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Redmi Note 7S review: yet another slam dunk for Xiaomi

This year, Xiaomi has three Note devices in its kitty. The Note 7 and 7 Pro were launched earlier this year, while the Note 7S is the latest addition to the series. With several shared specifications and overlapping prices, the lines between the Note smartphones are understandably blurry for consumers. While Xiaomi has announced that the Note 7 will be phased out soon, users will still need to choose between the Note 7S and 7 Pro if they’re considering an affordable smartphone. I’ve been using the Note 7S over the last week to find out how it fares in daily usage, and how it compares to the Note 7 Pro.

Design and display

The Redmi Note 7S looks almost identical to the Note 7. I received the Sapphire Blue unit for review, but I had my sights on the the Ruby Red version. If flashy colours aren’t your thing, you can also get it in Onyx Black. The back panel is glossy, with a subtle gradient that comes to life when light reflects off it. It doesn’t feel too slippery, and Xiaomi has included Gorilla Glass 5 protection on both the front and back for protection against scratches or scuffs. Compared to previous Note devices, the Note 7 series is a major step up in the design department. There’s also a TPU case in the box for added protection, but it’s of poor quality and doesn’t do justice to the design. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the rear panel, along with protruding dual cameras and an LED flash. The Note 7S isn’t waterproof, but it comes with a P2i splash-resistant nano coating that protects the phone against minor spills and splashes.

The Redmi Note 7S gets a USB Type-C port, which is a much needed addition to the Note lineup. You also get a headphone jack and IR blaster. The latter can be used to control appliances via the Mi Remote app that comes pre-installed. The SIM card tray features hybrid slots, which is a bit disappointing.

The display on this phone measures 6.3-inches and boasts full HD+ resolution. You get a waterdrop notch on top, but there’s still a bit of bezel around the edges, with the chin being on the thicker side. Xiaomi’s also added a notification LED on the chin. The display offers good viewing angles and sunlight legibility, while icons and text look crisp. Colours are vibrant, but the display leans towards the cooler side. That said, you can adjust the colour temperature in settings.

Cameras

While the Redmi Note 7 comes equipped with 12MP + 2MP rear cameras, the Note 7S upgrades to a 48MP + 5MP module. Notably, this is the same camera combination seen on the Note 7 Pro, with one key difference. While the Redmi Note 7S makes use of a Samsung GM1 sensor, the Note 7 Pro uses Sony’s IMX586 sensor. Both sensors make use of pixel binning to capture 12MP images in the regular photo mode, while 48MP images can be taken in Pro mode. During my usage, I didn’t find enough difference between the 12MP and 48MP images to warrant shooting in full resolution. When it comes to the image quality, the Note series has always provided versatile cameras, and the Note 7S is no different. In daylight, I captured some brilliant macro and landscape shots, with a good amount of detail. Colours are a bit saturated though, and highlights were blown out in bright lighting on occassion. In low light, grain does creep in, but for the most part, you can manage decent night shots. The 13MP selfie camera should satisfy most users, although you might want to turn off the beauty mode. Portrait shots taken from the front camera don’t do a good job of edge detection.

Software

The Redmi Note 7S runs MIUI 10.3 atop Android 9 Pie. MIUI used to be among my favourite Android skins, both for its aesthetics and the various extra features it added to Android. My experience on the Redmi Note 7S wasn’t as pleasant – and bear in mind, it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Xiaomi phone. First up, the phone came with quite a bit of bloatware out of the box. I spotted Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Dailyhunt, Twitter, Opera News, Opera Mini, ShareChat, Paytm, Ludo Master and Block Puzzle Guardian – that’s 11 third party apps. This was apart from Xiaomi’s numerous system apps, including Mi Community and Mi Store.

But perhaps my main gripe with MIUI are the system ads – open the ‘More Apps’ app folder for instance and you’ll see a a row of promoted apps at the bottom. Xiaomi’s own system apps, including the browser, kept sending push notifications for content, and I had to disable that manually. Apart from this, I also noticed that upon installing an app, MIUI displays a screen with a promoted app and an ‘install now’ button in the centre of the screen, which users might inadvertently press. Despite the useful extras that MIUI brings to Android, the presence of ads inside a smartphone feels intrusive, and this is something Xiaomi will have to seriously work on improving.

Performance

The Redmi Note 7S is powered by the slightly outdated Snapdragon 660 processor. It’s the same processor that powers the Redmi Note 7. The smartphone is available in two configurations – 3GB RAM + 32GB storage, and 4GB RAM + 64GB storage. The Snapdragon 660 is a reliable chipset, and suitable for multi-tasking and more demanding games as well. However, if you’re an avid gamer who spends several hours on PUBG and the like, you’ll notice a few frame drops and lags during gameplay.

The battery on the Note 7S is one of its strong points – at 4,000mAh it lasted me through an entire day, and for a bit of the next too. Basically, even if you’re a power user, you won’t need to worry about recharging the phone before the end of the day. In our video loop battery drain test, it lasted 15 hours, which is a good result. The USB Type-C charger was a long time coming to the Redmi Note series, and Xiaomi has also included Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4.0 on the phone. Unfortunately, you only get a standard 5V 2A charger in the retail box, so you’ll have to purchase a fast charger separately.

The fingerprint sensor on the Redmi Note 7S was quick and accurate, and you also get the option of face unlock. I ended up using the latter more often, but it doesn’t work in dim lighting.

Verdict

The Redmi Note 7S is the definition of an all rounder. From the display to the cameras to the performance, it’s a competent smartphone on almost every count. Barring the issues I mentioned with MIUI, there’s not much to find fault with. Yet, I’m still hesitant to recommend it given the odd positioning. The Note 7S’ biggest competitor comes from Xiaomi’s own stable – the Note 7 Pro. The 4GB + 64GB variants of the two phones are priced at Rs 12,999 and Rs 13,999 respectively, and with the latter, you’re getting a more powerful processor and a slightly better 48MP camera for a small premium. It’s a no-brainer to get the Note 7 Pro at this price. However, if your budget is more constrained, the 3GB + 32GB Note 7S is a good option at Rs 10,990.

Pricebaba’s Rating: 8 / 10

Pros:

  • Premium design
  • Good cameras
  • Excellent battery life
  • Decent performance

Cons:

  • MIUI is riddled with ads
  • Hybrid SIM card tray
  • Fast charger not included
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