Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro Review: The Performance Champion in the Mid-Range Segment

Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro Review: The Performance Champion in the Mid-Range Segment

Xiaomi’s game has seen a big, big step up in the past few years. We can’t help but remember a small startup that was founded in 2010 and went around making MIUI custom ROMs for a handful of smartphones, launching its first foray into hardware all the way back in 2011 with the Xiaomi Mi 1, known back then as the “Xiaomi Phone”. Nowadays, though, Xiaomi barely resembles that small startup of old as the company is embarking towards taking over the world, managing to take the steering wheel and eventually even lead innovation on its own with devices like the Mi Mix Alpha.

Redmi devices account for a big part of this success, too. And to focus more on boldening this success and make Redmi phones even more popular and mainstream, the company recently broke apart Redmi into a proper sub-brand of Xiaomi instead of a device series. The first devices to come from this decision were the Redmi Note 7 series, which included the Redmi Note 7 and the Redmi Note 7 Pro. Now, with several other devices under its belt across different device ranges, such as the Redmi K20 Pro and the Redmi 7A, the company is, once again, renewing its Redmi Note series with the launch of the Redmi Note 8 and the Redmi Note 8 Pro. The Redmi Note 7 series was comprised of amazing midrange smartphones, and we expect nothing else from the Redmi Note 8 series.

The Redmi Note 8 Pro, however, is the one that deserves the most attention this time around. The Redmi Note 7 Pro, which Idrees considered to be a “great hardware package on a budget” in his review, managed to undercut most of its competitors by offering a solid spec sheet and a low price tag, and the Redmi Note 8 Pro tries to do the same as its predecessor. Aamir has already shared his first thoughts about the device, and he found it to have great potential as a worthy successor to the Redmi Note 7 Pro. With features like a quad 64MP rear camera setup and a MediaTek Helio G90T in its guts, it is most certainly an interesting device, but is it really worth the asking price? That’s what I’m looking to find out in this review.

Specifications Redmi Note 8 Pro
Display Type 6.53-inch IPS LCD display, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 2340×1080 resolution, 60Hz refresh rate
Size 161.4 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm, 200g
System-on-chip MediaTek Helio G90T, 12nm process, octa-core setup (2 x 2.05GHz Cortex-A76, 6 x 2.0GHz Cortex-A55)
RAM Capacity 6GB (LPDDR4X)
Storage Capacity 64GB/128GB, UFS 2.1
Headphone Jack Yes
Front Camera 20MP, f/2.0, 0.9µm w/ 1080p@30fps video recording
Rear Cameras Quad Camera Setup

 

  • 64MP main sensor, f/1.9, 0.8µm w/ PDAF, 2160p@30fps video recording, 720p@960fps slow-mo video recording
  • 8MP ultra-wide-angle sensor, 120° field-of-view, f/2.2, 1.12µm w/ 1080p@30fps video recording
  • 2MP depth sensor, f/2.4, 1.75µm
  • 2MP dedicated macro sensor, f/2.4, 1.75µm
Battery Capacity 4,500 mAh
Fast Charging
  • Yes, support for 27W fast charging
  • 18W charger included in box
Biometrics Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, AI-based face unlock
Software MIUI 10 based on Android Pie
Colors Mineral Gray, Forest Green, Pearl White
Pricing blank
Availability Available now!

About this review: I have the global 6GB/64 GB version of the Redmi Note 8 Pro in Mineral Gray/Shadow Black, which I’ve been using as my daily driver since October 5th, 2019. This unit has been purchased independently. Aamir also has a Redmi Note 8 Pro loaned from Xiaomi India, which has been used to corroborate findings within this article. Xiaomi has had no influence over this article.

 

Redmi Note 8 Pro: Design and Build

Previous entries in the Redmi series were not really known for having standout designs. They favored function over form, with the Redmi Note series often featuring utilitarian-looking metal-clad designs and other phones in the series featuring cheap-feeling plastic builds. It was really the hardware inside them that mattered more than the outer looks. With the launch of the Redmi Note 7 earlier this year, this philosophy changed a bit. While providing decent bang for the buck was still the main priority, Xiaomi also gave quite a bit more thought into the design of their smartphones.

The Redmi Note 7 and the Redmi Note 7 Pro featured what Xiaomi called an “Aurora Glass” design, using nano-texturing underneath the phone’s Gorilla Glass 5 back in order to add cool-looking reflections and gradients, shining different hues and tones depending on the angle you look at the phone as well as the way the light shines on it, similar to what you can find on higher-end smartphones. This year has been the year of the gradient, eye-candy smartphones, with phones like the Galaxy Note 10 in Aura Glow leading the charge. The Redmi Note 7 simply helped bring this growing trend to the lower end of the smartphone spectrum.

n the case of the Redmi Note 8 Pro, it is no different. My Mineral Gray review unit (dubbed “Shadow Black” in the Indian market) is arguably one of the least impressive looking ones, yet it still looks amazing, shining different hues of gray and even blue/purple depending on the angle light shines on it. It’s both sleek and eye-catching in equal parts, which is something I’m really a fan of. The Gamma Green version (sold internationally as Forest Green) is the one most people should go for if they’re looking for over-the-top designs, as it carries more of a “gradient” vibe with hues of black and green. This unit stays on the sleeker side of the spectrum, which is definitely not a bad thing, and overall, I have no complaints about this model’s design. This particular model comes with a black, semi-translucent TPU case which is swapped for a fully transparent one in the more colorful models.

The Shadow Black color of the Redmi Note 8 Pro is both sleek and eye-catching in equal parts

Just like the Redmi Note 7 before it, the Redmi Note 8 Pro is a glass sandwich—both the screen and the back of the phone are covered by Gorilla Glass 5, with a plastic frame holding everything together. Previous entries in the line, from the Redmi Note 3 all the way forward to the Redmi Note 6 Pro, have featured aluminum bodies, so the switch to a glass plus plastic construction with the Redmi Note 7/Pro triggered several alarms from folks worried about its durability. The Redmi Note 8 Pro keeps this overall setup for better or worse, so potential buyers that don’t feel comfortable with plastic frames should look elsewhere. Despite having a plastic frame, though, this phone does not feel cheap at all. For starters, it’s heavy—at 200 grams, it’s a bit heavier than more premium smartphones like the iPhone 11 or the Galaxy Note 10+. It’s also marginally taller and wider than its predecessor, as well as, of course, noticeably heavier. It’s carrying a bigger 4,500 mAh battery as well as a bigger display, so this is to be expected.

 

The phone also takes some design cues from other Redmi devices such as the Redmi K20 Pro/Mi 9T Pro. Whereas the Redmi Note 7 had a flat glass back that felt kind of boxy and clunky in the hand, this phone features a curved glass back which helps a lot with grip. Previous Redmi Note devices like the Redmi Note 3 and the Redmi Note 4 featured a similarly curved design, and one that is present on newer devices like the Redmi K20 Pro, so it serves as both a throwback and a step into the future. This is a design feature that Tushar praised in his Redmi K20 Pro review, and one which I greatly agree with: it adds grip to a normally slippery glass back and makes the phone feel lighter and easier to handle, especially considering its bigger, heavier footprint.

The back’s most prominent design feature is the big, centered, protruding quad rear camera module. The main camera module features a 64MP Samsung ISOCELL GW1 sensor as its main sensor—the same sensor as other 64MP smartphones such as the Realme XT and the Samsung Galaxy A70s—coupled with an 8MP ultra-wide-angle lens with a 120° field-of-view and a 2MP depth-sensing lens. Off-set to the right of this camera module, where it could be mistaken for a laser autofocus sensor (like the OnePlus 7T Pro) or a time-of-flight sensor (like the Huawei P30 Pro), there’s also a fourth lens under the LED flash, which is actually a 2MP dedicated macro lens. We’ll dive further into this quad-camera setup later into the review. The camera setup also bumps out quite a bit, which is also the case for its predecessor, yet I feel this is quite a bit more protruding than the Redmi Note 7 series’ camera. This is because, this time around, the camera sensors are much bigger and prominent than those in the previous phones. That combined with the curving of the back gives place to some severe wobbling while placing the phone on a flat surface. Not even the included TPU case manages to make up for the camera bump, but if the wobbling really bothers you, a thicker case should do the trick.

The camera module also holds the phone’s rear-mounted fingerprint sensor in a similar fashion to the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S9, a location which I’m not really a fan of—it’s right below the cameras, and I often end up smudging the camera lens while trying to unlock the smartphone. It’s also fairly small, which definitely doesn’t help to this case, and that, combined with the color and the position, might make you mistake it for another camera lens at first sight. Other phones in this range, like the Xiaomi Mi A3 and the Mi 9T/Redmi K20, have started to feature an in-display fingerprint scanner, so the Redmi Note 8 Pro is keeping things conservative here, which is definitely not a bad thing as there are still several phones out there that don’t even have one, to begin with. I should mention, however, that the fingerprint sensor here is really, really fast: one quick tap is usually enough to unlock the phone. This serves to compensate the time you waste trying to look for the sensor itself in the first place.

As we mentioned before, the Redmi Note 8 Pro has a bigger screen than its predecessor and even other Redmi smartphones. At 6.53 inches, it is the same size as other phones like the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and it’s definitely bigger than the 6.3-inch panel on the Redmi Note 7 series. However, the phone itself is not much bigger, and this is because Xiaomi managed to do some serious bezel-trimming work and noticeably reduce the screen bezels. Xiaomi claims the phone has a 91.4% screen-to-body ratio this time around, which is a surprising number for a mid-range smartphone at its price point. And while I can’t immediately verify that number, the bezels are definitely pleasing. The front-facing 20MP camera sensor is housed in the teardrop notch, which is more V-shaped than the Redmi Note 7’s U-shaped notch. The top rim of the phone has the earpiece grill, while the notch itself fits both a notification LED (which only flashes white) and an ever-so-small ambient sensor alongside the camera.

The Redmi Note 8 Pro doesn’t cut back on any hardware features found in its predecessor either. The headphone jack, which used to be on the top of the phone in the Redmi Note 7/Pro, has been moved to the bottom. I wasn’t really expecting it to be removed, to be fair, since the trend of removing the headphone jack seems to only be happening on higher-end devices: for some strange reason, not having a headphone jack is actually a premium “feature” since companies often put excuses for removing it such as fitting bigger batteries or adding sensors in. Then we have phones like the Redmi Note 8 Pro fitting 4,500 mAh batteries without removing it. The bottom of the phone also houses the USB-C charging port as well as a single speaker grille right to its side. The top of the phone, however, features a single microphone hole and an IR blaster — an increasingly rare, yet very handy feature few phones have nowadays.

 

The right side holds the power and volume buttons, which feel clicky enough to counter the frame’s plasticky feeling, while the left side is reserved for the SIM card tray, which is a hybrid tray—it can hold either 2 SIM cards or one SIM card and one microSD card. I would have honestly preferred a tray that gave you the option to use two SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time, which I found in the Redmi 7A, but this is the next best thing to that. The Indian variant of the device comes with a dedicated microSD card slot, so you can use it alongside two SIMs.

This phone is not a contender for the most durable phone, but it is definitely among the prettiest in mid-range smartphone design. The design definitely does the job and overall, I am content with it. The ergonomics are amazing, particularly because of the phone’s curved glass back, and help greatly with the phone’s added footprint compared to its predecessor. And the rest of the design becomes immediately iconic, and falls right in line with the design language of other Redmi smartphones.


Redmi Note 8 Pro: Display

Just like the Redmi Note 7 Pro before it, the Redmi Note 8 Pro features a 19.5:9 IPS LCD display with a 2340x1080p resolution. However, the display size gets a bump from 6.3 inches to a more considerable 6.53 inches. This is an LCD display, all things considered, so we can’t really expect the pitch dark blacks, higher contrast ratios or overall battery savings that have come to characterize AMOLED displays. Other smartphones in this range (or in slightly more expensive ranges) like the Mi 9T/Redmi K20, the Mi A3, and the Realme XT have started to come with AMOLED displays. This display is, however, very competent and as good as an LCD panel can get, and complaining about it would be nitpicking given how there’s still a lot of smartphones, even premium ones, launching with LCD panels well into 2019 and almost into 2020. A bigger screen size, as well as notably reduced bezels, make for a splendid experience compared to the Redmi Note 7.

Given how the screen has the same resolution and it’s a tad bigger, though, pixel density takes a small hit at 395 PPI instead of the 409 PPI in its predecessor. It is most definitely not noticeable, though. The display leaves me with no complaints whatsoever regarding resolution, especially considering how it has an RGB matrix instead of a PenTile matrix like some AMOLED displays do. At this price point, you’re likely not going to find any smartphone with a Quad HD+ 1440p display, so 1080p is the next best thing and honestly, there’s little need for a higher resolution, even considering the lower pixel density compared to its predecessor. Text, photos, and videos look sharp enough to keep these complaints at bay.

This particular panel can go as bright as 460 nits by cranking the brightness slider all the way up, and with auto-brightness enabled, it maxes out at 640 nits. It is far from the brightest panel in town, but it’s still a very respectable number that manages to ensure complete visibility even in challenging sunlight situations. That, coupled with Xiaomi’s automatic contrast technology which tweaks the display’s contrast on the fly to ensure effective sunlight visibility, means that you should not have any problems using the phone even with strong sunlight. The display supports ~84% of the NTSC color gamut according to Xiaomi, and as we said before, employs Gorilla Glass 5 for protection.

 

Contrast settings are about the same as the Redmi Note 7 Pro: there is a number of settings including the automatic contrast and increased contrast features — which generally lean towards the DCI-P3 spectrum — as well as a “standard” mode which is mostly a fancy term for sRGB mode. There is also an adjustable reading mode feature certified by TÜV Rheinland, which takes away blue light in an effort to make nighttime reading more comfortable. The display in the Redmi Note 8 Pro brings a couple of improvements compared to the last generation’s display, including the fact that this phone’s display supports HDR10. I played a couple of HDR videos from YouTube on both the Redmi Note 8 Pro and the Redmi Note 7 side by side and the difference was immediately stark: videos and images looked a lot more vivid and life-like in the newer-generation phone whenever HDR was supported. The addition of HDR support is definitely nice, and even more so in this price range.

I also went ahead and downloaded Display Tester on my device in order to perform a couple of more tests, particularly in the matter of touch sensitivity, banding, contrast, and more. And the Redmi Note 8 Pro passes most of these tests with flying colors. In regards to touch sensitivity, the phone’s multitouch panel supports up to 10 touch points simultaneously, which has become pretty standard. I also haven’t noticed any issues regarding ghost touching during my testing, and the display actually seems fairly accurate. In fact, the ghost touch issue related to the 3 finger screenshot gesture that was present in devices like the POCO F1 and the Redmi K20 Pro/Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro does not seem to be happening in my unit, so we’re off to a good start here.

Redmi Note 8 Pro’s display emerges as a complete winner, coming out flawlessly in most areas

When it comes to banding, contrast, and saturation, the Redmi Note 8 Pro emerges as a complete winner, coming out flawlessly in most areas. Colors are nice, vivid and accurate. The only aspect the device struggles with is with regards to black contrast, but they are still as good as blacks on an LCD can get given their technical capabilities. AMOLED panels are fairly superior in black contrasts, as you may guess, and an LCD panel is just technically incapable of holding a candle to them.

Otherwise, though, it’s a very capable display given the phone’s price point. Coming from an AMOLED panel, I don’t really feel the downgrade. Then again, some people swear by AMOLED panels and with several competitors sporting them on their phones, an LCD might seem like a downgrade to them. This, again, is a matter of taste, but I’m honestly satisfied enough with this device’s display panel. It’s not the best out there, it won’t blow you off your seat, but it’s good enough and might actually surprise you in certain ways.


Redmi Note 8 Pro: Hardware and Performance

The Redmi Note 8 Pro’s hardware is the reason why I often call the phone a “risky” take on a mid-range smartphone. The Redmi Note 7 Pro featured a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor, which provided truly outstanding performance for the price, but in the case of the Redmi Note 8 Pro, the company opted instead for an octa-core MediaTek Helio G90T for the phone’s brains. Xiaomi is no stranger to using MediaTek system-on-chips, with recent phones like the Xiaomi Mi Play and the Redmi 6A having featured MediaTek processors (Helio P35 and Helio A22 respectively). But the Redmi Note line, in particular, has not featured a MediaTek-powered entry since the Redmi Note 4 with an Helio X20—which also received a (wildly more popular) Snapdragon 625-powered model in certain regions.

I’m sure I don’t have to mention why MediaTek phones are so unpopular, especially among the enthusiast community. But in case you’re out of the loop, MTK devices normally have had poor developer support thanks to a notable lack of kernel sources and documentation for a vast majority of these phones, making ROM development impossible. Additionally, MediaTek devices are often lacking in performance and other aspects, at least compared to their Qualcomm and Samsung competitors. And the fact that most cheap, crappy Chinese phones are powered by MediaTek SoCs has also tarnished their brand quite a bit in the eyes of end-users. The sole fact that the Redmi Note 8 Pro was powered by the Helio G90T was reason enough for a lot of people to immediately write out the phone from their list of options.

Nonetheless, Xiaomi is fairly confident in this processor and this phone’s might — so much, in fact, that they’re actually using the Helio G90T globally and advertising it as a selling point. They have also released kernel sources for the phone, which means that modding and development should not be much of a problem compared to other MediaTek devices. In fact, there’s even an unofficial build of TWRP over at our forums. I’ve personally had mixed experiences with MediaTek in the past, so I was both very skeptical and very excited to try out this phone. And truth be told, I was actually very surprised by the way this phone performed, and in quite a pleasant way.

Going into the processor itself, the MediaTek Helio G90T has an octa-core setup comprised of two Cortex-A76 cores clocked at 2.05GHz and six Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 2.0GHz. The graphics part is handled by a Mali-G76 3EEMC4 GPU clocked at 800MHz featuring “HyperEngine”, which MediaTek says it’s an “array of technologies aiming to boost the mobile gaming experience”. MediaTek is selling this as a “gaming” chipset, and while it’s definitely not near the likes of flagship processors like the Snapdragon 855, it is still a very solid and very capable mid-range processor: they have shown that they’re able to improve their lineup with each generation, and are slowly catching up with their competitors. I put the Redmi Note 8 Pro through several paces, including benchmarks as well as actual, heavy games in order to try out this “gaming phone” claim.

First off, AnTuTu Benchmark v7 gives us an overall look at the phone’s performance from a more generalized standpoint. The Redmi Note 8 Pro scores 224,531 overall, which is actually ahead of the Redmi Note 7 Pro’s 178,082 score and even other devices considered to be “higher-end” like the Redmi K20/Mi 9T. The POCO F1, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, is the evident winner here with a 289,874 score, but the Helio G90T performs better than the Snapdragon 835 on the OnePlus 5T, so that is something worth noting.

Then, we move on to Geekbench 5, which gives us a rough estimation of how well the phone’s CPU performs. This one gives us a slightly less optimistic prospect: with a single-core score of 504 and a multi-core score of 1625, it’s roughly around the same score as the Redmi Note 7 Pro, and ever so slightly below the Redmi K20/Mi 9T score. This metric only measures CPU performance and not much else. As expected, all of these devices are slightly ahead of the Snapdragon 835, while the Snapdragon 845 carries the same overall score and is considerably ahead in multi-core score.

Moving on to PCMark’s Work 2.0 benchmark, the phone has sort of blown me away, though. Work 2.0 attempts to measure how well the phone does with regards to common productivity tasks and the phone’s 10,096 score was nothing short of amazing, especially compared to the Redmi Note 7 Pro’s score (7,196) score and the Redmi K20’s score (7,543). For context, Mario’s OnePlus 7T review showed that OnePlus’s latest flagship device, which uses a Snapdragon 855+, scored around 10,602 in this same exact test, while the OnePlus 7 Pro’s Snapdragon 855 scored 9,789. I ran the test multiple times just in case it was a miscalculation error of sorts and they were all in the range of 10,000. Benchmarks don’t necessarily translate to real-world usage and all the other tests have performed as expected, so it’s not really that relevant, but it’s still noteworthy and impressive to see this.

3DMark, which is more of a gaming-focused test that measures graphical performance similarly to AnTuTu, gives us results more in line with what we were expecting. Sling Shot Extreme gave us a score of 2,019 for the OpenGL ES 3.1 test, while the Vulkan test, oddly, gave us 1,849. Still, it’s ahead of its predecessor by quite a margin, with the Redmi Note 7 Pro giving us 1,096 for the OpenGL ES 3.1 test and 1,177 for Vulkan. Off this benchmark alone, we could suggest that the Redmi Note 8 Pro is about twice as better in graphical performance as the Redmi Note 7 Pro.

Of course, benchmarks don’t always translate to real-world performance, as I’ve said before, so an actual gaming test should follow. Gaming in the Redmi Note 8 Pro is a decent enough experience. It doesn’t pack the same horsepower some other gaming devices with flagship specifications have, but it’s still perfectly usable. I downloaded a series of games into the phone, both casual/light and demanding, in order to strain the processor and actually see what the phone is made from. Wherever a built-in frame counter was not available in a game, I wanted to use the free version of GameBench for providing a visual frame count, but an MIUI update seems to have broken GameBench, so I wasn’t able to do so.

First off, I tried out Fortnite Mobile (season X), which as many of you know by now is a surprisingly demanding game despite what it may look like initially. I wasn’t able to bring the game up to 60fps since this option was locked in my device (Epic Games manually whitelists devices for 60fps support), so my gameplay is capped at 30fps. With graphics settings set at High, though, the game actually manages to run fairly decently, staying at a constant 30fps most of the time. There were considerable frame drops here and there, particularly while jumping out of the bus as well as in busier areas of the map, but overall, nothing that really detracts from the overall experience or makes the game feel unplayable.

Software and User Experience

The Redmi Note 8 Pro is running Android 9 Pie with MIUI Global 10.4.2 out of the box, with an update to 10.4.5 shortly after fixing a number of bugs. At the India launch event, both the Redmi Note 8 Pro and its direct relative, the Redmi Note 8, were launched alongside MIUI 11, the newest iteration of Xiaomi’s customization skin, yet both devices are running MIUI 10, possibly because both the global version and the Chinese version were already running MIUI 10 when they launched. An update to MIUI 11 is set to come very soon, with an update rolling out to the Redmi Note 8 in late November and the Redmi Note 8 Pro update rolling out around Christmas time.

 

I consider myself an Android purist and I’m a fan of phones that either run stock Android or keep things as light as possible while adding tweaks of their own or even modifying certain UI elements. And to that effect, MIUI strays as far away from this vision as possible. It has its own take on design, notification behavior, features, gestures, icons, UI, UX, and pretty much everything. I’d dare to say the best way to describe MIUI would be, instead of calling it Android, it would just be better to call it an Android-based OS. Now, this is not a bad thing as that is precisely the spirit of Android, but if you’re coming from a stock-based operating system, you might find some things behaving weirdly or even offputtingly.

Now, I’m not going to get into the odds and ends of MIUI 10 as we’ve already gone over them several times in past articles and previous reviews, and you’re probably pretty familiar with all of this as well. But it does have some things I’m a fan of. Particularly, I’m a fan of MIUI’s gesture system overall, which works pretty similarly to Android 10’s stock gestures: swipe from the side of the screen to go back, swipe from the bottom to go to the launcher, and swipe and hold to access the recents menu. It is missing a gesture for accessing Google Assistant, and there is no way to access it with gestures other than downloading an Assistant shortcut from Google Play, but unless you use the Assistant a lot, I don’t think you’ll have a lot of issues with it.

MIUI 10 also includes several features that would go on to be introduced in Android 10 afterward. One of them is, of course, the aforementioned gestures system, which works almost identically in the latest version of Android. We also have a system-wide dark mode for MIUI which themes pretty much every aspect of the system to a darker hue, including compatible third-party apps such as Instagram and the Google Play Store. Other MIUI features, such as QR codes for Wi-Fi, have also made their way to mainline Android.

 

MIUI 10’s dark mode (left) compared to the default light mode (right).

The Redmi Note 8 Pro’s internals can definitely handle the weight of MIUI. Navigating through the phone feels snappy, fast and vivid, with very rare stutters and almost no hangs throughout my usage. Day to day usage is fine. Comparing it with phones like the Redmi Note 7, the device is noticeably faster and quicker on most tasks. Memory management, which is normally less than stellar in MIUI thanks to aggressive battery optimizations, is also fairly decent: at 6 GB of RAM (an 8 GB RAM version with 128 GB of storage is sold in India and China, but not globally), I haven’t noticed any major issues with apps reloading. Unfortunately, though, while Xiaomi has done a good job trimming things down a bit as well as in cutting down on some ads in order to boost performance, ads are still present and prominent and MIUI still has a lot of issues. Xiaomi’s app scanning feature, which I still feel is rather pointless and little more than just an excuse to display ads, was disabled for Google Play-downloaded apps, but it still popped up while installing apps from third-party sources.

 

In Xiaomi’s defense, I’ve noticed a lot less of these ads throughout the system, with only some built-in system apps showing ads. Improvements are noticeable compared to past MIUI 10 builds I’ve used on other devices, which is great. I’m hoping, however, that this whole situation gets a lot better with the upcoming MIUI 11 update.

I should also mention that there is a number of differences between the MIUI builds on Indian devices and global devices (Europe/South America). Particularly, my global unit does not have built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, instead opting for Google Assistant only, unlike the India model that brings Alexa integration as one of its main selling points. Additionally, my device comes with a number of Google apps out-of-the-box, like Google Phone, Google Messages and Google Contacts, instead of MIUI’s own dialer and messaging apps — which do come with the Indian version of the device. This makes the phone have a slightly more stock Android-ish feel, even if it’s still MIUI.

Overall, though, I’m impressed with the phone’s day to day usage. The software is still MIUI, and if you didn’t like MIUI in the past, you’re not magically going to start liking it here. But aside from my usual gripes with the software, I’m not coming across unintended behavior issues like poor performance, slugginess, or poor memory management, so props to Xiaomi for fixing (or at least alleviating) these issues here.


Cameras

Xiaomi is selling the Redmi Note 8 Pro’s camera as its main selling point, just like they did with its predecessor. The phone boasts an impressive quad-camera setup and carries the honor of being the company’s first device with a 64MP camera (yet far from having the camera with the biggest pixel count as that honor goes to the 108MP main sensor in the Xiaomi Mi MIX Alpha and Mi CC9 Pro/Mi Note 10). The main sensor is the 64MP Samsung ISOCELL GW1 lens and the camera setup is accompanied by 3 more sensors: an 8MP ultra-wide-angle sensor for wide-angle pics, a 2MP depth sensor that helps out with portrait mode/bokeh shots, and another 2MP sensor which is a dedicated macro lens for taking super close-up pics.

This makes up for a splendid camera experience for the price, but the whole experience feels very gimmicky at times. In my honest opinion, the quad-camera setup in this phone serves better as a marketing term than anything else. While yes, the fact that the phone has four cameras opens up a wide number of features and enhancements, most of the weight of the Redmi Note 8 Pro’s camera prowess falls on the shoulders of the main 64MP sensor, with the 2MP depth sensor helping out with portrait shots and the ultra-wide-angle lens and the macro lens serving as cool toys you’re probably going to get bored with after a while.

IMG_20191024_131501

A collection of pictures taken with the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

This camera setup supports features like 4K recording at 30fps, 1080p recording at 60fps and 720p super slow-mo recording at an impressive 960fps. Additionally, the front-facing camera is a 20MP unit with support for AI-based portrait mode and 1080p recording at 30fps.

Standard mode (16MP)

 

The standard camera mode uses the 64MP main sensor and employs pixel-binning to get cleaner, better-quality 16MP shots. I should mention that there’s quite a bit of post-processing going on, which sometimes improves shots greatly and sometimes screws them up completely, but I’ve come to expect this from Xiaomi already. Daytime shots are nice and vivid with a lot of detail, and I have very few complaints regarding color saturation, as images come out natural-looking most of the time. I’ve encountered a few cases, particularly in more challenging lighting situations, where pics would come out either oversaturated, overexposed, or both, but nothing that really detracts from the overall experience.

 

Xiaomi’s post-processing does take a toll on other camera situations, but thankfully, it’s a smaller toll than other Xiaomi devices I’ve used, possibly because of the higher pixel count. Indoor shots have a bit less detail due to noise reduction and post-processing trying to make up for less than optimal lighting, but even here, they’re very decent with very few overblown details.

 

Nighttime shots lose a lot of detail compared to daylight, mostly because of Xiaomi’s aggressive/in-your-face noise reduction algorithms, but they’re still fairly usable and detailed all things considered. The main 64MP camera has a pixel size of 0.8µm and when you bring that down to 16MP, you get 1.6µm “super-pixels” that can retrieve a lot more light information.

 

Night mode

To make up for nighttime performance, the camera app also comes with a night mode for improving low-light pictures, similar to Google’s Night Sight feature. It is definitely not as good as Google’s offering, though, but it’s still a handy feature to have on certain occasions, even though the differences between normal shots and night mode shots are sometimes negligible. For most nighttime shots, though, I’d honestly use the regular mode unless there’s not a lot of light since pixel-binned 16MP shots capture enough light to have a usable shot, and this night mode also often results in overblown highlights and exposure issues.

 

 

Regular 16MP mode (left) vs Night mode (right).

64MP mode

The Redmi Note 8 Pro also has a 64MP mode for the camera, which unleashes the full might of the phone’s 64MP sensor. Here, picture detail is the priority: it drops pixel binning for full-resolution pictures, and post-processing and AI processing take a backseat to ensure the camera can capture as much detail as possible. I was pleasantly impressed by 64MP shots in this phone, and quite often they came out more natural-looking than their 16MP equivalents. It’s not a practical alternative: a 64MP pic can take up as much as 25MB. But it’s cool to have if you need absolute detail in your images.

I would only advise using 64MP during daylight or indoors conditions, as I’ve noticed nighttime pics, while they’re decently-lit most of the time, often lack detail and have obscene amounts of oversoftening and even blurring, probably a form of aggressive noise reduction. We should have in mind that pixel binning is not just for reducing a picture’s size.

 

Comparing low-light detail in a 64MP pic (left) vs a 16MP pic (right).

Wide-angle mode

The phone comes with a wide-angle 8MP lens as one of its secondary sensors, but it’s not great and it lacks versatility. During the daytime, it is a fun toy to have and shots come out pretty decently. The GoPro-esque look is cool for certain shots. Pictures look good with a big if — they only look good as long as you have absolutely optimal lighting.

 

Ultra-wide-angle shots taken with the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

The big issue with this sensor is that it falls completely flat on every non-optimal lighting condition. Indoor shots often come out muddy, colors are noticeably less vivid and let’s not even talk about low-light pictures as, most of the time, they are very much unusable. You could use the Pro mode for increasing shutter speed and capturing more light, but unless you have a tripod this is a no-go for 99% of people.

 

 

 

Shots from the ultra-wide-angle lens, shown in the right, are noticeably less detailed and vivid than those taken with the main sensor under identical conditions, shown in the left.

It’s a nice feature to have, but it doesn’t really add or detract from the overall camera experience.

Macro mode

Moving on to the dedicated macro lens, there is a 2MP sensor dedicated solely to macro or super close-up shots. Being 2MP, though, it obviously sucks for everything else that’s not a close-up, but even with macro shots, the quality was very much meh, with noticeable over-sharpening going on. They were nice, and obviously quality is not the focus here so we can’t really complain in this front, but there’s still definitely room for improvement.

 

Some macro shots taken with the Redmi Note 8 Pro’s 2MP macro lens.

Ultimately, though, the problem with it is that it feels very much like a gimmick and something I don’t really see myself using frequently. Macro cameras are catching up now, with devices like the Motorola One Macro touting these macro cameras as one of their selling points, but in all honesty, macro photography on a smartphone still feels like an unnecessary gimmick, and even more so on the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

Front-facing camera (20MP)

The phone’s front-facing camera is very much as good as you’d expect from any front-facing shooter from Xiaomi, despite the higher pixel count. The phone’s front-facing camera delivers selfies with a decent amount of detail and accurate, true-to-life exposure and colors. If you want accurate selfies then you should watch out, though, as the MIUI camera app’s beauty filters are enabled by default and you’ll need to tone them down to get accurate, true to life details. It also has an AI-based portrait/bokeh mode for selfies, with face-based edge detection.

 

Selfies taken with the Redmi Note 8 Pro. Last picture showcases Xiaomi’s AI-based front-facing portrait mode.

This AI-based portrait mode also allows for a “Studio Lighting” feature which resembles iOS’ “Portrait Lighting” feature, included in the most recent iPhones, pretty closely. While Apple uses its array of Face ID sensors to help out and pull off their Portrait Lighting editing mode, the Redmi Note 8 Pro only has one single front-facing camera, so everything is based on face detection and AI. While it’s not bad for being AI, differences still exist.

 

My final verdict on the camera shows that yes, the Redmi Note 8 Pro has an awesome, versatile camera and the decision of going for Samsung’s new 64MP sensor was a good one. However, I feel like this phone would have done pretty much the same with a dual camera (removing the wide-angle lens and the macro lens) or even with a single 64MP shooter. Some people have fallen into the fake belief of “more cameras equals better phones” and Xiaomi is trying to capitalize on this belief by jamming 4-camera setups in their budget devices (and devices like the Mi CC9 Pro/Mi Note 10 being confirmed to come with 5-camera setups only further confirms this train of thought). The versatility is a nice option to have, but it is clear that two of those four cameras are not going to be everyone’s favorite. Having the ability to take wide-angle shots and macro pictures is nice, but in all honesty, it’s not something I feel compelled to use in a lot of use case scenarios where the main camera suffices.


Battery

The Redmi Note 8 Pro has a 4,500 mAh cell, which is bigger than its predecessor’s already decent 4,000 mAh battery. The regular Redmi Note 8 also has a 4,000 mAh battery, so as you may guess, the Redmi Note 8 Pro has a slight edge in this regard. I’m happy to report that I was more than pleased with the phone’s performance in the battery department, with the Redmi Note 8 Pro managing to easily sail through the day on a breeze and often with enough juice to go into a second day without charging it. It has around the same battery life as the Redmi Note 7 series—which was already good, to begin with — and the extra 500 mAh is meant to make up for both an increase in display size (6.3 inches to 6.53 inches) and a more power-hungry system-on-chip.

The Redmi Note 8 Pro is a battery champion, easily getting in the range of 8 hours to 10 hours of screen-on time

On moderate/mild usage (using mostly social media apps, Discord, and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram), the phone is a battery champion, easily getting in the range of 8 hours to 10 hours of screen-on time. On even milder usage it can easily sail past the 10-hour mark. Heavier usage, which involves straining the phone by watching videos and playing games constantly, gives us a more moderate figure of 6 to 7 hours of SoT, which is definitely very good.

Screen-on-time in the Redmi Note 8 Pro averages between 8 to 10 hours with my usage.

Battery life is heavily dependent on your own usage, and I have observed a few things that could potentially impact battery life negatively for some of our most demanding users. The MediaTek Helio G90T in the Redmi Note 8 Pro is evidently more power-hungry than the Snapdragon processors found in other Redmi Note smartphones like the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Snapdragon 675) and the Redmi Note 7 (Snapdragon 660), and even the non-Pro Redmi Note 8 (Snapdragon 665). It is a gaming-focused chip, so it is to be expected that battery life is not its absolute focus.

During my testing, though, I’ve found that the CPU tends to scale rather aggressively — it reaches maximum frequencies very easily and very frequently, even when not under a lot of stress. This is visible in the CPU-Z screenshot I put up in the “Hardware and Performance” section of the review: the six Cortex-A55 cores are running at their 2.0GHz peak frequency, while the two big Cortex-A76 cores are also running at their 2.05GHz peak.

This is also visible while performing PCMark’s Work 2.0 performance benchmark: the Redmi Note 8 Pro’s CPU stays constantly at its peak frequencies throughout the entire benchmark, dipping to lower frequencies for very brief occasions. In contrast, the Redmi Note 7 Pro, performing the same test under identical conditions, increases and decreases CPU clocks dynamically depending on workload, normally staying on the more conservative side of the spectrum and very rarely peaking at its top speeds.

 

PCMark Work 2.0’s graph showing the CPU clock speeds on the Redmi Note 8 Pro (left) and the Redmi Note 7 Pro (right) throughout the benchmark.

This could be caused by two things: either the MediaTek Helio G90T processor in the Redmi Note 8 Pro has poor frequency scaling or Xiaomi is using a performance-focused CPU governor by default on their kernel in order to boost performance, which is the most likely scenario (my device is not rooted, and therefore I can’t check this). Whatever the issue is, I haven’t really found it to be affecting the phone’s battery performance a lot, but as we said before, usage varies, and it might have a negative impact on your battery life if you’re the type of person that plays a lot or squeezes their phone’s capabilities to the maximum. Luckily, if it really becomes a burden (which I really doubt it will), it’s an issue that can probably be easily fixed on a custom kernel.

Even in the hypothetical scenario your phone’s battery life is less than stellar, the Redmi Note 8 Pro supports 27W fast charging using Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+, MediaTek’s Pump Express and USB Power Delivery technologies, and comes with an 18W Quick Charge 3.0-compliant charger in the box which should be able to deliver quick top-ups whenever you need them. Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t able to charge my device using the included charger since it was a European brick and I live in the American continent, and as such, I was forced to charge my device using an ancient 5W brick.

As you can guess, this is less than ideal: having a 4,500 mAh battery, this meant that you could face charging times ranging from 3 to 5 hours depending on how much battery you had left by the time you plugged your phone in. Obviously, the included charger will do much better in this regard, and if you have a Quick Charge 4+-compliant charger, then you’ll do even better. My experience in this area is unfortunately affected by personal circumstances.


Conclusion: The Redmi Note 8 Pro is a Complete Hit

Xiaomi took the risky approach of not only turning their backs on Qualcomm processors and instead going for MediaTek, a name often feared by Android enthusiasts, but they were also confident enough to put this MediaTek processor on their higher-end “Pro” version of the Redmi Note 8 series and launch the phone globally with this system-on-chip. In my opinion, this was quite a bold, yet brave move. Personally, I also had my doubts about the MediaTek processor included in this device. And I’m happy to report that these doubts were unfounded: the phone looks, feels, and performs amazingly. It’s able to handle everything I throw at it, and even more.

It is not the best phone in town, though, but it’s not meant to be. It is a mid-range device, priced better than most mid-range devices, and it packs some serious bang for your buck. And throughout my constant usage, I didn’t miss Snapdragon processors one bit: not even my negative preconceived notions stemming from past experiences with MediaTek managed to sour my opinion of the device. The Helio G90T is an amazing mid-range chipset that’s right in the same league as the Snapdragon 730 and 730G, and the Taiwanese silicon manufacturer is definitely on the quest for improving their smartphone SoCs year on year, an effort which is evidently paying off. I never thought I would say that, but here we are.

As I said before, if you’re worried about custom ROM development for the device, it should be a matter of time before development starts flourishing, as several developers have already gotten their hands on the phone.

As for the rest of the phone, I am quite pleased with it. The quad-camera setup is gimmicky, with two out of the four sensors serving better as marketing fluff than real-life improvements, but overall, the camera performs way better than I expected. The phone looks beautiful inside and out. And if Xiaomi plays their cards correctly here, then we could be facing a very solid entry in the mid-range smartphone marketplace, as well as yet another hit from the Chinese company. Mid-range competition is fiercer than ever, yet the Redmi Note 8 Pro still manages to stand out of the pack and crown itself as one of the best entries out there.