera on the Redmi 5 features a 5 MP unit and can shoot 1080p or 720p video at 30 fps.

Xiaomi has packed in a 12 MP rear camera on the Redmi 5. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

Xiaomi has packed in a 12 MP rear camera on the Redmi 5. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

My initial impressions of the camera is that it’s decent, showcasing some saturated colours along with average details and textures. Focusing speeds seemed good enough for me not to notice that it was a problem. A good amount of testing will be needed before I can come to a conclusion on the same.

Battery and Connectivity

As with most smartphones we have seen this year, the battery size has been dropping. The Redmi 5 gets downgraded on paper with a 3,300 mAh battery as opposed to the 4,000 mAh unit on the older Redmi 4. With advancements in Android and chipset design, I don't expect this to be much of an issue.

Here's the packaging of the Redmi 5. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

Here's the packaging of the Redmi 5. Image: tech2/Sheldon Pinto

As for connectivity, buyers will get Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2 and support for 4G LTE radios with dual SIM support. There’s also GPS, an infrared port, a micro USB charging port and a 3.5 mm headphone jack, along with the standard array of sensors.

Conclusion

As mentioned at the start of this article, Xiaomi is late to the full screen display party. As with the Redmi Note 5 Pro, however, Xiaomi seems to have played it's hand well when it comes to pricing and specifications.

In the looks department, Xiaomi is already late to the game. However, you don't buy a Xiaomi phone just for its looks. The overall package might indeed trump everything from the competition, but we'll have to wait for my full review to figure that out, won't we?


Updated Date: Mar 19, 2018 17:31 PM