• Our Xiaomi Redme Note 8 review


    Back in November Aliexpress had their 11.11 sale. While Iíve shopped before there for inexpensive stuff, I always wondered, what would it be like buying something more expensive?

    At the same time, aside from a very nice battery pack Andrew gifted me a few years back, Iíve never owned anything from Xiaomi and always wondered what one of their phones would be like.

    I figured Iíd hit 2 birds with one stone and picked up a Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 from AliExpress.

    Why the Redmi Note 8? Mostly because it seemed like a decent deal for the hardware it was packing. Iíve also always found entry level and mid-range phones to be very interesting.

    If we decode the model name, Redmi is Xiaomi's more affordable line. The Note 8 line is split into the regular Note 8 and a fancier Note 8 Pro.

    Itís powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665. Most phones sold here in the Xiaomiís price range usually have to make due with a more modest, Snapdragon 4xx SoC. I reviewed the Blackberry Key 2 a while back which had a Snapdragon 660 and found it to be pretty snappy. 665 > 660 right?

    Next is its 6.3Ē LCD 1080P display with 409PPI which should look very clean and sharp.

    Itís also packing 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage which should be sufficient for a lot of users.

    Another key feature is the relatively large 4000mAh battery. This size isnít uncommon on flagships but they usually have more power hungry processors, along with larger displays.

    On the back, the Xiaomi has a confusing 4 camera setup. One of the cameras even uses a massive ĹĒ sensor with a dizzying 48 megapixels.

    One thing about AliExpress is that you can search for something and have 10 different stores to buy the same thing from. I ended up buying from ďXiaomi Official StoreĒ. I have no idea if they are THE official store for Xiaomi or even if Xiaomi has an official presence on AliExpress.

    I placed the order on November 11th and received it on Dec 14th. I chose the AliExpress standard shipping option. It didnít actually take 30+ days to get here, rather after I placed the order it didnít ship for a few weeks. Iím not sure why this happened, but I figure they waited till they had enough orders of the Note 8 in order to be eligible for a volume discount from Xiaomi but thatís conjecture. Anyways I wasnít expecting to receive the Note 8 the next day after I ordered it so I was okay with the wait.

    They actually have a pretty large time window with which to get it to you. I wonder if they would have just cancelled the order if they couldnít get enough orders to qualify for their minimum order from Xiaomi.

    It came via Canada Post and was marked as being worth $45. When it arrived I wasnít charged any tax or importation fees though this was just luck on my part.

    It arrived in a padded paper envelope with the phone box covered with very thick bubble wrap.



    The box had a few minor dents in it - I donít think they happened during shipping. Everything inside was in perfect shape. Overall I was satisfied with how my phone was boxed up.



    An European to North American plug adapter was thrown in next to the box.

    Inside the box were:

    The phone
    Papers
    USB Type-C charger
    10 watt charging adapter with European plugs
    TPU type case



    The included case fits quite nicely and is extremely grippy. It has a flap to cover the charging connector. I like how it creates a raised lip around the screen - I dropped the Note 8 face first onto the concrete floor in my garage and the case protected it from sustaining damage.



    Body:



    The body has a nice paint job. While it doesnít feel cheap, it doesnít feel quite as solid as an all metal phone. Thereís a raised lip around the screen which looks a bit cheap but itís probably a good thing as it protects the edges of the glass. Iím guessing it also makes the phone a bit more forgiving to assemble (saves money).



    I apologize for all the dust in the pictures, I forgot how difficult it is to truly clean off a glossy, painted phone.

    Thereís very little flex when you twist it.



    The buttons volume and power buttons are along the right side. They have a nice feel when you press them.



    Xiaomi doesnít make any claims whether the Note 8 is water resistant or not.



    Along the bottom are the 3.5mm headphone jack, the microphone, USB Type-C connector and a speaker grill.



    Thereís an infrared blaster at the top - itís been a while since Iíve used a phone with one of those.



    There's a status light at the top left of the screen. For some reason it's shaped like a peanut which I find so odd.

    Display:



    The display measures 6.3Ē with a resolution of 1080x2340 not including the rounded corners.

    Itís a TFT LCD display with a very sharp pixel density of 409PPI.

    Thereís a notch at the top where the front-facing camera is. Iím not normally very opinionated about notches provided they donít protrude too far down or are floating in the middle of the screen.



    That said, I find the Note 8ís notch to be a bit distracting because it casts a shadow when youíre looking at the screen from the bottom - think when youíre sitting down and have the phone on a table. It makes the screen look cheap.

    You can customize the screen colors. By default it automatically adjusts colors between default, warm and cool. I preferred the standard setting which is a bit warmer.

    I couldnít quite dial the colors, in but they were still acceptable. I thought that the blacks could have been a bit deeper but given the price point I didnít think they were too bad.

    The off-angle colour shift is quite noticeable.

    I measured a maximum brightness of 400cd/m2 which is more than adequate for a LCD.

    The screen has decent coatings on it. Itís easy to clean and my fingers glided across it smoothly.

    Camera:



    There are 4 cameras on the back. Why 4? While all 4 cameras are functional, Iím guessing itís more of a status thing - you donít want some crappy phone that only has 2 or 3 cameras on the back.

    You get a massive ĹĒ sensor. Just to compare, a lot of flagships use a Ĺ.33Ē sensor, so Ĺ is quite a bit larger. It has a resolution of 48(!) megapixels with 0.8um sized pixels. Just to compare most flagships have 1.4um-ish pixels while more modestly priced phones get by with 1.1um-ish pixels so 0.8um is really tiny. Next up is a 13 megapixel ultra-wide angle camera followed by a 2 megapixel camera used to assist the portrait mode and a dedicated 2 megapixel macro camera.

    By default, the Note 8 adds a watermark to the bottom left of each photo. Why would anyone want this feature? Anyways you can turn this feature off or choose your own custom watermark.

    The 48 megapixel camera is the primary shooter. Its super high resolution also allows it to double as the zoomed in camera. Itís the second camera from the top of the phone.

    Normally when you shoot, the 48 megapixel camera outputs a 12 megapixel image so theyíre taking 4 pixels and averaging them out to 1. That said itís not the same thing as if the phone had a 12 megapixel ĹĒ sensor - 4 of those tiny 0.8um pixels donít quite capture the same amount of light as 1 pixel which is 4x larger.

    More megapixels do not necessarily mean higher image quality. Indeed, this is the case with the Note 8 if you compare it with a flagship that has ľ the number of pixels.

    First off, itís not as sensitive so it doesnít have the same dynamic range, meaning if you have a scene with very bright and very dark it will lose a bit of detail in the bright and dark areas. Think if the background is really bright or if there are dark shadows.
    It also has to use longer exposures to capture enough light so youíll get more blurry action shots indoors plus youíll have to hold it more steady.

    Color varies - sometimes itís quite good but sometimes it tends to under-saturate which makes photos look a little washed out. By default it also over-beautify faces which is really annoying.

    As far as I can tell, there is no optical image stabilization. The lack of this is noticeable when youíre shooting video.

    If you want to zoom in it simply crops the center of the sensor. Cropping the center for a 2x zoom means youíll get ľ the resolution or 12 megapixels. Since there are 48 megapixels and the Note 8 saves images at 12 megapixels you can zoom in 2x without having to resort to using a digital zoom.

    That said, images arenít bad, if youíre careful and know how to work within the cameraís limitations you can actually get some pretty decent shots. The best way to put it is that the Note 8ís camera is better than I expected given its price tag. There are times when the pictures it takes are good enough that they donít scream you took them with an inexpensive phone.

    The next camera is an ultra-wide angle lens located closest to the top of the phone. Unlike other phones Iíve tried, there are no steps when you ďzoom outĒ between the regular camera and the ultra-wide. Itís all or nothing.

    Itís noticeably inferior to the one on the regular camera - this is pretty normal. Itís a lot less sensitive so pictures are noisier and with noticeably less detail. Indoors pictures can look a little gritty.

    To use the Macro lens you have to tap the flower icon on the camera UI. Itís the camera closest to the bottom of the phone.

    Despite only having 2 megapixels, itís able to capture much finer detail than the main camera. It definitely can focus much closer than even when you have the 48 megapixel setting turned on and you crop with the regular camera.

    That said, since it requires you to get super close to your subject, taking pictures requires a lot of lighting and proper setup because chances are that the phone will be casting a shadow on your subject.

    If you do want to play around with the macro mode I recommend turning on the Pro mode, setting the focus to the closest setting and starting from there. Instead of relying on the autofocus, move in and out till the subject is sharp and take multiple photos. Afterwards review your pictures to figure out which one you hit critical focus with.

    The second camera from the bottom is used with the portrait feature. It helps figure out which parts of your photo are further away, then when you capture the photo with the regular sensor, the phone knows to blur those parts out.

    Multimedia:

    If youíre listening to music it uses a single speaker on the bottom. Thereís also a regular 3.5mm headphone jack.

    The speaker is actually quite good. It doesnít have the bottom end of some flagships but I was impressed with its quality and volume. It does not sound strained at the highest setting. This makes it fantastic for listening to podcasts.

    The fact that it only uses one speaker does make it sound a tad flat.

    If 64GB isnít enough, you can add more storage using MicroSD cards.

    Thereís a built-in FM tuner. Youíll need a pair of wired headphones if you want to use this since Xiaomi didnít include any.

    Performance:

    A look in the hamster wheel reveals a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC which is backed with 4GB of RAM.

    While the Snapdragon 665 isnít going to fare well against the past yearís Snapdragon 855 powered flagships, I was really curious to see how it would fare against the Snapdragon 8xxís of yesteryear. I mean the smartphone market has matured a lot recently so buying used is always an option.

    First off we have the Motorola Moto Z from 2016 powered by a Snapdragon 820. Next is the LG V30, Snapdragon 835 from 2017. I also threw in a Blackberry Key 2 which has a Snapdragon 660.



    First off is PCMark which is a great test of how well a phone will handle general tasks. While thereís no surprise that the 665 beats the 660, it also bests the 820 and comes within 15% of the 835.



    Next up is Antutu. The CPU test confirms the 665ís relative performance. However, while the 665 bests the 820 in the CPU test, the 820 is still considerably faster than the 665 in the GPU test.



    3D Markís Slingshot Extreme shows just how extreme the gap in graphics performance is between the mid-range for 2019 Snapdragon 665 and the high-end for 2016 Snapdragon 820. The 820 beats the 665 by almost 200%.



    Still one thing to consider is that part of the extra graphics performance is often used up by the fancier phone's higher resolution displays. Look at the VR Mark scores.

    So there you have it, when it comes to work performance, while mid-range phones can approach and surpass older high-end phones, the gap in terms of graphics is quite a bit wider.

    However, the benchmarks donít tell the whole story the Redmi somehow felt slower than the Blackberry even though it has a slightly fast processor.

    I played around with some settings and it turns out the reason the Note 8 felt slower was because I had menu gestures turned on instead of just having buttons along the bottom.

    The Snapdragon 665 isnít powerful enough to animate the menu gestures smoothly, so every time I switched apps or went to the home screen it was a bit choppy. It may also be a function of the Note 8ís taller display which has around 50% more pixels.

    Once I switched back to menu buttons the Xiaomi felt smoother.

    Connectivity:

    I used the Redmi on TELUS.

    TELUS supports LTE on bands 2/4/5/7/12/13/17/29. Of those bands the Note 8 supports 2/4/5 and 7. The last 4 bands (12/13/17/29) are bands in the 700Mhz bands which are not as utilized as the first 4 on TELUS.

    There is support for both 2.4 and 5Ghz WiFi bands.

    Battery Life:

    Each battery percentage lasted around 9 mins in my battery test which is quite good. It will easily last the day for most users.

    There is support for 18 watt fast charging but only a 10 watt charger is included in the box. It appears to support the Quick Charge 3.0 standard. I like how it shows 2 lightning bolts next to the battery when itís fast charging.

    Software:

    It comes with Xiaomiís MIUI Android Overlay.

    It is a pretty thick overlay with many Xiaomi Mi branded apps. These days most of us are just using the same Android apps so Iím not as opinionated about overlays as I used to be.

    If you game a lot one neat thing about MIUI is that you can use 2 apps in split screen at the same time. While a lot of phones can split screen many of them will pause one app when you use the other.

    You can choose whether to have the OS menu buttons along the bottom or to use gestures.

    There are a bunch of Mi branded tools. I was surprised that the clock app lacks a countdown timer.

    Mi Remote letís you control your TV using the built-in infrared blaster. Itís a reskinned version of Peel remote. Itís been a few years since Iíve used Peel but it seems you no longer need to be subscribed to a TV service to use it now so itís no longer totally useless. Still, while I think itís great Xiaomi included this feature, using your TVís remote is more convenient.

    Conclusion:



    The Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 is a fantastic deal. Itís a very competent phone with a decent display and very usable camera. The large battery really gives peace of mind while the powerful speaker is great for podcasts.

    3 out of 5 Howies

    Pros:
    Decent display
    Large battery
    Speakers is loud

    Cons:
    Lousy black levels
    Notch casts a shadow
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Our Xiaomi Redme Note 8 review started by howard View original post
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