Last year, Xiaomi introduced the Pro Max variant to the Redmi Note lineup to mark the ultimate evolution of its bestselling smartphone series. It was, however, lame in many aspects; most buyers were better off buying the Redmi Note 9 Pro instead as a better value proposition. There was barely any noticeable upgrade over the standard model. This year too, things seem to remain the same with the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max.
Last year’s Note 9 Pro Max had three differentiating factors over the regular Note 9 Pro – two new cameras and a faster charging solution. This year, the only difference between the Pro and Pro Max is the 108-megapixel camera on the latter. The Note 10 Pro Max is pricier too than its predecessor, starting at Rs 18,999. That’s quite a premium, especially for a phone that has the “Redmi Note” nametag.
That starting price of Rs 18,999 also puts it dangerously close to the Mi 10i – another Xiaomi mid-ranger that’s our current favourite. Don’t forget the Realme 7 Pro and Realme X7 too! Intriguing choices for the demanding Indian consumer!
How does the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max fare in this crowded space of “wannabe premium” smartphones?
|Features||Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro Max|
|Price||Starts at Rs 18,999|
|OS||MIUI 12 with Android 11|
|Display||AMOLED-6.67 inch FHD+ 120Hz refresh rate|
|Internal Memory||64GB, 128GB|
I talked at length about the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max’s design as well as build quality in our first impressions piece; feel free to refer it for a detailed insight. If you haven’t got the mood to read it, here’s a summary – the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max elevates the benchmark in smartphone design and build quality in its category.
The Mi 10T-inspired design is fresh for the segment. With its chrome-ring-laced main camera and floating glass surfaces covering the entire hump, the Note 10 Pro Max looks plush. Pair that to the new “Evol” design (which is basically a fancy term for subtle gradient shades), the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is a beautiful phone to behold. The Dark Night colour variant I had gets a glossy finish but you get matte finishes on other colour variants.
The build quality is the best I have seen in any phone at this price. Despite having a plastic frame, Xiaomi’s designers have done a good job in masking that “plasticky” feel. The power key cleverly hides the fingerprint sensor while the buttons themselves are tactile. The front looks no different from the Mi 10i – you see the same thick chin and slim bezels around the 6.7-inch display. Oh yes, the stereo speaker setup has got a dedicated second speaker, not an earpiece-integrated unit.
I appreciate Xiaomi’s efforts for pre-applying a screen protector on the display despite a Gorilla Glass 5 protection rating. The rear though, is prone to scuffs and scratches. In the last ten days, the Note 10 Pro Max has got signs of ageing all across its edges. Using the in-box case is highly recommended!
The biggest upgrade to the Redmi Note 10 series this year is the AMOLED display technology. For the Pro variants, Xiaomi turns the refresh rate up to 120Hz. AMOLED and 120Hz – these two terms alone can get the potential Redmi Note crowd excited. Do these work? To a larger extent, yes.
The AMOLED display makes for the biggest upgrade over the Note 9 Pro Max. Xiaomi hasn’t gone for the over-the-top colour tuning and instead aimed at getting a rather pleasant profile. The traditional “AMOLED blacks” are here but the saturation levels are contained. It also benefits from higher brightness levels, which helps with sunlight legibility. The rated peak brightness of 1200 nits seems legitimate; I was able to read the contents and figure out colours on this display easily under noon sun – something that most phones at this price struggle with.
The high refresh rate also helps with the scrolling and gaming experiences. There’s no variable refresh rate here and the display either sticks to 120Hz or 60Hz. My unit of the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max came with an early build of MIUI 12 and that tagged along some bugs as well as stability issues, which eventually resulted in lags and stutters, thereby cancelling the benefit of the high refresh rate display. Maybe a future software update could fix this.
With a Snapdragon 732G at the helm, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is on par with some of the most capable smartphones under the Rs 20,000 segment. We have seen this chip earlier in the Poco X3; it has adequate muscles to get pamper demanding users. On the Note 10 Pro Max, this chip is at home too, even if you are pushing an extra hour in Call of Duty: Mobile.
On a daily basis, the Note 10 Pro Max works as advertised, i.e. it opens up menus fast and can manage 4-5 apps simultaneously without issues. My unit of the Note 10 Pro Max did throw up occasional stutters and delays, which can be attributed to the bugs in the early release version of this Android 11-based MIUI 12. On most days though, this phone works like a charm and I never felt the lack of a high-performance chip on this Redmi Note.
I also tried my hands at gaming and the Pro Max did not disappoint. I was able to get a consistently smooth gameplay experience on this phone at “High” graphics in “Ultra” frame rate. Even after 2.5 hours of constant battling in the Deathmatch mode, I did not find the Pro Max heating up uncomfortably or dropping frames. Genshin Impact, however, was playable at best and I had to reduce the quality to get good frame rates.
The gaming experience is also helped by the dedicated stereo speaker setup that delivers a fulfilling audio experience. The stereo effect is effective but the setup isn’t loud though; I had to cup the speakers with my palms often to hear the footsteps over my brother’s towering stereo speakers on his ROG Phone 2. The output from the headphone jack is great and those owning high-performance headphones will certainly enjoy it. Plus, MIUI lets you tune the audio output via headphones in umpteen ways.
Then there’s MIUI; you either love it or loathe it. I belong to the former crowd and in its latest guise, MIUI 12 is one of the fanciest Android experiences I have had. The iOS 14 inspirations do make for an interesting smartphone experience, especially with all the animations. There’s so much to play with and so much to make your life easier on the go. The bloatware still exists but Xiaomi has now reduced it to the “absolutely necessary” apps.
In its current state though, MIUI 12 is weird. On one hand, it tries to bring more of Xiaomi’s apps and services on board. For example, there’s a GetApps app store alongside the Google Play Store that consistently bugs with useless notifications. The Control Center (Xiaomi’s idea of Quick Settings) holds shortcuts to all the smart home devices, just like Android 11. However, Xiaomi pre-loads it with a dozen Google apps that most of you may not use. It replaces its more useful MIUI dialler app with the Google Phone app. Same is the case for the Contacts. There’s Google Photos alongside the MIUI Gallery app as well. There is no visible trace of Android 11 here but Xiaomi is throwing the entire suite of Google apps at your face.
For a new user, MIUI is overwhelming with the abundance of apps and options thrown at the user directly. Maybe Xiaomi could make this easier for users and give them options to try out the other features at their own pace. Additionally, it would be fine if Xiaomi stops desperately marrying the stock Android feels with its MIUI experience.
Throughout my time with the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, I did not face issues with connectivity as well as speeds. My Jio connection latched on to the network even in basements and kept the internet speeds intact. I did face call drop issues occasionally; something for Xiaomi to look into, maybe fix with a software update.
The primary reason you opt for the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max over the vanilla Pro variant is the 108-megapixel camera. To pull you out of suspense, it makes for a genuinely good camera experience, especially in this sub-Rs 20,000 segment. In fact, the main camera performance is more akin to what I experienced with the Mi 10i.
Having a large 108-megapixel camera with a 1/1.52-inch sensor and 0.7µm pixels makes for slightly more detailed photos in comparison to the bunch of phones using a 64-megapixel camera sensor. The default output from this Samsung HM2 sensor is rated at 12-megapixels, with 9-in-1 pixel binning at work. In daylight, I was able to see the gains in shadow areas as well as slightly better details.
Switch over to the 108MP mode and you are getting a full resolution output with more details. In fact, this mode negates the need for a dedicated zoom camera in good lighting. As light levels start dropping, the 108MP mode struggles with detail retention and noise starts creeping up. It is wiser to switch to the regular mode, turn on the HDR and AI to churn out good-looking photos in challenging low light conditions. A Night Mode is there for getting long-exposure shots and that helps to a large extent.
However, there are drawbacks to this 108-megapixel camera too. Having such a large sensor makes for a very limited focal plane, which often blurs out edges while taking close-ups and portraits. Xiaomi’s camera tuning bumps up the saturation and contrast unnecessarily even when you turn off the AI intervention. Human figures have a reddish cast on skins while other colours are boosted, often making the photo look artificial. The lack of an OIS system also makes for shaky photos, if you have unstable hands like mine.
Xiaomi makes up for all this with a nice macro camera. It has an output of just 5-megapixel but the new image sensor returns more useable macro photos than older Redmi Note devices – even under artificial lighting! I was astonished to see the details and colour reproduction in all the macro photos I took during my time with the phone. This led me to use the macro camera more than ever on any smartphone I have ever used.
The 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera is decent but it lacks the vibrant colour profile of the main camera. Pixel peeping in ultra-wide shots won’t please you, even under good lighting. The lens distortion is extreme towards edges and photos are often underexposed. As light levels fall, the ultra-wide camera is best left untouched.
Portrait mode photos are good with a clear distinction between the subject and background. Even for selfies from the single 16-megapixel front camera, the subject separation is fine. Normal selfies themselves look vibrant and bright, but the boosted saturation is present here too. All in all, selfie lovers will be happy with this kit.
Video performance is good for a phone of its price. 4K videos at 30 fps look sharp with ample details and decent colours. It struggles with exposures though and under artificial lighting, it fails to keep the colour accuracy in check. The lack of OIS also makes for shaky videos, especially if you shoot on the move. 1080p videos lose the resolution but offer better stability with Xiaomi’s decent EIS system.
With a 120Hz AMOLED display, I assumed that the 5020mAh battery would at best last a full day under rigorous usage. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The strong software optimization in MIUI 12 made the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max last up to a day and a half, with the 120Hz option switched on. This 1.5 day of battery life included 30 minutes of gaming, making calls, texting, watching YouTube videos, streaming music via wireless earphones, and occasional use of the cameras.
On my Call of Duty: Mobile marathon weekends, it took me an entire day to bring down the battery to sub-30 percent levels. The bundled 33W charging adapter filled up the battery from sub-30 percent levels in around an hour. This is genuinely the second-best option to Realme’s 65W charging solution.
The Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is the kind of smartphone that could make you question the need to spend more on anything else. It has genuinely got everything that a smartphone enthusiast can ask for. It performs well, has a great display, can run some of the demanding mobile games with ease, takes good photos, and tops it all with a reliable battery life. It also looks good while doing all of that.
Starting at Rs 18,999, it is tough to find faults with the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max. With no arrival of 5G in the foreseeable future, it makes the Mi 10i seem unnecessary at the moment. It outsmarts the Realme 7 Pro and Realme X7 with its cameras and battery life. It has the best display too in its segment and the upcoming Realme 8 Pro is likely to offer a similar experience.
The only drawbacks I see (if I have to nitpick) are a cluttered (and buggy) MIUI experience and an oversaturated camera output in general. Plus, it is expensive at Rs 18,999 for a phone that carries the Redmi Note nametag. I feel you can save Rs 3,000 by opting for a comparatively saner 64-megapixel camera on the Redmi Note 10 Pro, which is no different from the Pro Max in other aspects. One truly requires figuring out the need for spending extra on the 108-megapixel camera.
With the Redmi Note 10 Pro in existence, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max isn’t taking the “value-king” crown today. It is, however, the phone that makes you question the need for spending on phones that demand a premium worth north of Rs 20,000 (unless you have healthy cash reserves). If you genuinely want to buy into the “108-megapixel camera” hype without spending truckloads, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is your best bet in the market right now.
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