Hands-On, Smartphone

Redmi Note 7 Hands-On: Strong Beginning

Previously under the Xiaomi branding, the Redmi series of smartphones is now a sub-brand of the Chinese phone maker. The Redmi Note 7 is the first device introduced after the announcement, and it is now in Malaysia.

Sporting a premium design, large battery capacity, and a competitive price tag, the Redmi Note 7 is an interesting mid-ranger. I’ve spent some time with the device over the weekend, and if you’re shopping for a sub-RM1,000 phone, the Note 7 is definitely one option to look out for.

Unlike previous Redmi smartphones, the Redmi Note 7 is a lot more premium. The glass and metal construction give the phone solid build quality, it looks great, and the glass back feels good to the touch. This is a reasonably hefty phone too, tipping the scales at 186g.

It’s no surprise that the Redmi Note 7 is a hefty phone, considering the fact that it has a generous 4,000mAh battery. Even so, it’s not all that thick with a 8.1mm chassis. The phone feels just right – it’s neither too thin nor thick.

Speaking of which, the Redmi Note 7’s large 4,000mAh battery should be able to return excellent battery life. Most Xiaomi devices are long-lasting phones anyway, and I reckon the Note 7 will be no different.

Powering the Redmi Note 7 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset, and the phone feels fast, zippy, and responsive. Yes, the Snapdragon 660 is not the most capable or newest chipset, but it should be able to offer a good level of performance. Gaming on this phone shouldn’t be much of an issue either.

For the Malaysian market, three variants of the Redmi Note 7 are available. The base model comes with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM, while the 64GB and 128GB variants both feature 4GB of RAM. The unit I have here is the 64GB model, and this amount of storage (and RAM) should be just fine for a device of this class. If you need even more storage space, you can just use the microSD card slot.

If there’s any element of the Redmi Note 7 that will divide opinion, it would be the display. That’s right, the 6.3-inch Full HD+ display has a notch at the top, and it’s quite noticeable. Compared to its competition – like the Realme 2 Pro – the top and bottom bezels of the phone are noticeably thicker too.

But beyond those, the Redmi Note 7’s display quality is good. It’s bright and vibrant, viewing angles are alright, and it looks sharp despite the 1080p resolution. Of course, a higher resolution display would look better, but that will only drive up the price and power consumption of the phone.

And then we have the Redmi Note 7’s dual camera system, which is one of the most interesting hardware of this phone. The primary shooter is a 48MP f/1.8 sensor, while the other 5MP f/2.4 camera captures depth information. On the front, it has a 13MP f/2.2 selfie shooter.

Since the Redmi Note 7 has a 48MP sensor, does it take images at this resolution? Not quite. By default, the phone will use pixel binning to improve the camera performance, which effectively reduces the file size to the equivalent of a 12MP image. Of course, you can always shoot at 48MP, but this is only possible in the camera’s Manual mode.

So how is the camera performance of the Redmi Note 7? It’s…relatively good. I managed to capture some low light shots with the phone, and generally, it performed quite well. Yes, it doesn’t have the best dynamic range or detail preservation, but for a mid-range smartphone, it’s plenty good.

I’ll test the camera performance much more extensively in a full review of the phone, including how it performs under ideal lighting, as well as the camera’s Night mode. For what it’s worth, I’m quite positive it won’t disappoint.

The Redmi Note 7 is the best device in the series yet. It looks and feels premium, it doesn’t have any glaring fault, and most importantly, it retains the brand’s best selling point: value for money.

In Malaysia, the Redmi Note 7 retails from only RM679, and that’s for the 32GB base model. The 64GB and 128GB variants, on the other hand, retail at RM799 and RM949 respectively. These are very competitive price tags, and not many devices in this price range can offer the Note 7’s feature set, especially when it comes to build quality.

If absolute value for money is what you’re looking for, the Redmi Note 7 is an attractive option. In fact, it could very well set the benchmark of what to expect from a mid-range smartphone – it’s a strong beginning for the sub-brand.

Update, 19 March: The Redmi Note 7 has just been launched in Malaysia. We now know exactly how many variants are available, and how much each of them cost. This article has been updated accordingly.