Redmi Note 10 review: Here's a smartphone for budget buyers!
It may not have the imaging firepower of the pricier Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, or even the 120Hz high refresh rate display of the Pro variant, but the humble Note 10 brings up the rear of the Redmi Note portfolio with a capable and considered set of features…at a tempting price point. Is this the pick of the sub-15,000 budget segment? Let’s find out.
Courtesy the new “Evol” design language, the Redmi Note 10 gets a fresh look that looks similar on many fronts with the more expensive Note 10 Pro Max. On the Frost While colorway I had, the smooth matte-plastic finish and the curved rear edges sit comfortably in the hand with attracting smudges and fingerprints...while feeling incredibly light for the size (178g). The camera layout resembles the Pro Max’s quad-camera setup, while the headphone jack moves to a more useful position on the bottom of the device. The side-mounted fingerprint scanner, stereo speakers, infrared emitter, dedicated SD card slot and IP53 splash/dust resistance round out the package, and you really get the hand-feel of a far more expensive device when you pick the Note 10 up.
It’s in the display department that Xiaomi’s made the big leap to an AMOLED screen, a rarity in the sub-15,000 segment. It’s an impressive display (more so for the price), one that boasts of full HD+ resolution, a wide color gamut and a barely-there (save for that distracting silver border) punch-hole camera in the top center. The panel is capped at a 60Hz refresh rate, unlike the Pro models, it produces good colors and 1100 nits of peak brightness, plus you can use the ample customization options to tweak the display to your liking. No formal HDR support is understandable at this price point, but WideVine L1 support for HD content on streaming platforms is a bonus.
Under the hood, you get the new upper-midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 678 chipset with Adreno 612 graphics which improves ever so slightly on the Snapdragon 675 that we’ve seen in a number of mid-rangers over the past few years. There’s enough power on tap to run everyday apps, multitask between apps or multiple browser tabs, and run games like Asphalt 9 and Call of Duty Mobile at High graphics quality. UFS 2.2 storage keeps load times quick, and while there is an entry-level 4GB/64GB variant, I’d recommend the 6GB RAM version if the budget permits.
Then there’s the 5000mAh battery with support for 33W fast charging which, when coupled with the 60Hz refresh rate panel, goes long - well past the 6.5-hour mark on screen-on time. As with the Pros, the Redmi Note 10 comes with MIUI 12 based on Android 11, which means the occasionally spammy notifications from first-party apps continue. Xiaomi’s also announced the Note 10 lineup will be among the first to receive the substantial MIUI 12.5 update, which removes a lot of bloatware (or makes them removable, at least) and unwanted notifications and promotional content.
The camera’s about the only place where the Note 10 feels designed to the price point, with the 48MP primary camera, an 8MP ultrawide and 2MP macro and depth sensors making up the du jour quad-camera setup that may tick the marketing boxes but falls short in some aspects in real-world performance.
Camera performance on daytime shots is good, with bright and punchy images (albeit a bit oversaturated) and good dynamic range. Color parity is maintained on the ultra-wide although the loss in detail and quality is perceptible. Coming from the brilliant macro performance on the Pro Max, the results on the Note 10 are quite frankly a bit forgettable. The camera app too is a toned-down version of the one on the Pros, with a number of software features like clone, dual video, dual exposure missing, likely due to the demands they place on the mid-range chipset.
Night photography was a bit of a hit-and-miss, with slow focusing and underexposed images that need the Night Mode to boost brightness and up the exposure. Selfies are good but skin textures and tones drop in detail. Videos (up to 4K 30fps and 960fps at 720p slow motion) are smooth but the lack of stabilization is evident if you move a lot during recording.
It may not have pushed the envelope quite as much as the Note 10 Pro Max did, but there’s little to fault the Note 10 at the price at which it launches. Slick design, the all-new AMOLED display, good performance and battery life and even the IP53 splash/dust rating – the Redmi Note 10 will make your money go a long way. The camera is perhaps a bit of a weak link in what is otherwise a solid offering in the sub-Rs. 15,000 bracket, and earns a recommendation over the likes of the Poco M3 and others from Samsung and Moto. Time to up the ante, eh Realme?
Highlights: Redmi Note 10
Pros: Best-in-class display, good design, lightweight form factor, strong performance, good battery life, decent daytime camera performance
Cons: Base variant might be too basic for most, macro sensor lacks detail, spammy notifications
Price: Rs. 11,999 onwards
Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar