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Xiaomi's Redmi Note 10 Pro review: A high-end experience at a low price

It has a bundled 33-watt charger too.

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Sareena Dayaram/CNET

Xiaomi's Redmi Note 10 Pro, unveiled in March, is one of the best budget Android phones, if not the best, so far this year as long as you can live without 5G. Starting at $229 (approximately £160 or AU$290), you get a mobile experience that's in many ways similar to flagships that cost three times as much. Some of the specs are on par too.  

The Redmi Note 10 Pro has a 6.7-inch AMOLED screen, a Snapdragon 732G chipset, stereo speakers, four rear cameras, a long-lasting battery, and a fast charger inside the box. Plus it has a zippy 120Hz display, which is the same refresh rate seen in top-of-the-line models such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

But again it is a budget phone, so Xiaomi has made some sensible sacrifices.

The biggest thing missing from the Redmi Note 10 Pro is 5G, which you'll want your next phone to have if you're planning on keeping it for a few years. If 5G is important to you, you can consider the pricier 5G variant in the Redmi Note 10 lineup. A telephoto lens is absent from the Redmi Note 10 Pro too. But it's a fair omission, in my opinion, considering the price. And even with those compromises, the Redmi Note 10 Pro makes up for it with its other features. 

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There are three variants, starting at $229 for the 6GB + 64GB model, $249 for 6GB + 128GB or $279 for the 8GB +128GB variant. (These are recommended prices provided by Xiaomi, and actual pricing depending on the market is likely to vary.) Xiaomi says it has no current plans to bring the Mi 11 stateside, and that's unlikely to change any time soon considering its ongoing legal tussle with the US government. Still, you should be able to buy this phone in the United States eventually, through online retailers such as Amazon and eBay.

The importance of the Redmi Note series to Xiaomi can't be overstated as this is the phone that put Xiaomi on the map. The Chinese company's budget-friendly champions have at times outsold Apple and Samsung, globally. 

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The Redmi Note 10 Pro comes in three color options. This one is called onyx grey.

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What Xiaomi changed in the Redmi Note 10 Pro

Unlike Xiaomi's flagship Mi series, the Redmi Note is known for packing fancy features into an affordable package. Last year's Redmi Note 9 Pro also had an expansive screen and a huge battery, but here's what Redmi changed in the Note 10 Pro. 

  • Upgraded display: The Redmi Note 10 Pro relies on an AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, upgraded from an LCD panel with a 60 Hz display.
  • More megapixels: The Redmi Note 10 Pro has a 108-megapixel wide-angle camera, while the Note 9 Pro had a 64-megapixel wide-angle lens.
  • Incremental processor upgrade.

The Redmi Note 10 Pro has a dynamo of a display

Apart from the camera, Xiaomi focused on upgrading the display, which featured heavily in the series' marketing. The 6.7-inch Redmi Note 10 Pro features a crisp AMOLED panel with a peak brightness of 1,200 nits, making the screen easy to read even in the sunniest of lighting conditions.

One of the headline features of the Redmi Note 10 Pro is the quick refresh rate of 120Hz. That's the same speed seen across Samsung's latest Galaxy S21 lineup, including the $1,200 (£1,149, AU$1,849) Galaxy S21 Ultra, as well as Xiaomi's own flagship smartphone, the Mi 11. Most phones have refresh rates of 60Hz, which means the screen refreshes 60 times in a second. 120Hz displays look a lot smoother when scrolling through apps, photos and webpages.

Classic design with ports aplenty

The Redmi Note 10 Pro is squarely in the budget phone category, but it manages to swing a premium look and feel, thanks in part to its Gorilla Glass back (though plastic sides run around the device) and a redesigned camera bump. The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, which costs several hundred dollars more, has a plastic back.

Xiaomi also relocated the camera bump, moving it to the upper left side of the device from the center of the phone. It houses four cameras, a flashlight and an IR blaster.  

There's also a fingerprint reader located on the right side of the phone, and on the top you'll find a headphone jack -- a rarity on phones nowadays. Flip the phone around, and there's an in-display notch smack on the top-center of the display, which houses the selfie camera. 

Just like the international version of Mi 11, the Redmi Note 10 Pro comes with a bunch of accessories including a 33-watt wired charger, a USB-C adapter and one plastic case.  

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There's a 3.5mm headphone pack on the upper left side of the Redmi Note 10 Pro.

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The Redmi Note 10 Pro's 4 rear cameras

Xiaomi drew attention to the device's camera in its media paraphernalia for the Redmi Note 10 lineup. For the 10 Pro at least,  the resolution of the main shooter has been bumped up to a 108-megapixel wide-angle lens, accompanied by three others: a 8-megapixel ultra-wide, 5-megapixel telemacro, 2-megapixel depth. Xiaomi says its "telemacro" lens lets you to get up to 2x closer than the average macro camera at a same distance.

During my hands-on time, the camera was able to capture crisp and vibrants photos, especially in environments with ample light. Images taken in dim environments were impressive too, considering this is a budget phone. Those images were enhanced by the use of nine-in-one pixel-binning technology, which means the information from nine pixels in the 108-megapixel sensor is used to make one pixel in the final photo. Samsung's top-of-the-line Galaxy S21 Ultra relies on the same technology to enhance its photos.

Keep in mind, however, that it doesn't have a telephoto camera, which means all zoom is digital as opposed to optical. As such, you can't count on this phone for capturing detailed images of faraway subjects. In fact, pictures taken beyond 2.5x zoom already begin to show signs of graininess. Here's a look at the cameras in action. 

ultra-wide

The Redmi Note 10 Pro's ultrawide lens has a 118-degree field of view.

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detault-settings

Taken on default settings on a cloudy morning.

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5x-zoom

5x zoom example.

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10x-zoom-example

10x zoom example.

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macro-lens-example

Taken using SuperMacro mode in a well-lit room.

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Example of low-light image.

Battery and processor

The Redmi Note 10 Pro runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 732G processor, which is a cut above the 730G chipset found in Google's Pixel 4A. Although it isn't the newest or most cutting-edge chipset from Qualcomm's stable -- you'll have to shell out for a Samsung Galaxy S21 or Xiaomi's Mi 11 for that -- it's more than sufficient for my needs, letting me sail through everyday tasks without a hitch. 

Battery life was solid too, lasting me about a day and half with what I'd describe as mild use. That means I made a few short phone calls, watched TikTok videos, wrote emails, read news, watched some more TikTok videos and took photographs

Redmi Note 10 5G vs. Redmi Note 10 Pro


Redmi Note 10 5G Redmi Note 10 Pro 
Display size, resolution 6.5-inch AMOLED; 2,400x1,080 pixels (FHD Plus) 6.7-inch AMOLED, 2,400x1,080 pixels (FHD Plus)
Dimensions (Millimeters) 161.81×75.34×8.92mm 164×76.5×8.1mm
Weight ( Grams) 190 g 193 g
Mobile software Android 11 Android 11
Camera 48-megapixel (wide angle), 6-megapixel (standard), 2-megapixel (macro) 2-megapixel (depth) 108-megapixel (wide angle), 8-megapixel (ultra-wide), 5-megapixel (telemacro), 2-megapixel (depth)
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 16-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K
Processor MediaTek Dimensity 700 Snapdragon 732G
RAM+Storage 4GB+64GB, 4GB+128GB, 6GB+128GB* 6GB+64GB, 6GB+128GB, 8GB+128GB*
Expandable storage Up to 512GB Up to 512GB
Battery 5,000 mAh 5,020 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Side Side
Connector USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack Yes Yes
Special features 5G, Stereo Speakers, IP53, 90Hz display, 18W fast-charging, IP 53 rating (splash proof) Speakers, 33W bundled charger, 120 Hz display, IP 53 rating (splash proof)

*availability depends on market