Xiaomi Redmi 5a is the cheapest Xiaomi smartphone of all time with 600RMB and replaces Redmi 4a after one year. You could also call this review “Xiaomi Redmi 4a after one year”, as little changes were made compared to the predecessor. The low-cost smartphone consists completely of plastic and in terms of camera, processor, storage, and battery size, little has changed. To be precise, the battery size is a bit smaller with only 3000mAh (3120mAh with Redmi 4a) and the plastic casing is slightly more rounded off. 7 days with Redmi 4a made two things very clear: nobody can compete with Xiaomi in the low-budget range and after one year, Xiaomi Redmi 4a is still the perfect smartphone for beginners and price-conscious users.
Xiaomi’s dominance in the middle class and low-budget segments
|Redmi Note 4X
|Processor||Snapdragon 625||Snapdragon 625||Snapdragon 435||Snapdragon 425|
|Storage||4GB of RAM, 32/64GB||3/4GB of RAM, 32/64GB||3GB of RAM, 32GB||2GB of RAM, 16/32GB|
|Camera||2 x 13 MP, f/2.0 PDAF, Dual-Tone LED||13 MP, f/2.0 PDAF, Dual-Tone LED||13 MP, f/2.2, PDAF, Dual-Tone LED||13 MP, f/2.2, Single-LED|
|Display||5.5 inches, 1920*1080||5.5 inches, 1920*1080||5 inches, 1280*720||5 inches, 1280*720|
Design and build quality
Smartphones with a plastic casing are not popular anymore. Even the smallest manufacturer produces devices with a metal frame, ideally, you can get partly uni-body casing from 100$ upwards. But plastic does not only look cheap, it is also very cheap. This is why Redmi 4a, as well as Redmi 5a, consist of this material. However, Xiaomi’s most reasonable smartphone of all their series has a perfect build quality too. Nothing wobbles and there are neither sharp edges nor inaccuracies to find. The smartphone is 140mm long, 70mm wide and 8.7mm thick. Compared to the predecessor, everything stays the same, apart from the now slightly curved rear side. The rear makes the phone look slimmer and it now feels better while holding it in the hand. Redmi 5a has a light weight of 137g.
Power button and volume control are firmly attached to the right side and have a nice feedback. Redmi 5a uses the 3 common Android sensor keys below the display. Unfortunately, they are not illuminated. The notification LED is placed right below the home button and shines in white. At the left side, you find the SIM tray, in which you can insert either 2 Nano-SIMs or 1 Nano-SIM and 1 Micro-SD card (up to 128GB) for storage expansion. The 3-1 slot is available in the Global version. Micro-USB port and the microphone are located at the bottom; at the top, the smartphone houses a second noise-canceling microphone, an infrared-sender, and a headphone jack. The rear camera is supported by a single-LED flash and fits perfectly into the casing. A silver circle protects the camera glass from scratches caused by direct contact with the surface (e.g. of a table).
For fans of metal frames, Xiaomi Redmi 5a is the wrong smartphone, but still, it has a perfect build quality and also looks quite stylish. With the 5-inch display, it is also really compact, which makes it possible to operate the phone with only one hand.
According to the data-sheet, Xiaomi Redmi 5a provides only 1280×720 pixels. On a 5.5-inch display, this would be a weak point, but on the small 5-inch display the resolution still results in nice 294ppi. Therefore, you cannot detect any single pixels with the naked eye. In a direct comparison to the Cubot Note Plus, nobody is able to note a difference between the FHD display and “just” the HD display. Redmi 5a’s display provides a sharp and nice image with accurate color representation. You can adjust contrast (2 modes) and color representation (3 modes) in the settings and activate the reading mode with the blue light filter. Automatic brightness works excellently. If needed, the brightness gets extremely low or impressively high as well. Readability outside is astoundingly good for a smartphone for less than 100$.
The touchscreen is very convincing as well. All inputs are carried out fast and even fast typing persons will be satisfied. The smooth display surface, which is typical for Xiaomi, is really nice. The display also survived our scratch test with a bunch of keys without any harm. In the options menu, you can activate the classic double-tap-to-wake function. This is especially important because the smartphone does not house a fingerprint scanner. Unfortunately, a fast double-tap is often not recognized, so you have to tap more slowly on the screen, and waking the phone up works perfectly. You won’t have to lower your sights in terms of Xiaomi Redmi 5a’s display. Amateurs won’t recognize the cheap price because of the display.
Operating system and performance
The Snapdragon 425 is Qualcomm’s cheapest processor. Nevertheless, the 4 Cortex-A53 cores, which clock at 1.5GHz, secure a fluent system that can also deal with one or the other game. However, those who want to play demanding games like Asphalt 8 at highest graphics settings are definitely ill-served by Redmi 5a. The good system optimization can also be seen in the heat development, and MIUI 9 runs in top form. Xiaomi Redmi 5a always remained pleasantly cool in the test, and system performance is significantly better with MIUI 9 than with MIUI 8. At this point, we could see a difference to Redmi 4a because of the older MIUI version, but Redmi 4a will get the MIUI 9 update as well.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result
As everything in the smartphone, also the storage is minimalist. 2/16GB is the least you can expect from a smartphone in 2017. If there will be also a 2/32GB or even 3/32GB, remains to be seen. 2GB of RAM are not a lot for multitasking, so it often happens that apps in the intermediate storage have to be re-loaded. The RAM module has a solid speed of 3.8GB/s, in this case, Redmi 4a was slightly faster. However, the reason for that might be the system. The 16GB internal storage can be expanded (up to 128GB) when going without dual-SIM. The storage has a really good reading/writing speed of 182/78MB/s. Of the 16GB you only have 9.8GB at your disposal, as the rest is needed for the MIUI system.
For a low-budget device, system performance is just impressive. The system runs really fluently, ordinary games are not a problem, and all tasks are performed without delays. Xiaomi Redmi 5a offers an ideal everyday-performance that will please most smartphone users. The official Global ROM will be available shortly, as a Global version of Redmi 5a is already sold. Then you’ll get a nice smartphone with Google Play Store and without China apps.
Redmi 5a’s camera set-up consists of a 13MP main sensor with f/2.2 aperture and a 5MP front camera with f/2.0 aperture. Xiaomi Redmi 4a still dominates the ultra-low-budget segment when it comes to camera quality. As soon as you pass the 100$ limit, this can change fast. In the low-budget segment especially, a slightly higher investment can make the difference.
The focus works fast and mostly accurately. Nevertheless, 5 out of 60 pictures were bad, as the focus simply didn’t work. Taking close-ups, you have to activate the focus via tapping on the object to get decent results.
As usual, Xiaomi’s camera app offers a lot of possibilities and even the cheapest device provides facial recognition with age algorithm. The pictures are pin-sharp and have many details in the middle. Towards the edges, blurriness increases. Dynamic range is good in principle, but I liked the images taken in HDR mode (depending on the light conditions) a little better. The HDR mode does not work too much, but just to the right degree. In terms of sharpness and details, Redmi 5a is better than a Vernee M5 or Cubot Note Plus. As soon as there is less light, Redmi 5a’s pictures have more grains and the focus has massive problems. When recording videos, the focus is halting, as also the FPS. You should not expect good videos, but they’ll do the trick in emergencies. Even a 1080p resolution is possible.
The front camera takes decent selfies. Corresponding to the price range, they seem a bit faded and lack details – even the f/2.0 aperture can’t change that.
Connectivity and communication
GSM 850 MHz, GSM 900 MHz, GSM 1800 MHz, GSM 1900 MHz, UMTS 850 MHz, UMTS 900 MHz, UMTS 1900 MHz, UMTS 2100 MHz, LTE 850 MHz, LTE 900 MHz, LTE 1800 MHz, LTE 2100 MHz, LTE 2600 MHz, LTE-TDD 1900 MHz (B39), LTE-TDD 2300 MHz (B40), LTE-TDD 2500 MHz (B41), LTE-TDD 2600 MHz (B38)
Voice quality is good and even the speakerphone can be used well. You can insert either 2 Nano-SIMs or 1 Nano-SIM and 1 Micro-SD card in the Redmi 5a. In the Global version, you can even use 2 Nano-SIMs + Micro-SD!
Xiaomi Redmi 5a scores big in terms of reception. In places, where you usually have load times of 5-10 seconds while surfing, the Redmi 5a still has a strong mobile networks reception. When it comes to reception, the plastic casing has its advantages. The lack of metal can be seen also in terms of WiFi reception (n-standard, 2.4GHz): range and transfer rate are excellent. GPS navigation worked perfectly in the car as well as a pedestrian. Bluetooth 4.1 is supported as well and works well. An FM-radio is available, too.
Besides acceleration, proximity and brightness sensor, Xiaomi even offers a gyroscope and a compass. Once it’s calibrated, the compass works excellently.
The headphone jack convinces with awesome sound. The speaker on the rear generally offers a full sound, the position on the rear, however, is a bit impractical as soon as the smartphone lies on the table.
Xiaomi Redmi 5a only offers a batter capacity of 3000mAh – Redmi 4X users can only laugh about that. Despite the small battery, Redmi 5a lasted for awesome 10 hours (with a brightness of 200cdm²) in the PCMark batter test. The reason for this good result is the thrifty processor and the nice system optimization by Xiaomi and MIUI 9.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
Redmi 4a will also get these results with the MIUI 9 update, although you even got 120mAh more capacity with the 4a device. After 2 days of use, I got an average DOT (display-on time) of 6-7 hours, and Redmi 5a had to be charged for 3 hours. Using my quick-charge adapter, it only took 2. hours. Quick-charge is not supported, but it shortens the charge time. Redmi 5a’s battery life is truly convincing and even gets power-users through the day!
Xiaomi Redmi 5a Global Version
The Global Version is not delivered with European charging adapter and Global Rom. Xiaomi offers all LTE frequencies that are important for Europe. With the Global version, it will also be possible to use the Dual-SIM function and expand the storage at the same time.