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Redmi 8A review: bringing the A game to the budget segment

It’s been just three months since I reviewed the Redmi 7A, and I was impressed enough by the device to deem it a near-utopian entry-level smartphone. The phone offered everything you would need from a budget offering, but it seems that wasn’t enough for Xiaomi. Now I have in my hand the phone’s successor, the Redmi 8A (first impressions). It brings a USB Type-C port, 5,000mAh battery, and 18W fast charging to the sub-Rs 7k price bracket. To find out how those specs translate into real life usage, I have been using the Redmi 8A for over a week, and here’s my take on it.

Design and display

Xiaomi turned a new leaf in the design department with the launch of the Redmi Note 7 series, which flaunt a glossy gradient design that’s in-line with the current trend. It seems that the brand is adopting a modern approach for its entire range, as the Redmi 8A is a far cry from the dull plastic Redmi A-series phones of the past. While the material still remains plastic, the fit and finish have undergone a massive overhaul.

The Redmi 8A comes with what Xiaomi is calling an “aura wave pattern”, which features a textured wavy pattern on the back panel adding to the grip. Moreover, the slightly curved back panel enhances the overall ergonomics of the phone, making it comfortable to hold. There’s also a noticeable heft to the phone, thanks to the 5,000mAh battery. Adding character to the design is a glossy strip running lengthwise in the centre, which houses the single-camera module with LED flash and Redmi branding on top, and “Designed by Xiaomi” at the bottom.

While all Redmi A-series phones in the past have been compact, the Redmi 8A stands out with its 19:9 display and waterdrop notch. Thanks to the taller display and reduced bezels, the Redmi 8A offers a higher screen-to-body ratio, resulting in a more immersive viewing experience. The smaller form factor also makes it easy to use with one hand.

The display measures 6.2-inches and offers a screen resolution of 1,520 x 720 pixels. The screen offers punchy colours and sharpness, but the brightness levels are on the lower side.

The Redmi 8A is the first Redmi A-series phone (and incidentally, the only one at this price point) to offer a USB Type-C port and 18W fast charging support. However, you only get a 10W charger in the box, so you’d need to purchase a fast charger separately. As for the other elements, the power and volume buttons sit on the right edge, while the SIM card slot is on the left. The SIM tray houses two nano SIM card slots and a dedicated microSD card slot, the latter supporting expansion up to 512GB. This time around, Xiaomi has moved the 3.5mm audio jack to the bottom along with USB-C port and speaker. The top edge is bare except for a single noise-cancelling mic.

As expected, there is no fingerprint sensor on the Redmi 8A, but the integrated face unlock is fast enough and works well in low light too. However, it fails in complete darkness, and there’s no option to make the screen light up to faciliate unlocking in the dark either.

Cameras

The Redmi 8A ships with an f/1.8 Sony IMX363 12-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel selfie snapper on the front. The camera app is loaded with the usual features like autofocus, portrait mode, pro mode, HDR, AI scene recognition, live filters and more.

The 12-megapixel shooter on the back is a very capable camera for its price. During the day, images captured displayed ample details, colours and dynamic range. I had HDR and AI scene detection enabled during the course of my testing, and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The AI scene recognition is pretty spot on and was able to detect buildings, flowers and more. In a nutshell, I was pleased with the camera prowess of the phone when the lighting conditions were ideal.

As for low light photography, there is no dedicated night mode on the Redmi 8A. However, Xiaomi claims that the newer Sony IMX363 sensor features a 1.4 micron pixel size, which is 25 percent larger than its predecessor. As such, the camera should technically take in more light and produce better low-light shots. However, I didn’t find a considerable difference compared to the Redmi 7A, and the pictures turned out to be noisy after the sun went down.

Coming to the front camera, the Redmi 8A’s 8-megapixel selfie snapper does a good job. As you can see in the gallery above, the phone captured good details, and was also able to blur the background effectively in portrait mode.

Performance, software and battery

Coming to the day to day performance, the Redmi 8A ships with the same 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 439 SoC as its predecessor. This time around, the brand is offering 32GB storage across the board, and a choice of two RAM variants – 2GB and 3GB. I have the former with me, and it’s the same setup as the Redmi 7A that I reviewed earlier, so there’s not much difference there.

While the Redmi 8A is a very capable phone for regular tasks, it does stutter when playing intensive games. I also ran into an issue on my unit, which wouldn’t let me download PUBG despite having good Wi-Fi reception as well as a strong mobile network. I resorted to PUBG Lite and the game downloaded instantly. As is expected, the Lite version of the game runs smoothly, but at the cost of scaled-down graphics. Also, the phone heated up considerably after two gameplays, which does affect the performance as well.

As for other apps, a regular day for me comprised a ton of WhatsApp usage, and managing pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I was glad to see that Redmi 8A was able to load apps quite fast. I would go to the extent of saying that the performance on Redmi 8A tops its predecessor.

Software-wise, the Redmi 8A boots the same MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie out of the box. So, you have a drawerless interface and the usual share of bloatware typical of Xiaomi, but most of these can be removed. The best part is the system-wide dark mode, which you won’t find on most budget phones. You do get ads in the interface, but they are no longer in the recents panel, but appear as recommended videos after you finish playing a video in the gallery, among others.

In the battery department, Redmi 8A one-ups the 7A with its massive 5,000mAh battery. I could easily see through at least two days of usage. The bundled charger took around two hours to fully charge the battery, while the fast charger topped it up from 20 percent to full in about an hour.

The competition

The main competitor to the Redmi 8A is the Infinix Hot 8 (review). The phone offers a 5,000mAh battery, triple rear cameras, double the RAM and storage, and a fingerprint sensor for just Rs 6,999. The only areas where it doesn’t hold up is fast charging support and a USB Type-C port. As for other options, there’s the Realme C2 (review) that offers similar specs at a lower price. The Motorola Moto E6s (review) is another contender, which costs a bit more, but offers double the RAM and storage, two rear cameras and a stock Android interface to boot. However, neither of these phones feature a USB Type-C port, and both feature smaller batteries as well.

Should you buy it?

At Rs 6,499 for the 2GB variant and Rs 6,999 for the 3GB model, the Redmi 8A is the only phone to offer USB Type-C with support for fast charging. The single rear camera and inability to handle intensive gaming aside, if you’re looking for a budget phone that offers all the modern features you could possibly ask for, the Redmi 8A is a solid choice.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Massive battery
  • USB Type-C with 18W fast charging support
  • Good overall performance
  • Modern design

What doesn’t:

  • No fingerprint scanner
  • Not ideal for gaming
  • Fast charger needs to be purchased separately

Photos by Raj Rout

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