With 5G gaining rapid adoption these days seeing how Xiaomi and Oppo are designing their own 5G chipset with Unisoc, its comforting to know that the 4G/LTE range is still getting love, especially in the lower cost market segment. What used to be the price for entry level phones is now competitively wrapped in a seemingly premium package; even more so in Xiaomi's latest iteration in the form of Redmi Note 10. Let's see what makes this budget Note series such a compelling combination.
Packaging of the Redmi Note Series is pretty standard, minimalistic. Subtle differences to the one found in Redmi Note 9S, but the former comes with a higher powered, well made 33W factory USB charger. With it also comes the factory-applied screen protector, and a clear case. Straight up ready to use right out of the box onto the hands.
This is where the Redmi Note 10 truly shines. For around $250 what we see here is almost a Unicorn: Decent Snapdragon 678 Chipset with ample to show on benchmarks, crispy Super AMOLED Display that isn't from Mi A3 era, and Sony IMX582 rear shooter powered by a 5,000mAh battery. If that's still not enough, they threw in a 128GB UFS2.2 storage along with generous 6GB LPDDR4X ram (this 6/128GB version is the one being reviewed). Sounds almost like a better version of Rasberry Pi with touchscreen and battery. Well not literally almost but you catch the drift.
The Redmi Note 10 feels very well put together, with no shaky bits at all. Buttons have assuring feedback, and the side mounted power button/fingerprint sensor feels plush to the touch. They have chosen not to indent the power/sensor button in like on the Note 9S, but keep it flush along the side of the body. That being said, the "indent" is cleverly introduced on the official casing. All very subtle yet practical. The dimensions are noticeably smaller and thinner than the Note 9S but its really much easier to hold on the hand. Coming in lighter at 20g should be a relief for those who habitually have it glued on their palms on the go as well. Overall the phone has very refined feel on the hands, especially the touch screen experience (we'll come to that below).
Granted that it's now come with a plastic back cover (in comparison with glass back on Redmi Note 9S) to save costs, perhaps Xiaomi has gotten this package right: focus on the good bits, especially where users come in contact with the most, i.e the screen. Nevertheless, the matt finish is very welcome as it doesn't attract fingerprints, although it would be common behaviour to use the free case anyway.
The Redmi Note 10 display comes in at 6.43 inches at a crisp 2400 x 1080 resolution. But that's not all; Xiaomi chose to line this series up with the Super AMOLED screen, ensuring a brighter display with better colours, and a much better touch experience overall. For the discerning, comparing touch feelings on a typical tianma LCD panel vs AMOLED, the latter is a tad sensitive, at the same time providing a more padded (or plush) sensation on the thumb (or toe if you will). Really refined, and that is what has been missing on budget phones since the Mi A3. Not to mention that it's pleasing to the eyes - readability is overall better than the usual LCDs. Sunlight legibility is not a problem at all.
Again uncommon in this tier, this phone comes with top and bottom firing speakers, forming a stereo experience. Music is pleasing to the ears when placed in landscape mode. Definitely loud, with no distortion noticed on the highest volume setting. Has a good tinge of bass too, which is really commendable. So, equally well done in the speakers department.
Software / Daily Use / Performance
For experienced android users, the MIUI is a breeze to set up right out of the box.
Users generally have not much to worry about software updates since Xiaomi does generally support many devices well over 1 or 2 Android versions. Redmi Note 10 is based on Android 11 which is up to date.
Being resistant to the conventional MIUI up to v11, imagine the pleasant surprise when MIUI 12 presented an app drawer on the home screen. Well finally! Gone are the days of tinkering with them phones at the risk of voiding warranty just to get a Pixel-like experience user interface, or having to install a different launcher over MIUI which doesn't always work perfect. Even less so for the pixel-like ROMs.
Also improved on the MIUI 12 is even less bloatware from before. Most Xiaomi-centric apps are able to be uninstalled, and will be even more so when MIUI 12.5 arrives. That leaves more juice to the main apps in use on the phone, as well as keeping the UI animations fluid and responsive even after more than a week of uptime / usage. Good ram management onboard.
The MIUI 12 also has a good looking dark mode which has a more unified experience compare to earlier versions, with good legibility.
One of the major advantage here is having UFS 2.2 storage which really speeds up the day to day usage. Never mind the high sequential read/writes; the Redmi Note 10 has good IOPS for the storage savvy users.
In this segment the Redmi Note 10 takes really impressive day photos. The implementation of the camera stack fronted by the 48MP Sony IMX582 Exmore RS is highly commendable. It somehow brought back the sharpness of Samsung ISOCELL GM1 (found in Redmi Note 8, lost in Redmi Note 9S) and improved even more.
It helps that MIUI 12 has good Camera UI which is really easy to use, and best left to its built-in intuition. Great clarity in most shots when HDR is in auto mode, with risks of overexposure when HDR is on, depending on the scene. The AI feature is also quite useful to determine the type of scene for e.g. food, night etc. It also has a Pro mode for the imaging connoisseurs equipped with tripod stands.
All in all, best to leave it auto, and AI for colour boosts.
Pictures taken in auto mode:
Macro Mode: Nice to have, useful only when mandatory to picture objects up close
No complaints, decent quality. Perhaps a minor discontentment: night shots are much brighter than reality, but the plus point is having more visible details. Impressive night mode on the MIUI 12 that actually improves the overall image quality.
Low light street shot
Night Mode ON / OFF:
On typical normal usage, it is proving quite a challenge to completely exhaust battery juice within a day. No doubt Snapdragon 678 is not as efficient as the 7 series, but given that AMOLED is proving to be quite frugal on consumption, the overall discharge rate is kept low. It is safe to assume that the SOT (screen on time) on this phone could be an hour or more per 10% drop while on 4G, meaning that it should not be any issue covering 10 hours of SOT on mobile network with good signals. That being said, it simply lasts forever (well not literally) on WiFi, however it was observed that the MIUI can be a tad too tense on battery restriction; notifications are usually delayed by a few minutes when left idle.
The Redmi Note 10 is indeed an impeccable value for money package from Xiaomi. It certainly has most, if not all the right ingredients in this latest formula - both hardware and software included. It there was a bone to pick on, that would probably be the lack of Snapdragon 7 series chipset onboard. Still, with a performant mid tier CPU and all things considered, this phone is a compelling buy.
MugenVerdict: 10/10 Star Buy