In classic David vs Goliath fashion, Realme has managed to give a tough fight to Xiaomi’s offerings in recent times. So it’s natural for the brands to have a tug war when it comes to the new trend of 64MP cameraphones. The seeds of the battle were already sown when Realme announced the Realme XT (review) just a day ahead of global unveiling of the Redmi Note 8 Pro (first impressions). Now while the Realme XT India launch has already taken place, all eyes are on the Redmi Note 8 Pro to see what it brings to the table. Well, you don’t have to wait anymore, as I’ve spent the past week with the handset, and here’s how I’ll sum up my experience…
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1080 x 2340 pixels|
|CPU||Dual core, 2.05 GHz + Hexa Core, 2 GHz, MediaTek|
|Internal memory||64 GB|
|External memory||Up to 512 GB|
|Capacity||4500 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable|
|Primary camera||64 MP|
|Secondary camera||20 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie|
While many consider the 64MP rear camera the game-changer for the Redmi Note 8 Pro, I believe it’s the inclusion of the MediaTek Helio G90T SoC. The all-new octa-core chipset comes with serious firepower, and that shows while you’re pushing the device or playing heavy titles like PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty Mobile. In true Xiaomi style, the phone doesn’t skimp on any aspect either – be it display or battery – making it a true-blue all-round package.
CPU: Dual core, 2.05 GHz + Hexa Core, 2 GHz, MediaTek
GPU: Mali-G76 MP4
RAM: 6 GB
Memory: 64 GB + Up to 512 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
There was a time when MediaTek’s mobile chipsets wasn’t considered at par with Qualcomm’s offerings. However, things have changed quite a bit after the launch of the former’s Helio P series of chipsets, and the latest G90 and G90T SoC are taking that several notches ahead. The Redmi Note 8 Pro is the launch vehicle for the MediaTek G90T silicon, and without a doubt, it’s the fastest smartphone in its segment. With two Cortex-A76 and six Cortex-A55 cores running at 2.05GHz and 2.0GHz respectively, the 12nm SoC upends the rivals in benchmarks. Real-life performance is impressive too, and there wasn’t even a single instance where I felt the device was slowing down. From navigation to switching between apps and from quick app opening times to playing 3D-intensive games, I didn’t see even a single trace of lag. Of course, the 8GB RAM also played a role in enabling this experience. You can also opt for the 6GB RAM variant, and I believe the experience should be similar, unless you keep a lot of apps in the background
And then there’s the Mali-G76 MC4 GPU, which takes the graphics capabilities on its shoulders. Be it Asphalt 9: Legends, Call of Duty Mobile, or PUBG Mobile, Redmi’s latest handled it with ease. Playing at highest graphics settings was a delight, and thanks to a liquid-cooling mechanism – a first for a phone priced under Rs 15k – the heating was kept under control too. Even after playing for an hour, the device just got slightly warm on the back.
The storage on the Redmi Note 8 Pro stands at 64GB or 128GB, with the 6GB RAM model available with both options and the higher-end 8 gig version offering just the latter. My review unit arrived with 128GB memory onboard, out of which around 116GB space is available to the end user. Similar to its predecessors, you can top it up by another 512GB by sliding in a microSD card in the dedicated slot.
The Note 8 Pro features a single speaker at its base, but don’t dismiss it outright. It’s quite loud and offers rich output… until and unless you start holding the phone in the landscape orientation.
Primary camera: 64 MP
Flash: Dual LED Flash
Secondary camera: 20 MP
As mentioned above, the 64-megapixel rear camera is Redmi Note 8 Pro’s claim to fame. The main Bright GW1 sensor with f/1.79 aperture is paired with a trio of sensors, comprising an 8-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide sensor, a 2-megapixel f/2.4 macro lens and 2-megapixel f/2.4 depth-sensing unit. The main camera comes with phase-detection autofocus for focusing on the subject quickly and gets electronic image stabilisation. As you could expect from a high-res sensor, the primary shooter has a 1/1.7-inch size and uses pixel-binning tech to offer 16MP images by default. At the front, the handset gets a 20MP shooter with f/2.0 aperture.
As far as the camera interface is concerned, the Redmi Note 8 Pro is quite familiar if you’ve used a Xiaomi phone before. Worth noting however, that the viewfinder shows a 2x zoom option, which isn’t optical (since there’s no telephoto shooter), but a digital one.
There’s no denying that the Note 8 Pro packs a punch with regards to hardware and software, but how does all that translate to the image quality? Well, I’ve already compared the cameras on the Note 8 Pro with those on the Realme XT, since both of them rock the same setup on paper. However, if you want a quick summary, then read on:
If you prefer to close-to-natural colours, then you’d love the images taken by the Redmi Note 8 Pro across all scenarios. Whether its long shots, close-ups, portraits or even the shots captured by the other sensors, the output by the handset remains natural. The details are impressive too – both in the default 16MP resolution and the actual 64-megapixel shots – though it can’t match up to the sharpness of the Realme XT. The low-light shots are pretty good too, though I wouldn’t consider them outstanding even with the night mode enabled. While it keeps the exposure in check, there’s a noticeable amount of grain visible. With respect to remaining sensors, the wide-angle shooter capture 120-degree field-of-view and while it does take a step down in terms of the level of details, the good thing is that there’s no barrel distortion. The macro sensor works quite well too, though you do need some tries to get the right shot, and you can’t expect too much from the 2MP output. Lastly, the 2MP depth sensor works as advertised and ensures that there’s proper background separation from the subject.
For videos, the device lacks optical stabilisation, and hence the footage isn’t as smooth, which is apparent in 4k resolution. The 1080p clips are smoother in comparison as they rely on EIS, and you can also capture slow-mo videos up to 960fps. The selfies are quite good, though they don’t really meet the sharpness levels that you expect from a 20MP shooter.
In sum, the Redmi Note 8 Pro is a capable shooter that wouldn’t disappoint you in any situation, though it can’t be crowned as the best cameraphone around the Rs 15k mark.
Design and display
Dimensions: 161.7 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm
Weight: 200 grams
The Redmi Note 8 Pro keeps it safe in the design department. You see, the company hasn’t gone with the punch-hole displays or pop-up cameras, unlike the K20 duo. Instead, at the front, you get a waterdrop notch-toting display, while the rear offers dual-curved edges.
While the bezels around the screen are quite thin, I wouldn’t say that this is the most immersive experience that you’ll come across. Though I liked the fact that there’s no branding on the fascia. The plastic railing with the metallic finish around the sides is solid and holds the usual ports and buttons – including the 3.5mm headphone socket (hallelujah!). Oh, there’s an IR emitter too, which is really handy, and we’ll discuss its special abilities in just a bit.
On to the rear, the centre-aligned camera module instantly grabs your attention. It features three shooters, with the LED flash unit besides holding another sensor. The module juts out from the body quite a bit and also extends to offer the fingerprint sensor, which is recessed. Sadly, due to its proximity to the camera sensor, there’s a high chance that you could end up tapping the lens more often than not. The protrusion means that the phone wobbles when kept on a surface, and that remains the case even when you slap on the bundled case. The phonemaker has kept it clean otherwise, as you’ll only find the mention of the ’64MP AI Super Camera’ and Redmi branding on the Note 8 Pro.
While you may not like the placement of the fingerprint reader, it’s blazingly fast and proves why capacitive fingerprint sensors are still ahead of the in-display biometric modules. The face unlock mechanism is quick too and works well in dim settings.
While there isn’t any newness in the design of the Redmi Note 8 Pro, it still has a reassuring comfort when held in hands. Be it because of the curved edges or rounded corners or the fact that the rear panel is protected by the Gorilla Glass 5 layer. The Aura Design also adds to the charm, with my Halo White unit offering a unique sheen depending upon how the light is hitting the surface. You can also opt for the device in Gamma Green or Shadow Black colourways. The device is also splash-proof thanks to a P2i coating.
Xiaomi has also managed to make the Redmi Note 8 Pro quite thin at 8.8mm. Although it tips the scales on the higher side by weighing 200g, and while it’s distributed uniformly, it does take some getting used to.
Redmi Note 8 Pro’s window to the world is a 6.53-inch display, which bears full HD+ resolution with an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. The screen offers vivid visuals and is sharp too, but at the end of the day, it’s an IPS panel and hence can’t match the visuals offered by AMOLED tech, which has started making its way in this price band. With that said, the screen does come with HDR support, which means watching compatible videos is a more immersive experience. Protecting the display against scratches and minor nicks is Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5.
Software and more
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 9.0, Pie
Despite Xiaomi officially releasing MIUI 11 based on Android 10, the Redmi Note 8 Pro ships with the MIUI 10.5.2. The iteration of the brand’s proprietary skin is based on Android 9.0 Pie – which was present on the Redmi K20 siblings too – and comes with features such as a dark mode.
As we’ve said before, MIUI has more admirers than haters, though it’s not really perfect. The biggest gripe we have is the amount of bloatware with titles like Dailyhunt, Facebook and Gaana preinstalled. There are quite a few first-party apps as well such as Mi Pay and Mi Credit… and you can’t uninstall any of them either. Then there’s the matter of persistent ads across the interface, be it notifications, or when you install a new app (available in the form of suggested apps), or the default Mi Browser. While you could choose to ignore them, a lot of times they are right in your face.
That aside, there are a lot of features that power users would love, such as all-in-one Security app, that provides an at-a-glance view of the device. The Cleaner app makes cleaning up cache files and other redundant stuff as easy as a single click. While I’ve always loved the speed of the file transfers by Xiaomi’s ShareMe app (erstwhile Mi Drop).
Among the key features of the Redmi Note 8 Pro is the support for Amazon’s Alexa along with Google Assistant. The Note 8 Pro can trigger both the virtual assistants as per the hotword. While Google Assistant is good for searching the web and harnessing Android functionality, Alexa comes in handy for controlling smart home devices (if you have any) or even your TV (a skill for the same will soon be available, as per the brand). Remember the fact that I said that the IR emitter is quite useful? Well, this is what makes it all the more useful as the handset can not only replace your TV’s remote, but will work with your voice too.
Capacity: 4500 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
While the recently-launched Redmi 8 siblings have gone for a 5,000mAh cell, the Redmi Note 8 Pro ships with a 4,500mAh battery… which is 12.5 percent higher than the one powering the Redmi Note 7 Pro (review). So if you are wondering whether you need to lug the power brick around, then don’t. The device easily manages to last a day of use and then some more, even when your usage includes battery-guzzling tasks like navigation, tethering, an hour of gaming and the phone being connected to the internet all the time. I usually achieved a screen-on time of ~six hours, and the PCMark 10 test also reflected similar results.
Xiaomi’s users have always lamented about the fact that the company doesn’t bundle fast chargers, even though its smartphones support the same. That changes with the Redmi Note 8 Pro as it comes with an 18W adapter in the box. That means, it can go from 10 to 100 percent levels in a little over an hour and a half. It’s certainly better that the phone’s predecessors, though it can’t match the Super VOOC charging of the Realme XT or the 22.5W Flash Charge supported by the Vivo Z1x.
There was a time when the Redmi Note series offering was a de facto choice in the sub-Rs 15k category, but that’s not the case anymore. That means that there are some compelling devices that the Note 8 Pro competes with:
Redmi Note 8 Pro vs Realme XT
The fact that I started this review with the mention of these devices together exemplifies the rivalry between them. And if you’ve been following the review closely, then you’d realise that while Realme has been scoring huge wins against Xiaomi. This time around, the Note 8 Pro has managed to sneak a win, for it brings a powerful processor and bigger battery for Rs 1,000 lower. That said, the XT isn’t far behind and has an advantage in the form of an AMOLED screen, which also means that it’s blessed with an under-display fingerprint scanner.
Redmi Note 8 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy M30s
Gone were the days when Samsung wasn’t in the race with Xiaomi. This year, the Korean giant has started to inch closer to the Redmi-branded offerings and the Note 8 Pro can’t escape the value-for-money quotient brought forth by the Galaxy M30s (review) either. While Redmi’s offering does offer better performance and camera capabilities, the M30s is still a good buy for those who value battery life more than anything else.
Redmi Note 8 Pro vs Vivo Z1x
Vivo’s Z1x (review) is also a solid offering by virtue of an AMOLED panel, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 712 processor, 48-megapixel triple rear cameras and a 4,500Ah cell. Yet, all things considered, the Redmi Note 8 comes across a better smartphone.
Despite launching just eight months after the Redmi Note 7 Pro, the Redmi Note 8 Pro brings some serious upgrades – both inside and outside. And yet, its pricing hasn’t been increased too much… making it a stellar deal at Rs 14,999. Interestingly, this is the case, even when the Redmi Note 8 Pro doesn’t excel in all the departments, but it’s hard to argue with its value proposition as a whole.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Fantastic performer
- Solid camera capabilities
- Impressive battery backup
- HDR-capable display
- MIUI 10 is riddled with bloatware and ads
- Weighs on the higher side
- Not the fastest charging in the segment
Photos by Raj Rout