Halfway to being a great budget phone
By Andrew Williams published about 20 hours ago
(Image: © TechRadar)
The Xiaomi Redmi 10 is a budget 4G Android phone whose highlights are not initially what they might appear to be.
Xiaomi has deliberately built up the Redmi 10’s camera housing to make it seem advanced, but the camera array you get here is actually mediocre at best. While its primary camera has 50 megapixels to its name, the results are inconsistent and rarely all that pretty.
The real strong points are the stereo speakers, even if sound quality isn’t remarkable, solid battery life, and a decently sharp screen. As such, the Redmi 10 isn’t as easy to recommend as some real Xiaomi hits of the last year or so, like the fantastic Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro or Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC.
The appeal is also slightly undermined by the numerous sales Xiaomi has held that see solid phones like the Redmi Note 9 Pro sell for much less.
Motorola’s Moto G50 is a worthy alternative too. It generally costs slightly more and it has a lower-resolution screen, but its software is superior, the battery life even better, and it has 5G and a faster chipset.
We shouldn’t overlook one of the key draws of buying a budget Xiaomi phone, though. The Redmi 10 has a Full HD display, at a price for which several of the other big names only offer 720p screens. It makes a significant difference, even if it is something you take for granted rather quickly after switching from a 720p phone.
Xiaomi Redmi 10 release date and price
- Out now
- Starts at $179/£149 (around AU$270)
The Redmi 10 by Xiaomi launched in August 2021, arriving a little more than a year after the Redmi 9.
This phone is more expensive than its predecessor, at $179/£149 (around AU$270) with 64GB of storage or $199/£199 (roughly AU$365) with 128GB of storage, with the latter being the model reviewed here. Some regions also get a version with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM (up from 4GB) for $219 (approximately £160 / AU$290).
The pricing is accessible, but don’t forget this is a 4G-only phone. There’s no 5G mobile internet, which is available in phones of a similar price at this point.
- Mid-size Android, smaller than most of the Xiaomi siblings
- Plastic design dressed up to look like glass and metal
- A shift from a teardrop notch to a punch-hole
The Redmi 10’s design is a good example of ‘faking it’. This is a concept we’ve talked about before. Lots of all-plastic phones are dressed up like higher-end ones, with the intention to appear like metal and glass designs.
Xiaomi has gone a little further this time, using a camera housing design far larger and more elaborate-looking than the simple strip seen in the Redmi 9. The Redmi 10’s back really does look like glass. The camera really does look like it might belong on a $1,000/£1,000 phone.
It’s all a sham, of course. The Redmi 10’s back is plastic, and uses a metallic-looking color gradient underneath to class-up its appearance. We’ll get onto the camera later, but a big chunk of it is just a black border that actually sits in the rear finish, and has nothing to do with the camera itself at all.
The Redmi 10 has painted-on cheekbones. But does it matter? If you flashed us the phone’s back and told us it cost $450, we’d believe you. We can appreciate a phone that can fool friends into thinking you spent more. It’s fine as long as you’re not the one fooled when you come to buy a Redmi 10.
In other words, carry on reading to learn more about the Xiaomi Redmi 10’s budget-related limitations.
There are some less deceptive parts to the design. The Redmi 9 had a teardrop notch, the Redmi 10 has a punch-hole, which looks more modern to most eyes.
Screen borders are typical of a cheaper Android, but are not excessive, and the Redmi 10 is a lot easier to handle than some other Xiaomi phones. Many of the company’s affordable lines use ultra-large displays that add significantly to a phone’s width. The Redmi 10 is 75.5mm wide, similar to a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.
You get a side-mounted fingerprint scanner for secure unlocking, and while there’s a slightly longer pause while it works than some top-end phones, it’s a reliable pad. The Xiaomi Redmi 10 also has an IR blaster, which is something you only tend to see in select Chinese phones these days.
An IR blaster sends out the same signals as classic TV remote controls, using a Mi Remote app. It turns the Redmi 10 into a universal remote. We couldn’t actually get it to work, testing with an LG TV, a Planar projector and an Anthem AV receiver. But you may have better luck. It may be disabled in our device’s firmware for some reason.
- 6.5-inch 1080p LCD
- 90Hz refresh rate with 60Hz battery saver mode
- Fair 445-nit brightness turbo mode for outdoors
The Xiaomi Redmi 10’s screen is one of the stronger parts of the phone, although primarily against rival brands rather than other Xiaomi Androids you might buy.
At this affordable level, Samsung and Motorola both use 720p screens with a lower pixel density than the Redmi 10’s. This 6.5-inch screen is very sharp. Pixel density of around 405 pixels per inch is fantastic for a phone this cheap.
Color saturation is good too although we do recommend tweaking it a bit. Fresh out of the box the Redmi 10’s color temperature was a little too cool, likely used as a way to make it appear to ‘pop’ a bit more.
Set the color temperature to ‘warm’, or switch from the Vivid to Standard mode, to give the display a more relaxed, inviting appearance. We also found, as with so many phones, that the default wallpaper really doesn’t show off the color all that well. A few little alterations in and it went from looking decent to excellent.
The Redmi 10 is a 90Hz phone but this skill wasn’t enabled as standard. You can choose either 60Hz or 90Hz modes, and the faster one makes Android menus appear to scroll more smoothly.
This isn’t a super-clever screen that changes refresh rate as required, dipping down on static screens, but it will drop down to 60Hz for apps that don’t make use of a higher refresh rate, like Netflix.
This is one of the better displays you’ll find at the price. But it’s not perfect. It is an LCD, so blacks won’t appear perfect in dark rooms. We don’t think that’s really an issue. Brightness might be, though. The Redmi 10 can reach 445 nits outdoors in bright sunlight. While this is fine for a cheap phone, it’s less than the 600+ you can get from the Redmi Note 10 Pro.
We noticed this when taking photos outside. This kind of screen brightness doesn’t make the preview image appear all that clear in direct sunlight.
- 50MP main sensor is okay at best, often poor
- 1080p 30fps unstabilized video is weak
- Poor ultra-wide and tertiary cameras
The Xiaomi Redmi 10’s camera is its most deceptive area. It looks and sounds advanced. The camera array seems like the photographic equivalent of a Swiss army knife from a glance, and it has a 50MP sensor.
Bad news: where phones at this level typically have one decent camera and a bunch of duds, the Redmi 10 has no good cameras. Until now we’ve only really had high-quality 50MP cameras in phones, like those of the Oppo Find X3 Pro. But Samsung, as it has done several times in the past, lowers the tone with the S5KJN1 sensor seen here.
A great example of why more megapixels is often bad news, this sensor fits 50 million pixels into a very small 1/2.76-inch chip. So where the Oppo Find X3 Pro has sensor pixels of one micron size, these are 0.64 microns. They are some of the tiniest pixels seen in a phone camera.
We only dug this information up after going out on several shoots with the Redmi 10, having witnessed all the negative effects we’d usually associate with such tiny photosites, and wondering why.
The Redmi 10’s dynamic range is bad. The HDR mode can try to hide this to some extent, but it too is faulty, sometimes refusing to engage (when using HDR Auto) and generally pumping out highly inconsistent results. And there’s only so much you can do to hide the deficiencies of a crappy sensor with software-based enhancement.
HDR modes typically merge multiple exposures so very bright and dark parts of the scene can be captured in one frame and look properly resolved. While the Redmi 10 has a crack at this, when HDR works, the shadow/darker parts of the picture often look like porridge. Any natural textures become fuzzy and vague, as if captured by a weak selfie camera rather than a primary camera.
Color reproduction is poor in less than solid lighting, and when the Redmi 10 tries to help things by applying color filters to sunsets, the results rarely match what your eyes perceive.
Night-time photos look bad whether you use the Night mode or not. It brightens up images a bit, but images remain noisy and are often less warm-looking than those taken with the Auto mode.
The worst results are perhaps in mid-level lighting, when shooting indoors or under tree cover. Images look soft, indistinct, and muddy tracks that should look brown become purple.
Next to a slightly older phone you can buy at a similar price (albeit the lesser storage version), the Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC, the Redmi 10’s main camera is dismal. Video clips taken with the phone will also often turn out unusable because there is no stabilization.
In a phone at this level we don’t expect high-end video features like stabilized 4K and 120fps slow-mo, but the Redmi 10 is limited to 1080p, 30 frames per second capture. And even at this lowly capture rate it can’t manage electronic/software stabilization.
It’s not impossible to take good shots with the Xiaomi Redmi 10. You can find a few in this review’s photo gallery that look just fine. But Xiaomi doesn’t make it easy.
We’ve still only just covered the phone’s first camera. The 8MP ultra-wide is closer to what we’ve expected in a budget phone. It is a low-end OmniVision camera with softer images and limited dynamic range.
Sky gradients often look unrealistic, and clipped highlights in clouds are to be expected. The Redmi 10’s image signal processor (ISP), the brains behind the camera, doesn’t seem to be so hot.
The other two cameras are filler pieces, typical of lower-end phones. There’s a 2MP depth sensor, used in the Portrait mode to let you capture images with a blurred-out background. The last camera is a 2MP macro that, like all 2MP macro cameras, takes very poor pictures. An 8MP selfie camera sits on the front and is unremarkable.
If you want a good camera, the Redmi 10 is not the obvious choice. Lots of 12MP, 13MP, 16MP and 48MP cameras will outperform this phone’s 50MP one.
- Has an unusually annoying version of MIUI
- Android 11 core software
- Some minor lag
The Xiaomi Redmi 10 is an Android 11 phone and uses Xiaomi’s MIUI 12.5 interface. And it is a rather annoying version of this software.
You can choose whether to have an app drawer or not. Some may not like the stylistic choices of the settings menu, but it’s hardly worth getting upset over. However, the Redmi 10’s drop-down is not helpful.
In a conventional take on Android, you swipe down once to open up your notifications bar. You swipe again to access brightness controls and feature toggles. The Redmi 10 takes a different approach, using the right side of the screen for feature toggles, and the left for notifications.
It is a bad idea.
This feels clunky for one-handed use, because you have to reach over quite far to pull down your notifications. Xiaomi does not use this approach in all its Androids. The Poco X3 Pro has conventional gestures: one swipe down for notifications and quick-access toggles, two for more access to settings.
The Xiaomi Redmi 10 feels like a real step backwards. Will you get used to it? Probably. But we still find it very annoying after a week.
General performance of the Redmi 10 is okay, with some common caveats that come with an entry-level CPU. There are some short waits when you load an app that has not been sitting in the cache, because it was used a moment ago. And there’s some minor lag in the interface in general.
However, most of it is minimal enough that we barely registered it after a few days of use.
Gaming and performance
- One of the weaker phones for gaming at the price
- Stereo speakers, but they are lopsided in output
- Barely an upgrade over the last-gen Redmi 9
The Xiaomi Redmi 10 does have some more obvious issues with gaming, particularly when compared to a slightly more expensive barnstormer like the Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro.
This phone has a MediaTek Helio G88, a low-end processor made for 4G phones. You might compare it to something like the Snapdragon 662 used in the Moto G30.
Even with the top-end version of the Redmi 10, with 6GB of RAM, you can’t run Fortnite. Epic Games won’t even let you install it. ARK: Survival Evolved runs quite poorly at higher graphics settings and Asphalt 9’s frame rate noticeably slows down in busier moments. That game’s busier moments often arrive several times in a 10-second window.
The gap in gaming performance between this and the Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro is vast considering the fairly small price disparity.
This phone does have stereo speakers, which is nice for gaming. However, we weren’t all that impressed when we fired up Asphalt 9 as the output is very uneven. The bottom speaker is so much louder than the one on the top of the phone that it barely feels like a stereo array.
Usually stereo arrays like this have one speaker much bassier/heavier sounding than the other, but roughly match up higher-frequency output to provide a sense of L/R channel balance.
There’s less mid-range and ‘bass’ (no phones have real bass) than in the Poco X3 Pro too, although it passes the test of making podcasts audible while you have a shower. Maximum volume is solid, the tone is just slightly thinner or more brittle than some.
Xiaomi also uses relatively slow eMMC storage in this phone, although with read speeds of 283MB/s and writes of 152MB/s we’re not looking at anything too bad. Still, the Poco X3 Pro gets you reads of around 1000MB/s. It’s a real performance outlier.
Benchmarking fan? The Redmi 10 scores 1,236 points in Geekbench 5 (372 per core). The Moto G50’s score is around 35% better, and it’s almost exactly the same as the score of the last-generation Redmi 9. This isn’t great performance for a $199/£199 phone (which is what our middle model cost).
- 5,000mAh battery with 18W charging
- Very good general use battery life
- Slightly more expensive Xiaomi phones charge faster
The Xiaomi Redmi 10 has a 5,000mAh battery, much like most of its arch rivals and its significantly larger siblings. We find that while the Moto G50 tends to last longer between charges, few will find any reason to complain here.
It can last through a heavy day of use, and typically has around 30-40% charge left by the time we come to plug it in at lights-out. This is with the screen set to its 90Hz mode, and you’re likely to see a slight boost by restricting the refresh rate to 60Hz.
There’s no improvement to battery charging with this generation, though. The Redmi 10 has 18W charging, although it comes with a 22.5W charger. We used a power meter and plugged it into both the bundled charger and a 30W one. In both cases the phone only draws around the claimed 18W.
After 30 minutes of charging the Redmi 10 from a completely flat state it reached 29% charge. This is not close to the ‘50% in 30 minutes’ fast charging standard.