Xiaomi is a little known company from China that has been making huge strides into the North American market. They are known mostly for mobile devices like smart phones, tablets and notebook pcs. They also produced the recently released Oculus Go VR headset.
In the last couple of years Xiaomi has made a name for themselves building high quality devices at a great value compared to others in the space. In an environment where high end phones are demanding more than $1000 CAD Xiaomi is selling devices in the $150 to $300 range.
I have been happy with my Motorola built Nexus 6 but recently I’ve been feeling the lack of on board storage, second sim slot and memory hampering my experience. Which is too bad really as the Nexus 6 is a great device.
I started looking around for something else early this year. Initially I was planning on buying a Blackberry KeyONE but the supply dried up and prices started rocketing up too (due to the recently announced Key2). I did really want a physical keyboard but it just wasn’t in the cards. Then I considered a good used Google Pixel. These are really hit and miss on Ebay and I honestly would prefer a new phone. Second to last I considered going on a never never plan with my wireless provider Virgin to pick up a Samsung Galaxy S8 but that would have doubled my already expensive plan.
I then had settled on one of Blu’s newest phones but happened upon the Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus. It comes in three different colours (white, black and blue) and is powered by an 8 core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 (identifies as a 626 in CPU-Z) running at 2GHz. You also get 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage. Along with that you get the option of dual sims or a single sim and a micro SD card for extra storage.
Connectivity is good here as well. Xiaomi, unlike many other budget phone manufacturers, did not skip on dual band wireless connectivity but we are limited to 802.11n with a 5GHz band as a bonus. Would love to see 802.11ac trickle it’s way down to the more budget devices soon. We also have a built in FM radio which can be nice on occasion but not really necessary. There is no NFC built in on the Redmi 5 Plus but that’s not unheard of at this price point. Who uses Google Pay anyways? Seriously, here in Canada there is no reason to as all of our Credit and Debit cards have supported NFC payments for years now.
It’s got a six inch screen that is easily readable outside and runs at a 2160×1080 resolution. That makes this Xiaomi’s first 18:9 ultra-wide aspect screen matching those of Samsung and Apple. There is no notch and Xiaomi doesn’t make any claims of a bezeless design and to be honest I don’t care about bezeless stuff. There’s nothing really special about the screen in this case other than it’s vibrant but has relatively good contrast as well.
The phone does come equipped with Gorilla Glass on the screen which is great and it also comes with a rubber protector for the phone. I bought a little more hefty protector off Amazon that will help keep the screen safe.
The Redmi 5 Plus comes with Android 7.1.1 installed and updates (as of this writing) to the 7.1.2 security update. It is fair to note that typically Xiaomi is not the quickest to send out updates for their devices but they do say that Oreo will be coming to the device later this year. That’s more than can be said any product from Blu.
The Redmi 5 Plus comes with Xiaomi’s own twist on the Android user interface called MIUI. While it is aesthetically pleasing to use with a ton of available themes (free and paid) to download I prefer to stick with my much more customizeable Nova Launcher. I do think that’s the power user in me though and most users will be fine with the default MIUI launcher. There are some things of MIUI that persist even with Nova Launcher running. Switching between apps shows apps with rounded corners just like the Redmi 5 Plus’ rounded corner screen. It also has it’s settings in a different order but I think in a better order than Google’s default. The phone isn’t overly crowded with default apps from Xiaomi but they do include their own app store simply called “Apps” along side Google’s Play Store. Xiaomi also provides a browser, music player, their own contacts app that doubles as the dialer for the phone, their own note taking app “notes”, and a few others.
The music app provided is a dud. While the interface is OK there are advertisements. I don’t like ads in any apps and especially my music app. This was easily fixed when the Stellio music player was reinstalled during initial setup.
It was also an easy transition from my Nexus 6 to the Redmi 5 Plus as the setup easily imported everything from my Nexus 6 and started downloading my apps immediately. I barely missed a beat.
The Redmi 5 Plus feels really good in the hands even though there is not metal to touch anywhere. Speaking of touching there is a fingerprint reader (OH THANK GOODNESS) on the back under the camera and while initially this felt a little awkward going all the way up there with my finger to unlock I quickly adjusted. The build quality is excellent for a phone of this price.
Many people consider a phones camera when buying a new phone and this is not as big of a concern to me. For good quality pictures I still rely on my trusty Canon Rebel T3 (which I know is ancient now) but having a decent camera on my phone is a positive thing too. The selfie camera (five meapixels) is way better than I expected. Obviously this is a camera Xiaomi has focused on. Very clear pictures are produced with pretty good colour reproduction. I mean it’s no Samsung but it’s more than adequate for most. The selfie camera also has a wierd addon. It not only has facial recognition but it also displays an estimate of the person’s age above the facial recognition box. It was only off a year for me (the app displayed 34, I am proudly 33). The rear camera has a higher resolution (twelve megapixels) and manages a pretty good picture as well. Lowlight conditions are not nearly as good on this phone as the Nexus 6 though where the Nexus 6 could outperform my Canon T3 if I didn’t do a lot of messing around with the camera. Both cameras can record video at 1080p but at only 30 frames per second. The rear camera can record at 2160p at 30 frames per second as well.
The 8 core Snapdragon CPU seems to be easily up to the task of gaming with games like YuGiOh! Duel Links, Pokemon Go, Hearthstone and Pinout all playing great with zero slow down (unless performance detuned to save battery like many modern games allow). Also when under heavy graphical load this phone doesn’t get hot unlike my old Nexus 6 which would get extremely hot even when games were set to lower graphical settings.
I have also noticed that this phone is much less power hungry than my Nexus 6. With a 4000mAh battery I don’t have to charge the phone towards the end of the day like I did with the Nexus 6. The downside here is the Redmi 5 Plus does not support Quickcharge 3.0 though it does support 2.0 so it can charge a but faster than a simple trickle charger. Xiaomi does not officially support Quickcharge 2.0 on here however and they do not supply a quickcharger with the unit. It is also worth it to note that the charging interface on this phone is still using a mini-USB connection instead of USB-C. This isn’t a huge deal but I do prefer the USB-C connection for devices like this. My Nintendo Switch has spoiled me.
Overall I have a very hard time finding faults with the Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus. At an MSRP of $270 CAD it’s hard to neglect the incredible value Xiaomi has created here. Even though it doesn’t have the latest and greatest hardware like the Snapdragon 845 or a QHD OLED screen it’s got it where it counts. Great battery life and performance. You can find the Redmi 5 Plus on Amazon if you are interested in picking one up. The blue version that I bought was the cheapest at the time but all the colours sit close to the MSRP.