Xiaomi has been on a roll in markets like India and is steadily outranking well-entrenched market leaders like Samsung. The budget segment, the driving force in developing markets, is where Xiaomi has a strong portfolio.
Xiaomi offers value-for-money smartphones that boast of best-in-class specifications. In last three years in India, Xiaomi has launched several bestselling budget smartphones. The success has also meant Xiaomi going all in crowding the segment with multiple models at overlapping price points.
Early in 2017, Xiaomi launched the Redmi 4A, an entry-level smartphone for first-time smartphone buyers and those on a tight budget. The Redmi 5A is the next in the series, although you’d be hard-pressed to find any difference between the two. I used the Redmi 5A for a couple of weeks, and here are my thoughts on the device.
For this review, I took the low spec’d Indian variant of the Redmi 5A, the one with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, for a spin. In India, Xiaomi has discounted the price of the same to ₹4,999 ($78) from ₹5,999 for the first five million units to be sold, and since that’s the current price, my opinion of the phone is basis the discounted price.
The Redmi 5A looks just like any other entry-level Android smartphone and is not much of a departure from the Redmi 4A. It’s all plastic, although the faux metallic finish at the back makes for a fair design choice.
The smartphone sports chunky bezels at top and bottom, but since it only has a 5-inch display, it still is a compact phone that is comfortable to grip and in one-handed usage. The Redmi 5A weighs only 137 grams with a thickness of 8.35 mm, and definitely feels lighter than some of the other phones in the segment.
Just like the Redmi 4A, the Redmi 5A too sports a 5-inch HD display with a pixel density of 296 ppi. For a budget smartphone, the display does a fair job. The images are sharp, and the text looks crisp enough. The viewing angles are great too.
The colors don’t really overwhelm you, but that’s understandable for a phone at this price. I like vivid and saturated displays, but you get what you pay for.
Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, the Redmi 5A packs in 2 GB of RAM with 16 GB of internal storage. The higher spec’d variant, which I haven’t tested, comes with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB internal storage.
The Redmi 5A isn’t an upgrade from the 4A, as is evident in the choice of innards which are identical to the predecessor. But that’s okay since Xiaomi does well to balance cost and performance for this budget workhorse.
The Redmi 5A is a decent performer for everyday tasks but only for casual users, mind you. If you push it, you’d hit some lags or stuttering when you’re multitasking. You can play graphic-intensive games, but the performance isn’t that smooth. That’s expected in this price range, really. Xiaomi does well to squeeze in the best it can.
The 3,000 mAh battery lasts for a full day easily with heavy usage. The battery is slightly smaller than Redmi 4A (3,120 mAh), but for most users, over a day of battery life is pretty good.
Unlike the hybrid tray setup that we saw on Redmi 4A and most Xiaomi smartphones in the past, the Redmi 5A offers a dedicated microSD card slot along with the ability to use two nano SIMs.
Like other Xiaomi devices, the Redmi 5A too packs in an IR emitter that allows you to use your smartphone as a remote to control household appliances. It’s a nifty addition, and while Xiaomi has backed it all along, it’s a shame we don’t see it far and wide in the market.
The Redmi 5A doesn’t sport a fingerprint scanner which is a fair omission for an entry-level smartphone.
When we look at the camera performance of the Redmi 5A, we’d have to keep its price in consideration. Till recently, most budget smartphones could only manage to offer a passable camera, but the Xiaomi line-up sometimes surprises with sub-₹10,000 devices that manage to take some good shots.
The 13 MP primary camera on the Redmi 5A is one of those. In bright daylight, I managed to take some great shots with good details and enough sharpness. The camera also manages to lock focus very quickly. The color reproduction is a hit-and-miss though – it’s mostly good in close-up shots.
In low light, there’s quite a drop in quality, but that’s expected. The camera can record 1080p videos that are strictly okay.
The 5 MP front shooter is weak and the aggressive beautification by default makes faces look extremely artificial.
The Redmi 5A runs on MIUI 9, the latest version of company’s proprietary UI layer based on Android 7.1 Nougat. Xiaomi devices are notorious for not keeping up with the latest Android versions since the company instead focuses on MIUI upgrades over time.
MIUI 9 is one of the better Android skins out there and has a lot of fans. There’s evident attention to detail and the user experience is polished and quite cohesive. If you’ve used a Xiaomi phone in the past, MIUI is a comfortable territory for you. However, if this is your first one, getting comfortable with MIUI is not much of a task since it’s quite intuitive.
That said, MIUI is not known as the lightest skin out there, and hence 2 GB RAM is just enough to get you going with almost half a gig of RAM free available at any point. The company claims, not incorrectly, that the latest iteration MIUI 9 improves performance, but it still cannot match what a similarly spec’d phone can manage with stock Android over time.
There are nifty tools and utilities baked in – most of them quite handy – including features like Second Space for privacy and Dual Apps to run a second instance of any apps and apps like Mi Remote to use in conjunction with the IR emitter and Mi Drop to transfer files between two smartphones. There’s also a security app which bundles a lot of maintenance and optimization tools.
|Display||5-inch HD (720 x 1280) IPS LCD|
|Operating System||Android 7.1.2 Nougat|
|Processor||Qualcomm MSM8917 Snapdragon 425|
Quad-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53
Adreno 308 GPU
|Internal Storage||16/32 GB|
Expandable up to 256 GB with microSD card
|Rear Camera||13 MP with LED flash|
Phase detection autofocus
|Front Camera||5 MP|
|Dimensions||140.4 x 70.1 x 8.4 mm|
Pricing and final thoughts
The base variant of Redmi 5A is an excellent value-for-money smartphone.
Xiaomi continues to impress with its budget smartphones, and although the Redmi 5A doesn’t offer anything extra than 4A, it is an excellent value-for-money smartphone at its original price of ₹5,999 ($94).
At the discounted price of ₹4,999 ($78), it is a steal, really. But like with all Xiaomi devices, availability will remain a challenge despite company’s major push in the offline market.
The 3 GB + 32 GB variant at ₹6,999 ($110) is a less compelling option as other Xiaomi devices like the Redmi 4 and Redmi Y1 Lite could be better options for most people at that price.
The Redmi 5A is a great option for first-time smartphone users and for anyone looking for a basic Android smartphone on a budget.