Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro first Impressions: Improving the king of budget smartphones

The Redmi Note 6 Pro gets display, camera upgrades while holding on to everything we loved about the Note 5 Pro.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro has undoubtedly been the budget smartphone to beat in 2018. Launched back in January, every smartphone vendor including Xiaomi themselves have tried to match the phone’s price-to-performance value and failed mostly.

Having confirmed that the Redmi Note 6 Pro is coming to India on 22 November, Xiaomi is faced with a mammoth task of bettering its predecessor without stretching its price too much.

Now, what has changed over the past year is that there are a ton of choices for users to pick from, these include the Realme 2 Pro, the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1, Nokia 6.1 Plus, Motorola One Power and the Honor 8X.

Does the Note 5 successor pack enough to take them on? Here are my early impressions.

The Redmi Note 6 Pro features a massive notch at the front which is reminiscent of the POCO F1. Image: tech2/ Kshitij

The Redmi Note 6 Pro features a massive notch at the front which is reminiscent of the POCO F1. Image: tech2/ Kshitij

Build and Design

Bluntly put, my first glance the Redmi Note 6 Pro immediately reminded me of the Redmi 6 Pro launched in September. The device is definitely larger and closer to the Note 5 Pro in terms of size but the design is almost identical to the Redmi 6 Pro.

Xiaomi is sticking to the same design we've been accustomed to seeing and as it appears, we will be seeing more of this dull and boring design for a little longer. The phone is still made of metal and plastic, does feel durable and even has a nice heft to it, courtesy of the 4,000 mAh battery inside.

The back of the Note 6 Pro looks identical to that on the Redmi 6 Pro and almost every other Xiaomi phone with a dual-camera setup on the back. Image: tech2/ Shomik

The back of the Note 6 Pro looks identical to that on the Redmi 6 Pro and almost every other Xiaomi phone with a dual-camera setup on the back. Image: tech2/ Shomik

The new smartphone does have two visibly noticeable changes here, coming from its predecessor — one being that huge notch and the other, a second camera unit on the front. Everything else is the same, including how tall and thick the device is.

Display

The Redmi Note 6 Pro maintains a chassis which is almost of the same size as the Redmi 5 Pro, but it packs a larger 6.23-inch display with a 19:9 aspect ratio. The display is larger here on paper but one does have to take the notch into account which does impact the amount of usable display space.

The 6.23-inch LCD display is punchy and gets quite bright for indoor use. Image: tech2/Shomik

The 6.23-inch LCD display is punchy and gets quite bright for indoor use. Image: tech2/Shomik

On top, we have a layer of 2.5D curved glass which curves ever so slightly into the lipping which holds it together. The phone packs an impressive 2,280 x 1,080 resolution with a pixel density of 403 PPI and a screen-to-body ratio of 81.1 percent which is a marginal improvement from its predecessor.

With my limited time on the device, the display looked great with great sharpness and adequately punchy colours. The display also gets adequately bright (up to 500 nits claims Xiaomi) but its legibility under direct sunlight is something I will have wait and check.

Chipset, RAM and Storage

A common feature with iterative updates is an upgrade to the chipset inside the phone but Xiaomi has strangely decided to stick to the same Snapdragon 636 SoC we saw on the Note 5 Pro.

That said, I have spent a day with the phone and my experience has been buttery smooth, even with a moderate amount of multitasking. While that could be a lot to do with Xiaomi's attention to software, what is left to be seen is how the phone handles games like Asphalt 9 and PUBG.

The XIaomi branding on the back remains. Image: tech2/ Shomik

The XIaomi branding on the back remains. Image: tech2/ Shomik

The unit we received for review features 6 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage but at this point, we're not quite sure how many variants of the Note 6 Pro Xiaomi plans on launching.

Storage can be further expanded using a microSD card and the best part is that you don't have to sacrifice your second SIM card for it. Of the 64 GB of onboard storage, you do get roughly 52.5 GB of available storage. Though there are a few apps which can be considered bloatware (Netflix, PhonePe, Amazon, Microsoft Word and Excel) and can be uninstalled for a bit more storage.

OS and Software

The Redmi Note 6 Pro is the first Xiaomi smartphone to run MIUI 10 out of the box in India and it makes a world of a difference. There are a bunch of changes scattered across the UI, most of which are minor but the improvements are definitely visible.

With the Redmi Note 6 Pro, you get MIUI 10 with Android 8.1 Oreo as the base Android software along with the October security patch.

MIUI 10

The software feels buttery smooth and I have not come across any lag or even micro-stutters with my limited use. I'm not a huge fan of gesture-based navigation on Android phones yet, but I do feel that Xiaomi has implemented it well. The subtle changes to the fonts and animations here also add to the pleasant software experience.

I will have to reserve the rest of my opinions for the full review, by which I would have put the phone through its paces. So far, everything seems and feels like an upgrade from MIUI 9.

Camera

Dual-cameras have been a feature on most Xiaomi smartphones launched this year and it was the Redmi Note 5 Pro that the company had started with. The hardware does see a bump here and Xiaomi is banking on it as their biggest upgrade on the phone.

The Redmi Note 6 Pro gets a 12 MP f/1.9 primary sensor and a 5 MP f/2.2 secondary sensor which collects depth-related data. There's also PDAF and a dual-tone LED flash. The UI remains unchanged from the Redmi Note 5 Pro with a toggle to switch on AI-enhancement for photos. There are also a number of feature additions introduced by MIUI 10 like adjustable bokeh and studio lighting which I will be talking about in detail in the review.

The front has a dual-camera setup this time for better portrait selfies. Image: tech2/ Shomik

The front has a dual-camera setup this time for better portrait selfies. Image: tech2/ Shomik

Video shooting capabilities are capped at 1080p at 30 fps. You do get EIS though, which should help a great deal getting better footage.

On the front, the phone features a dual-camera setup for the first time. The Note 6 Pro gets a 20 MP f/2.0 primary camera here along with a 2 MP f/2.2 depth sensing lens geared for better bokeh. Video shooting capabilities are capped at a resolution of 1080p at 30 fps.

The Camera UI is basic and features six modes — portrait, short video, video, square, panorama and standard photo.

Battery and Connectivity

The Redmi Note 6 Pro features a 4,000 mAh battery. The chipset isn't the best when it comes to efficiency but MIUI does generally handle battery well and the phone should comfortably get you through a day.

With my one day of use, I have charged the phone once and still have roughly 35 percent of battery remaining after a day of heavy use.

Conclusion

The Redmi Note 6 Pro may appear to have arrived a couple of months early but the message from Xiaomi is quite clear. They had gotten a lot of things right with the Redmi Note 5 Pro and their approach to the Note 6 Pro was definitely based on its success.

The Redmi Note 6 Pro features display and camera updates while holding on to everything that was right with the Note 5 Pro. Image: tech2/Shomik

The Redmi Note 6 Pro features display and camera updates while holding on to everything that was right with the Note 5 Pro. Image: tech2/Shomik

However, with rising input costs and the rupee depreciating, Xiaomi, like a lot of other brands, is struggling to add value while keeping prices low. But even then, the Note 6 Pro features upgrades to the display and the camera setup, while holding to on everything that we loved about its predecessor. But has Xiaomi really done justice here? Well, you will have to wait for the detailed review to find out.

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