Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro Review: The Performance Champion in the Mid-Range Segment
Xiaomi’s game has seen a big, big step up in the past few years. We can’t help but remember a small startup that was founded in 2010 and went around making MIUI custom ROMs for a handful of smartphones, launching its first foray into hardware all the way back in 2011 with the Xiaomi Mi 1, known back then as the “Xiaomi Phone”. Nowadays, though, Xiaomi barely resembles that small startup of old as the company is embarking towards taking over the world, managing to take the steering wheel and eventually even lead innovation on its own with devices like the Mi Mix Alpha.
Redmi devices account for a big part of this success, too. And to focus more on boldening this success and make Redmi phones even more popular and mainstream, the company recently broke apart Redmi into a proper sub-brand of Xiaomi instead of a device series. The first devices to come from this decision were the Redmi Note 7 series, which included the Redmi Note 7 and the Redmi Note 7 Pro. Now, with several other devices under its belt across different device ranges, such as the Redmi K20 Pro and the Redmi 7A, the company is, once again, renewing its Redmi Note series with the launch of the Redmi Note 8 and the Redmi Note 8 Pro. The Redmi Note 7 series was comprised of amazing midrange smartphones, and we expect nothing else from the Redmi Note 8 series.
The Redmi Note 8 Pro, however, is the one that deserves the most attention this time around. The Redmi Note 7 Pro, which Idrees considered to be a “great hardware package on a budget” in his review, managed to undercut most of its competitors by offering a solid spec sheet and a low price tag, and the Redmi Note 8 Pro tries to do the same as its predecessor. Aamir has already shared his first thoughts about the device, and he found it to have great potential as a worthy successor to the Redmi Note 7 Pro. With features like a quad 64MP rear camera setup and a MediaTek Helio G90T in its guts, it is most certainly an interesting device, but is it really worth the asking price? That’s what I’m looking to find out in this review.
|Specifications||Redmi Note 8 Pro|
|Display Type||6.53-inch IPS LCD display, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 2340×1080 resolution, 60Hz refresh rate|
|Size||161.4 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm, 200g|
|System-on-chip||MediaTek Helio G90T, 12nm process, octa-core setup (2 x 2.05GHz Cortex-A76, 6 x 2.0GHz Cortex-A55)|
|RAM Capacity||6GB (LPDDR4X)|
|Storage Capacity||64GB/128GB, UFS 2.1|
|Front Camera||20MP, f/2.0, 0.9µm w/ [email protected] video recording|
|Rear Cameras||Quad Camera Setup|
|Battery Capacity||4,500 mAh|
|Biometrics||Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, AI-based face unlock|
|Software||MIUI 10 based on Android Pie|
|Colors||Mineral Gray, Forest Green, Pearl White|
About this review: I have the global 6GB/64 GB version of the Redmi Note 8 Pro in Mineral Gray/Shadow Black, which I’ve been using as my daily driver since October 5th, 2019. This unit has been purchased independently. Aamir also has a Redmi Note 8 Pro loaned from Xiaomi India, which has been used to corroborate findings within this article. Xiaomi has had no influence over this article.
Redmi Note 8 Pro: Design and Build
Previous entries in the Redmi series were not really known for having standout designs. They favored function over form, with the Redmi Note series often featuring utilitarian-looking metal-clad designs and other phones in the series featuring cheap-feeling plastic builds. It was really the hardware inside them that mattered more than the outer looks. With the launch of the Redmi Note 7 earlier this year, this philosophy changed a bit. While providing decent bang for the buck was still the main priority, Xiaomi also gave quite a bit more thought into the design of their smartphones.
The Redmi Note 7 and the Redmi Note 7 Pro featured what Xiaomi called an “Aurora Glass” design, using nano-texturing underneath the phone’s Gorilla Glass 5 back in order to add cool-looking reflections and gradients, shining different hues and tones depending on the angle you look at the phone as well as the way the light shines on it, similar to what you can find on higher-end smartphones. This year has been the year of the gradient, eye-candy smartphones, with phones like the Galaxy Note 10 in Aura Glow leading the charge. The Redmi Note 7 simply helped bring this growing trend to the lower end of the smartphone spectrum.
In the case of the Redmi Note 8 Pro, it is no different. My Mineral Gray review unit (dubbed “Shadow Black” in the Indian market) is arguably one of the least impressive looking ones, yet it still looks amazing, shining different hues of gray and even blue/purple depending on the angle light shines on it. It’s both sleek and eye-catching in equal parts, which is something I’m really a fan of. The Gamma Green version (sold internationally as Forest Green) is the one most people should go for if they’re looking for over-the-top designs, as it carries more of a “gradient” vibe with hues of black and green. This unit stays on the sleeker side of the spectrum, which is definitely not a bad thing, and overall, I have no complaints about this model’s design. This particular model comes with a black, semi-translucent TPU case which is swapped for a fully transparent one in the more colorful models.
The Shadow Black color of the Redmi Note 8 Pro is both sleek and eye-catching in equal parts
Just like the Redmi Note 7 before it, the Redmi Note 8 Pro is a glass sandwich—both the screen and the back of the phone are covered by Gorilla Glass 5, with a plastic frame holding everything together. Previous entries in the line, from the Redmi Note 3 all the way forward to the Redmi Note 6 Pro, have featured aluminum bodies, so the switch to a glass plus plastic construction with the Redmi Note 7/Pro triggered several alarms from folks worried about its durability. The Redmi Note 8 Pro keeps this overall setup for better or worse, so potential buyers that don’t feel comfortable with plastic frames should look elsewhere. Despite having a plastic frame, though, this phone does not feel cheap at all. For starters, it’s heavy—at 200 grams, it’s a bit heavier than more premium smartphones like the iPhone 11 or the Galaxy Note 10+. It’s also marginally taller and wider than its predecessor, as well as, of course, noticeably heavier. It’s carrying a bigger 4,500 mAh battery as well as a bigger display, so this is to be expected.
The phone also takes some design cues from other Redmi devices such as the Redmi K20 Pro/Mi 9T Pro. Whereas the Redmi Note 7 had a flat glass back that felt kind of boxy and clunky in the hand, this phone features a curved glass back which helps a lot with grip. Previous Redmi Note devices like the Redmi Note 3 and the Redmi Note 4 featured a similarly curved design, and one that is present on newer devices like the Redmi K20 Pro, so it serves as both a throwback and a step into the future. This is a design feature that Tushar praised in his Redmi K20 Pro review, and one which I greatly agree with: it adds grip to a normally slippery glass back and makes the phone feel lighter and easier to handle, especially considering its bigger, heavier footprint.
The back’s most prominent design feature is the big, centered, protruding quad rear camera module. The main camera module features a 64MP Samsung ISOCELL GW1 sensor as its main sensor—the same sensor as other 64MP smartphones such as the Realme XT and the Samsung Galaxy A70s—coupled with an 8MP ultra-wide-angle lens with a 120° field-of-view and a 2MP depth-sensing lens. Off-set to the right of this camera module, where it could be mistaken for a laser autofocus sensor (like the OnePlus 7T Pro) or a time-of-flight sensor (like the Huawei P30 Pro), there’s also a fourth lens under the LED flash, which is actually a 2MP dedicated macro lens. We’ll dive further into this quad-camera setup later into the review. The camera setup also bumps out quite a bit, which is also the case for its predecessor, yet I feel this is quite a bit more protruding than the Redmi Note 7 series’ camera. This is because, this time around, the camera sensors are much bigger and prominent than those in the previous phones. That combined with the curving of the back gives place to some severe wobbling while placing the phone on a flat surface. Not even the included TPU case manages to make up for the camera bump, but if the wobbling really bothers you, a thicker case should do the trick.
The camera module also holds the phone’s rear-mounted fingerprint sensor in a similar fashion to the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S9, a location which I’m not really a fan of—it’s right below the cameras, and I often end up smudging the camera lens while trying to unlock the smartphone. It’s also fairly small, which definitely doesn’t help to this case, and that, combined with the color and the position, might make you mistake it for another camera lens at first sight. Other phones in this range, like the Xiaomi Mi A3 and the Mi 9T/Redmi K20, have started to feature an in-display fingerprint scanner, so the Redmi Note 8 Pro is keeping things conservative here, which is definitely not a bad thing as there are still several phones out there that don’t even have one, to begin with. I should mention, however, that the fingerprint sensor here is really, really fast: one quick tap is usually enough to unlock the phone. This serves to compensate the time you waste trying to look for the sensor itself in the first place.
As we mentioned before, the Redmi Note 8 Pro has a bigger screen than its predecessor and even other Redmi smartphones. At 6.53 inches, it is the same size as other phones like the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and it’s definitely bigger than the 6.3-inch panel on the Redmi Note 7 series. However, the phone itself is not much bigger, and this is because Xiaomi managed to do some serious bezel-trimming work and noticeably reduce the screen bezels. Xiaomi claims the phone has a 91.4% screen-to-body ratio this time around, which is a surprising number for a mid-range smartphone at its price point. And while I can’t immediately verify that number, the bezels are definitely pleasing. The front-facing 20MP camera sensor is housed in the teardrop notch, which is more V-shaped than the Redmi Note 7’s U-shaped notch. The top rim of the phone has the earpiece grill, while the notch itself fits both a notification LED (which only flashes white) and an ever-so-small ambient sensor alongside the camera.
The Redmi Note 8 Pro doesn’t cut back on any hardware features found in its predecessor either. The headphone jack, which used to be on the top of the phone in the Redmi Note 7/Pro, has been moved to the bottom. I wasn’t really expecting it to be removed, to be fair, since the trend of removing the headphone jack seems to only be happening on higher-end devices: for some strange reason, not having a headphone jack is actually a premium “feature” since companies often put excuses for removing it such as fitting bigger batteries or adding sensors in. Then we have phones like the Redmi Note 8 Pro fitting 4,500 mAh batteries without removing it. The bottom of the phone also houses the USB-C charging port as well as a single speaker grille right to its side. The top of the phone, however, features a single microphone hole and an IR blaster — an increasingly rare, yet very handy feature few phones have nowadays.
The right side holds the power and volume buttons, which feel clicky enough to counter the frame’s plasticky feeling, while the left side is reserved for the SIM card tray, which is a hybrid tray—it can hold either 2 SIM cards or one SIM card and one microSD card. I would have honestly preferred a tray that gave you the option to use two SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time, which I found in the Redmi 7A, but this is the next best thing to that. The Indian variant of the device comes with a dedicated microSD card slot, so you can use it alongside two SIMs.
This phone is not a contender for the most durable phone, but it is definitely among the prettiest in mid-range smartphone design. The design definitely does the job and overall, I am content with it. The ergonomics are amazing, particularly because of the phone’s curved glass back, and help greatly with the phone’s added footprint compared to its predecessor. And the rest of the design becomes immediately iconic, and falls right in line with the design language of other Redmi smartphones.
Redmi Note 8 Pro: Display
Just like the Redmi Note 7 Pro before it, the Redmi Note 8 Pro features a 19.5:9 IPS LCD display with a 2340x1080p resolution. However, the display size gets a bump from 6.3 inches to a more considerable 6.53 inches. This is an LCD display, all things considered, so we can’t really expect the pitch dark blacks, higher contrast ratios or overall battery savings that have come to characterize AMOLED displays. Other smartphones in this range (or in slightly more expensive ranges) like the Mi 9T/Redmi K20, the Mi A3, and the Realme XT have started to come with AMOLED displays. This display is, however, very competent and as good as an LCD panel can get, and complaining about it would be nitpicking given how there’s still a lot of smartphones, even premium ones, launching with LCD panels well into 2019 and almost into 2020. A bigger screen size, as well as notably reduced bezels, make for a splendid experience compared to the Redmi Note 7.
Given how the screen has the same resolution and it’s a tad bigger, though, pixel density takes a small hit at 395 PPI instead of the 409 PPI in its predecessor. It is most definitely not noticeable, though. The display leaves me with no complaints whatsoever regarding resolution, especially considering how it has an RGB matrix instead of a PenTile matrix like some AMOLED displays do. At this price point, you’re likely not going to find any smartphone with a Quad HD+ 1440p display, so 1080p is the next best thing and honestly, there’s little need for a higher resolution, even considering the lower pixel density compared to its predecessor. Text, photos, and videos look sharp enough to keep these complaints at bay.
This particular panel can go as bright as 460 nits by cranking the brightness slider all the way up, and with auto-brightness enabled, it maxes out at 640 nits. It is far from the brightest panel in town, but it’s still a very respectable number that manages to ensure complete visibility even in challenging sunlight situations. That, coupled with Xiaomi’s automatic contrast technology which tweaks the display’s contrast on the fly to ensure effective sunlight visibility, means that you should not have any problems using the phone even with strong sunlight. The display supports ~84% of the NTSC color gamut according to Xiaomi, and as we said before, employs Gorilla Glass 5 for protection.
Contrast settings are about the same as the Redmi Note 7 Pro: there is a number of settings including the automatic contrast and increased contrast features — which generally lean towards the DCI-P3 spectrum — as well as a “standard” mode which is mostly a fancy term for sRGB mode. There is also an adjustable reading mode feature certified by TÜV Rheinland, which takes away blue light in an effort to make nighttime reading more comfortable. The display in the Redmi Note 8 Pro brings a couple of improvements compared to the last generation’s display, including the fact that this phone’s display supports HDR10. I played a couple of HDR videos from YouTube on both the Redmi Note 8 Pro and the Redmi Note 7 side by side and the difference was immediately stark: videos and images looked a lot more vivid and life-like in the newer-generation phone whenever HDR was supported. The addition of HDR support is definitely nice, and even more so in this price range.
I also went ahead and downloaded Display Tester on my device in order to perform a couple of more tests, particularly in the matter of touch sensitivity, banding, contrast, and more. And the Redmi Note 8 Pro passes most of these tests with flying colors. In regards to touch sensitivity, the phone’s multitouch panel supports up to 10 touch points simultaneously, which has become pretty standard. I also haven’t noticed any issues regarding ghost touching during my testing, and the display actually seems fairly accurate. In fact, the ghost touch issue related to the 3 finger screenshot gesture that was present in devices like the POCO F1 and the Redmi K20 Pro/Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro does not seem to be happening in my unit, so we’re off to a good start here.
Redmi Note 8 Pro’s display emerges as a complete winner, coming out flawlessly in most areas
When it comes to banding, contrast, and saturation, the Redmi Note 8 Pro emerges as a complete winner, coming out flawlessly in most areas. Colors are nice, vivid and accurate. The only aspect the device struggles with is with regards to black contrast, but they are still as good as blacks on an LCD can get given their technical capabilities. AMOLED panels are fairly superior in black contrasts, as you may guess, and an LCD panel is just technically incapable of holding a candle to them.
Otherwise, though, it’s a very capable display given the phone’s price point. Coming from an AMOLED panel, I don’t really feel the downgrade. Then again, some people swear by AMOLED panels and with several competitors sporting them on their phones, an LCD might seem like a downgrade to them. This, again, is a matter of taste, but I’m honestly satisfied enough with this device’s display panel. It’s not the best out there, it won’t blow you off your seat, but it’s good enough and might actually surprise you in certain ways.
Redmi Note 8 Pro: Hardware and Performance
The Redmi Note 8 Pro’s hardware is the reason why I often call the phone a “risky” take on a mid-range smartphone. The Redmi Note 7 Pro featured a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor, which provided truly outstanding performance for the price, but in the case of the Redmi Note 8 Pro, the company opted instead for an octa-core MediaTek Helio G90T for the phone’s brains. Xiaomi is no stranger to using MediaTek system-on-chips, with recent phones like the Xiaomi Mi Play and the Redmi 6A having featured MediaTek processors (Helio P35 and Helio A22 respectively). But the Redmi Note line, in particular, has not featured a MediaTek-powered entry since the Redmi Note 4 with an Helio X20—which also received a (wildly more popular) Snapdragon 625-powered model in certain regions.
I’m sure I don’t have to mention why MediaTek phones are so unpopular, especially among the enthusiast community. But in case you’re out of the loop, MTK devices normally have had poor developer support thanks to a notable lack of kernel sources and documentation for a vast majority of these phones, making ROM development impossible. Additionally, MediaTek devices are often lacking in performance and other aspects, at least compared to their Qualcomm and Samsung competitors. And the fact that most cheap, crappy Chinese phones are powered by MediaTek SoCs has also tarnished their brand quite a bit in the eyes of end-users. The sole fact that the Redmi Note 8 Pro was powered by the Helio G90T was reason enough for a lot of people to immediately write out the phone from their list of options.
Nonetheless, Xiaomi is fairly confident in this processor and this phone’s might — so much, in fact, that they’re actually using the Helio G90T globally and advertising it as a selling point. They have also released kernel sources for the phone, which means that modding and development should not be much of a problem compared to other MediaTek devices. In fact, there’s even an unofficial build of TWRP over at our forums. I’ve personally had mixed experiences with MediaTek in the past, so I was both very skeptical and very excited to try out this phone. And truth be told, I was actually very surprised by the way this phone performed, and in quite a pleasant way.