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Redmi 5A Review: Xiaomi's 'Desh ka Smartphone' is a smashing winner

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 20 December 2017, 16:49 IST
(Sahil Bhalla/Catch News)

At merely Rs 5,000, one really can't complain. There aren't a plethora of options available to the consumer. It's a range filled mostly with feature phones. Some manufacturers are teaming up with telecom operators to subsidise the cost of the smartphone for the consumer. The problem is, most if not all, come with bare minimum specifications.

The excitement for first time smartphone users is unparalleled. To that extent, Xiaomi has recently launched its successor to the Redmi 4A. The 'Desh ka Smartphone' from the Chinese company is called the Redmi 5A.

When you look at the two extremes of the smartphone market, things couldn't be more different. At the top of the range, there is Samsung's Galaxy Note 8, Apple's iPhone X, Google's Pixel 2 and a slew of other options touting their Infinity Displays, blazing fast performance and world-class cameras to boot. From the bottom of the pile, we have the all-new Redmi 5A, Motorola's Moto C Plus, Samsung's J2 and Nokia 2, which are scraping for the first time smartphone buyers.

These smartphones may not have the bells and whistles of a Rs 60k plus smartphone, but as long as they get the basic right - lag-free web browsing, video streaming, calling and testing and access to Facebook - nothing else matters.

Xiaomi's Redmi 5A has one advantage over its two main rivals that I listed above. It is better on paper - twice the amount of RAM - but is it better in day-to-day usage? Read on to find out my thoughts on the Redmi 5A smartphone

Specifications

The Redmi 5A comes with a 5-inch HD (1280x720 resolution) display. There is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 425 processor under the hood along with 2GB/3GB RAM, 16GB/32GB of storage (expandable up to 128GB via microSD card) and a 3,000 mAh battery to boot. On the rear, we have a 13-megapixel shooter. Thre is a 5-megapixel camera on the front. Finally, the smartphone comes with MIUI 9.1, based on Android 7.1 Nougat, out-of-the-box.

Design, Display & Performance

Ever heard the famous phrase, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"? That truly applies to the Redmi 5A. Take it out of the box and you'll struggle to think of what has changed from the previous budget champion, the Redmi 4A. The design is almost exactly the same and is not slippery. There is a plastic build along with a metal body and at just 137g, this is one of the lightest smartphones out there.

Furthermore, this is one of the most 'one-hand' friendly smartphones on the market. The only difference one might notice is the curvier back. Worry not though as this makes the phone grippier.

The ports on the Redmi 5A are identical to the Redmi 4A but the difference comes in the SIM/SD card slot. This time, it is a triple slot. Two dedicated SIM slots and an additional SD card slot. No need to compromise.

One thing that is missing, as with the Redmi 4A, is the fingerprint scanner. That's not surprising though, considering the price.

The sheer quality of the smartphone - I have dropped my review unit a fair few times - is commendable. Xiaomi could have gone with mediocre products for its smartphone, but it chose to go with quality.

Another feature that I loved in this budget-friendly smartphone was the placement of the capacitive buttons. They lie off the screen an not on the screen like in many other smartphones. That gives it a nice professional feel. This way, the smartphone is able to maximise the usage of the 5-inch display.

One negative is the placement of the speaker. The single-speaker on the Redmi 5A is placed on the back and therefore when the phone is kept flat on the table, the sound is very much muffled. It is even muffled when placed in the hand.

As far as performance goes, this smartphone outdoes its rivals by far. It may be using the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 quad-core processor as in the Redmi 4A but it does provide a snappy performance when doing basic tasks like browsing the web or texting a friend on WhatsApp. Opening a bunch of apps and there will be a noticeable lag, but once again, just look at the price of this smartphone.

Another downside is gaming. Most, if not all games, will take a long time to load. When they finally load, you'll notice that it isn't as smooth as competing smartphones. Fret not as this smartphone isn't supposed to be used for gaming. On the other hand, watching videos is a lag-free experience and much welcome boost from the Redmi 4A.

Battery life & Camera

With a medium-to-heavy usage (yes, I played games and watched videos every day), the smartphone comfortably lasted me twenty-four hours on the trot, which is commendable given that it only houses a 3,000 mAh battery!

You also won't need to keep this phone plugged into a wall socket at all times as it charges fairly fast. Absolutely no complaints on the battery front this time around.

Cameras on sub-Rs 10k phones are abysmal at best. Xiaomi's Redmi 5A may not have a camera as good as the Redmi Y1, or the Redmi Note 4, but it is still better than the competition out there, and frankly, that's all that matters.

Sahil Bhalla/Catch News

In fairly good outdoor conditions, the Redmi 5A proved its metal and provided me with some nice photos. A dip in quality of lighting and the photo quality significantly deteriorates. Don't even get me started on them selfies. It's not even worth talking about. Detail is absent on all the photos and they look washed out.

It may be worth it for an Instagram photo or two, but in the long run, these photos won't bring you many likes.

Is it worth a buy?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Especially if you're still using a feature phone. At Rs 4,999 (for the first five million buyers), this is an absolute steal. I've been using the 2GB/16GB variant, and I'm sure the 3GB/32GB variant is somewhat better. At Rs 6,999 though, the 3GB/32GB variant is less compelling. One can get the Redmi 4 or even the Redmi Y1 Lite at that price.

This smartphone is 'Made in India' and is one of the most affordable handsets on the market. Couple the 4G LTE with a 5-inch HD display, and you get a quality smartphone for the price.

Don't hesitate to buy this for a first time smartphone consumer out there. It will make someone's day. Or heck, buy it for yourself, as a second phone. It's a smartphone at a throwaway price and a deal one just can't afford to pass up.

First published: 20 December 2017, 16:49 IST
 
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.

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