The world of Budget smartphones is evolving at an insane speed. We have started to get great phones at 4 digit price tags (INR) nowadays. Of course, this isn't the first time we are witnessing cheap phones, but cheap phones that do not "feel cheap"? Now that's awesome!
In the world of budget phones, Xiaomi is arguably one of the best phone makers out there. They make devices with very satisfying quality at very affordable prices. But being the flagship lover that I am, I always looked down on these phones and never considered using any of them as a daily driver for myself. I would rather use an old flagship (hence my current Galaxy S7) than a new mid ranger. And that won't change anytime soon.
But my thoughts and opinions on these budget badasses have changed a little recently, because I got my hands on one of them for personal use.
I got my hands on the ultra-affordable Xiaomi Redmi 5A. I couldn't find it anywhere online because it is high on demand, so I got it from a local store. I obviously had to pay a little more as compared to the online market, but it was nothing significant.
Anyway, I have been playing around with this device for a while now, and I think I understand why this phone is so sought after in those flash sales that always seem to vanish within minutes. This is a truly great phone, with a few exceptions, of course. So let's do what we always do here at Dope Tech fever, and take a detailed look at it, shall we?
If I had to sum up the design and build quality of this phone in a sentence, I would say "it doesn't disappoint". That said, the common aluminium finish that we get with all the other budget phones is nowhere to be seen here. The entire phones body is made out of plastic, but as I said earlier, this is one of those devices which doesn't "feel cheap".
The power and volume rockers are on the right side as expected, and these plastic buttons do not feel mushy. They not bad, but they certainly lack that satisfying metallic click. They did wiggle slightly, but I feel it can be overlooked at this price. I mean, the Google Pixel 2 has (relatively) bad buttons as well, and look at its price tag. Many people complain about Xiaomi's tendency to stick with the microUSB port, but I think it's perfectly fine. USB type C has not become a must-have port yet. It's good if you have it on, but you'll be just fine without it too.
This phone has an IR blaster on top. That is one feature which I truly miss after I upgraded from my S5 to the S7. We all tend to focus more on the raw specs, but we often forget that it is the small things that make the real difference in everyday usage. At least for my usage, this little guy managed to beat my flagship in terms of tertiary conveniences.
I got the gold variant, and it looks okay, I guess. I am not big on the colors and the looks. What's important is that the device should be functional and practical. Looking good is just a bonus. I am among the minority of people who think so, I know!
Display: This was the most surprising aspect to me about this phone. Xiaomi's displays always punched well about their their price tags, even during the company's early days. Things have not gone downhill today. The Redmi 5a has a pretty good-looking 5 inch display. Though it is only a 720p panel, I did not see major stepdown in text and image clarity as compared to my other phones with 1080p and 1440p displays. It is a great screen overall.
There seems to be a thin layer of oleophobic coating on the screen, which is good to have, but might not last very long. It lacks any strengthened protection on top like Gorilla Glass or Dragontrail glass, so if you're worried about pocket ling scrachtong up your screen, put on a simple plastic screen protector. No, It is not included with the retail packaging, and there is no TPU case either. Cost cutting measures I imagine, it's quite alright.
Bottom line is, the display is just fine for ebrruday usage and the brightness is pretty impressive for the price tag. I did not expect such good visibility even in that afternoon sun.
Performance: While typing the part about the displays above,I was running Geekbench 4 (My preferred benchmark) on the Redmi 5A. It came out with these numbers.
Synthetic analysis aside, in real world usage, this phone is very smooth. MiUi interface is nicely optimised to run with as little resources as it possibly can. As a result, the Redmi 5A has very smooth animations with almost no lag you be seen. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 does a decent job of running the system at s decent pace.
The variant I have is the 16 GB+2 GB model (yes, I am cheap). For just another 1000 INR, you can grab the 32 gig model, which I suggest you do. But thankfully, the phone has a dedicated SD card slot along with 2 SIM cards. I wish every phone had this kind of a configuration. That hybrid slot thing gets on your nerves sometimes.
Its not the fastest phone in the market by any stretch of imagination. Apps take up write a lot of time to open. Even simple ones like WhatsApp have about 2 seconds worth "white screen loading" time. But after opening up, they work very well. As I mentioned earlier, the system animations are all silky smooth.
Judging by post experiences, Xiaomi phones urns to age quite well. So, the 5A should have at least 2 years of light usage written on it. That's right, I said "light" usage, which means I won't be using this as my primary device. It'll be with my mom, who happens to be the world light-weight smartphone usage champion. If you're someone who only uses their phone as s basic communicator and nothing more, you'll be very happy with the performance you get out of this device.
Software wise, you get Android 7.1.2 Nougat out of the box along with MiUi 9.2 Global. Software updates may or may not be a thing with this device. Honestly, I am not very hopeful for the future with phones as affordable as this one. The company tends to move ahead with it's other products instead of continuing support for existing ones.
But fortunately, that doesn't make it a bad phone. Its an android phone running on top of a Snapdragon chipset. Custom ROMs can always be brewed up.
There is no fingerprint sensor on this device, So, you will have to resort to a pin or a password for your device's security. The thing which surprised me about this phone is the sound quality. That is a high quality tone for the interactions that you do with it. I especially love the lock and unlock sounds, which sound silly, but actually give a better appeal to the overall experience of using the device.
Camera: This is by far the weakest link about this phone. Both the front and rear cameras on this phone are average at best. The 13 mp rear camera is a bit slow to launch, just like the rest of the apps on this phone. The software, in my opinion, is very poorly designed. I am not talking about the user interface, but rather the image processing that happens underneath.
For some reason, the camera tends to over sharpen the images to a point where they no longer look real. It looks like an over sharpened piece of trash, even in broad daylight. And believe it or not, there is actually a setting in the camera app to choose the level of sharpness. By default it is set to normal which is too sharp for my taste. I suggest changing the setting to 'low' which makes the photos somewhat bearable.
Even in the afternoon Sun a camera had trouble focusing on close objects. I struggled to get this macro shot, and I had to put my hand behind the flower to bring it into focus. Normally all smartphones have this issue, for which they have provided with a pro mode. But unfortunately, the pro mode available here does not give you as many manual controls as I would've liked to see. White balance and ISO are the only two things you can change.
Again, this would be fine for a very light user. But if you wanted to get some good results out of the built in manual mode, you are out of luck with this phone.
The story is pretty much the same with the 5 megapixel front camera. The field of view is very small and overall image quality leaves a lot to be desired.
Xiaomi's gimmicky age prediction mode is still present. There is an on board beauty mode with low, medium, and high settings. Evrn on the highest setting, it doesn't seem to do much to your face. That was not an insult, mate! It just isn't very effective.
The redmi 5A can record videos up to 1080p from the rear and front cameras. Although when you switch to the front camera there are no options for you to choose from. The front camera video quality did not change with the resolution settings for the rear camera, so I'm assuming it's stuck at 720p. It seemed to be pretty crisp and clear though, I was surprised.
The HDR mode on the camera is not too good either. When HDR is turned on, it does bring a lot more light into the shot. But it also introduces more grain.
The LED flash is bright enough for completely pitch black situations. The images produced with the LED flash will also have decent amount of details on them.
So, the bottom line for the camera on the 5A is: the images are crap but the video is pretty good.
Battery: Xiaomi has included a 3000 mAh battery in the Redmi 5A. It is smaller than the traditional 4000-ish mAh capacity which they provide with their other devices, I know. But with the low powered hardware, this phone is capable of getting you through an entire day and seeing you well into the next day as well.
Even while running heavy benchmarking apps such has geekbench 4, the battery only drained by 2\\%. But, I was surprised to see a 4\\% battery drain overnight. I suppose it's because this is still a relatively new phone and battery is not properly calibrated yet. These weird numbers will normally be ironed out after a couple of weeks.
The phone has a built in battery saver which monitors background apps and services, and helps you save a Lil bit of juice. You can choose to keep it on all the time, or when the battery hits below 60\\%.
The charger included with the xiaomi redmi 5A is not a fast charger. For some reason show me still does not support any kind of fast charging via wired charging. Despite having only A 3000 mAh battery, the 5A takes about 2 and half hours to fully charge. This has been my age old complaint with Xiaomi, and it's sad to see that it is still not addressed.
All in all, the Redmi 5A has very good battery life. Even if you are a heavy media consumer, you should make it through the day just fine with this thing. But keep in mind, that kind of usage will require you to charge this phone at least once a day.
Final verdict: Alright then, after couple of days of usage, what do I think about the redmi 5A? I am going to be very honest, this is NOT a phone meant for the social media junkies. The cameras on this thing just fall apart when you need them to work well. But for the rare species among you who is not bothered about the camera, this phone will do just fine as a daily driver.
Frankly, if I was not so picky about small details of quality on my smartphone, I can see myself comfortably using this as my daily driver, with the exception of the camera.