Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro hands-on

To say that Xiaomi has dominated the budget segment in India over the last year would be an understatement. The Redmi 5A is the best-selling Android phone globally, four of the top five best-selling phones in India over the course of 2018 are made by Xiaomi, and the company sure is starting to look comfortable at the top of India's handset market.

A particular standout this year was the Redmi Note 5 Pro. What made the device such a success was the hardware. The phone was the first to be powered by the Snapdragon 636, which offered a significant performance boost from the outgoing SD625. The camera also received a major upgrade, and the switch to an 18:9 form factor only made it more enticing.

Nine months later, Xiaomi is now introducing the Redmi Note 6 Pro in India. The phone doesn't deviate much from its predecessor, retaining the same hardware while offering a few upgrades. The screen now has a notch, the main camera module has 1.4-micron pixels, there are two cameras at the front, and there are new additions on the software side of things. Here's what you need to know about Xiaomi's upcoming budget monster.

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Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro hands-on

Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro What I like

One reason for Xiaomi's success is its ability to flood the market with a variety of models that cater to specific use cases. The company sells over 10 phones in the budget segment alone, and while there's little to differentiate between each model when talking about specs, the one phone that has always stood out was the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The phone debuted back in February, and it's safe to say that it was one of the best devices — if not the best overall — to grace this segment in 2018.

Xiaomi isn't reinventing the wheel with the Redmi Note 6 Pro. A lot of the design elements are similar to that of its predecessor, with minor refinements. There's a subtle curve running along the edges at the back that makes it easier to hold the phone.

It's a subtle difference, and one that's noticeable only when you use both phones next to each other. There are minor changes up front as well: there's now a cutout that allows for more screen real estate, and the bottom bezel has also been trimmed. The result is that the Redmi Note 6 Pro features a 6.26-inch screen in roughly the same chassis as its predecessor.

There aren't a lot of changes when it comes to the internal hardware either. The Redmi Note 6 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 636, and Xiaomi will sell it in 4GB and 6GB variants. The performance is just as great, and with the phone running MIUI 10 out of the box, you'll see a definite uptick in fluidity.

There's a lot going on elsewhere: you get a 4000mAh battery, 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, a hybrid SIM card tray that can accommodate a MicroSD card up to 256GB, an IR blaster up top, and a headphone jack next to it.

Interestingly, the Redmi Note 6 Pro comes with a P2i coating that should give it an added layer of protection against the elements. There's no IP rating, but the device should be able to withstand the occasional splash of water.

Xiaomi doesn't make a lot of changes to what is clearly a winning formula.

The main highlight with the Redmi Note 6 Pro is the dual cameras at the front. The 20MP camera is joined by a 2MP module that adds depth information. There's a dual camera arrangement at the back as well, with the 12MP primary camera bolstered by a 5MP shooter. While the rear camera setup is the same as the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the primary camera has 1.4-micron pixels.

With dual cameras at the front and back, Xiaomi is making new portrait mode features available. Portrait mode in general looks better than the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and there are light trails and other settings available that add another dimension to the feature. I've been using the phone for just over a day, but it's evident that portrait mode is going to be a differentiator on the Redmi Note 6 Pro.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro hands-on

Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro What needs work

The one major issue I have with the Redmi Note 6 Pro is that it is still using a MicroUSB charging port. Xiaomi says it is switched to a corrosive-resistant alloy that should allow it to last longer in India's extreme weather conditions, but with the Mi A2 costing about the same and offering USB-C, there's no reason for the Note 6 Pro to not do the same. It's inexcusable for a phone launching at the end of 2018 to still have a MicroUSB port.

There is a way to make an aluminum phone look great — just look at the Nokia 6.1.

Little has changed on the design front as well. Sure, the curvier design leads to better in-hand feel, but the overall aesthetic leaves a lot to be desired. With Honor and Nokia pushing glass-backed options in this category, the onus is on Xiaomi to come up with a more modern design language.

Xiaomi says it's reticent to move to a glass back as the series 6000 aluminum back on the Redmi Note 6 Pro is much more rugged for everyday use cases, but then the Nokia 6.1 also features the same aluminum alloy while looking much more premium.

And although the phone comes with MIUI 10 out of the box, it is still based on Android 8.1 Oreo. There's no timeline for when Pie will roll out to the device, and it's clear that Xiaomi is positioning the unique set of features on offer with MIUI as more of a differentiator than the latest version of Android.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro hands-on

Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro Bottom line

Xiaomi didn't specify how much the phone will cost in India, but it should be in the same ballpark as its predecessor. That means we're looking at sub-₹15,000 pricing ($210), which should allow Xiaomi to dominate this segment well into 2019.

Like most manufacturers, Xiaomi is following a tick-tock release cycle, where a major upgrade is followed by an iterative version that offers added refinements. As such, there's little reason to upgrade to the Redmi Note 6 Pro if you're coming from a Redmi Note 5 Pro. But if you're currently running a Redmi Note 4 or older, there's a lot to like here.

Considering the sheer number of products that are available in this category, you're spoilt for choice. If MIUI is not to your liking, then you can pick up the Mi A2, which is available for ₹16,999, or the Nokia 6.1 Plus. Then there's always the POCO F1 at ₹20,999, which is in another league of its own.

At the end of the day, it's easy to see why Xiaomi has become so dominant in India over the last two years. The company has unmatched breath and depth in this category, starting from the ₹5,999 Redmi 6A all the way to the ₹29,999 Kevlar variant of the POCO F1. It's no wonder, then, that Xiaomi has been the number one manufacturer in India for five straight quarters. And it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon, unless Samsung drastically changes its strategy in the budget segment.

For now, the Redmi Note 6 Pro is a solid upgrade that is set to further Xiaomi's momentum in the budget segment. I'll have much more to share about the device in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.