Solid Mid Range Hardware, But There Are Trade-Offs
As I mentioned at the start of this review, the Redmi Pro is a phone that requires some tweaks to get a decent experience outside of China. This is by far the main trade-off for those looking to import the handset: you may get a decent collection of hardware, but the software simply isn’t set up for immediate use in North America or Europe.
And that’s a shame, because apart from a collection of issues relating to Google integration and notifications, Xiaomi’s MIUI skin does include handy functionality that expands upon what you get in stock Android. The skin is still heavy, and there’s a ton of bloatware to contend with, but MIUI could have been half-decent were it localized appropriately for outside of China.
There are some aspects to the Xiaomi Redmi Pro’s hardware that are great. Perhaps my favorite feature is the design, which combines excellent brushed metal with a style reminiscent of HTC’s best work. I appreciate features like USB-C for charging and data transfers, and the responsive, accurate fingerprint sensor found below the display. The entire phone feels solid, and its premium look rivals the best flagship phones on the market today in some respects.
The 4,050 mAh battery delivers great battery life, even though the power efficiency of this smartphone isn't particularly outstanding. Xiaomi has basically brute forced long battery life, and you can expect to achieve at least an entire day of moderate to heavy usage from the Redmi Pro.
While the Redmi Pro does not have the best system performance, so it’s hard to call this a high-end device, the MediaTek Helio X20 is capable enough to comfortably slot into the mid-range. Aside from in Google Chrome, where a driver issue hampers the ten-core CPU, the X20 trades blows with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 650. I don’t think the inclusion of an extra four cores over the S650 adds much to the performance, however the Redmi Pro is still faster than any Snapdragon 617 or 410 device, especially in GPU workloads.
Other aspects to the hardware aren’t that spectacular. NAND performance is weak, which leads to slow app loading. The lack of 5 GHz Wi-Fi is disappointing in a mid-range handset that has Category 6 LTE support. The display, while it is a vibrant 1080p AMOLED, lacks decent brightness for outdoor viewing and isn’t very accurate.
The most interesting hardware feature to the Redmi Pro is the highly touted dual camera system on the rear. The quality from the main 13-megapixel sensor is acceptable for a mid-range phone, and although it doesn’t match the best phones on the market, you can get some decent photos from it. Unfortunately, the depth sensor isn’t great, and the simulated bokeh effect only works properly on occasion.
Starting at a little under $250, the main competitors to the Redmi Pro are Motorola’s Moto G4 Plus, and last year’s Google Nexus 5X. Considering neither of these phones include annoying software issues, to me it’s a simple choice.
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With that said, there are some reasons to consider the Redmi Pro. Xiaomi clearly has the best mid-range phone design and battery life of the trio, and the depth sensing features could appeal to some. At $250 for the 64GB model, the Redmi Pro also provides a lot more storage than either the Nexus 5X or Moto G4 Plus, which only include 16 GB at that price (and the 5X doesn’t include expandable storage). When storage is factored in, and you end up saving $30-50, this could swing things in favor of Xiaomi’s strongest mid-range offering.
Pros: Excellent brushed aluminium chassis. Great battery life. The Helio X20 is much faster than the Snapdragon 617 often seen at this price. 64GB model is surprisingly cheap.
Cons: Software requires significant tweaking outside of China. Dual camera system adds little to image quality. Poor storage performance.