Earlier this year, Xiaomi released the $750 Mi 11, a bonafide Android flagship that’s packed with both specs and value. It really hit the spot. But what if I told you that Xiaomi makes a handset that offers 80% of the Mi 11’s experience for about one-third of the price? Say hello to the $280 Redmi Note 10 Pro (Pro Max in India), possibly the best bang for the smartphone buck on the market today, and by a long shot.
See, over the years, Xiaomi’s mastered the art of parts-binning — mixing and matching various standardized parts — across similar phones for its multiple brands (Mi, Redmi, Poco, and CC). For example, the Redmi 9T is a Poco M3 with an 8MP ultrawide camera. The Redmi Note 9 Pro (Pro Max in India) was already a value champ in 2020, but this year’s Note 10 Pro cranks things up a notch. So what’s the big deal? Let’s find out.
What is it?
As the name suggests, the Redmi Note 10 Pro is a large phone with a big 6.67-inch screen. Then again, at 164.5 x 76.2 x 8.1mm and 192g, it’s about the same size and weight as the Mi 11. Despite the “Note” moniker, there’s no stylus here. Instead, you get another one of Xiaomi’s stylish two-tiered camera bumps — this one being more rectangular than the Mi 11’s, and resembling the Mi 10T Pro’s.
While you’ll find Gorilla Glass 5 front and back, the Note 10 Pro’s mid-frame is glossy plastic rather than aluminum — with flat top and bottom edges in a matte finish, similar to the Poco M3. It’s a good looking handset, and it feels nice in hand thanks to the glass back being curved along the left and right sides. Three color options are available: Onyx Gray (like my review unit), Glacier Blue, and Gradient Bronze.
In front, the 6.67-inch display is the star of the show. It’s a FHD+ AMOLED panel (2400 x 1080 pixels, 395ppi) with a 20:9 ratio aspect ratio and a 120Hz refresh rate. A punch hole is located top center for the 16 MP f/2.5 1.0-micron selfie shooter — strangely highlighted by a small silver ring. Isn’t the whole point of a punch hole to hide the front camera inside the screen? I’m not a fan of this cosmetic tweak.
On the plus side, bezels are slim. The camera bump is typical of Xiaomi. It consists of a smaller rounded black rectangle within a larger rounded body-colored rectangle, each protruding further from the rear glass. The 108MP f/1.9 0.7-micron PDAF main shooter, 5MP f/2.4 AF macro, 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor, and 8MP f/2.2 1.12-micron 118-degree ultrawide are arranged in a tall and narrow 1-2-1 layout, with a silver accent stencilled around the main lens.
This smaller, taller pod is set on the left side of the larger, shorter bump, which also contains the LED flash and laser AF module — not to mention the words “ultra” and “premium” in a silver font — in case you forgot what kind of cameras you’re dealing with here. So yeah, the Note 10 Pro boasts a 108MP main sensor from Samsung and 5MP AF macro lens, just like the Mi 11. It lacks OIS, though. Still, that’s pretty impressive for $280.
Now, let’s explore what’s around the edges. On the right side, you’ll find the volume rocker and a flush-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor that doubles as the power / lock key. The SIM tray is located on the left side and takes two nano SIMs plus a microSD card. There’s a speaker, primary mic, and USB Type-C port along the bottom edge, and another speaker, secondary mic, headphone jack, and IR transmitter on top.
Yes, the Note 10 Pro features stereo speakers. It’s also IP53 splash resistant. Under the hood, the 5020mAh battery supports 33W fast charging (with a 33W charger in the box), but there’s no wireless charging. Obviously, instead of using a flagship 5G chip, this phone packs a Snapdragon 732G, Qualcomm’s top mid-range 4G SoC. It’s paired here with 6 or 8GB of RAM and 64 or 128GB of UFS 2.2 storage.
The rest of the specs include CAT 15 LTE, WiFi ac, Bluetooth 5.1 LE, A-GPS / GLONASS / Galileo / Beidou positioning, NFC, and an FM radio — plus the usual array of sensors (proximity, ambient light, accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass). So, compared to the Mi 11, you give up the aluminum build, Quad HD+ screen resolution, OIS on the main camera, 55W fast charging, wireless charging, 5G, and the flagship processor.
On the other hand, you gain a bigger battery, microSD support, a headphone jack, and an FM radio. Most importantly though, the Note 10 Pro retains what are arguably the Mi 11’s most important features — the refined design, 120Hz AMOLED display, 108MP main shooter, and quality stereo speakers. The result is a handset that delivers solid performance and a flagship-like experience for just $280.
How is it?
Other than the fancy camera pod, the Redmi Note 10 Pro’s design is pretty familiar. It basically looks and feels like any phone costing 2-3 times more. Some details stand out (flat top and bottom edges with a matte finish), but others are odd (punch hole with a silver ring around the front shooter). The bronze and blue colors are fun, but my gray review unit — while elegant and well made — is rather generic. It’s also a fingerprint magnet.
The 120Hz AMOLED display really stands out, especially for $280. It’s gorgeous — with vibrant colors, deep blacks, and excellent viewing angles — and it gets super bright (up to 1200 nits), making it a cinch to read in direct sunlight. Bezels are small, and while there’s a chin, it’s minimal. My only niggle is with the aggressive auto-brightness, which often makes the screen too dim, especially in low light. This is a common issue with Xiaomi handsets.
When it comes to imaging, the Note 10 Pro is no slouch. The main shooter’s 108MP sensor isn’t just a marketing exercise. It’s the real deal — a Samsung Isocell GM2 that bins (combines) groups of 9 (3×3) 0.7-micron pixels into 2.1 micron “superpixels”, resulting in 12MP images with improved low-light performance. That’s the same trick Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra flagship uses with its 108MP main camera.
By contrast, Xiaomi’s Mi 11 relies on 4-to-1 pixel binning (which is more common) to capture 27MP photos with its 108MP sensor. The Note 10 Pro’s 5MP macro with AF is also similar to the Mi 11’s, but with less magnification. As for the 8MP ultrawide, it’s a downgrade over the Mi 11’s 13MP shooter, primarily because it lacks night mode, making it less versatile. The Note 10 Pro also includes a 2MP depth sensor for portraits.
In front, the 16MP selfie camera supports night mode and captures video at up to 1080p 30fps. Speaking of video recording, the main shooter maxes out at 4k 30fps (not stabilized) and 1080p 60/30fps, while the ultrawide tops off at 1080p 30fps — with stereo audio. Photo modes echo the Mi 11, with pro (rear cameras only), portrait, night, 108MP, panorama, super macro, tilt shift, document scanner, long exposure, and clone.
One thing to note is that the front shooter doesn’t support HDR in portrait mode, which is a bummer. Video modes are also familiar, with steady (1080p 30fps), slow motion (720p 120/240/960fps and 1080p 120fps), time lapse (up to 4k 30fps), super macro (1080p 30fps), dual video (main plus selfie), short video, and vlog. The camera app is standard Xiaomi, easy to use and well laid out — I have zero complaints here.
How does all this add up, then? Overall, the Note 10 Pro takes lovely pictures. Zoomed shots are noticeably crisper at 3-4x than the 48 and 64MP competition — especially in daylight — thanks to that large 108MP sensor. Low-light performance is pretty decent, but the lack of OIS results in softer night photos than the Mi 11. Ultrawide images and selfies are fine, matching other phones at this price point.
Macro shots are pretty nice too — and match the Mi 11 — thanks to that AF lens. The Note 10 Pro also does a good job recording clear and stable video. If anything, this handset further illustrates how much Xiaomi’s imaging expertise has improved in the past couple years. Ultimately, I think most folks will be very satisfied with these shooters. You’d be hard pressed to find a better camera system for $280.
I used the Note 10 Pro on both AT&T and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE networks in and around San Francisco and didn’t run into any problems with call quality or data speeds. That being said, there’s no Verizon support, and this phone lacks several LTE bands popular with US and Canadian carriers, so coverage may be limited in some areas. Keep this in mind if you live in North America and plan to import this handset.
Xiaomi’s done a great job with audio on its devices lately. It even teamed up with Harman Kardon to tune the speakers on its flagships. While the Note 10 Pro doesn’t have HK’s blessing, it features stereo speakers that sound pleasantly loud and clear. In addition, the headphone jack delivers stellar audio thanks to a quality 24-bit 192KHz DAC and amp, and there’s LDAC and aptX HD support for lossless audio over Bluetooth.
When it comes to performance, the Note 10 Pro doesn’t disappoint. That 120Hz display and Snapdragon 732G keep things delightfully smooth and responsive, no matter what you’re up to. While this phone isn’t Mi 11 quick, it juggled my standard collection of apps without breaking a sweat. It also handles gaming just fine, thanks to Snapdragon Elite Gaming. That’s quite impressive, considering the price point.
A big battery paired with an efficient 4G chipset means long battery life. And here again, the Note 10 Pro shines. The 5020mAh battery just keeps on ticking. I repeatedly got two days of normal use from a full charge, so I expect power users will have no trouble with busy days. When it’s time for a refill, this handset supports 33W fast charging (0-55% in 30 minutes), and Xiaomi provides a 33W charger in the box.
On the software front, the Note 10 Pro runs Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 skin on top of Android 11. While MIUI is still a bit too heavy-handed for my tastes, it has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Version 12 feels nice and fast, and looks more stock than ever. Also, the launcher now includes the Google Discover feed. Still, the settings menu remains difficult to navigate, and you can only dismiss notifications by swiping right.
The good news is that bloatware is kept to a minimum. Besides Xiaomi and Google’s apps, the Note 10 Pro only comes with Amazon Shopping, LinkedIn, and Netflix pre-installed. Wrapping things up, haptics are decent, and the side-mounted capacitive fingerprint scanner is quick and reliable. Ditto face unlock. Xiaomi presumably skipped using an optical in-display fingerprint sensor for cost reasons. And honestly, that’s okay.
Xiaomi’s created something truly special with the Redmi Note 10 Pro. There’s no competition here — at $280, this phone delivers unbeatable value. It really offers 80% of the Mi 11’s experience for about one-third the price. The display is beautiful, the shooters are best-in-class, the speakers are excellent, performance is solid, and battery life is top-notch. It even looks premium. And while MIUI 12 is kind of a mixed bag, it gets the job done.
What’s missing, then? Not much — OIS on the main camera, a better ultrawide, 5G, better US LTE support, wireless charging, and a more stock-like Android experience. Considering OIS and wireless charging aren’t even standard on handsets that cost twice as much, that’s just unrealistic. As for 5G, it’s not essential (yet). Basically, if you’re shopping for an affordable handset with flagship chops, it’s a no-brainer. The Note 10 Pro’s got you covered.