I started this text with the idea of reviewing Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G smartphone. But I quickly found that it’s impossible to review any of the four new Redmi variants without mentioning the other three – namely, Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro, Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, and Xiaomi Redmi Note 11S.
Here’s why: All four phones are incredibly similar in terms of design. And there’s not even a clear flagship among them; for example, the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G (obviously) has 5G, but the Redmi Note 11 Pro has a more powerful camera system. Add to that a number of RAM/storage memory options, and you get a lot of versions to choose from.
This may sound confusing, but Xiaomi’s approach has its advantages. The most important among them is that this lineup of Redmi phones lets you fine-tune the value for money you get to a very high degree. In the context of mid-range phones, where every dollar counts but a strong set of features is still expected, this is great. If, for example, you have no use for 5G, but need a strong camera and display, chances are you’ll find exactly the phone you need in Xiaomi’s extensive Redmi lineup.
From left to right: Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, Xiaomi Redmi Note 11S, Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
So here’s what I’ll do: I’ll talk primarily about the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G, but I will mention the other phones in the lineup (all of which I’ve also received for review, sans the Redmi Note 11 Pro variant) when applicable. Call it an overview on top of a review.
Same battery, different chargers
Let’s start with the stuff that’s the same across all four devices. Here are those names once again, sorted by higher-to-lower price – Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G, Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro, Xiaomi Redmi Note 11S, and Xiaomi Redmi Note 11. All four have a 5,000mAh battery that easily lasts two days and supports fast charging (though only the Pro versions get the 67W charger in the box). They’re all water and dust resistant to IP53 specifications, and they all run Xiaomi’s MIUI 13 software over Android 11 (though all of them will eventually be updated to Android 13). Finally, all phones can be configured with 6/8GB of RAM and 64/128GB of storage, with the exception of Redmi Note 11, which can also be had with 4GB of RAM. All four phones have a microSD slot and a headphone jack.
All the Redmi Note 11 phones look similar, but the Pro 5G variant felt the best in my hand. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
Design is startlingly similar across all four phones, even though they’re different in size. It’s an interesting combo of iPhone-like flat sides, flat display, and a hefty but tidy, rectangular camera bump on the back (which for some reason rises on not one but two levels on all except the Redmi 11). All three devices that Xiaomi sent me were black, and from afar, they’re almost the same.
Take the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G in your hand, and you’ll notice that it feels a lot more premium, with a nice, semi-glossy back compared to the regular variants’ fully matte, and slightly rounder back. It’s also quite a bit heavier – the Pro versions weigh 202g, while the regular variants weigh 179g.
Differences aside, if you like the look of one Redmi Note 11, you’ll like the look of all four variants.
One thing to note: All three units that I used sounded a little hollow when I tapped on their backs. It’s not a big deal, but it’s something you won’t notice on high-end phones; a reminder that you’re not paying twice or thrice the price for a top phone for nothing.
Little differences that add up
The Pro variants have a larger, 6.67-inch Super AMOLED display, with a 120Hz refresh rate. But the non-Pro versions have only a slightly smaller, 6.43-inch AMOLED display, with the same resolution (1,080 x 2,400 pixels) and a lower refresh rate at 90Hz. In practice, as much as I tried to find a difference between these displays, I couldn’t see one (besides the size, which isn’t that different either). Again, if you’re hunting for a bargain, you don’t need the larger display.
The processors aren’t the same, though, and it will matter for some users. The Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G chip, and while it’s not as powerful as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 series chips, it’s plenty quick for everyday use. The Redmi Note 11 is a step back with the Snapdragon 680 chip, which comes without 5G support. And the other two models have a Mediatek Helio G96 chip.
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, on the right, has a slightly bigger “chin” beneath the display. The result: The Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G’s display is 0.24 inches larger. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
The differences between these chips aren’t huge, and they vary further depending on the amount of RAM the phone has, but they are there. For example, the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G with 8GB of RAM would display a nice little animation when I opened an app, while the animation was missing on the Redmi Note 11 with 4GB of RAM. It’s a minute difference, but these things do add up.
Bottom line, however, is that even the weakest of these configurations will handle most tasks well; you should look into the more powerful ones only if you’re into gaming.
Software is another thing that’s nearly the same across all four phones, aside from some of the settings which likely have to do with hardware differences. It’s Xiaomi’s MIUI Android skin, and I have no major issues with it, though I did on occasion struggle to find a particular setting. My biggest beef with the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G is that it came with a ton of crapware, including seven games I had zero interest in. For some reason the other two review units had a lot less unnecessary software, but it’s hard to say whether this will be the case with retail units.
Cameras – you get what you pay for
This is where things get complicated – on paper. The Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G has a 108-megapixel wide camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 2-megapixel macro camera, as well as a 16-megapixel selfie camera on the front. The Note 11 Pro and the Note 11S have the same camera system with the addition of a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Finally, the Redmi Note 11 has a 50-megapixel main camera, with the other sensors being the same as on the other models. On the front, it has a 13-megapixel camera.
In practice, however, the top three phones in the range take very similar photos, while the Redmi Note 11’s camera is a noticeable drop in quality.
Focusing on the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G’s camera, I was, unsurprisingly, able to get some pretty photos on a couple of beautiful, sunny days. There’s no zoom lens, but with plenty of lighting you’ll get a decent 2x digital zoom thanks to the 108-megapixel sensor. Don’t expect miracles from the camera’s HDR mode, though.
This scene isn’t easy for any camera to handle, but the Xiaomi botched it quite badly. Note how the color of the blue sky “spills” into the dark surface of the trees. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
The 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera is, unsurprisingly, significantly worse than the main, 108-megapixel shooter. Use it only when necessary, and when the light is good.
Without a depth sensor, the portrait mode is just an artificially blurred background around the subject. Sometimes it works alright, as it did in this case. Sometimes you’ll get ugly artifacts around the subject’s edges. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
In low light, the main camera mode will take smudgy, blurry photos. The Night mode, curiously hidden behind the “More” menu, produces better results, especially when it comes to color accuracy, but a lot of what it does appears to be an artificial sharpening effect which doesn’t improve quality very much.
The color accuracy is alright here, but the details are almost completely lost in the darker parts of the picture, and there’s a lot of unnatural sharpening going on. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
Selfies were decent, but turn off the beautifying effects, please. I’d also stay away from portrait mode (regardless of whether you’re shooting with the front or rear camera), as it adds a lot of unnatural artefacts along the edge of the subject. Finally, in anything less than perfect light, it might take a few tries before you get a sharp photo.
The selfie turned out sharp and nice, but the background is badly burned. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
A ton of choices
If you’re interested in buying a Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 device – and you should be if you’re looking for a good, cheap phone – you can approach it with something like a flow chart based on your needs. All of these phones are good, but there’s really no need to overspend Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G unless you really need 5G. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro has the same display, a slightly more advanced camera, and a slightly weaker processor, so you need to think about what’s more important for you.
Great value for your money. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
And if you don’t mind the slightly smaller display, and the lack of fast charger, you should go for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11S, which is probably the best buy in this range. Finally, there’s the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, which is the cheapest of the bunch, but its camera isn’t as good as on the other three phones.
The pricing for the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G starts at $329. The Redmi Note 11 Pro starts at $299; the Redmi Note 11S starts at $249, and, finally, the Redmi Note 11 starts at $179.