Redmi Note 11S vs 11 Pro 5G: A side-by-side review

While data shows Apple captured seven of the top ten spots for global smartphone sales in 2021, Xiaomi’s Redmi brand took two of the remaining three spots. Over the past few weeks, we’ve had the chance to test two of the new Redmi Note 11 series phones, the Redmi Note 11S and the 11 Pro 5G.

Both of these phones cost just under $400, but have compelling design elements and solid specs. For those looking for a more affordable phone, one of these two may be fine. There are a ton of similarities between the two phones with some minor feature differences that may draw you to one over the other. The price of the phone is around $85, but the lower-cost Note 11S may be the best buy for US customers.

As

  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • High quality fit, finish and design
  • 3.5mm audio port and IR blaster
  • Rear camera system capable
  • Solid battery life

Do not like

  • 5G connectivity limited to the United States
  • Android 11

Despite the word Note in the name of these two phones, neither supports a stylus. The Redmi brand is the most affordable series in the Xiaomi range and there are a few specs that make them budget phones. One of the best places to find Redmi phones is in the Amazon Xiaomi store.

Equipment

I was sent both phones in the graphite gray color and when face down on a surface I have to look up the 5G brand to figure out the difference. The Note 11 Pro 5G is larger and has a flat back panel while the Note 11S has curves around the edges that morph into the sides of the phone. Another difference on the back is that the Note 11S has four camera openings while one of the openings on the Note 11 Pro has the words AI on the opening instead. The 108MP main camera is a large module at the top with the other supported camera lenses appearing below this camera on the rear left side.

Both phones have a frosted back appearance that looks professional and provides a solid grip. The back of the Note 11 Pro is glass and the Note 11S is plastic, but not the cheap shiny material you might see on other plastic phones.

As

  • 90Hz refresh rate
  • Low price
  • High quality fit, finish and design
  • 3.5mm audio port and IR blaster
  • Capable quad rear camera system
  • Solid battery life

Do not like

  • Android 11
  • Can stumble a bit with intensive apps/games

The edges of the phones are square with rounded corners. The USB-C port, mic opening, and bottom speaker are on the bottom edge. There’s a speaker, mic opening, IR blaster, and 3.5mm audio port on the top of the phones.

There’s nothing on the left with volume and the power/fingerprint sensor on the right. Both phones have a fingerprint sensor built into the power button, my favorite security setup for smartphones, and activation is reliable and quick.

AMOLED screens look good with good brightness levels, solid resolution and high refresh rates. Higher refresh rates in budget phones aren’t that common and we see 120Hz in the Note 11 Pro and 90Hz in the Note 11S, so both provide a great viewing experience.

Minimal bezels sit all around the screen with a very small punch-hole camera centered at the top of the screen. Similar to the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the front camera sits below the glass panel, but not below the visible display.

Overall, the hardware isn’t particularly noteworthy, but neither phone feels like a budget phone in the hand. The deeper flat edges, slightly denser feel and glass back of the Note 11 Pro mean it’s the one I’d choose if I had to make a choice on how the phone feels in my hand.

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Large capacity 5000mAh batteries are found in each phone so you can easily get through a full day of use. The Note 11 Pro 5G supports 67W turbo charging, while the Note 11S supports 33W fast charging. Xiaomi says the 67W charger can charge the Note 11 Pro 5G to 50% in 15 minutes and 100% in 42 minutes.

The Samsung 108MP camera is the main shooter of this phone with support for 9-in-1 binning. An 8MP ultra-wide camera, with a 118-degree field of view, is also found on both phones. A 2MP macro camera wraps around the Note 11 Pro’s three cameras while the Note 11S also adds a 2MP depth camera for enhanced portraits. Camera performance was solid, especially for budget phones, but there’s no telephoto lens and the cameras are challenged in low-light conditions.

Both phones support common LTE networks and I experienced solid cellular reception with my T-Mobile SIM card. The Note 11 Pro 5G supports 5G on many different bands, but with my T-Mobile SIM card, only the n41 band (old Sprint 2.5GHz network) is supported, so support of 5G is limited to the United States.

The IR blaster, 3.5mm audio port and microSD card support are relics of the past on flagship smartphones, so if these features are important to you, you might want to consider a Redmi Note 11S or 11 Pro 5G.

Characteristics

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 (Note 11 Pro) or MediaTek Helio G96 (Note 11S)
  • Display (Note 11 Pro): 6.67 inches, 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution, AMOLED with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Display (Note 11S): 6.43 inches, 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution, AMOLED with 90Hz refresh rate
  • Operating system: Android 11 with MIUI 13
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Storage room: 128 GB with microSD card
  • Cameras: 108MP f/1.9 wide-angle rear camera, 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera (118-degree field of view), 2MP macro and 2MP depth (Note 11S only). 16MP f/2.4 front camera.
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS/Beidou, NFC
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro sensor, geomagnetic sensor, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, IR blaster
  • Water resistance: IP53 splash protection
  • Battery: 5000 mAh non-removable with quick charge.
  • Dimensions (Note 11 Pro): 164.19 x 76.1 x 8.12mm and 202 grams
  • Dimensions (Note 11S): 159.87 x 73.87 x 8.09mm and 179 grams
  • Colors (Note 11 Pro): Polar White, Graphite Grey, Atlantic Blue
  • Colors (Note 11 Pro): Pearl White, Graphite Grey, Twilight Blue

The screen size and resolution, 2MP depth camera, 5G network support, and glass back panel of the Note 11 Pro are the main differences between these two affordable phones. The Note 11 Pro has a flatter feel to it than the 11S, but with limited 5G support, the 11S may be the better option that also includes cost savings.

Software

One area where it’s obvious these aren’t flagship phones is software. Both launch with MIUI 13 built on top of Android 11 even though Android 12 has been out for many months. Both were updated with the February Android security update during our review period, which is encouraging. Hopefully Android 12 is coming to these phones within the next couple of months, but we don’t have high expectations for budget phones to have reliable, long-term software support.

MIUI 13 offers a mostly stock Android experience with major differences seen in notification nuance and additional settings. Special features available in MIUI 13 include Sidebar, Floating Windows, Second Space, and Easy Mode. Additional gesture shortcuts, fastball, and other settings are also available to help you create a personalized experience with the phone.

A few handy utilities are bundled on the phones, including an FM radio app and the Mi Remote Control app so you can use the IR blaster and 3.5mm audio port. There are also many additional apps installed out of the box including WPS Office, PUBG Mobile, LinkedIn, Amazon Shipping, etc. However, these can also be removed so you can optimize the phone for the way you ride.

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In addition to the 108MP camera hardware and other cameras, the Redmi Note 10 Pro includes advanced camera software with a plethora of shooting modes. These include 108MP with pixel-binning, video, photo, portrait, clone, long exposure (moving crowd, neon trails, oil painting, light painting, starry sky, star trails), night, panorama , documents, vlog, slow motion, time lapse, double video, short video and pro/manual. With solid camera hardware and this software, your ability to get creative and spend a lot of time shooting photos with this phone is readily available. The 5,020 mAh battery also lets you shoot all day.

Daily usage experiences

I’m lucky enough to be able to test and write about a plethora of mobile phones here on ZDNet, so I tend to buy the high-end flagship phones for my personal use. However, if I wasn’t testing so many phones, I would seriously consider one of these phones under $400 because they provide solid hardware, responsive performance, a nice side fingerprint sensor in the touch button power, access to all the apps I need, an enjoyable media experience, legacy features (IR blaster, microSD card, and 3.5mm audio port), and all-day battery life.

The Redmi Note 10 Pro was tested last year and a year later the hardware hasn’t changed much in the 11 Pro. 5G is an obvious addition, but in the US it has limited impact on cellular connectivity. Unfortunately, the Note 11 Pro is still powered by Android 11, like the Note 10 Pro in early 2021, so Xiaomi needs to step up the firmware game.

The Note 11S offers a lot for its $300 price tag and as long as you’re not running 20 apps at once or playing graphics-heavy games, you should be fine with the phone’s processor and performance. It looks great, has solid build quality, and seems like a much better performing phone than the one we used to buy at just $300.

Since we spend a lot of time interacting with the screen of our phones, the high refresh rate of these two phones sets them apart from other phones in this price range. The AMOLED display, decent speakers and headphone port make these phones solid for media and as long as you’re not looking to capture professional photos on your phone, the Redmi Note 11 Pro or 11S are among the best phones affordable that we tested. 2022.

About Roberto Frank

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