Xiaomi has unleashed a whole pack of new Redmi and Redmi Note smartphones over the past month, as the market shows no signs of slowing down. There has so far been no lack of competition for the Chinese giant, but it has managed to keep up. Buyers don't seem to mind too much, as they're getting more for their money than ever before. The Redmi 8 is the latest iteration of one of Xiaomi's most affordable models, and so it automatically has a huge potential target audience.
With the launch of the Redmi 8, the company has taken a few steps forward in terms of features, while also seeming to regress in one key area – the processor. Does this mark a major shift for Xiaomi and a repositioning of a key product, and does it make sense to allocate more of the budget to other things like cameras and battery capacity? It's time to review the Redmi 8 and find out.
Like we've already seen with the Redmi 8A (Review) and Redmi Note 8 Pro (Review), Xiaomi has given this generation of phones a pretty major design update. There's a very specific new design language that stands out from the generic iPhone-inspired look of past models. The Redmi 8 also feels extremely high-quality, with loads of attention paid to small details, and no rough edges anywhere. No wonder the company has slapped a “Designed by Xiaomi” label prominently on the back.
The Redmi 8 is available in three colours – Onyx Black, Sapphire Blue, and Ruby Red. Our review unit was the latter, and we love the rich, deep jewel tone which clearly isn't just a surface-level coating. There are no unnecessary gimmicks here with gradients, patterns, or textures. The back of this phone is glossy but not slippery. It's surprisingly resilient against fingerprints but you'll want to use a case to prevent small abrasions and scratches. It's curved just right at the edges and corners to make usage comfortable.
The two cameras and fingerprint sensor are in a black vertical strip down the middle of the rear. This strip is flush with the rest of the phone, unlike the protruding equivalent on the Redmi Note 8 Pro. The fingerprint sensor is small, but reasonably within reach. The Redmi 8 doesn't rock from side to side when used flat on a table.
The front of the Redmi 8 is fairly standard – there are thick borders around the 6.22-inch display, and a waterdrop-style notch at the top. The chin is thick enough for a Redmi logo to fit, which we would have preferred not to be there. It's fairly obvious that Xiaomi has used several common elements across this phone and the lower-priced Redmi 8A, and the two are impossible to distinguish when seen from any angle other than the rear.
Xiaomi surprised us with a USB Type-C port on the entry-level Redmi 8A so of course there's one here too. It's joined on the bottom of the phone by a 3.5mm audio socket and single speaker. The power and volume buttons are comfortably positioned on the right, and the tray on the left accepts two Nano-SIMs as well as a microSD card. Unlike its less expensive sibling, the Redmi 8 does have an Infrared emitter on the top, for controlling appliances with.
Overall, the Redmi 8 looks and feels like it's much more expensive than it really is. It would have been impossible to even imagine this level of finesse for less than Rs. 10,000 a few years ago.
While the exterior of this phone is impressive, Xiaomi's choice of components on the inside raises a few questions. We have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor, which is a bit of a downgrade compared to the Snapdragon 632 used in the Redmi 7 (Review). Both these processors were launched at the same time last year, so Xiaomi hasn't even gone with a newer chip that might have been substantially 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 running at up to 1.45GHz and another four at 1.95GHz and integrated Adreno 505 graphics.
There are many more similarities between the Redmi 8 and the Redmi 8A. The two share the same screen specifications — 6.22-inch 720x1520-pixel IPS panels rated to handle 70.8 percent of the NTSC colour gamut. Both phones also have 5000mAh batteries and support 18W charging, and Xiaomi supplies 10W chargers in both models' retail boxes. Another nice touch is that you can use FM radio without plugging a headset in to act as an antenna.
While the Redmi 8A tops out at 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, the Redmi 8 gets that much in its base variant with an option that steps up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Interestingly, Xiaomi is selling only this variant at a discount as an introductory offer, and it's what we're reviewing today. MicroSD cards of up to 512GB are supported. Both phones have 12-megapixel f/1.8 primary rear cameras and 8-megapixel f/2 front cameras, though the Redmi 8 also has a depth sensor on the rear.
You might not be surprised to read that both phones weigh 188g and share identical dimensions. As far as hardware goes, the only differences between these phones seem to be the depth sensor, fingerprint reader, IR emitter, and amounts of RAM and storage you can get with the Redmi 8. Considering the minor price difference between them, this shouldn't be unexpected, but it does make it hard to see the Redmi 8 as delivering great value.
We have MIUI 10.3.1 based on Android 9, and our review unit was running the August 2019 security patch. MIUI is generally well regarded, but has annoyed us in the past with lots of preinstalled bloatware, ads, and spammy notifications. That hasn't changed here – we saw UC Browser, Paytm, Amazon Shopping, Facebook, Dailyhunt, Gaana, and Opera Mini in addition to a multitude of Xiaomi's own apps and quite a few from Google as well. There's really no point to the choices Xiaomi has made either – no one needs four preinstalled Web browsers.
Several of these apps started throwing up regular advertising notifications after their first use. The good news is that you can uninstall all the third-party ones. Sadly, there are also still ads in Xiaomi's default apps, and you see pop-up ads when installing anything from the Google Play Store.
At least MIUI looks relatively slick and polished. There are several useful features such app locking, app cloning, a private “second space” profile, navigation gestures and shortcuts, and independent whitelists for restricting apps from using mobile data and Wi-Fi. Google's Digital Wellbeing is also supported.
We might be a little spoiled after reviewing so many of Xiaomi's previous phones that have 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-to-day tasks, but it isn't exciting or new. There are other options available for less than Rs. 8,000 that have stronger processors, including the Realme 3i (Review).
The fingerprint sensor worked fine, but we were warned that face recognition isn't very secure and can potentially be defeated with a photo of you or by people who look like you. MIUI is easy to use and you can manually disable notifications for many of the problematic apps, or get rid of them entirely, though no one should really have to go through this. As always, the Infrared emitter is a nice touch that many people can get at least some use out of.
The display is good enough for movies and casual social videos. It isn't especially vivid, but is bright enough to be used just fine even under direct sunlight. Widevine DRM is restricted to L3 so you'll be streaming videos at lower-than-HD quality, but you might not even notice. The speaker is surprisingly crisp and loud.
Our benchmark tests showed exactly how the Snapdragon 439 stacks up against its competition. We got scores of 95,930 in AnuTuTu and 4,698 in PCMark, as well as 178 and 822 respectively in Geekbench 5's single-core and multi-core runs. Graphics performance was also on the low side with just 35fps and 14fps in GFXBench's T-rex and Manhattan 3.1 tests.
As for gaming, you're better off sticking with simple titles. We were able to run PUBG Mobile, but only at its low settings and that too with a lot of jerkiness. Asphalt 9: Legends also ran, but with some serious lag that made it much less enjoyable than usual. We also found that the back of this phone got quite warm after two or three races.
On the other hand, the battery lasted us comfortably through a full day of heavy usage which involved taking a lot of camera samples, playing these games, and about two hours of video streaming. Our HD video loop test ran for 11 hours, 44 minutes which isn't great, but isn't too bad either. We were able to charge up to 25 percent in 30 minutes and 51 percent in an hour using the included 10W power adapter.
Cameras are hugely important in a smartphone, and some manufacturers now offer multiple cameras to try to tempt buyers. Xiaomi has stuck with a dual-camera setup, which actually means you get one camera with a depth sensor for portrait effects. However, quality leaves a lot to be desired.
We found the Redmi 8 sometimes took a bit too long to lock onto a subject, and didn't quite get exposures right when dealing with white subjects or bright backgrounds. At night as well as in portrait mode during the day, we often encountered a deep yellow tone in the viewfinder and in saved shots. We had to point away from our subject or restart the camera app to force it to recalibrate its colour balance.
As for photo quality, things were hit-or-miss during the day. We did capture some crisp shots with good detail, but many times we were also disappointed to see blurred or dull results. We wound up taking several shots of each subject to maximise our chances of getting a good one.
You can get some nice depth-of-field naturally using the camera in its default mode. Portrait mode shots looked botched in the viewfinder, like the phone was simply unable to detect edges, but the saved results were fine. The front camera didn't capture great detail in selfies.
At night, other than the colour tone issue we described earlier, we found it hard to get usable shots. Details were blotchy and focus was not very sharp. We had to stand very still to avoid causing motion blur. However, there was a fair amount of detail and subjects were well defined with a bit of ambient lighting around. Selfies were unfortunately completely blurry and messy.
Video recording goes up to 1080p 30fps and detail as well as exposure were decent in the daytime as well as at night. Stabilisation is non-existent and you shouldn't try to move around while shooting.
Many Indian smartphone buyers are very conscious of specifications, down to the number and type of SoC CPU cores. This is especially true of young people who upgrade at least once a year and buy devices online – which is a huge swathe of the market. With the Redmi 8, Xiaomi is sidestepping raw performance and focusing on quality-of-life features as well as design. The intention seems to be to establish a firm distinction between the Redmi models and their Redmi Note siblings which are a step or two up the price ladder.
The Redmi 8 is certainly a good-looking phone, and on paper at least the battery, camera, and aesthetics are all highly appealing. You get generous amounts of RAM and storage for the price. Gorilla Glass, 18W fast charging (if you have or buy your own charger), wireless FM radio, USB Type-C, and the IR emitter are all value-adds.
In the real world, we were disappointed with the cameras though. This is something that we think Xiaomi could have done much better at, and unless the issues we faced can be fixed with software updates, some buyers are going to feel let down.
Buyers considering this phone should take a close look at the Redmi 8A (Review) to see if there's anything they don't mind losing, since that could save them some money. You might be tempted to act quickly in order to snag the 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant at a discount while the introductory offer lasts. However, we'd suggest that people who value performance wait a little while for our upcoming review of the freshly announced Redmi Note 8, which looks like it could deliver a lot more for a relatively small step up in price.