Redmi Note 8 Pro review: Great hardware that's once again limited by poor software

Redmi Note 8 Pro review
(Image: © Apoorva Bhardwaj/Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: The Redmi Note 8 Pro gets a lot right: the Helio G90T is a great addition on the hardware front, as is the 64MP camera and 20MP front shooter. You also get great value, but the downside is the software — the phone is still on Pie, there's bloatware everywhere, and the MIUI 11 update won't be here until the end of the year.

Pros

  • +

    Great value

  • +

    Robust hardware

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    Excellent battery life

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    64MP camera is a great addition

Cons

  • -

    MIUI lacks polish

  • -

    Endless bloatware

  • -

    Still on Pie

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You know how this goes. Xiaomi knows how to roll out a phone that offers great value for money, but for whatever reason the brand just isn't able to deliver software that's free from clutter. Xiaomi has managed to hold onto its crown as India's largest handset manufacturer for two years in a row, but Realme has made considerable gains in the country over the last 15 months.

The result is a frenetic launch cycle as both brands try to outdo one another. Xiaomi rolled out the Redmi Note 7 Pro, and Realme introduced the Realme 3 Pro. Xiaomi came out with the Redmi K20 series, and Realme launched the Realme X. To say that this year has been particularly busy in India's budget segment would be an understatement.

As we get to the tail end of 2019, Xiaomi and Realme are back at it. This time, both brands are debuting phones with 64MP cameras at the back. Realme got a headstart in the Realme XT, and Xiaomi is now introducing the Redmi Note 8 Pro. This time around, both devices have near-identical features, a near-identical design aesthetic, and 64MP cameras at the back. Let's see if Xiaomi still has the advantage.

Redmi Note 8 Pro Hardware

Redmi Note 8 Pro review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj/Android Central)

The first thing you'll notice with the Redmi Note 8 Pro is just how similar it is to the Realme XT. Both phones have glass backs, and nearly identical gradient finishes. The design itself is markedly different from the Redmi Note 7 Pro, and it is easy to see the similarities between the phone and the Reedmi K20 series. The Gamma Green edition of the Redmi Note 8 Pro in particular is stunning.

Like its predecessor, the Redmi Note 8 Pro also features a mid-frame that's made out of plastic, and the front and rear panels of glass are protected by Gorilla Glass 5. The phone has a larger 4500mAh battery, however, and that has made it considerably heavier, coming in at 200g. The new camera housing at the back holds three sensors and the fingerprint reader — the macro lens sits underneath the LED flash module — and it juts considerably from the chassis. It does make the phone wobble when laid flat on a surface, and the positioning of the fingerprint sensor isn't ideal. It now sits higher than where your finger normally rests at the back, so you have to stretch your finger to access the reader.

The in-hand feel is pretty great thanks to the curved sides, but the glass back does make the phone prone to fingerprint smudges. The power and volume buttons are on the right and easily accessible, and you get decent tactile feedback.

There are two slots on the left side of the phone; one holds two SIM cards, and the other a MicroSD card. You also get a 3.5mm jack at the bottom next to the USB-C port, and the IR blaster sits at the top. There's a single speaker at the bottom, and it just doesn't get loud enough for everyday use. Furthermore, it's easy to muffle the sound coming out of the speaker when gaming.

Robust hardware with a new gaming-focused chipset that ticks all the right boxes.

The front of the Redmi Note 8 Pro is similar to what we've seen this year from the brand — there's a tiny waterdrop cutout, thin bezels at the bottom, and a wide grille on top. The screen itself is larger than the one on the Redmi Note 7 Pro, with the phone now featuring a 6.53-inch IPS LCD panel. The resolution is the same at FHD+ (2340 x 1080), and the display quality is also unchanged. Colors are cool out of the box, and you have to manually tweak the color balance to get the panel to a more natural tone.

The panel itself is decent in its own right, but it isn't quite as good as the OLED display you get on the Realme XT. Furthermore, Xiaomi is still offering a traditional fingerprint module, while the XT has an in-screen solution that works just as reliably.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
SpecsRedmi Note 8 Pro
SoftwareAndroid 9.0 Pie
Display6.53-inch (2340x1080) IPS LCD
Chipset2.05GHz MediaTek Helio G90T
RAM6GB/8GB
Storage64GB/128GB
Rear Camera 164MP, ƒ/1.9 (primary)
Rear Camera 28MP, ƒ/2.2 (wide-angle)
Rear Camera 32MP, ƒ/2.4 (portrait)
Rear Camera 42MP, ƒ/2.4 (macro)
Front Camera20MP, ƒ/2.0
SecurityRear fingerprint
Battery4500mAh, 18W
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 ac, BT5.0
ColorsGamma Green, Halo White, Shadow Black
Dimensions161.4 x 76.4 x 8.8mm
Weight200g

Interestingly, Xiaomi went with MediaTek instead of Qualcomm for the Redmi Note 8 Pro. The phone is the first to be powered by the 12nm Helio G90T. MediaTek hasn't fared well in the mid-range segment, but it's looking to change that with the G90T, its first chipset optimized for gaming. The chipset features a two-core cluster with two Cortex A76 cores at 2.05GHz and six energy-efficient A55 cores at 2.0GHz, and ARM's Mali G76 GPU.

The Helio G90T is aimed at the mid-range segment, so it's going up against the likes of the Snapdragon 730G, Qualcomm's take on a gaming-centric chipset. The G90T manages to outmatch the regular 730 in synthetic tests, and almost comes close to last year's Snapdragon 845. That's a big deal when you consider the segment the Redmi Note 8 Pro is targeted at, and shows just how much power is on offer here.

The G90T is in a class of its own in terms of gaming, but there is an issue with overheating. The Redmi Note 8 Pro got uncomfortably hot after just 20 minutes of gaming, and Xiaomi's decision to add liquid cooling to bring down the thermals makes sense now.

On the battery side of things, the 4500mAh battery on the Redmi Note 8 Pro is more than adequate for a full day's worth of use. I routinely got two days of usage between charges, and the highlight this time around is 18W fast charge delivered over Quick Charge 4.0+. It is great to see Xiaomi offer fast charging options in this category, and you even get an 18W charger in the box.

Redmi Note 8 Pro Camera

Redmi Note 8 Pro review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj/Android Central)

One of the standout features on the Redmi Note 8 Pro is the 64MP camera at the back. The primary sensor is joined by three other modules: an 8MP ultra-wide lens, 2MP portrait lens, and a 2MP macro shooter. If that arrangement sounds familiar, it's because Realme also uses the same exact array on the Realme XT.

It is coincidental that these two rivals somehow ended up with quad camera designs with the exact same hardware, but it is great news for customers as there's more choice if you're looking to pick up a phone with a 64MP shooter.

The 64MP Samsung GW1 sensor takes astounding photos in daylight, as you can see above. You get great colors with wide dynamic range, and the detail is preserved after zooming in as well. The phone also takes usable shots in artificial lighting, but it does struggle in low-light scenarios.

Furthermore, there's a noticeable difference in image quality between the main and ultra-wide lenses. You get decent shots at 2x zoom thanks to the larger 64MP shooter, and while the ultra-wide lens adds more versatility, it's clear that the portrait and macro lenses are there purely for marketing. I was able to get one or two usable shots out of the macro lens, but the effort involved in doing so makes it more of a hassle than an useful addition.

Redmi Note 8 Pro Software

Redmi Note 8 Pro review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj/Android Central)

You know that the only reason Xiaomi is able to sell its devices for so less is because of ads. You get ads all over the interface in MIUI, and that's now a "feature" that's unique to Xiaomi. But with the Redmi Note 8 Pro, the bloatware situation is on an entirely different level.

The sheer amount of bloatware on this phone is mind-boggling — I haven't used any phone that has this much bloatware installed.

You get the usual set of Xiaomi services installed out of the box — Mi Credit, Mi Pay, Mi Video, Notes, Music, Mi Store, and Mi Community — and that's fine. But you also get a folder that includes Paytm, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Dailyhunt, Gaana, WPS Office, and Opera Mini. That's not all either; there's a secondary folder with "games" that you may find of interest, including Ludo Master, Dust Settle, Pop Shooter Blast, and Block Puzzle Guardian.

Xiaomi is now teaming up with Amazon, so you get two different apps for Alexa installed out of the box, with Xiaomi touting that the Redmi Note 8 Pro is the first phone in India to "offer" Alexa out of the box. The bloatware journey on the Redmi Note 8 Pro isn't done yet, because you also get two social networking apps: Helo and Likee. The latter has over 100 million installs (opens in new tab) and has an Editor's Choice award on the Play Store.

Redmi Note 8 Pro review

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda/Android Central)

I've never heard of Likee before, but after launching the app for the first time it started playing a video that was wildly inappropriate. The fact that I couldn't find a list of four thumbnails that didn't have some kind of sexual content tells you everything you need to know about Likee. Xiaomi's audience skews younger, and for the brand chose to pre-install something like this on its latest phone is a misguided move.