It is no longer a secret that India has a large market for mid-range entry-level smartphones. And I am not collecting any survey or report to claim that it is the number of options under this range that tell the story.
According to research from Counter Point, Xiaomi leads the Indian smartphone market with 31.1% of the market share (in terms of shipments) in Q1 2018. The report attributes Xiaomi's success to its broad presence in the segment of budget.
While Xiaomi has occupied a dominant position in the sub 15K category, we have constantly seen competition from Moto, Honor or now Asus. If we look at the most solid and affordable smartphone in India at this time, it is the Redmi Note 5 Pro, Nokia 6 (2018) and the Zenfone Max Pro M1 that seem to be worthy contenders on paper.
We have reviewed them all and trust us, the competition is very close.
Which also means that telephones in 2018 have become more powerful, efficient and more difficult to differentiate. So we decided to take the three phones for a walk and this is what we found.
Design and construction
First, the construction quality of the three phones is solid and none of them gives you the opportunity to complain in terms of durability. In addition, all phones have a good grip.
The Redmi Note 5 Pro has a boring and outdated look, which may not be attractive to most users who care about the design. It is tall, it has a vertical camera that imitates iPhone X, the rest is still the same as the Redmi Note 4.
The Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 has a design language similar to that of Xiaomi. It looks more like a Redmi 5 with a double vertical camera without protrusion in a thicker and taller form factor. It is not very comfortable to use with one hand and it looks like another monocoque metal phone with Chinese brands.
The best is the Nokia 6 (2018), and there is more than one reason. The way Nokia announces it, expecting it to have a solid construction quality is evident, but it is not the only thing here.
The main benefit it has is its outstanding identity. It is not an iPhone X clone or simply a vague attempt to design. The work is visible and is more than just solid. It has its own identity and is currently among the best built phones.
Nokia 6 (2018) does not come in funky colors like its Lumia phones, nor does it have a curvilinear design. It is simply a compact phone with precise finish and subtle but enabling design elements.
The other two phones have an 18: 9 screen that makes them tall, but the Nokia 6 still has a 16: 9 panel that is wider. The overall design is short and wide, and it feels much better to grab and use with just one hand.
Performance and software
Among the three phones, Note 5 Pro and Max Pro M1 share similar hardware specifications. On paper, the Nokia 6 (2018) has a slightly lower Snapdragon 630, while the other two include the latest Snapdragon 636 chipset.
In terms of performance, none of the phones really allows you to complain about the price. But if you have to put them in a leaderboard, the Redmi Note 5 Pro and the Zenfone Max Pro M1 fight closely for the first position, while Nokia 6 (2018) is in second place with a small margin.
Conditions such as multitasking, extended play or the use of video capture is where the Nokia 6 (2018) lags behind in comparison. Other daily tasks are well handled by all three.
On the technical side, with eight Kryo 260 cores with clock speeds of up to 1.8 GHz, the Snapdragon 636 has almost twice the performance and game prowess of the 630 with Cortex-A53 with speeds up to 2.20. GHz.
It is recommended that you call any of the phones with the Snapdragon 636, but I would personally prefer Note 5 Pro for its optimization.
The Nokia 6 (2018) comes back with its clean and easy-to-use software experience and Android One's warranty for future updates. In similar lines, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 also runs Android stock, but is not registered in the Android One program, so there is no guarantee from Google for prioritized updates.
The navigation, opening and closing of applications is not an interruption in any of the telephones. The MIUI seems to feel heavy next to the pure Android phones, but it also has some additional features. MIUI seems heavy, but it's pretty well optimized and it does not feel the way it looks. Still, it has an older version of Android running without a confirmed Oreo update timeline.
The other two run the latest Android Oreo 8.1, which is a big decision-making factor for many.
All phones have different screens. The Nokia 6 (2018) and the Note 5 Pro reproduce precise colors and colder tones, while the M1 has a yellow tint.
The first two will be Nokia and Redmi, but because of its 18: 9 aspect ratio and larger size, the Redmi Note 5 Pro shines for multimedia lovers. But if you prefer a useful phone on a larger screen, then Nokia 6 (2018) should suffice.
All phones have decent viewing angles, wide brightness and good tactile response, but Nokia 6 (2018) has the smoothest and fastest touch response.
Of the three phones, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 has the largest battery in the paper. Followed by Redmi Note 5 Pro and then Nokia 6 (2018), and this is the case in the real life scenario.
The Max Pro M1 with its 5000 mAh battery obtained a score of 11 hours and 13 minutes PCMark 2.0. The Note 5 Pro scored 10 hours and 39 minutes, and the Nokia 6 (2018) scored 6 hours 59 minutes.
Asus raised the competition with a bigger battery here, and the Nokia 6 falls by a large margin.
Of the three phones we are comparing, only the Nokia 6 (2018) lacks a dual camera system. While the Redmi Note 5 Pro has impressed us in the past, the other two were not very impressive.
But when we put the samples side by side, there were cases where the other two surprised us. Here are some examples:
In the image of above, the M1 stands out for its oversaturated colors and warmer tones. Note 5 Pro and Nokia 6 (2018) produced somewhat similar results, but Note 5 Pro captured more details and colors close to the source in this image. Although the Nokia 6 reproduces better reds. It is not overwhelming or saturated.
Once again, the Redmi Note 5 Pro reproduces better colors and finer details. The Nokia 6 has introduced a yellow tone on the covers, while the other two work better in that department.
In low light conditions, all three colors reproduce very Well the colors, but Nokia 6 and Note 5 have captured the correct tone, as you can see in the white part on the right. The good thing about the Nokia 6 is that it does not have a greenish tinge on the wall like the Max Pro M1, nor does it have the vignette effect like the Note 5 Pro, but again, the Note 5 Pro captured more details than the other two.
I clicked on this image without stabilizing my hands and I I noticed that the Redmi Note 5 Pro is the most stable among the three. The Asus works well in good lighting conditions, but the Nokia 6 simply does not capture a clear shot with unstable hands.
Redmi Note 5 Pro is also faster in image processing and blocking focus on objects. The worst of the three in terms of processing speed and autofocus is the Max Pro M1, especially due to inconsistency.
In low light, the Note 5 Pro outperforms the other two by a large margin. Although none of these phones is good for low-light pictures, the Redmi still has some skills stacked. The image processing algorithm is not only faster, it is also more efficient to reduce noise without compromising details.
The Nokia 6 (2018) is simply not suitable for low-light photography, so it's the Zenfone. So, in general, the most reliable camera among the three is the Redmi Note 5 Pro under the price segment of 16K.
Nokia 6 (2018) is the only phone that comes with a USB Type-C port for synchronization and data loading. Honestly, it's not convincing to see a micro USB port on a phone that claims to be the best in its category in 2018.
The Note 5 Pro has a 6GB RAM variant for Rs 15,999 and the Max Pro M1 will also receive a Variant of 6GB RAM soon for 14,999. The Nokia 6 (2018) costs Rs 15,999 for 4GB of RAM, but we do not experience a big difference in terms of performance.
Which one to buy?
The Redmi Note 5 Pro seems the most complete phone among the three. Sure, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 has everything Note 5 Pro offers, but the camera is not up to par. What you have on the Redmi Note 5 Pro is the latest version of Android in its purest form and a slightly larger battery.
The Nokia 6 (2018) has the best software and built. If you demand longevity and durability from your phone, this could be the safest option. It offers more quality than quality, but your camera is the best deciding factor.