The Redmi Note series phones have a distinctive and hugely successful place in the Indian mid-range, having almost redefined it and made it their own in the past couple of years. The Note 5 Pro, launched earlier this year, refined the formula of performance, longevity and price to a point where Xiaomi saw no reason to upset the apple cart when launching its successor.
And so it is with the iterative Redmi Note 6 Pro, an impressive mid-ranger made slightly less so due to direct comparisons that are inevitable with the Note 5 Pro it replaces. For the same asking price, you get a slightly larger notched display and an improved camera experience but the exact same beefy battery and Qualcomm chipset. This is not a phone for those with the previous model, but for those looking to upgrade to a no-nonsense reliable performer that doesn't break the bank.
Strong Screen: Opinions about the inclusion of the notch aside, the Redmi Note 6 Pro's display is punchy and offers ample (500 nits) brightness and sharpness levels, with the option to tweak the color/contrast settings if you so prefer. There's scratch protection by way of a layer of Gorilla Glass.
Impressive Imaging: The camera department is where Xiaomi's pulled out all the stops for the Redmi Note 6 Pro, with a dual camera setup not just on the rear but also on the front. On the rear, a new 12-megapixel sensor with a larger 1.4-micron pixel size, a f/1.9 aperture and dual pixel autofocus result in improved low-light capabilities in scenarios where the Note 5 Pro used to either hunt and miss, or end up with extremely soft photos. Daytime photos have lots of detail and look rich and vibrant when compared to other phones in the sub-20,000 price range. Portrait mode shots are improved as well, and you can now adjust the level of depth after the shot is taken or add custom effects like stage lighting, adjusting background light trails etc.
The front-facing 20MP camera, now aided with a depth sensor, takes capable portrait selfies (with good edge detection) as well. And finally, Xiaomi's made a pretty big deal about the artificial intelligence (AI) improvements on the camera, which the company says can detect as many as 32 scenes and alter shooting settings automatically... including India specific modes for 'cows, temples and statues'. One bummer – video recording on the Redmi Note 6 Pro tops out at 1080p and doesn't add in 4K recording which is becoming the norm in this price range.
Adequate Performance: Under the hood, the new Note is powered by the same Snapdragon 636 chip with 4GB or 6GB of memory, a combination which worked well for the Note 5 Pro. MIUI 10 though is a well-optimized, well-oiled layer on top of the hardware, and animations and transitions feel slicker and faster in day to day usage. By all means, the phone has the chops for a daily driver and performance really only seems compromised when you fire up PUBG on the device and it switches to low graphic settings. The device supports iPhone X-style gestures, though they aren't turned on by default, and occasionally run choppy. In hardware inclusions, it's nice to see the neither the headphone jack nor the infrared blaster have been axed yet.
Stellar Battery: One spec I'm happy to see stay constant is the 4,000mAh battery on the Redmi Note 6 Pro, which pulled me through the heaviest of heavy days without stressing about the wall charger... and nearly two full days if you're frugal with your screen brightness and multitasking. Downside? While it supports Quick Charge 3.0, there's no fast charger bundled with the phone, and it takes a whole hour and a half to top up the phone with the included 2A adapter.
Note-able Areas of Improvement
Samey Design: Xiaomi has avoided reinventing the wheel with the Note 6 Pro, inheriting a number of design elements from the Note 5 Pro. There's the subtlest of curves running along the rear edges that make the phone sit better in the hand, and of course there's the du jour notch up front with a thinned-out bottom bezel, both of which allow a larger 6.26-inch screen to fit into roughly the same chassis as its predecessor. There's a P2i hydrophobic nano-coating on the components and body that, the company claims, makes it splash resistant; and the few hesitant splashes I subjected the phone to seemed to verify that claim. That said, one man's reliable design is another man's dated look, and the Note 6 Pro certainly could do with a visual overhaul when compared to the funky designs that Honor and RealMe push out. Also, continuing to use micro-USB for charging and data is an oddly 2016-spec decision.
MIUI Questions: For a phone based on Android 8.1 Oreo at the far end of 2018—and with Xiaomi's slow track record for software updates, the phone steps out on the wrong foot. More bothersome is the profusion of ads one has started seeing in various aspects of the MIUI interface and first party apps, and while there are ways to turn off the advertising permanently, the adware-based experience is likely something most folks would not warm up to.
The Competition: Even if the Note 6 Pro has no real shortcoming, the competition, particularly at the 15,999 level that the higher spec variant retails at, has grown fierce over the past year...and the decision to pick this device up isn't as unequivocal a decision as it used to be. You've got devices at the same price point which pack in the more powerful Snapdragon 660 chipset, while others offer slicker designs. Even its own sibling, the 660-sporting Mi A2, could sway folks away, as could the upcoming ZenFone Max Pro M2, due out soon.
- Size and Weight: 157.9x76.4x8.26mm, 182g
- Memory/Storage Options: 4GB + 64GB, 6GB + 64GB (expandable to 256GB)
- Display: 6.26-inch 19:9 display, 2280x1080 pixels with 2.5D Gorilla Glass
- Chip: Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor
- Graphics: Adreno 509
- Camera – Rear: 12MP f/1.9 with 1.4 µm pixel size and dual pixel autofocus (main), 5MP depth sensor (f/2.2 with 1.12 µm)
- Camera – Front: 20MP f/2.0 with 1.8 µm, 2MP depth sensor (f/2.2 with 1.75 µm)
- Battery: 4000mAh with 5V/2A charging, Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support
- Colors: Blue, Black, Red and Rose Gold
- Price: Rs. 13,999 (4/64GB), Rs. 15,999 (6/64GB)
Tushar Kanwar is a Bangalore-based technology columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar.