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Redmi Note 10S review: lost in the shadow of the Redmi Note 10 Pro

On: May 23, 2021

Xiaomi has been on a flagship launching spree in India lately, with the Mi 11 Ultra (review), Mi 11X and Mi 11X Pro (review) all making it to the market in the last month. However, the brand built its legacy upon the success of its budget and mid-range offerings. Among these, the Redmi Note series is hands-down the most popular offering from the brand.

Also read: Redmi Note 10 review: you can’t go wrong with this one

Adding to its new Redmi Note 10 series, Xiaomi recently launched the Redmi Note 10S in India. At a starting price of Rs 14,999, the new launch sits between the Redmi Note 10 (Rs 12,499 starting price) and Redmi Note 10 Pro (Rs 15,999 starting price). I’ve been using the Redmi Note 10S for over a week now and here’s what I think of the newest Redmi Note 10 series entrant.

Design and display

  • 160.46 x 74.5 x 8.3mm, 178.8g
  • 6.43-inch Super AMOLED, Full HD+, 1,100 nits peak brightness, Corning Gorilla Glass

In terms of looks and aesthetics, the Redmi Note 10S borrows the design of the Redmi Note 10. In fact, if not for the chrome accent on the rear camera module, you can’t tell these two devices apart. The Redmi Note 10 has a matte finish on the back, which keeps fingerprints at bay. Moreover, the plastic build means it’s quite lightweight (178.8g) and is comfortable to use for a longer duration.

Xiaomi is offering the Redmi Note 10S in Shadow Black, Frost White, and Deep Sea Blue colourways. I received the Deep Sea Blue variant. The unique paint job has a silver hue on the top which melds into a royal blue colour at the bottom. One thing is for sure, pictures don’t do justice to how good-looking this particular colour variant is.

Coming to the I/O elements, the Redmi Note 10S has a dual-SIM tray with a dedicated microSD card slot on the left and the volume keys with the power button / fingerprint scanner on the right. There’s a loudspeaker, USB Type-C port, noise-cancelling mic, and 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom. On top, you will find another speaker grill for stereo audio, a second noise-cancelling mic, and an IR sensor.

The Redmi Note 10S also retains the exact same 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED screen from the Redmi Note 10. The display is a typical AMOLED panel with vibrant colours, inky blacks, and sharp text. Moreover, with a peak brightness of 1,100nits, I didn’t face any issues with the legibility even in the direct sunlight. The screen comes with Widevine L1 certification to enable high resolution streaming. I watched a couple of episodes of Vincenzo on the phone and enjoyed the experience thanks to the high-resolution streaming, narrow bezels and non-intrusive punch-hole cutout.

Cameras

  • Rear: 64-megapixel primary, 8-megapixel ultra-wide, 2-megapixel macro, 2-megapixel depth
  • Front: 13-megapixel

On the back, the smartphone borrows Redmi Note 10 Pro’s 64-megapixel primary camera, 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens, and 2-megapixel depth sensor. However, the 5-megapixel telemacro shooter has been downgraded to a 2-megapixel macro lens. There’s a 13MP selfie snapper in the front. The camera UI comes with features like Pro mode, Portrait, AI scene recognition, HDR, Pro Colour, Macro, dedicated 64MP mode, and more.

The Redmi Note 10S captures detailed images with balanced dynamic range and realistic colour accuracy. Additionally, the 64MP dedicated mode also performs really well, adding even more details. As for the low-light imaging, the dedicated night mode also steps up to the plate and captures images with minimal noise.

64MP Mode
Normal Mode
Pro Colour Mode
Wide Angle
Normal
2X Zoom
4X Zoom
Night Mode
Close up
Macro
Portrait
Selfie
Selfie Portrait

Coming to the dedicated cameras, the ultra-wide camera does a good job of capturing more into the frame with minimal edge distortion. However, the colours appear a little muted, which is to be expected. In portrait mode, the camera detects edges well but the images are plagued by soft haloing around the edges, especially in the medium and high blur presets. The macro camera is disappointing, with a slow focus time that results in blurry images.

The 13-megapixel selfie camera clicks decent images during the daytime. However, it tends to beautify selfies even when the beautification mode is turned off. There’s a selfie portrait mode, which does a decent job but the soft-edge issue from the rear camera is present here as well.

In the video department, the Redmi Note 10S can shoot in 1080p resolution at 30 and 60fps, and 4K  resolution at 30fps. The smartphone also has video macro mode, time-lapse, and slow-motion.

Performance, software and battery

  • Android 11 with MIUI 12.5
  • MediaTek Helio G95
  • 6GB + 64GB , 6GB + 128GB
  • 5,000mAh battery, 33W fast charging

The Redmi Note 10S is the odd one out in the Redmi Note 10 series as it’s the only device in the lineup to be powered by a MediaTek SoC. The Redmi Note 10S comes with the gaming-centric Helio G95 processor with 6GB RAM and either 64GB or 128GB storage depending on the variant. Out of the box, the smartphone boots Android 11 with MIUI 12.5 garnished on top.

In day-to-day usage, the Redmi Note 10S handles multitasking quite well, however, there’s a noticeable delay in app opening time. Moreover, I also faced frame drops in games like Genshin Impact and Forza Street, and the gameplay was really choppy forcing me to quit playing shortly after. Therefore if you are a mobile gaming enthusiast and looking for a smartphone that can handle all games including the upcoming Battlegrounds Mobile India, I would suggest spending Rs 1,000 extra and pick up the Snapdragon 732G-powered Redmi Note 10 Pro.

The Redmi Note 10S runs MIUI 12.5.2, which is not the final version of the software. While MIUI 12.5 allows users to uninstall even system apps, I wasn’t able to do so with this build. I’ll update this review once the final build rolls out in a few weeks. Apart from the standard Mi apps, the Redmi Note 10S comes with several third-party apps like Amazon, Flipkart, Microsoft SwiftKey, PhonePe, Zili, and more. You’ll also find Xiaomi’s GetApps app store, which typically keeps cluttering your notification panel with app recommendations.

On the bright side, there are features like Always-on Display, Game Turbo, Video Toolbox, Digital Wellbeing & parental controls, Privacy Protection, and gesture navigation. However, for some reason, Xiaomi has locked the gesture navigation to the stock launcher, which means if you use third-party launchers like Nova Prime and the likes, it won’t work for you.

I was able to push the 5,020mAh battery of the Redmi Note 10S through an entire day on a full charge. This was on 40-50 minutes of Google Maps navigation, a couple of hours of Netflix, some gaming, and a whole lot of messaging on WhatsApp, Slack, and Telegram. Xiaomi has included a 33W fast charger with the Redmi Note 10S, which fully tops up the battery in just over one hour.

For security, there’s a side-mounted fingerprint scanner, which is both fast and accurate. However, you’ll need to change the fingerprint recognition method from Press to Touch in Settings to land directly on the home screen as soon as you touch it. It is set to Press by default, which requires users to first press the power button and then touch the button again to unlock. There’s also face unlock, which is quite fast as well.

Bottomline

Starting at Rs 14,999, the Redmi Note 10S is a well-intentioned smartphone that gets most things right. However, it’s misplaced in the sense that buyers can simply spend Rs 1,000 more and get a better package in the form of Redmi Note 10 Pro. You get a more powerful Snapdragon 732G SoC, well-rounded camera setup, 120Hz display, and a premium glass build for a small premium.

In case you are not too keen on cameras and willing to forgo the 64MP primary shooter, you can pick up the Redmi Note 10 starting at Rs 12,499. The handset features the Snapdragon 678 SoC, which performs really well as we noted in our review but has a lower resolution 48MP primary camera. Apart from these two changes, everything else including the design is the same for Rs 2,500 less.

Then there’s the Realme 8 starting at Rs 14,999 as well. It goes toe to toe with the Redmi Note 10S with a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display with an in-display fingerprint scanner, Helio G95, 64MP quad rear cameras, and 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging support. You also get a cleaner Realme UI 2.0 interface based on Android 11.

While the Redmi Note 10S is a decent mid-ranger in its own right, there are better contenders in Xiaomi’s own lineup to consider. Personally, I would stretch my budget a bit and opt for the Redmi Note 10 Pro instead.

Pricebaba’s rating: 7 / 10

What works

  • Beautiful design
  • Stunning display
  • Good battery life
  • Fast charging
  • Hi-res audio stereo speakers

What doesn’t

  • Average performance
  • Bloatware in MIUI
  • Sub-par selfie camera
  • No gesture navigation in third-party launchers
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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman is obsessed with all things tech. His hobbies include reading on his Kindle and clicking random pictures on his phone. His secret superpowers happen to be mixing great cocktails and lip reading. In his spare time, you are likely to find him cleaning his aquascape, researching new species of aquatic fishes and planning which aquatic plants to buy next.