Today, mid-range smartphones are more than merely a forced purchase out of someone’s strict budget. Today, there are enough “good” inexpensive phones that tend to make a decent argument against spending much higher amount of money. There have been worthy mid-range phones for a long time now, however, the flagship level designs, dual cameras and the 18:9 displays are thinning the line between the higher and the mid-range segment as far as the look and feel is concerned.
On that note, we have two smartphones with us that have been recently added to the mid-range segment – Redmi Note 5 Pro and the Samsung J7 Duo – to see which one gives a better user experience. The similarities between the two phones are just that they both come with dual camera setups and run the Android operating system. Everything else is pretty much different.
DESIGN and BUILD QUALITY
Redmi Note 5 Pro: This is a good looking handset with the largely aluminium frame and body. The part around the antenna lines at the top and bottom is made of plastic, although, it doesn’t feel different to touch compared to the rest of the bodywork.
However, there is a visible difference in the colours between the plastic and the metal body parts and whether or not this looks good depends on individual taste. Personally, I would have liked the uniformity of the colour to be maintained throughout the phone’s body. It feels a bit slippery to hold but not by much, it is still acceptable.
Perhaps it is the realization that it is an affordable mid-range handset which prevents its slippery feel from becoming a big concern in my mind. If it was an expensive phone like an iPhone, for instance, I would have definitely been more mindful of my grip on the phone. That said, this does not mean that I’ll be okay to see the Note 5 Pro fall out of my hand, it is just that I’m at a bit of ease with its slippery nature compared to the same in a high-end phone.
Overall, the phone gives out a solid and a premium feel when held making it seem like it is more expensive than it is.
J7 Duo: Right out of the box, the J7 Duo falls behind the Redmi Note 5 Pro as far as the look and feel is concerned. It does not have that premium appearance which is slowly becoming quite common in even the lower mid-range devices.
The Samsung J7 Duo is more of an old school here. It carries good amount of real estate at the top and bottom of the front side of the bodywork along with decent bezels on the sides that weren’t a big deal couple of years back. The back cover is removable and is made of plastic. This also means that the battery is removable making it easier to replace when needed.
While it clearly does not look as good as its competitor from Xiaomi, it is not slippery to hold thereby providing better grip. The overall build quality is good enough and the phone is substantial to hold, still, given that the Redmi Note 5 Pro has a premium feel to it, the Samsung J7 Duo leaves a lot to be desired.
SOFTWARE, UI and DISPLAY
Both phones come with the Android operating system and that is all the similarity they have. While we are still waiting for the Android Oreo update on the Redmi Note 5 Pro (which has the Nougat 7.1.1), the Samsung J7 Duo is running the latest Android Oreo out of the box which is impressive considering that Samsung doesn’t really have a good reputation when it comes to timely OS updates.
Redmi Note 5 Pro: The Android Nougat in this phone is topped with Xiaomi’s own custom UI called MIUI version 9.2. Given the open nature of Android, it is highly subjective whether a person likes customized versions of the OS or prefers the pure Android experience like the ones in Nokia and Pixel devices. I like the pure Android experience more and so MIUI is not important to me.
Essentially, MIUI renders a unique look to the user interface along with some of its own features. But it would hardly sell the Note 5 Pro to me. Nevertheless, there’s nothing much to complain about the way whole UI feels and operates. It is reasonably smooth for the most part with occasional stutters that do not really hinder the overall experience.
All this looks really good on the generous 5.9 inches of IPS LCD Full HD+ (1080 x 2160) display. The colours are vibrant with a natural flair and overall, the screen is a joy to look at. The experience is further enhanced by the trendy 18:9 aspect ratio of the screen and even though it has some bezels, they are alright. The completely edge-to-edge display might look radical in comparison, but I do not have any issue with bezels worth mentioning unless they are a bit too much. Furthermore, the corners of the display are curved and almost appear to follow the curves of the body creating a sophisticated and modern style statement.
J7 Duo: Samsung smartphones have been infamous to run one of the heaviest custom UIs, Touchwiz, for a long time. Now though, the South Korean company is changing that. The custom UI is now called Samsung Experience (version 9.0), and it is supposed to be lighter than Touchwiz for better performance. Also, swiping to right on the Home screen launches the Bixby (Samsung’s own assistant).
And just like in the case of the Redmi Note 5 Pro, I am not a fan of Samsung’s custom UI either. I will anytime take the pure Android experience. If anything, I’ll install a launcher just to experience the UI differently.
Coming to the display, it is the better aspect for looking at the screen compared to using the UI. It is a Super AMOLED unit measuring 5.5 inches delivering sharp, and possibly, slightly oversaturated imagery (Samsung is known to do this) and colours. While the display looks good, the resolution is only HD (720 x 1280). With 5.5 inches, the resolution should be Full HD, even Apple understands that!
This is a bit frustrating because we naturally expect an AMOLED display, especially from Samsung, to deliver a better viewing experience compared to an IPS LCD unit. In this case though, the situation is reversed in favor of the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Additionally, the J7 looks outdated from the front while the Note 5 Pro clearly looks like a smartphone of today.
A common feature in both phones is that they support one-hand use. When enabled, the whole display can be made to shrink towards either the bottom right or the bottom left corner of the screen allowing the user to comfortably work with just one hand.
The real deal, performance! No matter how the handset looks and feels, the performance is one parameter a person has to live with daily. A smooth, jerk-free and fast performance can actually make up for every other not-so-good aspect of a smartphone.
Unfortunately, we cannot say that the performance in both handsets is smooth, jerk-free and fast, not entirely by far. But before we get into the details of our experience, let’s check out the benchmark scores of both smartphones under 3D Mark and Geekbench 4.
Real World Performance: We did not feel the need to write about the performances of the Redmi Note 5 Pro and the J7 Duo separately as both phones deliver more or less similar experience.
Navigating through the Home screens and the App Drawer is mostly smooth and hardly leaves any room to complain. The same can be said about traversing the Settings menu and its various sub-screens. The struggle of the chipsets in both handsets slowly start to become visible once we start using the various social media apps or browsing the internet.
For example, scrolling through the Facebook page (or other similar apps) can often get a bit laggy. There are stutters easily noticeable while scrolling up and down or moving from one page to another within an app like Instagram, Twitter and such. This behavior is inconsistent and it is a mix of smooth as well as jerky navigation. Between the stutters, the performance is quite snappy.
Gaming: Some heavy-duty gaming is perhaps the biggest challenge for any mid-range smartphone out there, more so for the ones that are at a lower mid-range price point, like the two handsets in this comparison.
Running a graphic-heavy game like the car racing Asphalt brought out some interesting observations. The Samsung J7 Duo performed better while navigating through the various game menus. The response was quicker compared to what we experienced in the Note 5 Pro, although, it was not any smoother. We believe this could very well be due to the 720p resolution of the J7 compared to the 1080p resolution of the Note 5 Pro.
Interestingly enough, when it actually came down to playing the game, I liked the experience on the Redmi Note 5 Pro more. It is not because of its bigger screen, but I liked the naturalness of the colours through the Note 5 Pro’s screen compared to the relatively oversaturated reproduction of colours from the J7 Duo.
Also, the gameplay was smoother on the Note 5 Pro while the J7 was jerkier overall. Let us make it clear here that the Redmi Note 5 Pro is smoother in comparison to the J7 Duo, otherwise, it does produce some random but visible stutters.
Overall, neither handset is thoroughly impressive when it comes to heavy gaming (lighter games like the Subway Surfers are a cakewalk though), but the Redmi Note 5 Pro is slightly better.
The camera setup in both phones is what makes them appear like a flagship-level device. The Redmi Note 5 Pro and the Samsung J7 Duo come with dual camera setups at the back that support Portrait mode.
Redmi Note 5 Pro camera: 12 MP + 5 MP with f2.2 + f2.0 respectively. Additionally, there’s Phase Detection Autofocus. Front camera is a 20 MP unit with f2.2.
Samsung J7 Duo: 13 MP + 5 MP with f1.9 for both lenses. There’s only normal autofocus (no PDAF). Front camera is an 8 MP unit with f1.9.
Here are some camera samples from Redmi Note 5 Pro.
Here are some camera samples from Samsung J7 Duo.
In the camera samples above, images from the Redmi Note 5 Pro are generally sharper and produce more details (especially looking at the surface and the tree leaves) compared to the images from J7 Duo. Furthermore, in the couple of low-light images from J7, the sky and the ground is overexposed a bit affecting the details. Also, the J7 takes about 1 second or so in capturing an HDR image, hence, the hands needs to as stable as it can be (because there is no stabilization).
On the other hand, images from the Note 5 Pro do leave a lot to desire but they are better in terms of the naturalness of colours. In low-light, the HDR versions turn out slightly darker than their non-HDR versions, but the details are more or less maintained. There is no stabilization either but the Pro is quicker in capturing HDR images.
The Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with a humongous 4,000 mAh battery onboard while the J7 Duo has a smaller, but still respectable, 3,000 mAh unit. The difference between the two is huge on paper and while the Note 5 Pro outperforms the J7 with better battery life, the J7 remains acceptable generally.
Both phones can go past one day in normal or light usage which would involve making a few calls, exchanging messages over the default and other apps, browsing social media and internet in general. Also include some still-image capturing. But like we mentioned earlier, the Redmi Note 5 Pro delivers noticeably longer battery life and easily go up to one and a half days before needing to connect it to the charger.
Comparatively, while the J7 too will move into the second day with similar usage, it will run of out of breath a few hours earlier. It prompts to be connected to the charger around 3 to 4 hours sooner than the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
Even though the real world performance of both the phones is largely similar, the Redmi Note 5 Pro comes out as a better handset in almost all aspects. Below are our findings from this comparison:
– Design and Build Quality: Redmi Note 5 Pro looks and feels better although a bit slippery to hold.
– Software, UI and Display: Both phones come with their respective custom User Interfaces over the stock Android. Here too, the Redmi Note 5 Pro feels a tad better than the J7. Additionally, even with an IPS LCD panel against the Super AMOLED display of the J7, the Redmi Note 5 Pro delivers a better viewing experience overall.
– Performance: While both phones almost on par in normal usage as well as in gaming, the Redmi Note 5 Pro is a smoother running handset.
– Camera: Redmi Note 5 Pro visibly produces better images in terms colour accuracy, sharpness and detail.
– Battery: Redmi Note 5 Pro with its 4,000 mAh battery clearly outlives the J7 Duo.
So here it is, the Redmi Note 5 Pro is a better handset in all aspects compared to the Samsung J7 Duo in our experience.