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Redmi 8A unboxing and first impressions: a supercharged budget phone

I have to hand it to Xiaomi – every time I think the smartphone market has stagnated, it goes ahead and stirs up a storm. This time around, Xiaomi has done it through its affordable Redmi A-series of smartphones launched under the aegis of its newly minted brand, Redmi. The brand’s latest, the Redmi 8A, was launched in India recently and happens to be the most affordable phone to feature a USB Type-C port and 18W fast charging support. I received the phone for the purpose of review, and after spending a short time with it, here are my first impressions of the Redmi 8A.

The Redmi 8A comes in the signature white box of the Redmi series with phone visuals on top, branding all around and core specs at the bottom. However, this time around, the brand is emphasising upon the battery of the phone as you can see 5,000mAh written in big, bold letters on the top along with “Qualcomm octa-core”. As you open the box, you will find a cardboard envelope containing a SIM ejector tool and documentation. Below that, there is the Redmi 8A, USB Type-C cable and 10W adapter. Yes, you will need to buy a fast charger if you want to make use of the 18W fast charging and there are no earphones either. However, personally, I feel that these are not deal-breakers for the price.

Redmi has also radically changed the design of the latest launch. Redmi A-series phones in the past have been a dull plastic affair with nothing out of ordinary in terms of design. The Redmi 8A, on the other hand, looks quite stylish for an entry-level phone. Make no mistake, it’s still plastic, but the back panel has a textured wavy pattern along with a metallic sheen on the paint job. The phone maker is calling the finish on the back, “aura wave grip pattern” and it does add to the grip. Redmi has launched the phone in Midnight Black, Ocean blue and Sunset Red. All three of them look appealing, but I was drawn towards the Ocean Blue and as luck would have it, it’s the one I received. I can tell you this for sure, that the Redmi 8A will turn heads as it looks much more premium than it is.

On the topic of the back panel, this time around there is a glossy strip running lengthwise in the center, which houses the single-camera module with LED flash and Redmi branding on top and “Designed by Xiaomi” disclaimer at the bottom. The placement of ports and buttons on the Redmi 8A are pretty standard. You will find the physical buttons for volume and power on the right, and dual nano-SIM tray with a dedicated microSD card slot on the left. The top edge houses a single noise-cancelling mic, whereas on the bottom you will see the 3.5mm audio interface, USB-C port and speaker grill. As expected, there is no fingerprint scanner on the Redmi 8A but the integrated face unlock is blazing fast so I didn’t mind.

The Redmi 8A is also the first Redmi A-series smartphone to feature a waterdrop notch display. The screen on the latest launch measures 6.2-inches (compared to 5.45-inches on the Redmi 7A) and offers HD+ screen resolution. The 19:9 display is also protected against scratches and scuffs by a layer of Gorilla Glass 5. Despite being an LCD panel, the display offers punchy colours and sharp text with good viewing angles. The screen is also sufficiently bright to be legible if you use the phone outside a lot. The Redmi 8A has display specific features like reading mode, dark mode, colour temperature adjustment, contrast setting and more.

Under the hood, Redmi 8A features the Snapdragon 439 SoC, which is a 2GHz octa-core processor and was also present in the Redmi 7A. I had reviewed its predecessor a while ago and was impressed by the performance of the phone given the price point. I expect the Redmi 8A to be slightly better as it gets a 3GB RAM variant this time around apart from the usual 2GB model. I have the 2GB variant with me and will be putting the smartphone through its paces in my detailed review, which should be up soon. Additionally, Redmi has kept the native storage 32GB for both models.

The phone boots the MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie and comes with the usual array of features that are unique to Xiaomi including Mi Pay, Second Space and more. I was slightly disheartened to see ads creeping in the interface (recommended videos after a video stops playing from the gallery and more), however, they no longer appear in the recents panel, which is an improvement. While the Redmi 7A was the first Redmi A series device to feature a 4,000mAh battery, the Redmi 8A is the first to pack a massive 5,000mAh cell with 18W fast charging.

On the camera front, the Redmi 8A features an f/1.8 Sony IMX363 12-megapixel rear camera. While the Redmi 7A also features a 12MP primary camera (Sony IMX486), Xiaomi claims that the pixel size has been increased to 1.4 micron, which is 25 percent larger. For selfies, there is an 8-megapixel selfie snapper on the front. The camera app is loaded with features like dual PD autofocus, portrait mode, Pro mode, HDR, AI Scene recognition, live filters and more. The initial pictures I took from the phone were pretty good and I am keen on exploring the camera more.

The Redmi 8A has been launched for Rs 6,499 and Rs 6,999 respectively for 2GB and 3GB variants, which is the same price as that of its predecessor. As of now, there are no smartphones in the market at this price that offer fast charging, a massive battery and USB-C, which puts the device ahead of the competition. I’ll be putting the Redmi 8A through its paces in my full review, so check back in a few days for all the details.

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