Review, Smartphone

Redmi Note 7 Review: Redefining Value for Money

The mid-range market is a tough segment to compete in. Not only do you have to keep prices low, you need to offer competent hardware too – it’s not easy to find a good balance between these two aspects. But if there’s any brand that does this very well, it’s Xiaomi.

Enter the Redmi Note 7, which is now a sub-brand of Xiaomi. It looks and feels great, it has good hardware, and most importantly, it is priced very competitively. In fact, this is probably one of the best – if not the best – sub-RM1,000 smartphones you can buy right now.

Specifications

Display6.3-inch FHD+ IPS LCD (2340 x 1080)
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 660 2.2GHz octa-core
GPU
Adreno 512
RAM3/4GB
Storage32/64/128GB, expandable
Camera (rear)
48MP f/1.8 + 5MP f/2.4
Camera (front)13MP f/2.2
Battery
4,000mAh
Dimensions159.21 x 75.21 x 8.1 mm
Weight
186g
OSMIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie
ConnectivityLTE
Bluetooth 5.0
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz)
3.5mm headphone jack
USB Type-C

You’re getting a lot of value for your money with the Redmi Note 7, and this spec sheet shows that perfectly. The base model of the phone, for one, retails at only RM679. Granted, you’ll have to make do with only 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM, but these capacities should be sufficient for the average smartphone user.

And if you need more storage, just pop in a microSD card into the Redmi Note 7. Despite its affordable price tag, this phone is feature-packed: it has a 48MP camera, a large 4,000mAh battery, a USB-C port for charging, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Design

When I first took the Redmi Note 7 out of the box, I was very impressed with the phone’s build quality. It feels solid in my hands, it has a nice heft to it, and the glass back looks and feels fantastic, albeit a little bit too slippery for my liking.

In my hands-on of the Redmi Note 7, I initially thought it has a metal frame. Well, after using it as my daily driver for a while, I realise that the frame is actually…painted plastic. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced until I saw JerryRigEverything’s durability test of the Note 7 – that really goes to show how well-built this phone is.

Unfortunately, the Redmi Note 7 also has a notched, “Dot Drop” display. Even though it’s quite minimal, it is still a notch, and it impacts the user experience of the phone quite a bit – I’ll elaborate more on this further down this review.

Besides that, I’m not all that crazy about the size of the bottom bezel either. It’s noticeably thicker than some of its most immediate competition, like, the Samsung Galaxy A30. If other phone makers can do minimise the bottom bezel (in the same price segment, no less), why can’t Redmi?

Nevertheless, the Redmi Note 7 is still a well-designed, minimalist smartphone. It’s a cheap, affordable smartphone, but it does not feel cheap at all, which is quite an accomplishment.

User Experience

MIUI 10 on the Redmi Note 7, for the most part, is quite unchanged from previous Xiaomi-branded smartphones like the Mi Mix 3. Yes, that means I still cannot dismiss notifications with a left swipe, and it’s not possible to interact with notifications on the lock screen either.

But what bothered me the most about the Redmi Note 7 is the fact that notifications icons are not shown on the notification bar at all times; it’s only shown for a glimpse when I unlock the phone. This is despite the fact that there are plenty of space for icons to be displayed there, unlike how it was with the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro‘s much wider notch.

Basically, it doesn’t matter if the Redmi Note 7 has a minimal notch – MIUI 10 still treats it like any other notch, even if there’s more than enough screen real estate for notification icons to be shown.

However, as a whole, MIUI 10 is still serviceable on the Redmi Note 7. Beyond the aforementioned issues I have with the software, it works as intended. It is lightweight, responsive, and I didn’t run into any serious, deal-breaking bug.

When it comes to biometric security, the Redmi Note 7 doesn’t have any fancy in-screen fingerprint sensor. Instead, it has a conventional capacitive fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not only is it fast, it is also very accurate; these two aspects are all that matter when it comes to practicality.

Performance is also good on the Redmi Note 7, courtesy of the Snapdragon 660 chipset. Of course, the phone does take some time to launch and switch between apps (especially the camera), but I can play games like PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends on this phone relatively well.

Featuring a 6.3-inch 1080p IPS display, the Redmi Note 7 has a reasonably good screen too. It is bright with decent viewing angles, and colours look punchy and vibrant as well. The 1080p resolution is also just fine for a phone in this price range, and it helps immensely in one vital department: battery life.

Like previous Redmi Note smartphones, the Note 7 features a large 4,000mAh battery, and it can return ridiculously good battery life. On average, I got anywhere between six to seven hours of screen on time with this phone.

Throughout my time reviewing the phone, there wasn’t a single day where it died on me before I go to bed. Well, actually, there was one time, but only because I forgot to charge it the night before. If you’re a light smartphone user, I’m confident you can effortlessly get two days of battery life with the Redmi Note 7.

Unfortunately, the charging rate of the phone leaves much to be desired. From 0%, the Note 7 only charged up to 28% within 30 minutes of charging with the provided charger.

As a whole, the Redmi Note 7 is a good daily driver. Even though MIUI 10 has its flaws, I love the phone’s long battery life and good performance. And who knows: perhaps Xiaomi will further improve MIUI 10 in the near future, especially with the notification icon issue.

Camera

There’s a lot of talk about the Redmi Note 7 having a “fake” 48MP sensor, so let’s quickly address this first. See, the phone is equipped with a 48MP Samsung ISOCELL Bright GM1 sensor, which – as its name suggests – is in fact a 48MP sensor. However, by default, it natively outputs 12MP images through the use of pixel binning to improve low light performance.

So does this mean the Redmi Note 7 is incapable of taking 48MP shots? Not quite. If you go to the camera’s manual mode, you can actually take 48MP images, but you won’t be able to take advantage of pixel binning for, well, better camera performance.

Basically, if you want the absolute best image quality with the Redmi Note 7, just shoot in the standard mode. Yes, you’ll “only” be left with 12MP images, but why would you want to take 48MP shots anyway?

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the phone’s actual camera performance. In ideal lighting, the 48MP + 5MP dual camera system can take good-looking images, as expected. In low light conditions, however, the camera does struggle a little bit.

While the camera does feel more sluggish in low light environments, the image output is surprisingly good. It is by no means amazing, but in this segment, I’d argue the Redmi Note 7 has one of the best camera performances by a long shot.

That being said, the camera’s night mode is a bit of a mixed bag. While you can capture more details (particularly in bright areas), you may be left with pretty artificial-looking shots too.

All in all, I’m really quite impressed with the Redmi Note 7’s camera performance, especially from a smartphone as affordable as it is. Click on each picture below to get a better look at them.

Competition

For the Malaysian market, the Redmi Note 7 is available in three different variants. The base model (32GB + 3GB) retails at RM679, while the 64GB and 128GB variants (both with 4GB of RAM) go for RM799 and RM949 respectively.

Although these are very competitive price tags, the Note 7 does have a couple of noteworthy alternatives.

Samsung Galaxy A30

Samsung is not known for its affordable devices, but the Galaxy A30 is certainly one of the Korean company’s most interesting mid-range smartphones. Compared to the Redmi Note 7, the A30 has a superior 6.4-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display, a more refined software experience (it runs on One UI), and it also retails at RM799 for the 64GB model with 4GB of RAM.

But the Galaxy A30 does make a number of sacrifices. For one, it feels much cheaper than the Redmi Note 7 with its all-plastic construction, and although its camera configuration is more versatile, thanks to the wide-angle sensor, it pales in comparison to the Note 7’s superior camera performance.

Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2

Asus has been relatively quiet over the past few months in the smartphone market, but the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is certainly a good alternative to the Redmi Note 7. It sports the same Snapdragon 660 chipset as the Redmi, a larger 5,000mAh battery, and it runs on a very clean, stock version of Android.

However, the M2 is also more expensive than the Redmi Note 7 by a slight margin: the 64GB variant with 4GB of RAM is priced at RM859. On top of that, the Note 7 also has better build quality, camera performance, as well as design – its display notch isn’t quite as wide as the one on Asus’ offering.

Conclusion

Redmi may be a sub-brand of Xiaomi now, but the Redmi Note 7 retains all of the company’s signature features. It has great value for money, long battery life, good level of performance (for the money), and above average camera performance.

As far as I can tell, the only real shortcoming of the Redmi Note 7 lies in its software – this has always been the case with Xiaomi smartphones. If MIUI 10 is more user-friendly and functional, the Note 7 would’ve been that much more compelling.

Nonetheless, as it is, the Redmi Note 7 is still a very attractive, well-built, and remarkable mid-range smartphone. You’d be hard-pressed to find a device as good as it is in this price range, and if you want absolute value for money in this segment, the Redmi Note 7 is the phone to get.