Xiaomi launched a slew of new Redmi and Redmi Note smartphones last month as the market shows no signs of slowing down. So far there has been no shortage of competition for the Chinese giants, but it has managed to keep up. Shoppers don't seem to care too much as they do more than ever for their money when it comes to it. The Redmi 8 is the latest iteration of a Xiaomi with affordable model prices, so it automatically has a huge potential audience.
With the introduction of the Redmi 8, the company has made some progress in terms of functionality and also appears to have regressed in one important area – the processor. Is this a big change and repositioning of a key product for Xiaomi, and does it make sense to allocate more budget to other things like cameras and battery capacity? It's time to check out the Redmi 8 and find out.
Redmi 8 design
As we have already seen with Redmi 8A (test) and Redmi Note 8 Pro (test), Xiaomi has given this phone generation a fairly extensive design update. There is a very specific new design language that is characterized by the generic iPhone-inspired look of past models. The Redmi 8 also feels extremely high quality, with a lot of attention paid to small details, and no rough edges anywhere. No wonder the company has struck a "Designed by Xiaomi" label prominently on the back.
The Redmi 8 is available in three colors – Onyx Black, Sapphire Blue and Ruby Red. Our test device was the latter, and we love the rich, deep jewel tone, which is clearly not just coating at the surface level. There are no unnecessary gimmicks with gradients, patterns or textures. The back of the phone is shiny, but not slippery. It's surprisingly resistant to fingerprints, but you'll want to use a case to prevent minor abrasions and scratches. It is precisely curved at the edges and corners to facilitate use.
The two cameras and the fingerprint sensor are in a black vertical stripe in the middle of the back. This stripe is flush with the rest of the phone, unlike the protruding equivalent of the Redmi Note 8 Pro. The fingerprint sensor is small but reasonably within range. The Redmi 8 does not rock back and forth when it is flat on a table.
The front of the Redmi 8 is pretty normal – the 6.22-inch display has thick borders, and there is a water drop-like notch at the top. The chin is thick enough to fit a Redmi logo that we wouldn't have preferred to be there. It's pretty obvious that Xiaomi used several common elements on this phone and the cheaper Redmi 8A, and the two are indistinguishable from a different perspective than the back.
Xiaomi surprises us with a USB Type-C port on the entry-level Redmi 8A so of course there is one here too. There is a 3.5mm audio jack and a single speaker on the bottom of the phone. The on / off and volume buttons are conveniently located on the right, and two nano SIM cards and a microSD card can be inserted in the left compartment. Unlike its less expensive sibling, the Redmi 8 has an infrared heater on the top, for controlling devices with it.
Overall, the Redmi 8 looks and feels like it's much more expensive than it really is. It would have been impossible to imagine this level of finesse for less than Rs. 10,000 a few years ago.
Redmi 8 specifications and software
While the exterior of this phone is impressive, the choice of Xiaomi components on the inside raises some questions. We have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor, which is slightly downgraded compared to the Snapdragon 632 used in the Redmi 7 (review). Both processors were launched at the same time last year, so Xiaomi hasn't even gone with a newer chip, which would have been essentially more efficient. Interestingly, this is the same chip that powers the entry-level Redmi 8A (review) and even the Redmi 7A (review). It has four ARM Cortex-A53 cores with up to 1.45 GHz and another four with 1.95 GHz and integrated Adreno 505 graphics.
There are many more similarities between the Redmi 8 and the Redmi 8A. The two have the same screen specifications – 6.22-inch 720 x 1520-pixel IPS panels designed for 70.8 percent of the NTSC color gamut. Both phones also have 5000mAh batteries and support 18W charging and Xiaomi supplies 10W chargers in both models in small boxes. Another nice touch is that you can use FM radio without plugging in headphones to act as an antenna.
While the Redmi 8A has the edge with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB storage space, the basic version of the Redmi 8 offers an option with up to 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage space. Interestingly, the Xiaomi sale is just this variant at a discount as an introductory offer, and it's what we're reviewing today. MicroSD cards up to 512 GB are supported. Both phones are equipped with 12-megapixel 1: 1.8 cameras on the back and 8-megapixel 1: 2 cameras on the front. However, the Redmi 8 also has a depth sensor on the back.
You won't be surprised to read that both phones weigh 188g and have identical dimensions. In terms of hardware, the only differences between these phones seem to be the depth sensor, fingerprint reader, IR emitter, and the amount of RAM and memory you can get with the Redmi 8. It's not unexpected, but it makes it hard to see the Redmi 8 as a great value.
We have MIUI 10.3.1 based on Android 9 and our test unit ran the security patch for August 2019. MIUI is well known, but in the past it annoyed us with many pre-installed bloatware, advertising and spam notifications. Nothing has changed – in addition to a large number of Xiaomi apps, we have also seen UC Browser, Paytm, Amazon Shopping, Facebook, Dailyhunt, Gaana and Opera Mini as well as a number of apps from Google. The decisions made by Xiaomi make no sense either – nobody needs four pre-installed web browsers.
Some of these apps have published regular advertising messages after their first use. The good news is that you can uninstall any third party. Unfortunately, there are still ads in Xiaomi's standard applications, and you'll see pop-up ads when installing something from the Google Play Store.
At least MIUI looks relatively smooth and polished. There are several useful features such as locking apps, cloning apps, a private "second space" profile, navigation gestures and shortcuts, and independent whitelists that can be used to prevent apps from using mobile data and Wi-Fi. Google's digital well-being is also supported.
Redmi 8 performance and battery life
We could be a little bit spoiled after so many Xiaomi reviews of the previous phone that exceeded our expectations that the Redmi 8 falls a little flat. There's nothing wrong with its performance and it's definitely good enough for all-day tasks, but it's not exciting or new. There are other options for less than Rs. 8,000 with more powerful processors, including the Realme 3i (Review).
The fingerprint sensor worked fine, but we were warned that facial recognition is not very secure and could possibly be defeated with a photo of you or someone who looks like you. MIUI is easy to use and you can manually disable or remove notifications for many of the problematic apps, although nobody should be doing it. As always, the infrared heater is a nice touch that many people can at least partially use.
The display is good enough for movies and occasional social videos. It is not particularly clear, but is bright enough to be used quite well, even in direct sunlight. Widevine DRM is limited to L3, so you would be streaming videos in lower than HD quality, but you might not even notice it. The speaker is surprisingly clear and loud.
Our benchmark tests showed exactly how the Snapdragon 439 stands out from the competition. We received 95,930 points in AnuTuTu and 4,698 points in PCMark and 178 and 822 points in Geekbench 5s single-core and multi-core runs. Graphics performance was also on the lower side with only 35fps and 14fps in GFXBench T-rex and 3.1 Manhattan tests.
When playing, it is better to stick to simple titles. We were able to run PUBG Mobile, but only with low settings and also with a lot of jerking. Asphalt 9: Legends also ran, but with some serious delays that made it much less pleasant than usual. We also noticed that the back of this phone got quite warm after two or three races.
On the other hand, the battery was pleasantly stressful for a day. To do this, many camera samples had to be taken, these games played and around two hours of video streaming carried out. Our HD video loop test ran for 11 hours, 44 minutes, which isn't great, but it's not bad either. With the included 10 W power supply, we were able to charge up to 25 percent in 30 minutes and 51 percent in one hour.
Redmi 8 cameras
Cameras are hugely important in a smartphone, and some manufacturers are now offering multiple cameras to seduce buyers. Xiaomi has stuck with a dual camera setup, which actually means you have a camera with a depth sensor for portrait effects. However, quality leaves something to be desired.
We found that the Redmi 8 sometimes took a little too long to shoot a subject and that the exposure was not correct with white subjects or a light background. At night as well as in portrait mode during the day, we often encounter a deep yellow tone in the viewfinder and in saved images. We had to point away from our subject or restart the camera app to force the color balance to be recalibrated.
In terms of photo quality, things were a success or failure during the day. We did capture some sharp shots with good detail, but often we also saw blurry or dull results that were disappointed. We took multiple shots of each subject to maximize our chances of getting a good shot.
Of course, if you use the camera in standard mode, you get a nice depth of field. Portrait mode shots in the viewfinder messed up how the phone was simply unable to detect edges, but the saved results were OK. The front camera did not capture large details in selfies.
At night, except for the hue problem we described earlier, we found it difficult to get usable shots. The details were spotty and the focus was not very sharp. We had to stand very still to avoid blurred motion. However, there was a fairly detailed and subjects were well defined with a little ambient light around. Unfortunately, selfies were completely blurry and chaotic.
Video recording goes up to 1080p 30fps and detail as well as exposure during the day were decent as well as at night. The stabilization is absent and you should not try to move while shooting.
Many Indian smartphone buyers are very aware of the specifications, including the number and type of SoC CPU cores. This is especially true for young people who upgrade at least once a year and buy devices online – which is a major swath of the market. With the Redmi 8, Xiaomi is evading raw performance and concentrating on quality-of-life functions and design. The intent seems to be to make a firm distinction between the Redmi models and their Redmi Note siblings, who are a step or two on the price ladder.
The Redmi 8 is certainly a good looking phone, and on paper at least the battery, camera and aesthetics are all very appealing. You get generous amounts of RAM and memory for the price. Gorilla Glass, 18W fast charge (if you own or buy your own charger), wireless FM radio, USB Type C and the IR transmitter are all advantages.
In the real world, however, we were disappointed with the cameras. We think Xiaomi could have done this much better, and if the problems we are facing are not resolved by software updates, some buyers will feel let down.
Buyers who are considering this phone should take a closer look at the Redmi 8A (Review) to see if they can lose something as it could save them money. You might be tempted to act quickly to get the 4GB RAM / 64GB memory variant hooked at a discount while the introductory offer lasts. However, we suggest that those who value performance may wait a bit until we rate the recently announced Redmi Note 8. With a comparatively small price increase, it could apparently bring much more.