Hands on: Xiaomi Redmi 5A review

More of a price revision for the cheapest Redmi phone

What is a hands on review?
TODO alt text

Our Early Verdict

The Redmi 5A is a perfect balance of dependable hardware and software features under a budget. It has all the characteristics to be the leader in its segment.

For

  • Steady performance
  • Value for money
  • Good build and design
  • IR blaster

Against

  • No fingerprint sensor
  • No gyroscope

Xiaomi as we all know is the king in the budget smartphone segment when it comes to online market in India. Almost every phone from the company has managed to beat down the limitations which consumers find on an affordable handset. The Redmi 4A is one solid example that redefined not just the price to performance ratio but also changed the perception most of us have about budget phones. 

Taking ahead its leadership under the 7k price bracket, Xiaomi unveiled the Redmi 5A in India pitching it as 'Desh Ka Smartphone', which is essentially a minor upgrade over its predecessor. When compared to the 4A, both the phones hardly have any differences. It's more like how OnePlus 5T looks in front of the OnePlus 5

What still keeps the Redmi 5A on top of the competition is its hardware under the price. Xiaomi has announced that the 2GB RAM and 16GB storage variant will be up for grabs at Rs 4,999 for first 5 million units, thereafter, the price will revert to the original, Rs 5,999. On the other hand, the 3GB RAM and 32GB storage variant will continue to retail at Rs 6,999. 

Xiaomi was generous enough to share the Redmi 5A with us before the launch, and the device has been serving us well right from the time we unboxed it. After using the phone for more than 5 days, we are ready with our initial thoughts about the phone. So, can the Redmi 5A can be the perfect smartphone for people on a tight budget? Let's find out.

Xiaomi Redmi 5A price and release date

The 2GB RAM + 16GB storage variant is priced at INR 4,999 for the first five million units, post which, it will be available for INR 5,999. The 3GB RAM + 32GB storage variant is priced at INR 6,999. 

Redmi 5A will be available from 12 noon on December 7, across Flipkart, Mi.com, and Mi Home stores, followed by offline retailers including Mi Preferred Partners in the subsequent weeks.

Design and display

The Redmi 5A features a unibody design having a metallic finish on top of a good quality plastic back. It looks identical to its other Redmi counterparts, or a shrunken Redmi 4 in a plastic body or the Redmi 4A with a curved back. The sides are metal which packs it firmly, hence it feels pretty sturdy to hold. It weighs 137 grams, and measures 140.4 x 70.1 x 8.4 mm, which translates into the fact that it's a pretty handy device. 

Similar to the Redmi 4A, it has the front camera, earpiece and ambient light sensor on the top of the display. The capacitive navigations keys are right below the display, which unfortunately isn't backlit. Power/lock key is on the right accompanied by the volume rocker. On the left edge, there are two trays-- one for dual SIM cards and other one is dedicated to microSD card. 

On the bottom, there's a micro USB port with the primary microphone and the top of the phone houses a 3.5mm audio jack and an IR blaster, which for me is a great feature. On the back panel, there's the primary camera, LED flash on the top left corner and the speaker grill is at the bottom, which also has a tiny protrusion to avoid audio blockage when the phone placed on its back. 

Overall, the design and build is nothing new for those who've seen the 4A but it hardly matters if you are spending for an experience over good looks. It is handy, fits perfectly in pockets and doesn't feel bulky despite a big battery. 

The Redmi 5A sports a 5-inch HD IPS LCD display with a 720x1280 pixels resolution. When I compared this display with other smartphones in the same price range, the handset that got closest to this phone was the Redmi 4 itself. While Redmi 4 has a sharper and punchy output, the Redmi 5A offers a display that most of us can make do with at this price point. 

Colors look rich and vivid which can be tweaked further using a manual adjustment in the display settings. Moreover, it is one of the rare phones that offers a night mode for a comfortable reading experience in darkness. There's not a lot to comment on the display as of now, as my experience is still limited and the display has turned out to be decent in terms of viewing angles and sunlight legibility.

Camera

There's a 13-megapixel setup on the rear of the Redmi 5A with a f/2.2 aperture, Phase Detection Autofocus and LED flash. PDAF is one of the upgrades in the camera department over its predecessor. It can shoot full HD (1080p) videos at 30fps. There's a 5-megapixel sensor on the front with f/2.0 aperture for selfies and video calls.

Moving on, the Redmi 5A comes with a 5-megapixel camera with f/2.0 wide aperture.

I have spent limited time with the camera so far, but what I realised during my quick encounter was on the positive side. Obviously, it's not an extraordinary camera, and we don't even expect it to be, at least by the end of 2017. Under this budget, the camera on Redmi 5A is still very good in daylight. You can check out the colours and details in the shots below to get an idea. The main reason why the pictures look good is the poor competition in this price range. It's hard to find a good camera and the Redmi does a fair job and in my personal opinion a little more than just 'fair'. 

Front camera is just average to get decent daylight shots, but you need to keep your hand steady for that. By decent I mean worthy for a Rs 6,000 phone, otherwise, the front camera is not that exciting. 

Image 1 of 5

Image 2 of 5

Image 3 of 5

Image 4 of 5

Image 5 of 5

Battery and interface

As we've not used the Redmi 5A for long, we will be updating the detailed battery performance in our full review. It's a 3,000mAh cell which is currently giving me a full day of battery backup in moderate usage.

The Redmi 5A uses the Xiaomi's latest MIUI 9 skin on top of Android 7.0 Nougat. Initial experience with the phone was pretty smooth but I have used the Redmi 4A for a long time and it tends to slow down in some functions over a period of time and this one has the same set of specifications, so you can expect the occasional slowdown. It's better to get the 3GB RAM variant to defer lags if a user plans to use the phone for a longer time.

Apart from this, MIUI 9 has managed to impress us with the kind of appearance it has. It's neat. It comes with some preloaded Mi suite of apps like Mi Store, Mi Drop, Mi Community, Mi Remote and more. Moreover, the unit we received from Xiaomi has a set of Microsoft apps, Amazon, and UC News preloaded. Upon checking, we found that these apps along with the system software have taken almost half of the memory leaving users with a little over 8GB internal storage on the 16GB variant.

The good part is that these apps are removable and you can get rid of unwanted bloatware to free up some space. However, some of these apps are useful for a lot of users and maybe that's the reason Xiaomi is continuing with them on all their phones.

Performance and specs

Redmi 5A runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 chipset and comes in 2GB/3GB of RAM options, having 16GB and 32GB of storage respectively.

As we know, Snapdragon 425 is a low-end chipset and there's not a lot to expect in this area. However, it can handle basic tasks like texting, calling, surfing and multimedia consumption easily. Don't expect the phone to run graphic intensive games as the phone slows down a bit and there are visible frame drops. However, users can play with settings lowered down to medium.

The good part is that Xiaomi has got rid of its hybrid SIM slot and added a dedicated microSD card slot that supports up to 256GB, which is really impressive for a budget phone. 

Early verdict

Xiaomi's follow up to its best selling budget phone in India is not a major upgrade, instead, it's a revision of the Redmi 4A. Xiaomi Redmi 5A may not carry a stand out feature but it subtly defines how an affordable phone can be perfect while maintaining the balance in hardware and software.

At an introductory price of Rs 4,999, it is a steal and even after the price goes up by Rs 1000. Although, we would recommend you to go for the 3GB RAM variant as it will be a more stable and smooth device between the two. The 2GB variant is a wise choice only if the price difference between the two variant is more than Rs 1000 or if a user is on a strict budget.

It is a great phone for first-time smartphone users, and if you are waiting for more on this, TechRadar's in-depth review is coming soon.  

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.