Xiaomi calls in the big guns to heat up the budget smartphone segment.
With over 200 million units sold worldwide, the Redmi Note from Xiaomi is without a doubt one of the most popular smartphone lineups around. The focus with these phones has always been to offer the most ‘bang for your buck,’ and while that continues to this day, over the last few years, the Redmi Note has kind of built on that foundation to offer more than one compelling option—in addition to the standard Note—for those who may be looking for something more ‘pro-grade.’ Evidently, it wasn’t enough—which is probably why, the ‘pro max’ moniker came into being (last year).
Like clockwork, Xiaomi has launched three new Redmi Note phones for 2021. These are the Redmi Note 10, Redmi Note 10 Pro, and Redmi Note 10 Pro Max. The Redmi Note 10 Pro Max and Redmi Note 10 Pro are essentially the same phones, the only difference being that the pro max model has a higher resolution main camera.
The Redmi Note 10 Pro Max starts at Rs 18,999 for the base variant with 6GB RAM and 64GB storage going up to Rs 21,999 for the top-end variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. This particular model also comes in 8GB/128GB configuration at a price of Rs 19,999. The Redmi Note 10 Pro comes in 6GB/64GB, 6GB/128GB and 8GB/128GB variants at Rs 15,999, Rs 16,999 and Rs 18,999 respectively. The ‘regular’ Redmi Note 10 meanwhile starts at Rs 11,999 for the base variant with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage while its top-end variant with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage costs Rs 13,999.
An important thing to note here is that even the base variant of the regular Note 10 comes with fast LPDDR4X RAM and UFS2.2 storage. All the Redmi Note 10 models also come with ‘dedicated slot’ for storage expansion. We’re just getting started, so buckle up dear readers because it’s going to get crazy.
Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, Note 10 design and display
It’s been sometime that budget phones stopped looking bad—or feeling cheap. Xiaomi has been a pioneer in making affordable phones look good. With the Redmi Note 10 phones, it has taken things to a whole new level. There is no beating around the bush. The Note 10, Note 10 Pro and Note 10 Pro Max don’t look (or feel) like they cost the way that they do. Even some of the premium, more expensive—I am talking about actual flagship—phones don’t look this good. Some of them don’t look this original too.
Despite being a yearly affair now, Xiaomi has managed to spring in a new design—which is impressive. All the three phones share this redesign—Xiaomi calls it ‘evol’—as well as the build materials—which is again, very impressive. They are all IP53-certfied for splash resistance. Aside from a few minor differences, you’ll be greeted with the same level of craftsmanship, whether you pick up a regular Note 10 or the maxed-out Note 10 Pro Max.
The Note 10 Pro Max (and Note 10 Pro) has a glass back—this is Corning Gorilla Glass 5—and a plastic frame of a matching colour, while the Note 10 is all plastic. Speaking of which, the regular Note 10 comes in green, black, and white. The Note 10 Pro Max and Note 10 Pro come in bronze, blue, and black. The black version of the Note 10 Pro Max—which I have for review—is glossy and, expectedly, a fingerprint and smudge magnet. It is also very, very slippery. This is true about the black Note 10 and Note 10 Pro as well. All the other options have a ‘frosted’ matte finish—such as the white Note 10 I have for review—which is better at hiding fingerprints and is also a lot less slippery.
The camera housing in the Note 10 Pro Max and Note 10 Pro is a raised two-step setup which means that there is ‘prominent’ camera bump in these phones while in the Note 10, the cameras sit comparatively flush with the body.
Another mind-boggling thing about these phones—aside from the updated design—is how sleek they are relative to their predecessors. At 8.1mm and 192g, the Note 10 Pro Max is 0.7mm thinner and 16g lighter than the Note 9 Pro Max despite all the extra hardware. By extension, this applies to the Note 10 Pro as well. The Note 10, which is also smaller than the Note 9, measures 8.3mm and weighs in at 178.8g.
There are some big changes on the front as well. The Note 10 Pro Max (and Note 10 Pro) comes with a segment-first ‘120Hz Super AMOLED display’ while keeping screen size—6.67-inch—and resolution—FHD+—same as last year.
There are other improvements too. Budget Xiaomi phones have long been riddled with lacklustre brightness and washed-out colours. The Note 10 Pro Max (and Note 10 Pro) can theoretically peak 1200nits which (also) makes it HDR 10-ready. The panel also supports 100 percent DCI-P3 colour gamut. The difference is noticeable instantly. The Note 10 Pro Max probably has the best display on any smartphone South of Rs 20,000. To be clear, it is not ‘adaptive’ like the Poco X3, another phone with a 120Hz display (though it uses IPS LCD), and so far, I haven’t had any ‘ghosting’ issues, but more on this in my full review. Rounding off the package are a 2.96mm punch hole (Xiaomi says this is the smallest for any Redmi Note to date) cut-out and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection.
The Note 10 has a 6.43-inch (FHD+) display, which is smaller than the Note 9, but Xiaomi has bumped up the panel to a ‘brighter Super AMOLED’ that can—at least in theory—peak 1100nits. The panel also supports 100 percent DCI-P3 colour gamut. The refresh rate caps at conventional 60Hz and for protection, it has the older Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The Note 10 has slightly bigger bezels—especially around the chin—and the cut-out is also a little bigger which is understandable considering the lower price.
All the three phones come with a side-mounted fingerprint reader (which is fast and accurate) that doubles as a quick ‘double tap’ shortcut button, 360-degree ambient light sensor, dual stereo speakers with Hi-Res audio support, IR blaster, Z-axis vibration motor, and 3.5mm audio jack.
Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, Note 10 hardware
The Note 10 Pro Max is Xiaomi’s fourth phone in India to come with a 108MP main camera (Samsung ISOCELL HM2 sensor), after the Mi 10, Mi 10T Pro and Mi 10i—of course, it is the most affordable in that list. There are three other cameras, which are essentially same as the ones on the Note 9 Pro Max with some tweaks. There is an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera with 118-degree field-of-view, 5MP ‘telemacro’ (which means that it can serve double duty as macro and telephoto (for 2x zoom)), and another 2MP depth camera for portrait photography. Xiaomi is bringing some high-end ‘Mi features’ like Vlog Mode, Dual Video and Magic Clone Videos to the Note 10 Pro Max—a first for any Redmi phone. The results are so far, promising. The Note 10 Pro swaps the 108MP camera with a 64MP shooter (Samsung ISOCELL GW3 sensor) keeping the Note 10 Pro Max’s other three cameras as is.
The Note 10 has a quad-cam setup with a 48MP main (Sony IMX582 sensor), 8MP ultra-wide-angle, and two 2MP cameras, one for depth and another for macros—same as the Note 9. The Note 10 Pro Max and Note 10 Pro have a 16MP front camera while the Note 10 has a 13MP front camera.
Moving on to core hardware, the Note 10 Pro Max and Note 10 Pro have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G processor (8-core, 8nm). This seems to be a contentious issue on social media, with many pointing out the lack of 5G in Xiaomi’s new phones. Xiaomi India head Manu Kumar Jain has argued that the company does not want buyers to invest more—5G chipset could have made the Note 10 series climb up the price ladder—for technology that they probably would not be able to use for another two-three years. It seems fair, and Xiaomi has launched ‘affordable 5G phones’ like the Mi 10i in India, so early adopters do have an option (though, I think, the Note 10 Pro Max hits the Mi 10i straight out of the ballpark even without 5G).
Those looking to buy a new phone under Rs 20,000 today are most likely not going to be that target audience though. There are of course phones like the Realme X7 and Realme Narzo 30 Pro under Rs 20,000 that come with a more powerful MediaTek Dimensity 800U and 5G—so, there is no dearth of options, just in case. The Note 10 Pro Max just seems like a better deal overall.
The Note 10 is India’s first phone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 678 processor (8-core, 11nm)—something that I am looking forward to testing out in more detail in the days to come.
All the three phones run Android 11-based MIUI 12 out-of-the-box and will be eligible for MIUI 12.5, the next version of MIUI that comes with a revamped system UI, and more uninstallable system apps. For now, yes, these phones come with many unwanted apps and yes, there are ads. But that’s just how the whole ‘budget ecosystem’ is right now anyway.
The Note 10 Pro Max and Note 10 Pro have a 5,020mAh with 33W fast charging—same as the Note 9 Pro Max. The Note 10 has a 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging. All the three phones ship with a 33W fast charger in the box.
The Redmi Note has been Xiaomi’s default ‘best-seller’ in India for a while now and with the Redmi Note 10 series, the brand has raised the bar even higher for rivals. There are some big upgrades ranging from a new design to bumped up display and core hardware, including revamped cameras and yet Xiaomi has managed to stir controversy by deciding to give 5G a miss. Regardless, there’s a lot to like here, and even though a full review of these phones will take some more time, one thing’s clear—Xiaomi’s Note 10 phones will be the budget smartphones to beat this year.