In the hand, the Redmi Note 7 feels much like the Honor 8X, the budget king from 2018. With double the base storage capacity, USB-C, more pixels and a higher-capacity battery, could the Redmi Note 7 dethrone it?
Redmi Note 7 – Design
The Redmi Note 7 doesn’t look as sleek as some of the curvaceous competition – the Honor 10 Lite, for example. Instead, its flat front and back interplay with a glossy plastic frame to deliver a solid slice of smartphone. It’s pretty big, too, with its 6.3-inch screen, but provided you’re okay with the size, there’s plenty to love here.
With its 19.5:9 screen and water-droplet notch, the Redmi Note 7 looks very “2019” from the front. All of its buttons sit along the right edge of the device and on the left is a dual-SIM tray that takes a microSD card, too – if you’re prepared to sacrifice one of the two SIM slots.
The phone’s high-gloss frame may be plastic but it feels super-solid, plus it houses a couple of nice surprises on its top edge: a headphone jack and an IR blaster. Down at its base, there’s a USB-C port as well as the mono speaker, while around the back of the phone is the dual camera module and a fingerprint scanner.
What’s impressive about the Redmi Note 7’s design is that both its front and rear use Gorilla Glass 5, which make it instantly more resistant to scratches than plastic-shelled devices, such as the Huawei P Smart 2019. More impressive still – you get a case in the box.
Unlike flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S10, the Redmi Note 7 isn’t IP-rated for water or dust-resistance but with it costing under £190, this is hardly a surprise.
Redmi Note 7 – Screen
The Redmi Note 7 features a 6.3-inch, 1080 x 2340 IPS display. With its 19.5:9 aspect ratio, this puts it on a par with the likes of the Huawei P30 Pro and the OnePlus 7 for resolution and size.
What it lacks, however, is AMOLED screen technology – which means the display here doesn’t quite have the punch or pop of the aforementioned handsets. It also isn’t as bright as the P30 Pro or Galaxy S10 Plus at maximum brightness. Nevertheless, it’s still perfectly viewable outdoors in all but direct sunlight.
The screen’s viewing angles are excellent, retaining both clarity and colour integrity off-angle, and while the Note 7’s display has a slightly cool hue to it, white balance is customisable in the settings, so you can make it look just right for your eyes.
The device’s 19.5:9 aspect ratio is among the longest out there, only bettered by series, the Xperia 1 and the forthcoming Motorola One Vision, with its screen to bezel ratio coming in at over 80%, which is hugely competitive. These factors make it a great choice for immersive movie-watching and playing games.
My only complaint is that the bottom corners are rounded. In addition, when a game goes full-screen, the UI hides the notch and creates right-angles at the top corners, causing a visual imbalance.
All things considered, however, the Redmi Note 7 is a joy to look at, swipe through and use day-to-day, with my main gripe actually referring to software optimisation, rather than screen quality itself.
Redmi Note 7 – Software
The Redmi Note 7 ditches a stock Android 9.0 UI in favour of MIUI 10, as found on the Xiaomi Mi 9.
Running on top of Android Pie, it’s great to see the latest, widely available version of Google’s OS here; future-proofing and app support are both looking good for this mid-range contender.
The interface doesn’t offer an apps drawer. Instead, it opts for an iOS-esque setup. Shortcuts and widgets can be organised across your home screens; to the left of these is a utility display for quick access to features that Xiaomi believes users need to hand, such as a QR code reader, and there’s a pull-down notifications tray/quick toggle menu at the top of the screen.
The phone features plenty of customisation options throughout its interface. Navigation is controlled by gestures but you can reinstate the navigation bar, for example. In addition, a customisable power on/off schedule is available, as too is a password-protected virtual “Second Space” for sensitive information.
It feels as if Xiaomi’s UI is where Huawei’s was about a year ago in terms of polish. It’s totally usable, stable, and some of the unique touches are handy. That said, on occasion, experiences can be a bit rough around the edges.
Redmi Note 7 – Performance
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor combined with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, the Redmi Note 7 sports mid-range power paired with flagship-comparable room for your apps and media.
In my time with the device, it never felt underpowered. Day to day interactions were a joy, whether swiping through Xiaomi’s skin or a custom launcher. Even tasks such as picture-in-picture video and split-screen multitasking didn’t grind the phone to a halt, making the sizeable display a delight.
In addition, jumping in and out of the camera doesn’t leave you hanging, and neither does taking a picture, despite the 48 megapixels of information processed each time you take a snap. This means that, for all basic tasks, the Redmi Note 7 has you covered from a performance point of view.
More surprisingly, gaming is also a treat. A key consideration for gamers is storage capacity and the phone’s 128GB of internal space is ample.
Power is also up to the task. While the Redmi Note 7 might not benchmark like a flagship, for well-optimised 3D titles such as Injustice 2 it’s as smooth as butter. What’s more, we were able to power through an hour of gaming without draining the battery dry – more on that later.
The onboard storage can also be bumped up by 256GB with a microSD card and the dual-SIM functionality will be perfect for any jet-setters.
With a multi-core Geekbench score of 5510, it’s significantly less powerful than its flagship sibling, the Snapdragon 855-toting Mi 9, which scored 10,971. Having said that, it isn’t too far behind the Google Pixel 3, which for the price, isn’t bad going at all.
The phone also features biometric security in the form of a fingerprint scanner and RGB face unlock, with both working well in our experience.
Call quality didn’t leave us with any complaints, and as for the mono loudspeaker, it’s perfectly audible – but very easy to cover up. The lack of NFC, however, is an omission you really feel in today’s contactless world. Meanwhile, the rest of the connection set – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, 4G and the IR blaster – are stonking for the price.
Redmi Note 7 – Camera
The Redmi Note 7’s dual rear snapper has a 48-megapixel (f/1.8) primary camera and a 5-megapixel (f/2.4) depth-sensor module. Matched with phase-detection autofocus, the only features it’s missing when compared to flagship dual cameras appears to be OIS (optical image stabilisation) and laser autofocus.
Despite this, the quality of pictures taken on the Redmi Note 7 is seriously impressive, making it easily one of the best sub-£200 options around.
The primary sensor may be 48 megapixels in resolution but pictures are rendered at 12 megapixels unless you hit the override switch in Pro mode. This lower-resolution image benefits from pixel binning, a technique that combines information from multiple pixels to create a better, albeit lower-res image.
Colours are sometimes a touch overzealous, and dynamic range isn’t mind-blowing when HDR (high dynamic range) is turned off but you can fire up Auto HDR or just leave it on for markedly better results. Jump into the settings and you can also customise saturation and contrast levels, which is a nice touch.
There are also a healthy number of shooting options – although, admittedly, there isn’t anything out of the ordinary. These include Night, Panorama, AI, Portrait and Pro mode. The Portrait mode doesn’t allow for refocusing after the shot is taken, as found on Huawei phones, and its bokeh effect is subtler, too; nevertheless, it creates a sharp, realistic-looking shot.
Not surprisingly, middling to low-light environments are a big ask for the Redmi Note 7. It doesn’t perform badly per se, capturing atmospheric night shots, especially in the dedicated Night mode. However, it struggles in low light scenarios with bright spots. Here, you can really tell you’re not firing on flagship cylinders, with phones such as the Pixel 3 XL confidently stepping ahead.
As for the 13-megapixel (f/2.2) selfie camera, daytime shots look good although dynamic range struggles with backlit scenes. The Beauty mode isn’t overbearing by default, flattering rather than just flattening subjects. It can also be dialled up and down, which is welcome.
Detail in pictures is fair, although it dwindles in low light as noise creeps in. Luckily for selfie fans, the screen can double up as a flashlight, which helps resulting images.
Video is recorded at up to Full HD resolution, and captures a superb level of detail, especially in good light. Stabilisation is also solid, despite the lack of OIS – although, naturally, with no zoom lens pinching into a subject results in image degradation.
Indoors, and in darker conditions, things start to crumble – which is exactly what we’d expect. Irrespective, the Redmi Note 7 still outperforms most smartphones in its price category from both a stills and video point of view.
Redmi Note 7 – Battery life
The Redmi Note 7’s battery life impresses. At 4000mAh, it’s at the upper end of battery capacities in current smartphones, bettered only by a handful of handsets, including the Moto G7 Power.
The phone was easily able to make it through a full day of relatively intensive use and fared well in my rigorous tests. Over an hour of gaming, an hour of screen-off music playback and an hour of streaming video at 60 percent brightness saw the battery meter drop down to 60 percent.
There are power-saving tools to help it along, from Adaptive Battery, which limits battery usage for apps that aren’t frequently used, through to battery optimisation. This scans the Note 7 and identifies apps and services that are especially power hungry, then shuts them down.
There’s no wireless charging – nor would we expect there to be at the price. The lack of fast charger in the box is a bit more of a sticking point, however; from empty, the Redmi Note 7 takes just over 2 hours to fully charge with the supplied 10W power brick.
This is definitely something you’ll want to bear in mind. If you don’t want to get caught out, pick up an 18W charger if you don’t have one already.
Why buy the Redmi Note 7?
The Redmi Note 7 is an excellent all-rounder. It offers superb value and is incredibly easy to recommend thanks to its solid build, great screen, smooth UI and impressive camera and battery life.
Alternatives include the Nokia 7.1, which costs around the same but delivers a slightly more expensive, compact in-hand feel. It also runs with stock Android but with just 32GB storage and an inferior camera, it won’t have the Note 7’s appeal for gamers or photographers.
Alternatively, the Honor 10 Lite costs a little less and has a more polished interface in the form of EMUI 9. The smaller, more ergonomic design might also appeal to many but with 64GB storage – half that of the Note 7 – and less power under the hood, gamers are again likely to prefer the Note 7.
Another alternative that packs incredibly good battery life thanks to a monstrous 5000mAh cell, coupled with faster charging, is the Moto G7 Power. It delivers a more stock version of Android 9, and so will appeal to purists. With all that power comes a fair bit of extra heft, though; plus the single camera doesn’t stack up to the Redmi Note 7’s dual snapper.
Finally, the Samsung Galaxy A7 is one of the only phones currently under £220 that features an AMOLED display and a triple camera. In turn, you get more punch from the screen and an optional wide-angle lens too. Where it falls behind the Note 7, is in terms of battery life, storage, power and performance from the primary camera.
All that accounted for, the Redmi Note 7 is one of the best devices available this side of £200. Provided you’re okay with Xiaomi’s UI and the lack of NFC, everything else about it is either good or great.
Impressive performance and battery life combined with a stellar camera for the price, ensuring that despite a couple of weak spots, the Redmi Note 7 is an excellent value smartphone.
Original Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Global ROM 4GB 64GB Smartphone With Snapdragon 660 Octa Core