Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Review: Pushing the boundaries

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The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 is the most affordable in its lineup. For its Dh699 starting price, it sports a trendy design, capable specifications and an outstanding display. But there is still room for some improvement.

Design and build

There is no doubt that the Redmi Note 10 is one of the better looking budget smartphones on the market. It borrows the same design language found on Xiaomi’s flagship Mi11 albeit a bit toned down. The rear is made from a smooth plastic that blends with the metallic frame of the device. While we did notice the lack of premium, the curves on the Redmi Note 10 allow for a comfortable usage experience. At 178g and 8.3mm thin, the device is as lightweight and compact as you would expect. Switching from a bulkier smartphone, you will definitely appreciate this change. Even the rear primary camera sports a minimal bump which compliments the overall look of the smartphone well. One complaint we have is how easily the smartphone builds up fingerprints. And in this regard, a matte finish as opposed to a glossy one would have been better.

The Redmi Note 10 has a stand-out design

While the curved design continues off to the smartphone’s left and right side, the top and bottom edges are flat and chiselled. This adds some further character to the look of the smartphone which is attention to detail that not many manufacturers focus on at this segment. The right edge houses the volume rocker and a flatter power button, which also doubles as a fingerprint scanner. For a right-handed user, the power button is placed well to use with your thumb’s fingerprint to unlock. Left-handed users on the other hand will have to register either their index or middle finger depending on grip. Using the fingerprint scanner is therefore easy, however it is slightly on the slower side.

You find the fingerprint scanner placed on the right edge

On the left edge, you find the SIM tray slot. Here, you have the option to use two 4G nano-SIM cards and a microSD card simultaneously. It is nice to see this convenience on a budget smartphone especially when flagships these days decide to omit expandable storage. The rubber sealing around the tray bolsters the smartphone’s IP53 rating. While this will not protect the smartphone from dunks into water, it will give it some resistance against dust and sprays of water which is still something.

While we did not find much use for it, an IR blaster is convenient to have

The top edge of the smartphone houses one part of the stereo speaker experience, the IR blaster and the secondary microphone. Lastly, the bottom edge houses the primary microphone, the Type-C USB charging port, the second speaker output as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. Firstly, it is nice to see the headphone jack retained on the Redmi Note 10. But more importantly, its position means it will be more convenient to use when you naturally place the phone in your pocket.

Display and multimedia

Backing up the solid build on the Redmi Note 10 is its display. Here, you find a 6.43-inch 20:9 punch-hole flat panel that completely outdoes the competition. Not only is it a Super AMOLED screen but it also sports a 2,400 x 1,080 FHD+ resolution. This is one of the best panels we have seen at this price segment in terms of quality, brightness and build thanks to Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The 1,100nit peak brightness rating of the display especially makes it easy for outdoor use.

Watching multimedia on the Full HD+ display is impressive

The lack of HDR10 support is acceptable at this price however, it is nice to see WideVine L1 certification for HD content on streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. The tiny punch-hole, DCI-P3 coverage and dynamic range of the panel in combination give you the best experience for multimedia. We have thoroughly enjoyed using the smartphone for a wide variety of content through our review period. Plus, you can always customise how you want colour to look in the settings of the smartphone. However, the default settings were more than acceptable for us.

Some may not like the bigger chin design but it does not bother us much

Accompanying this stellar display is a great sound experience too. The Redmi Note 10 packs stereo sound which will be good for many. It is a bit on the softer side however we appreciate the richer experience compared to a mono-speaker. Contrary to the look of the speaker grills, the top grill is softer than the bottom. This difference makes for slightly unbalanced sound in certain situations. But for most, this will not matter. It is also nice to see options and flexibility for audio. For example, either the 3.5mm headphone jack with Hi-Res certification or a pair of Bluetooth headphones can be used to improve audio significantly.

Performance and gaming

Inside the Redmi Note 10, you find the Qualcomm Snapdragon 678 octa-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz. This is an 11nm chip which gives you on-par performance. On AnTuTu, it scores 227,754 whereas on Geekbench 5, it posts a 529 single-core score and a 1,551 multi-core score respectively. These benchmark scores are higher than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 running Motorola g30 however significantly lower than the Redmi Note 9T which boasts the MediaTek Dimensity 800U 5G processor.

Alongside the processing power, our Redmi Note 10 boasts 128GB of on-board UFS 2.2 storage alongside 4GB of RAM. In daily use, we found this combination to be just enough to get by. Multitasking was doable however RAM management if you intend to bounce between multiple applications becomes a bit limiting. To avoid this, perhaps look at going for a 6GB RAM variant of the device. Other instances such as jitter, lag and pauses made using the smartphone less enjoyable in our opinion. Many times, the user interface remained unresponsive and sometimes, elements were displayed out of the smartphone’s display border. However, we think this Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 software is equally to blame.

If you have not experienced MIUI before, adapting may take some time

A bump up from the 60Hz refresh rate panel to a 90Hz one could have solved some of these lag issues. But this obviously means a sacrifice in display quality. Personally, we think the route Xiaomi has gone with is the right one. It just needs to ensure that its MIUI 12 software is much further toned down. For gaming particularly, the Redmi Note 10 comes with a feature called Game Turbo. We tested the smartphone playing PUBG, where Game Turbo was enabled by default. From the offset, the smartphone is not capable of gaming on higher settings. We played PUBG on HD graphics and high frame rate settings. But you can bump down graphics to Smooth for an Ultra frame rate option. In addition to this, Game Turbo gives you some useful features like turning up the sensitivity of the screen when gaming which works fairly well.

User experience and software

Running on MIUI 12.0.2, the Redmi Note 10 delivers a familiar looking software experience. The skin is atop Android 11 and currently, the smartphone is on the February 2021 security update which is good considering MIUI is notorious for slow software updates. Having used MIUI devices in the past, the overall functionality is not a problem. You may have to adjust to a few elements such as the multitasking pane or the lack of an application drawer. But we think there are some core issues that Xiaomi needs to fix, with the issues highlighted via text in the screenshots below.

One of the biggest inconveniences we faced was to do with notification management. When someone sent a message on WhatsApp, its notification overlapped with another person. This made it difficult to know where exactly the message came from unless you opened the application which defeats the purpose. There are also heavy doses of bloatware pre-installed with the smartphone which we thin is unnecessary. To be fair to Xiaomi, the applications in question can be uninstalled. But we think they should not be there in the first place.

Promotional applications like this should not be on the smartphone

As for advertisements, there were not many we encountered in the notification shade which is good. We think this is also to do with turning off ‘Personalised recommendations’ on Xiaomi’s default applications. However, when opening the ‘More apps’ or ‘Games’ folder pre-bundled by Xiaomi, you find a list of promoted applications which is a bit off-putting. Going back to the notification panel, we thought the access to quick toggles was great. But in browsing so, we realised that there is no support for NFC on the Redmi Note 10. We have said this for years but as the world now moves to contact-less payments faster than ever, this should have been a feature that Xiaomi bundled.

Access to the quick toggles via the notification panel is done well

Xiaomi should be given credit for improvements in the past though. Its software has come a long with some delightful floating window and multi-application support. The always-on display takes full advantage of the AMOLED panel and so does the dark mode. And at least there is room to customise the user experience with themes. We just think this constructive criticism can ensure that Xiaomi continues to develop its software and make it even better with future updates.

Camera performance

The Redmi Note 10 sports a quad-camera setup comprising of a 48MP f/1.8 Sony IMX582 wide, an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, a 2MP f/2.4 macro and a 2MP f/2.4 depth camera. If you have read our reviews in the past, we are not fans of macro and depth cameras to make up the numbers. The macro lens does have a reasonable novelty factor but its use is limited.

The 48MP quad-camera setup is fairly impressive

Moving to the main sensor, its performance in well lit surroundings is good. It can capture a good deal of dynamic range with slightly warm colours and blown out highlights. Detail levels here are also good but extensive zooming shows a bit of a drop off. To combat this, you can opt for the 48MP mode of the camera. In the same daytime conditions, the ultra-wide lens produces noticeably cooler images. The colour shift between these lenses is noticeable although detail levels are still fairly good.

In low-light situations, we noticed the camera to struggle with focus. Sharpness of photos dropped in these conditions but the experience still managed to hold its own. If you stay patient with the camera and hold it steady, it is capable of good pictures. Using the night mode option sharpens images a bit further but they do start to look slightly fake due to all the software sharpening. It was during this that we also discovered that the Redmi Note 10 has no manual exposure control. Usually, you can tap the camera’s viewfinder to adjust brightness before taking a photo. While this is absent, we hope Xiaomi can address this with a software update.

We like that Xiaomi has kept the user interface of the camera simple to understand

Using the ultra-wide angle camera is not recommended for night-time photos especially given its lack of night mode. But as an overall package, you cannot argue with much. The camera application’s user interface is simple and easy to navigate which is of course a plus point. While there is also support for 4K 30FPS video here, we would recommend against using it solely because of the lack of optical or electronic image stabilisation. Lastly, there is a 13MP f/2.5 punch-hole camera for selfies. We thought in a variety of conditions, the selfie experience was fairly good. Once again, it helps to stay still just to tackle the slow shutter speed of the device. You could complain about the lack of detail in darker regions for selfies but such scrutiny is unfair especially given the smartphone’s price tag.

Battery life

Despite the thin and lightweight design of the Redmi Note 10, Xiaomi has done an incredible job to pack a 5,000mAh battery here. On paper, this is robust and in practice, you will see a mixed experience. For us, the smartphone lasted anywhere between 1-1.5 days of moderate use. However, it was not consistent. Given that we have used the smartphone for 4 days, it is not fair to make an all encompassing judgement. Sometimes, we did see the smartphone deliver up to 8 hours of screen-on time but in other situations, this dropped closer to the 5-6 hour range.

As for topping up the battery, there is both a charging brick and cable provided with the Redmi Note 10 out of the box. The charger supports 33W fast charging, which is what the smartphone is capable of as well. In practice, we got 77 per-cent in an hour of charging with a full charge taking 1 hour and 30 minutes on average. Of course, there is no support or wireless or reverse wireless charging.

Conclusion

Naming a more complete smartphone than the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 at this price point is extremely difficult. It gets fundamentals such as design and display spot on. User experience is a bit of a bumpy ride however we are certain Xiaomi can address this with future software updates. As for the camera and battery, there is nothing in particular to complain about. In lieu of this, recommending the Redmi Note 10 is easy. It is a smartphone that caters to a wide audience and offers unbeatable value for money.

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