Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 review: Redefining the rules of budget segment!
The terms Xiaomi and ‘value for money’ go hand-in-hand, thanks to a venerable record of making phones that offer an unmatched bang for your bucks. In particular, the Redmi line is where the company truly shines. The latest addition to its arsenal is the Redmi Note 10, whose spec likely can’t be outmatched by rival brands right now, especially outside the Indian market. Let me give you a rough idea. You get an AMOLED display, a 48MP quad-camera setup, the new Snapdragon 678 SoC, and a 33W charger in the box – for just around $165. Intrigued by the premise, I gave the device a test drive for a couple of weeks, and here’s what I found:
Redmi Note 10 is an ace at design and build quality
I’ve tested my fair share of budget and flagship phones over the years, and I can say without an iota of doubt that the Redmi Note 10 punches way above its weight. Despite rocking a 6.45-inch display and a fairly large 5,000mAh battery, the device is surprisingly light at 178.8 grams (a good 10 grams lighter than the iPhone 12 Pro) and is just 8.3mm thin. However, the slope along the sides makes it feel slimmer than it actually is.
The rear panel is made out of polycarbonate, but it has a beautiful frosted finish that does a good job of masking smudges, especially on the Frost White version I tested. There is also a cool Aqua Green trim with a two-tone gradient finish and a Shadow Black option is on the table as well. Xiaomi has given the sides a chrome finish, and it actually goes well with the white profile. The top and bottom edges have been flattened, a trait that we’ve recently seen on multiple high-end phones.
Over the course of using it as my daily driver, I was pleased with the in-hand feel of the device, with the curved sides contributing to the comfortable experience. The camera bump is not too big either. A neat aesthetic touch here is that the camera island is encased in transparent plastic, which gives a beautiful-yet-understated look to it, somewhat like the iPhone 12.
There is an IR blaster at the top, while the USB Type-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom. Notably, the Redmi Note 10 has a triple card slot (two Nano-SIMs + microSD card), which is quite convenient as you don’t have to sacrifice dual-SIM functionality for storage expansion. Additionally, the budget device also comes with an IP53-certified build, which means it can brush off some water and dust exposure without taking any serious damage or frying the innards.
The fingerprint sensor has been embedded in the power button, but the button is not recessed and sits almost flush with the right edge. I often found my fingers mistaking it for the volume rocker though. On the bright side, the fingerprint sensor is quick and reliable. There are two speakers – one each at the top and bottom – that create a stereo setup and are fairly good. Overall, the Redmi Note 10 offers a build that defies its asking price, and it also has the looks to go with that appeal.
Display is a strong suite of Redmi Note 10
The Redmi Note 10 is among the most affordable phones out there to offer an AMOLED display. You get a 6.43-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels) display that offers a good 1,100 nits of peak brightness and is protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. There is a circular hole-punch cutout at the center alongside the top edge for housing the single selfie snapper.
While an AMOLED panel at this price in itself a perk, the quality of the screen is a pleasant surprise too. The content looks sharp and viewing angles are good as well. I was particularly impressed by the sunlight legibility, as on-screen content was visible even under direct sunlight without any weird dimming or colors looking dull. Overall, it’s a very good display, especially considering what you’re paying for it, and everything else too.
However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its faults. The ‘standard’ color profile makes the on-screen content look weirdly bland, and I’d suggest switching to the ‘saturated’ profile as it makes the colors pop out and things look vibrant. When compared to AMOLED panels on pricier phones that are better color calibrated, I noticed that the Redmi Note 10’s screen prefers more saturated colors, which sometimes makes brighter objects look a tad too polished.
I did a few side-by-side tests and noticed that the panel often falters at distinguishing brighter shades in the red and orange regions of the color spectrum. The gamma is a little on the higher side, but the panel did well in the contrast and banding tests. However, the aforementioned issues are far from being classified as red flags, and the overall panel quality is arguably the best you can get at this price.
Dependable performance, great battery life
The Redmi Note 10 relies on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 678 SoC, which is actually a slight improvement over the Snapdragon 675 inside the Redmi Note 7 Pro. The device is available in two memory configurations – 4GB + 64GB and 6GB + 128GB. However, we suggest you pick up the higher-end model to ensure that you don’t run into any multi-tasking bottlenecks. One key reason is that background memory clean-up is a tad aggressive here, and apps often tend to restart if there are more than four or five of them running simultaneously.
Now, coming to the performance aspect, the Snapdragon 678 proves to be a capable SoC and sailed through my day-to-day usage with ease. With multiple social media apps running in the background, productivity apps like Slack and Asana, a bunch of Chrome tabs, and streaming music over Bluetooth via YouTube Music, I rarely experienced any jitters.
I tried my hands at gaming as well. With Asphalt 9 running at peak graphics settings, the experience was smooth and there was minimal heating on the rear panel. I then switched to the more demanding Call of Duty: Mobile, and it breezed past a few battle royale games with the frame rate set to max and graphics quality at high preset. There are some intermittent frame rate fluctuations, but the experience is pleasant. If you aren’t too pesky about visual details, you can tone down the graphics settings a notch and achieve a smoother experience.
Now, the more impressive aspect of the gaming experience was that despite its slim profile, the Redmi Note 10 did not heat up as much as I initially suspected. I tried a 30-minute COD: Mobile session on the Redmi Note 10 and Moto G30 each, and noticed that the average temperature went up by 9-degrees in case of the Redmi-branded device, while the Motorola offering saw the temperature of its real panel spiking up by as much as 13 degrees.
I also ran a few synthetic benchmark tests to gauge the performance, especially to check how much the Snapdragon 678 gains over the Snapdragon 675. The new Qualcomm SoC offers a performance boost of around 40% in 3D SlingShot Extreme OpenGLES 3.1 test. I also ran GFXBench T-Rex and Car Chase tests, but there is not much of an improvement in terms of fps gain to be seen here.
To sum up the performance aspect, the Redmi Note 10 is capable of handling your day-to-day tasks with ease, and can hold its own when it comes to playing games as well. Just keep in mind if you’re playing demanding titles like Call of Duty: Mobile and Genshin Impact, you might want to play around with the graphics settings to get the best experience.
Now, coming to the battery part. Xiaomi has equipped the Redmi Note 10 with a fairly large 5,000mAh battery. In the course of my usage, I never had to reach for the charger during my workday, as the phone easily went past a regular day of work. During the review period, I also watched an episode or two of Brooklyn Nine-Nine each day, but the battery still managed to go past a day.
And despite being priced at 1/7th or 1/8th of what Samsung or Apple’s latest flagships cost, this phone beats them by offering support for 33W fast charging. And the best part is that Xiaomi bundles the 33W charging brick in the retail package. Talking about charging speed, an hour of charging will get you around 90% juice in the tank, while plugging the phone in the charging outlet for 30 minutes will fill the battery by around 65%.
Alright, so let me put it in clear words early on. Xiaomi is recycling the camera hardware of its predecessor – the Redmi Note 9 – which is both a good and bad thing. The quad-camera setup consists of a 48MP main snapper, an 8MP sensor for wide-angle photography, and a pair of 2MP shooters for macro photography and depth sensing. For selfies and video calls, you get a 13MP front camera.
The main snapper takes 4-in-1 pixel-binned 12MP shots by default, but you can manually enable the 48MP mode. It lets you capture 4K videos at 30FPS, 1080p clips up to 60FPS, while slo-mo 720p videos go up to 960FPS. Now, let’s talk about the actual performance.
Images captured by the main camera in natural light are adequately sharp with good color reproduction and decent dynamic range. There is some over-sharpening visible, but the overall color profile is pleasing to the eyes. The HDR mode amps up the saturation a little more than what is required, and ends up taking a toll on the finer details in images. The 48MP shots, on the other hand, have a slightly colder tone and despite packing more details to peep into, they look softer.
The wide-angle camera, on the other hand, does a decent job as well. Wide-angle shots have a slightly higher ISO in general, with higher saturation and warmer color temperature too. The result is still good on its own, and thankfully, there was not much to complain about edge distortion either in my limited testing.
The macro camera is just for the namesake. Even though it doesn’t struggle much at locking focus, the colors look a lot different than the real object, especially if the subject is brightly colored. I did manage a few social media-worthy macro shots, but you’ll better be served by clicking a portrait shot at close range. Yes, the focus lock will be finicky at close range, but you’ll be able to capture more details and accurate colors.
There is also a dedicated night mode. It succeeds at boosting the ISO and manages to bring out more surface details and colors, but there is still a healthy amount of grainy texture and noise. Oddly, the night mode appears to be a little hasty at clicking low-light images. I’ve seen budget phones and even the likes of Pixel taking between 2-4 seconds to click a photo with night mode enabled, and the results are actually better. The Redmi Note 10, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to follow that approach, and it ends up taking a toll.
However, the results you get will vary depending on the ambient light and how patient you are with the trial-and-error method. Another issue I faced was that the shutter button often became unresponsive when clicking low-light shots. Xiaomi appears to have taken a step back here, as the Redmi Note 7 Pro that was launched almost two years ago yielded impressive Night Mode results in its price bracket.
The 13MP selfie camera, on the other hand, redeems the camera woes to some extent. The selfies taken in well-lit conditions are sharp, with good exposure and control over background elements. However, if you zoom in to see the finer skin texture, you’ll notice a weird oil-painting effect that has plagued Xiaomi cameras for a while now. A few indoor selfies I clicked turned out well, but there is a fair bit of noise there.
Overall, the front camera does its job well for the phone’s asking price. There is also a healthy number of filters and beautification filters to play with if you’re into posting a lot of selfies on social media. Do keep in mind that the Redmi Note 10 applies a small degree of skin smoothening by default, so you might want to manually set the slider to ‘zero’ in the camera app to get natural skin tones and texture.
Video capture is nothing worth talking home about. There is a ton of focus hunting and jitters. The colors are okay and the 4K capture adds some much-needed depth and detail for viewing on a larger screen, but the lack of dedicated stabilization tech is quite apparent here. Of course, you can’t expect OIS at this price point, and that’s a compromise that buyers have to live with.
The unit I have for review ran Android 11-based MIUI 12.0.1 with the January security patch on top. It’s not the latest security patch out there, considering the fact the April security update has already started rolling out. Xiaomi has done a commendable job of trimming down the bloatware and ads with this iteration of MIUI, and has promised that things will keep improving. But there are still a handful of pre-loaded apps, some of which you can uninstall.
The design language is also not as garish as it used to be, and there are a ton of useful new features as well. The control center has been overhauled, and even though there are some iOS inspirations here, the implementation is good.
You can change the layout of quick settings tiles, and there is also an option to switch back to the old layout. The navigation gestures have been refined, there’s now an app drawer too, and the visual elements such as wallpapers and animations are fresh as well. A minor annoyance for me was that the ‘Raise to Wake’ feature rarely worked as intended.
If you’re into multi-tasking, MIUI 12 also offers a floating window trick, which can be accessed from the app overview and is actually a favorite of mine. You can also control dark mode behavior on a per-app basis as well. For some digital detox, there’s a Focus Mode too, while the Mi Share file transfer will come in handy for seamlessly sharing files between Xiaomi, OPPO, VIVO, and Realme phones. Overall, Xiaomi’s Android skin has come a long way, and MIUI 12 is definitely the best iteration yet.
The Redmi Note 10 is yet another winner from Xiaomi. The phone rocks aesthetics and build quality that defy its asking price, and offers a smooth performance that won’t leave you wanting for more. The battery life is good too, while bundling a 33W charger in the retail package makes it an even sweeter deal. The AMOLED panel is also quite nice, and the feature-rich MIUI 12 experience is great as well.
There are some areas with room for improvement, especially in the camera department. However, the flash sale model and limited stocks have made the phone a tough item to purchase, and that is something many potential buyers often complain about. But overall, the Redmi Note 10 offers an almost unbeatable value for the amount it vaporizes from your wallet. And for that, it gets a resounding thumbs up!
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