Redmi Note 7 review: Xiaomi outdoes itself!
Xiaomi started the year 2019 directly with a surprising news: Redmi becomes its own independent brand. The first smartphone of the “new” company is the Redmi Note 7, which caused a sensation in China thanks to its 48 megapixel camera and large rechargeable battery at a star price of around $150 and was completely sold out within 8 minutes. Rightly? Or is the jump as small as between the predecessors?
- Redmi Note 7
|Display||6,3 inch 19,5:9 Full-HD+ (2340 x 1080 Pixel) LC-Display (409 PPI)|
|Processor||Snapdragon 660 @ 2.2 GHz & 1.84 GHz|
|Graphic chip||Qualcomm Adreno 512 @ 650 MHz|
|RAM||3 / 4 / 6 GB LPDDR4|
|Internal memory||32 / 64 GB (up to 256GB expandable)|
|Camera||48 Megapixel Samsung ISOCELL GM1 with ƒ/1.8 aperture + 5 Megapixel ƒ/2.4|
|Front camera||13 megapixels with f/2.0 f-stop|
|Battery||4,000 mAh with Quick Charge 4|
|Connectivity||AC WLAN, Bluetooth 5.0, USB Type C, GPS/GLONASS/BDS, Hybrid SIM|
|Features||Fingerprint sensor, Face Unlock, 3.5 mm jack, Infrared, Gorilla Glass 5|
|Operating system||MIUI 10 interface based on Android 9|
|Dimensions / Weight||159,21 x 75,21 x 8,1mm / 186g|
First time Redmi by Xiaomi
That was fast. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 came out less than a year ago and was probably the best mid-range smartphone for us around $200. Then already in autumn the successor, the Redmi Note 6 Pro, came quite surprisingly, whereby it is a Notch version of the Redmi Note 5. With the new Redmi Note 7, we continue to concentrate on the strengths of the series.
And this although the Redmi Note 7 is not directly marketed or produced by Xiaomi. This smartphone is the first device of the sub-brand Redmi, which officially cut its cord from Xiaomi at the beginning of 2019. However, this “separation” is more a marketing stunt than a real separation.
Nevertheless you can find the imprint “Redmi by Xiaomi” on the back of the device. Also on the packaging there is a Mi-Sticker glued to it afterwards and the reference to the website www.mi.com is also available. This confirms our assumption that Redmi and Xiaomi are a similar “separation” as Honor and Huawei.
The most colorful Redmi Note
In contrast to its predecessor just mentioned, the front does not even change that much. With a 6.3 inch display, the diagonal is only minimally larger than on the previous model. Redmi significantly minimizes the notch and now also relies on a waterdrop notch that accommodates the front camera. This is much rounder than the OnePlus 6T, for example. Now the Notch is actually many times smaller than the devices from 2018, whether you prefer this shape or a more curved Notch like the 6T is certainly a matter of taste.
Redmi does not even aim at producing the Redmi Note 7 as a mid-range model without any borders. This is reserved for the flagships. There is also enough space for the auricle on the upper side. There is also a clearly visible edge that surrounds the display panel. However, it is small enough on the left and right sides and the Chin, i.e. the underside, is pleasantly thin.
However, there has been no significant progress since grade 6 Pro. With dimensions of 159.21 x 75.21 x 8.1mm it is slightly longer, but also thinner and slimmer than its predecessor. However, this is in the millimetre range, which is why at first glance there really is no difference between the two generations.
The backside is typical for Xiaomi and Redmi. The dual camera sits in the upper left corner and is arranged vertically. The fingerprint sensor is centrally located in the upper third. But the design of the back is untypical for the Redmi Note series. There is also a black version, but especially the blue and magenta version remind us very strongly of the Honor 10, Xiaomi Play or the Mi 8 Lite.
Comparison to Mi 8 Lite
Especially the similarity to the Mi 8 Lite is astonishing despite the different camera arrangement. Both have a rather “flat” back. The transition between the metal housing frame is not as smooth as on a Xiaomi Mi 8 for example. It’s true that it’s bent outwards, which provides a pleasant hold in the hand. But then the back is completely flat.
I don’t like it so much from a purely visual point of view, but it does serve its purpose. But one difference to the Mi 8 Lite or Xiaomi Play is that the colour of the back of the glass has a very fine grain. The effect can only be seen on closer inspection and has no advantages or disadvantages in everyday life.
The processing of the Redmi Note 7
Xiaomi has long understood that a good smartphone also depends on precision work. Even with a mid-range smartphone, there are no manufacturing defects in the material. Even the metal around the USB-C port is so cleanly milled and ground that no sharp edges remain.
The only really negative thing you can notice here is that the dual camera module protrudes relatively far from the case on the back. We know this from the Mi A2 or Mi 6X and should be accepted according to Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, as you get a 48 megapixel camera. Nevertheless: You can definitely be bothered by it and it could break relatively quickly in case of a fall at this point.
I’m not the biggest fan of the way Xiaomi puts the display on the frame, but that’s absolutely bearable in this price range. The cross section shows that you might have been able to get a little less “thin” here, especially compared to a Honor View 20. However, this is three times as expensive, so I don’t want to criticize it at this point at all.
At 186.7 g, it’s also a bit lighter than its predecessor, but now it’s even made of glass instead of plastic! In fact, both the front and the back are equipped with Gorilla Glass 5 – very nice!
Typical Xiaomi Display
Of course, Redmi uses a FullHD+ resolution of 2340 x 1080p in a 19.5:9 aspect ratio for a 6.3 inch screen. This results in a pixel density of 409 ppi, which is currently an absolute standard value, even for flagships. At first sight, the panel of the Redmi Note 7 doesn’t really differ from the other IPS panels of the Xiaomi mobile phones of this price class. The typical Xiaomi motto also applies here: It’s not the best of the best, but definitely good, especially for this price.
The direct comparison to the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite is interesting though. In our test devices, the Redmi Note 7’s panel is brighter and more true to color than that of the Mi 8 Lite. And that despite a lower price. The colors are relatively strong, the icons and fonts crisply sharp and the brightness more than okay. Side-by-side you can see that the Redmi Note 7, for example, displays green tones more intensively than its internal competitors. Although a contrast ratio of 1500:1 is nothing against an AMOLED panel, this is rarely noticeable in everyday life.
The responsiveness is also good, of course the panel also supports multitouch with up to ten fingers. The viewing angle stability towards the sides is somewhat weaker, but still completely acceptable. All in all, we are dealing with a really good display that only needs about 20% of the maximum brightness even outside to be read well.
Redmi smartphone with 48 megapixel camera
In contrast to the usual dual 12 MP camera, Redmi now uses the Samsung ISOCELL GM1 as the primary sensor with 48 megapixels and ƒ/1.8 aperture. This is supported by a 5 megapixel secondary sensor, which de facto doesn’t contribute as much to the end result of the photos. The camera app under MIUI offers several modes, including Portrait, Pro and Night modes. In the completely “normal” photo mode, you “only” take pictures with 12 megapixels.
If one wants to use the promised 48 megapixels of the Samsung sensor, one has to switch to the Pro mode in which one can select the 48 megapixels. For a 48 megapixel photo, four 12 megapixel photos are combined to one in order to get the 48 megapixels. Thus, in the end, we are not dealing with a native resolution of 48 megapixels, as it is the case, for example, with the Honor View 20 with the Sony IMX586 48 megapixel sensor. Finally, the built-in Snapdragon 660 only supports a maximum resolution of 25 megapixels.
So Redmi has taken a deep dive into the trickbox, but advertises it quite aggressively with the 48 MP through the Samsung sensor. Do the photos still look good?
Camera quality of the 12 megapixel camera
Yeah! Marketing gag or no gag. For a smartphone in this price range, the camera of the Redmi Note 7 can take really good photos. Xiaomi has already managed in the last generation that the shots are very nice in good lighting conditions. So it can be said that you get a really good sharpness, a reliable autofocus and Xiaomi’s tpy color profile, which I like by and large. The native 12 megapixel resolution is definitely sufficient.
More exciting is how the Redmi Note 7 performs in difficult lighting conditions. Indoors, the white balance doesn’t cope so well with artificial light, and the final results quickly turn yellow. Nevertheless, the other positive qualities such as good sharpness remain.
For night shots with quite miserable lighting conditions, you can try out the Mi Mix 3‘s night mode, which comes with the update. This can lead to better results, but not always. In our test this was very situation dependent. Xiaomi actually only uses a long time exposure to avoid having to completely exhaust the sensor sensitivity.
The photos are usually better exposed, but artefacts can still be seen at the edges. It’s positive to point out that the Redmi Note 7 in night mode still triggers faster than the Honor View 20 and therefore you don’t have to hold still as long.
Do you need 48 megapixels?
I get the feeling that Redmi actually only uses a “48 megapixel” sensor to advertise. I don’t (yet) see the big added value. The photos don’t really look different or better on a smartphone. The practical difference is that you can zoom in more. But that was it.
But here I don’t want to ignore that Redmi can certainly get something out of it with an update. So far the Redmi Note 7 doesn’t really need the 48 megapixel sensor and takes very good photos with the native resolution!
It’s interesting that Redmi advertises strongly with 48 megapixels, but doesn’t give the video mode 4K resolution. Even if this shouldn’t be a technical problem. Here you have to be satisfied with 60 fps at 1080p, which, to be honest, is more than enough for home use! I can’t see any real progress in video quality compared to other generations, so the overall video quality is fine. There is also a slow-motion mode with 120 fps, i.e. fourfold deceleration and a timelapse mode.
Front camera of the Redmi Note 7
On the front there is of course a front camera. The 13 Megapixel Selfie-Cam sits in the Waterdrop Notch and is equipped with a ƒ/2.0 aperture. And to make a long story short: the Selfie-Cam is also pretty good. I like the self-portraits, especially since the resolution and sharpness are in a good range. The color profile is felt to be a bit flatter than with the main camera, but this is still acceptable.
The portrait mode is also impressive, even if the edge detection is not quite as strong. Here, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite has the lead overall!
The Redmi Note 7 is equipped with the Snapdragon 660 processor, an eight-core CPU that can clock at a maximum of 2.2 GHz. We already know this SoC from the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite, Xiaomi Mi A2 and Mi Pad 4 and it does a really good job, even if the Snapdragon CPU is not completely new anymore. As a high-end processor, you really get a very good performance, which is more than enough in everyday life to run social media, chat apps or small games.
But also for more demanding games like PUBG the Snapdragon processor is sufficient. In my opinion, Redmi made a very good choice here, because the CPU is still up-to-date in about 2 years and once again a good performance leap to the Snapdragon 636 from its predecessor. Here, the SoC simply benefits from the built-in Kryo 260 cores, half of which only clock at 1.8 GHz when no more power is needed.
In addition there is a choice of 3 GB RAM and 32 GB memory or 4/6 GB RAM and 64 GB memory. Since our test device is the 6 GB RAM version, we are a bit spoiled when it comes to multitasking. Even with more than 20 open tasks, you can still change quickly, depending on the application. Only for big games like PUBG the smartphone needs a few seconds to open. We personally would choose at least the 4 GB version, especially with a view to the future. The read and write speed of the internal memory is really fast with 290 and 185 MB/s respectively.
This is also confirmed by the various benchmarks. The scores are definitely worth seeing and are on a level with the results of the devices with the same CPU. The values are almost identical with the benchmark values of the Mi 8 Lite from our test. Only the PCMark benchmark shows a clear advantage of the Redmi Note 7, which is probably due to the larger RAM!
Note remains note: again a battery monster
It is also nice to see that Redmi is concentrating on the strengths of the Note series. Finally, a 4,000 mAh rechargeable battery is installed, which should provide a very good battery life. After all, the built-in CPU is quite energy-efficient. Our assumption is also confirmed in the test. The benchmark is again extremely strong with over 12 hours. We only know this from the Pocophone in this performance class. In practice, you also notice that the Redmi Note 7 simply runs and doesn’t have to be plugged in so quickly.
The battery even supports Quick Charge 4! However, Xiaomi does not include an appropriate charger in the scope of delivery. This only has a maximum output power of 5V2A, i.e. 10W, with which a complete charge takes about 2 hours. Since the QC 4 standard has not yet established itself, the purchase of a Quick Charge 3.0 charger with 18W is even closer. Of course there is no wireless charging.
Finally with USB Type-C
There is also an upgrade for the connection options. Even if it is rather secondary, but the Redmi Note 7 is equipped with a USB type C port. Finally Micro-USB has been sworn off! In addition, Redmi remains true to the headphone port, which is located on the top side. Redmi also holds on to the IR blaster. There is also a hybrid SIM slot on the left side, which can accommodate either two Nano-SIM cards or one Nano-SIM card plus microSD card (up to 256 GB).
On the wireless level we get Bluetooth 5.0, Dual Band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS and Beidou. NFC for mobile payment is unfortunately not available. What we still have to do without in the China version are a few LTE bands. The China version offers “only” LTE B1/3/5/7/8.
The fingerprint sensor is located on the back, as is always the case with Xiaomi smartphones. This iteration of the sensor also works very reliably, but not quite as fast as the flagships. But the bottom line is very fast. Although a minimal delay can be observed, it really doesn’t matter in everyday life.
Alternatively you can use Face Unlock. This is no problem in the China version. Due to the lack of infrared sensors, you only rely on the front camera. This also works well, but definitely not as fast as with a Xiaomi Mi 8. In addition, the security aspect is certainly to be criticized here; face recognition is simply less secure than a fingerprint sensor.
The popular notification LED is also on board. It’s a Redmi light right of the USB type C port, very far down at the edge. Thus it is completely asymmetrical and seems accordingly out of place. It glows only in white or white pulsating. The former when charging, the latter when receiving a notification.
The loudspeaker on the underside is a mono loudspeaker. It fulfils its purpose and is relatively bass accentuated for a China smartphone speaker. As a result, the highs are somewhat less weighty and sound slightly “tinny”, but not unpleasant either. Certainly not the best mobile phone speaker, but for YouTube videos this is more than sufficient. If you want to listen to music in the long run, you should use a Bluetooth speaker, but you can also listen to individual songs confidently via Redmi Note 7. As with all Xiaomi smartphones, you can’t stream Netflix in HD resolution with the Redmi Note 7!
Redmi also comes with MIUI
Although Xiaomi and Redmi don’t belong together anymore, the Redmi Note 7 also works with the MIUI operating system. In fact, MIUI 10 is on the phone from factory default, after an update we are currently on MIUI 10.2 with a security patch from early January.
MIUI is Xiaomi’s own operating system, which in this case is based on Android 9. The differences to Stock Android go far beyond optical peculiarities and reach deep into the system. For example, Xiaomi relies on aggressive energy management, which results in the often very good battery life of the Xiaomi models. Even if you don’t know the interface, you should be able to find your way around relatively quickly both as an Android and as an iOS user.
Unfortunately, there is also some Bloatware pre-installed on this China version, which fortunately can be removed for the most part. It is logical to pre-install Xiaomi’s own apps like the Mi Cloud. Apps like WPS Office, Alipay, Taobao and others are usually unnecessary in Europe. Here you should simply invest a few minutes in cleaning up the Android operating system.
Redmi Note 7 Global Release
A global version of Redmi Note 7 is not yet available (as of January 2019). However, this is likely to change quickly. As a rule, Xiaomi or Redmi releases the global version of a device when it is released secretly about 6 weeks after the China version is released. So we assume that the Global Version will be available for import in the China shops from the end of February. As soon as this is the case, we will put the best prices into our price comparison here!
Redmi Note 7: Install Google Play Store
If you own the China version of Redmi Note 7, you will have noticed that the Google Play Store and all Google services are not pre-installed. Installing them yourself is child’s play! Just do the following:
- Open the Mi App Store & search for “Google”.
- Scroll down and click on the green icon.
- The Google Installer is displayed. Download it!
- Follow the installation step by step.
- The Google Play Store is installed.
Then simply log into the Play Store with your Google Account and download all other Google services. Unfortunately, this way the Google Play Store is not officially certified. Nevertheless, you can use this temporarily until you probably flash the Global ROM or a Custom ROM. We have also created the appropriate instructions for you.
Then you should reboot your smartphone. Then check in the settings under Apps that the apps “Google Calender Sync” and “Google Contacts Sync” have the appropriate permissions and are executed with the autostart.
The next king of mid-range smartphones
As was to be expected, the Redmi Note 7 is currently the best choice in the middle class! What’s great to criticize? The CPU is great, the display doesn’t do much except for the smaller Notch, the battery is big as usual and takes you through two days. And now it’s finally even equipped with USB-C, without having to do without an AUX connection. There isn’t really a big surprise, except that the camera quality has risen a good level.
What we have to criticize in any case, however, is the 48 megapixel camera advertised. Here, Redmi doesn’t keep its promise, as it’s not a native 48 megapixel camera. But of course you can attract attention with such a high resolution. There are already reasons why a Honor View 20 is almost three times as expensive. The missing NFC could also be a criterion for some, but is not to be expected in this price class.
If you can overlook Redmi’s marketing lie, then the Redmi Note 7 is currently the best smartphone on the market. There’s no doubt about that, especially because you simply don’t have to make any compromises except for the missing NFC. When the global version comes and is available for about $200, the Redmi Note 7 by Xiaomi does nothing wrong. So it can be that easy to make a good smartphone. Even if this makes the Mi 8 Lite obsolete.
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