The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro may have been launched back in January but it has undoubtedly been the budget smartphone to beat throughout 2018. Honor, Asus, Realme and Nokia threatened to take the crown but just failed to offer a value proposition that the Note 5 Pro did.
Fast forward to November and we already have the Redmi Note 6 Pro and does it pack as much of a punch as its predecessor? Sadly, no. But there's absolutely no reason to be disappointed.
Xiaomi went back to the drawing board and decided to keep everything that worked with the Note 5 Pro the same. But it has gone with minor updates to the camera this time. With prices starting at Rs 13,999 for the base variant with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage, the Redmi Note 6 Pro is essentially an iteration upgrade with minor changes. The higher-end 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage variant costs Rs 15,999.
While there’s nothing wrong with that, it would be wrong to say that the phone really sets the benchmark for budget phones in 2019. So who is the Redmi Note 6 Pro really for? Well, if you love taking photos and you can’t stretch your budget beyond Rs 15,000-17,000, then the Redmi Note 6 Pro is a no-brainer. Read on to find out why.
The camera is definitely where all the differences stand when compared to the Redmi Note 5 Pro and Xiaomi is definitely banking on it to make it count.
The Redmi Note 6 Pro has a dual-camera setup on the back, but this time with marginally better hardware. The primary camera unit here is a 12 MP f/1.9 aperture lens and is complemented by a 5 MP f/2.2 depth sensor. The reason why this is a marginal upgrade is that the primary sensor is now theoretically capable of taking in more light when compared to the predecessor's f/2.2 aperture lens and boy does it make a difference.
The results were quite amazing. For a smartphone that is priced at Rs 15,000, the Note 6 Pro absolutely crushes any other smartphone camera under Rs 20,000.
You get the usual Camera UI and shots in broad daylight turned out well with lightning-fast autofocus. The colours, in general, are slightly warmer than natural, but sharpness levels and exposure are on point. The AI processing does have a tendency to oversaturate the colours because of which I preferred turning it off for the most part. Tap to focus also worked flawlessly, letting me get the exposure levels just right for every shot.
The portrait mode works well with great edge detection and a very natural-looking separation of the background from the subject. In fact, I'd go far enough to say that the results in daylight can be easily confused with something shot using an entry-level SLR camera.
Well, most budget smartphones do adequately well in daylight, but it's low-light where they show their true colours (quite literally). That certainly isn't the case with the Note 6 Pro and the images will certainly leave you astounded. Xiaomi has managed to work its magic here with noise levels well under check and the images managing to retain a lot of detail. Don't believe me? Do check out the image samples below and let us know what you think.
The front camera is no pushover either. Xiaomi has swapped away the front-facing flash away this time for a 2 MP depth sensor and improved the 20 MP primary selfie shooter to a f/2.0 unit. I'm personally not one who takes a lot of selfies but my colleagues who do, were very pleased with the results. The results in low light were quite pleasing as well, the depth sensor nailing subject separation most of the time.
Video shooting is capped at Full HD at 30 fps and the Redmi Note 6 Pro does the job if you need it to. There is EIS which works well enough to shoot casual videos. A persistent issue of Xiaomi phones dropping frames while panning seems to have been resolved which does result in more usable videos.
OS and Software: 8/10
Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro is the first smartphone to run MIUI 10 out of the box and it makes quite a difference to the overall experience here. The MIUI 10.0.4 version is also based on Android Oreo 8.1 with the October security patch on board. Xiaomi hasn’t mentioned anything about Android 9 Pie coming anytime soon, but if you are acquainted with Xiaomi’s history with updates, it could take a while.
The display is quite large on the phone and to make full use of the space here, Xiaomi introduces gesture support which again is quite similar to Apple’s gestures on the iPhone.
Gestures on Android are certainly not as fluid and intuitive as iOS, but Xiaomi’s really tried to make it as close to iOS as possible. You swipe right from the edge of the display to trigger the back button and swipe left from the right edge of the display to move forward. Swiping up from the bottom takes you home and holding on to the swipe up gesture takes you to the recent apps window. I haven’t gotten used to gestures in general yet, but having used the Note 6 Pro, it does work quite well. Apps also scale well to the 19:9 aspect ratio here making the overall experience of using gestures feel quite natural.
The recent apps tab has also been tweaked to make more use of the available display space with a card like structure which looks quite pleasing. Xiaomi’s material design inspiration bears heavily here and things run buttery smooth. Having used MIUI 8 and 9 for such a long time, the minor tweaks to animations, transitions and even the new notification window feel refreshing.
MIUI 10 also adds a few image processing gimmicks like letting you change the amount of background blur on a portrait shot and the shape of the bokeh. We've seen this on a number of Huawei and Samsung phones, but it is a nice feature to have.
Just like a lot of other technology companies out there, AI seems to be the buzzword for Xiaomi as well this year. MIUI 10 uses artificial intelligence to look into users' app usage behaviour and tries to predict which app may be used next, to reduce app load times. This was announced by Xiaomi back in May but it's with the Note 6 Pro I was able to notice this for the first time. Not like RAM management is an issue here anyway, but frequently opened apps like WhatsApp, Instagram and Gmail did open noticeably quicker.
Within three days of using the device, Xiaomi also threw a massive 1.6 GB OTA update my way. However, I did not come across any noticeable changes after the update.
Build and Design: 7/10
The Redmi Note 6 Pro looks a lot like Redmi 6 Pro which launched a couple of months ago and honestly, the design is really beginning to feel a tad too boring now. The Note 6 Pro does not stray away from taking design cues from the Redmi Note 5 Pro and almost every other smartphone made by Xiaomi this year.
The frame of the phone is made of plastic and so are the top and bottom caps of the phone on the back. The majority of the back is, however, a single plate of metal with a cut-out for the camera module which again looks identical to that on the Note 5 Pro. If you do look close enough though, the caps on the back and the frame are moulded into the frame. The cold metal on the back and the large battery inside the phone certainly gives it a very dense in-hand feel.
The display sits on top of the body and has a plastic lipping around it, with the edge curved to aid gripping the phone. The lipping here is so pronounced that Xiaomi just gave up on hiding it and made it look more like a design element.
The phone is considerably large for one-handed use but isn’t too slippery because of the metal plate on the back. That said, the black unit we have for review is definitely a fingerprint magnet.
There is a bit of a camera bump on the back with recessed edges, but it wasn’t big enough to make the phone wobble when typing with the phone on a table. The fingerprint scanner on the back is also placed just right.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro does feature a large notch though which is reminiscent of the POCO F1. The notch features the dual front-facing cameras, an earpiece and the proximity sensor. A thick outline runs around the entire display, making the notch appear wider than it actually is, but again the outline is much smaller than the ugly borders around the POCO F1.
There’s also a sizable chin which may look shabby in comparison to premium smartphones but at its price, it looks just fine.
For the price, I'd still easily pick the Honor 9N any day of the week, purely because of how appealing the phone looks. But if a more muted look is your thing and you don't mind Xiaomi's boring design choice, the Redmi Note 6 Pro is definitely right on top of your list with great build quality.
The 18:9 display on the Redmi Note 5 Pro is now replaced with a 19:9 notched one on the Note 6 Pro. This may not be the first Xiaomi smartphone to feature a notch, but it is the first of its Note series phones to do so.
Xiaomi does pack in great LCD display even on their budget phones and the Note 6 Pro is no different in this respect. The 6.26-inch IPS LCD display not only packs in a Full HD+ resolution of 1,080 x 2,280 pixels, but also does really well when it comes to producing the right colour tones.
The larger display though does not necessarily result in more usable screen space though as the notch takes up quite a bit of the large display. The display is still quite large and great for Netflix (which mind you, doesn't play content at Full HD) and YouTube. The space on the left-hand side of the notch does not show any notification icons of apps, instead, you get notification bubbles on the individual app. This may not be the best implementation, but at the same time, it's not like it could accomodate more than three-four app notification icons any way.
At full brightness, text can be a little difficult to read when under direct sunlight, but the maximum brightness of 500 nits that the display reaches is more than adequate under most bright conditions.
Xiaomi also lets you tinker around with the white balance a fair bit in the display settings and also throws in a Reading Mode if you like. If you do watch a ton of videos on your phone or play games, you will have an enjoyable experience. The oleophobic coating also does a great job in repelling fingerprints and even minor splashes of water.
I would have loved a raise-to-wake or a double-tap-to-wake feature, but both are missing on the Redmi Note 6 Pro. Definitely not a deal-breaker though.
The highlight feature of the Redmi Note 6 Pro happens to be the quad-camera setup the phone which includes two cameras at the back and two on the front of the phone.
The phone features a notched 6.26-inch display with FHD+ resolution and a screen-to-body ratio of nearly 87.6 percent.
The rest of the stuff here is identical to the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Inside we have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 chipset along with 4 GB RAM plus 64 GB internal storage for starter and a variant with 6 GB RAM and the same internal storage capacity. The lack of a higher storage variant could be deal-breaker for some, since you only get a hybrid SIM slot here. This means that you will have to swap out your second SIM for more storage. Otherwise you're stuck with 64 GB of storage (actually lesser since only 52 GB is usable).
The phone runs Android Oreo 8.1-based MIUI 10 out of the box and is the first Xiaomi device to do so.
In the camera department, we now see a 20 MP and 2 MP front camera module while on the back side there are 12 MP and 5 MP snappers with LED flash and f/1.9 aperture.
Powering the device is a 4,000 mAh battery along with QuickCharge 3.0 support. Xiaomi still believes in throwing an IR blaster in there so you have that too.
Connectivity options include dual-SIM 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 and GPS. There is a micro USB 2.0 port for charging and data transfers and it also has a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Xiaomi debuted the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 SoC with the Redmi Note 5 Pro this January making the phone a breeze to use, but times have definitely changed since then. The Snapdragon 636 isn't an old chipset but definitely begins to show its inadequacies on the Note 6 Pro.
The 14 nm chipset holds up fine for regular tasks like messaging, social media and web browsing but its when running games that it falters.
While most casual games like Alto's Adventure ran fine, it's when playing heavy games like PUBG and Asphalt 8: Airborne (Asphalt 9 doesn't show up on the Play Store strangely) that we had to minimise the graphics settings to have playable frame-rates. Long story short, if you want to buy this phone for gaming, you might want to stay away.
The Realme 2 Pro which sells at the same price as the Redmi Note 6 Pro, offers a more capable Snapdragon 660 chipset for gaming and so does the Mi A2 which now starts at Rs 15,999.
The battery drain while playing heavy games wasn't as much as I had noted on the Redmi 6 Pro I reviewed recently. For reference, playing an hour of PUBG on Wi-Fi drained the battery by about 18 percent and 12 percent while playing Asphalt 8.
I was quite pleased with the speaker output on the phone. It is a mono speaker setup but the audio does not distort at higher volumes and gets adequately loud.
Cellular call quality and reception were both excellent. The earpiece has also been placed well, with a wider earpiece, giving you more room to direct call audio. Audio quality through the headphone jack was also pleasing though there is a noticeable emphasis on bass.
Battery Life: 8.5/10
The Redmi Note 6 Pro has a large 4,000 mAh battery which lasted me close to two full days with moderate to heavy use. For those who binge on a lot of videos or play a lot of games, this will easily last you one full day with some juice to spare.
Well, my usage on a daily basis includes messaging on WhatsApp and Telegram, watching videos and streaming music for about an hour or two, working with a lot of emails, browsing and making half a dozen phone calls a day. The phone lasted 10 hours and 35 minutes on our standard PC Mark Work 2.0 Battery Life test which is lower than the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
You do have to wait close to two hours to juice the battery up from zero to a hundred though. You get a standard 5V 2A charger in the box which doesn't really help your cause.
Verdict and Price in India
The Redmi Note 6 Pro certainly does not boast of the best hardware at the price. The ageing Snapdragon 636 chipset, the dull repetitive design and the lack of higher storage variants really do hurt its standing on the specs sheet. But it’s the camera alone that makes the phone worth buying.
The Redmi Note 6 Pro offers the best camera experience under Rs 20,000 regardless of the conditions you’re shooting in. Low light, artificial light, portrait shots, landscapes, it’s got you all covered.
If you are looking for a device for gaming at this price, I’d suggest you look at the Honor 8X or the Realme 2 Pro. Even the Mi A2 could be considered since it is cheaper now. But for everything else, the Note 6 Pro definitely has you covered. The display is great, the battery life stellar and MIUI 10 is brilliantly optimised for everyday use.
But is it really the phone to beat in 2019? For the camera, definitely yes. But otherwise, not really.