With the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5, the king of the middle class is back. Xiaomi kept us waiting. At the beginning of the year, we were the only ones who were waiting for the Redmi Note 5, while all others thought that Redmi 5 Plus was the Redmi Note 4X’s successor. But by now, also the global version of Redmi Note 5 is now available and is currently sold for 160€ with 3/32GB of storage. No matter how good Redmi 5 Plus had been for some people, for many, it was just a disappointment. Significantly more performance thanks to a Snapdragon 636 and a strong dual-camera are supposed to change that now.
The times in which cheap smartphones could not keep up with 800€-smartphones are long over. Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 with a Snapdragon 636, provides a similar user experience as smartphones with Snapdragon 835 for the threefold price. The difference in performance can only be seen in the benchmark tests, and when it comes to pictures taken in daylight, you really have to concentrate to identify which photos were taken with a Oneplus 5T or with a Galaxy S9. In terms of battery life, most flagship smartphones cannot keep up with Redmi Note 5. Probably there will never be the perfect smartphone for everyone, but Redmi note 4X was the perfect smartphone for most users. If this is applicable also for Redmi Note 5, you’ll find out in the following detailed review. The new heir to the throne of the middle class is back and has to prove itself in our test!
China Version vs. Global Version
Presented in India under the name Redmi Note 5 Pro, the new Redmi smartphone goes by the name Redmi Note 5 in China and most other countries (without the Pro!). You recognize the device by the Snapdragon 636 and the dual-camera.
|Redmi Note 5 (China)
|Redmi Note 5 Global Version
|Redmi Note 5 Pro (India)
|Processor||Snapdragon 636||Snapdragon 636||Snapdragon 636|
|Storage||3/4/6GB RAM, 32/64GB||3/4GB RAM, 32/64GB||4/6GB RAM, 64GB|
|Camera||Dual camera, 12MP (1.4μm, f/1.9) + 5MP
Dual Pixel PDAF autofocus
Front camera: 13 MP
|Dual camera, 12MP (1,4μm, f/2.2) + 5MP (f/2.0)
Dual Pixel PDAF autofocus
Front camera: 13 MP
|Dual camera, 12MP (1.25μm, f/2.2) + 5MP (1.12μm, f/2.0)
Front camera: 20 MP
|Display||5.99-inch, 2160*1080, 1000:1 contrast||5.99-inch, 2160*1080, 1500:1 contrast||5.99-inch, 2160*1080|
|Battery||4000mAh(typ) / 3900mAh(min)||4000mAh(typ) / 3900mAh(min)||4000mAh(typ) / 3900mAh(min)|
|Frequencies||LTE (4G): 1/3/5/7/8
UMTS (3G): 1/2/5/8
GSM (2G): 2/3/5/8
| LTE (4G): 1/3/4/5/7/8/20/38/40
UMTS (3G): 1/2/5/8
GSM (2G): 2/3/5/8
Our review is based on the Chinese version of Redmi Note 5. The global version is already in the advance sale, supports LTE band 20 and is delivered with the official global ROM (Play Store). To our knowledge, there are some differences in terms of camera and the display. These differences will probably not be noticeable, but people who want to order in advance should be aware of that. The differences are mostly in the camera! After having installed the official global ROM on our test device, the camera didn’t work anymore. But now let’s talk about Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 (China version).
Design and build quality
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 combines a metal body with 2 plastic caps at the top and bottom. The plastic secures a better reception and is barely noticeable when using the phone. The 6-inch device has a weight of 182g and the dimensions are 159 x 75.5 x 8.1mm. Redmi Note 5 is only slightly longer and 17g heavier than Redmi Note 4X. The dual-camera is located left on the rear side, juts out 1mm and is an optical difference to Redmi 5 Plus. The slightly rounded 2.5D glass at the front and the rounded edges of the phone secure nice haptics.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 fits perfectly into the hand. The power button and volume control are on the right and are well reachable. The bezels are 3.4mm. The buttons consist of metal and are firmly attached to the casing. The fingerprint scanner is located on the rear and works fast and without any faults. The front is mainly covered by the display because of the 18:9 ratio. In contrast to Redmi 5 Plus, now, there is a LED light at the front and the headphone jack is located at the bottom.
A notification LED is available as well. It is placed above the display and pulsates slowly and only in the color white. Redmi Note 5 is operated with on-screen buttons, and with MIUI 9.5, you also have so-called “full-screen gestures” at your disposal. These gestures replace the on-screen buttons and after a short period of settling in, operating the phone with gestures works really well. Swiping from the bottom to the top gets you to the home screen, swiping from left or right into the display represents the “back” command and swiping upward and holding it shortly gets you to the overview of currently used apps. The whole gesture control thing is put into practice with perfection and after a few days, you’ll get used to it.
The SIM tray is located on the left and has space for either 2 Nano-SIMs or 1 Nano-SIM and 1 Micro-SD card for storage expansion (up to 200GB). At the top, you’ll find the infrared sender and a second, noise-canceling microphone. The only disappointment is the old Micro-USB port, which has no business to be in a smartphone of this class.
All in all, the build quality and the design of Redmi Note 5 leave nothing to be desired. The transitions on the casing are barely noticeable, the design is up-to-date and fine and the phone seems to be hardly bigger than a 5.5-inch device when using it.
Redmi Note 5 scope of delivery
The scope of delivery contains a 5V/2A charging adapter, a Micro-USB cable, and a SIM ejection tool. Xiaomi also includes a silicone protective cover.
Hands-ON: Xiaomi Redmi Note 5
The display is almost identical to that of Redmi 5 Plus, although we had some problems with the viewing angles in the Chinese version. In the global version, these problems were gone, and Redmi Note 5 has stable viewing angles as it is typical for IPS. The 6-inch display has a 2160×1080 pixels resolution and an 18:9 ratio. This results in pin-sharp 403PPI. Color representation in the standard setting is accurate and can be adjusted (colder or warmer). Xiaomi’s automatic contrast adjust it to the current light conditions, which secures good readability outside. Redmi Note 5’s display does not have such a deep black as AMOLED displays, nevertheless, black values are great. Brightness is high with 450cd/m² and contents are readable even in direct sunlight.
The display surface is pleasantly smooth, 2.5D glass provides nice haptics and the screen registers up to 10 points of contact at the same time. Those liking to use SWYPE and type fast will love Xiaomi’s display surface! All inputs are as precise as with a 500€-flagship, and there are no input lags. The display is scratch-resistant, although Xiaomi does not use brands like Gorilla Glass. A screwdriver did not harm the display in any way. On the other hand, the display is not protected from fingerprints and grease marks. You can also activate the popular double-tap-to-wake- function in the options menu.
After Xiaomi troubled us for 2 years with the Snapdragon 625 in the middle class, the smartphone now gets a performance upgrade. Well, “troubled” seems a bit unfair, as an SD625 masters basic tasks and most games without any problems. Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 now houses a modern Snapdragon 636 with 8x Kryo 260 cores. The octa-core processor is the little brother of the Snapdragon 660, which secures a great performance in the Mi Note 3. The CPU works with 4×1.8GHz in the performance cluster and 4×1.6GHz in the energy saving cluster. A nice energy efficiency is provided thanks to the up-to-date 14nm process. With the current “lightning fast” MIUI 9.5 system, the performance is simply awesome. Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 gets dangerously close to SD835 devices in terms of daily performance. On the other hand, you notice a clear difference to SD625 devices like Redmi 5 Plus or Redmi Note 4X. The system runs smoothly and even micro lags are not noticeable.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result
Games like Asphalt 8 and Nova 3 run perfectly fluently. Even PubG mobile fans will be satisfied, even though here you notice the difference in performance to the more expensive Snapdragon 835 devices. However, these high-end smartphones lose their battery capacity quite fast – Redmi Note 5 loses only 17% of the capacity after 2 hours of PubG Mobile. It also doesn’t get warmer than 37°. The LPDDR4X RAM has a nice speed of 5GB/s and the internal storage (eMMC 5.1) has a pleasant reading/writing speed of 206/230MB/s. You can get the 3/32 and the 4/64GB version as global version. Theoretically, there could be presented a 6GB version, but the increase in performance won’t be worth the extra charge. Our 4GB version can handle 20 apps in the buffer storage before is starts to partly reload the apps when being opened again. Thanks to the high speed, this is not a problem.
With Redmi Note 5, Xiaomi provides the energy-efficient increase in performance we all have been waiting for. Considering that Redmi Note 4X or Mi A1 are already sufficient for most users, Redmi Note 5 sets a clearly higher standard in the middle class. In terms of performance, the smartphone gets really close to 2-3 times more expensive devices.
System with MIUI 9.5 on OREO basis
Redmi Note 5 runs with Xiaomi’s own interpretation of Android. MIUI is not only strongly modified in terms of appearance, there are also numerous functions and possibilities to customize the system. Our China version of Redmi Note 5 runs with up-to-date MIUI 9.5 and is based on Android Oreo (8.1). MIUI 9 in combination with the Snapdragon 636 runs simply perfectly. All apps open and close fast, multitasking works excellently as does the performance in the browser.
MIUI does not have an app drawer, but you can easily get one by choosing another theme or installing a different launcher. The very easy and intuitive home screen management has no equal and apps can be organized in different folders. The so-called “app vault”, an overview screen that appears when swiping left, can be deactivated in the options menu. You can also choose between modern, limitless and standard design of the icons. I personally chose “limitless”, as the icons then seem more modern and cleaner. In the theme app, you can choose between an almost infinite number of designs and icon sets.
The full-screen gestures especially convinced me in the past week. Using this function, you can completely go without the on-screen buttons. Otherwise, MIUI offers the usual notification and battery management system. Face-unlock is now available as well and works quite well. Because of the rather slow unlocking process, it is however not an alternative to the fingerprint scanner. The scanner is always fast and easier to use in daily life. It is possible to grant only certain apps access to WIFI or mobile data or even deny the autostart completely. MIUI offers really a lot of functions, but is at the same time very well optimized for Redmi Note 5. Regular updates will be available in the next weeks, months and years. Xiaomi’s update policy is simply awesome.
Global ROM, China ROM or Xiaomi.EU
The official Global version of Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 will be delivered with a Global ROM and Google Play Store. This ROM also gets updates directly on the smartphone. Our China version runs with China ROM, which only offers the Chinese or English language and does not have a Play Store ex-works. The missing Play Store can be installed easily via the Mi-App store. Just open the orange Mi Store App, search for Google and press the green rocket. Then all Google services are installed. You only have to give the permission of reading the contact data to Contact Sync so that the app can work properly.
Those who like to use custom ROMs like Lineage-OS or the Xiaomi.EU ROM should apply for an unlock from Xiaomi. For all other users, the steps mentioned above are not relevant, as the Global Version is delivered with the Google Play Store and lots of languages.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 offers a dual-camera and can even take decent bokeh shots. Our test device is the China version of Redmi Note 5; in the global version, a different camera set-up is used. The dual-camera set-up of our device consists of a 12MP sensor (s5k2l7) with an aperture of f/1.9. The global version also has a 12MP sensor, but with an aperture of f/2.2. Both set-ups are supported by a 5MP (s5k5e8) camera. The front camera in both versions has a 13MP sensor (ov13855). Xiaomi is known for its camera-roulette and so you can get different sensors. Which ones will be available in the global version, we’ll find out when the first devices are delivered.
Redmi 5 Plus already takes better pictures than Redmi Note 4X. Redmi Note 5 Pro’s pictures taken in daylight can now almost keep up with pictures of flagships like Oneplus 5T, Mi6 or Galaxy S8.
Differences in the number of details are only noticeable when zooming in. In the normal use, you do not see any difference. Colors are well-matched and Xiaomi continues the path with fewer software optimization. A Redmi 5 Plus device takes pictures that are warmer than in reality. The number of details with Redmi Note 5 is convincing, color representation is accurate and the dynamic contrast is sufficient. The automatic HDR mode is available as well and automatically secures a better dynamic range if required, which makes the pictures significantly nicer. Bokeh shots are possible, but are not as good as with Mi A1. Here we have to wait for some software updates.
There is no 2x zoom function, the second sensor only recognizes the depth of field. Although pictures taken in daylight can keep up with the flagships, the situation is very different when it comes to bad lighting conditions. Image noise occurs early and the pictures are coarse-grained. Considering the price range, this is completely normal. Everything else than normal is, however, the excellent image stabilization during video recordings thanks to an electronic image stabilizer (EIS). In combination with a dual-pixel autofocus, you can record awesome videos with Redmi Note 5. Sound quality is sufficient, but not on a top level. Currently, you can record videos only with 1080p, but an update should make it possible to also record videos in 4K (even Redmi 5 Plus supports 4K videos via the MIUI camera app). Those who are not willing to wait can record 4K videos with another camera app (e.g. Open Camera).
With Xiaomi Redmi Note 5, Xiaomi presents the probably best camera set-up in the price range of less than 200€. The device can clearly stand out from Xiaomi Mi A1 thanks to the excellent video recordings. Mi A1 does a better job when it comes to bokeh shots and 2x zoom images, as the latter ones are not even supported by Note 5 and bokeh shots are not perfect yet. However, Redmi Note 5 takes much nicer selfies with many details and natural colors.
Connectivity and communication
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 in the global version supports the following frequencies:
LTE (4G): 1/3/4/5/7/8/20/38/40 (China Verison: 1/3/5/7/8)
UMTS (3G): 1/2/5/8 (China Version: 1/2/5/8)
GSM (2G): 2/3/5/8 (China Version: 2/3/5/8)
With the China version, you have to go without LTE Band 20. We recommend however to only choose the global version, as this version is delivered with the official global ROM that is instantly ready for use. Reception with Redmi Note 5 is very good and I never had problems. Voice quality is excellent and the additional microphone makes it possible to use the speakerphone, which did not pose any problems. The SAR radiation values are 1.29W/kg (head) and 1.24W/kg (body).
In terms of connectivity, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 sets new standards for the middle class. Unique for the price range, the smartphone offers Bluetooth 5.0 and WIFI with ac-speed (dual-band: 2.4 and 5GHz). Bluetooth reception has a high range and the connection is constantly stable. WIFI also works without any problems. Only the throughput is not exhausted with 30MBit, other smartphones have better values here (max. 50MBit). The range, however, is good and in practice, you barely notice the slower throughput.
The internal speaker is not the loudest, but for a mono speaker, it has a good quality. Even at full volume there are no distortions or oversteering. Basses are slightly perceptible and sound quality is okay. Connecting good headphones to the headphone jack, you get a loud and clear sound.
OTG is supported, whereas NFC is not, but that doesn’t make a difference. An FM radio is available for all radio lovers. The smartphone provides all necessary sensors: besides acceleration, proximity and brightness sensors, the phone also offers a gyroscope and a compass. In addition, there are an echo sensor and an infrared sender available. GPS determines the position up to 3-4m precise. Using car as well as pedestrian navigation there were never any problems.
In terms of battery life, Redmi Note 5 follows Note 3 Pro and Note 4X; even the bigger 6-inch display and the significantly faster processor do not change that. 2 hours of playing PubG consumed only 18% of the battery capacity and it is nearly impossible to consume the full battery in one day. In the PCMark battery test, the device lasted for 13.5 hours (medium display brightness). In daily use, with many benchmarks, photos, videos and GPS use, I never got below 40%. After 10-12 hours of DOT (display-on time) the phone had to be charged. Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 is clearly a 2-day smartphone, although the battery life of the legendary Note 4X is still better. We can confirm the battery capacity of 3900mAh.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
Qualcomm Quick-Charge is supported and with the right adapter, the phone is fully charged in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Using the provided adapter, the charging process takes 2 hours, which is not much longer. Those wanting to charge the phone in between (between 20 and 80%) get 12% in 10 minutes. Despite the increase in performance, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5’s battery life stays on a top level.