Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 has four cameras and they are impressive for its price.
It has a huge 4,000mAh battery and fast charger is included in the box.
The USP of Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 is its price, but you will have to deal with ads.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 is the textbook example of a good iterative product. Since its entry into India in 2014, Xiaomi has built its product portfolio by launching iterative products. The Redmi Note series, in particular, has been the best selling model for the company. When Xiaomi launched Redmi Note 4 in early 2017, the series became benchmark for budget smartphones. More than two years later, the story has not changed even a bit. The Redmi Note 8, overshadowed by Redmi Note 8 Pro, remains the benchmark for budget smartphones. On paper, the smartphone looks like an iterative update to Redmi Note 7 and Redmi Note 7S. However, after spending some time with it, it is clear that there is more to this device than meets the eye.
Xiaomi is once again improving on the design first seen with Redmi Note 7 series launched earlier this year. The smartphone now has four cameras on the back, a clear attempt to challenge Realme. However, the software makes you wonder whether there is a trade-off in place. So, the question isn’t whether Redmi Note 8 is a good smartphone? Because it indeed is. But the real question is whether you should compromise on tradeoffs and get this one. Let’s find out.
Watch: Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Video Review
Xiaomi says MIUI is used by over 80 million users in India. In the case of Redmi Note 8, this MIUI seemed to be the most contentious thing for me. As soon as I showed this device to a friend, he asked does it show ads? This has become talk of Twitter town and there are people opposing as well as supporting Xiaomi’s decision to show ads. Honestly, I don’t have any problem with ad-based revenue model. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and even Apple shows ads. However, the important thing is how these ads delivered to your device. Before we talk about ads, I want to quickly note that Redmi Note 8 runs MIUI 10.3.1 based on Android 9 Pie. It will get MIUI 11 based on Android 10 only in late November, which is a bummer to start with.
As soon as you unbox the device and press the power button to start it, you are greeted with MIUI logo. Then you need to tap through 10 screens before getting started with the device. It’s horrendous. I don’t remember going through similar setup screen on the Redmi K20 Pro. The MIUI experience seems starkly different on Xiaomi’s premium smartphone and budget device. There are of course ads and there is no way to get around it. The ads are most prominent in the widget pane accessible by swiping right from the homescreen. The annoying ads are the ones that appear in the form of push notification. Some of the apps send alerts about clickbaity stuff and if you open browser, theew are suggestions that you would not want to click.
Xiaomi has already confirmed that it will keep its margin from hardware at five percent. It is the reason why its Redmi devices offer such tremendous value for money. However, its strategy to make money via software and services is hampering the overall user experience. Hardware is only the means while software is what you spend all the time interacting with. If the software itself is contentious then that good hardware has no real value. It is equivalent to McLaren’s F1 cars with Honda engine between 2015 and 2017. Beautiful in design, fast in certain corners but unreliable for most part. Xiaomi’s MIUI as a whole is not a bad interface. It is fluid for most part and newest versions are the most responsive. Gestures work really well and app switcher is better than one found on stock Android.
However, the overall experience of MIUI seemed compromised to me on the Redmi Note 8. I would like to see two fixes to MIUI. First, Xiaomi should change the way ads are pushed and second, it should get rid of duplicate apps. There is no need for a browser when Google Chrome serves that purpose in a better way. The MIUI 11 update promises fixes to these issues, and I hope Xiaomi does make software better for larger interest of consumers.
If the software is bittersweet then the camera is a killer in this price segment. Realme pushed smartphone makers to offer four cameras on smartphones. Xiaomi has reacted in the way it is known for. The Redmi Note 8 comes equipped with a total of four cameras on the back. The main camera is the 48-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL sensor with f/1.79 aperture and phase detect autofocus. It is paired with a 2-megapixel depth sensor with f/2.4 aperture. The new additions are an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera with f/2.2 aperture and a dedicated 2-megapixel macro lens. In my time testing the camera, it is easy to say that this is among the best camera experience you can find in this price segment.
The main camera shoots at 12-megapixel resolution with 4-in-1 pixel binning by default. You can also manually toggle to 48-megapixel full sensor readout. The pictures shot with the main camera produce good detail and the ISP tries hard to keep the colors closer to source. None of the images shot with Redmi Note 8 seemed oversaturated to me. This is a departure from other Android smartphone makers who are building cameras by default for Instagram. The main camera is capable of producing images with good exposure and also maintains good balance between texture and noise. However, when you shoot in 48-megapixel mode, the result is not as stunning as you would want it to be. The dynamic range is not that wide and details are clipped when you try to zoom into them.
The Redmi Note 8 also has one of the best portrait modes on a smartphone in this price segment. Xiaomi seems to have mastered edge detection with depth sensor and its isolation algorithm is nearly perfect. I tried shooting a portrait against glass and the camera surprised me with the result. As you can see in the photo gallery above, the camera did not struggle with hair even though they are not well groomed. It is a remarkable achievement on Xiaomi’s part and shows that their AI algorithms have gotten better. The addition of ultra-wide-angle camera makes it easier to show new perspective. The 120-degree field of view is among the widest on smartphone, and it is perfect for shooting landscapes. However, the narrower f/2.2 aperture means that it does not suck in a lot of light and is not ideal for low-light photography.
The fourth camera is meant to help you get closer to the subject and shoot macro images. The minimum focusing distance is 2cm and there is no way to know when you too close. The sensor maintains good exposure throughout but final images have a cooler tone to them. Considering that most of us won’t be shooting a lot of macro with phone camera, this is a nice feature to have.
In a nutshell, Xiaomi has built a camera system that is definitely one of the best in this price segment. It performs consistently well across different scenarios and matches premium devices in few areas. However, I am not a fan of software-based 2x zoom available on this device. One thing I missed is the sky filter option available on Redmi Note 8 Pro and Redmi K20 Series. Xiaomi, if you are reading this, please bring the feature with the next OTA update.
Performance and Battery Life
The Redmi Note 8 brings major changes to the budget smartphone segment. There are only two storage options and the base model comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. This is interesting considering Apple stuck with 32GB storage on iPhone for a really long time. With Redmi Note 8, Xiaomi is advocating against 3GB RAM on smartphones priced at Rs 10,000 or above. Powering the device is Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 that we saw earlier on Realme 5 and Xiaomi Mi A3. The processor paired with Adreno 610 GPU is a smooth operator for most part. Basic tasks like imaging, switching between apps and spending hours on social media applications work flawlessly on this architecture. The 11nm chipset brings fluidity to the budget smartphone segment.
However, it does not seem to be the most capable of chipsets for gaming. We played Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile and saw noticeable lag and frame drops between game play. It could be because of the fact that this chipset is relatively new, and is yet to be optimized to support these games. For the time being, this is not the best device for gaming and as my colleague wrote in his review of Redmi Note 8 Pro, the device shines as a gaming smartphone. If you are someone who is going to use the Redmi Note 8 for staying connected with friends, consuming media content and light gaming then you won’t be disappointed.
The Redmi Note 8 packs a 4,000mAh battery like its predecessor. The switch to efficient Snapdragon 665 means that the device lasts longer. During the week testing this smartphone, I averaged screen time between five and seven hours. I mostly charged the device once every two days and when I spent time binge watching on Netflix, I charged the device on the second day. I often went to bed with at least 30 percent battery left, which means you don’t need to charge the device overnight. Xiaomi is also including an 18W fast charger in the box. When you go from 10W charger to 18W charger, the difference is as good as jumping from a hatchback to sedan. If I am going on a long trip, I would pack Redmi Note 8 mainly to use it as a backup or hotspot device.
If you noticed I have not written a word about the design or the display in this review. That is mainly because we covered that in our first impressions. The overall impressions stands the same. Xiaomi is making some of the best looking smartphones in the business right now. The Aura design on our Neptune Blue review unit turns heads and the extension of blue color to the black front bezel is a classy touch. The 6.3-inch display is bright and produces vibrant colors. In a nutshell, the Redmi Note 8 is a solid device for those looking to buy a smartphone in the sub-Rs 10,000 price segment. The real competition will come when Realme launches the successor to Realme 5 in India. For now, the Redmi Note 8’s competition is its sibling Redmi Note 8 Pro.
The choice between the two devices boils down to price and performance. If you want a gaming-centric smartphone then look no further than the Redmi Note 8 Pro. However, if you want a value for money device then Redmi Note 8 should be in your shopping cart. At Rs 9,999, the 4GB RAM variant offers great value. It may not have a 64-megapixel camera, but the 48-megapixel shooter works extremely well. The portrait mode is as good as the one seen on Redmi Note 8 Pro. The performance will only get better with software updates. If you can ignore ads then I find Redmi Note 8 as a better purchase that its premium sibling.