Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro review: The value for money champion

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We live in an age where even budget offerings like Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 8 Pro provide the complete package. Retailing for Dh999, the phone places itself in a position that offers both value for money and a strong feature set. And if you currently own the previous generation Redmi Note 7 Pro, this phone is a solid upgrade in many departments.

Premium design and build

A lot about the phone’s design language ushers quality. Both the front and back glass panel is made of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 and the volume and power buttons housed on the right edge of the device are solid and tactile despite being made of plastic. The bottom edge of the device houses the mono speaker, a Type-C USB port for charging and the 3.5mm headphone jack. Surprising at this price category, you also get an infra-red port on the top edge of the device to control your appliances at home. This works quite well but sometimes, you need to be aligned directly in front of the appliance which could become a chore. Rounding up with the phone’s left edge, you find the hybrid dual-SIM tray, which can also be used to expand your phone’s storage by 256GB via micro-SD.

The in-hand feel of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 feels just a bit too big

But there are a few shortcomings. For one, the rear of the phone, where the camera unit is housed is also where the fingerprint scanner sits. Being positioned on the bulge of the camera makes using it awkward and I would have preferred it to be below the setup entirely. The other issue boils down to personal preference. At 200g and 8.8mm thick, the phone is not easy to handle. Granted, for people with bigger hands, this may not be an issue. But for someone who prefers compact phones, handling the Redmi Note 8 Pro one-handed is difficult, more so because of the phone’s added thickness than weight.

HDR display

The bigger form factor of the Redmi Note 8 Pro allows it to pack a 6.53-inch display. It comes with a tear-drop style notch with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, which is adequate. Using it indoors, setting the screen’s brightness around 50 per cent seemed to do the trick whereas outdoors, you may need to bump it up to 80 or 90 per cent. Given that it is an IPS LCD panel, it has impressive viewing angles. But being spoilt by AMOLED panels over the last couple of months, the difference in vibrancy was noticeable.

You will appreciate the display’s HDR certification when watching content

Colors are typically cooler on-screen compared to reality but something that helps the it is the HDR capability. With it, videos look quite good and compared side by side with an AMOLED display, the differences are small for the average user to point out. The phone holds up well from an overall media consumption standpoint too. With the display’s 85.9 per-cent screen-to-body ratio, content is relatively immersive. And despite the single bottom firing speaker on the device, sound quality was not atrocious. Of course, this means the grill can easily be covered muffling sound entirely but for those occasions, you may just want to use some wired 3.5mm headphones or wireless ones if that is your preference.

Performance

Under the hood, you are looking at some decent power. There is an octa-core Mediatek Helio G90T on the device clocked at 2.05GHz and up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage depending on the variant you pick up. We have the phone with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage and that combination hits a good sweet spot. Majority of your daily tasks will remain smooth when using the Redmi Note 8 Pro. Whether that is browsing the web, watching videos or going through social media. Just at certain times, you may see a bit of stutter and lag especially when the phone is going through its animations. This is not a deal breaker nor is it frequent enough to become a problem but we thought it should be pointed out. The other aspect to the phone’s performance is handling games. You can easily enjoy a few games of PUBG or Call of Duty: Mobile without any deficiency in performance, with the phone warming up towards the camera area in extended sessions. Moreover, there is an in-built Game Turbo feature on MIUI 10, which optimizes titles to perform even better by clearing background memory.

You should be sorted for gaming on the phone too

Speaking of background memory, there is 6GB available and the phone does well to allocate that. All essential applications stay in memory and switching between them is easy. However if you have multiple heavy applications or games up at once, expect the phone to reload some of the applications. As for MIUI 10, it is not my favorite software skin. I much prefer an appearance similar to stock Android and this is a big departure from it. Another quirk I have with it is that it does not show your notifications on your notification panel but rather only when you swipe done. The software does not bottle-neck the phone but by bringing in unwanted bloatware and applications, it dilutes the experience on the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

64MP AI super camera

When speaking about the phone’s design, we touched on its camera. It is a quad setup with a 64MP primary lens, an 8MP ultra-wide, a 2MP dedicated macro camera and a 2MP depth sensor. When taking photos, the shutter speed on the Redmi Note 8 Pro is a tad slow however picture quality is good. The camera cannot process complex HDR scenes well but regular day time photos are what it does best. In spite of having no optical lens, the camera does a commendable job with detail retention when zooming into far-away subjects.

Quad-cameras at this price range is impressive

With the dedicated ultra-wide angle camera, you can capture photos of vast landscapes. And with the macro camera, close-ups that wouldn’t be possible otherwise are made easier. Although we would have liked the macros to have a bit more detail to them. The front facing 20MP selfie camera also does a good job however with portraits, dynamic range takes a massive hit. In lower ambient light and at night, the drop off in quality is actually not that exponential. The phone is more than capable of taking photos but night mode comes in handy in these situations. Working with the camera hardware, the software is able to brighten up areas of the image well although in extremely dark situations, the effect is less pronounced. And colours start becoming inaccurate.

As for video capabilities, the Redmi Note 8 Pro supports 1080p footage up to 120fps and 2160p footage up to 30fps. For slow motion enthusiasts, there is an option to record 720p footage at 960fps. However, with the lack of optical images stabilization (OIS) and reliance on gyro-electronic image stabilization (EIS), you will not get super smooth video performance.

Battery life

The 4,500mAh cell on the Redmi Note 8 Pro makes up for its large frame that I mentioned earlier. With so much power on-board, I do not see why you would not be able to get at least 1.5 days’ worth of usage with this phone. On stand-by, the battery is efficient however if you plan to game a lot, numbers could drop with you having to charge the phone at the end of the day. Recharging the device too is fast. The phone comes with 18W fast charging which can take you from 0 per cent to a full 100 per cent in around 1.5 hours.

Conclusion

It is hard to fault a phone that brings so much to the table especially given its price. The closest competition it faces currently is from the Honor 9X but as an overall package, the Redmi Note 8 Pro is difficult to beat. It has the looks, performance and battery backup and it seems like Xiaomi will keep a firm hold of this market for the year to come.