Redmi Note 8 review: Another great mid-range option

While the Redmi Note Pro series is the mid-range leader for Xiaomi, the company has maintained a fantastic tier-two option for users who don’t want to spend as much, but still want some of the niceties introduced by the new generation of hardware. Accompanying the Redmi Note 8 Pro, a phone that we rated very highly in our review, is the all-new Redmi Note 8. The phone comes in somewhere between the Redmi Note 7S that it replaces, and the higher-end Redmi Note 8 Pro.

The Redmi Note series has almost always been an easy recommendation for its best-in-class performance. Can the Redmi Note 8 continue the momentum? We find out in the Android Authority review.

About this review: I wrote this Redmi Note 8 review after spending a week with the phone as my primary device. Xiaomi India supplied the device, which was running Android 9 Pie with MIUI 10.3 on board.Show More

Redmi Note 8: The big picture

The Redmi Note 8 enters a competitive landscape that has more than a few quality options available to buyers. Between the brand appeal of Samsung, clean software offered by Motorola, and growing threat of Realme’s focus on design and specifications, Xiaomi has taken big steps forward. Including a quad-camera setup and fast-charging should certainly help the Redmi Note 8 bridge the gap. However, the design is starting to look a bit dull and the internals are slowing their advances. 

What’s in the box

  • Redmi Note 8
  • TPU case
  • 18W charger
  • USB-C cable
  • SIM ejector tool

Xiaomi has stepped up its game with in-box contents: It now throws in an 18W fast charger in the box. Additionally, you’ll find the usual TPU case, USB-C cable, and SIM ejector tool. It would have been nice to see a pair of earphones thrown in for good measure, but you’ve probably got a favorite pair lying around anyway. 

Design

  • 158.3 x 75.3 x 8.4mm
  • 190g
  • Gorilla Glass 5 front and back
  • Waterdrop notch
  • Rear fingerprint sensor
  • USB-C

The design of the Redmi Note 8 leans more towards the Redmi Note 7S than the Redmi Note 8 Pro. While the latter incorporates a curvy design and a luxurious build that belies its price, the Redmi Note 8 is very much a mid-range smartphone as far as looks go. The entire design is an extension of the flattened-out, glass-and-metal sandwich that first debuted on the Redmi Note 7. Yes, Xiaomi’s budget portfolio can get quite complicated.

The Redmi Note 8 places its 6.3-inch display under Gorilla Glass 5, which is flanked by not-too-large bezels on three sides. Xiaomi’s decision to run a color-matched blue trim around the display area is questionable. Personally, I think it cheapens the look of the phone, but you may feel differently. The chin at the bottom is inoffensive even though the Redmi branding comes across as a bit much. A small notification LED sits to the left of the waterdrop notch. The LED is just a bit too small to be noticeable from a distance, but it is better than not having one at all.

Redmi Note 8 with USB C port visible

It is hard to fault the construction of Xiaomi devices, and the Redmi Note 8 is no exception. From the volume rocker and power button, to the SIM tray and USB-C port at the bottom, high-quality construction is apparent everywhere. The buttons are solid with no wobble and they offer near-perfect tactile feedback. The phone even has an IR blaster that you can use to control electronics like televisions and air conditioners.

The rear panel is also made of Gorilla Glass 5 and sports a subtle blue/purple gradient. A fingerprint scanner sits in the center and is as fast as they come. The quad-camera module, however, sits way too far above the surface glass. This causes the phone to rock when placed on a table, and it will inevitably catch on to your pocket when sliding it in.
Redmi Note 8 showing rear gradient in hand

Overall, the Redmi Note 8’s design should appeal to most. Sure, it isn’t quite as exciting as the Redmi Note 8 Pro, but that’s a concession you have to make for a lower price point. 

Display

  • 6.3-inch IPS LCD display
  • 19.5:9 aspect ratio
  • Full HD+ resolution
  • Gorilla Glass 5

The display on the Redmi Note 8 isn’t bad, but in a sea of great panels it comes across as a bit underwhelming. Out of the box, the color tuning skews too far towards cooler tones. This has a profound effect on how images and videos look on the display. That said, it is easy to switch to a more neutral color profile that immediately makes content look a lot more natural.

Redmi Note 8 displaying hub panel

Unlike some competing devices, such as the Moto One Macro, the Redmi Note 8 has a Full HD+ display. Stretched across 6.3-inches, the resolution is more than adequate. Icons and text look perfectly crisp and reading long web pages is a pleasurable experience.

We measured peak brightness levels of about 430 nits with the display set to the standard mode. This is just under Xiaomi’s claimed 450 nits peak brightness level. The Redmi Note 8 is certainly not the brightest phone in the segment, but unless you spend a lot of time walking about in direct sunlight you shouldn’t face much of a problem.

Performance

  • Snapdragon 665 chipset
  • 4 x 2.0GHz Kryo 260 Gold & 4 x 1.8GHz Kryo 260 Silver
  • Adreno 610
  • 4/6GB RAM
  • 64/128GB storage
  • Dedicated microSD slot

The Snapdragon 665 chipset powering the Redmi Note 8 is the same as that of the Realme 5. Performance doesn’t differ too much from the Snapdragon 660 chipset that powers the Redmi Note 7S. The chipset is based on an 11nm architecture, which should make it a bit more frugal. The 665’s CPU is a touch slower than the 660, while the 665’s GPU is a tad more powerful. All-in-all, the performance gains and losses should even out.

The gaming performance is less than stellar, and the phone heats up in no time.

As far as general performance is concerned, the phone is usually able to keep up with whatever you throw at it. Jumping between apps will on occasion cause frame drop and a bit of jitter.

The gaming experience is not amazing. Pushing the graphics setting in PUBG results in noticeable lag and dropped frames. It doesn’t help that the phone heats up a fair bit over just a few minutes of gaming. The Snapdragon 66x family of chipsets are being outpaced by their successors, and it shows here.

Redmi Note 8 AnTuTu 1
Redmi Note 8 Geekbench 1
Redmi Note 8 3D Mark 1

We put the phone through a standard range of benchmarks and the results were in line with what we expected. The phone manages a score of 170,973 points in AnTuTu, which is ahead of both the Redmi Note 7S that it replaces and the Moto One Macro. Graphics performance, however, benchmarked worse than the Redmi Note 7S and especially the Moto One Macro. 

Battery

  • 4,000mAh
  • 18W fast-charging support
  • Fast charger included in the box
  • No wireless charging

While we’re starting to see 5,000mAh batteries in the entry-level segment, the 4,000mAh cell in the Redmi Note 8 is definitely no slouch. The phone easily lasts a full day and then some. In my time with the phone, I found it hard to deplete the battery with heavy use, including a few hours streaming Spotify and YouTube, browsing Reddit, and sending a dozen or so emails.

The 4,000mAh battery is no longer the biggest in the segment.

The bigger and more relevant change for end-users is support for 18W charging. Not only that, Xiaomi tossed a fast charger in the box. A full charge takes just over two hours. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t include support for wireless charging, but that is common at this price.

Software

  • MIUI 10.3.3
  • Android 9 Pie

I’ve been very vocal about my disdain for the preloaded bloat on Xiaomi’s devices. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the company is taking steps to tone it down. Starting from the onboarding process, Xiaomi pushes recommendations for a wide range of apps to download. For the first-time user, it can be easy to click next and start the download process for this junk.

Redmi Note 8 app onboarding 1
Redmi Note 8 homescreen 1
Redmi Note 8 shortcuts drawer 1

Even if you manage to avoid the initial recommendations, there are umpteen apps included on the phone. These range from MIUI standards, like a file explorer, weather app, and music app, but also includes a bunch of games, PayTM, Helo, and third-party music apps. A majority of these cannot be removed. Add to that the ads and app recommendations strewn across system apps, and it quickly becomes a sub-optimal user experience.

That’s not to say that’s the experience is all bad. There are nifty additions strewn across including robust options for customising the phone’s interface to really make it your own. Apps like ShareMe make it very easy to transfer large files between phones and even over to your computer. There’s a lot of thought that has gone into Xiaomi’s first-party apps, now if only they would tone down the aggressive advertising, it would become a lot easier to live with the software.

Camera

  • Rear cameras:
    • 48MP main (Samsung QW1), f/1.8, 0.8-micron pixel size, PDAF
    • 8MP ultra-wide, f/2.2
    • 2MP macro, f/2.4
    • 2MP depth sensor, f/2.4
  • Front camera:
    • 13MP, f/2.0
  • 4K 30fps, Full HD 30/60fps
  • Slow-motion 120fps

Entry-level phones aren’t immune to the rapid commoditization of camera components. While the primary sensor on the Redmi Note 8 is the same 48MP module of the Redmi Note 7S, this time it is flanked by three additional sensors. These include an ultra-wide shooter, a depth sensor, as well as a dedicated macro camera. This matches the camera set up of competing phones by Realme and Motorola, and is likely to become the defacto layout in the segment.

Redmi Note 8 close up shot

For an entry-level device, the primary camera on the Redmi Note 8 does a really good job at capturing relatively true-to-life images. I found pictures to be well exposed, and colors were very natural looking. Pixel-peeping reveals a lot of oversharpening to give the images a bit of a pop. However, details are thankfully not reduced to a smudge as is often the case.

Redmi Note 8 signboard regular camera

The phone tends to boost shadows in an attempt to pull out details in darker regions. This does introduce low-level noise, but not to the point of detracting from the image. In fact, if all you do is share images on social media, you probably won’t find it offensive at all.

Redmi Note 8 ultra wide angleRedmi Note 8 standard camera
Redmi Note 8 ultra wide angle

Redmi Note 8 standard camera

The ultra-wide camera is one of the best that I’ve seen on entry-level hardware. There isn’t a drastic difference in the color tuning between the primary and ultra-wide sensor. Like the regular camera, the ultra-wide sensor also oversharpens images. This gives final results an illusion of including more detail than actually exists. Darker sections are comparatively low on details, but this tends to be the case with mid-range hardware. The Redmi Note 8 is definitely one of the best performers in its price category.

Redmi Note 8 macro mode leaf

A macro camera is the latest addition. This camera, meant for close-ups, lets you get as close as 2cm from your subject. While the sensor doesn’t have the resolution to capture a lot of detail, it allows you to get creative and shoot interesting angles. That said, I’m left wondering whether cropping in from the full 48MP image might provide similar, if not better, results.

Redmi Note 8 macro mode flower low light

Even more interesting is the fact that the macro sensor works rather well indoors and other limited light conditions. Think shooting eyes, flowers, textures, and you get an idea of what you can do with the macro camera.

Redmi Note 8 car regular camera

Thanks to the dedicated depth sensor, bokeh detection isn’t bad at all. I give the phone bonus points for working well with objects, too. 4K video recording at 30fps shows signs of extra sharpening, just like the images and I observed a bit of highlight clipping as well.

People often take selfies with their smartphone cameras, and the Redmi Note 8 captures natural-looking shots with sufficient detail.

You can take a look at full resolution Redmi Note 8 image samples at the link.

Audio

  • Headphone jack
  • No aptX support

Headphone audio from the Redmi Note 8 veers between passable and good. Even with quality headphones, there is a noticeable hiss in the background. Music sounds warm with an emphasis on bass. It isn’t the most neutral presentation, but should be good enough for listening to music while commuting. 

The single loudspeaker isn’t the loudest around, but it is serviceable for listening to podcasts and alarms. Just don’t crank it up to play music — there’s not much of bottom end here and the highs can sound a bit too shrill. 

Specifications

Display 6.3 inches-inch IPS LCD, 19.5:9 aspect ratio,
Waterdrop notch,
Full HD+ (1,080 x 2,340) resolution,
81.7% screen-to-body ratio
Gorilla Glass 5
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
(4×2.0 GHz Kryo 260 Gold & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 260 Silver)
Adreno 610
RAM/Storage 4GB + 64GB
6GB + 128GB
microSD expansion
Camera Rear cameras:
48MP main (Samsung QW1), f/1.8, 26mm, 0.8-micron pixel size, PDAF

8MP ultra-wide, f/2.2

2MP macro, f/2.4

2MP depth sensor, f/2.4

4K video at 30fps, Full HD video at 30/60fps and slo-mo at 120fps

Front camera:
13MP, f/2.0, 0.9-micron pixel size, Full HD video at 30fps

Battery 4,000mAh
18W charging
Quick Charge 4.0 and USB-PD support
USB-C
Dimensions 158.3 x 75.3 x 8.4 mm
Weight 190g
Colors Neptune Blue, Moonlight White, Space Black
Biometrics Capacitive fingerprint scanner
Face unlock
Sensors Proximity sensor, In-screen ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Electronic compass, Vibration motor, IR blaster
Headphone jack Yes
Connectivity LTE FDD: B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B20/B28
LTE TDD: B38/B40
WCDMA: B1/B2/B4/B5/B8
GSM: B2/B3/B5/B8
Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz): 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi Direct/Wi-Fi Display
Bluetooth 5.0

Value for money

  • Redmi Note 8 — 4GB RAM, 64GB storage: Rs. 9,999, ~$141
  • Redmi Note 8 — 6GB RAM, 128GB storage: Rs. 12,999, ~$183

Up till a few quarters ago, the Redmi Note 8 was an unchallenged competitor in the entry to mid-range smartphone segment. Since then, brands such as Realme, Samsung and Motorola have made a renewed focus in the space.

Realme, in particular, is following Xiaomi’s model of bringing high-end specs to a budget price point. It certainly helps that the company’s products deliver the goods as far as performance, design, and imaging capabilities are concerned. The Realme 5 is a direct competitor to the Redmi Note 8 and offers a larger battery and a flashier design at a similar price point. The Redmi Note 8, however, trounces it in imaging prowess.

Buy the Redmi Note 8 at Mi.com

The Motorola Moto One Macro is another option. While it won’t stun you with its imaging capability, you do get a clean, near-stock build of Android, which is appealing to a lot of users.

Redmi Note 8 review: The verdict

Redmi Note 8 rear gradient and camera module

The Redmi Note 8 is a very good smartphone that falls just short of excellence. A lot of it has to do with the sheer amount of competition in the market. Now that consumers have umpteen options that deliver on features, hardware, and design, the Redmi Note 8 isn’t quite the standout device that the line-up stood once embodied.

That said, as long as you can live with the quirks of MIUI, the hardware is reliable and delivers all-day battery life, reasonably good performance, and a camera that is just as good as, if not better than, the competition.

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