I have been using the Redmi Note 11S for more than a month now. To note, it is one of the members of the Redmi Note 11 series that was launched a couple of weeks away. The device sits between the Note 11 Pro and the normal Note 11, and if you want to see the differences among them, you can refer to this article. Nonetheless, I will be pointing out some key differences among the three devices along this review, and there is good reason for that: there are tens of the Redmi Note 11 variants, literally tens, but all targeting different markets. Kenya, for instance, has four of them now: other than the aforementioned three, there is the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G, which just entered the local market for KES 46K. I will not be refereeing to it in this article because it an entirely different device that also costs higher than its siblings, and its price is closer to what the big boys such as Samsung asks for their lineups such as the newly released A53.

PRICE AND MEMORY CONFIGURATIONS

Before you buy the Note 11S, you should know that it exists in three memory configurations, each commanding a different price tag. And we are talking about price because money is what drives your smartphone purchase, and specs are just secondary.

With that in mind, here are the Redmi Note 11S configs:


  1. 6/64 GB for KES 23K
  2. 6/128 GB for KES 28K
  3. 8/128 GB for KES 30K.

I have the KES 30K model, and it has been a great device, save for a couple of reservations I will highlight.

Looking at that price, you can see that the KES 28K version is not a great deal because it just doubles the internal storage. It is also 2K cheaper than the KES 30K model, so if you can, and Xiaomi Kenya knows this because of upselling tactics, just get the most expensive one, else, buy the 23K version.

Now, about internal storage, most of us use phones differently, and I can do just fine with a 64 GB phone. However, apps keep growing every day, and some people take a lot of photos and videos that occupy a substantial share of that media-hoarding room. If that is the case, and you just cannot add more cash for the KES 30K model, just get a microSD card.

You will also want to know about the RAM situation. While 6 GB and 8 GB are not the same, the difference between them is negligible when performing day to day operations. Furthermore, Redmi or Xiaomi has the RAM extension feature that adds 3 GB of virtual RAM to the system, so that is a plus.

REDMI NOTE 11S MAIN FEATURES

It has a 6.4” screen that refreshes at 90 Hz. It is a FHD+ panel, and it would be remiss if I didn’t drop an obvious jab to the likes of HMD Global that ships phones at around the same price, but limits them to HD+ screens. The Note 11 has the same screen size, although the Pro model has a bigger one at 6.67” that also refreshes at 120 Hz.

You get a 108 MP main snapper here alongside double 2 MP sensors for macro and depth information. Ultrawide duties are handled by an 8MP sensor.

A 16 MP selfie sits at the top middle of the display.

The phone is powered by an MTK Helio G96 chipset, which also runs the Pro model. The normal Note 11 has the Snapdragon 680, which we also saw in the realme 9i.

RAM and internal memory configurations have been stated precedingly.

You can plug in normal headphones into the phone, and if that is not your thing, you can always use wireless buds. Dual speakers are part of the package too.

The 5000 mAh cell charges fairly fast thanks to 33W support. The cable and charging brick are included in the box.

If you choose to use a microSD card, you will not sacrifice the dual SIM functionality.

An IR blaster is here too if you are into it. I am not because my ordinary remotes work just fine.

The device is painted in graphite gray, which I have, or twilight blue.

Typical to Redmi phones, you get a free transparent case in the box. However, those cases tend to yellow out because of extended use and dust, so you might need to invest in a better one.

And oh, the fingerprint sensor lives on the power button, and is quick and accurate.

THE SOFTWARE SITUATION

The Note 11S ships with Android 11 and MIUI 13. There is no Android 12 here, unfortunately, and it hasn’t been a big issue for because I have enjoyed it on my main device for quite some time now. MIUI 13 is also found in select devices, and even the Pro+ 5G does not have it. Xiaomi also has not revealed a roadmap about when this series will be updated, and that might not sit well with some users.

To be honest, this is the first time I have used a Redmi device in three or more years. The last Redmi phone I reviewed was the 6A, and after that, I had been using the Note 4 from many years ago.

Things have changed now, and MIUI has matured in terms of stability and feature set.

One of the things I noticed immediately is that notifications and access to toggles from the notification shade are hand handled differently. Specifically, you can access notifications by swiping down from the left top side of the display, and the quick settings are found on the right side. I, however, do not like this approach, mainly because it is cumbersome, and tries to ape iOS. The beauty of Android, or MIUI in this case is that you can disable the setting and let notifications and quick settings be handled like seen in other devices.

MIUI is also highly customizable. You can do a lot of things with the Settings, and at the risk of listing all of them here, I will just not. Ideally, if you have used a Xiaomi device, you know what I am talking about.

A few missteps should be mentioned though. MIUI has bugs, and you will keep discovering them from time to time. However, it also receives constant updates to address those issues, which is a good thing in my book. For instance, I have had issues where the camera app snaps an image, but it gets processed halfway through, meaning the other part of the picture is just dark. This is a very weird hehaviour, and it has occurred to me a couple of times. Other issues include occasional app freezes and sluggishness, not due to underwhelming specs, but just poor optimization. I really do hope that these issues are ironed out in the long run because the device is excellent in terms of what it offers from the software point of view.

CAMERAS

I have a couple of things to say about the camera of the Redmi Note 11S, and I will summarize them as follows:

  1. The camera hardware is a quad system with four snappers: 108 MP, 8 MP, 2 MP and 2 MP.
  2. The camera app does not have any gimmicks because it is as straightforward as they come.
  3. You can add or remove camera mode on the bottom strip, just like you can do in other camera apps such as those included in Samsung devices.
  4. Zoom levels can go from 2x all the way to 10x.
  5. A capable pro mode is included to adjust shooting parameters.
  6. There is a night mode too.
  7. The camera shoots 12 MP images as default. The images are well detailed and offer a lot of detail for the price. White balance is terrific, and colours are represented well.
  8. Dynamic range is above average, and contrast is also just about right.
  9. The images have low noise especially during daytime.
  10. In some cases, you will notice, however, that the snaps are oversharpened.
  11. The 108 MP mode can be used here too. It allows images to have more details, and is a better solution than images that are upscaled using software.
  12. You can manually resize images from 108 MP to 12 MP. This can go a long way in saving you some space.
  13. Ultrawide images are terrific, although other more expensive phones do a better job.
  14. I didn’t see the use for the macro camera, but it is there if you want it for closeup shots. However, they are not as sharp as you would expect them.
  15. Portrait shots are straight-up gorgeous. You can also get them using the selfie camera.
  16. Low light photos are equally good for the price. Just don’t use the ultrawide sensor when shooting them at night.
  17. Overall, this is a great camera experience in my book, and you should be able to get great results as well.

Here are some samples:

SUMMARY AND FINAL THOUGHTS

The Redmi Note 11S is well-thought out, and has been placed at a very nice spot: don’t want the Redmi Note 11, but not the Note 11 Pro is too pricey? Just pick the 11S.

It is not overly ambitious, but it nails some basics well, and then some more. The cameras are great for the price. The speakers are terrific, for the price – and battery life is more than enough, bearing in mind that the phone tops up fairly quick.

I hadn’t mentioned it, but the phone has some kind of splash resistance thanks to its IP53 rating. Not many phones, and at this price range, have this feature.


Lest I forget, the software experience is surprisingly good, thanks to its many features that you can toy around with. However, I wish the phone packed Android 12, and I also wish MIUI wasn’t so prone to some obvious bugs, which, I know, will be eliminated in the long run.

I would buy the device over some other rivals because of the software experience, though, and the value I will be getting from the device. I also wish the 6/128 GB model was cheaper at like KES 25K because that is the right price according to me.


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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]

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