There is a new Redmi Note 10 in the market. And this one comes with a T and with 5G as well, and lays claim to being one of the best value-for-money 5G phones out there. But does the Redmi Note 10 5G live up to the legacy of India’s bestselling phone series, or is it mainly about the network suffix? Let us take a closer look at it.
What, another Note?
It has been raining Redmi Notes from Xiaomi in 2021. We first had the Redmi Note 10, the Redmi Note 10 Pro and the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max (yeah, the 108-megapixel one). Then the Redmi Note 10S popped up. And now comes the Redmi Note 10T 5G. Yes, of course, the initials at the end are very important – this is the first Redmi Note and indeed, the first Redmi device to come with 5G support.
A different sort of EVOL design
The Redmi Note 10 series came with a new design language that Xiaomi called EVOL (“Love” spelt backwards, although it sort of reminds me of AWOL). While the first three devices looked very classy and indeed glassy (even the carbonate backed Note 10 could pass off for glass), the Note 10S followed a slightly different path, going for a more shiny look. And the Note 10T ups the shine factor here. The back of the metallic blue variant I got definitely glowed (with at times rays seeming to come from the camera unit – shades of the Redmi 9 Power), although it got very smudged as well. Like the other non-Pro Notes, the back of the Note 10T is carbonate, but again like them, its finish is good enough to pass off as glass if one does not look too carefully. The Note 10T is also the most distinct-looking of the Note 10 series, because while its camera unit on the back is rectangular and has metallic highlights, the highlights are around the top two lenses and the flash, rather than just one lens as in the other devices.
The front is all display, with a punch hole notch in the top centre and not too many bezels on any side. Speaking of sides, the right-hand side has the fingerprint sensor and volume rocks, the base has the USB Type C port and a speaker, the left-hand side has the dual SIM tray slot with one of the slots being a hybrid one to accommodate a microSD card if you need. The top has a 3.5 mm audio jack and an IR blaster.
At 161.81mm, it is a little on the tall side but most phones are these days (the iPhone 12 Pro Max is 160.8mm). Mind you, at 8.9mm, it is the “fattest” of the Note 10 series, but still seems reasonably slim thanks to the curved back. It is not exactly lightweight at 190g, but feels reassuringly solid and capable of surviving rough treatment (it also has P2i splash resistance). In all, it is not exactly a head-turner, but it is a reasonably smart looking smartphone. That camera unit and the shine make it slightly different from the other Notes. But it is not going to catch much attention.
A toned-down spec sheetIn terms of specs, the Redmi Note 10T is going to strike many as being a little watered down by general Note standards. The 6.43-inch display is smaller than the ones on the Pro and about the same size as the 10S and 10, and while it is full HD+ and has a 90Hz refresh rate, it is the first LCD display on the Note 10 series (all the others have AMOLED). In terms of processor, there is a MediaTek Dimensity 700 driving the action, which is the processor of choice for most smartphone manufacturers looking for 5G phones in the range of Rs 15,000. It is an able chip but not exactly considered by many to be on par with the Snapdragon 732 or even the Helio G95, although it does bring 5G to the table. RAM and storage variants are at 6GB / 64GB, and 8GB / 128GB with expandable memory if you are ready to give up one of those dual SIM card slots. In camera terms too, we get three (48+2+2MP) instead of four cameras at the back and an 8-megapixel selfie snapper, which is the lowest in megapixel terms in the Note 10 household. The Note 10T also becomes the first in the Note 10 clan to miss out on dual speakers, which is quite a pity because they do make a massive difference in the overall experience. There is a large 5,000mAh battery, and a 22.5W charger in the box, but thanks to the limitations of that processor, the phone will charge at 18W.
In fact, if you remove 5G from the equation, the Note 10T seems to be a clear notch below its siblings. At some level, that is understandable given that it is among the lowest priced of the lot (the Redmi Note 10 remains the most affordable), but given the cult-like status of the Note series, this is the first time I have felt underwhelmed by a Redmi Note spec sheet. And well, yes, it does seem very similar to the POCO M3 Pro in spec terms.
Steady rather than special gaming and multimedia
The performance of the Redmi Note 10T reflects that spec sheet. Yes, the display is a good one, but it is not in the class of its siblings. That said, it is good enough to watch films, shows and videos, although the absence of stereo speakers does hit you at these times. When it comes to gaming, the Note 10T will get you through the likes of Call of Duty and Asphalt as long as you keep the settings relatively low. Get into the high settings and heavy graphics zone, and the lags start to creep in. But yes, it handles casual games very smoothly indeed. I would put it a little above the base Note 10 in gaming, but the Note 10’s speakers and slightly brighter and more colourful display win it some points. This is not a gamer’s phone, to be honest, but will serve up reasonably good entertainment, without ever threatening to be special. There are no heating issues whatsoever while gaming, although heavy-duty games will make the back gently warm (nothing alarming) after a while.
A very good regular performer
Take heavy-duty gaming and multimedia out of the equation, however, and the Redmi Note 10T turns in a very decent performance. It switches between tasks smoothly and seldom ever lags in the daily business of life, which includes calls, music (that 3.5 mm jack is so welcome), messaging, emails and the odd spot of social networking. You will seldom experience any lags when you are using the phone routinely, and this is a good place to mention that the fingerprint scanner on the side works very swiftly and smoothly. Call handling is good too. In terms of regular usage, this is standard Note stuff.
But no MIUI 12.5But while the Redmi Note 10T does run very smoothly, it does so on MIUI 12, rather than the latest, less cluttered MIUI 12.5 that comes on the Redmi Note 10S out of the box (the Pros have also been updated to this version). Yes, the ads are lesser than before and if one is careful, one can largely avoid them and yes, the phone will “soon” get the MIUI 12.5 update, but once again, this is a little disappointing, even though all the Redmi Note 10 phones do run on Android 11.
No ultrawide camera, but the main sensor is a good one
A battery that goes on and on… but takes time to get charged
One department in which the Note 10T is standard Redmi Note is the battery. The 5,000mAh battery got me through a day and a half of normal usage easily and well, some careful handling should get you to even two days. As I wrote earlier there is a 22.5W charger in the box, but thanks to the Dimensity 700’s limitations, it can charge the phone only at 18W. The result? It takes about two hours to charge, which really seems a little sluggish these days when most phones are dipping below the one hour mark.
That 5G factor
Which of course brings us to the elephant in the room – that 5G connectivity. Well, without getting into discussions about bands and so on, the fact is that it does give the Note 10T a bit of a sort of future proofness. If that sounds uncertain, that is because the whole scenario around 5G in India right now is uncertain – there is no real schedule, no idea of providers, rates and availability and bands supported. Still, if 5G rings your bell, this phone has five bands of it.
There is some VERY similar competition out there
At Rs 13,999 for the 6GB / 64GB variant, and Rs 15,999 for the 8GB / 128GB variant, the Redmi Note 10T 5G gets into the most affordable 5G phone in India battle, which interestingly mainly features a sibling and a rival, all powered by the same Dimensity 700 chipset. It starts at exactly the same price as the POCO M3 Pro which has a broadly similar spec sheet and a more striking design (switchblade, they call it), but comes with a 4GB / 64GB variant at that price. There is also the Realme 8 5G which again has the same starting price, but also starts with a 4GB / 64GB configuration. So one would say that the Redmi Note 10T 5G has a slight edge thanks to its extra RAM at its starting price – especially as the POCO M3 Pro’s 6GB RAM variant is priced at Rs 15,999 and the Realme 8 5G has no 6GB RAM variant (it does have an 8GB one which is at Rs 16,999 although it comes with 128GB storage).
if you take 5G out of the equation, the Redmi Note 10T faces a very tough challenge from the Redmi Note 10S, which for a slightly higher starting price (Rs 14,999 for 6GB / 64GB) brings a more gamer-friendly Helio G95 chip, a better 64-megapixel camera (and an actually usable 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor too), a similar-sized but much faster charging battery (courtesy of a 33W charger), stereo speakers and of course, a bright Super AMOLED display, albeit at a “normal” refresh rate. Of course, it does not have 5G.
And at the end of the day, that is really what the latest new Note is about – the network of the future. At its price, it is perhaps the best affordable 5G smartphone out there.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Decent performance
- Good battery life
- Capable primary camera
- Low-light photography could be better
- A tad underwhelming compared to other Notes
- Slow charging