The Note 11 is just as polished as past Redmis, but poor performance lets it down
- Superb design
- Terrific screen
- Competitive price
- Inconsistent speeds
- Weak gaming performance
- So-so cameras
When people ask me what handset they should get if they’re on a tight budget, my thoughts usually turn to either a Motorola or one of Xiaomi’s budget Redmi phones. I’ve reviewed a fair few over the years, and have always been impressed with the value offered for the relatively small outlay.
But this time, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 won’t be getting the usual glowing recommendation. The usual budget polish is certainly there, but performance is underwhelming – and all the more so when the excellent Pro 5G version is only £40 more. Regrettably, that means that the phone falls into that familiar budget trap: decent enough, but with other options offering more bang for your limited buck.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review: What you need to know
Xiaomi is a company that targets every section of the market, from the flagship Mi series to its cheap but speedy Poco range. This, however, is the latest arrival from the Redmi Note series, which offers the company’s vision of budget beauty. In other words, the handsets look like a flagship phone, but make savings on the internals.
It’s a trade-off that’s worked well in the past, with the company routinely able to give you plenty for your money. This time around, you’re looking at a 6.43in handset with a 90Hz AMOLED display and a quad-camera array on the back.
Powering things is the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 processor backed by 6GB of RAM. There’s no 5G, but it does have an IP53 water resistance rating and comes with a generous 5,000mAh battery.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review: Price and competition
All that will set you back a not unreasonable £200, and based on raw specs it certainly seems to offer plenty of value. The trouble comes when you look at what else is available on the market.
That includes highly appealing options from Xiaomi itself. The souped-up version of this handset – the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G – goes for only £40 more and offers a 120Hz screen, an upgrade to the Snapdragon 695 and 5G connectivity. And while it’s a little long in the tooth now, the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC continues to offer phenomenal value at £179.
Beyond things not manufactured by Xiaomi, there are other perfectly solid options to choose from. Take the Nokia G50, for example, or Motorola’s similarly named but superior Moto G50. Both are available for £200. Or, if money is tight, then the Realme 7 is worth a look at around £160.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review: Design
As mentioned, Xiaomi has pretty much perfected the art of making even its cheapest phones look like flagships, and the Redmi Note 11 is a masterclass in this. While options from the likes of Nokia and Motorola take a good stab at it, they have a certain bulky feel that Xiaomi seems to consistently sidestep with its attractive range of slim and light (179g in this case) budget handsets.
The front is dominated by a 6.43in screen, with very thin bezels all the way around – the “chin” has a slightly thicker frame, but we’re still only talking around half a centimetre. It has a pinhole notch at the very top of the display in the centre, so there’s very little space used for anything but screen.
Flip it over, and the stylishness continues. It’s a smooth plastic, which gently curves towards the edges, and it feels nice in the hand, even if it is somewhat prone to smudging. The quad-camera array is neatly contained within a large rectangle in the top left-hand corner: the large, main 50MP sensor kept in the top third, with the remaining three lenses and flash lined up in a square underneath. It’s a good, uncomplicated look that’s hard to fault.
On top of the strong overall aesthetic, Xiaomi gains points for a lot of consumer-positive moves in terms of design. Unlike plenty of budget phones, it offers some kind of water and dust resistance with IP53 protection, and it maintains the 3.5mm headphone jack, too.
The Redmi Note 11 also has dual-SIM support and microSD card expansion, and unlike plenty of other handsets, it doesn’t make you choose between those features: you can add two SIM cards and a microSD card if you like. In short: top marks for Xiaomi on design.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review: Display
The Redmi Note 11’s screen is a 6.43in AMOLED number with a resolution of 2,400 x 1,080, which gives it around 409 pixels per inch. It’s also capable of a 90Hz refresh rate, though this is something you have to opt into as it defaults to 60Hz.
And it’s an excellent screen in all but one respect, which I’ll get into in a moment. It covers 95.4% of the sRGB gamut with a volume of 95.8%, meaning it displays a full range of colours in an accurate and vibrant way. Though it’s OLED technology, it still reaches a quite respectable 428cd/m², meaning it should be readable on all but the brightest of days. Being OLED tech, contrast is perfect, too.
All of this adds up to a screen that’s as good as anything you can buy in this price bracket (and some above it), but there’s one odd thing I have to flag here. When scrolling through text on the menus, I noticed some uncomfortable blurring where for a split second the text drags, appearing in one and a half places at once – almost as if the text can’t keep up with the screen refresh rate. This is alleviated – though not eliminated – by switching to 90Hz mode.
It’s not noticeable on web pages in Chrome, and that suggests it may be a software issue that’s fixable in an update, rather than a problem with the hardware itself, but it would be remiss not to mention it as the effect is a bit distracting at the time of writing this review.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review: Performance
So far, things have been rather good, but it’s all about to take a hit. While the Redmi Note 11 feels perfectly snappy while browsing and multitasking, the benchmarks painted a curiously mixed picture of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 680’s capabilities.
That doesn’t look too bad, but I have to flag that the above scores were achieved at the third attempt. The first two times we ran the test, the Redmi Note 11 scored 958 and 1,037 respectively. The only thing that made us try it an unprecedented third time was that the crowdsourced Geekbench listings showed people managing higher scores, though not consistently.
Even then, single-core scores remain disappointing, not just compared to the Pro version, but all three ~£200 handsets and even the £170 Realme 7.
Things get worse when you get to 3D testing. I’m not really sure this needs all that much commentary: it has around half the performance of every other handset in our list, and suffice to say the difference between 41fps and 22fps in a game is very noticeable.
It’s not really clear why it’s performing so inconsistently with Geekbench and poorly in GFXBench. Perhaps there are software tweaks that can be done to unlock the phone’s full potential? Ultimately, we can’t judge it on what might be and have to take things at face value, and the bottom line is that you can – and should – get better elsewhere.
Fortunately, things are better in terms of battery life, with the 5,000mAh cell going the distance and eclipsing every other phone in our test other than the freak-of-nature endurance of the Moto G50, which somehow managed an extra five hours.
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Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review: Camera
Impressively – or overambitiously, depending on your point of view – the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 includes no fewer than four cameras on the back. These comprise a 50MP (f/1.8) main camera, supported by an 8MP (f/2.2) ultrawide lens and two 2MP (f/2.4) sensors: one for macro photography and the other for depth.
On paper that all sounds very good, but the proof is in the pudding and – to push the analogy to breaking point – this pudding is distinctly underdone. Or rather, undersaturated. As you can see from the picture below, taken on a not particularly bright day, everything looks a bit paler and more washed-out than it should.
Zooming in shows the detail is there, but when compared to the Nokia G50 – itself not the most inspiring budget camera and prone to the opposite problem of oversaturation – it still narrowly misses out. The Nokia captures that bit more detail on the brickwork and around the windows.
This is how the Redmi Note 11 coped with a shot of my garden at sunset. As you’d expect, some detail is lost, but it’s not a bad effort considering the dwindling light it has to work with.
But again, the Nokia G50 has a very slight edge with a touch more detail (look at the triangular light to the right of the plant), and the increased contrast makes for an overall more pleasing shot.
The other lenses are perfectly adequate, but it does feel like Xiaomi has picked quantity over quality, and that’s a shame. A macro lens is nice, but it’s something you use once or twice for novelty reasons and then forget about. Ditto the depth sensor, so it would be nice if Xiaomi did one or two cameras really well, rather than providing four so-so sensors.
The undersaturation problem is present on selfies taken by the Redmi Note 11’s 13MP (f/2.4) front-facing camera too. I assure you I’m not pale in real life, and the closest representation is the picture on the left with all beauty features turned off. The middle one is the default setting, and the one on the right is the result of turning beauty all the way up (so much for being in the eye of the beholder – sorry about the nightmares.)
If you want to record video, you have two options: 720p or 1080p, both capped at 30fps. It’s fine for the budget price of entry, but certainly not for budding filmmakers with its grainy makeup and lack of stability.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review: Verdict
This has very much been a review of two halves: on the one hand, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11’s design and screen are truly top-notch and a great example of how you make a phone on a budget. But its performance is inconsistent in benchmarks and it offers underwhelming 3D gaming potential compared to its rivals. Its cameras are okay, but you can do better for the money.
So, what should you get instead? Well, the obvious answer is to go Pro: the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G is only around £40 more, and is simply better in every way. If you really can’t spend a penny over £200, then my pick would be either Xiaomi’s own Poco X3 NFC or, if you really want 5G, then the Motorola Moto G50.