[First cut] Redmi Note 8 Pro: Note the design and camera, m’lord!
Getting a very note-able spec and design refresh
Getting a Redmi Note from Xiaomi used to be a yearly affair. Every year, a Note used to come from the brand, become a bestseller and leave some really big shoes to fill for the next one in line. The next year, a new Note would make an entry and do something similar, if not exactly the same. But of late, the arrival of Note has become a biannual phenomenon. It all started with the Redmi Note 6 Pro which was launched in the same year as the Note 5 Pro. Then we saw the launch of the Redmi Note 7 Pro earlier this year, and as 2019 fades out, Xiaomi has now introduced another Note to the series, the Redmi Note 8 Pro.
Mainstream look that still stands out
When Xiaomi first started out in the country, it was a brand that focused on clubbing relatively high-end specs with competitive pricing. And while that worked out pretty well for the company (they never let us forget they are no.1), the design was not really a USP of mainstream Xiaomi phones. That seems to be changing. Of late, Xiaomi has been launching smartphones that not only fit its “relatively high-end specs with competitive price” strategy but are also setting new standards when it comes to design.
The new Note 8 Pro is a testament to that. The device comes with the biggest display seen on a Note series phone yet – a tall, 6.53-inch full HD+ display that is surrounded by line-like bezels on the three sides while the chin is relatively thicker. The bezel on top also carries the supposedly “old fashioned” drop notch (yes, no fancy front cameras pop out of its frame), that carries the front-facing camera on the device.
The smartphone comes with a glass back that we feel adds some heft to the device. The first half of the Note 8 Pro’s back carries a slightly raised, elongated capsule unit that houses the triple camera setup along with a circular fingerprint scanner. Right next to the unit, are flash and another teeny-tiny camera (yes, there are actually four cameras on the back). The lower half of the back has the Redmi branding, which is vertically aligned with the camera capsule.
Glassy, glossy but subtle
The glossy glass back seeks your attention but does it ever so subtly. It will make your head turn but will not blind you with bling. The back of the phone looks like it has taken some inspiration from its relatively higher-end brother, Redmi K20 Pro as the Note 8 Pro has a gradient color similar to the one we saw on the K20 and K20 Pro, minus the flame effect. We received the Gamma Green color unit of the phone where the green is deeper in the middle and lightens out as it moves towards the sides. It is subtle yet very striking which is always a plus.
There is a shiny metal frame between the two glass layers, which are incidentally both Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The right side of the frame holds the volume rocker and the power/lock button while the left side is home to a dedicated SIM card space and another slot for SIM card and MicroSD card – yes, there are two slots here, Xiaomi’s logic being that you can add a SIM to the device without losing your existing connection, as they are on separate trays.
The top of the frame is plain with an infrared port nestled on it while the base carries a 3.5 mm audio jack, USB Type C port, and the speaker grille.
Measuring 161.30 x 76.40 x 8.80mm and weighing 199.80 grams, the Redmi Note 8 Pro does not really come with an out of the box design element but even the mainstream elements that it possesses, like the tall display, the drop notch on the front, the glass back all work in harmony to give the phone a design edge over its competitors. Because it is all shiny and glossy, and slightly on the heavier and bulkier side, the grip of the phone is not too great on its own and it seems like it will pick up smudges and scratches in seconds (especially around the camera unit which protrudes). It’s a good thing you get a clear case along with the phone in the box. The phone, like most recent Redmi devices, also comes with P2i splash resistance.
Taking a different, high spec road?
The design of the Note 8 Pro gets your attention in spite of being predictable but this is not the case with the specs of the phone. This time around the new Note comes with a few very interesting and different hardware components.
The Redmi Note 8 Pro comes with a 6.53-inch full HD+ display which is not only the tallest display that we have seen on a Note series phone but also one of the brightest at 500 nits.
Xiaomi phones in India have been mostly running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, but the Note 8 Pro is powered by a MediaTek Helio G90T processor. While that might make some Qualcomm fanboys uncomfortable, Xiaomi claims the processor can easily take on the likes of Qualcomm Snapdragon 710. The RAM has also been bumped up – there is no 4 GB RAM variant and the phone instead comes with 6 GB/ 64 GB and 8 GB/ 128 GB RAM and storage variants. Xiaomi claims that you can play high-end games like PUBG on the phone at maxed-out settings and also that it comes with a special cooling mechanism that will keep it running smoothly. Tall claims indeed.
In the camera department, the Note 8 Pro brings five cameras to the table — four on the back and one on the front, which is quite a jump from the Note 7 Pro, which had two on the back and one on the front. The rear camera on the device is a combination of a 64-megapixel main sensor (from Samsung) with f/1.9 aperture, an 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor with f/2.2 aperture, a 2-megapixel depth sensor, and a 2-megapixel macro sensor, both at f/2.4 aperture. On the front, the device carries a 20-megapixel sensor for selfies and video calls with f/ 2.0 aperture. The Note Pro series has been known for its photography since the Note 5 Pro, and the Note 8 Pro brings some more versatility to the table, while also becoming the first Xiaomi phone in the country with a 64-megapixel sensor.
The phone also gets extra mAhs of battery as compared to its predecessor. The Note 8 Pro is powered by a 4,500 mAh battery, which is the biggest battery we have seen on a Note series in India. And this time it comes not just with support for fast charging, but also a 18W charger in the box. Praise be! The device runs on Android 9 Pie out of the box topped with MIUI 10. Yes, no Android 10 on a Redmi Note just yet. That said, MIUI 10 is definitely one of the most user-friendly and functional skins present in the market, if you can ignore the annoying ads, and Xiaomi is also set to announce MIUI 11 shortly, which should come with its own set of features. In an interesting move, Xiaomi has bundled both Google Assistant and Alexa on the phone – now you can talk to not just one, but two virtual assistants on your phone. Who needs friends any more? Connectivity options on the phone include 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and FM radio. There is a special touch to the Wi-Fi too, with Xiaomi including what it calls Wi-Fi X, with different receivers placed on the phone which pick up a Wi-Fi connection if your hands cover the primary ones (which can happen when you hold the phone in landscape mode while gaming).
Got Note-able shoes to fill
The Note series from Redmi is hands down the most popular smartphone series in the market. And while belonging to the series gives the Red Note 8 Pro an advantage, it also means it has some very big boots to fill. Starting at Rs 14,990, the Note 8 Pro comes with great design and amped up numbers but just how well the phone does will depend on the phone’s performance. Unlike in the past where Xiaomi did not have brands that could match its price and specs combination, there are now plenty of phone-y fishes in the sea, most notably from the likes of Realme and Samsung. Just how well the Redmi Note 8 Pro does will be revealed in our detailed review, and we are sure there will be plenty of curiosity around how the MediaTek processor and the 64-megapixel sensor perform. But hey, this is a Note – we have great expectations.