[First Cut] Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro: Very Note-like, but not Note-able!
Surfing steady market waters with a safe design
From being just another Chinese brand to India’s top smartphone brand, Xiaomi has come a long way since it started its Indian journey back in 2014. While there have been many devices that have contributed to the success of the company, there is one series in particular that has worked extra hard to get the Chinese tech brand on top – the Redmi Note series. The series from the company was initially seen as an attempt to keep the brand visible, in the wake of the super popular Mi 3 and Redmi 1S, much like a life jacket that helps you stay above deep deep waters. The first Redmi Note did its job – although it did stir up some controversy along the way – and helped the company get a stable position in the market waters. However, the period after that saw the Note series going from a being a life jacket to a battleship, ruling the sea.
The company sold a whopping 10 million units of the Redmi Note 4 in its life cycle and once that milestone was set, its successors, the Redmi Note 5 and Note 5 Pro combined sold almost 5 million units. Trying to not just match those two but also set a new benchmark is the new Redmi Note in the family, the Redmi Note 6 Pro.
Time to break away from the Note stereotype? Nope!
Almost two years ago, we did a story on how the design of budget segment smartphones was getting repeated more than often and how mostly all the devices in the segment were looking pretty much the same. While we are eternally happy that this is not the case any more and the likes of Honor and Realme are adding some flair to a segment, it seems like Xiaomi is still stuck in time. The launch of the Redmi Note 3 witnessed a curved body, a metal back, a fingerprint scanner on the back and although passing years have seen a few cosmetic changes, after 3 generations, the basics of the Note have remained the same – and the Redmi Note 6 Pro does not travel too far from these.
The Redmi Note 6 Pro comes with a slightly larger display than its predecessor – a bright and responsive (so far) 6.2-inch full HD+ one with a screen resolution of 2280 x 1080 pixels. The tall display is bundled with a notch that houses the earpiece, proximity sensor, and dual selfie cameras. Unfortunately, the presence of notch does not really lead to the absence of bezels. While Xiaomi has trimmed down (they remain very visible though) the bezels on top and sides, the one below the display is pretty thick. The display is topped with 2.5D glass and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass.
Turn the smartphone around and you will find an uncanny resemblance between the Note 6 Pro and its predecessor (we got the black unit of the device). There is no bling on the device as the color is very matte metal black. As compared to the Note 5 Pro, the Note 6 Pro has antenna bands that curve on the sides and are not shiny and try very hard to blend into the back. The device will be available also in rose gold, blue and red variants.
Most of the arrangement on the back of the smartphone stays same as the one on the predecessor – most notably the slightly protruding camera unit on the top left side of the back, just under the first antenna band. A little southeast from there, you will find the gently recessed fingerprint scanner. A bit above the second antenna band is the company’s logo in a very subtle gray marking.
The base of the Note 6 Pro carries the speaker grille and the micro USB port. Some might be disappointed with the so-called yestertime port’s presence on the device but that is not a negative, considering the price of the phone – and the poor thing never harmed us, anyway. Unlike on the Note 5 Pro, there is no 3.5 mm audio jack on the base but before mourning its death, give a glance at the top and you will find it, accompanied by an infrared port.
Just like its predecessor, the Note 6 Pro houses a dual SIM slot (one of which is hybrid) on the left-hand side while the volume rocker and the power on/off and lock button sit on the right-hand side. Measuring 157.91 x 76.38 x 8.26 mm, the Note 6 Pro might feel way thinner and lighter, but there is actually not much difference between 6 Pro and 5 Pro in terms of dimensions here. And at 182 grams, the smartphone is gram heavier than its predecessor but nothing deal breaking is present in this corner. In sum, if you liked the looks of the Note 5 Pro, you will not mind the Note 6 Pro. It will not stand out in the crowd but is built on solid, predictable lines.
Something same, something different
In the specs and number zone, the Redmi Note 6 Pro brings a mixed bag along. The spec sheet comes with some numbers that we have seen before along with some digits that come as a nice surprise. We have already talked of the slightly larger display and its marginally higher resolution (thanks to the notch).
However, perhaps the most noticeable change in the device for many (especially when you consider that the Note 5 Pro was marketed as a “camera beast”) is in terms of optics. The Note 5 Pro was the first Redmi Note to have come with dual cameras and with the Note 6 Pro, the company has taken its camera game up a sensor. The 6 Pro is the first smartphone from the Chinese brand in India that houses quadruple cameras – a pair on the back paired with a pair on the front. The combination on the front comprises a 20-megapixel primary sensor supported by a 2-megapixel sensor. The duo on the back is a combination of a primary 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.9 aperture and a 5-megapixel sensor, and a single tone dual-LED flash. Both pairs of cameras, on front and back, come with AI support, so scenes are expected to be automatically identified and settings optimized accordingly.
The Redmi Note 6 Pro is powered by 1.8 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 octa-core chipset – the same that we saw on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, which might disappoint some who were hoping for a newer processor. The smartphone is available in two variants; the first variant comes with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage while the second variant sports 6 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage. The storage can be expanded up to 256 GB via microSD card. The smartphone runs on Android 8.1 out of the box, which is a bit of a disappointment considering Android 9 has been out and about for a while now, but on the brighter side, it is topped with the latest version of Xiaomi’s in-house UI, MIUI 10. Keeping it ticking is a 4000 mAh battery under the hood, and the phone comes with Qualcomm Quick Charge Support. Connectivity options include dual-SIM dual VoLTE, infrared, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, and USB OTG. The phone comes with fingerprint and face unlock, both, although like most Android devices, you cannot use face unlock for financial transactions. Like the design, the specs for the Note 6 Pro mostly par for the course, really, with nothing eye poppingly spectacular. There is a lot that is familiar here, but given how well the Note 5 Pro performed, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
GimMi GimMi GimMi…a changed design!
It took the stage in a supporting role in 2014, but the period since has seen the Redmi Note series pretty much become the protagonist of the Xiaomi show. The journey of the series has been remarkable. But what has not been remarkable is the design language that the company has followed for most of the series. This level of design was acceptable from a company that had literally taken a few first steps in the Indian market but after four years, the kind of success which can turn into a movie script any day, and all the number one reminders that we have had from the brand, we expected more from Xiaomi in terms of the design of the Note 6 Pro. The device does not look bad and comes with a few significant upgrades like the quad cameras but well, it does not really look exciting either.
And this is especially so if you consider smartphones like the Honor 8X and the Nokia 6.1 Plus that are available in the same price band (the Note 6 Pro does not have an official price tag at the time of writing, but is expected to be priced in the vicinity of Rs 15,000, like its predecessor) but come with much more premium looks. Accuse us of great expectations if you will but we think that this, if any, was the time for the company to push design boundaries with a much loved and appreciated series. Alas, it seems to have played safe and notch apart, has given us a device that looks like just another Note, which is sadly not Note-able enough in terms of appearance. There will be those who will say that it makes no sense to fix what’s not broken, but we really wish Xiaomi had done more here.
All of which means that those specs have their work cut out to make this Note a success. We will discover if they do that in our detailed review. Stay tuned.