review

Redmi Note 8 Pro Review: Much Bigger, Much Better – Plizz to Note!

Continuing a Classic Note tradition

It is not easy being a Redmi Note device. Once considered the middle ground between Xiaomi’s flagships and its budget devices, the Redmi Note has emerged as a flagship (if unofficially so) in its own right over the past couple of years. It is one of the highest-selling phone series in the country and some say that if it was a brand in its own right, it would be among the leading ones in the country. So, when Xiaomi announced the Redmi Note 8 Pro, expectations were high.

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High also was the mountain the Note 8 Pro has to climb. Its predecessor, the Note 7 Pro, pretty much redefined mid-segment phone photography with its 48-megapixel sensor, and also brought a whole new design and splash resistance to the Note series. What could the Note 8 Pro to top that?

Note the better hardware

Well, for a start, the Note 8 Pro pretty much pumps up all the hardware that we saw on the Note 7 Pro, which incidentally is still less than a year ago. The display remains a full HD+ one in resolution but it is the largest we have seen on a Redmi Note device at 6.53 inches. Mind you, this is not an AMOLED display (and those are beginning to pop-up in the segment steadily) so there’s no in-display fingerprint scanner. That said it is quite bright and seems to handle colors well. Significantly, the RAM for the base model stands at 6 GB and goes up to 8 GB. There are 64 GB and 128 GB storage variants and most interestingly, there is a dedicated microSD card slot for expandable memory (there are two SIM trays in the device, one of which also has a slot for the microSD card). The battery has been bumped up too – 4500 mAh and now with an 18W fast charger in the box (unlike in the case of the Note 7 Pro).

But perhaps the biggest hardware charge has been in terms of the cameras and processor. The Redmi Note 8 Pro sees Xiaomi join the quad-camera brigade, doubling the cameras seen on the Note 7 Pro – it comes with a 64-megapixel Samsung main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens, a 2-megapixel depth sensor, and a 2-megapixel macro lens. The front camera has also been bumped up to 20 megapixels (it was 13 megapixels on the Note 7 Pro).

Oh yes, we left the processor for the last, because we reckon that that is going to be one of the most discussed aspects of this device. And that is because the Note 8 Pro sees a MediaTek processor in the Note series for the first time since the Redmi Note 3G way back in late 2014. Since then, the Redmi Note has become a bit of an ambassador for Qualcomm’s mid-segment chips and was among the first to sport the 636 and 675 processors. With the Note 8 Pro, however, Xiaomi has gone to MediaTek and its Helio G90T, which it claims is a gaming powerhouse. Needless to say, this was evoked a variety of responses, given MediaTek’s slightly inconsistent past. But all said and done, there’s no doubting that the Redmi Note 8 Pro has been given a significant hardware overhaul as compared to the 7 Pro -the processor, cameras, battery and display all have been changed.

Note the changes in design too

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There are changes in design as well, although these are a bit more nuanced though. Of course, the Redmi Note 8 Pro, thanks to that bigger display and a bigger battery, is significantly taller and heavier than the Note 7 Pro. In addition to that, the back is slightly convex unlike the flat back of the Redmi Note 7 Pro. The camera unit also has gone bang to the top central part of the back and interestingly, not only juts out but also includes the fingerprint scanner – an interesting decision, which incidentally we feel made it a little easier to use although it did end up with us smudging the lowest of the three cameras occasionally. The camera unit incidentally contains three of the four cameras of the device, the fourth (the macro lens) is next to it and flush with the back. The back also has Xiaomi’s Aura design and this time it has a very satin-y touch to it, with subtle shine and shades depending on where the light falls on it. We got the gamma green variant, and well, it certainly looked eye-catching, although it does follow the gradient finish craze that is going around in the phone world. It is, however, a big phone though and you are going to struggle to manage it with one hand. The sides of the phone are also slightly curvy, which might make it difficult to grip.

The left side of the phone is notable as it has both SIM card trays, one below the other, one containing only a SIM card slot while the other packs in a SIM card slot and a microSD card slot as well. The base has the USB Type C slot, flanked by a speaker grille and a 3.5 mm audio jack, the right side has the power button and volume rocker (which is a little on the high side we think) and the top houses the infrared port. The front, of course, is all about that display which has a drop notch in the center. Bezels on the sides are smaller and even the chin seems less wide than before. Incidentally, both front and back are encased in Gorilla Glass 5 and the phone is P2i splash resistant. All in all, the Redmi Note 8 Pro is very different in many regards from the Redmi Note 7 Pro. Some might be turned off by its size, but we think it actually looks rather nice. It will not immediately stand out from the smartphone crowd from a distance but will invite second glances from closer up. (check our first cut here)

Note-ably better gaming

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Different hardware. Different design. But the real challenge for the Redmi Note 8 Pro is to deliver a performance that is significantly superior to that of the Redmi Note 7 Pro. On paper, that would seem easy. After all, with better hardware, should not there come better performance? Well, yes, but as in the top-segment, the problem is making performance stand out when one’s predecessor has done very well too. The Redmi Note 7 Pro was a superb performer. How does one top that?

Well, to its credit, the Redmi Note 8 Pro does put in a decent effort to do just that. Xiaomi has promoted the phone as a gaming beast (perhaps anticipating criticism of the use of a MediaTek chip), and well, we have to say that the phone delivers a very impressive performance. There were initially some lags when we played PUBG and Asphalt on maxed-out settings but these largely faded away after a software update. No, we are not going to say that this is a gaming monster that will beat a phone running on Snapdragon 845 or 855, but yes, it seems to be well ahead of the Snapdragon 710 and 712 powered devices and frankly even seemed at times to be close to the Snapdragon 730 powered Redmi K20. This is clearly a device designed for some heavy lifting, be it games or running multiple apps. Mind you, all that heavy lifting does it sweat sometimes. Digitally, anyway. Xiaomi did highlight some of the cooling features on the device but we did sense it heating up slightly after 30-40 minutes of intense gaming or photography. Mind you, it was very mild and nothing close to alarming dimensions. The bigger display definitely helps its gaming cause (it’s actually pretty good for watching videos in general), although we would have appreciated better sound quality from the loudspeaker – the loudspeaker, incidentally, can expel dust automatically by playing sound at a certain frequency. Shades of the Apple Watch expelling water. Neat, very!

We would say that the Note 8 Pro is perhaps easily the best gaming phone out there in the sub-Rs 15,000 category. Perhaps even the sub-Rs 20,000 category if one takes out the Poco F1 from the equation.

Note-ably similar battery and UI

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In terms of battery life, however, the Note 8 Pro is very much on par with the Note 7 Pro, in spite of having slightly bigger numbers – 4500 mAh as against 4000 mAh. The Note 7 Pro easily saw off a day of normal to hefty use on a slightly smaller 4000 mAh battery, and the Note 8 Pro tends to do the same. Which is decent enough, although some might have expected a bit more from the bigger battery. But then, it does have to power a bigger display. There is fast charging support and this time a fast charger (18W) in the box as well. And well, it does recharge the phone in a bit more than two hours, which does not seem very impressive when compared with the VOOC charging that Realme is bringing to its devices but is nevertheless definitely handy, and a whole lot better than the Redmi Note 7 Pro.

The similarity is also present when it comes to software, mainly because both phones run on pretty much the same software – MIUI 10 on top of Android Pie. There is support for gestures (we think Xiaomi has the best on Android right now) and face unlock, and well, while there are features aplenty, there are also ads which can irritate some users. Truth be told, we still think MIUI is one of the better and more consistent Android interfaces out there and at least gives you the option to turn off those ads. The ads are a niggle, but we do not seem them as deal-breakers – a bit like fleas that buzz around without stinging anyone but are ton be tolerated rather than appreciated.

Incidentally, the Note 8 Pro is the first device in India that can be woken up by invoking either Alexa or Google Assistant. It is a neat touch but really one for the geeks, as most mainstream users will use one or the other. Getting the choice out of the box itself is cool, though.

This brings us to the cameras, which of course, merit a section of their own.

Are the cameras note-worthy?

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It has been fascinating how after being mainly seen as a mid-segment workhorse, the Redmi Note series has actually morphed into a “camera beast” (to use Xiaomi’s own term for it, never mind the odd images it conjures up mentally). The Redmi Note 5 Pro was the first Redmi device in the country to sport dual cameras, the Redmi Note 6 Pro added dual selfie cameras to the mix, and the Redmi Note 7 Pro made 48 megapixels a thing even in phones that cost less than Rs 15,000. So what does the Note 8 Pro bring? Well, a quad-camera set up, as we mentioned before and a 64-megapixel main sensor – all firsts in a Redmi device in India.

But do they outgun the Note 7 Pro, which, if you remember, was quite a performer in its own right? The answer is yes, but not by as massive a margin as you would think. First things first: Note 8 Pro is very good in the photography department. You will generally get colors that are realistic (if occasionally seeming a little washed out) and very good detail. Even low light photography seems among the best in its price segment. The AI does seem to identify scenes correctly but we would recommend turning it off most of the time as its tweaks tend to make shots look a little more saturated. That clear? Good, now to the point of how it compares with the Note 7 Pro.

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When it comes to basic point and shoot photography, in fact, we saw some people actually preferring the output of the Redmi Note 7 Pro as compared to its successor – the colors and detail at times seemed slightly better (could it be because of the Sony IMX586 sensor on that device, which many consider superior to the Samsung one in terms of sheer quality, if not in megapixel count?). Note, however, that we wrote: “at times.” For, by and large, the Note 8 Pro was comfortably matching the Note 7 Pro in simple, routine light point and shoot photography. And yes, the greater number of megapixels do make a difference when it comes to capturing detail – the phone takes 16-megapixel shots by default as compared to the 12 megapixels on the Note 7 Pro. The low light performance also seemed to be superior to the Note 7 Pro, although it is a close-run thing – we just felt the Note 8 Pro was getting more detail in low light very consistently. In normal light conditions, you would have to zoom in to tell the difference between the Note 8 Pro and Note 7 Pro. But when you do zoom in, the difference will often become clear.

Those four cameras make a note-able difference

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Where the Note 8 Pro becomes a different beast from its Pro predecessor is in variety. Unlike the 7 Pro which came with just (just!) a 48-megapixel sensor and a 5-megapixel depth sensor, the Note 8 Pro has dedicated sensors for ultra-wide photography, macro shots and also a depth sensor. We have to confess that while the difference they make is not a massive one in terms of image quality, their presence just gives you the option to do much more. The ultra-wide sensor is a great option for those loving wide landscape shots, but at 8 megapixels, it also loses out on detail. The macro lens has a similar limitation – it lets you get super close but 2-megapixel shots do tend to start pixelating as you zoom into them. That said, we think Xiaomi has implemented the macro lens the best among its competitors – focusing was generally faster and detail was decent. Portrait shots, however, seemed to be similar to those on the Note 7 Pro and most other devices in this segment – brilliant sometimes, bokehing out part of the subject on others!

[Click here for full resolution pics and additional samples]

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Selfies also seem a bit better on the Redmi Note 8 Pro – yes, there is a little aggressive smoothing even with all effects turned off (it insisted on showing me as clean-shaven even with a two-day stubble), but by and large, you are in very good social network selfie territory. Videos, unfortunately, remain on the mediocre side – good enough for casual social media, but not really top-notch (but then they seldom are at this price point), with the sound being a particular casualty. All said and done, this tops the Redmi Note 7 Pro. Not by a massive margin as the specs might suggest, but it does so.

Note it down for buying?

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Its price of Rs 14,999 is the highest starting price seen in the Note series and a full Rs 1000 above that of the Note 7 Pro. However, as we have pointed out, the Note 8 Pro does take the Note series up a significant notch in terms of performance across most parameters, most significantly in hardware and gaming. Its most notable competitor is the Realme XT (we had called it “ A Note-able Challenger”, remember), which also has a 64-megapixel sensor and quad-camera set up and also brings an AMOLED display with an in-display fingerprint scanner to the fight, but starts at a slightly higher price (Rs 15,999 for the 4 GB/ 64 GB variant). How those two compared is going to be another story (literally – stay tuned for it), but as of now, we can safely say that the Redmi Note 8 Pro continues the Note tradition. Of being the best in its price segment. For Rs 15,000, it does not get better than this. Please to (Redmi) Note.

Pun intended.

Pros
  • Eye-catching design
  • Very good gaming performance
  • Versatile cameras
  • Overall smooth performer
Cons
  • Big in size
  • Some might have expected better battery life
  • Sound not the greatest
Review Overview
4.10
Overall Score
Build and design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price