When Is a Budget Phone Pro?
Xiaomi has updated its affordable Redmi Note range with the new Note 11 and Note 11 Pro 5G.
So, what makes something a Pro device in the budget part of the market? Here’s the full Tech Advisor review.
Design & build
- Square-edged design
- Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
- IP53 rating
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a phone in the affordable bracket that had a truly pleasing design. Most are perfectly serviceable variations on the slab of glass and plastic that we know so well, but this time around Xiaomi has impressed with an aesthetic that defies the device’s price-tag.
Gone are the shiny surfaces, curved edges and jumbled camera bump of the Redmi Note 10 Pro, replaced instead with a more refined approach.
The squared off edges and chassis surround give the Note 11 Pro 5G a similar look to the current iPhone 13 range, while the simple plastic back and more organised camera array keep the minimalist design intact.
The front is home to a 6.67in AMOLED panel, with a central punch-hole opening for the selfie camera that also allows the face unlock feature. On the right side you’ll find the volume and power buttons, of which the latter includes a fingerprint sensor. Throughout my time with the Note 11 Pro 5G I found the sensor was very reliable but if, like me, you’re left-handed then it can take a while to retrain your instincts and reach for the phone with your non-dominant hand.
Twin speakers occupy spaces on the top and bottom edges of the 11 Pro 5G, joined by a 3.5mm headphone socket and IR blaster on the top edge. Charging is via the USB-C slot on the lower edge where you’ll also find the hybrid SIM/microSD card slot that allows the storage to be expanded by up to 1TB while using a single SIM card, or you can rely on the in-built storage if you want to use two SIMs.
The 164.2 x 76.1 x 8.1mm dimensions, paired with the squared edges, make the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G a comfortable device to hold. Ok, the 202g weight does make it a little heavy, but it’s a balanced handset so you don’t notice it all that much.
Xiaomi somehow also includes an IP53 dust and splash protection rating, which is impressive at this price. There’s also a silicon case for added grip and protection, but in truth it does cheapen the look of this handsome phone.
- 6.67in AMOLED panel
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Full HD+ resolution
To compliment the elegant styling, Xiaomi bestows a 6.67in Full HD+ AMOLED display on the Note 11 Pro 5G. The 2400×1080 resolution and 20:9 aspect ratio mean that this is a tall phone, so it’s definitely one that requires two hands to operate comfortably, but that’s pretty much the norm now.
The panel is very nice, with plenty of colour and contrast, plus the option to switch the refresh rate up to a maximum of 120Hz means that gamers will enjoy the fluid scrolling and movements of graphically busy titles, especially with the 360Hz touch sampling rate that’s included. If you’re not too bothered by such things, then you can leave the default 60Hz setting on and gain a bit more battery life instead.
Brightness is okay, with the display reaching a maximum of just over 400 nits in normal mode with auto-brightness disabled. The device does have a High Brightness mode that seems to be triggered automatically by the software, and Xiaomi claims this typically reaches 700 nits and tops out at a pretty fierce 1200 nits. In any case, I didn’t encounter any problems using the Note 11 Pro when I was out and about.
Xiaomi also includes a handy Reading Mode feature in its software, which you can toggle on and off from the Settings menu. This cools the colour temperature of the display, making it a little easier on the eyes when you’re looking at long articles or reading an ebook.
Specs & performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G
- Up to 8GB RAM
- 128GB of storage (expandable by up to 1TB)
Powering all the features in the Note 11 Pro is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G processor, which is a decent lower mid-range chip that’s also used on the (very similarly specced) Poco X4 Pro and Realme 9 Pro, and is expected to appear in the OnePlus Nord N20.
This is assisted on my review unit by 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB of UFS 2.2 internal storage (which can be further increased by up to 1TB via a microSD card). Other configurations also available are 6GB/64GB and 6GB/128GB, with commensurate drops in price.
In general use the performance is pleasingly efficient. Apps open and run quickly, navigating the menus and various screens is snappy, and I never really felt the lag that sometimes appears in more affordable devices.
Playing graphically heavy games like Asphalt 9 didn’t present any problems and even after a thirty minute session the rear surface remained comfortably cool to the touch. To be honest, it’s hard to find a sluggish phone in this sector of the market these days, which is good news for those that don’t want to have to shell out big bucks just to use social media, message friends, listen to music and stream the occasional video. If these sound like the kind of things you want from a phone, then the Note 11 Pro 5G has got you covered.
Of course, it’s capable of some heavy lifting too, as you can see from the results it returned in our standard battery of benchmark tests:
- 108Mp f/1.9 main camera
- 8Mp f/2.2 ultrawide
- 2Mp f/2.4 macro
A three camera array is neatly arranged in the top left corner of the rear panel, with the main 108Mp f/1.9 shooter taking pride of place. This is joined by an 8Mp f/2.2 ultrawide and 2Mp f/2.4 macro to offer a fair variety of photography options for a device in this price bracket.
Results are something of a mixed bag though. There’s no doubt that you can capture some really lovely images on this phone, with plenty of detail, colour and contrast. Using the main camera in bright conditions delivered very acceptable landscape shots that didn’t blow out the highs and managed to show the sky and clouds in all their glory. Tap the 2x zoom option and suddenly there’s quite a lot of noise in the frame, which makes it something you’d only use when there are no other options available.
Low light can be fine if you have a steady hand, but I did notice some trouble focusing on the image in the foreground at times, which only became apparent on close inspection of the final image. There is a night mode you can use, but it does tend to overexpose rather than produce balanced images.
Macro is a similar story. When the camera focuses on the correct area of the frame you can get some lovely images, such as a close up of a flower in the early morning sunshine. But, you’ll have to be vigilant, as the camera doesn’t always choose the right subject.
Video footage tops out at 1080p/30fps, which is a step down from the 4K capabilities of its predecessor the Redmi Note 10 Pro. Footage is fine, but there doesn’t seem to be any particularly effective stabilisation, as walking around the garden produced a subtle bump caused by every footstep. The 16Mp f/2.4 selfie camera returns adequate results and can match the front camera for video quality, but it doesn’t really shine.
You can get some excellent photos and videos with this phone, but you may have to work for them.
Battery life & charging
- 5000mAh battery
- 67W charger
- 50% charge in 15 minutes
A 5000mAh battery occupies most of the Note 11 Pro’s innards, and does a fine job of supplying power to the device. Throughout my time testing it, I regularly went to bed with plenty of charge still left in the tank, even with heavy use. Switching to the 120Hz refresh rate obviously has a detrimental effect to the longevity of the battery life, but even then it still made it to late evening if I didn’t spend too much time gaming.
Xiaomi includes a 67W charger in the box (take that, Apple), which returns the unit to full power in around 45 minutes, but if you want a quick splash and dash, then you can get to 50% from just over 15 minutes of charging.
Sadly there’s no wireless charging available, but that’s not surprising considering the price.
- MIUI 13
- Android 11
- Plenty of Customisation Features
Xiaomi’s MIUI 13 sits on top of Android 11 in the Note 11 Pro. It’s a colourful and cheery interface that for the most part is nice to use. There are a number of customisation options that allow you to tailor the experience more to your tastes, such as a side bar (a la Samsung), floating windows and a light mode that simplifies everything and uses larger text and icons for those who might struggle with a busy interface.
There’s the now standard dark mode, the aforementioned reading mode, as well as various adjustments you can make to the colour scheme, text size and the quick settings menu.
I did encounter a few stumbles here and there, with the quick settings menu in particular proving unwilling to let me swipe down and open up its extended options on numerous occasions.
There was also the fact that a few times I found myself on a phone call chatting with a friend, only to have them say they couldn’t hear me. Checking the device I saw that the screen had been on while I was holding it to my face, and my cheek had touched the Mute icon, cutting off my microphone. This should have a proximity sensor telling the phone to ignore any such happenstance, so I can only assume the software wasn’t picking up the command.
Listening to podcasts and audiobooks was good thanks to the surprisingly decent speakers, but several times the playback stopped by itself. I wondered if the phone was listening for a voice command and mistaking it from the audio that was playing, but whatever the cause it was annoying.
One major drawback is that, as mentioned, the Note 11 Pro 5G ships with Android 11 – rather than the more recent Android 12, which is already available on other Xiaomi phones. This is particularly concerning as Redmi devices typically only receive two Android updates, meaning this phone will probably be updated to Android 13 – due later this year – but won’t receive any further software support, other than security patches, beyond that.
Price & availability
The Redmi Note 11 Pro is currently available to buy from Xiaomi in India for ₹24,999 (approximately £250/$329/€299).
The phone isn’t yet out in the UK or Europe, though in the meantime you can pick up the less powerful Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, which starts from £199/€199.
Bear in mind that Xiaomi isn’t currently releasing phones directly in the USA, so if you live in that territory then you’ll need to import the device through another vendor.
There are quite a few decent alternatives to the Note 11 Pro though, including the brilliant Poco X4 Pro 5G which costs €299 (around £250/$340) and has much the same specs as the Redmi device.
Check out our rankings of the best Xiaomi phones and the best budget phones for more affordable options.
The Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G is a solid mid-range performer that gets a lot of things right.
Its design is probably the best I’ve seen in this price bracket and the all round performance makes it easy to recommend. I did find the camera solid rather than amazing, and there were a few glitches here and there, but overall it delivers pretty much everything you want from an inexpensive smartphone, including 5G.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G: Specs
- 6.67in AMOLED HD+ display with 2400 x 1080 resolution, 60 or 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10 and 20:9 aspect ratio
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G processor
Up to 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM
Up to 128GB of UFS 2.2 storage (expandable by 1TB via microSD)
- 108Mp f/1.9 Wide
- 8Mp f/2.2 Ultrawide
- 2Mp f/2.4 Macro
- 16Mp f/2.4 Selfie
- Stereo speakers
- IR blaster
- Bluetooth 5.1
- Wi-Fi 5
- Fingerprint sensor in Power button
- 5000mAh battery with 67W Fast Charge
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- USB-C charging port
- 164.2 x 76.1 x 8.1mm