The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 may not be the most finely polished phone on the market, but you get plenty of hardware for your money. Pros Smoothly curved glass front and back
Great zoom cameras
High-quality 108MP main sensor Cons Camera is slow
Protruding camera housing
Some software quirks
Low-light images aren't best in class
Key Specifications Review Price: £474
108-megapixel main camera
5 cameras on the back, including a 2x and 5x
6GB RAM, Snapdragon 730
6.47in OLED display, FHD+
A 108-megapixel camera and massive 5260mAh battery are headline numbers that are sure to attract some attention.
This isn’t quite the world-beater you might expect in other respects, however. Its camera is slow; there are some day-to-day issues that make it seem more sluggish than it is. And while the battery is sizeable and lasts okay, you might expect even better stamina for its spec.
There’s still plenty to like here, but the cheaper Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro and Oppo Reno 2 may be a better choice for some.
The Mi Note 10 isn’t officially on sale in the UK or USA yet. However, it’s available for as low as £333 from sites like Gearbest (RRP £474).
It’s huge and protrudes, noticeably so considering the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 isn’t an ultra-slim handset to start. Xiaomi has a good excuse: the phone’s battery is significant in size. But what I get from the Mi Note 10’s design is that it’s a phone that’s made to wear a coat – the silicone case that comes in the box.
In fact, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 feels almost incomplete without its silicone case, which smooths out the carbuncle of camera.
If you want a phone that looks and feels super-expensive at around £400, the Oppo Reno 2 arguably pulls this off better than the Mi Note 10. Oppo has made that handset attractive whether in or out of a case.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is all about the curves, although it’s a shame then that in the case you’re unlikely to really get to appreciate them. Note, too, that the Mi Note 10 doesn’t offer any water-resistance. This is the norm at the price, but again reminds that similarity to phones double the price is actually somewhat thin.
The handset’s in-screen fingerprint scanner isn’t nearly as good as those of top-end phones, either. Picky about finger placement, highly sensitive to moisture and prone to mis-reading a perfectly good imprint, you might resort to using face unlock instead. As in-screen scanners become more common in mid-range phones, slightly dodgy units such as this are now quite common.
Its performance dipped over the course of a week or so. While it improved a little after re-training the scanner to recognise my finger, it’s still far from ideal. The fact that rear and side finger scanners have been largely excellent for years now makes it the unit here all the more annoying.
That’s enough negativity for now, though. The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 feels better than any Samsung phone at the price, and you don’t get a curved front with the Oppo Reno 2.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 also has an IR blaster. It enables the Mi Remote app, which lets the phone act as a universal remote, sending out the same commands as your TV remote (as long as it isn’t a flashy Bluetooth one).
Not had a phone with an OLED panel before? They offer unparalleled contrast and super-deep colour. You can choose between a super-saturated or more natural colour profile, or one that changes the screen character based on ambient lighting.
With the Mi Note 10, I’ve had no trouble at all with the auto brightness setting – which can be an issue on less well-optimised phones. Plus, there’s enough brightness – a claimed 600 nits – to get by comfortably on brighter days.
However, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 does seem to have an odd bug that makes the screen flash bright for a fraction of a second when unlocking. It isn’t catastrophic; more disconcerting.
The screen is sharp, bold and rich, and it supports 1080p Netflix. HDR support is here, too – and, not surprisingly, looks excellent in a room with controlled lighting that lets you appreciate the brightness of the display.
How do rivals at the price compare? The Samsung Galaxy A70 screen is of an even more generous size, and the Reno 2’s is effectively larger for movies since it doesn’t have a notch.
Personally, the lack of a proper app screen bumps MIUI down to the lower rungs of Android interfaces for me. But if you’re not similarly attached to one, the Mi Note 10’s software is perfectly fine.
Day-to-day performance is technically sound, as you’d hope from a device with a good CPU and 6GB of RAM. However, it ends up feeling flaky thanks to a slightly unreliable fingerprint scanner and the odd screen-flash unlock effect mentioned in the display part of this review.
The Mi Note 10 also isn’t the fastest phone you can get from Xiaomi at the price. Its Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro costs less but has a far more powerful Snapdragon 855.
According to Geekbench 4 and 3D Mark, that phone has around 70% more CPU power and well over twice the GPU power.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 has a 108-megapixel main camera, which uses pixel binning to output 27-megapixel images. You could argue this is better thought of as a 27-megapixel camera then, since the Samsung S5KHMX sensor is primarily designed to shoot at that resolution, and actually uses an algorithm to shoot 108MP images that sound like its natural output.
Either way, there’s a lot of data to process in each image. 108-megapixel shots end up at around 35MB each.
Normal shots are packed full of detail; 108-megapixel shots even more so. There’s a slight painterly quality to those ultra-high-res images, common to “AI” algorithm-assisted shots. However, I’m impressed by how natural they continue to look, and how different they are to the 27-megapixel images.
The character of the images relies on fairly high contrast, with rich colour. It’s a high-energy look, not a neutral one. But shots taken with the Mi Note 10 are consistently punchy and engaging.
The camera is also unusually good at dealing with the light levels of tricky scenes such as sunsets, and tends to overexpose sky-free nature scenes less than most mid-range phone cameras I’ve used in 2019.
The Mi Note 10’s 108-megapixel images tend to display significantly more purple colour noise than 27-megapixel pictures. However, this sort of makes sense when you consider that combining pixels should theoretically increase its ability to weed such distortion. In addition, I only noticed the purple haze when zooming in to the images.
I’m also impressed by most of the other cameras that feature on the Mi Note 10’s rear. There’s a 2x zoom, a 3x zoom lens the phone crops into for 5x images, an ultra-wide and a dedicated macro.
The macro sensor is the only real “dud”. I took a trip to the park with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 during testing to see whether it takes close-ups better than the 5x zoom or 108-megapixel modes. In almost all situations I was able to get better results from the other cameras, cropping to get close.
Close-up focusing is the main benefit of the macro camera. And, unlike many of these mini-macros, it does have autofocus. However, since the sensor is a piddly 2-megapixel resolution, it can’t actually render much detail, even with perfect focus.
You get the finest of macro-like detail using the main camera
It works for remedial macro shots, where you want to get close and have a fairly shallow depth of field. But for actual macro-level detail capture, it’s a bust.
The zoom results are much better. Most mid-range phones take poor pictures at 5x. The Mi Note 10 takes good ones, even if it does “cheat” and crop into a 3x zoom, 8-megapixel sensor to achieve them. It feels like a real native zoom, without the digital obfuscation of zoom-by-processing. I find this makes the camera more fun to use, and helps offset the frustration of its lethargic feel.
Its ultra-wide 20-megapixel camera is similar. You don’t see the quality drop-off of some mid-range phones, and so you’ll end up using it more.
Night image quality is a slightly mixed affair. Shoot using the auto mode and the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 takes slightly vague-looking low-light images. Texture detail increases hugely when you use the Night mode, and the shadows are lifted significantly for a less dark-looking image. They’re not as good as the Pixel 3a XL‘s night shots, but they’re good enough.
And after all the complaints about speed, Night mode doesn’t take that long to shoot – just a couple of seconds. There’s still a wait for processing after the shoot, but it’s the exposure capture that actually stops you going about your business.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 doesn’t remotely mine the capability of the 108-megapixel sensor for video. Samsung says it’s capable of 6K video capture, but the phone taps out at 4K, 30 frames per second. Why? It’s the hard limit of the Snapdragon 730G processor, according to Qualcomm.
Xiaomi has made surprisingly good use of this 108-megapixel sensor, but we’ll likely see it exploited even further in other phones.
However, video versatility is otherwise great, as you can shoot using any of the cameras. And since the 2x and 5x views both have optical stabilisation, they’re genuinely usable.
There’s one more slightly pedantic point to make here. What is the point of having 2x and 3x zoom lenses in a phone that also has a 108-megapixel 1x camera? Smarter use of software could remove the need for one of these cameras.