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Redmi 8 review: two steps forward, one step back

Xiaomi has launched several devices under its Redmi brand this year. The affordable Redmi 8A (review) is a prima facie example of how the brand has been working towards improving its budget lineup, not only in terms of performance, but also in design. The brand has now launched the higher-end version of the device in the form of the Redmi 8. I have been using the phone for a couple of weeks, and here’s what you need to know.

Design and display

Redmi has been going through a transition when it comes to the design of its phones. The Redmi 8 is an entry-level phone, so while the construct remains polycarbonate, it brings the same glossy finish as the Redmi Note 7 series. However, since the back panel is extremely glossy, it attracts smudges like there’s no tomorrow. I was unsure how scratch resistant it is, so I used the provided TPU case. That said, the Redmi 8 is probably the best looking phone under Rs 8,000 in my opinion.

Following the new design philosophy form the brand, the rear panel has a tall pill-shaped black bar housing the dual camera module, fingerprint scanner and Redmi logo towards the center. The fingerprint itself is pretty fast and accurate, and so is the integrated face unlock module. I did find the face unlock struggling when the lighting was less than ideal, but I am not complaining given the price point.

The SIM tray on the left can house two nano-SIM cards and has a dedicated slot for a microSD card. The volume and power buttons on the right have decent feedback. Unlike the Redmi 8A, the Redmi 8 gets an IR sensor on the top as well as a USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack and speaker grille at the bottom.

The Redmi 8 ships with the same 6.2-inch IPS LCD display as the 8A. You get the same prominent chin with Redmi branding on it, and a dewdrop notch on the top. Protecting the screen is a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5, for protection against minor nicks and dings. The display offers punchy colours and sharp text, but the brightness is on the lower side. Moreover, despite having HD+ screen resolution, the display misses out on Widevine L1 support, which means you will have to be content with watching videos in SD quality on streaming platforms.

Cameras

In the camera department too, Redmi 8 borrows the f/1.8 Sony IMX363 12-megapixel rear camera from the Redmi 8A and gets an additional 2MP depth sensor for portrait shots. On the selfie front, the phone again borrows the 8-megapixel snapper from its more affordable sibling. Redmi has loaded the camera app with the usual set of features including portrait mode, pro mode, HDR, AI scene recognition, live filters and more.

As you can see in the daylight shots above, the Redmi 8’s camera handles dynamic range well. However, if you notice in the very first shot, the camera overexposes the highlights. On the flip side, if you don’t click pictures against the light and it’s not too bright, the images turn out to be quite punchy. The AI scene optimisation is pretty accurate in identifying the scene you are trying to shoot, however, the adjustment of cameras setting chosen by AI seems to be sketchy. This is particularly evident in low light when the camera does detect that its night time but fails to tone down the glare around the light source and also loses out on details. As for the portrait mode, the camera setup is able to detect edges well thanks to the secondary depth sensor, and produces an attractive blur in the background.

I was particularly impressed by the selfie camera on the Redmi 8. The 8-megapixel shooter does a pretty good job in capturing the colour tone on skin, and was able to produce a good bokeh effect in portrait mode.

Performance, software and battery

The Redmi 8 comes with the same 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 439 SoC as its predecessor and the Redmi 7A (review) before that. While the processor isn’t the most powerful, it holds its own in day to day usage as well as multitasking, thanks to the 4GB of RAM. As a result, apps like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp open quickly on the Redmi 8. The storage options include 32GB and 64GB, I have the latter with me and it offers 48GB out of the box. The 32GB variant model comes with 3GB of RAM, which should be more than enough for a casual user.

However, the chink in the armour of the Redmi 8 is the same as its siblings, which is intensive gaming. PUBG played very well on the phone in low graphics settings, which is recommended for the Redmi 8. In medium and high graphics settings, the smartphone heated up in two sessions, which started affecting the performance. Surprisingly, Call of Duty: Mobile, which is not as resource-hungry as PUBG had issues on the Redmi 8 as well.

In the software department, the Redmi 8 boots Android 9 Pie out of the box with MIUI 10.3 on top. The interface is pretty similar to what it was on the Redmi 8A, featuring a drawerless interface and the usual share of bloatware that Xiaomi puts in its smartphones. However, there are useful features as well, such as full-screen gesture navigation, a system-wide dark mode and Digital Wellbeing, among others.

In the battery department, the Redmi 8 once again borrows the 5,000mAh cell from the Redmi 8A. During my usage, the phone lasted me all of two days a bit of juice leftover, which is mighty impressive. The phone charges up pretty quick as well, courtesy the support for 18W fast charging. Unfortunately, Xiaomi has only included a 10W charger in the box, so you will need to invest in a fast charger if you want to make use of this feature.

The competition

The base variant of the Redmi 8 retails for Rs 7,999, while you will have to shell out Rs 8,999 for the 4GB model. When it comes to the competition, the main contender is the Realme 5 (review), which costs Rs 8,999 for the base variant and offers a more powerful Snapdragon 665 SoC, quad-camera setup and a similar 5,000mAh battery, minus the Type-C port and 18W charging. Then we have the newly launched Infinix S5 (first impressions) that features a punch-hole display and 32MP selfie camera at the same price point. Needless to say, the Redmi 8 has its work cut out in the budget segment.

Verdict

While the Redmi 8 offers excellent value for money, with rival brands bringing in their A-game, it might be an uphill climb for this device. While the phone doesn’t stand out in terms of performance or cameras, improvements like a bigger battery, Type-C port and support for fast charging are rare in this segment, and these could tip the scales in the Redmi 8’s favour.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Premium design
  • Massive battery
  • Type-C port with 18W fast charging

What doesn’t:

  • Average performance
  • Cameras struggle in low light

Photos by Raj Rout

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