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The Complete Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Hands-on Review

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Yes I know, it took me a while. Xiaomi even had a number of new devices coming out in the meantime. But: we just couldn’t skip this smartphone. Since it’s the predecessor of one of the most popular budget phones in history, expectations were high. All I can say at this point is that Xiaomi doesn’t disappoint. So, without further ado, here is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Hands-on Review!

Before we start, there is quite some confusion about the models name. So just to clear things up: We are reviewing the Redmi Note 5 Global Version. Also known as the Redmi Note 5 AI. However in India this model is sold as the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Besides the name there is another small difference between the Indian Pro model and the Chinese/Global version and that is the Pro carries a different front camera sensor. That being said, let’s start this review. The Redmi Note 5 is ofcourse following in the footsteps of Xiaomi‘s best selling device of all times, the Redmi Note 4. Will it live up to the high expectations (spoiler: Hell yeah!)

 

The Complete Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Hands-on Review

 

First impression of screen and design

The phone arrived in the familiar red coloured box that has become the trademark of Xiaomi’s Redmi line. The content is simple yet complete. Not only do we get the (fast)charger, the micro USB cable and the SIM Tool, but there’s also a silicon bumper case included. And ofcourse, let’s not forget the phone itself. What I immediately noticed is that the Redmi Note 5 AI looks like the Xiaomi Redmi S2 (or Y2 in India) at first glance. However I would like to emphasize the “at first glance”. As soon as you pick the device up, the differences aren’t hard to notice.

The Note 5 feels a lot more premium and yet the huge 5.99″ screen doesn’t make the phone bulky nor too heavy. In fact the barely 8mm thin aluminium body feels great in your hand. The 2.5 D glass layer feels good and is not attracting fingerprints. Once we actually turn on the phone, the comparison to the Redmi S2 is gone. The 2160 x 1080 FHD+ screen resolution of the 5.99″ IPS Panel makes the screen sharp and the colours look crisp and vivid.

The Complete Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Hands-on Review

 

Buttons and sensors

On the phone’s left side we find the SIM tray and on the right side we see the volume rocker and the power on/off button. Xiaomi placed the noise-reducing microphone and the infra red blaster on top. On the bottom the 3.5mm headphone jack the microphone and the speaker are placed along both sides of the micro USB port.

I really try to understand that decision, since I think it’s time to move to USB-C for good. My only guess is Xiaomi has bought a huge amount of micro USB ports. And need to get rid of them. They probably also bought the Snapdragon 625 in bulk too 😉  Anyway for the sub 200 $ price, I think the micro USB port is something I gladly deal with. On the front of the phone we find front-camera, face ID sensor and a proximity sensor next to the speaker. It also has a notification LED. The rear of the phone shows the typical Redmi design: fingerprint scanner in the middle and the vertical placed dual camera with the flash in the middle. The camera module portudes slightly but is firmly built and the silicone case can also offer protection here.

 

Hardware and software

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI is available in a 3 GB RAM/ 32 GB ROM and a 4GB RAM/64 GB ROM version.  Both versions come with an SD slot that makes it possible to expand internal storage. At the heart of the Redmi Note 5 AI we find the Snapdragon 636 processor. This is an octa core chip that is clocked at 1.8 GHz. At first I was slightly underwhelmed by the 1.8 GHz but after running the Antutu Benchmark Test and everytime the score hit between 115 and 116K  it was all good. The Redmi Note 5 AI runs on the MiUI 9.5 based on Android 8.1 Oreo. Eventhough I hear some of my colleagues complain about MiUI, there is really nothing bad I can say about it and I’ve been using the phone for over a month now. It’s intuitive and sentient and I like the clean look.

If this look is not to your personal liking, there’s no reason to smulk. Xiaomi has added literally hundreds of  themes all perfectly designed for MiUI. So other than launchers downloaded from the Play Store, there al little to no bugs and you won’t have advertisments pop up at any given time. After all this annoying treat is already bestowed upon us in basically every  game we download from the Play Store. Speaking of games, the Redmi Note 5 AI is definitely not afraid of a bit of gaming. Pokemon Go, Deadly Warfare and even PUBG can be played without any dropping frames. Graphics are supported by the Adreno 509 GPU chipset that seems to assist the SD636 quite well. Even after playing for some time the smartphone barely gets any warmer.

 

The Complete Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Hands-on Review

 

Connectivity

The Redmi Note 5 comes with :

GSM 900: 35 dBm
GSM 1800: 32 dBm
UMTS band 1/8: 25 dBm
LTE band 1/3/7/8/20/38/40: 25.7 dBm
Bluetooth: 20 dBm
Wi-Fi 2.4 Ghz band: 20 dBm
Wi-Fi 5 Ghz band: 20 dBm

This makes it a very connected phone, bluetooth doesn’t drop, WiFi signal is clear and good even if you’re not standing right next to your router. Then there’s also good news for frequent users of Google Navigation and/or Pokemon Go. The GPS connection of the Redmi Note 5 AI works like a charm. Even indoors I had a fix up to 3 meters in a matter of seconds. Impressive.

 

Sound, speakers and microphone

Another thing that really impressed me about the Note 5 is the sound in general. Even though there is only one single speaker, both quality and volume are really good. Unlike other budget phone speakers that keep everything stuck in midrange the Redmi Note 5 has very disctinctive high tones and even some bass. Listening to music through headphones, whether wired or bluetooth is a treat. Xiaomi‘s  passion for a good sound doesn’t seem to stop with the speakers. The quality of the microphone, in call or during video recording is just ace! This brings us straight to the next section. And to what I think is the absolute highlight of the Redmi Note 5:

 

The Complete Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Hands-on Review

 

The camera’s

I think it’s no exaggeration when I proclaim there is no sub 200 euro smartphone with better camera’s than the Redmi Note 5 AI. And I know when reviewers make such claims about camera’s they usually speak of the rear camera. The Redmi Note 5 however performs  way above average on both rear- and front camera. Let’s dive in to the technical specifications of the camera’s on the rear first. Here we find a 12 megapixel Samsung S5K2L7  ISOCELL sensor with the larger 1.400μm pixel size and a f/1.9 aperture. The main sensor is accompanied by the 5 megapixel Samsung S5K5E8 sensor with a f/2.0 aperture. This camera set up is able to flawlessly distinct the subject from the background. Colours are vividly rich and nicely saturated and the dynamic range is excellent. On the front we find a 13 megapixel camera that is enhanced with Artificial Intelligence, just like the rear camera.

The front camera also let’s you shoot in portrait mode. The edge detection of which works a whole lot better than the one on the Redmi S2 by the way. Both camera’s are able to shoot in FHD (1080p) and the rear camera even uses gyroscope based electronic image stabilisation. This results in almost no shaking footage and really smooth running video recordings. You also have the option to record video in Time Lapse and Slow Motion (at the rate of 120 frames). But you  know what they say: The proof of the pudding is in the eating right? So I made a complete camera review of the Redmi Note 5 AI which you can see right here:

Conclusion and rating

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI is definitely a phone I can only recommend. It’s elegant, well build, performing really well and it sport the best camera set up at this price range. In fact when you compare the camera performance to other smartphones around the 150- 200 euro range it is almost shocking to see the difference. If you want flagship performance on a budget, there’s just no way around the Xiaomi Redmi Note5 AI. So therefore I rate this phone a 9.6 out of 10. There’s no better value for money deal out there at this time.  Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this review.

The Complete Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Hands-on Review

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