Redmi Note 10 Review: A Value Workhorse for 2021
With the new Redmi Note 10 family, Xiaomi is offering more premium features than ever, but prices have also risen. The Redmi Note series has been massively popular so far in India, where everyone loves a good deal and buyers are very particular about every last feature and specification. If a smartphone has a big screen, high-capacity battery, fast processor, and lots of RAM and storage, but still manages to cost less than Rs. 15,000, chances are it will be successful. That’s where the Redmi Note 10 comes in.
Priced at Rs. 11,999 (4GB RAM/64GB storage) and Rs. 13,999 (6GB RAM, 128GB storage), the Redmi Note 10 doesn’t have a massive 108-megapixel rear camera like the much more premium Redmi Note 10 Pro Max (First Impressions). It also doesn’t have a 120Hz display like the middle sibling, the Redmi Note 10. Still, the three share a lot of features and design touches, and you might be surprised by what the complete package has to offer.
Redmi Note 10 design
Xiaomi has introduced a new “Evol” design language which freshens up the Redmi Note 10 series a bit. There’s little scope for differentiation on smartphones, and the main bit of design flair we see is the camera module on the rear. The four lenses, all of different sizes, are arranged in a chunky but rounded panel that protrudes by about 1mm from the rear.
The rest of the rear panel is completely plain if you choose the Frost White or Shadow Black options, though the Aqua Green colour does have a slight gradient. Each of the three has a matching frame, which is flattened on the top and bottom. The rear panel curves at the sides to offer a comfortable grip. I liked the matte texture of the rear panel, and it doesn’t get smudged very easily which means this phone still looks good after being used for a while.
Thanks to the 6.43-inch screen and its relatively narrow borders, the Redmi Note 10 is actually quite easy to hold and manage. At 8.3mm thick and 178.8g in weight, even one-handed use isn’t much of a problem. The Redmi Note 10 is not only easier to handle than the Redmi Note 9, but also pretty convenient overall, considering its features and price.
One design touch I don’t quite like is the silver ring around the front camera, which is embedded into the top-centre of the screen. It’s highly reflective and can be distracting when gaming or watching video, which defeats the entire purpose of having an embedded camera. The fingerprint sensor is integrated into the power button on the side. It’s quite small and shaped like a regular button rather than being slightly recessed. It seemed quick and accurate enough in use, even with such a small surface area.
The Redmi Note 10 has stereo speakers. There are extra speaker holes on the top, though it appears that Xiaomi is using the earpiece itself as a speaker, which is weaker than the main one on the bottom. There’s also the company’s trademark infrared emitter on the top for controlling appliances with. The tray on the left has slots for two Nano-SIMs and a microSD card. Thankfully, there’s a 3.5mm audio socket on the bottom next to the USB Type-C port.
The screen is made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and an adhesive protective film is pre-applied. You also get a simple plastic case in the box. What’s most interesting is the IP53 rating for splash and dust resistance which is very uncommon at this price level.
Redmi Note 10 specifications and software
The processor of choice for this generation is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 678, a recently launched upper-mid-range option which improves very slightly on the Snapdragon 675. It has two Kryo 460 Gold CPU cores running at 2.2GHz (compared to 2GHz in its predecessor) and the same six Kryo 460 Silver cores running at 1.7Ghz for low-power situations. There’s either 4GB or 6GB of LPDDR4X RAM, and 64GB or 128GB of UFS 2.2 storage depending on which variant you choose.
The 6.43-inch display has a full-HD+ resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. Brightness goes up to 1100nits peak which is enough for apps like YouTube to display HDR videos with boosted brightness, although HDR isn’t listed on the spec sheet. You can adjust the colour tone or switch to Reading Mode which makes everything appear warmer, which Xiaomi says can reduce eye strain.
The Redmi Note 10 has a 5000mAh battery. It can be charged at up to 33W, and a USB Type-C charger matching that rating is included. You also get dual-band Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth, dual simultaneous 4G, multiple navigation systems (though NavIC isn’t listed among them), and all the usual sensors. Xiaomi also touts the use of a Z-axis haptic motor which is said to allow for more subtle vibrations.
As of now, Redmi Note 10 units in the market will come running MIUI 12 based on Android 11. My unit had version 12.0.1 and didn’t get any security updates beyond the January 2021 security patch, which is okay but not ideal. The company does promise a huge update with MIUI 12.5 which is coming soon. It also says you can expect at least quarterly security updates for around three years and one or two major Android version updates, but that isn’t set in stone.
The biggest change coming with MIUI 12.5 will be the removal of all promotional content, advertising notifications, lockscreen ads, and bloatware. Xiaomi says it wants to give power to the users, and so nearly all apps will be removable – with the exception of the absolute essentials such as the dialler, camera, clock, and settings apps. It should be interesting to see how this plays out, but for now you’ll have to deal with all these annoyances. Some of the preloaded apps, such as Netflix, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zili, Mi Remote, Mi Credit, and Mi Store are already removable, but others including Mi Pay, Music, and ShareMe are not.
MIUI does have a lot of functionality that goes beyond stock Android, such as floating windows, a Game Turbo mode, plenty of home screen customisation options, optional gesture navigation, and iOS-like UI shortcuts. You don’t get all the features of the Remi Note 10 Pro and Pro Max, for instance, there’s no Second Space private profile, and there are fewer creative camera modes.
Redmi Note 10 performance
Other than occasional notifications from some of the spammy apps, there isn’t much to complain about. The Redmi Note 10 has more than enough power to run everyday apps and tasks smoothly. It’s also relatively light and convenient to use. The fingerprint sensor is responsive but I found myself unlocking the phone unintentionally when just holding it in my hand, or picking it up to put it in my pocket, and I had to consciously teach myself to avoid touching the sensor.
The screen is bright and crisp, with rich colours. You can customise the tone but the reflective ring around the front camera is annoying at times. There’s an always-on display feature that isn’t active by default and doesn’t actually always stay on – you still have to tap the screen to see the time, battery status and notifications, so you might as well just use the tap-to-wake gesture. The Redmi Note 10 does have Widevine L1 DRM certification so you can stream at high resolution.
Games including Asphalt 9: Legends and Call of Duty Mobile ran pretty well at High graphics quality. There was very minor stuttering and the rear of the phone did get slightly warm after about 15 minutes. Performance in graphics benchmarks was also decent for a budget phone. I got scores of 484 and 1,487 in 3DMark’s Wild Life and Sling Shot Extreme tests, while GFXBench’s T-Rex and Manhattan 3.1 scenes ran at 42fps and 15fps respectively. As for general performance benchmarks, AnTuTu managed a score of 245,114 while Geekbench’s single- and multi-core scores were 543 and 1,641 respectively.
Battery life is good overall, and you should be able to get through at least one full day without having to reach for the charger. I wasn’t disappointed even with my usage, which involved streaming one full movie and some music, a lot of Wi-Fi web browsing, and some use of the cameras. Our HD video loop test lasted for a reasonable 15 hours, 12 minutes. Charging the Redmi Note 10 with its own charger, it got up to 66 percent in 30 minutes and 91 percent in an hour, which isn’t bad at all.
Redmi Note 10 cameras
Unlike the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max with its 108-megapixel primary camera, there’s nothing unusual or pathbreaking about the Redmi Note 10’s photography capabilities. You get a very standard 48-megapixel f/1.79 main rear camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and the very basic 2-megapixel macro and depth sensors which companies use to fulfil that “quad camera” marketing requirement on budget phones.
The Redmi Note 10 also lacks many of the software touches that its more expensive siblings offer. The vlog, dual exposure, clone, and dual video modes are missing, potentially due to the more modest processor, but this is still surprising. You can record 4K 30fps video, and slow-motion capture goes up to 960fps at 720p.
Daytime camera performance is fairly good, with adequate sharpness and detail. Colours pop a little and exposures are generally fine. Landscape shots are okay, but distant objects can be somewhat blotchy. Close-ups tended to be crisp and detailed as long as the subjects weren’t brightly coloured – but some red flowers, for instance, looked dramatically oversaturated and indistinct. Portrait mode usually did a good job of gently blurring the background to emphasise the subject, and portrait shots looked noticeably better in terms of composition than close-ups taken in the standard mode, though some overall detail is lost. Quality is weaker with the wide-angle camera, of course, but it could be useful sometimes since edge distortion is not too jarring. The macro camera, as expected, is only really suitable for novelty shots and doesn’t produce great quality results that you’d want to rely on.
As for low-light shots, you might want to tap the shutter button a few times for a better chance that your subject will be captured crisply. While the Redmi Note 10 usually gets it right, there were cases in my testing that were disappointingly blurred or out of focus. If there’s enough artificial light around, objects will look good enough and colours will show up decently well. Night mode can boost brightness and balance exposures nicely, but results depend heavily on ambient light and shot composition. The ultra-wide camera delivers quite poor results at night.
Selfies looked ok, but skin textures and details are weak when seen at full magnification. Beautification is on by default. The selfie portrait mode works well enough and separated the background accurately.
Video recorded in the daytime is relatively smooth. At 4K, colours tend to get overblown and there’s an unnaturally warm tone. Even the wide-angle camera does okay, though detail is less crisp. At night, the lack of stabilisation is evident if you’re moving around while recording, but detail even in moving objects is decent if you stand still. 4K video still looks way too warm and there’s noticeable jitter when moving. The wide-angle camera produced wobbly footage which was much darker and murkier in terms of detail.
The Redmi Note 10 doesn’t push any major new boundaries for a budget phone, which is a little disappointing considering how popular its predecessors have been. That said, prices are rising and taxes are steeper than before so it’s hard for companies to pull off huge surprises these days while keeping costs low. This is still a very competent phone and offers good value for money in 2021.
It offers a striking new design, solid performance for everyday tasks, good battery life, and a competent enough main rear camera. Little touches such as the AMOLED display, stereo speakers and the IP53 rating are what set the Redmi Note 10 apart from other budget phones. The promise of clean, annoyance-free software is tantalising, but we have to rate this phone based on our actual experience with it at the time of review. As of now, that means the spam and ads cost it a few points, but if you’re reading this after the rollout of MIUI 12.5, do take that into account.
The Redmi Note 10 will compete with the Poco M3 (Review), Moto G10 Power and G30, Samsung Galaxy M12, and even the Redmi 9 Power (Review), plus many other recent launches in the sub-Rs. 15,000 space. This isn’t an exciting phone but it should prove to be quite popular in its segment.
Has the Redmi Note 10 Series raised the bar in the budget phone market in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.