Towards the end of last year, Infinix made several back-to-back smartphone releases and one of them was one that we have come to expect at around that time: something from the brand’s Note lineup.
Coming hot on the heels of updates to other notable smartphone series from the Chinese device maker, The Infinix Note 11 series had to fight for attention at a time when we had just looked at the latest member of the Hot series and the impressive 2021 Infinix flagship smartphone: the Zero X Pro.
It still managed to hold on its own over the one month or so that I have used it on and off – in between reviewing other devices.
There are several things that make the device stand out both from a usability point of view, on my end, and from the point of view of someone looking at Infinix’s smartphone lineup.
From my own usability point of view, the Infinix Note 11 Pro scores on all the major fronts – as we will see further in this review. From the point of view of where it stands in Infinix’s entire smartphone lineup, it stands as a representative of the entire Note 11 series, since it is the best there is.
For those of us that got a chance to use its predecessor, it scores a couple of extra points for being a worthy upgrade to the Note 10 Pro we looked at just after the mid-year point (and which had the privilege of getting a version named after Kenya’s biggest boy band that also happen to be Infinix’s brand ambassadors, Sauti Sol).
Design and Display
Traditionally, devices offered under Infinix’s Note series are usually large – and bulky and overbearing. The Infinix Note 11 Pro is more like those, save for the overbearing bit as you just learn to live with it very fast and get to appreciate what it brings to the table with its mighty presence. It is huge and, almost, unwieldy, no doubt about that. That can be intimidating at first but, when you get to use the device and get to know what you can use with all the screen real estate, you get to appreciate it.
Still, we have used a number of other similarly large devices before that have felt a little compact, something that the Note 11 Pro isn’t and doesn’t try to be.
Everything appears to be in its place and all falls into place nicely to make things like the handling of such a large device bearable. There are software tweaks – more on that below – as well to help with that. My particular favourites are the back design which does away with the shininess for a more practical matte look and finish and the fingerprint sensor that is embedded in the recessed power on/off button. The latter just works.
The display is perhaps the one place where the changes Infinix has made are immediately felt, if not visible. The screen refresh rate has now gone up to 120Hz, up from 90Hz on the Note 10 Pro. There is still a shortage of applications that can take advantage of that but it’s nice to have and futureproofs the device.
As is always the case these days, the camera is front and centre of the overall smartphone experience on the Infinix Note 11 Pro. In the case of the front-facing camera, that is quite literally.
The front-facing camera is still the same 16-megapixel unit that adorned the front of the Infinix Note 10 Pro. The only change here is a negative one, actually. Whereas the Note 10 Pro had dual-LED flash, the Note 11 Pro takes us back to the spiritual Egypt with a return to a single flashlight. Not something many will recognize but it’s the way things are.
That’s cosmetic, though. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and, there, the camera earns its stripes with good performance all round – during the day and at night.
The main 64-megapixel image sensor is backed by a 13-megapixel ultra-wide, an upgrade to the Note 10 Pro’s 8-megapixel ultra-wide sensor and it also does a good job of capturing scenes, objects and people during both day and night. There’s a caveat to that, though: it only apply to close by objects at night. Trying to take a shot of the Ethiopian side of Moyale from a valley below it didn’t yield the kind of results I thought it would. Improve the lighting conditions for close-by objects a little bit and the results are fantastic!
Here are some samples:
Something else that is becoming a staple of Infinix’s camera software experience is the inclusion, in the viewfinder of the quick toggle for the 64-megapixel lens. It’s a much better implementation when compared to the crude option of having to dig through the camera app’s settings or going to another screen to do the same.
The Infinix Note 11 Pro arrives running the latest iteration of Infinix’s Android custom overlay, XOS, this time running atop Android 11. There’s no word from the company on the status of the Note 11 Pro and, indeed, the entire Note 11 series, regarding plans for Android 12 but fingers crossed that this is the year that they get to surprise us with the update.
While version 10 of XOS, which is what powers the Infinix Note 11 Pro, comes with the kinds of bells and whistles that you expect of a new software upgrade like a fresh coat of paint and whatnot, much of the experience remains largely the same as that from past Infinix devices.
Obviously, there’s the added boost of fast scrolling and buttery smoothness thanks to the new chipset in use that we can’t ignore.
Transitions – between apps and various screens – are smooth and fast. The primary reason for that, when using system applications may be because of the high refresh rate but we also can’t discount the tweaks made to XOS that improve performance, the available memory, which is very sufficient and the capable chipset in use. All factors unite to present a desirable experience. Not rare for Infinix devices but commendable for the price point.
It is almost beside the point to focus on the battery life of an Infinix Note smartphone – the series’ sole existence in the early days was hinged on its impeccable battery life. Many years later, that is still the case and the Note 11 Pro is no exception. Using it while travelling, I was able to squeeze full-day performance out of the device on a single charge. It probably could’ve gone on and on but there was my Android Auto to take care of and that means juicing up the device when I didn’t intend to.
My favourite part? The fast-charging. It’s the Transsion standard 33W fast-charging but it delivers and that’s the most important thing. On the day I am penning this review, I plugged in the device when it was dead flat (0%) and it had gone up to a respectable 46% when I unplugged it after a little more than half an hour.
At just under Kshs 30,000, the Infinix Note 11 Pro appears to have it all: a big display with a high refresh rate, a big battery that powers it all day long, a fresh take on its user interface and an ergonomic design. That should hold up pretty well to the competition even before you bring up extras like its seemingly “endless” RAM. Yes, it should be high up your list of devices to consider if operating within such a budget.
For about Kshs 5,000 less than what it goes for, the standard Infinix Note 11 offers a near-similar experience but on some stepped down specifications.
Both models are devoid of the stylus that once characterized Infinix’s Note and which is the inspiration behind the name. Only the presence of the XNote application leaves traces of that note-taking past. Not that anyone will miss it but worth bringing since, at its price point and in the lower rungs of the smartphone market, no one is doing such a thing anymore and that might be a lost opportunity, really.
Personally, I have a soft spot for the Note 11 Pro’s competitor (more like a sibling rival, really), the Tecno Camon 18 Premier. It has a more compact design that I like over the Note 11 Pro’s outsize offering, the same display resolution and high refresh rate as the Note 11 Pro and is still powered by Android 11, albeit in Tecno’s own HiOS taste. It shares the chipset and the fast-charging tech with the Infinix device despite rocking a smaller battery unit. The only problem? Pricing. It costs at least Kshs 10,000 more than the Infinix Note 11 Pro. The comparable device by price point alone from the Tecno Camon 18 series is the Camon 18P and that’s not what I’d want.
See where I am going with this? The Infinix Note 11 Pro is a solid option in the market that is hard to put down, the several misgivings I have against it notwithstanding.