Redmi Note 11T review: To 5G or not to 5G?
Does the phone live up to high expectations set up by its predecessors? Let’s get right into it
Xiaomi’s Redmi Note lineup is, in all fairness, a brand unto itself…and is responsible for the company’s dominance in the Indian smartphone market. Redmi Note phones are typically easy to recommend, and last year’s Note 10 lineup won big on the trifecta of design, performance and camera, with insane value to boot! Today, we have the first in the Redmi Note 11 lineup, by way of the Redmi Note 11T 5G. Does the phone live up to high expectations set up by its predecessors? Let’s get right into it.
A quick word about the variants on offer – the Note 11T starts at Rs. 16,999 for the base 6GB/64GB variant, while the one I have on hand is the middle 6GB/128GB variant which comes in at a thousand rupees higher (Rs. 17,999), and there’s one with 8GB of RAM for another two thousand (Rs. 19,999). You get to pick from three colors: Aquamarine Blue, Matte Black and the Stardust White I had for review.
If you’ve seen last year’s Redmi Note phones, you’ll recognize the familiar EVOL design language that carries on on the Note 11T 5G, with a lot of the design elements one saw in the Redmi 10 Prime. Still all-plastic, still sturdy, and still a bit of a handful when you pick the 195g device up. It’s not a bad look at all – I quite like the way the Stardust on the rear panel lights up, and the slightly soft-touch matte finish is more grippy and resistant to smudges. Though I must admit, it’s not as visually striking or premium feeling as the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max - it just doesn’t standout quite as much. Stereo speakers, one at the top and one at base, and a 3.5mm headphone jack is a nice touch. The power/wake button does double duty as a fingerprint scanner, and it joins the infrared emitter in fast becoming a common part of the Redmi lineup.
One design oddity – what initially gives the impression of a quad-camera array really is only two cameras, with the remaining two cutouts replaced with a red dot and an AI logo, which is a bit…lazy. That said, I’m not a big fan of manufacturers adding in depth sensors and 2MP macro cameras merely to inflate the camera count.
Flip it over, and the large Corning Gorilla Glass 3-protected 6.6-inch display sports a full-HD+ resolution, with an adaptive 90Hz refresh rate that can switch between 50Hz, 60Hz and 90Hz based on the content on the screen, eking out more from the battery in the process. Unlike the AMOLED displays on the Redmi Note 10 series, this is an IPS LCD (likely on account of the 5G tax that’s so dear on phones in this segment). It’s crisp enough unless you pixel-peep, but it isn’t the brightest displays around, especially when viewed in bright sunlight. Watching content on the phone is on the whole, a rather sorted experience, and the stereo speakers are loud, if a little disbalanced – the bottom one is considerably louder. One thing to point out – the haptics on this phone are impressive for its price range.
The Next Gen Racer branding suggests this is a phone built for performance (and 5G, though we’ll get to that in a bit). This is one of the first few phones to launch with the MediaTek Dimensity 810 chipset, which is based on a 6nanometer process and is a big step up from the Dimensity 700 which powered its spiritual predecessor, the Redmi Note 10T 5G. Along with the 6GB of memory, Xiaomi has added a memory extension feature which claims to use up to 2GB of storage space as additional RAM, and that goes up to 3GB on the top-end unit. The hybrid dual-SIM allows for microSD card expansion up to 1TB – it’s a different matter you’ll put down an equal amount of cash for that card! Performance is impressive with what you’d expect in this price segment – multitasking is smooth, no lags in regular use and even gaming is a surprisingly good experience on the device. At the time of this review, the phone had received the MIUI 12.5.2 update with the December 21 security update, which if you’ve used a recent phone updated to MIUI 12.5, you’d know it’s a massively cleaned up take on MIUI, where you can uninstall a lot of apps and overall have a far more polished and refined experience.
Battery life is, to borrow a Redmi note cliché, pretty stellar, and the 5000MaAh number on this one will last you a day and then some even for the most demanding of users, and there’s 33W fast charging with the included fast charger to take you from zero to 50% in 30 minutes and all the way up to full in just over an hour. For what it’s worth, the 5G aspect of this phone stacks up well – it comes with support for seven bands of 5G, across both SIM cards. But here’s the thing about 5G, arguably a factor you have to take into account. It’s not here yet, but you’re paying for it in the price of this phone – either directly, or by compromising elsewhere on the package.
And finally, let’s get to the camera on the Note 11T, which consists of a 50MP primary and an 8MP ultrawide-angle shooter, with a 16MP selfie shooter in the hole-punch cutout. This is a camera that’s quick to focus and exposes images correctly, both in day time and low light shots. Despite the high megapixel count, the details are middling in images captured, a problem that’s expectedly exacerbated on the lower resolution ultrawide. Close up shots fared better, as do portrait mode shots. Is this the best camera in its class? You’ll certainly find better if you look outside of phones with 5G.
While it is a perfectly competent device with 5G, it’s not the heavy hitter one would have expected Xiaomi to launch the Redmi Note 11 series with. If you’re sold on the 5G story and know something we don’t, and are convinced that you’re going to need a 5G phone on a budget in 2022, then you’re not going to go wrong with the Redmi Note 11T 5G. Good performance and good battery life check the boxes, as does MIUI 12.5, but it faces competition from within the family (last year’s Redmi Note 10 Pro/Pro Max is still the one to get, IMHO).
Redmi Note 11T 5G
Pros: Crisp display with 90Hz adaptive refresh rate, good performance, long battery life and quick charging
Cons: Middling cameras, better 4G options exist
Price: Rs. 16,999 onwards (Rs. 17,999 as tested)
Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar