review

Redmi Note 8 Review: Best phone below Rs 10,000. Period.

No Pro, No Problem!

The Redmi Note series has been THE smartphone series to beat in the Indian smartphone market for a few years now. However, early 2018 saw it being split into two entities, the normal edition and one with a Pro attachment to its name. The Pro edition was the one that got the better hardware and the more significant enhancements, but make no mistake about it – it was the normal one that more often than not got the numbers. And that was because it possessed perhaps the strongest feature of the Note series – a killer price tag. And one that has always started at Rs 9,999. The Redmi Note 5 and the Redmi Note 7 (and its successor, the Note 7S – there was no Redmi Note 6 interestingly), followed this template with great success, not grabbing as much attention as their Pro brethren but racking up the numbers in sales, simply because they offered so much at a price that was just below Rs 10,000.

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The Redmi Note 8 sticks to broadly the same formula as its Pro-less predecessors. But perhaps does so more effectively than any of them did!

Redmi Note 8: Quad cameras (and a 48 MP one) at THAT price

The “normal” Notes, in general, used to lag significantly behind their Pro counterparts in the camera department. And well, if you look closely at the Note 8, you will notice that it does too – it does not the 64-megapixel main sensor that the Note 8 Pro does. But on the flip side, it is no pushover. It too has four cameras, and the main one at 48-megapixel (a Samsung GM1) is quite formidable. The other three shooters are an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens, a 2-megapixel depth sensor and just like in the Pro, a 2-megapixel sensor for macro shots. The selfie snapper is a 13-megapixel one, which again is not a bad option. No, it is not quite in the league of the Pro, but then it is not meant to be. The important thing is that none of its major competitors have anything close at this price point.

Redmi Note 8: That hardware at THAT price

The cameras are the most obvious highlight of the Note 8, but the hardware around them is impressive too. And again, Xiaomi has come out with the sort of specs that none of its major competitors can really match. It is rare to find a 6.3-inch full HD+ display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor, a 4GB/ 64 GB RAM and storage combination, and a 4000 mAh battery with support for fast charging via USB Type-C (and a fast charger in the box too) at this price point – and the Redmi Note 8 has them all. Others might have a few of them – the Realme 5, for instance, has a similar processor and RAM and storage combination and even a slightly larger display and battery at the same price but loses out on the 48-megapixel main sensor, the Full HD resolution, and the fast charging. The Redmi Note 8 also brings an infrared port to the mix, pretty much placing it in a hardware zone of its own at its price point.

The design at THAT pri…well, not quite

The one area where the Redmi Note 8 does not outclass the opposition totally is in terms of design. We had mentioned in our first cut how it seemed a spiritual successor of the Redmi Note 7 and 7S in terms of design, and well, while it is reasonably good to look at, it brings nothing radically new to the design table. You have the notched display in front, with relatively trimmed bezels, and the glass back with a gradient finish (the light makes S-like patterns on the back).

The back is flatter than the one on the Pro and the camera capsule (which juts out) is located on the top left corner rather than in the top center, and the fingerprint scanner is still in the top center of the back rather than being a part of the camera unit (as on the 8 Pro) – pretty standard mid-segment design, all in all. It is more compact and lighter than the 8 Pro (you will still need both hands to handle it most of the time), and while some might find the design a little on the bling-y side, we actually did not mind it (we had the Neptune Blue variant, which is perhaps the “loudest” in terms of design – Moonlight White and Space Black are some subtle).

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No, it will not stand out in terms of sheer design from the current mid-segment crowd, but it looks good nevertheless and is one of the few devices in the segment to come with Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back and P2i splash resistance. The back will pick up smudges and scratches (there is a case in the box), but this is not a phone you will hide away. It is smart enough, although not note-ably spectacular. Pun intended. But then at its price point, devastatingly good looks are not the rule, really.

That performance at THAT price

What, however, REALLY makes the Redmi Note 8 stand out is the kind of performance it delivers. Our review unit was the 6 GB/ 128 GB variant but we did get some time with a 4 GB/ 64 GB variant as well. And while we would hesitate in labeling this a gaming device like its Pro Bro – PUBG stutters at higher settings and so does Asphalt – there is no doubt that the Snapdragon 665 is quite capable at handling most tasks and even some heavy-duty gaming at relatively lower settings (there will be a slight heating up though). We never faced any problems in day to day operations, be it running multiple applications (social networks, messaging and the like) or playing casual games. We would have preferred better sound quality, both on calls and speaker, but this is by no means a deal-breaker (there is a 3.5 mm audio jack for those who have earphones, hooray, and sound over them is a whole lot better). The display is bright enough and good for viewing videos and reading text.

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The cameras too, turn in a very decent performance. No, do not expect stuff like what the Note 8 Pro delivers. Colors are a little faded at times in good light conditions and tend to be oversaturated in low light, but by and large, you can get some very good photography from the Note 8, although processing 48-megapixel shots did seem to take a lot of time. Low light photography remained a little iffy, but then we were not expecting wonders here – we would call the main sensor slightly better in terms of performance than the one on the Redmi Note 7S, but still below the Note 7 Pro, which is not a bad place to be, believe us. The macro lens works well although we did not get the sort of performance we got from the one on the Note 8 Pro – there were focusing issues.

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Selfies did end up trying to convince us that our skin was smoother than it actually was, but we can see many people approving of that. Video is best at full HD – 4K is supported but we were not too impressed by the color quality, to be honest. But then again, the device punches well above its price point. Mind you, there is a stable Google camera mod for Redmi Note 8 which works great.

The Redmi Note 8 runs on Android Pie, with MIUI 10 on top of it, with MIUI 11 expected shortly. Yes, the ad-hating crowd will object to the ads that pop up as part of the UI, but they can be turned off as we keep pointing out (and have a guide about it as well), and most general users are unlikely to be too upset by them. We still think MIUI is one of the better Android skins in terms of features and general consistency, and the Redmi Note 8 runs smoothly on it.

And it runs smoothly for quite a while, thanks to that 4000 mAh battery. We easily saw off a day of heavy usage on the battery. And that 18W charger in the box meant that we were able to get almost 75 percent of it charged in about an hour, which is pretty impressive.

To buy or not to buy… dude, is that even a question at THAT price?

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The Redmi Note 8 starts with a 4 GB/ 64 GB variant for Rs 9,999, with a 6 GB/ 128 GB variant available for Rs 12,999. But make no mistake about it, it is the former that is the killer product – the latter will take heat from its own Pro brother, the Realme 5 Pro and even the Mi A3, as well as a few others. But at Rs 9,999, the Note 8 suddenly graduates from being competitive to being overwhelmingly superior. Yes, there are other devices at that price point, most notably the Realme 5 and the Vivo U10, but none come close to matching its combination of design, display, camera, and battery. It is a bit of an irony- the better specced Redmi Note 8 (and even the Note 8 Pro) has to face some stiff competition, but its lesser brother stands in a zone of its own.

We will be direct about this: if your budget is about Rs 10,000, to buy or not to buy is not the question. At that price, the Redmi Note 8 is the best phone you can buy. Period. There’s the end of the matter.

Pros
  • Generally smooth performance
  • Decent cameras
  • Good battery life
Cons
  • Design is a little predictable
  • Sound could have been better
  • Low light camera performance is iffy
Review Overview
4.10
Overall Score
Build and Design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price