Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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Xiaomi Redmi Note 7: Beyond Limits

The Chinese smartphone Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 is now (due to new marketing strategies of Xiaomi) just called Redmi Note 7. It is hard to categorize, given that it has the highest camera resolution currently available on a smartphone and a relatively weak Snapdragon 660. We tested the fist official smartphone of the sub-brand Redmi in order to uncover its true potential.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 7

In the past, the Xiaomi Redmi mid-range smartphones from the Chinese electronics manufacturer’s portfolio have been in a similar device class as Samsung’s Galaxy J smartphones. The Note model of the Redmi family has since been through a few iterations. By the way: The name Note is a remnant of a time, when 5.7 inch displays made phones look more like a notebook than a smartphone; the name does not imply digital stylus support.

Now, Xiaomi is trying to strengthen the Redmi brand name by making it a sub-brand (the packaging will no longer carry the Xiaomi branding). This newfound independence could, in the long run, elevate Redmi to a similar status as Huawei’s Honor. In that case, we could also expect higher-end Redmi models. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 7, which had been announced before the Xiaomi Mi 9, is the first smartphone with a 48 MP camera after all.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 7

 

Design

Xiaomi’s shop lists the Redmi smartphone in dream blue, twilight gold and black. All three variants have a glossy finish. Thankfully, the glossy rear is fairly resistant to fingerprints.

The camera protrudes noticeably from the case. The protruding optics also prevent it from being placed flat on a table, which makes using it in this state a wiggly experience.

The controls on the sides, standby button and volume control have some clearances, but they can easily be located and used regardless. The same can be said for the fingerprint sensor that is easy to find with the index finger.

As with the Redmi Note 6 Pro, the display sits on top of the case. This time around, the rounded-off plastic chassis no longer tarnishes the overall impression however.

While Xiaomi has reinforced the display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5, there is no protection against dust or water.

Features

No other smartphone in this price range boasts a 48 MP camera. QuickCharge 4.0 is exceedingly rare in this device class and the 4.000 mAh battery fairly large as well.

The combination of 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB storage space is not an unusual one and with 6 GB and 64 GB or 3 GB and 32 GB, respectively, alternative choices are limited. Expanding the storage with a microSD card causes you to lose the dual-SIM capabilities of the Note 7, since there is only one slot for either a memory card or a second SIM card.

The USB type-C port is barely worth mentioning at this point. However, Xiaomi also uses it for audio output, which is less self-evident, while still providing a 3.5 mm jack for traditional headsets.

Finally, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660 is not exactly a highlight and while the Redmi Note 7 is notably equipped with an FM radio, it does not support NFC.

 

Software

Android 9 with security patches from January 5th (as of early march) is installed on the test device.

On the Redmi Note 7, MIUI version 10.2, which is the user interface developed by Xiaomi, is used on top of the Android operating system. The default Android buttons can be hidden if desired and gestures, such as those of Huawei’s EMUI, can be used instead. The gesture controls are intuitive and slightly more straightforward than the native Android 9 gesture controls.

While we are testing the Chinese version here, an international version has since been released. Those who still opt for the Chinese custom ROM should be aware of the following: If you are not able to understand the offered Asian language, you can only choose English as an alternative system language.

GPS and Communications

Since the nearfield communication technology is required for the wireless payment methods that are up and coming, smartphones without NFC (such as this one) have become exceedingly rare.

The network coverage of our Chinese model is severely limited. Both the GSM as well as the UMTS network lack several frequencies common in North and South America. The coverage is particularly lackluster inside the LTE network, where only the B1, B3, B5, B7 and B8 bands are supported. Thus, it not only lacks multiple frequencies common in America, but numerous frequencies common in Europe as well.

The now available international version at least supports the LTE band 20 on top of the aforementioned ones, which is relevant for Europe.

The Note 7 officially supports the navigation satellite systems GPS, GLONASS and Beidou. Furthermore, the GPS-Test app registers Galileo and SBAS support. Those wanting to plan trips in the living room will have to enable A-GPS as well: The test device’s reception is very weak indoors and a satellite uplink takes a long time to establish after which the phone only provides an imprecise location even when close to the wall.

Call Quality

If you use the Redmi Note 7 with two SIM cards, the second card blocks the slot for the otherwise available storage expansion. Both slots fundamentally support 4G, although this can be deactivated in the telephony settings. VoLTE capability is available as well, provided your carrier supports it.

Xiaomi uses its own telephony app. Its luxury features include a direct link to the manufacturer’s notes app and the ability to record calls. The record mode can be selected while a connection is still being made, which activates it as soon as the conversational partner accepts the call.

Calls are accompanied by a minimum amount of static. While the conversational partner can be understood clearly during normal conversation, the outgoing voice sounds slightly over modulated. Starting at medium volume levels, the same can be said for the incoming voice when using a headset or the speakerphone.

 

Cameras

Even the front camera, which has a relatively high resolution of 13 MP, benefits from AI-assisted software features. Although it only has a fixed-focus lens, it is able to recognize faces in the portrait mode, sharpening them and blurring out everything else, regardless of whether it is closer or farther. When we tried to portray the blossom in isolation, the entire image remained blurry, since the software was unable to recognize a face. It is also worth mentioning that even the front camera supports HDR.

The 48 MP sensor from Samsung on the back of the device is accompanied by a 5 MP depth sensor and a dual-LED. Aside from the AI mode that analyzes pictures and adjusts their colors, there is also a Straighten mode: It searches the subject for straight forms and lines, further straightening the picture while it is being taken. This can be useful for snapshots and for pictures where the smartphone cannot be held at eye level.

Accessories

Inside the Chinese version’s packaging there is a charger (CHN), a USB cable and a silicone case, which in the case of the black test device is also dark-transparent.

Handling and input device

The preinstalled keyboards on our Chinese test device (Sogou keyboard for MIUI, Baidu IME for MIUI and a Mandarin keyboard) are fairly useless from the perspective of a German-speaking individual. Of course, it is possible to access popular alternatives such as Google’s GBoard and Swiftkey once the Play Store has been installed, allowing users to select a German or an English keyboard layout. Thus, even the Chinese model can be used normally after some additional configuration. If the chosen keyboard supports it, the Redmi smartphone is able to provide haptic feedback as well.

As an alternative to the soft keys, gestures can be used to navigate Android. The touchscreen, which does not gather fingerprints even after prolonged typing, only has a small amount of friction. Inputs at the edges and in the corners were almost, but not quite always registered and executed immediately.

Performance

The Snapdragon 660 (SDM660) has been powering mid-range smartphones and tablets for about a year now. Its four faster cores run at a clock rate of 2.2 GHz, the lower-powered cores at a clock rate of 1.8 GHz. The computing performance is comparable to the high-end SoC Snapdragon 821from 2016, which is beginning to show its age. The performance of the graphics chip Adreno 512 cannot match the Adreno 530 of the Snapdragon 821 however.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 7

Battery Life

The Redmi Note 7 was able to use its 4.000 mAh battery to its advantage in the battery test: It has the most stamina regardless of load level and even outlasts the more economical P20 Lite – though not by much and only due to its higher battery capacity. As battery life is an important consideration for a smartphone purchase, the Note 7 receives a recommendation here.

Additionally, it supports Quick Charge 4.0 and the empty battery can be fully charged with the included quick charge adapter in about 2 hours and 10 minutes. Charging the phone for 30 minutes yields around the same charge percentage (32%).

Pros

  • 48 MP camera
  • excellent stamina
  • almost borderless Display
  • expandable storage
  • supports USB type-C and 3.5 mm jack headsets
  • neat chassis
  • dual-SIM

Cons

  • Hybrid slot: only either dual-SIM or storage expansion
  • System language English (CHN model)
  • No IP certification
  • No DRM L1 support
  • No NFC
  • Few LTE bands
  • Mono speaker
  • Camera noticeably protrudes from the case

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