Redmi Note 10 Pro Max First Impressions: I’m Surprised Xiaomi Isn’t Making a Loss on This Phone

Could be the best Note series phone ever made by Xiaomi...

0

The Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is Xiaomi’s moonshot, even before OnePlus makes one with the OnePlus 9 Pro later this month. I mean, just take a look at the upgrades from the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. You now get a high refresh rate 120Hz Super AMOLED panel, a higher resolution 108MP camera, a 5MP Macro with 2X telephoto capabilities, stereo speakers, Hi Res Audio support through the headphone jack, and a slimmer design despite the same battery size. 

I know the asking price is also higher compared to the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max but I’ll explain in the end why you need to look at it from a slightly more nuanced perspective and analyse it deeper. So, stay with me till the end.

Display: Unbelievable Number of Upgrades

The biggest, most jaw dropping upgrade to the Redmi Note 10 Pro phones this year has to be the Super AMOLED panel with the large 6.67-inch display with 120Hz high refresh rate. The closest competitor with a 120Hz Super AMOLED panel is the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE to put things in perspective. Plus, you get Widevine L1, HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG support as well on the phone. And, when you are watching HDR videos it can reach up to 1200nits of brightness. 

While I’m going to be testing the display in detail for the review, I did quickly test an HDR video on Netflix alongside the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Review). Yes, the S21 Ultra had better tuned colours and dynamic range, but the Note 10 Pro Max was equally good in terms of peak brightness. Honestly, that’s some achievement right there. In daily usage too, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max‘s brightness levels are impressive. Plus, you get Always-on Display too.

That’s not it though, Xiaomi goes for the kill with the tiniest centre punch hole selfie camera I’ve ever laid my eyes on. It’s smaller than the one on the S21 Ultra. 

Here’s what you need to note (pun intended). All this time, I’ve been quickly comparing the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max’s display against a phone that costs a whole lot more. And the Note 10 Pro Max’s display actually holds up pretty well. No, it’s not of the same quality or anything, and that would be expecting a lot anyway, but no other phone in this price range can be this good. 

Having said that, the 120Hz scrolling is not as smooth and feels slightly stutter-y. Also, similar to the Mi 11, the bezels stretch around the corners breaking the symmetry of the design. Although, these are merely nitpicks.

Design: A Sleek Note Series Phone…finally

Now, the advantage of using an AMOLED panel and a Chip on Film (COF) technology is that the chin is smaller now. Plus, it helps slim down the phone considerably from the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. 

At 8.1mm and a little over 190gm, this is one of the lightest most comfortable Xiaomi phones I’ve held in a long time. The design has also moved on from the Aura design introduced in the Redmi Note 7 series. The new EVOL design feels extremely premium for a phone priced this low. 

Now, the camera module on the back looks similar to the one on the Mi 11. On the Note 10 Pro Max, it has a step module which is also similar to what we saw on the vivo X50 Pro. It looks good but it makes the phone sit unevenly on a flat surface. In fact, even with the case on, it doesn’t really help cover up the camera bump. Also, I am not a fan of this glossy back because it attracts smudges easily but thankfully it is not clearly visible. I’d suggest you pick up the frosted glass finish. Although, both the front and the back are protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 for what it is worth.  

Moving on to the rest of the design, Xiaomi pulls no stops. You get a 3.5mm jack, stereo speakers — the proper kind, not one that’s bunched with the earpiece, a Type-C port, and the awesome Infrared blaster. Plus, you get a proper triple slot tray for two Nano SIMs and one Micro SD card. Just fantastic stuff. 

Camera: More Megapickles

The one spec upgrade that’s the differentiating factor between Note 10 Pro Max and the Note 10 Pro is the 108MP camera. Now, I really want to see if the 3k price delta between the two phones is worth just the camera upgrade. I’ll do that soon. I’ll also compare the phone against the phones in its price range, so stay tuned.  

That said, I did take a few quick fire samples.  Take a quick look at these. I just wanted to quickly gloss over a few points. 

  1. Selfie performance looks improved. 
  2. Colours look natural, details look sharp, and dynamic range performance is good too. 
  3. Low light performance looks great. 
  4. You can shoot video with EIS only at up to 1080p 30fps res. For 1080p 60 fps and 4K 30fps modes, you’ll have to live with no stabilisation. 
  5. You can zoom in from 1x to 2x in 0.1 increments on the Super Macro camera. The pictures look great too. 

The camera setup on the Note 10 Pro Max does look very promising, I must say.

Performance: Modest Approach

Evidently, the most contentious new addition is the upgraded Snapdragon 732G chip inside the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max. It is not the most powerful mid-range chip anymore and doesn’t come with 5G support. I’ve had only limited time with the phone, so I’ll talk in detail about the performance and the 5G debacle in my full review. 

But for now, all I can tell you is the phone is as fast as the POCO X3, which also means that it is sometimes let down by the heavy-handed animations on MIUI 12. It is not the smoothest 120Hz display experience in daily usage. But then again, this is a phone that costs less than 20k, we can’t expect the moon really. And, compared to other phones in this price range, what you are getting here is just mind blowing. Also, it runs Call of Duty just fine at High graphics and Max frame rates or Very High graphics and Very High frame rates. 

Furthermore, what I particularly like are the dual speakers and the 3.5mm audio jack. The speakers sound loud and have uniform sound from both the channels. The audio jack with hi-res certification sounds good too with wired earphones.  

Software: Right Strides

The Redmi Note 10 Pro Max runs MIUI 12 based on Android 11. This is a feature rich software with tons of animations sprinkled across the UI. While Xiaomi has indeed removed a lot of duplicate apps, for example you only get a single browser in the form of Google Chrome, there are still a few third-party apps bundled like Facebook, Netflix, and LinkedIn. Does LinkedIn’s inclusion have something to do with ex-Xiaomi employee Ankit Vengurlekar moving to the company? I don’t know. 

Anyway, more about the software in my full review. 

Closing Thoughts on the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max

So, coming to my initial point about the bumped up pricing on the Note 10 Pro Max compared to the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. I’ll tell you, you are looking at it all wrong. Don’t go by the nomenclature, look at the specs. The Note 10 Pro Max’s spec sheet is very similar to the Mi 10i except for the fact that you get a SD750G on the Mi 10i (review) and an AMOLED panel on the Note 10 Pro Max. And therefore, the 19k asking price is not only justified but also “honestly” priced. 

However, there’s the point about no 5G. You know what I’ll do? I’ll save my thoughts on 5G for the full review. But, in the meantime, you tell me what you think about it. Will you skip on the Redmi Note 10 Pro series for lack of 5G? Or, do you not care enough? And yeah, I’m aware that the Note 10 Pro seems like an even better value proposition. Which I’ll definitely confirm by testing the cameras on the two phones. 

Anyway, I am still shocked at how Xiaomi manages to time and again price its products so low. I mean, how the company is doing this without taking a loss is beyond me. Because, what you must know is the display is the most expensive component in the Bill of Materials (BOM) for a phone. It takes up about 20-30% of the total BOM cost in most phones. I feel every single component inside the Note 10 series has been added to squeeze maximum value for your money.

Well, I’ll tell you in my full review of the Note 10 Pro Max if you should buy it.