In the latest chapter of the Megapixel war, Realme struck the first blow by launching the first 64 MP camera phone in India, the Realme XT (Review). Xiaomi, not one to take things lying down, responded with the Redmi Note 8 Pro last week. The 64 MP camera may be the poster boy for this device, but its true strength lies elsewhere, courtesy of an unlikely ally. What is that? How good is the camera? How does it perform in other departments? Is Redmi Note 8 better than Realme XT? Read on to learn more.
Redmi Note 8 Pro Design: Elegant but a tad bulky
Note 8 Pro is easily the best-looking Redmi Note till date. After sticking to its older design for generations, Xiaomi took a conscious decision to completely redo the aesthetics with the launch of Redmi Note 7 Pro earlier this year. While the Note 7 Pro still looks quite classy, the company has decided to step up the glamour quotient with the Note 8 Pro. A certain competitor may want to take some credit for it, and rightly so. The curved glass back of the Halo White variant looks extremely elegant and makes the phone look a lot more premium than its price tag would suggest.
The pearl white finish bears a close resemblance to the white variant of its closest competitor, Realme XT. The camera placement is different though; I will come to that in a minute. The colour tones that the back reflects in different lighting is a thing to behold and the effect is quite cool. Fingerprints aren’t easily visible at the back either in this variant, which is another plus. The glossy plastic frame looks slightly out of place though. The curvy design and the lack of any rough edges make the phone good to hold, and the build quality is rugged too. The screen and the back are both protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
While I liked the looks of the Redmi Note 8 Pro, one cannot ignore the fact that it’s a fairly large phone. It also weighs a good 200 grams, and the weight distribution isn’t the most optimal, making it feel heavy in hand. There are two SIM trays along the left edge, one of which also accommodates a dedicated microSD card slot. The power button and volume rocker are on the right and are easily accessible. Three cameras and a fingerprint sensor are vertically aligned at the back centre on a slight elevation. The macro camera and LED flash are placed next to it.
The fingerprint scanner is located a bit higher than would be ideal and you need to stretch a bit to reach it. Also, your finger brushing against the hard edges of the aforementioned elevation when trying to unlock the phone isn’t a pleasant feeling, but it’s something you will get used to. I’ve no complaints about the responsiveness of the fingerprint scanner though. There is an IR Blaster located at the top, while a micro USB port, 3.5 mm audio jack and the speaker grille can be found along the lower edge of the phone.
Redmi Note 8 Pro: Key specifications
Mediatek Helio G90T SoC: 2 Cortex-A76 performance cores at 2.05 GHz + 6 Cortex-A55 efficiency cores at 2 GHz
Mali G76-MC4 GPU clocked at 800 MHz
6 GB or 8 GB RAM options
64 GB or 128 GB UFS 2.1 internal storage + dedicated microSD slot
6.53-inch Full HD+ display with HDR and Corning Gorilla Glass 5
64 MP (main) + 8 MP (ultra-wide) + 2 MP (macro) + 2 MP (depth sensor) quad cameras; 20 MP selfie camera
4,500 mAh battery with bundled 18 W fast charger
Android Pie 9.0 with MIUI 10
Redmi Note 8 Pro Display: Vibrant screen with HDR
While the Redmi Note 8 Pro looks to compete with the Realme XT, Xiaomi has opted for an LCD screen rather than going the Super AMOLED route. Despite that, what we have here is an extremely sharp 6.53-inch Full HD+ display (with a drop notch) that also supports HDR. The black levels and contrast aren’t exactly as good as the AMOLED screen on the Realme XT, but the difference in quality isn’t huge either. The screen feels a bit too big though and one-handed operation is out of the question, but those with a ‘bigger the better’ motto won’t be complaining.
The contrast looks good and colours look vibrant without going over the top. Brightness can hit 500 nits, ensuring that the display is very much legible even under bright sunlight. The default screen calibration is towards the cooler side and the display has a distinct blue tinge even when you set the colour temperature to its Default (standard) setting. For more accurate colour reproduction, one should set this to Warm.
Redmi Note 8 Pro Performance: The new midrange monster to beat
Eyebrows were raised when Xiaomi decided to go with a Mediatek SoC in the Note 8 Pro despite the Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 doing an excellent job in the Redmi Note 7 Pro. As it happens, this was a brilliant decision on Xiaomi’s part as the Mediatek Helio G90T delivers on all fronts, and how! The G90T is an octa-core chip with two 2.05 GHz Cortex-A76 performance cores and six Cortex A55 efficiency cores running at 2 GHz. There’s Mali G76-MC4 GPU clocked at 800 MHz to tackle graphics and games.
There was absolutely no lag in day-to-day operations or even when switching between multiple apps running at the same time. But that can also be attributed to the ample 8 GB RAM on my test unit. In performance benchmarks, it simply blows the competition away. In Antutu 8, it managed a score of 284,957, which is a good 32.8 percent higher than what the Snapdragon 712 managed on the Realme XT (214517). Similarly, in Geekbench 5, it recorded a single-core score or 498 as opposed to 322 on the XT. The Multi-core score was almost similar for both phones at 1,552 and 1,504 respectively.
The OpenCL performance of the Redmi Note 8 Pro in Geekbench 5 was almost double its competitor’s score at 1,827 vs 936. Xiaomi opted for the Helio G90T chip for a boost in gaming performance and it delivers on that front. In the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme - Vulkan benchmark, the Mali-G76 MC4 GPU managed a score of 2,412, a 20 percent jump over the 1,994 scored by the Adreno 616 in the Realme XT. To test the gaming performance further, I tried PUBG Mobile on it in Ultra mode with HDR on. The performance was fairly smooth at those setting too. However, the phone got warm within 10-15 minutes, but the game did not freeze or crash even then.
So, the Redmi Note 8 Pro seems to be the new midrange performance king under Rs 20,000, barring one in-house competitor. The 6 GB RAM / 128 GB storage variant of the Poco F1 now sells for Rs 15,999, which is the same as that of the similar variant of the Note 8 Pro. The Snapdragon 845 in the Poco F1 is at a different level altogether and outperforms the Helio G90T in all benchmarks. But the Poco F1 is over a year old and may be at the end of its life cycle. Also, the Note 8 Pro is a much better phone overall when you factor in design, camera, battery, etc., making it a solid option in this segment.
Redmi Note 8 Pro Battery performance: Good battery life but average fast charger
The Redmi Note 8 Pro has a non-removable 4,500 mAh battery that easily lasts a day and a half of normal usage that includes a generous helping of messaging and social media apps, browsing, clicking a few photos, 30 mins of watching videos and 30 mins of gaming. If your usage is on the lighter side, you can even stretch the battery life to two days. Conversely, if you indulge in gaming for 2-3 hours a day and watching videos for as long, you can still pull a full day’s usage out of it. Given the kind of power this phone packs, this is an impressive battery life.
The company bundles an 18 W fast charger, which is a good thing. But the performance is nowhere as impressive as that of the VOOC 3.0 charger bundled with the Realme XT. To present things in numbers, the Redmi Note 8 Pro takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to charge from 0 to 100 percent with the bundled charger, whereas the Realme XT goes from 0 to 100 in under 90 minutes. Yes, the Note 8 Pro’s battery capacity is 12.5 percent more than the XT’s, but it takes 50 percent more time to charge fully. Realme is a clear winner in this department.
Redmi Note 8 Pro Camera performance: Good main camera but quad camera is just a gimmick
The Redmi Note 8 Pro cameras are pretty good for the segment, but they’re not extraordinary. The primary 64 MP camera is quite good but don’t expect miracles just because it’s packing so many megapixels. The phone allows you to capture images in 64 MP if you wish to, but in standard mode, it captures in 16 MP with pixel binning.
Essentially, a camera sensor is made up of pixels, microscopic sites that are sensitive to light. The more pixels you have, the higher the resolution of the camera. But, the smaller the pixel, the less sensitive it is to light, which means more noise and less detail in low light.
The trick to developing a sensor is in finding the right balance between pixel size and resolution.
Flagship phones like an iPhone or Galaxy device offer large sensors with large pixels. Cheap phones will offer small pixels on small sensors.
Pixel binning attempts to find a middle ground by offering a high density of small pixels which when grouped together, imitate a larger pixel. In the case of the Redmi Note 8 Pro, and other cameras with pixel binning, 64 million tiny pixels are combined in groups of four to form 16 million larger, virtual pixels.
The 64 MP mode doesn’t offer major improvements over the standard mode, but you may use it if you want to print captured images. However, you will have to deal with files that can hit 20 MB per image.
In standard mode as well as 64 MP mode, the quality of captured images is quite good with vibrant colours and ample detail. The noise levels are kept well in check. I wouldn’t call the colours perfectly natural and they are a tad too saturated. This should please Instagramers though. The image processing is a bit aggressive and the overall image appears sharpened with boosted contrast. But as I just mentioned, not many people would complain about the output, especially social media enthusiasts. If I were to compare it to the Realme XT’s output, I would say that the colours look a lot more natural in the images captured using the XT, but they are sharper in the Redmi Note 8 Pro. Take your pick.
(Head to our Redmi Note 8 Pro Flickr Album for checking out detailed high-resolution images shot using this phone)
There is one small issue with the primary camera though, the focus seems a bit temperamental. This is observed more frequently when trying to focus on nearby objects a foot or two away. At times it struggles to lock focus and part of the image comes out blurred. Also, even if you choose your focal point, the camera tends to focus elsewhere. I believe this is a software issue and I hope Xiaomi fixes it soon in an upcoming update.
The Portrait mode works very well and manages good foreground and background separation. The camera app also allows you to manually adjust the level of blur. The end result is good the majority of the time with humans and objects alike, but especially the former.
You also get a 2X zoom toggle in normal mode, but that’s essentially digital zoom. However, the images look sharp enough and are very much usable on social media. Alternately, you can shoot in 64 MP and crop the image too. That is one practical use of the 64 MP camera.
Low light photography on the Redmi Note 8 Pro is pretty decent, even when you do not enable night mode. In fact, I liked it better without the night mode, especially if there is still a reasonable amount of light on the subject. The images turn out quite sharp and manage to retain a good amount of detail. Night mode makes the images unnaturally bright for my liking, even without the flash. Also, you need to stay steady for an extra couple of seconds when using night mode. But if the light is too low, you have no option but to switch the mode on.
Now let’s move on to the other two cameras. Frankly speaking, the ultra-wide and macro cameras are there just to make up the numbers. But that’s the case with almost all phones in this budget that flaunt them.
Though it offers you a much broader field of vision, there is noticeable loss in detail when using ultra-wide mode, and the image quality is average at best. Images shot in bright light manage to retain a bit more detail but as the light drops, quality drops rapidly.
The macro mode is a hit or a miss entity. Captured images often turn out blurry and you need really steady hands to capture close-up shots, but even then, you just get 2 MP images with average detail. Even though the company claims that one can take macros from as close as 2 cm from the subject, it's best to shoot from at least 4 cm to 5 cm for best results.
The 20 MP front camera is quite impressive though and won’t leave selfie enthusiasts with much to complain about. Images are sharp and skin tones look natural. Even with a bit of AI beautification, it doesn’t feel like the subject has slapped on excess makeup or done a skin graft. The front shooter also captures portrait shots and does a good job. The only issue with the front camera is the UI; the camera app also shows modes that the front camera cannot utilise, like 64 MP mode, and if you select those, it switches to the rear camera. This can be quite irritating.
The Redmi Note 8 Pro can record videos at up to 4K resolution with the primary rear camera and can go up to 1080p with the selfie camera. The frame rate is capped at 30 fps for each. 1080p videos shot on the main camera can go up to 60 fps. 4K videos look sharp but contrast seems a bit unnatural. The EIS doesn’t kick in either. 1080p videos shot on the main camera look a lot more natural and stabilised. The macro and wide-angle cameras let you record videos too, but the quality isn’t anything to write home about and best avoided. Simply stick to the primary camera for videos, its output is perfectly acceptable for the segment.
(Head to our Redmi Note 8 Pro Flickr Album for checking out detailed high-resolution images shot using this phone)
OS and user interface: Certainly not a standout feature
The Redmi Note 8 Pro runs Android Pie out of the box with a layer of MIUI 10 on top. It comes with a September 2019 security patch. There was no October patch available for this device at the time of publishing.
If you have read our Xiaomi phone reviews from earlier this year, for devices like the Redmi Note 7 Pro or Redmi K20 Pro (Review), we have already written enough about MIUI 10. There is nothing new to report here. This is one user interface I am not a big fan of. It’s not just the lack of an app drawer that’s frustrating, it’s also the amount of bloatware that the company bundles with the phone. Some of it cannot even be uninstalled. Add to these the number of ads and unnecessary alerts that the UI throws in your face all day, and you end up with an unpleasant user experience.
MIUI feels dated and making a handful of cosmetic changes won’t help fix it. It is in dire need of a fresh approach more than a fresher look. And of course, the bloatware needs to go away, along with the unwanted notifications. Yes, MIUI 11 is around the corner and promises a few new tricks, but whether it addresses some of the core issues or not, we will soon find out.
On the brighter side, Redmi Note 8 Pro comes with Alexa built in. Like most other Android phones, it also has Google Assistant. So, you have two voice enabled smart assistants at your service. Summon whichever you like or both, and ask them to do your bidding.
Final words: The value for money bar just got raised
All said and done, Redmi Note 8 Pro is an impressive device and offers great value for money at its selling price. It raises the performance bar in the 15-20K category courtesy of its unlikely hero, the Mediatek Helio G90T SoC. The system and graphics performance are excellent at this price point and probably the best you can get with any chipset south of the Snapdragon 845. The photography department is more than decent and can get even better if some of the chinks are ironed out through software updates. While we had the 8 GB variant for review, the one with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage would be the best model to opt for.
And lastly, is it better than the Realme XT? A detailed answer would translate into another long article. But to state it simply, the Redmi Note 8 Pro is better than the Realme XT in terms of sheer performance, gaming included. Their cameras are evenly matched in terms of specifications and image quality both, and so are their aesthetics. Screen quality and fast charging are better on the XT, and Color OS is way better than MIUI. So, choose one depending on your priorities and needs.
One thing is for certain, though, either choice won’t leave you disappointed and you’re easily getting your money’s worth.
Redmi Note 8 Pro Price in India:
Rs 14,999 for 6 GB Ram with 64 GB internal storage
Rs 15,999 for 6 GB Ram with 128 GB internal storage
Rs 17,999 for 8 GB Ram with 128 GB internal storage
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