Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review: Big on performance, low on price

Xiaomi has perfected the art of bringing almost high-end performance to the middle-range category, and the Redmi Note 11 series continues this trend. On February 17th, Xiaomi sub-brand Redmi officially unveiled the Redmi Note 11 series in Kenya, and with it came promises of offering top-tier performance at a fraction of the cost of flagship devices from other manufacturers.

The Redmi Note 11 series has three models: the Note 11 Pro, Note 11S, and the base Note 11. We were provided with the base Note 11 to get a feel of it, and I have been daily driving it for a week or so, basically being absolutely blown away by the experience while trying to figure out how Xiaomi has managed to package such impressive performance on a device that sits at the lower end of the middle range category.

It is worth noting that the Redmi Note 11 does not support 5G connectivity, which is not necessarily a deal-breaker at the moment given that the 5G network is not widespread in most Kenyan towns. However, its importance will only go up in the next few years. Therefore, should support for the 5G network be paramount in your needs, it is advisable you go for the Pro version of the Redmi Note 11 as it has support for the network.

However, at an affordable price of Kshs 20,000 for the Redmi Note 11 that I have, with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB internal storage, it is hard to find better value in the market.

In the box

Aside from the Redmi Note 11 itself, you also get a 33 W charging adapter, a USB Type-C cable, the SIM ejector tool, and a colourless protective case which I’ve grown quite fond of despite it being what most people might consider bland.

My only disappointment here is that despite the Redmi Note 11 retaining the 3.5 mm headphone jack, you do not get earphones with the device. Admittedly, most manufacturers are moving away from including earphones as more people are adopting wireless earbuds, that offer more flexibility and easier mobility while using them.

Feel and design

Xiaomi has not deviated much from the look of the Redmi Note 10. The hole punch camera is still at the centre, while the edges of the phone are rounded to comfortably fit in your palm in different scrolling positions.

The similarities are also seen at the back of the device, with the camera layout featuring a massive sensor with smaller lenses arranged below it to form a rectangular shape.

You also get the 50-megapixel and AI camera branding to remind you of the camera power that has been fitted on such a small budget.

I have the Redmi Note 11 in a colour Xiaomi refers to as Star Blue, however, you can also get it in either Graphite Gray or Pearl White, depending on your preference.

My only gripe here is the slightly big bezels, especially at the bottom of the device. This could have been made thinner to create a more immersive viewing experience, especially when watching movies or basic YouTube videos.

In general, the Redmi Note 11 feels just right in your hand without being too heavy or overly large. I have sunk hours scrolling through Reddit without getting the feeling of fatigue on my hand.

Display

The Redmi Note 11 features an AMOLED display, which for a device starting at Kshs 20,000, is hard to beat. This guarantees a more vibrant display compared to its rivals at this price range, which normally feature LCD panels.

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The device supports a 90Hz refresh rate but comes locked at 60Hz out of the box. You have to navigate to the settings to turn it up to the much smoother 90 Hz. Keep in mind though that the increase to 90Hz translates to a higher battery drain rate, but it is not overly dramatic for it to cause a problem in your daily driving. Furthermore, the increased smoothness is worth it in my opinion.

I have watched Mad Max Fury Road on the device and the display does the movie justice. The Full HD+ AMOLED display in conjunction with the panel topping out at 6.43 inches ensures the colours pop out and appear natural, giving you a satisfying viewing experience.

Still on the movie, the Note 11 has a pair of stereo speakers at the top and bottom of the device, which is something you don’t get often at this price point. They produce an impressive range of sounds while still maintaining the clarity that is needed to enjoy what you are listening to.

Performance

The Note 11 packs the Snapdragon 680 4G chipset and the Adreno 610 GPU, which puts it squarely in the mid-range category. I have not experienced any hiccups when using various apps, and there isn’t a reason really why you should be concerned about slowdowns.

The 4 GB of RAM is sufficient for most tasks unless you go overboard opening 20+ tabs on Chrome as well as a few other apps, then quickly switch between them.

I am mainly a console gamer but tried Call of Duty: Mobile‘s team deathmatch mode to get a feel on how the Note 11 will fare. The game defaulted to medium settings with medium frame rates (around 40 fps – 50 fps) which is more than playable without hindering your gaming skills in any way.

Playing with settings cranked to high could have been preferable, but this is a middle-range device after all, so I can not complain much in this situation.

Software

As is traditional with Xiaomi, the Android 11 that comes with the device has a coat of MIUI 13 on top of it. Depending on whether you like stock Android or appreciate the lengths Xiaomi has gone to offer more personalization, you might lean either way on liking it. I am personally indifferent to it.

What has caught my eye, however, is the split notification shade, which makes reaching for quick settings or your notifications much easier and faster.

There is also a themes store where an abundance of various themes and background photos that might interest you await, all for free. However, I was prompted to watch an ad before installing a live theme which might be jarring to a few of you, but I did not mind it as it is a small amount to pay so to speak for what is a huge catalog of amazing themes.

Swiping left on the home screen brings up the Google Feed, which is something I’m grateful Xiaomi has not changed from stock Android with their MIUI 13 coat.

There are still some apps that come preinstalled with the Redmi Note 11 which you might not find a use for, but you can easily uninstall them, freeing up more of the 128 GB of space that comes standard with the device.

Despite not officially announcing it, I fully expect the Redmi Note 11 to get an update to Android 12 later this year. When that will be is still in the air, but Xiaomi is notorious for taking its sweet time before rolling out an update.

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Camera

Xiaomi has put much thought into the Redmi Note 11’s camera setup, and it is obvious from the get-go. A quad camera set up featuring a 50MP main camera, 8MP for ultra-wide shots, and a set of two 2MP cameras for macro and depth shots forms is featured at the back while the selfie camera consists of a more modest 13 MP setup.

The main camera as you will see below makes a good job of capturing detailed shots when there is plenty of light. However, as is often the case with budget devices, the camera struggles in low light, with graining becoming more prevalent.

For a Kshs 20,000 device, it does the job well enough, and you will have to spend considerably more if you want better camera performance, leaving the middle-range category into flagship territory.

The selfie camera on the other hand does not fare well compared to the main rear camera. It also takes better shots during daytime with sufficient lighting, however, there is a lot of smoothing which is something some people like, while I tend to find it distracting as some details on my face are lost.

For expert photographers, there is also a Pro mode that offers more control in terms of shutter speed, lens type, ISO control, etc. You can mess with these settings to see whether you can come up with better photos than what stock settings offer, but I stuck to the tried and tested normal mode, which I am most comfortable with.

Battery and charging

The device comes with a generous 5,000 mAh battery. To quickly fill it up, it is bundled with a 33 W fast charging adapter that takes the device from 0% to 100% in slightly less than an hour.

On normal days when I use it for basic day-to-day activities like picking calls, normal texting, and a bit of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Reddit I am always left with around 60% of charge at the end of the day. The Redmi Note 11 easily supports two full days of normal usage on a single charge.

Take it through the paces of intensive usage, including back-to-back movies and a two-hour gaming session, and you will still be left with around 30% charge at the end of the day. The huge battery pack just keeps going, which I am more than happy for, as day-long power outages are quite common in Kenya.

Should you buy the Redmi Note 11?

For what is a middle-range phone in the lower spectrum of the category, the Redmi Note 11 punches above its weight, offering premium features like the AMOLED screen, 90 Hz refresh rate, and 33 W fast charging, rivaling some flagships from other manufacturers.

Its design, while not particularly breaking from the tried and tested method present in the Redmi Note 10, feels good and solid in the hand compared to the cheap feeling that you get on other devices in this price bracket.

However, the Redmi Note 11 could do with better performance in intensive modern games, while also the camera struggles in low light situations. This is where if you have a little more to spend, you can stretch your budget to the Redmi Note 11 Pro, which addresses these issues.

At the end of the day, what the Redmi Note 11 offers is very hard to beat at the same price range. For a middle-range device, it ticks more than enough boxes for it to be a must-buy in my eyes.

Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at criskariuki@gmail.com Twitter @KarisNaftaly

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