Redmi Note 10 Pro Max Review: Worth Paying Extra For?


The Redmi Note series has always stood for value, offering features that are a step or two up from the Redmi series while still remaining affordable enough for most people. You can expect a big screen, big battery, powerful processor, and impressive cameras, which gives these models a bit of aspirational value, when considering the budget market. This year, Xiaomi has launched the Redmi Note 10 series, and the top-end Redmi Note 10 Pro Max introduces a 108-megapixel camera which is of course its headlining feature. This is the only difference between the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max and the Redmi Note 10 Pro, but does it make sense for a mainstream phone? We’re going to find out.

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max price in India.

Blurring the line between mainstream and premium, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max starts at Rs. 18,999 in India, for the variant with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. You pay very little more, just Rs. 19,999, for the same 6GB of RAM but double the storage at 128GB, which makes the base variant seem fairly pointless. The most expensive variant actually crosses the Rs. 20,000 mark for the first time, costing Rs. 21,999 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

If you don’t need the 108-megapixel camera, the Redmi Note 10 Pro is identical in every other way and costs Rs. 3,000 less for the same amounts of RAM and storage: Rs. 15,999, Rs. 16,999 and Rs. 18,999 respectively. Both models are available in the same three colours: Dark Night, Glacial Blue, and Vintage Bronze.

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max Review: Worth Paying Extra For?

The Redmi Note 10 Pro Max in Dark Night (left) and Vintage Bronze (right)

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max design

Xiaomi has gone in a slightly new design direction with this generation. The small touches that the company collectively calls its ‘Evol’ design language can be seen mainly around the frames and camera modules of the Redmi Note 10 series. Not much is different on the front, which is nearly all screen with narrow borders and a relatively small embedded front camera right at the top. This camera for some reason has a very shiny silver ring around it, which is extremely distracting and somewhat negates the purpose of reducing the size of the camera hole.

The power button on the side has an embedded fingerprint sensor but isn’t recessed and also isn’t any larger than a standard button. The volume rocker is right above it, and the phone’s frame expands a bit in thickness to accommodate them. The glass rear panel is curved at the sides and moulded around this bulge, making for a very slick look.

The Mystic Bronze and Glacial Blue colour options have frosted backs, while the Dark Night version is glossy. I was able to check out both finishes, and found that fingerprints were a bit of a problem in both cases. The frosted glass was also actually a little more slippery, but not enough to be a cause of concern.

The 108-megapixel camera on the rear is highlighted by a bright silver panel. The module itself has a two-tier design to account for the camera’s thickness, and is wide enough to accommodate the two low-resolution cameras next to each other. Unfortunately this does mean that the phone isn’t very steady or easy to use when it’s lying flat on a table.

Xiaomi has used Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front, and an adhesive screen protector is pre-applied. There is a 3.5mm audio jack but it’s on the top, which is somewhat unusual. You’ll also find a speaker cutout; the earpiece is used as a second speaker, and this allows sound to travel better. You also get an infrared emitter for controlling appliances. On the bottom, you’ll find a USB Type-C port and the primary speaker. The tray on the left has two Nano-SIM slots as well as space for a microSD card.

There’s an IP53 rating for water and dust resistance, which is always good to see. At 8.1mm thick and 192g in weight, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is a bit thinner and lighter than last year’s Redmi Note 9 Pro Max (Review), but you have to consider the awkward camera bulge.

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The frame widens a little to enclose the fingerprint sensor and volume rocker

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max specifications and software

This wouldn’t be a Redmi Note phone without some very impressive specifications, and you can expect a few premium touches. However, keep in mind that the Redmi Note 10 Pro also gives you exactly the same package except for the primary rear camera for Rs. 3,000 less. The Snapdragon 732G SoC should be more than enough for everyday tasks as well as gaming, and you get up to 8GB of RAM with 128GB of storage.

I’m quite impressed with the screen that the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max has. This is a 6.67-inch full-HD+ Super AMOLED panel with full DCI-P3 colour gamut coverage, a 120Hz maximum refresh rate, and HDR10 support. Brightness goes up to 1200nits, and there’s TUV Rheinland certification for low blue light emission. The hole for the front camera is only 2.96mm in diameter.

There’s a 5020mAh battery and you can charge this phone at up to 33W using the included adapter. Other specifications include dual active LTE, dual-band Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth, stereo speakers, a haptic vibrator, and all the usual sensors. Surprisingly, NavIC isn’t listed as one of the supported satellite navigation systems, and there’s no mention of high-resolution Bluetooth audio codecs. NFC would also have been nice.

As for software, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max ships with MIUI 12.0.6 on top of Android 11. It has a lot of features and customisations including a locked Second Space for private data, Game Turbo shortcuts, home screen customisations and gesture navigation, iOS-style gestures to show notifications and quick settings, floating windows, Reading Mode with a paper-like texture, and a customisable always-on screen.

We’ve complained for years about the amount of advertising and promotional content there is in MIUI, from the “Glance” content on the lockscreen to constant notifications from certain apps. While it isn’t as bad as we’ve encountered in the past, Xiaomi promises that the upcoming MIUI 12.5 will dispense with all of this entirely. What’s more, even the issue of bloatware will be dealt with by allowing users to uninstall all but the most essential apps.

My review unit was running the February 2021 security patch which is okay, but not the most up-to-date. Xiaomi has indicated, but not promised, that users should get security updates at least once per quarter for the next three years, plus one or two Android version updates.

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You might find the ring around the front camera distracting even though the hole is remarkably small

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max performance

One thing that really stands out about the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is its display quality. The Super AMOLED panel is bright and crisp, with everything looking slick. Colours pop nicely and blacks are quite deep, making for good contrast. There are three colour profiles to choose from, and you can override the colour temperature manually if you like. HDR video looks very good. The refresh rate isn’t adaptive and is set to 60Hz by default.

The only thing that detracts from the video experience is the shiny ring around the front camera. The always-on display implementation is a bit strange, since it doesn’t actually always stay on – you have to tap the screen to bring it up, and it only stays on for a few seconds, making it functionally no different to your lock screen. Also, it’s nice to have stereo speakers, but sound isn’t very rich or detailed and the bass is definitely lacking.

The fingerprint sensor works well despite being rather small, but is also very easy to hit unintentionally. You can also set up a double-tap shortcut to perform an action or launch an app. Despite the large screen, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is fairly easy to handle, but you might want to slip on the included case for better grip. The main annoyance is promotional notifications from Xiaomi’s GetApps store and Themes app, and I hope the MIUI 12.5 update arrives soon.

You won’t have any trouble with everyday apps. My review unit had 6GB of RAM, and even heavy multitasking wasn’t an issue. I got a score of 2,71,830 in AnTuTu, and Geekbench 5 managed 563 and 1,703 points in its single- and multi-threaded tests. The 3DMark Wild Life test produced a score of 1,118, and the Sling Shot Extreme score was 2,734. GFXBench’s T-Rex and Car Chase scenes ran at 82fps and 17fps respectively. Heavy games including Call of Duty Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends ran well but the back of the phone does get a bit warm after a minute or two.

The 5020mAh battery can take you through a full day with a little bit left over for the next morning. If you play a lot of games, stream media, and take a lot of photos and videos, you should still be able to make one charge last a full day. In our HD video loop test, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max lasted for 17 hours, 1 minute. When plugged into the bundled charger, it went from zero to 44 percent in 30 minutes and 84 percent in 60 minutes.

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There’s a 3.5mm jack and IR emitter on the top, Type-C port on the bottom, and speaker cutouts on both

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max cameras

The star of the show of course is the 108-megapixel main shooter. It’s based on the same Samsung HM2 sensor as the Mi 10i’s main camera, but there are some differences in the optics here, such as an f/1.9 aperture and 6P lens. By default, this camera combines nine 0.7um pixels into one 2.1um pixel for an effective resolution of 12 megapixels – though you can override this.

Just as interesting though, is the 5-megapixel macro camera which also boasts of 2X magnification. This should allow you to get macro shots from farther away than usual. The Redmi Note 10 Pro Max also has a standard 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 2-megapixel depth sensor.

There’s quite a lot going on in the Camera app, and even some modes that you don’t get on the lower-end Redmi Note 10 (Review). Vlog mode lets you package graphics, background music, and even effects into a single clip just by tapping the shutter button a few times. Clone and Dual modes, as their names suggest, let you create multi-exposure shots and superimpose video from the front and rear cameras, respectively. The other modes include Document, Panorama, Time Lapse, and AI Watermark.

Some aspects of the app are odd, such as the fact that you have to go into a Settings submenu to switch to the macro camera. You’ll also find a Tilt Shift filter here, which could have been another separate mode. There’s a very flexible Burst toggle that lets you choose the number of shots and interval, plus options for framing and object tracking. The UI could use some improvement, especially in the way text labels are cut off. Thankfully, Xiaomi has also decided not to impose a tasteless and obtrusive branded watermark on users by default anymore.

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max daytime photo samples: standard (top); ultra-wide (middle), 108-megapixel 1:1 crop (bottom) (tap to see full size)

Coming to photo quality, we can see that the primary camera does a good job when it comes to detail, exposure, and colour reproduction. You should be happy with the results, given the price of this phone. Close-ups work best, of course, but even objects at a distance look fairly good at the default 12-megapixel resolution. If you use the 108-megapixel mode, you’ll end up with shots that take up 20MB of space on average. While you can magnify photos much more before losing definition, you can’t really expect to crop distant objects to simulate optical zoom. Results also tend to be a little less sharp at the full resolution.

The wide-angle camera, as expected, captures duller shots with poorer contrast. You can adjust the depth effect before or after taking a shot in Portrait mode, and results were good, but not especially great.

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max daytime macro photo samples (tap to see full size)

I found the macro camera to even more interesting than the primary one. It’s a bit tricky to get the distance between the phone and subject right, and there’s no indication on screen of when you’ve got the optimum focus. This led to a bit of awkward guesswork and disappointing results, but it was better than getting right up close to a subject and covering it with the phone’s own shadow. However, when the focus was just right and the subject was nicely framed, my shots came out looking spectacular, with exactly the kind of detail and definition that make macro shots so compelling. This might be the best implementation of a dedicated macro camera that I’ve used so far on a smartphone.

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max low-light camera samples (top: standard; bottom: night mode) (tap to see full size)

Night mode can make a pretty big difference to low-light shots, but detail isn’t that great no matter whether it’s on or off. Colour tone wasn’t very natural-looking, especially in 108-megapixel mode. Focus was also harder to get right at the full resolution. The wide-angle camera does of course capture duller, darker shots, but given enough ambient light, these were actually not too bad.

Redmi Note 10 Pro Max front camera sample: daytime portrait (top); low-light (bottom)

The 16-megapixel f/2.45 front camera is decent in the daytime, but don’t expect the most natural-looking skin tones. Beautification is on by default. Selfie portraits had good depth of field with accurate edge detection.

Video recording goes up to 4K at 30fps. Full-HD video is stabilised, but 4K video isn’t. Quality is decent enough in the daytime, even with wide-angle full-HD video. At night, a good amount of detail was captured but colours tended to get pumped up to unrealistic levels. There was shimmer at full-HD, while 4K video was very shaky.

redmi note 10 pro max camera ndtv redmi note 10

The camera module of the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is attention-grabbing but also sticks out quite a bit

Verdict

Xiaomi usually pitches its Redmi Note series as all-rounders, but the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max clearly wants to up the ante specifically with its 108-megapixel rear camera. I’m not entirely convinced that this will be worth the Rs. 3,000 premium over the Redmi Note 10 Pro, which is otherwise identical. Sure, it’s great for bragging rights and there are situations when you might want to capture very fine detail, but the overall camera quality doesn’t really seem to benefit all that much. It will be interesting to compare these two phones’ main cameras side by side in identical conditions.

In all other respects, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is a very compelling device, but that just makes an even stronger case for recommending its considerably less expensive twin, rather than this phone itself. All the strengths of this phone apply to the Redmi Note 10 Pro as well: its screen is very good, there’s plenty of processing power on tap, the software is due to get a significant update, and the design is very slick. Battery life could have been better, and the fingerprint sensor might become annoying, but these issues are relatively easy to live with.

It’s interesting that Xiaomi has not used a 5G-capable SoC for this phone. The Mi 10i (Review) does offer 5G and more processing power for just Rs. 2,000 more, with the same three RAM and storage combinations. If you do want the 108-megapixel camera, this seems like it could be a better option for many people. Realme has also just launched its Realme 8 Pro (First Impressions), and the X7 5G (Review) is in the same ballpark.

Once you look at the market overall, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max seems to address a very small niche. It’s a great phone, but you have two other options from Xiaomi that will either save you some money or give you a beefier overall package for not that much more.



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