Realme 5i was launched in India late last week, Realme's first smartphone for 2020. Positioned as a replacement to the Realme 5 (Review), the 5i brings minor design tweaks and specification changes compared to the Realme 5 and even the Realme 5s (Review), but nothing has changed too drastically. Naturally, this begs the question — is it the best phone you can buy for under Rs. 10,000 right now? And how does it compare to its peers?
One of its competitors is the Redmi 8 (Review), which is priced a bit lower, but looking at the specifications of both phones side-by-side, it seems as though the Realme 5i (Review) offers better value in many aspects. The Redmi Note 8 (Review) is another competitor, priced against the Realme 5s, which is very similar to the Realme 5i but with slightly better specifications. You can have a look at just how similar all the Realme models are in this quick comparison.
The Redmi Note 8, however, offers a higher resolution display, a glass back, and a USB Type-C port with fast charging — all features that are missing from the Realme 5i. So, does it make sense to buy the Realme 5i or put in a bit more money and get the Redmi Note 8? We decided to find out.
Realme has tweaked the design of the 5i a bit, compared to the 5 and the 5s. It's a tad slimmer at 9mm and a bit lighter at 195g. The back is still made of laminated plastic but the design is different. Instead of its trademark diamond-cut pattern, Realme has used a new ‘Sunrise Design' which also looks good. In fact, we like it better, as the matte finish isn't reflective and fingerprints aren't easily visible.
The Redmi Note 8 on the other hand is slimmer and lighter than the Realme 5i, measuring 8.35mm in thickness and weighing 188g. The back has a glossy finish, which does attract fingerprints easily, but it's the same Gorilla Glass 5 as the display, which gives it a premium look and feel.
In terms of connectivity, both phones feature two Nano-SIM slots plus a dedicated microSD card slot. Both also have a headphone socket but the Redmi Note 8 scores a few extra points here as it has a USB Type-C port, versus the Micro-USB port on the 5i. The Redmi Note 8 also has an IR blaster on the top, which the 5i lacks. Both phones have a single speaker on the bottom. Button placement is good on both and they both have an equally thick bump on their backs, due to the camera modules.
The Realme 5i and Redmi Note 8 have similar sized displays, measuring 6.5 inches and 6.3 inches respectively. However, there's a big difference in the resolutions. The 5i has an HD+ (1600x720) display with a 269ppi density, but the Redmi Note 8 has a Full-HD+ (2340x1080) which works out to 403ppi. The difference in sharpness and image quality is evident when you look at images and videos on the two phones side-by-side. The default colour tone of the Redmi Note 8 is a little cooler, but you can tweak this in the Settings app.
Both phones have rear capacitive fingerprint sensors. The Redmi Note 8 offers a slightly better bundle in the retail package. You get a silicone case and an 18W fast charger, which don't come with the 5i.
The Realme 5i and the Redmi Note 8 are both evenly matched when it comes to the SoC. Both phones use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 665 processor, which is decently powerful and is a slight upgrade over the popular Snapdragon 660 SoC.
The 5i is only available in one configuration, with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for Rs. 8,999. The Redmi Note 8 starts with the same amounts of RAM and storage, but at Rs. 9,999. There's also an option with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for Rs. 12,999.
The Realme 5i has a 5,000mAh battery, which is larger than the 4,000mAh one in the Redmi Note 8. Both phones have dual-band Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5, FM radio, and the same sensors. The Redmi Note 8 supports Google's Widevine L1 certification, so apps such as Netflix can stream content in higher-than-HD resolutions.
Realme and Xiaomi both use customised Android skins for their respective smartphones. Realme's ColorOS has become leaner over the years and the version on the 5i has an app drawer and a system-wide dark mode. There are plenty of preinstalled apps from Realme and third-party vendors. Thankfully, Realme's OS doesn't spam you too much with ads or unwanted notifications. The spammy notifications that do come in from apps can be disabled.
The Redmi Note 8 runs on MIUI 11, which is also based on Android 9 Pie. The interface is polished and you get plenty of options for customising the look and feel of the UI. The problem with MIUI is that you get a lot of unwanted ads that spam your notifications shade and within the stock apps, which cannot be stopped. This can get very annoying after a while. Both phones are yet to receive the Android 10 update.
As everyday workhorses, the Realme 5i and the Redmi Note 8 did a decent job in handling multitasking, and both loaded apps fairly quickly in our tests. Even though we were using the 6GB version of the Redmi Note 8, we got similar numbers in benchmarks. In AnTuTu, the 5i returned a score of 170,480 points while the Note 8 returned 174,277. In Geekbench 5, we got 310 and 1,308 points for the 5i and 309 and 1,324 from the Redmi Note 8, for the single and multi-core tests respectively. As for graphics tests, the Realme 5i took the lead since it has to render games at a lower resolution. Here, the 5i gave us 49fps while the Note 8 returned just 32fps in GFXbench's T-Rex test.
The Realme 5i performs slightly better in games, due to the lower-resolution display. The Redmi Note 8 is not bad either, but we had to scale down the graphics settings a bit in games such as PUBG Mobile in order to get similar framerates, as on the 5i. We didn't notice any heating issues on either of the phones.
Face and fingerprint recognition were quick on both phones, however we did find the Realme 5i to be a tad quicker at both. The fingerprint sensor on the Note 8 is a little smaller too, and so it isn't as easy to hit as the one on the 5i.
The Redmi Note 8 offers a better video watching experience, thanks to the higher-resolution display. You'll be able to stream full-HD videos from YouTube and other sources, which look crisp and vivid. The 5i will only stream at up to 720p resolution from YouTube and videos looked a little choppy at times. Both phones' speakers don't produce any semblance of bass, but the one on the Realme 5i sounds a bit louder.
The Realme 5i is clearly better than the Redmi Note 8 when it comes to battery life. Not only is the capacity higher, but it also lasted a lot longer (more than 24 hours) than the Redmi Note 8 (about 13 hours) in our HD video battery loop test. Both phones will easily last you through an entire workday on a single charge, even with heavy usage, but the Realme 5i will let you go for a bit longer before having to recharge it. The Redmi Note 8 offers much quicker charging (18W), compared to the slower 10W charging on the 5i.
Both phones feature a single selfie camera and four rear cameras. The primary sensors are the only real big differentiating factor here. The Realme 5i has a 12-megapixel sensor, while the Redmi Note 8 features a 48-megapixel one. The rest of the rear sensors are the same on both phones: an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera; a 2-megapixel macro camera; and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. For selfies, the 5i has an 8-megapixel camera, while the Note 8 has a 13-megapixel one.
In daylight, the Redmi Note 8 did a better job with landscapes, capturing better dynamic range, details, and white balance. It did oversharpen images, but as long as you don't crop them too much, you should be fine. The 5i shot comparatively softer images and didn't quite correct the yellowish tone in front of the buildings. Even in close-up shots, the Redmi Note 8 managed better contrast, and whites looked as they should. The Realme 5i once again had a slightly softer image with a warmer colour tone.
In Portrait mode, the Redmi Note 8 produced more natural-looking skin tones and better detail on our subject. The Realme 5i tended to smoothen skin a bit too much, and the tone was a bit too warm for our liking. Edge detection was handled decently on both phones though.
As for the wide-angle cameras, we found that the Realme 5i did a much better job with details and colours. However, when it came to the macro cameras, it was the Redmi Note 8 that managed better details.
The Realme 5i did a slightly better job with selfies, as HDR on this phone worked better than Xiaomi's implementation, especially when shooting against the light. Portrait mode on the selfie camera works well on both phones, but the Redmi Note 8 produced slightly sharper and more vivid pictures.
Video recording goes up to 4K on both phones, but neither one supports stabilisation at this resolution. Video quality is good and colours look punchy in footage shot with both phones. Videos are stabilised at 1080p, and here the Realme 5i offers slightly better stabilised footage compared to the Redmi Note 8. The wide-angle cameras on both phones can be used to shoot videos too, and here the Redmi Note 8 offers better colours, but the 5i does a better job with stabilisation.
In low light, the Redmi Note 8 gave us better detail in general. Objects appeared shaper and noise wasn't as pronounced as with the Realme 5i. Using the ‘Night' modes on both phones, the Redmi Note 8 continued to deliver better overall pictures, with sharper details and less noise. The Realme 5i also crops images heavily in this mode to compensate for hand shake, so you get less of any scene in your frame.
Even selfies shot with the Redmi Note 8 in less-than-ideal light looked better. For videos shot at night, the Redmi Note 8's output had less noise at 1080p compared to the Realme 5i. However at 4K, both phones produced a lot of colour noise, making the footage somewhat unusable.
Realme has once again modified its formula just a little bit to create yet another very good budget smartphone. The Realme 5i's (Review) tweaked design looks good, and at its asking price of Rs. 8,999 for the sole 4GB RAM configuration, it offers good value. Plus, the relatively lean software, excellent battery life, and decent gaming performance all work in its favour. A few things that could have made it even better would have been the use of a Type-C port or at least fast charging. A full-HD+ display might be asking for too much at this price, but this is where paying that Rs. 1,000 more for the Redmi Note 8 makes a lot of sense.
Xiaomi's offering is one of the very few phones at Rs. 10,000 to offer a Type-C port, fast charging, a glass back, decent cameras, and a crisp full-HD+ display -- all in a very stylish and premium-looking package. If you can live with the spammy nature of MIUI, then spending a Rs. 1,000 more for the Redmi Note 8 (Review) is well worth it.
There's no clear-cut winner here, that's for sure. If you wish to save a bit of money, then the Realme 5i is a good option, else for a bit more, you can get a more premium experience with the Redmi Note 8. Realme also has the 5s (Review) at Rs. 10,000 with a 48-megapixel camera, but it still lacks features such as a glass back or a full-HD+ display, which is what makes the Redmi Note 8 a better offering.
Realme 5 or Redmi Note 8: Which one should you buy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.