Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro first impressions: minor upgrades that actually make an impact

Whenever someone talks about the Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro, I am immediately reminded of this jolly gentleman from Dubai.

He’d actually unboxed a Redmi Note 6 Pro two months before the product was showcased in India. While amusing, I am surprised that Xiaomi couldn’t do anything to contain the flow of information or the leaks. Now that’s a discussion for another day. Today, let’s talk about the Redmi Note 6 Pro, a phone that looks like a minor upgrade to the Redmi Note 5 Pro but looks can be deceiving. Here are my first impressions straight from the launch event in India. 

Redmi Note 6 Pro: sensible upgrades to the camera

The major change to the Redmi Note 6 Pro is definitely the camera. Interestingly, Xiaomi is not using a Sony sensor this time. Instead, the company has gone for a Samsung S5K2L7 sensor for the primary 12MP camera. This sensor has a larger 1.4-micron pixel size compared to the 1.25-micron pixel size on the Redmi Note 5 Pro’s primary camera. The sensor is also attached to a f/1.9 aperture lens, which is slightly wider, and therefore “theoretically’ it is supposed to offer better performance in low light. 

There’s also a secondary 5MP depth sensing unit and a 20MP+2MP setup on the front, which explains the wider notch.

Not just that, Xiaomi has added some cool features to the Portrait mode. You can change the level of depth after you have taken the shot. You can also add some cool studio lighting effects and background effects. I really like these new features but don’t know why Xiaomi had to label it AI. Oh, there’s also an AI mode that supposedly improves the contrast and the colours.

AI on

AI off

I haven’t had too much time to analyse the phone’s cameras but here are a few samples. From what I could make of the first samples, I see plenty of detail and a very good control over the dynamic range as well with auto-HDR on. But you know Mr. Phone, a camera comparison is definitely on its way.  

 

Redmi Note 6 Pro: boarding the notch train

You can run. You can hide. But the notch will hunt you down. The Redmi Note 6 Pro has decided to follow the route that most Xiaomi phones have decided to this year. The phone comes with a cutout for a notch on the top of the display and a big bottom chin as well. This notch is also, quite possibly, the widest one yet on a phone in this price range because it houses two cameras on the front. 

That apart, the other minor design change is the fact that the plastic strip now runs along the edges and blends with the metal backplate. It is not merely two disjointed plastic strips at the top and the bottom that looked very weird, to be honest. Oh yeah, still no USB Type-C port. None of the explanations by Xiaomi made any sense to me. 

For all intents and purposes, Xiaomi is shying away from any kind of design experiments and playing it very safe. It is high time, Xiaomi does something wacky with its budget phones. The Mi 4C is the phone that comes to mind immediately. 

Redmi Note 6 Pro: same internal specs, few changes

As for the internals, the Redmi Note 6 Pro comes with the same Snapdragon 636 SoC as the Redmi Note 5 Pro. A similar lineup of variants which includes 4/6GB RAM options and 64GB of storage. And, it also has the same 4,000mAh battery but with QC 3.0 support. Xiaomi is clearly taking the – why fix something, if it ain’t broke? – philosophy a little too seriously. 

Having said that, if you don’t look at Xiaomi’s very own products, these are still great specs but not class leading for sure. You can now get a phone with an SD660 SoC for a couple of thousands more. If best performance is what you crave for, phones like the Realme 2 Pro or the Mi A2 might seem like better bets. But, the performance delta is not going to be massive for you to really make that distinction. Anyway, in the time that I have spent with the phone, I had a great usage experience. 

Also, the Redmi Note 6 Pro’s best feature might easily be the most overlooked one. The fact that it comes with Wi-Fi Passthrough feature that lets you share a Wi-Fi connection with other devices using 2×2 MIMO. How cool is that for a budget phone? And of course, let’s not forget the awesome yet underrated IR blaster. I know folks who have configured their ACs and TVs to Xiaomi phones just because it has an infrared blaster. It comes in very handy. 

As for the software, the phone currently runs on Android 8.0 Oreo with the latest MIUI 10 update. 

Redmi Note 6 Pro: closing thoughts

From whatever little time, I’ve spent with the device here at the event I am definitely intrigued at Xiaomi’s strategy to launch two Note Pro devices in the same year. And I am sure that the minor upgrades might not catch the fancy of many folks. That said, these upgrades look tangible enough for me to be impressed at first glance. Wait for the full review of the phone by Mr. Phone to make a final judgement call for yourself. You might want to hold off on your purchase until our review. 

Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?