Let’s start with the affordable phones. In 2021, they launched the Redmi Note 10. It had the Snapdragon 678 Chip which comfortably outperforms the Exynos 9611 & 850, Helio G80, G88 and of course the Snapdragon 662, which are the most common chipsets found at this price point. When launched it had had decent performance but the main selling point was the AMOLED Screen which many manufacturers do not provide at a price like this.
However the Redmi Note 10 is not in stock anymore, presumably because of chip shortage, and was followed up with a slightly better 5G Variant (Redmi Note 10S) with the Helio G95 Chip, which is slightly better in performance compared to the 678. Compared to the Note 10 it has a couple of different specs here and there with camera but other than that they are identical phones.
If your budget is above 13,000 but below 15, another decent smartphone they launched was the Redmi Note 10T 5G at 15,000 that has the Dimensity 700 Chipset and a 90Hz display with decent battery life. They also launched the Redmi Note 10 Prime but I don’t think it is really worth it with a G88 Chip and an LCD Screen, it is better to either get the Note 10S or the Note 10T. They are competitive phones, worth considering against the Realme 8i and Narzo 30.
We are not awarding anything to the Poco M3 Pro. It was a slight downgrade from the Poco M2 Pro from last year in terms of performance. It has average cameras and an average screen, the only reason to even consider this will be 5G, which is coming to India not before 2023.
We do not need to make severe compromises in specs and user experience just for the 5G Tag, when we cannot use 5G yet. Never buy a device on the basis of future promises, we recommend concentrating on the present first. Instead at this price point we recommend looking for carrier aggregation, which enables 4G+. It is a different story in the premium midrange price segment because all the phones there are 5G anyway.
Entering the over 15,000 and below 22,000 price point which is considered by many to be midrange, there is one clear winner here, the Redmi Note 10 Pro (& Max). Especially before the early bird sale ended, these phones were stupid amounts of value. They are still great value smartphones to this day if you cannot wait for the Note 11 Pro which is supposed to come out in a couple of months. But this article covers only 2021 launches, so the Redmi Note 10 Pro and Pro Max take the win in this price segment. Full stop.
732G is decently powerful, though not the best performer at this price, it has a great balanced camera system with a 120Hz OLED Panel and premium materials. Big battery, fast charging, stereo speakers. There are almost no cut corners with the Redmi Note 10 Pro and Max, except maybe subpar front camera and no 5G (not a major con really). But in the grand scheme of things, getting a 120Hz OLED display with a good set of cameras, we think this smartphone is a perfectly balanced device.
Honourable mention to the Poco X3 Pro, with the Snapdragon 860. Why this isn’t further up the list is because Poco (India) sort of messed up in 2021 by launching lazy rebranded models, screwing up devices with updates, giving bug filled updates really late, etc, also Poco UI lacks consistency with animations and does not feel as good to use as MIUI does. For users who want the 860 chip with decent battery life and a 120Hz screen and are willing to make this compromise, the X3 Pro is a nice phone.
Another honourable mention to the Mi 10i, with a 120Hz LCD and the 750G chipset and a balanced set of cameras. This wasn’t put higher on the list because the Note 10 Pro is cheaper and more value for money. Also, an award is not being not giving an award to the Mi 11 Lite 4G because in India, there is almost no market for a phone like that.
A 732G for a 22,000 smartphone from Xiaomi did not sit right with many people even after the discounts. It was not a bad phone but the target audience was people who prioritised a really light phone with a good in hand feel and were willing to pay extra for it, and I don’t think there were many people who wanted to do that.
Premium/ Upper Midrange Segment:
This is probably the most confusing category of 2021, the under 30,000 segment. There were so many launches from several brands and they were all really similar in terms of specs, the only differentiating factors being UI and Design. That said we have tried to be fair with the judgements.
I do not think there is a clear winner here between the Mi 11X and the Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G (that name though). The Mi 11X, with the Snapdragon 870 chip, 1080P 120Hz AMOLED Screen, Gorilla Glass 5, decent battery life, stereo speakers is a great phone. Except for the camera system, these are near flagship specifications. It has an alright primary camera but the rest of the camera system on this phone is pretty mediocre. However considering what you’re getting, this is a lot of value for money.
We’ve also got the Lite, which has a decent camera system and one of the best Macro cameras out there, with a great design, good in hand feel and decent specs too. The screen is 10 Bit AMOLED with a 90Hz refresh and a decently powerful 778G Chip. Both the Mi 11X and the Lite 5G are targeting two different types of audiences though.
The Poco F3 GT is a phone worth mentioning, with the Dimensity 1200 Chip, a 120Hz 10 Bit AMOLED Screen, an interesting design, premium build, stereo speakers with Dolby Atoms that can support high res and high fidelity, RGB Glow, big battery, fast charging, 5G, gaming triggers, vapour charging and fast UFS 3.1 storage. But specs are obviously not everything. We have seen a lot of Poco F3 GT users have had heating issues with the product despite the cooling they were bragging about in the adverts. And the camera performance is even worse than the Mi 11X. Some users of this smartphone have tweeted about stutters and lag and also issues with the screen.
Also there is the usual problem with the UI of Poco phones which is just not great as described before, Poco UI can be a catastrophic buggy mess with some bad to non existent animations. So for someone who particularly wants a gaming smartphone under 30,000 and also is fine with Poco UI, maybe this is considerable to you. But yes, personally though I would side with the Mi 11X here.
Flagship & Value Flagship:
This one is easy because there is only one value flagship smartphone Xiaomi launched in India this year, the Mi 11X Pro. This phone is like a luxury alternative to the normal Mi 11X. It’s got the better Snapdragon 888 chip with some better cooling technology, a capable and large primary camera and a good screen. The normal Mi11X though is still more value for money.
We are giving the flagship award to Mi 11 Ultra of course but there is also the Mi Mix Fold. The Fold was not launched in India but it was a great phone with premium materials, a 90Hz Foldable screen, a decent triple camera setup with optical zoom, decent battery life and the Snapdragon 888 Chip. For the first public foldable from Xiaomi it was fairly decent.
The Mi 11 Ultra though is one of the best ultra flagships launched in 2021. It has one of the best camera systems on a flagship, with a great screen and decent battery life. A secondary screen which is quite useful to many people. A display that can show 10 Bit colour with software upscaling. You can take selfies with the primary cameras. 120X Zoom, 8K Video on all three lenses, big battery, really fast wireless and wired charging, one of the best speakers on a phone.
Overall it is a pretty well rounded package and it is significantly cheaper than the competition in India. It pretty much beats phones priced around it, like the Vivo X70 Pro Plus, OnePlus 9 Pro and the normal S21 and normal iPhone 13. In India though keep in mind the 13 Pro and S21 Ultra are way more expensive, the Pixel 6 Pro was not launched, making the Mi 11 Ultra the best Xiaomi flagship of 2021 and also one of the best flagship phones in 2021.
Busts of the year:
There was this smartphone called the Redmi Note 10 Lite which was exactly the same as the Redmi Note 9 Pro. 720G, 60Hz 1080P LCD. Nothing special about this phone. Then there were these two phones, the Redmi 9 Activ and the Redmi 9 Power, both pretty bad phones with nothing to make them stand out. Then we had the Note 10 Prime which was also a pretty forgettable pointless launch. While the Poco M3 Pro was not excellent and so was the Mi 11 Lite 4G, we did not feel those devices were bad to the point where they deserve a bust of the year award.
So, do you agree with these decisions? Also, some of you might say Poco is an independent ‘different’ brand now, but a lot of their phones are just rebranded Xiaomi phones and their UI has not changed too. We still consider them to be tied together for now, not as independent as many claim. Hope Poco does better in 2022. Thanks for reading, do drop a comment below about what you think.