Remember how a few months ago when people went into an event expecting to see the launch of the OnePlus 7 Pro but came away talking of the pricing of the OnePlus 7? Well, the Redmi Note 8 seems to have pulled off something similar. It was supposed to be the lesser of the two Redmi Notes to be launched – the Note 8 Pro was clearly the star of the show, but there was no mistaking that a number of people walked away talking of the “Pro-less” avatar of the device. For, notwithstanding the spec and design muscle of the Note 8 Pro (and there are considerable amounts of both, check our first cut), the Note 8 comes with its own appeal.
Of course, its biggest appeal is its price – at Rs 9,999 for the 4 GB/ 64 GB variant (there’s also a 6 GB/ 128 GB one for Rs 12,999), the Note 8 offers staggering value for money and is priced almost a third lesser than its pro counterpart. With a lower price, however, come some compromises and the big question is just how many corners does the device cut?
In terms of design, the Note 8 is more like an upgraded Note 7 Pro, than a downgraded Note 8 Pro. It follows a similar design to the Note 7 Pro with Gorilla Glass 5 front and back and a 6.3-inch display with a notch in the front, and camera capsule placement in the top left corner of the back (rather than a more central location on the 8 Pro). And it also mimics its gradient finish on the back to an extent, although in a more shiny and glossy manner. We got the Neptune Blue edition and although it blends right in with the current trend of shiny backs, it does look rather nice, with the blue on the back transitioning from a lighter shade at the top to a darker one on the base and the light making S-curved patterns on the back (oh them Moto X4 feels). It is also smaller, slimmer and lighter than the Note 8 Pro – 158.3 mm in length, 8.35 mm thick and 188 grams in weight as against 161.7 mm, 8.81 mm thick and 200 grams.
That smaller frame does pack in some decent hardware though. The display might be smaller (6.3 inches as against 6.53 inches) but it has the same full HD+ resolution that the 8 Pro has. And ironically, some might feel more assured by the Snapdragon 665 processor powering it rather than the MediaTek Helio G90T on the Note 8 Pro, given the perceived edge that Qualcomm is supposed to enjoy over MediaTek, and RAM and storage variants are at 4 GB/ 64 GB and 6 GB/ 128 GB, with expandable memory in both cases.
Interestingly, while the Note 8 Pro had two SIM card trays (one of which also had a microSD card slot), the Note 8 has a single one, accommodating both SIM cards and a microSD storage card. And well, the lower weight of the Note 8 can be partially attributed to its having a slightly smaller (if still relatively big) battery – 4000 mAh as compared to 4500 mAh on the Pro. It too supports fast charging incidentally and comes with an 18W charger in the box (Lord be Praised). The connectivity options remain largely at the Pro level too – USB Type-C, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and infrared. Both devices also have 3.5 mm audio jacks. Of course, this being a Xiaomi device, it runs on Xiaomi’s MIUI interface (MIUI 10, shortly to be updated to 11, we are told) on top of Android 9 – geeks might complain about the ads on it but users do not seem overly concerned at the time of writing.
The biggest perceived (we use that word again) difference between the Note 8 and its Pro bro, however, are the cameras. Like the 8 Pro, Note 8 too has a quad-camera arrangement at the back and a selfie camera in the notch. But there the similarities end. Unlike the 8 Pro, which has a 64-megapixel main sensor, the Note 8 has a 48 megapixel one, although both have f/1.79 apertures. The Note 8 Pro also has a much larger camera sensor – 1/1.17 inches. However, the other three sensors are broadly similar – 8 megapixel ultrawide, a 2-megapixel depth sensor and a 2-megapixel macro sensor, with a minimum shooting distance of 2 cm. The Pro also has a clear edge in the selfie camera department – 20 megapixels as against 13 megapixels on the Note 8. There is significantly more camera muscle in the Redmi Note 8 Pro, but the Note 8 punches well above its weight. And boasts perhaps the most powerful camera arrangement in a phone that is priced below Rs 10,000.
And that actually sums up the essence of the Redmi Note 8 – what it delivers at a price that is surprisingly low, even by Redmi Note standards (and those are SOME standards). It comes with good design and very good hardware and software that for all its ad-dependence is becoming very popular. You can find alternatives for the Note 8 Pro (particularly from the Realme and Samsung camps), but the Note 8 at the time of writing seems to be in a zone of its own in spec and design terms. Which is why it made so many heads turn at its launch, even though it was a side-act to the Note 8 Pro. Whether it can deliver in terms of performance will be revealed in our review in the coming days. It might not have the spec numbers of the Pro, but thanks to its price, it might more than match its sales.