The Redmi brand has become almost synonymous with budget smartphones in India. That’s how it started its journey in the subcontinent — by offering the very basics at never before seen prices. By basic, I mean just the features you’d need in a smartphone for it to function like one, and nothing more. So, it’s no surprise that the brand starts off its journey into the laptop segment with the same philosophy.
Borrowing from its other independent sibling, the new RedmiBook 15 Pro offers everything you need, and nothing you don’t. It’s a laptop aimed at students and folks starting their careers, and as such, doesn’t have much to offer, save for the very things you’d need in a laptop to work without much hassle.
That’s basically what I felt after using the laptop for less than a day. The laptop arrived at my doorstep just yesterday, and here are my very first train of thoughts that ran across my head while setting up the laptop. So, here goes —
Specifications and Price
Processor: Intel Core i5 11300H
Graphics: Integrated Iris Xe GPU
RAM: 8GB DDR4 3200Mhz
Storage: 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD
Display: 15-inch FHD LCD display
Battery: 46Whr with bundled 65W barrel-pin adapter
I/O: 2xUSB-A 3.2, 1xUSB-A 2.0, RJ45 Ethernet Port, HDMI out, SD card reader
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 5.0
Price: Rs 49,999
Holding the laptop in the hand, and looking at the spec-sheet, it becomes clear that the brand wanted to maximise the hardware more than the look and feel of the device. And for half a lakh, I feel the gamble might pay off, especially looking at the competition. Most of the laptops that the RedmiBook 15 Pro compete against have either a cutting-edge design, or a powerful processor, or SSD storage, but never all together. Redmi at least managed to tick off two things, and looking at the use case, it feels like the right choice to make.
Including an Intel H35 CPU puts it a cut above the rest, especially when it’s combined with an NVMe SSD and eight gigs of memory. But upon using the laptop, it becomes clear as to how the company managed to keep the price in check where every other Intel 11th-gen H35 CPU-powered laptop belong to the gaming segment. I just hope the rest of the hardware doesn’t become a bottleneck for the 10nm CPU to flourish, which I’ll only be able to verify in the course of the full review.
Design: Stripped Down to the Basics
The RedmiBook 15 Pro won’t inspire any oohs or aahs but just a slight hmm, while observing the design. It’s an exercise of including the bare essentials to pass it off as a decently built laptop. Built entirely of plastic, you can hear creaks and squeaks when clicking the trackpad. The charcoal Grey colour will make this laptop blend in with just about every other budget laptop out there, save for the minimal Redmi branding on top.
It does pack quite a bit of heft when you lift it, but the weight distribution is quite good and lets you open the lid with just one finger. This one doesn’t have the proprietary Horizon branding, so you do see a lot of bezels around screen, which is par for a budget laptop. That did make space for a webcam on top of the panel, which is all the more crucial in this new normal.
Display and Audio: Average at best
The 15.6-inch display is large enough for cramming a lot of faces in a Zoom call, but this is far from the quality you’d find in a premium laptop. This ain’t one, and it shows in the quality of the panel. The viewing angles are super tight, and there’s significant backlight bleeding.
The 2x2W bottom-firing speakers with DTS Audio support is not much but when kept on a hard surface like a table, the audio bounces off from the bottom and creates a stereo sound that’s at least audible even with the ceiling fan spinning at full speed, which is more than what most budget laptops can offer these days. I’m thinking of you, MSI Modern 14!
Performance: Just the right amount of horsepower
The Intel Core i5 11300H puts the Pro in the RedmiBook 15 Pro, and for the little time I used, the laptop felt super responsive. Right from waking up from sleep to launching the File Explorer or streaming content on Hotstar, it was more or less a smooth ride.
We’ll do a detailed benchmark analysis in the full review, but for the time being, it’s safe to say, the laptop won’t disappoint for the needs it’s meant to serve. It’s perfectly capable of hosting multi-window Zoom calls, and juggling between a handful of Firefox tabs. There’s no visible input lag and most of the office apps like Excel and Word opened in an instant. Yes, it comes with Windows Office 2019 preinstalled and meets the necessary requirements for a future Windows 11 upgrade.
The 512GB NVMe SSD is from Lexar, and is quite fast. So, you can boot the laptop from cold in under 15 seconds, and open files and apps in an instant. However, the 8GB RAM may fall short of achieving true multi-tasking. With just 8 tabs open on Firefox, the RAM usage shot up to 68%. The memory is soldered to the motherboard, so there’s no way of upgrading it in the future. You can technically upgrade the storage capacity, but Redmi told me opening the laptop by yourself will void the warranty, so it’ll need a trip to the service center to do so.
Ports and I/O: All That You Need
The RedmiBook 15 Pro offers a decent set of ports and connectivity options, found in most budget laptops. There are two USB-A 3.2 ports and a single USB-A 2.0 port, but no USB-C port. Instead, Redmi offers SD card support and a RJ45 ethernet port, along with HDMI out and 3.5mm audio jack. Now I may have passed out of college a while back, but I feel this is more or less all that you’ll need for online classes.
Keyboard and Trackpad: Perfect for typing
The keyboard is actually the highlight of the design. For the little time I used it, I had no problem putting my muscle memory to work. All the keys are right where it should be. I particularly liked the fact that the arrow keys are not fused together, and there’s adequate spacing between the keys. Be careful of the power button though, which is dangerously close to the Delete key.
It also has a rather big trackpad, but the plastic surface can be a bit resistive to touch. But there’s support for Windows Precision drivers allowing you to make full use of Windows 10 gestures for navigating between desktops and windows. The trackpad did squeak a lot, and I’m afraid it might become wobbly over time.
First Impressions: Should You Buy the RedmiBook 15 Pro in the First Sale?
Without putting the laptop through our suite of tests, it’s actually too early to say how this will hold up under duress. But, for the little time I used it, I could easily see the usefulness of something like this under Rs 50,000. It’s not meant for gaming or creative work per se, but the hardware and design might just be perfect for online classes and basic office work. The long-term durability is a question that needs answering, but as far as performance is concerned, the RedmiBook 15 Pro is actually a lot better than the competition.
There’s also a cheaper e-Learning version of the RedmiBook that launched alongside the Pro variant, which is powered by the Intel Core i3 115G4 processor and is offered in two storage variants, going as low as Rs 41,999. There are additional bank discounts on all variants to sweeten the deal even further. Everyone loves a good but affordable offering, and by the looks of it, Redmi is serious about disrupting the laptop space, even more than what the Mi laptops did last year, by focusing hard on the bare minimum and getting it right.
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