Chinese firm Xiaomi is the often referred to as the Apple of the East, but that’s not simple hyperbole; this firm is a massive deal in its homeland thanks to its range of well-made smartphones which deliver a polished user experience at a low cost.
Times are perhaps changing for the company, however; its Mi Mix and Mi Mix 2 phones are premium propositions and it has been eyeing up a move into western markets for quite some time.
Even so, it hasn’t forgotten its budget roots, and with that in mind we’re taking a look at the Redmi 5 plus,Xiaomi’s attempt to bring 18:9 screens to the masses.
It’s available from online resellers such as JUMIA Kenya for around 19000/= for the 3gb variant and 22000/= for the 4gb variant making it one of the most attractive low-cost Android phones on the market right now.
Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus Review: Design & Display
Xiaomi used to reserve its “phablet” style budget phones for the Redmi Note range, but this year it has dropped the “Note” moniker and has simply created two versions of the same basic handset - the Redmi 5 and the Redmi 5 Plus. The former has a 720p screen and weaker chipset, but is cheaper and smaller. The Plus version – which is what we’re reviewing here – has the same basic design but a better screen and internal tech.
Much was made of the Redmi 5 range’s move to a 18:9 aspect ratio screen when it was first announced, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. There are still small bezels at the top and bottom of the display, but they’re drastically reduced when compared to what budget buyers have been used to over the past few years.
In terms of overall dimensions the Redmi 5 Plus is around the same size as the OnePlus 5T, and has a pleasant rounded design which makes it comfortable to hold. Most of the bodywork is metal, but there are plastic sections at both ends which allow the antenna to function. In terms of design language it shares a lot with previous Xiaomi phones, and that’s no bad thing.
The power button and volume rocker are on the right-hand edge, while the dual Nano SIM tray – which doubles as a MicroSD slot – is on the left. The bottom has a single speaker and a Micro USB port (no USB Type-C here:expressionless:, unfortunately) and the top has a 3.5mm headphone jack and IR blaster, the latter being a common feature on Xiaomi’s phones. On the back, there’s a 12 megapixel camera, LED flash and fingerprint scanner; the scanner rests just under your finger when you’re holding the phone and is both fast and accurate.
The 5.99-inch IPS screen may lack the punch of an OLED panel but for 19000, it’s hard to complain. It’s a 1080p display so everything looks sharp, and colours are generally bold and lively. Even blacks are quite deep, which makes a nice change from the pale and pasty IPS screens we’ve seen on other budget blowers. In direct sunlight it can be a bit hard to see, but otherwise this is an excellent panel.
Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus Review: Software & User Experience
While the Redmi 5 Plus is rocking Android Nougat, it has Xiaomi’s custom UI skin sitting on top of it. MIUI 9 has evolved over the years from a shameless iOS knock-off to one of the most slick and customisable interfaces in the Android space. It’s fast, smooth and comes with a host of exclusive features, as well as its own unique look.
There’s no app drawer, for example – everything you install is placed on the home screen, iOS-style – and Xiaomi has replaced Google’s “Now” screen with its own selection of shortcuts, widgets and other dynamic content. Overall, MIUI offers a lot of benefits over stock Android, but comes with some drawbacks, too. It’s quite aggressive when it comes to managing power and will often shut down apps or prevent them from running in the background, unless you dig deep into the settings and tinker with power management.
The Redmi 5 Plus also comes pre-loaded with loads of Chinese apps, which will predictably be useless to anyone outside of the country. It’s easy to uninstall these, but less welcome is the fact that, as a phone sold in China, the Redmi 5 Plus lacks any Google applications – you can’t even sign into your Google account out of the box, and will instead need to create a Mi Account if you don’t have one already. Thankfully, it takes seconds to locate a special Google installer on the phone’s digital store and once that has installed all the required apps and framework, the Redmi 5 Plus behaves very much like any other Android device.
Performance-wise, the Snapdragon 625 chipset is more than adequate for a phone in this price range. Aided by 3GB of RAM, it works alongside the already slick MIUI 9 to provide a smooth experience, and it’s only when playing particular demanding 3D games that it begins to struggle a little.
Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus Review: Battery, Memory & Camera
The Redmi 5 Plus has a 4000mAh battery which means it will last you well over a day of typical use; a few times during my review period I was able to get through most of the following day on a single charge, too. Without USB Type-C there’s sadly no super-fast charging, but it doesn’t take as long as you might expect to go from empty to full.
You’ve got 32GB of storage on the base model of the Redmi 5 Plus, of which the end user has access to around 25GB, once system files are taken into account. We’re entering an age where many flagship devices have at least 64GB, but it’s hard to feel short-changed when you consider the low cost of the phone. Besides, the option to expand your storage with MicroSD cards is welcome.
The Redmi 5 Plus’ single 12-megapixel rear-facing snapper has a f/2.2 aperture and comes with phase detection autofocus, but there’s no optical image stabilisation. Image quality is incredible for a phone in this price bracket, with images boasting striking detail and good colour replication. The most surprising thing of all is that Xiaomi has included 4K video capture, and again, the quality is above average. The front-facing selfie cam is 5 megapixel and does a perfectly acceptable job.
Xiaomi once again proves it is the undisputed master of the low-cost Android handset. What we have here is a large-screen phone with a powerful Snapdragon processor, excellent camera, super-fast fingerprint scanner, superb UI and expandable storage, all for around 19000. No secondary camera means no fancy portrait modes and the lack of an NFC chip means it can’t be used for mobile payments, but these are small prices to pay for what represents a complete and utter bargain in the smartphone sector. It’s a great device considering the price…