Think of budget smartphones in India and often only one brand-name springs to mind: Xiaomi. Xiaomi, through its sister brand Redmi, has literally taken over the budget segment of the Indian smartphone market, making it the number one smartphone brand in the country. And one of the bestselling series from the company is the Redmi A series. Smartphones like Redmi 5A, 6A and 7A have been among the most sold smartphones in India. Now the brand has added another member to the series, the Redmi 8A. It has the makings of being the next great Redmi A phone. But do the makings deliver?
Plastic, but heavy metal looks
Smartphones under Rs. 7,000 are generally not looking to dazzle you with how good they appear and mostly focus on working well. And while the Redmi 8A is not obviously stunning, it definitely serves up some very (good) mid-segment vibes, which is not a bad thing at all when you consider that the mid-segment has some gorgeous devices. The 6.2-inch HD+ display on the front does not have very prominent bezels on three sides and the chin which is slightly thicker has Redmi branding on it. To make matters slightly more mid-segment looking than budget, there is a drop notch to carry the front-facing camera.
Plastic is the popular choice when it comes to budget segment backs and the phones in the price bracket do not even try to hide it. Well, that is not the case here. Yes, the Redmi 8A has a polycarbonate back but it can easily walk into any metal-back-only party, without raising any suspicions. The textured back with color gradient and the camera unit with all the branding in the middle makes the Redmi 8A look very good. The texture of the back also keeps smudges at bay and gives the phone a good grip – it will not try to dive off when kept on a table.
Measuring 156.48 x 75.41 x 9.4 mm, and weighing 188 grams, the Redmi 8A feels very solid and sturdy in hand and is definitely one of the more good-looking sorts under the Rs. 7,000 mark and its coming with a P2i rating adds some splash resistance to those good looks as well. You can find out more about its looks in our first cut.
Doing the basics well
Powering the Redmi 8A is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 octa-core processor paired with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage (the variant we received). And with those numbers, we honestly did not expect the phone to be blazing fast and the 8A did not surprise us. Yes, it handles routine tasks well and can go through basics like messaging, social media scrolling and web browsing easily but the phone does not feel very snappy. Jumping from one app to another or launching apps seems slightly laid back, and not swift and snappy. There is also a 3 GB/ 32 GB variant of the phone. Storage on the device can be expanded up to 512 GB without having to compromise on additional SIM, thanks to a dedicated microSD card slot. The phone can handle casual games like Subway Surfer, Candy Crush and Temple Run 2 with ease but if you want to run heavy-duty games like PUBG or Call of Duty, you should look for more powerful options.
That said, the tall display on the phone makes the viewing experience a delight. Yes, it is HD+, with a screen resolution of 720 x 1520 pixels and might not seem as punchy when it comes to color but it just works. It is tall and very good for the price, which pushes everything else to the background.
The sound on the phone is loud but the audio breaks a little on maxed-out volume. There is a 3.5mm audio jack on the device that allows you to plug in your regular wired earphones. Some might be disappointed because the phone does not have a fingerprint scanner but it does have a face unlock feature (which the phone itself tells you is not as secure as a pin/pattern lock). The face unlock works smoothly and the phone will not unlock if your eyes are shut and will ask you to “open them wider” to unlock. Connectivity options on the phone include 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, wireless FM but the phone misses out on infrared port, which is a Redmi staple.
The Redmi 8A does not claim to do fancy or super high-end things. The phone does the basics and it does them well.
A-grade camera, as usual
The A-series has come with surprisingly good cameras in the past. It all started with the Redmi 4A for us, which impressed us with its abilities. Not much has changed since then. The camera on the Redmi 8A is also very impressive, especially for the price tag that it comes with.
The phone has a single 12-megapixel primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture which is the same sensor used on high profile phones like Google Pixel 3 and Xiaomi’s own Poco F1.
We know there are several other factors that can affect the performance of a camera along with sensors and megapixels (software, drivers, processors, et al) but the Redmi 8A actually performs well.
The phone takes beautifully detailed shots in good light conditions – landscapes, macros and everything in between, come out well detailed. The color can be a little washed out at times but just getting that kind of detail on a phone below Rs. 7,000 is enough to impress even the most demanding audience. The portrait mode on the device works mostly well. It will get the edges of the subject and provide you with deep but very authentic looking bokeh and it also handles shadows well, both of which are again a big plus.
But, dim down the light a bit and you will start to see the phone struggle a little. Noise starts to creep in and the details often go take a walk. The results are not deal breakers but are nowhere close to the ones we get in well-lit environments.
There is an 8-megapixel sensor on the front for selfies and video calls, and its performance is by and large pretty routine rather than exceptional. It will smoothen and fair up your face a little even with the beauty mode off. You will not see a lot of details and the colors reproduced are again slightly washed out but they generally come out good enough to be put on social media platforms. The portrait mode, however, works well, which was a pleasant surprise. It often managed to capture the edges of the subject and bokeh-ed out the background pretty efficiently. All in all, the 8A comes with surprisingly good cameras for its price point.
A battery that goes on…and on
One of the USPs of the Redmi 8A is the massive 5,000 mAH battery which Xiaomi says can see two days of usage. Which is more or less true. The phone can easily see a day and a half on a single charge which can be stretched to two days and even a little more, if used carefully enough. Xiaomi has placed a USB Type-C port on the phone, which is a rarity at this price point. The phone also comes with support for 18W fast charging but users will have to buy that separately as the phone comes bundled with a 10W charger.
The Redmi 8A runs on Android 9 (Pie) out of the box and comes topped with a layer of MIUI 10. MIUI 10 runs smoothly and does not stray away from being a rich yet very user-friendly interface. It can be a little much for people transitioning from a feature phone to a full-fledged smartphone but we think MIUI is still easier to get used to than many other UIs out there and comes with features like Dark Mode (which has gained popularity of late) that can be turned on in the settings. That said, it also comes with ads that can be quite annoying but the good thing is that you can turn them off. Xiaomi is also planning to introduce MIUI 11 soon which will supposedly cut down the ads and bring along more features but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
The best phone in its segment. Period.
Priced at Rs. 6,499, the Redmi 8A is definitely the best phone for its price. The device is not perfect by any means but it does not have a competing phone that brings as much value to the table as it does. There is the Realme C2 which starts at a lower price tag (Rs 5,999 now) and brings a dual rear camera and a very different diamond cut back design to the fray, but the Redmi 8A’s single rear camera more than matches it and the phone also has a much larger battery and display. In fact, many compact phone lovers might even consider the more compact Redmi 7A (which has a similar processor as the 8A) to be an alternative, given its smaller form factor (a 5.45-inch display helps!). Which of course, just goes to show how strong the Redmi A series is in the Indian market. And the 8A is a worthy addition to it.
It comes with a strong design game, a tall display, with a good camera and a very long-lasting battery bundled with a super affordable price tag. We think all of that spells only one thing. Success.
The country’s smartphone? At that price, you bet it is!
- Tall, good display
- Smart design
- Good camera
- Great battery life
- Slightly slow at times
- Not the greatest front facing camera
- Ads on MIUI10 can irritate
|Build and design|
The Redmi A series of devices have of late been marketed as the “desh ka smartphone” (the country’s smartphone) devices. And have been almost all bestsellers, thanks to a combination of decent specs and affordable pricing. Can the Redmi 8A continue this tradition?