Continuing with its Redmi A-series, Xiaomi launched the Redmi 8A smartphone in India last month. With a starting price of Rs 6,499, the smartphone clearly caters to the budget segment.
But before we get to the review of the phone, here’s a little anecdote: Last month, the help at my place asked me to suggest a phone under Rs 5,000. You’d think, with a million (Surprise: I am dramatic) smartphone launches that have taken place this year, there would be a lot of options in the segment, but when you go looking you’d actually find nothing worth putting your money on. The Asus Zenfone L1 Lite (Review) is one decent phone in the category (priced at Rs 4,499), but it’s been out of stock everywhere. So, if you are also someone looking for a device in the same sub-Rs 5k category, then be prepared to be disappointed.
Smartphone manufacturers are flooding the Rs 12,000 to Rs 20,000 category, trying to re-invent it as the new budget segment, but no one is paying attention to the actual budget category, which is below Rs 5,000.
However, if you are ready to stretch your budget to about Rs 7,000, Redmi 8A may be your best bet in the category right now.
Redmi 8A comes in a blue, red, and a black colour variant. Image: tech2/Prashant
Redmi 8A: What's great
Redmi 8A’s battery lasts forever
A 5,000 mAh battery on a sub-Rs 7,000 smartphone is downright impressive on paper, but it can also disappoint you by not offering as much runtime as you would expect. The Redmi 8A delivers on its promises.
I was using the phone as my primary device for a few weeks and then as my secondary phone for another few. As a primary device, I was using the phone as usual — persistently switching between social media apps all day, watching a lot of videos on YouTube, and streaming music on Spotify whenever I had free time — and it comfortably survived two days.
As a secondary device — I had my second SIM in the phone, with an active WhatsApp account, still clicking a lot of pictures and videos from the phone, checking my work emails on it, taking a few calls, and also for 'gramin — the Redmi 8A’s battery lasted beyond three days sometimes.
Bonus: Redmi 8A comes with a USB Type-C charging port with a 10 W charging adapter bundled in the box (something that Apple's Rs 70,000 iPhone 11 still doesn't include). From zero percent battery, I was able to charge it up to about 48 percent in an hour. If you want even faster charging, Xiaomi also sells an 18 W fast charger for Rs 449 and it would be a good investment for a phone with that large a battery.
Bright and crisp display
For the category it falls in, the Redmi 8A’s display is better than I expected. The smartphone features a 6.22-inch HD+ display with a resolution of 720 x 1,250 pixels and a 19:9 aspect ratio. The display also has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for protection.
The phone’s display has decent viewing angles and shows good colour and contrast. The text sharpness is also good. Sunlight legibility is quite nice. Auto brightness is effective and you wouldn’t find yourself squinting at the screen with the changing ambient light.
I wouldn’t mind calling Redmi 8A’s design adorable
Design is the first thing I noticed on the phone and I instantly liked it. I have the blue colour variant with me, and it makes the phone look bright and attractive. The back of the phone has these textured stripes on it, and a glassy ridge that runs along the centre, which has the camera setup and the LED flash on top of it, the Redmi logo right below, and a ‘Design by Xiaomi’ tag at the end of the strip. This ridge-back design reminded me of the Oppo Reno (Review).
The ergonomics of the Redmi 8A are well-thought-out. It has a decent screen size for video viewing and the curved designs make gripping the phone very comfortable. The textured back helps with the grip as well. The non-glossy back also keeps ugly smudges at bay.
The phone also feels quite sturdy and you wouldn’t feel the need to get a case for the phone. Although, I would suggest you get a screen guard for the phone, which doesn’t come bundled in the box. While its display is protected by Gorilla Glass 5, in the long run, coins and keys can leave some bad scratches behind.
On the front, the Redmi 8A has a waterdrop notch that houses the selfie camera, and there's a thick chin at the base of the display, which has the Redmi logo on it.
Not a gaming phone, but it’s decent for daily use
While the Redmi 8A does not offer you a completely lag-free experience, for daily use including answering calls, watching videos on YouTube, and switching between Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, the smartphone will not disappoint you.
The smartphone is powered by a Snapdragon 439 with options for 2 GB and 3 GB RAM. The variant I have has 2 GB RAM.
On most days, the Redmi 8A ran pretty smoothly, with quick transitions between apps. However, I did notice lag a few times while using the camera on the Instagram app. The phone also hung briefly while switching between the front and rear cameras within the camera app. Also, there was an occasional unresponsiveness while texting. Notably, though, while reviewing the device, Xiaomi rolled out the MIUI 10.3.1 update, which dramatically cut down on UI lag.
Gaming, however, isn’t the strong suit of the Redmi 8A, and that's kind of expected at this price range. I played PUBG Mobile on it, and also Call of Duty: Mobile for kicks, and while the 8A runs both games decently enough, PUBG crashed a few times. Both games also take a while to start on the smartphone.
The Redmi 8A comes with an added game booster mode that does help optimise the overall gaming performance, however, both PUBG and Call of Duty ran by default on a low-graphics setting which doesn’t offer a very detailed and sharp gaming experience. Also, once you start playing the game, you'll see the phone starting to struggle, with noticeable frame drops occurring from time to time. Bottom line: If you are a mobile gamer, this is not the phone to look at.
Having said that, keeping the price point of the phone in mind, I would still say that the Redmi 8A offers decent overall performance.
Also, the audio quality of the phone is pretty good with nothing much to complain about. It also offers wireless FM radio, which means you don’t need to plug in earphones to tune in. And yes, it has a 3.5 mm audio jack.
Camera: It's functional
Xiaomi Redmi 8A sports a 12 MP Sony IMX363 sensor (also been seen on the likes of Poco F1 and Google Pixel 3) with an f/1.8 aperture at the rear and an 8 MP sensor up front for selfies.
Let’s talk about the rear camera first. The Redmi 8A offers an overall decent camera performance. Day shots and videos are good, but night shots are poor.
While testing the Redmi 8A’s camera, I realised that during the day, Redmi 8A did fairly well, and produced nice and almost true-to-life colours in the images. However, when zoomed into these pictures, I noticed a significant quality drop.
For close up shots, Redmi 8A has a decent natural depth of field. But when you click portrait shots with the phone, the edge detection is at best, average. You will see strands of your hair and the edge of your ears and shoulders being blurred. I also noticed that in some images, Redmi 8A over-exposed the backgrounds in portrait mode.
The Redmi 8A also lets you shoot 1080p videos, which come out pretty well in terms of colours and details, however, the videos are as shaky as if they were taken by a naked man in a snow storm.
At night, the image and video quality of the Redmi 8A’s rear camera is just about tolerable. I found night shots to be grainy and greens in the pictures always look waxy.
Moving to selfies, the Redmi 8A’s front camera produces some decent pictures in daylight but they all have soft focus.
Low light images from the front camera look washed out and over-exposed and sometimes grainy. They are best avoided.
However, these flaws are forgivable because of the price point.
Redmi 8A: What isn't great
UI and software
The Redmi 8A runs MIUI 10, which is based on Android 9 Pie, and that’s the one aspect of the phone I really could not make peace with. The phone also comes with no app drawer and all the icons are spread across the home screen. There is also a fair amount of bloatware on the smartphone. The smartphone is also plagued with spammy ads, like all other Xiaomi devices.
I came across ads while installing new apps and also found stock apps like Mi Video and Mi Music generating spammy notifications. The Wallpaper Magazine feature, thankfully, can be disabled from Settings.
To be fair, MIUI 10 does offer features like Digital Wellbeing and dual-apps, which can be helpful.
But overall, unless, you are an existing MIUI user, the UI of the Redmi 8A may be upsetting to you too.
When I was talking about Redmi 8A’s design above, did you notice I did not mention the fingerprint sensor? That’s because the Redmi 8A only comes with Face Unlock for biometric authentication and it has pattern/pin/passcode for additional security.
However, I am not sure why Xiaomi chose to do that. The Face Unlock on Redmi 8A is moody. It’s quick and responsive sometimes, and it refuses to react to your face at other times. Sometimes, there is also a lag of a good 5-6 seconds before the device unlocks. I would prefer something simpler and more reliable, like a good fingerprint sensor.
Verdict and Price in India
The Redmi 8A is the latest and greatest in this price segment and you can blame all other smartphone manufacturers for that. If you want to buy a decent phone that will let you go about your day without much hassle, and has a great design, there really aren't many other options, barring the Redmi 7A that is.
The Redmi 8A is priced at Rs 6,499 for its 2 GB RAM variant and Rs 6,999 for the 3 GB model. If you have a tight budget and you are looking for a smartphone with a decent camera and overall performance, a long-lasting battery the Redmi 8A’s 2 GB RAM variant should fit your needs perfectly. The 3 GB RAM variant would be for someone who spends a bit more time on multiple social media apps and the like.
The only downside you need to really consider when buying the Redmi 8A would be the UI of the smartphone. Like I said, if you are already a Xiaomi user, you probably already know how to deal with the UI. However, if you are not, I would suggest you experience MIUI 10 at least once before putting your money on the phone.
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