review

Redmi Note 10 Review: The Most Note-ish Note of the Lot

Not as many bells and whistles, just good old value for money!

by: - Last updated on: March 11th, 2021

When Xiaomi first launched the Redmi Note series, it was supposed to be this affordable (starting at sub-Rs 10,000) yet competitively specced range that covered the basics better – make that “WAY better” – than its competition. Fast forward to the present, the line-up includes Pro and Pro Max variants that have been pushing both spec and price boundaries beyond the low-budget segment realm. This is great for those looking for the Note badging and legacy to be attached to their mid-range smartphone but the Pro and Pro Max variants do not really follow the Note series’ footsteps in some manner. Yes, both are competitively priced and specced but one of the biggest highlights of the Note range used to be affordability and that comforting proximity to Rs 10,000, something which both the Pro and Pro Max miss out on.

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But that does not mean Redmi has completely let go of Note that serves the masses. Along with the fancier versions that come with bells and whistles Redmi also has introduced the base variant, the Redmi Note 10. The Redmi Note without any suffix. The Redmi Note for the masses.

Note-like looks

When it comes to looks and design, the Note series’ smartphones have usually been that kid in the class who does not get an A in every subject but is nowhere near failing either. The smartphones in the Note range look good, very good some might even say but their design will seldom turn heads. And the same applies to the Redmi Note 10 as well.
The phone comes with great looks but it is unlikely to be a topic of conversation. The front of the phone is covered by the tall Super AMOLED display which is paired with a dot notch that houses the camera. It has a polycarbonate back that can easily pass off as matte glass and does not look anything remotely like plastic. The big, black, almost rectangular, slightly raised camera unit is the only thing that breaks the matte white monopoly. There is a Redmi logo that sits near the base of the back but that is hardly an attention seeker.

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The phone has soft, curvy edges that help it sit well in your hand and the matte polycarbonate back keeps it from getting scratched and smudged at the drop of a hat. It packs a big battery but does not feel too heavy which is again a plus. If you like your phones to stand out in the crowd and cannot do with a smartphone that ‘just’ look good then perhaps you can give the Redmi Note 10 a skip. But in its price segment, it is among the better-looking devices out there. And there are not many options in the price range that can even pass off as good-looking. To read more about the design read our first cut.

A new chip that rocks gaming, but with a few stutters

The Redmi Note 10 may be suffix-less but the phone does have an edge over its Pro and Pro Max siblings. It is the only new Note that comes with a new processor. The Redmi Note 10 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 678 processor paired with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage which can be expanded up to 512 GB and comes with a MicroSD card slot which means you will not have to sacrifice a SIM card’s space for it.

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Smartphones have now reached a phase where it is pretty much a given that they will handle your day-to-day chores well. All of them may not be able to handle high-end gaming, video editing, or many such high power requiring tasks well but they are all pretty much expected to handle routine stuff – the mails, the social networks, the odd image filters, the messages – smoothly. Now, although most of the time the Redmi Note 10 behaved well, it did trip up from time to time in this zone. No, the experience was not all laggy and crash-y. but the fact that it happened on a device that bears the Note tag was surprising.

Much to our surprise, we sometimes found our Note 10 lagging while performing elementary tasks. It once actually froze when we were accessing Google Drive. And these blips did not happen just once. Sometimes it would take us multiple taps to get a single action done and even the most basic of apps would crash. And generally when we were casually using the smartphone, and not really pushing it. Yes, these were rare occasions, but then…this is a Note, and we have expectations.

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On the other hand, the phone handles gaming very well indeed. Of course, it is not designed to be a high-end gaming device but it sailed through most without any issues. Casual games were a delight on the device and while high-end games did struggle a bit, the phone did not look out of its depth even here. This makes us suspect that perhaps the mainstream usage lags might get ironed out with a software update or two.

Getting into the AMOLED zone

The Note 10, like its siblings, also gets a Super AMOLED display, a first for any Note in the series. And the difference is very very evident. The tall 6.4-inch full HD+ Super AMOLED display makes everything on it look very colorful and poppy. Even on the rare occasions when the phone stumbled, the display kept things rich and vibrant. The deep contrasts and the richness that AMOLED brings along add a much-needed dimension to the smartphone. The Note 10’s display comes with a 60 Hz refresh rate as opposed to the 120 Hz refresh rate that the Pro and Pro Max variants bring to the table, but the difference will not really jump at you unless you use the phones side-by-side and scroll like crazy. Also on board are Always On Display, Rise to wake, Double Tap to Wake, all of which give it a very premium vibe but are not turned on by default. You have to make your way to Display Settings and turn them on.

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One of our favorite features on the Redmi Note 10 is the physical fingerprint scanner mounted on the side. We love a physical fingerprint scanner and we think it belongs on the side of the phone where reaching for it is as natural as it gets. Registering the fingerprint can take a little time, but once it is done, the scanner works swiftly and unlocks the phone in a jiffy every single time. Also on board are stereo speakers that definitely add some oomph to the device’s sound, making it even better for games and series watching, and a very Mi feature that deserves a mention, the IR blaster.

Solidly performing cameras (stay in the light, please)

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Cameras were not the strong suit of the Note series initially and were often a point of grievance for quite a while. That has changed, and the Redmi Note 10 reflects that. The Redmi Note 10 brings a quad-camera setup on the back comprising a 48-megapixel Sony IMX 582 main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor, a 2-megapixel macro sensor, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor.

The cameras do a very good job in well-lit conditions. The results show that they are at their best in broad daylight, and we were more than pleased with the pictures the phone took in such conditions. The Redmi Note 10 aced the detail game but what really surprised us was the fact that the smartphone managed to reproduce colors very well. In good lighting, the colors reproduced were quite close to what we were seeing with our eyes which was so refreshing to see at this price point. We loved taking close-up pictures with the Note 10 as well as it created a very deep and natural bokeh between the foreground and the background.

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Talking about bokeh, the Redmi Note 10 also brings Portrait mode to the table which is kind of average. There is an obvious struggle with the edges and the bokeh can sometimes seem very artificial but if you have the lighting, patience, timing, and if the photography gods are especially happy with you, then you can get an exceptional portrait shot with the camera. It takes some patience and getting used to but you can ultimately get there.

The story changes a bit as the light begins to dim. The details take a major hit and we would not advise you to tap and zoom in to low light pictures. Do not get us wrong, the Redmi Note 10 is capable of taking some really good low-light images. The textures and the colors often seem pretty good when you look at the image without zooming in but things will get blurry if you try to dive too deep into it. The camera does not take 48-megapixel shots by default and you have to swipe through modes, tap on “More” to find the option to turn the 48-megapixel mode on. It also brings a Pro mode that lets you customize and play around with settings to take the desired picture. You get some shooting options, albeit not as many as on the Pro devices (hey, not having that suffix can hurt!).

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On the front, the Redmi Note 10 comes with a 13-megapixel shooter which can easily take selfies that are good enough for the Gram. Even with the beauty mode off, the front camera has a slight tendency to blur out imprecations which is great if you do not want hyperpigmentation and lines to appear in your selfies but it does take a bit of credibility away from it. Video quality on both front and back cameras is good enough in the daylight, without being exceptional.

Still a very good interface (ads aside)

The Redmi Note 10 is powered by Android 11 which comes with a layer of MIUI 12. MIUI has been under major scrutiny for the last few years and the biggest reason for this is the fact that the UI comes with ads. Well, we are glad to see Android 11 out of the box, but the ads are still there. They are fewer in number, but they remain unwanted (like all ads, actually).

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Sidestep that issue and MIUI starts to look great. Over the years we have grown fonder and fonder of it with each passing update. The sheer simplicity paired with some very functional modes and features make MIUI one of our favorite ‘impure’ Android experiences on smartphones. There is also the promise of MIUI 12.5 making its way to the device soon, and Xiaomi claims that it to be the cleanest ever version of its Android interface.

The phone asks for quite a few permissions and many terms and conditions may have to be read when you will first start using the device but that is pretty much given with all smartphones. There is a Permission Manager in the Settings which shows you all the apps that get access to other apps or data and from there you can allow or deny permission to particular apps or services. Privacy lovers will love the feature.

In line with best battery tradition

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The battery has always been a very big (pun intended) part of the Redmi Notes’ existence and that remains unchanged with the Redmi Note 10. The smartphone is powered by a 5,000 mAH battery which may be slightly smaller than what you get on the Pro and Pro Max variant (they come with 5,020 mAh batteries) but comes with support for fast charge and has a 33W charger in the box. The phone can last you for more than one and a half days on a full charge. If you have turned on features like Double Tap to Wake and Always On Display, it might hurt the battery life a little but the difference will not be staggering. And it charges briskly too – it can easily get up to 50 percent charged in less than half an hour, and a full charge takes about an hour and a half.

The base Note = the Real Note?

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Its starting price of Rs 11,999 for 4 GB/ 64 GB places the Note 10 closest to the original Note that started it all in 2014 (there is a 6 GB/ 128 GB variant for Rs 13,999 as well). And like the first Note, what it offers at that price is staggering – a Super AMOLED Full HD+ display, a Snapdragon 678 processor, a terrific battery life, good cameras spearheaded by a 48-megapixel sensor, Android 11, stereo speakers. Well, it is not surprising considering the fact that it is after all a Note. If our enthusiasm sounds a little over the top, do consider the fact that there are still brands coming out with HD+ displays, inferior cameras, and smaller batteries at higher price points.

Yes, there is some competition from the likes of the Poco M3 and the Redmi 9 Power, both of which come with similar cameras, big batteries, full HD displays, and stereo speakers, but they lose out of that Super AMOLED goodness in front and that speedy charger. Yes, the Redmi Note 10 does have its odd bugs, but it is easily the most Note-like of the current lot, bringing a number of features at a surprisingly affordable price point.

It is the Redmi Note without any suffix. The Redmi Note for the masses.

And the most Note-ish Note of the new lot.

Pros
  • Great display
  • Good cameras
  • Smart design
  • Long battery life
  • Android 11
Cons
  • Occasional lags
  • Not so great low light performance from cameras
  • Ads in UI
Review Overview
Build & design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price
SUMMARY

It is the least impressive of the new Note 10 series on paper, but the Redmi Note 10 is also the most affordable of the new Notes. It might miss out on the high megapixel cameras and display refresh rates, but the Redmi Note 10 comes with a very good Super AMOLED display and is also the first phone in the country to feature the Snapdragon 678 chip.

4.0

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