Redmi Note 8 Review – Great Value For Money Without Compromise
In its never-ending quest to produce smartphones that combine the best-in-class hardware with a criminally low price point, Xiaomi has hit a new milestone with the Redmi Note 8. A little unnoticed behind the glory of the well-received Redmi Note 8 Pro, the Redmi Note 8 looks to deserve no less praise than its bigger sibling for what it offers at a price point that borders on unbelievable. Keeping the design philosophy of its forerunner, the Redmi Note 8 packs the punch of four cameras, an upgraded silicone, more RAM and storage while somehow still managing to keep the same price as its predecessor. In Europe, the device is known as the Redmi Note 8T, with the only difference being that the 8T supports NFC. So, how well does the package come together? We find out in this review.
Redmi Note 8/Redmi Note 8T Specifications
|Software||Android 9 Pie with MIUI 10||Connectivity|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 @2.0GHz – 4x Kryo 260 Gold (Cortex-A73 derivatives); @1.8GHz – 4x Kryo 260 Silver (Cortex-A53 derivatives)||Audio|
|GPU||Adreno 610||Rear cameras|
|RAM and storage||4GB / 6GB LPDDR4 RAM and 64 / 128GB eMMC 5.1 storage|
(microSD support up to 512GB)
|Battery||Fingerprint scanner||Yes (rear-mounted)|
|Display||In the box|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz & 5GHz)||Colors||Neptune Blue, Moonlight White, Space Black|
Disclaimer: The Redmi Note 8 review unit was provided to us by Xiaomi India. I have used this device for about a month. I received the 6 GB RAM/128 GB storage model in Neptune Blue.
Design & Display
The design isn’t the most interesting part of the Redmi Note 8: you’ll probably recognize the familiar boxy look from the Redmi Note 7 series. Apart from a new camera setup on the back and some minor cosmetic updates, nothing much has changed here. The front is occupied by a 6.3-inch LCD with Gorilla Glass 5 protection on top. Above the display, you’ll find the waterdrop notch cutout which accommodates the front camera module. Meanwhile, a notification LED, the earpiece and the proximity/light sensor are veiled under the black rim that passes along the notch area. There’s a small chunk of the bezel left on the bottom where Xiaomi has imprinted the Redmi branding.
Turning the device upside down, we notice the flat back with its gradient pattern, which is also protected by Gorilla Glass 5. The camera sensors are housed under the black strip on the left which adds a nice contrast to the blue-tone of the backplate. The primary camera has a silver ring around its lens to distinguish itself from the rest of the sensors. The fingerprint sensor is on the upper half while the lower half features the Redmi branding perpendicular to the camera setup.
The mid-frame is made of plastic and holds the power button and volume keys on its right side, and 2+1 SIM try on the left. The mid-frame doesn’t seamlessly blend with the glass panel and leaves the pointy edges exposed to the touch, making the device slightly uncomfortable to hold. This is hardly a major issue since most people will be using the device with a case anyway, but it is still quite the design oversight for a phone in 2019. Also, the camera bump on the back sticks out way too much, so using the device on a flat surface without a case is a big no-no. Apart from this little inconvenience, the Redmi Note 8 is actually a well-built device and looks snazzy with shimmering gradient hues.
Coming to the display performance, the 6.3-inch IPS LCD offers vibrant colors and excellent viewing angles. The display is rated for 500 brightness on the maximum setting and offers good readability when using the device outdoors under bright sunlight. The minimum brightness level is comfortably low for bedtime reading. The display is certified by TÜV Rheinland for reduced blue-light emission when using the Reading mode as well, further minimizing eye strain at night. As always, you can also adjust the color temperature and contrast using MIUI’s standard display settings. Similar to most LCD panels in the budget and lower mid-range segment, the display doesn’t support HDR content or a wider color gamut.
There’s nothing to complain about the display performance. Overall, it’s a fairly standard LCD package you would expect from a device in this price range.
Redmi Note 8 (8T) Camera Quality
The original Redmi Note 7 was launched with a 12MP + 2MP camera setup. However, to bring the standard model of the series in parity with the Pro variant, the company, later on, introduced the Redmi Note 7S which brought a 48MP Samsung GW1 sensor and a 5MP depth sensor while keeping everything else intact.
On the Redmi Note 8, the company has fitted not two but four camera sensors on the back, making it one of the only few devices in this particular price range to offer a quad camera setup. The primary 48MP camera is unchanged from the Redmi Note 7S and it’s accompanied by three more sensors including an 8MP ultra-wide sensor, 2MP depth sensor and a 2MP macro lens for close-up shots.
Starting with the daylight evaluation, images taken with the Redmi Note 8’s primary camera show natural color reproduction, rich details, and good contrast. The Quad-Bayer sensor does a great job capturing a good amount of dynamic range and this is especially clear when shooting in high-contrast scenes. White balance tends to be fairly accurate in most lighting conditions although the exposure metering can sometimes be a little off the mark when shooting outdoors, and would overexpose the bright details more than we would like. The PDAF autofocus system is quick to lock focus on subjects in good lighting however in poor lighting it’s common to get out of focus shots if you don’t set the focus manually by tapping on the viewfinder.
The low-light performance is excellent and among the best we have seen in this segment. Images keep a good amount of details with a very low amount of luminance noise. In darker settings, however, images tend to come out grainy with a high degree of chromatic noise as ISO shoots all the way up to 9300 to suck in more light without dropping the shutter speed.
Xiaomi has included a dedicated Night mode that claims to deliver better photos in extreme low-light. In my testing, however, the Night mode felt underwhelming as there was very little improvement over the standard shots. Xiaomi’s Night mode implementation seems to be mostly post-processing since it doesn’t seem to be using long exposure or slower shutter speeds. It’s only effective as long as there’s some significant source of light in the scene. In the complete absence of lighting, the “improvements” are not improvements at all, and the results can be abysmal. A Google Camera port is your best bet in this regard and the good part is that you don’t even have to unlock your bootloader or tweak build.prop to get it working as the full Camera2API support is enabled out of the box. Just download the Google Camera port of your choice and install it like you would sideload a normal APK. Take a look at the photos below and notice how subtle the improvements of Xiaomi’s Night mode are compared to the Google Camera’s Night Sight.
The Redmi Note 8 is the first in the series to come with an ultra-wide sensor. The 8MP sensor has a 120-degree field of view which the company says captures 2.2 times more of the scene compared to the primary camera. You can enter the wide-angle mode by clicking on the small white dot that’s on the left side just above the shutter button. The shots taken with the wide-angle sensor are very similar to the primary camera in terms of color reproduction and saturation but they keep much less detail and show uneven exposure when shooting in high-contrast scenes. AI-based distortion correction is enabled by default and it does a good job preventing weird curving or bending around the edges.
The macro lens is another highlight of the Redmi Note 8’s camera package. While it was always possible to take close up shots with the primary camera, most cameras can’t focus on the subject at super close distances. The macro lens allows you to get as close as 2cm to the subject while keeping everything perfectly in focus. This makes it possible to capture amazing close up shots of flowers, leaves, tiny bugs, textures or pretty much anything your creative mind can think of. The autofocus is quick and images show accurate colors and good depth of field. Detail retention is a bit on the lower side but that’s to be expected from the low resolution of the sensor.
While my shots may not be as breathtaking as what Tushar managed to capture with the Moto One Macro in his review, I think they still serve as a good outline of what the macro lens on the Redmi Note 8 is capable of. The macro lens is definitely not a gimmick as it opens up a new avenue of creative mobile photography. Expect to see more OEMs jump on the macro train with their upcoming smartphones.
When it comes to portraits, the Redmi Note 8 delivers ideal results as long as the scene isn’t too complex and lighting is favorable. Images taken under good lighting conditions show accurate subject isolation and a pleasantly blurred background. Xiaomi’s algorithms handle fine details like hair strands very well but when the subject is wearing glasses it would sometimes inaccurately blur out their outer frame. As you can see in the comparison below, the same shot taken with the Moto One Action keeps the glasses perfectly in focus.
The front 13MP sensor produces sharp selfies with very natural skin tone rendering. The dynamic range is quite low which often results in blown up backgrounds when taking photos in brightly lit surroundings however the exposure on faces is on point in most lighting conditions.
The primary camera supports 4K shooting at 30fps and 1080p footage at either 30 or 60fps. The wide-angle camera can shoot 1080p at 30fps while the macro sensor is limited to 720p at 30fps. In terms of quality, video performance is quite average. 1080p/30fps footage offers good detail preservation and punchy colors but we noticed strong studders and choppiness when panning. EIS is enabled by default and stabilizes handshakes and walking movements quite well. 4K videos resolve a great amount of detail and unlike the 1080p videos, they don’t suffer from any choppiness or flickering. However, the video stabilization is totally ineffective in the 4K mode and this produces really shaky footage if you’re walking and moving.
For some odd reasons, the support for 1080/60fps is missing at the time being. Xiaomi says it will add the option in a future OTA but we haven’t received such an update just yet. – it’s likely it will be added with the upcoming MIUI 11 update but we’re not totally sure.
Redmi Note 8 (8T) Performance
Powering the Redmi Note 8 is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC, a minor upgrade over the Snapdragon 660 that featured in the Redmi Note 7 and 7S. While the CPU architecture is the same, the Snapdragon 665 brings improved graphics performance with the Adreno 610 GPU and a small efficiency boost with a switch to 11nm FinFET process. In terms of real-world performance, the device feels quick and snappy and even after prolonged use there is hardly any sign of performance degradation. App opening times are reasonably fast, though storage sensitive apps like PUBG and Adobe Lightroom make you stare at the splash screen for a good few seconds due to the slower EMMC 5.1 storage solution. Background apps are handled well with no aggressive killing or apps refreshing their activity when working on multiple apps.
Smoothness is a bit different story, however. From the get-go, we noticed a high amount of stutters across multiple parts of MIUI, with visible frame drops observed when opening the recent apps screen, switching between apps, navigating through MIUI launcher and scrolling through the App Vault cards. Switching to a third-party launcher such as Nova Launcher is highly recommended for a smoother navigation experience.
You wouldn’t want to pick up the Redmi Note 8 for its gaming capabilities — That’s the Redmi Note 8 Pro’s forte. Still, if you’re a casual gamer, the Adreno 610 delivers acceptable graphics performance, making sure any modern game you pick up is playable with at least medium graphics settings. Games like PUBG and Call of Duty deliver smooth gameplay with graphics set to medium — pushing things beyond that mark results in noticeable stutters and frame drops.
Redmi Note 8 (8T) Battery Life & Charging
Although the Redmi Note 8 Pro has received an upgrade in the battery department with a 4,500 mAh cell, the Redmi Note 8 continues to make do with the 4,000 mAh unit that has been around since the Redmi Note 3. Competitors like Realme and Samsung have up the ante by packing bigger batteries on their smartphones and that means the Redmi Note series can no longer boast the class-leading battery performance. Still, the 4,000mAh isn’t a paltry figure by any means. In fact, the Redmi Note 8 lives up to the legacy of the Redmi Note series when it comes to delivering a reliable battery performance. With my admittedly heavy usage, I was regularly getting more than one day of battery life, with around 25-30% juice still left in the tank at the end of the day. With moderate usage that doesn’t include a lot of heavy gaming, I would imagine you can comfortably squeeze out a few more hours and get close to two days of battery.
This time around Xiaomi has also included a fast charger (18W) inside the box. With the supplied charger, the device takes 40 minutes to reach 50% from the empty state. Meanwhile, a full charge takes around an hour and 50 minutes. To put things into perspective, with a 10W charger it takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach 100% mark.
Software, Audio & Fingerprint Scanner
The Redmi Note 8 is shipping with the MIUI 10 running atop Android 9.0 Pie. In terms of features and functionality, there’s really nothing new to talk about since it provides the same software experience we have talked about in our previous reviews.
The issues related to ads and bloatware are still there. MIUI continues to push spammy ads and content recommendations with sensational headlines on the notification shade and inside the system apps. While you can turn off most of this nonsense by digging deep into the settings of each app, you shouldn’t have to put up with a sub-optimal software experience in the first place. Aside from these quirks, MIUI remains as functional and customizable as ever, offering a host of customization options and useful features that you’ll be hard-pressed to find on vanilla Android. To learn more about the overall software experience, you can check out Arol’s review of the Redmi Note 8 Pro.
The Redmi Note 8 has a single bottom-mounted speaker that’s decently loud. In terms of sound quality, however, it’s quite sub-par. It sounds hollow and flat and there’s no openness and clarity to the audio.
The rear-mounted optical fingerprint scanner is a little small but in terms of performance, it’s fairly quick and seldom fails to register the finger. Camera-based Face unlock is also there and works acceptably fast as long as there’s some source of light on your face.
The Redmi Note 8 is an all-round beast, delivering great value for money without compromising on the quality of components or cutting any corners that may give you pause. From design to cameras, to battery to performance, the Redmi Note 8 does everything reasonably well for the price it’s asking. If you’re not a serious gamer or a power user, it would make sense to save money and opt for the Redmi Note 8 as it offers a great camera package and reasonably good performance at a much cheaper price.
We welcome Xiaomi’s decision to ditch the 3GB/32GB variant and fitting the base model with 4GB/64GB memory as we feel 3GB of RAM doesn’t hold up well in the long run, and it’s not fitting for a 2019 device. Hopefully, this move will also force the competitors to follow the same. We wouldn’t recommend picking the top model (6GB/128GB) as we feel it deflects the value for money equilibrium. In that regard, the base model provides the most bang for the buck and the combination of 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage should be enough to provide an optimal smartphone experience for most users — if you want more storage you can always insert a microSD card.
The Redmi Note 8 will face direct competition from the recently released Realme 5s which matches the Redmi Note 8 on many fronts. It packs the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC, a similar quad-camera setup, a bigger battery, the same memory configuration, and even starts at the same price point. But there are also compromises to be made. Realme’s latest budget phone also compromises in quite a few areas. For example, it comes with a low-res 720p display (as opposed to the full HD+ panel of Redmi Note 8), features a plastic back instead of glass, doesn’t come with a fast charger and still uses the age-old microUSB port. So even though the Realme 5s has managed to redress the balance to a great extent, in our opinion the Redmi Note 8 remains the best budget phone on the market that offers a truly non-compromising smartphone experience.