The Redmi Note 10 Pro nailed the three core smartphone pillars of display, camera, and battery life for less than $300/£300. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G attempts to pull off the same trick at the sub-$250/£200 mark, all whilst adding 5G to the package.
That sound you can hear is the groan of scant resources being stretched thinly. While the Redmi Note 10 5G is an attractively built budget phone, it falls behind the likes of the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC with the quality of its display, the level of its performance, and the flexibility of its camera system.
Price and availabilityDesignDisplayCameraSpecs and performanceBattery lifeShould I buy it?
It’s a surprisingly stylish device though, with a pleasing matte finish and an industrial-looking camera module that makes it seem far more expensive than it is. Its display is a slightly washed out FHD+ LCD, but the main drawback here compared to some of its non–5G rivals is the provision of a mere 90Hz refresh rate rather than the full 120Hz.
Performance is merely okay, with a MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G chipset providing adequate day-to-day running alongside an underwhelming gaming experience.
The news is similarly mixed when it comes to the camera. While the Redmi Note 10 5G’s 48MP main sensor is capable of capturing adequate shots for the price, the complete lack of an ultra-wide assistant - let alone a telephoto lens - is a bit of a downer. The 2MP macro sensor that is there is scarcely worth the space.
By far the standout feature of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G is its stamina. With a 5,000mAh battery on board, alongside those otherwise modest specifications, it has the potential to last a full two days on a single charge.
Overall, while it’s a competent package, potential buyers need to be sure of their priorities before committing. Like the Realme 8 5G, Xiaomi has essentially compromised in several key areas for the purpose of squeezing 5G in below the magic $200/£200 mark. So you need to be certain that next-gen network connectivity is a truly essential factor for you.
You won’t go far wrong if you choose the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G as your next budget phone, just know that you can get a more rounded alternative if you’re happy to forgo 5G data speeds for another smartphone cycle.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G was announced on March 4, 2021, and became available to buy in the UK on April 13 for £199 (around AU$360) for the 64GB model. There’s also a 128GB model available for $250 / £209 (around AU$380).
The phone is available in the US, but retailers are harder to find than in the UK. We can't see the 64GB variant on sale in the US at the time of writing, so it seems you can only buy the 128GB.
All in all, the Redmi Note 10 5G a very similar proposition to the Realme 8 5G and the Oppo A54 5G, both of which launched around the same time with the promise of 5G connectivity at around the $250/£200 mark.
There’s no news on when the Redmi Note 10 5G will land in Australia, but we’ll update this review when we know more.
We’ll say one thing for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G: it doesn’t look like a slightly compromised budget phone. We’ve been using it alongside the similarly pitched Realme 8 5G and the Oppo A54 5G, and it’s considerably nicer to hold and behold than either.
Not that the front of the phone is really any different. You’ve got your pared back bezels, an oversized chin, and a centrally positioned punch-hole selfie camera that’s mercifully without a distractingly shiny surround.
However, the back of the phone is quite the classy customer, at least in our model’s sober Graphite Gray color. It’s unmistakably plastic, but there’s a slightly silky matte finish that looks and feels quite nice. While it’s far from immune to fingerprints, it sure beats the glossy grease magnet approach of most cheap phones.
Xiaomi’s camera module also looks a darned sight more premium than its nearest rivals, with a split metal effect and black shiny finish that makes it appear like a much more serious bit of photographic kit than it actually is.
There’s a heft to the phone that backs up this more pro-like finish. With a thickness of 8.9mm and a weight of 190g, it’s certainly no lightweight, and that’s largely a positive thing. Unless you’re looking for something a little more unassuming, that is.
Just like the aforementioned Oppo A54 5G and Realme 8 5G, the Redmi Note 10 5G goes with a side-mounted fingerprint sensor rather than the more fashionable in-display method. We really don’t mind such an approach at this end of the market, where in-display methods are generally slow and unreliable.
As it is, this more functional system is hardly the snappiest way to gain entry to your phone. But it’s reliable enough all the same.
More unique is the provision of an IR blaster on the top edge of the phone, which enables you to use it as a remote control. This isn’t unusual for anyone familiar with Xiaomi’s previous work, but it does set the phone apart from the Realme 8 5G and the Oppo A54 5G.
Typically with such cheap phones, the best you can hope for is either a 120Hz refresh rate (like the Poco X3 NFC) or a vibrant OLED panel (like the Realme 8). The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G has neither.
In the first of several compromises made to hit that ‘5G at $200/£200’ brief, Xiaomi has laid on a 6.5-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2400) IPS LCD with a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s all rather underwhelming.
This isn’t a terrible display by any means, but it doesn’t get particularly bright (400 nits isn’t great for sunny days), and its colors appear rather washed out, even when looked at head-on. Tilt the phone to any great degree and viewability gets markedly worse.
We’re not particularly bothered by the implementation of a 90Hz refresh rate in and of itself. The top-of-the-line iPhone 12 Pro Max is stuck at 60Hz, after all, and cheaper 120Hz phones still tend to be hamstrung by performance limitations. But the point remains that this is far from the best display you can get for your money.
Interestingly, you only have to pay the slightly higher price of $279 / £249 to get both OLED and 120Hz in one package. The identity of that phone: the Redmi Note 10 Pro. That phone isn’t 5G-ready, of course, but hopefully you’re starting to calculate how much such a feature matters to you at this juncture.
The 5G-prompted compromises continue with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G’s mediocre camera setup. It’s a fairly bare-bones effort made up of a 48MP main camera, a 2MP macro sensor, and a 2MP depth sensor.
That means no dedicated telephoto and no ultra-wide. The former is no great surprise in a phone of this price, but the latter is slightly more noteworthy. True, we often decry budget ultra-wides as being scarcely worth the space they occupy. But if you offered us one in return for that dodgy macro sensor and depth sensor, we’d probably take it.
Out of interest, while the Realme 8 5G also omits an ultra-wide from its package, the Oppo A54 5G includes one. So it is possible to have a slightly more expansive camera setup and 5G at this price.
In general shooting, the Redmi Note 10 5G is a reasonably competent performer, running as it does off the same Sony IMX 582 sensor you’ll find in the Poco F3 and Poco X3 Pro. Neither of those phones took spectacular pictures, even at their respective price points, but they were (and are) solid.
In keeping with that, we were rarely outright impressed during our time shooting with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G. It seems to struggle in very bright conditions, completely blowing out highlights and skin tones on sunny days. HDR management is really not its forte.
But when the lighting is less severe, Xiaomi’s AI scene selector does a good job. Our food snaps of fried chicken and breakfast tacos looked good enough to eat, while even well-lit interiors seemed fairly balanced.
When it comes to the obligatory night mode, it’s give and take between the Redmi Note 10 5G and its budget rivals. Taking a series of identical shots of a still life in both low ambient light and full night time conditions, it proved to be competitive with the Realme 8 (4G) in low ambient light and superior in full night time conditions.
The Redmi Note 10 5G’s night mode shots turned out better in both situations than the Oppo A54 5G, and while they were a lot noisier than the Realme 8 5G’s in full night conditions, they had better clarity in low ambient light.
The 2MP macro sensor is truly terrible, to the point where a whole series of what we thought would be usable examples of flower close-ups turned out to be nothing of the sort. The camera completely failed to pin their subjects, yielding a blurry, noisy smudge of colors.
Xiaomi’s AI does a reasonable job with the phone’s portrait mode, for a budget phone at least. It’s far from perfect, with a slight hazy halo around the subject, and with certain elements (such as hats) losing corners to the algorithm. But the subject was given plenty of pop, and there was plenty of detail to be found in the skin.
That’s certainly so when compared to similarly framed selfies taken with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G’s 8MP front camera. Even with the horrible beautifying effect cranked right down, skin tended to look low on detail, while highlights were woefully blown out.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G runs on a MediaTek MT6833 Dimensity 700 5G, which is the exact same 7nm chip used by one of its closest rivals, the Realme 8 5G.
It’s not a particularly speedy processor by any means, and it’s not helped here by a relatively meagre 4GB of RAM. The aforementioned Realme 8 5G pairs the same chip with a choice of either 6GB or 8GB, which leaves more headroom for app switching and the like.
While it’s not what you’d call a mainstream component, the Dimensity 700 is perfectly capable of running day-to-day applications reasonably well. It’s quite capable in CPU-heavy tasks, as a Geekbench 5 multicore score of 1,677 goes to illustrate - though that falls a little short of the Realme 8 5G’s 1,765.
It’s equally capable as a gaming device though. Which is to say, it’ll run demanding 3D games like PUBG Mobile and Genshin Impact to a playable level, though you won’t want to crank the graphical settings up too far.
Like with the Realme 8 5G, PUBG Mobile defaults to HD and high frame rate settings, which is a couple of notches above the minimum. Jumping into a game of the trusty old Battle Royale, everything moves reasonably smoothly - though you won’t get the benefit of stereo sound through the Redmi’s mono speaker.
When it comes to storage, a choice of either 64GB or 128GB is pretty much par for the course with such affordable phones these days. There’s also a microSD card slot, so you can expand that provision.
Redmi is a sub-brand of smartphone monolith Xiaomi, and as such, its phones utilize MIUI - specifically, MIUI 12, on top of Android 11. This means that it offers the same basic experience as the one you’ll receive with the super-high-end Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the giant-slaying Poco F3.
We have to confess that familiarity has bred a certain level of contentment with MIUI. It’s a highly customizable UI, with the potential for a neat split notification pane and a fully fleshed out themes store.
Conversely, it’s still a tad busy, a little too tricky to uncover its full potential, and you still have to put up with things like three (count ’em) web browsers and a folder filled with pre-installed third-party apps.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G features a 5,000mAh battery. That’s a large cell by modern smartphone standards, but it’s also the exact same size as the batteries found in the Oppo A54 5G and the Realme 8 5G.
You only have to look at the shared nomenclature of these three handsets to see why this might be. 5G modems are some of the most power-hungry components to be found in any modern smartphone.
Most of us probably aren’t accessing 5G networks on a frequent basis, of course, but the knock-on effect of having such a large battery is that the Redmi Note 10 5G lasts ages on a single charge.
On one particular run of 3 hours 40 minutes screen-on time, which would represent a day of moderate usage for most people, we observed that the phone lost less than 50%. Which basically means that the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G is a potential two dayer, if you’re not too heavy a user.
To test media performance we ran our regular battery test, which involves playing a downloaded 90-minute looped video with the screen brightness set to max. The Redmi Note 10 5G lost 10% of a full charge, which places it between the Poco F3 (7%) and the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite (11%) - two far more powerful and thus energy-efficient phones.
We should note that in all of these discussions the Redmi Note 10 5G’s display was set to 90Hz. Suffice to say, if you keep it at its 60Hz default, you’ll get even more mileage out of a single charge. But even if you don’t, AdaptiveSync technology means that the display’s refresh rate will adjust according to the task at hand.
The provision of an 18W charger here isn’t the most generous around. The Poco X3 NFC gives you a 33W charger in the box. It’s equal to the Realme 8 5G’s provision, however, and is better than the 10W Oppo A54 5G charger.
You’ll have to wait an hour to get from 0 to 50%, which isn’t massively fast by today’s standards.
You want 5G on a budgetIf you demand 5G from your next phone, you won’t find a cheaper phone than the Redmi Note 10 5G. Aside from the Realme 8 5G and the Oppo A54 5G, this is as cheap as they come.
You don’t want to give up on your phone’s looksThe Redmi Note 10 5G shows that cheap needn’t equate to nasty. While its design is hardly revolutionary, it’s a darned sight classier than most of its rivals.
You want good battery lifeThe Redmi Note 10 5G’s huge 5,000mAh battery and relatively undemanding display mean that it could potentially last you through a full two days.
You want the best display for the moneyIf the display is the most important component to you, don’t get the Redmi Note 10 5G. It lacks the punch of an OLED, and it doesn’t hit a full 120Hz refresh rate either.
You’re a gamer on a budgetLooking for a $200/£200 phone that plays games well? Try the Poco X3 NFC. It’s faster, it has stereo speakers, and it has a 120Hz display - unlike the Redmi.
You want a complete camera systemYou won’t be able to take ultra-wide or properly zoomed-in shots with the Redmi Note 10 5G. It has only a wide 48MP sensor to lean on.
First reviewed: July 2021