Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A Review
Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5A is a device that looks to take on the growing selfie smartphone market with its 16-megapixel f/2.0 front camera. That isn’t however, all she wrote. This phone actually has more to it than that. It heavily sticks to its awesome Redmi roots and actually packs a secret punch which we will be dissecting later. To begin, the configuration of the Redmi Note 5A we’ll be reviewing today packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage.
Design and Construction
Just like its other Redmi phones before it, the Note 5A boasts a remarkable design and build quality. It feels solid thanks to its metal unibody design, though it doesn’t feel particularly tough. The back of the phone, which is bare aluminum, has a very smooth matte finish, which is nice to the touch. The front bezels come in pleasing white, and the panel is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 3. It’s fairly thin at 7.6mm and is comfortable to hold.
Up front is the 5.5-inch HD IPS display, the notification LED, call speaker, 16MP front camera, and LED flash above it, and non-LED capacitive navigation buttons down below.
The back meanwhile, has the 13MP rear camera, LED flash, the fingerprint scanner, and two visible antenna bands. The unit we have has the Champagne Gold color, which I must say, is simply gorgeous.
The right side houses the volume and power buttons, while the left side houses the hybrid SIM tray.
The load-out up top and at the bottom are fairly standard, with the former including a noise-canceling microphone and 3.5mm headphone jack, and the latter including a micro-USB port and a pair of audio grills. There was a minor problem with the micro-USB port at first, as it took quite a lot of pressure to slide in the included cable.
The device definitely looks and feels great, despite its simple design. Build quality is one trait Redmi phones are often praised for, and the Note 5A is definitely no exception.
Display and Multimedia
The Redmi Note 5A packs a 5.5-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 720, a step down from the Full HD displays of the Redmi Note 4 and 4X. Regardless, I don’t see this as a dealbreaker, as it still looks quite nice with punchy colors, and it gets very bright that you don’t even need to crank it up to 100% when outdoors. The only aspect it underperforms in is contrast, which could be a result of the step down in resolution.
The speaker is just about average, being a smartphone speaker. Bass is lacking, the highs clip when the volume is maxed out, but the mids are clear all throughout. It performs best at around 75% volume and will suffice for casual listening, or watching dialogue-heavy content.
OS, Apps, and UI
Running the software department is Android 7.1.2 Nougat skinned with MIUI. Our unit didn’t come with MIUI 9 just yet, but MIUI 8.5.6 instead. Updating is not available by the conventional means of the update utility, and we opted not to flash the ROM. The reason being, the only major difference we’re missing out on is the split-screen mode.
Moving on, if you’re fond of clean and pretty interfaces that are snappy, and where apps launch quickly, then you should have no problem using MIUI. It has some useful proprietary apps from Xiaomi including the Security app, which handles device optimization. The standard Google suite of apps also comes pre-installed.
Out of the 32GB of total storage, 24.43GB is usable out of the box. That’s a pretty sizeable chunk taken up by system resources, and 24GB might not be enough for some. You may expand this with a micro SD card if you wish.
Going back to the secret punch I mentioned in the introduction, this phone has something that may come as a surprise. With its 16MP front camera, it’s touted as a selfie-centric smartphone, which it is, but this fact can easily cause you to overlook the 13MP rear camera. The front camera is very good and there’s no question about that, but the rear camera definitely keeps up — an attribute some selfie-centric smartphones do not have.
The simplicity of the stock camera app is a bit of a bummer for photography nuts, as there aren’t many modes available, and the manual mode is only limited to white balance and ISO. The automatic mode works fairly well nonetheless, and we were definitely very impressed with the photos we got with this phone.
It produces nice, dynamic photos with great color and contrast. Dynamic range is on the low end, though. It performed surprisingly well in low-light, as while noise was present, we’ve definitely seen worse.
Both front and rear cameras can shoot up to Full HD resolution, and there was no significant quality drop compared to each sensor’s photo performance. Manual control is even further limited at this point, as there isn’t even any present.
Performance and Benchmarks
The Snapdragon 435 chipset on the Redmi Note 5A is a step down from the Note 4 and 4X’s Snapdragon 625. With its Adreno 505 GPU and 3GB of RAM, it’s still a capable phone in heavy use cases like gaming or multitasking. We used Injustice: Gods Among Us to test gaming, and framerates were very smooth.
We used our usual synthetic benchmarks to further test the device. See the scores it got below.
- AnTuTu – 43,558
- PC Mark – 3,671 (Work 2.0)
- PC Mark Storage – 3,423
- AndroBench – 266.85 MB/s (Read), 146.21 MB/s (Write)
Author’s Note: GeekBench, 3D Mark, and Quadrant Standard scores are absent due to app failures.
Connectivity, Call Quality, and Battery Life
The Redmi Note 5A has 4G LTE. GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.2 capabilities. Call quality is very clear, and mobile data and GPS were handled quite well.
Powering the phone is a 3,080mAh battery. In the PC Mark battery test, the Redmi Note 5A lasted 8 hours and 7 minutes, while in our standard video loop test, it lasted 13 hours and 31 minutes. These results are pretty good but are not an exact measure of the device’s actual battery performance in real-world use cases. Partially thanks to its highly efficient Qualcomm chipset, it will easily last you 24 hours of on-and-off moderate usage.
The popularity of Xiaomi’s Redmi phones, which can easily be seen online, does not come without good reason. The Redmi Note 5A is surely no exception. While it has a downgraded chipset compared to its predecessors, it is still a very capable phone in terms of performance. Its overall camera performance is very good, and its great design and UI make it a device that’s great to have.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A specs:
5.5-inch IPS display @ 1280 x 720 px
2.5D Curved Glass
1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8940 Snapdragon 435
Adreno 505 GPU
2GB, 3GB, 4GB RAM
32GB, 64GB internal storage
expandable via microSD up to 256GB (dedicated)
13MP f/2.2 AF rear camera with LED Flash
16MP f/2.0 front camera
Dual SIM, Dual Standby
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
GPS, A-GPS, Beidou
Android 7.1.2 Nougat w/ MIUI 8
3080mAh non-removable battery
153 x 76.2 x 7.6mm
Champagne Gold, Platinum Silver Gray, Rose Gold
What we liked about it:
- Beautiful, simple design
- Good build quality
- Camera performance
- Battery life
- Simple, fast UI
What we didn’t:
- Downgraded chipset