Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 full review
Following a Chinese launch in January the Redmi Note 7 officially went on sale in the UK on 7 May, charging straight into the top spot in both our UK and Chinese budget phone charts, knocking the Mi A2 Lite off its perch. It's the first phone from newly spun-off Xiaomi sub-brand Redmi, and as such it marks a huge departure from Redmi as you know it.
Headlining is a 48Mp dual-lens camera, and Redmi Note 7 was actually the first Xiaomi phone to pack such a high megapixel count - though Mi 9 then came along and did it better. There are some similarities between this budget phone and Xiaomi's flagship, but Redmi Note 7 is much more closely aligned in specs and performance with the Oppo F11 Pro, another Chinese phone that has not yet gone on sale in the UK (and may not ever do so).
It's also got a large 6.3in Full-HD+ screen and promises all day runtime from a 4000mAh battery with Quick Charge 4 support. Plus some users will be very happy to see the inclusion of a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.
Xiaomi has kept down costs by specifying a mid-range Snapdragon 660 chip and 3- or 4GB of RAM, allowing this budget Android to be available from as little as £179. That's for the 3GB RAM, 32GB storage model, while the 6GB RAM, 64GB storage model we review here costs £199. There's also a 128GB storage version at £249. You can choose from Space Black or Neptune Blue colour options.
Right now GearBest is offering an incredible deal on the entry-level 3GB/32GB option, where it costs just £113.54.
The Redmi Note 7 is available in Europe from 179€, but if you're looking to buy in the US you'll need to import it from a site such as GearBest or Geekbuying. The latter is currently stocking the global version of the top-end Redmi Note 7 at the discounted price of £170.01/$209.99/185.57€. Do remember to take into account potential import duty fees, which is calculated at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork.
(Also see: Best Xiaomi Deals)
Redmi Note 7 Design & Build
Redmi Note 7 is not all that dissimilar in design to the flagship Mi 9, which packs a fractionally larger (6.39in) screen into an ever so slightly smaller chassis. Both have tall 19.5:9 panels and slim bezels - naturally slimmer on the Mi 9, but the only place this is really obvious to the untrained eye is on its smaller chin.
Each also feature a Dot Drop (waterdrop-style) notch to maximise the available screen space and house the selfie camera, which is more obvious on Mi 9 with its larger 20Mp sensor (Redmi Note 7 has a 13Mp front camera). There's also a blink-and-you'll-miss-it slit at the extreme edge between the screen and frame for the earpiece.
Around the back you'll find some more obvious differences, however, with a dual- rather than triple lens camera on the Redmi Note 7, the Redmi rather than Mi logo, and a physical fingerprint sensor. All members of the flagship Mi 9 family now use an in-display fingerprint sensor.
Arguably physical fingerprint sensors typically work better than these early in-display versions, and though it might be a fancy new feature to have the omission is not a game-changer.
We tested the Black version so were unable to enjoy the gradient finish of the Blue model, but in pictures it looks gorgeous. With a glass back and front the Redmi Note 7 has a very premium design for a phone at this price point, and is only fractionally thicker than Xiaomi's flagship family at 8.1mm, though you will notice that glossy frame is plastic rather than metal. That extra space inside the case enables it to include a capacious 4,000mAh battery, too, matching the spec of the recently announced Mi 9T.
Something you won't find on Mi 9 phones (save for the Mi 9T) is the Redmi Note 7's 3.5mm headphone jack, which sits on the top edge of the phone alongside another increasingly rare feature: an IR blaster. While phone makers are rapidly making the switch over to USB-C audio, there are still plenty of users who want to use their existing earphones without an adaptor. Redmi Note 7 also has a bottom-firing mono speaker for audio.
At 6.3in the display is expansive, and ideal for watching high-resolution video and playing games. This is not the same AMOLED technology on Mi 9, but it's still good for the money, and actually nearly as bright - we recorded 398 nits using a Spyder. With a 2340x1080 Full-HD+ resolution everything is super-clear, too.
Although the Redmi Note 7 runs MIUI 10, on our review sample the system-wide Dark Mode setting found in the flagships is not available. It's possible this will come in the next update, with the Redmi running 10.3.2.0 and our Mi 9 running 10.3.3.0. This is useful not only because it seems to be the latest trend to do everything in Dark Mode, but because it drastically reduces the screen's impact on battery life.
The Redmi Note 7 also lacks the Ambient Display (always-on) mode found in Xiaomi flagships, which can additionally help you maintain battery life by reducing the frequency with which you feel you need to wake the phone to check the time or notifications. That could be an issue here, since Redmi Note 7 has the most ridiculous notification LED we've ever seen - it flashes up below the screen but is the tiniest little dot you could easily miss it completely.
None of Xiaomi's current smartphone line-up is waterproof, though we wouldn't necessarily expect to find this feature at this price anyhow. Xiaomi also keeps down costs by excluding wireless charging from this phone, though it does support Quick Charge 4 and is supplied with a 10W USB-C charger in the box.
As with all Xiaomi phones you'll also find a silicon case is supplied, a nice touch given that these are not easily obtainable in UK High Street stores. The Note 7 does feature Gorilla Glass 5 to help protect it from scratches, but it is not infallible.
Redmi Note 7 Core Hardware & Performance
The Note 7 is fitted with a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 14nm chip, which integrates an 850MHz Adreno 512 GPU. This is a step down from the also mid-range Snapdragon 712 and 730 found in the Mi 9 SE and 9T, but there's not a huge difference in performance - at least not anything the average user would be able to perceive - as you'll see in the comparison chart below.
You'll have seen this chip before, in the likes of the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite, Xiaomi Mi A2, Nokia 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy A9, Elephone U Pro and so forth. It's quite a popular processor. And while Redmi Note 7 is not significantly faster than any of those other phones that use it, something you should note is that it is significantly cheaper.
The Redmi Note 7 offers capable - if not flagship - daily performance, and provided you don't turn up the detail too much some very playable framerates. In GFXBench's T-Rex and Manhattan tests we recorded 46- and 21fps, for example.
The 4000mAh battery inside is good for a day's use, but no more. In Geekbench 4's battery test we recorded 7 hours 16 minutes, which is actually a pretty middling score and a little lower than we had anticipated given the huge capacity of the battery.
As we mentioned earlier on in this review you get a choice of 3- or 4GB of RAM. We tested the latter, and this is the version we recommend for the best performance, especially when it costs only an extra £20.
A major advantage of Redmi over Mi is its support for storage expansion, so there's no reason why you shouldn't opt for the lower-capacity version and bolt on extra storage later, if and when you need it. Redmi Note 7 can accept microSD cards up to 256GB via a hybrid SIM tray - you must choose between dual-SIM functionality and storage expansion. If you do opt for a second SIM instead, know that either SIM slot can be used for 4G data, but unlike with the Mi 9 family you can't use 4G on both at once.
In terms of connectivity there's also dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS and an IR blaster. You will not find NFC for making mobile payments, so if this is important to you step up to the Mi line.
Redmi Note 7 Cameras & Photography
For a budget phone the Redmi Note 7's cameras are pretty good, though not quite as good as the marketing might have you believe.
The star of the show is a 48Mp lens that by default actually takes 12Mp shots. This is because it combines four pixels into one, averaging out the quality, exposure, colours and so on to create one significantly better-looking super pixel.
This is paired with a 5Mp secondary lens for blurred background (bokeh) shots, and together the Note 7 is capable of some decent - if a little dull - photography, given good lighting. Zoom right in and some noise is visible, but zoomed out the results are more than acceptable for a sub-£200 phone.
In low lighting the camera has more work to do, and even in Night mode it still struggles. Here you need to be really careful to keep the camera still for what feels like forever as it processes the shot. Though it did a good job of picking out different colours, including the different shades of black, text can be a little fuzzy and edges less well defined. Not a bad result, but equally not the best.
This is an AI camera, which means Xiaomi's software can intelligently set an appropriate preset for the shooting scenario. The app is very easy to use, and you can quickly switch between photo and video, Portrait, Night, Square, Panorama and Pro modes, and there's a shortcut for preinstalled Google Lens right within the app, too.
There's also an option to shoot in 48Mp, though all this is going to really do for you is gobble through your storage, since the results are not any better for the extra pixels.
The Redmi Note 7 supports 1080p video capture at 30- or 60fps with image stabilisation, but 4K and slow-mo video is off limits.
Around the front is a 13Mp AI camera for selfies, and in this mode the app offers quick access to various beauty settings.
Redmi Note 7 Auto
Redmi Note 7 HDR
Redmi Note 7 Low-Light
Redmi Note 7 Night
Redmi Note 7 Software
The Redmi Note 7 runs MIUI 10, which is a custom version of Android 9 Pie. Since we're using a Global ROM model it comes preinstalled with Google services and an English-language keyboard and interface, so setup is as simple as on any Android phone.
You will find Xiaomi offers its own version of most Google apps, which does mean there's some duplication here, and most cannot be deleted (or removed from the app tray-less home screen, though you can tuck them away in a folder where they will remain out of sight and out of mind). This is for good reason, since Chinese ROM MIUI devices don't have those Google apps. Some of these apps are pretty decent, however, so either use them, or don't - there's enough storage that you don't really need to worry about them.
We noted earlier that the Redmi Note 7 currently lacks the Dark Mode and Ambient Display found on the Mi 9 family. The software is pretty much the same in other respects, and there are some great extras only found on Xiaomi phones such as Dual Apps and Second Space.
A Split-screen mode is also found in the recents menu, with is accessible either from the onscreen button or by swiping from the bottom of the screen and then pausing before lifting your finger in the gesture-only Full Display mode.
While the notification LED is so pathetic that you're likely to miss it completely, you do get individual app control over which are allowed to display notifications on the lock screen or float at the top of the screen, which means only the most important will be allowed to distract you. Finding your way around the settings may not be immediately obvious, however.
Redmi Note 7 Conclusion
Redmi Note 7 is a very decent mid-range phone with a budget price. In the UK budget smartphone market none of its similarly priced rivals (think Mi A2 Lite, Honor 10 Lite, Moto G7 Power) even come close.
In design it's not all that far removed from Xiaomi's flagship, with a similarly large and almost as bright display, but it's not of quite the same quality. In performance most users would not be able to separate Redmi Note 7 and Mi 9 SE, and it's as capable as many phones costing £350.
Compared to the flagship line it adds microSD support and a headphone jack, but loses the wireless charging, in-display fingerprint sensor and NFC for mobile payments. The triple-lens camera is here reduced to a dual-lens model, but still has a huge 48Mp lens headlining.
On paper the capacious 4,000mAh battery looks amazing; in reality you should get a full day's use from it.
Also see: Best Xiaomi Phones
Xiaomi Redmi Note 7: Specs
- 6.3in Full-HD+ (2340x1080, 409ppi) 19.5:9 Dot Drop display, Gorilla Glass 5
- MIUI 10
- 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
- 850MHz Adreno 512 GPU
- 3GB/4GB RAM
- 32GB/64GB/128GB storage, microSD up to 256GB
- dual-SIM dual-standby (both support 4G)
- dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0
- GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou
- fingerprint sensor
- IR blaster
- primary camera: 48Mp + 5Mp dual-lens AI camera, 1.6um pixels, f/1.8 aperture, PDAF, 1080p video at 30/60/120fps
- front camera: 13Mp AI camera
- 4000mAh battery, Quick Charge 4, 10W charger incuded
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