The Redmi Note 8 Pro crams impressive hardware, such as a 64-megapixel (MP) camera, into an affordable and well-made package at a quarter of the price of a flagship smartphone.

This is not surprising as Redmi, the budget sub-brand of smartphone maker Xiaomi, has always offered good value for money. There is even more at stake now for Redmi, as it faces stiff competition from the likes of Oppo’s similar-sounding Realme sub-brand, which launched in Singapore last week.

With a starting price of $329 for the base 64GB version, the Note 8 Pro is the flagship Redmi model in Singapore. Besides its 64MP camera, which is part of a quad-camera system, the phone has an attractive glass-backed chassis, a capable mid-tier octa-core processor and a large 4,500mAh battery.

Perhaps because of its 64MP camera, the Note 8 Pro has a sizeable rear camera bump that makes the phone seem wobbly on the desk. This 64MP camera uses the same Samsung sensor as the $1,299 Vivo Nex 3 phone that I recently tested.

By default, this main camera uses pixel-binning to produce 16MP photos. Shots taken in the day look sharp and detailed with mostly accurate colours. Turning on the AI camera mode tends to make colours look a bit more vivid.

Unless you wish to zoom into the details of photos, I would not recommend taking 64MP photos as you will end up with large files (almost 20MB each). This 64MP mode somewhat mitigates the lack of a telephoto camera lens in the Note 8 Pro because you can zoom in to check the details of a distant object.

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The phone also has an ultra-wide camera, a macro camera and a depth camera. Personally, I do not see the point of the 2MP macro camera, which is used only for close-up shots and seems to be there to make up the numbers.

The ultra-wide camera is adequate but did not impress. Photos are noisy and slightly washed out. But it does have its uses for group selfies and landscape shots.

  • FOR

    • Main 64MP camera is good in bright, well-lit conditions

    • Affordable price for hardware • Capable processor optimised for mobile games

    AGAINST

    • Too many preloaded apps

    • Battery life shorter than expected for video playback

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $329 (64GB), $369 (128GB)

    PROCESSOR: MediaTek Helio G90T (Dual-core 2.05GHz, hexa-core 2GHz)

    DISPLAY: 6.53-inch IPS LCD, 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, 395 ppi pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: MIUI 10 (Android 9)

    MEMORY: 64GB/128GB (microSD expandable by up to 256GB), 6GB RAM

    REAR CAMERAS: 64MP (f/1.9), 8MP ultra-wide (f/2.2, 120-degree), 2MP macro (f/2.4), 2MP depth (f/2.4)

    FRONT CAMERA: 20MP (f/2.0)

    BATTERY: 4,500mAh


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4.5/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

I was also not excited by the camera’s long-exposure night mode. Photos turned out just a tad brighter than normal photos.

The phone has a rear fingerprint sensor on the camera bump. This old-school sensor is fast and accurate compared to newer, in-display versions that are probably deemed too high-end for Redmi.

The Note 8 Pro has a “dot drop” display with the 20MP front selfie camera in the middle just below the top bezel. The display has a thin border which appears to be drawn by a black marker pen.

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At its maximum 500 nits brightness, the IPS LCD screen is bright enough to use outdoors in the sun. Viewing angles are decent. While the screen has a full-HD resolution, the phone plays Netflix videos at standard resolution (480p). This is because the phone lacks the appropriate level of digital rights management (Widevine L1) necessary to play content at HD resolution. But there is no issue with 1,080p playback for YouTube videos.

Often omitted in cheaper phones is near-field communication (NFC), a technology which is used for mobile payments. The Note 8 Pro has this feature, as well as the increasingly rare ability – in phones – to control other devices via an infrared blaster. Like most budget phones, there is a 3.5mm audio jack. You probably want to use headphones as the Redmi’s bottom-firing speaker is middling and not the loudest.

Powering it is a MediaTek octa-core processor that is said to be optimised for mobile gaming. I had no problems with mobile games like PUBG Mobile running smoothly at High setting. More importantly, the exterior felt only slightly warm while running a game.

Outside of games, the Note 8 Pro felt fast and responsive during navigation and opening apps. Xiaomi’s MIUI 10 interface (based on Android 9) is not my favourite Android skin because of the number of unnecessary, preloaded system apps and utilities, but at least it is very customisable and does not slavishly copy the Apple iPhone.

Despite its large 4,500mAh battery, the Note 8 Pro did not fare as well as I had expected in the video-loop battery test. It lasted 9 hour 15 minutes with the screen at maximum brightness compared to Oppo Reno2’s (over 15 hours). However, the Note 8 Pro lasted more than a day for me when used mainly for Web browsing and work e-mail.

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