Xiaomi Mi Note 10 long-term review
Emre Alexander
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Xiaomi Mi Note 10 long-term review

Look, ma - cameras! Cameras everywhere! Mi Note 10 intriguingly houses not one, not two, not three - bear with us here - not four, but five shooters. And that includes the world's first commercially available 108MP smartphone camera, a number that's bound to become a staple on more high-end phones this year.

With that in mind you may be thinking that the Mi Note 10 is Xiaomi's latest flagship smartphone, but... it's more complicated than that. This is one of the toughest handsets we've had to wrap our heads around here at GSMArena towers, because while most of the package screams 'top of the line', there are some parts that are not.



So it's a mixed bag from the get-go, just by looking at its spec sheet. Adding more confusion is the fact that the Mi Note 10 is also more expensive than the company's previous 'flagship killer' phones making it even harder to decide what it's after. Why did the company feel the need to revive its Mi Note line in 2019 with this particular model?

These are questions we wanted answers to so badly that we decided the only way to try and make actual sense of the Mi Note 10 and make all of our confusion go away would be to use the phone for a prolonged period of time as our one and only daily driver, and see what's what.

Hence, this long-term review was born, and we welcome you over the next few pages where we'll dive deep into what it's like to live with the Mi Note 10 day in and day out. Hopefully by the end you'll get an idea of whether this is the smartphone for you, and also what Xiaomi was trying to accomplish by launching it. So buckle up, and let's get going!

Design, handling, build quality

The Mi Note 10 is big and heavy, so if you have small hands one-handed use won't be an option at all. It's also unashamedly top-heavy, so if weight balance is important in your day to day life, and it's part of what makes a phone comfortable to use for you, then it's bad news. Let's just say you will never forget that this phone is in your pocket - or your hand while you use it, for that matter. It's substantial, in one word, and part of that feeling clearly has to do with the humongous 5,260 mAh battery fitted inside.

In the looks department, it's very similar to every other upper-midrange or high-end smartphone launched in the past few months, with a glass sandwich design and all that. Additionally, the screen is curved on the sides, but not as much as some other phones - the Huawei Mate 30 Pro comes to mind. There's no 'waterfall' screen here, staying closer to recent Samsung flagships instead.

The back glass is curved too and 'flows' into the metal frame symmetrically to the screen, which makes for a pretty sight (even more so for the OCD types) but it also means that the aluminum sides are incredibly tiny. This adds to the overall slipperiness that comes from the glass being used on both sides, meaning this phone is tough to convince not to slip out of your hand constantly.

Thankfully, there's the huge camera hump at the rear to somewhat ironically help with that. Because the main camera island that houses 3 of the 5 snappers is so elongated you don't get a huge amount of wobble when using the phone on its back on a desk or something similar. Actually the only issue is pressing stuff in the lower-right side of the screen, for everything else the phone stays put.

As for in-hand use, if you don't slap a case on it, you might be able to rest your index finger at the bottom of said island for some added stability, especially if you're left-handed. Unfortunately, that means the lower two camera lenses are almost guaranteed to always get smeared. You win some, you lose some.

Because this is a big, heavy, slippery phone, in all honesty a case is the way to go. The one that comes in the box could be a good start - it doesn't cover the screen's sides so you still get some of the advantages of having a curved screen - like how awesome swipes from or to a side feel. The case itself offers basic protection but nothing close to heavy-duty, which is obvious by how bendy it is. Still, it's more than nothing.


At this point in time we're used to glass slabs that are at least somewhat slippery, but even by those standards the Mi Note 10 is a bit more difficult to handle than most devices out there. However, you'll probably get used to its quirks in a few days, and all of this might be worth the cameras you're getting and the battery life as well - we'll circle back to that later.

The 3.5mm headphone jack is in, which is a nice touch, and there's an IR blaster up top, although these features seem to be increasingly rare nowadays. The earpiece grille is elongated enough that we thought it would serve as a faux stereo element alongside the bottom-firing speaker, but alas, that's not the case.

You only get audio from the bottom speaker and it's not the loudest or clearest or highest-quality we've heard by any stretch of the imagination. Watching videos and even taking speakerphone calls is slightly less than ideal, especially for the former because you're practically required to cup the phone in your hand to make the sound come your way.

The buttons are all on the right side which is fine in theory (at least you won't be accidentally touching the volume down one while trying to hit power on the other side, like with some other phones). The downside is they're too close to each other for our liking, so we found ourselves practically in the same situation as described above, but for a different reason. It doesn't help that the power button isn't ridged or anything like that, it's impossible to tell it apart from volume down based on just touch. So prepare for a few misclicks.


Build quality is outstanding but this is sort of a given considering it's been like that for practically every glass and metal sandwich device we've handled recently, regardless of price point. The manufacturing technology for such slabs has simply reached tolerance levels that are close to perfection, so maybe now would be the time to experiment with different materials? Or maybe all phones sort of look similar these days because that's simply what works, and what people crave. Probably a combination of the two.

Overall, while we would have preferred a lighter build and a less pronounced camera hump, the Mi Note 10 isn't unwieldy and considering the tech in those cameras it's understandable how things got this big. And if you associate heft with a premium feeling, then this one will deliver.

Display

The screen is one of the areas in which the Mi Note 10 both is and isn't a flagship. It has a vibrant, bright AMOLED panel, which is also curved. Flagship grade stuff, right? Yes, but the resolution is 'just' FHD+. We still think that most people can't actually tell the difference between that and QHD+ in use, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention this.

And then there's the fact that the Mi Note 10 launches at a time when high refresh rate displays are starting to become the norm. After all, the much cheaper Redmi K30 (also made by Xiaomi) has a 120fps panel, LCD as it may be. The Mi Note 10 however sticks with the traditional cap of 60fps, and that means you're missing out on some added smoothness. Not just that, but future-proofing too. If all the rumors are correct, practically all the important flagships and 'flagship killers' this year will go above 60fps, which leaves the Mi Note 10 in a weird limbo.

While it is ahead of its time in the camera department, it really isn't in the display area. All that said, it's got a very good FHD+ curved AMOLED. If you want to take a look at our lab tests, head over to our normal review of the Mi Note 10, but let's be clear - we were never left wanting by this panel in any other regard. Higher resolution is an okay box to tick on a spec sheet, but high refresh rate can be important to the overall user experience, and that's just not here.

On the plus side, the screen gets bright enough to be easily readable even in sunlight, and dim enough not to sear your retinas at night. The blue light filter does what it's supposed to, and if you manually take the brightness slider all the way down in Auto mode, you'll reach something Xiaomi confusingly calls Night mode. You can set this in Display settings to be even lower than usual. It ensures an even better experience in low-light scenarios.

Speaking of auto-brightness, while it works well for the most part, we have encountered a funny bug where it was basically 'fighting' us when we tried to manually adjust it using the slider that's in the notification shade. We've only encountered this a few times, but it was still annoying trying to manually 'teach' the system to make the screen more or less bright in a specific environment, only for us to immediately see the slider moving by its own accord back to its previous position. And on the topic of that slider, you still have to swipe left or right across it, you can't just tap the specific position you're after - this isn't changed in MIUI 11 and we wish it was.


Always-on display is available and it's one of the best implementations out there, with more customization options than you'll know what to do with. It was fun changing styles, and experimenting with various background images too. You get the date under the clock, and the battery level under that, and then notification icons under that. Sadly OnePlus’ system of actually showing you a notification as it arrives is still unique, and thus not replicated here - it’s only the icon of the corresponding app that pops up.

Because it's a curved screen, you can also use the edges to light up in various manners when you get a notification, but this could turn out to be more distracting than useful. Your mileage may vary, obviously.

Always on Display settings

The default color scheme results in whites that are way too bluish for our taste, but that's an easy fix in Settings, where we left Auto colors on and just went with Warm color temperature instead. This Auto setting is supposed to adjust colors based on the current ambient lighting, but either that's just a theory or it does its job so subtly that we really couldn't tell.

Color temperature settings

In-display fingerprint sensor

Optical in-display fingerprint sensors just keep getting better, and the Mi Note 10's latest-gen one is practically indistinguishable in day-to-day use from a capacitive ones mounted on the back or the side of phones. There's still a minute speed delta, but you won't be able to tell unless you have a phone with a capacitive sensor nearby, and constantly use both.


Accuracy has been almost perfect, to the point where we don't even remember if we had a misread. We're sure there were some, but the point is if the number is that small, this is not an issue. The usual cautions apply as with any other optical sensor - we did enroll our fingers in a pitch black environment because at one point that did help with accuracy. We can't say for sure it's still required, but it doesn't hurt to do that just to be on the safe side.

Otherwise there's not really much to say here. The position of the sensor is further away from the bottom bezel than some competing devices (and previous Xiaomi phones too), and we liked that very much. Because of the fact that this is a big phone, if we had to reach a lower point with our thumb it might have required some gymnastics based on how we naturally came to grip the phone. But this sensor is just fine the way it is, and you're unlikely to have any problems with it whatsoever.

Biometric authentication settings
Note that camera-based face unlock is present and works well, but given how fast and accurate the fingerprint sensor is, we're not recommending using it, as it's much less secure.

MIUI 11

Our review unit has MIUI 11 on board, but still based Android 9 Pie, so keep that in mind while you read our thoughts on the software experience.
MIUI 11 is prettier and feels lighter than its predecessor, but it's no huge overhaul by any stretch of the imagination. The changes are mostly cosmetic and it sure looks more modern. On the other hand, we can't quite wrap our heads around the fact that this phone launched with Android 9 on board, when Android 10 was released months before.


And even now, more than a month into 2020, there's still no sign of Google's latest and greatest. Sure, that's much less an issue with a Xiaomi phone than any other, because of how heavy MIUI is as a skin, but we'd still like to see more timely updates here. Over the course of our long-term review we haven't received one update, of any sort. The phone is also still on the November 1, 2019 security patch level, which just isn't good enough. At least the security updates are supposed to be monthly.

Current software situation
All that aside, MIUI 11 doesn't feel very different in use than MIUI 10. There's some added polish here and there, for the dark theme among other things, but this is still not a finalized work it seems - just diving into the Battery subsection of Settings will throw a white background at you out of nowhere. Perhaps that will be sorted when Android 10 arrives with its native dark theme, we'll have to wait and see.

Dark mode, still white in the Battery section
Most of MIUI's annoyances are still there too, like only being able to swipe a notification one way to dismiss it, the weird small font in the status bar, notifications disappearing from the lock screen after a subsequent unlock (if you simply ignored them the first time), memory management being overly aggressive at times - all that jazz.

Thankfully the biggest usability issue with notched Xiaomi phones last year was fixed, so notification icons do show up to the left of the notch, and stay there for more than a couple of seconds. It's that last part that wasn't previously the case and proved to be a huge annoyance.


You get the opportunity to 'optimize' your phone even though you shouldn't have to, and are treated to a ton of bloatware and/or duplicate apps as usual. Most of these things you can safely ignore, and as always if you have a wearable the app that manages it will need to be granted 'special' status in a bunch of different places in Settings so that it can be allowed to run in the background for things like showing you notifications and such.

None of these things are deal-breakers for using MIUI, and overall the skin has its own consistent design language, with no obvious issues there (aside from the aforementioned work in progress status of the dark theme). Whether you enjoy these looks or not is another discussion, but hey - theming is coming back to Europe, so at least you'll once again be able to change things up to your liking.

The Settings menu is long and it's not always easy to locate things (we recommend you use the search bar up top), because they may not be very logically placed. However, it's not a huge deal and you'll probably get used to it in no time. The traditional MIUI quirk regarding the order of things in Settings is alive and well - the first item on the menu is actually About phone, which on most other skins out there is usually last. This however does mean you get ever so slightly faster to the Software updates section, if you're inclined to manually check for those very often. Not that it necessarily matters for the Mi Note 10 specifically, because as we said it doesn't seem to get a lot of updates anyway.

Settings
Be careful about backing up stuff to your Mi Account, though - only 5GB of space is free (Hi, Apple!) and if you go above that you'll get a notification from time to time reminding you of that fact. Then again, aside from the backing up of your home screen layout and browser stuff (if you're even using Xiaomi's), there's not much point using Xiaomi Cloud since there's a free Google solution for everything else.

Xiaomi Cloud settings
Speaking of the home screen, Xiaomi is currently testing a launcher that finally supports an app drawer, but it's not finalized yet. Because we have over 200 apps installed, that meant sticking with the built-in launcher would've pretty much made the phone unusable, so we did what we always do in this case and installed the POCO launcher and used that. It's also made by Xiaomi, it has an app drawer, it's fast and doesn't seem bloated with millions of settings that you might not even know what to do with.

Xiaomi's counterpart to OnePlus' Shelf is called Vault and it's similarly useless to us, but hey, you may find more value in it. The important thing to note here is that the Vault works in the POCO launcher too, no need to stick with the default app just for that. And while Google's Pixels and Android One devices house the Google Feed (or is it Google Explore this week?) to the left of your leftmost home screen, that's not an option here. You need to go into the Google app to see it, basically.

POCO Launcher Home screen, app drawer, Vault
MIUI has long been infamous for intrusive ads in certain regions, but we don't happen to live in one of those so we've never gotten them in the notification area or on the lock screen and can't attest to how they influence the user experience. We do see ads in Xiaomi's built-in apps, but we can't say we've been bothered too much, as mostly we just use each default app once to see what it's like, then end up settling for something similar from Google or other companies.

It just doesn't feel very logical for us to invest time in using one manufacturer's specific app for something, given that there are more universal solutions out there, and as we switch phones across manufacturers multiple times a year, it would prove a hassle to, for example, not go with Google Keep and instead have to transfer notes over and over again.

The built-in apps mostly update through the System apps updater which lives in the Settings, and not the Play Store. This is a strange halfway solution between Xiaomi having its own duplicate app store (like Samsung, for example), and what companies such as OnePlus are doing - having all of their apps in the Play Store. And honestly we fail to see the point of this state of things that is just going to create some confusion for normal consumers. You can set the built-in apps to auto-update and then basically just forget all about this System apps updater, and we'd very much recommend you do that.

Gestures and Recents menu
Now that even 'vanilla' Android has a half-decent built-in gesture navigation system, we're wondering if it still makes sense to talk about this at length in a long-term review. Xiaomi's system has always been among the best out there, and it still is. It's very similar to what Google came up with in Android 10, except the 'back' gesture animation is much better in MIUI, and it has an easy solution for the conflict with hamburger menus on the left side. You swipe inwards from the top ~25% of the screen, you get the app's slide-out menu. You swipe from the bottom ~75%, you go back. That's it, and this works the same on both the left and right sides.

Furthermore, MIUI's gesture system optionally has a way to quickly switch to the previously used app without the need for an ugly 'pill' at the bottom of the UI. You just hold the 'back' gesture for a tiny bit, then you're taken to the last app - and this is indicated by the arrow icon turning into the icon of the app you'll be taken to once you lift your finger. Very well implemented system, very reliable, much better than Google's.

Gesture navigation settings
The multitasking menu, though, is exactly the opposite. For reasons that are beyond us, Xiaomi insists on a vertically scrolling list of apps - but not just that, it's rows of two. This at first blush feels like it would be useful because you have more than one app in sight when you enter the Recents menu, but in practice it just forces you to pay extra attention to what you're about to tap. We think there might be usability-related reasons why every other manufacturer has settled for a horizontally scrolling list of apps that only has one in view at a time, so maybe it's time for Xiaomi to get with the program in MIUI 12.

Bugs

With every new big software revamp, we've grown accustomed to seeing some random bugs here and there, and MIUI 11 is unfortunately no exception. We're hoping these will get fixed in subsequent updates, but for now we're going to quickly list the bugs we've encountered. None of these severely detract from the overall experience of using MIUI 11, but we would have liked not to have come across them.

First off, if you have a scheduled Do Not Disturb mode (Downtime, for example, so that your phone won't pester you with notification sounds while you're sleeping), prepare for things to randomly ignore it. We have gotten notification sounds from WhatsApp as well as Facebook Messenger, randomly, on some nights - but not all, mind you. And sometimes only one of them had this behavior, sometimes both, and then sometimes neither.


This could actually be an issue with those apps and not MIUI 11, and yet we've never encountered something like this before - on any phone that we've had for a long-term review. The unpredictability of the scheduled DND mode not working as intended was most baffling, because when it works as it should, this is a feature one can easily grow to take for granted.

Next up, we couldn't find a way for vibration feedback to work on keypresses for Gboard, even though this was technically turned on in the settings. This wasn't an issue with the vibration motor per se, because it worked for everything else, so either it's a bug in Gboard on MIUI 11, or in MIUI 11 itself. Using the same version of Gboard on another phone the vibration feedback worked just as it should - we tested just to be sure the keyboard itself didn't develop a bug.

The proximity sensor, which turns the screen off while you're on a call and hold the phone to your face, also seems to enjoy randomly not working. And when we say "randomly", we mean "randomly", we were unable to figure out what might be causing this bug because it occurred so out of the blue, and went away as randomly as it came. We haven't encountered this for every single call, or even for the entire duration of some calls, but felt like it needed to be mentioned.

Finally, while this is not a bug, it was a mild annoyance nevertheless: animations in MIUI 11 are really cool, especially going back to the home screen from the built-in apps - their icons get animated for a little bit. It's a nice effect but we found the animation speed rather slow. Luckily, there's an easy fix, but it requires you to surface the hidden Developer options menu (by pressing the MIUI version field in About phone a bunch of times quickly). Then in Developer options we changed the three animation scale settings from 1x to 0.5x and things got noticeably faster, without cutting off any of the effects.

Performance, smoothness

The most baffling thing about the Mi Note 10 is the chipset it employs, especially when that's compared to the top notch quality of its other specs and features. Although the Snapdragon 730G still is Qualcomm's best mid-range chip, at least it used to be before the 765 came out, we can't help but mention that we would've really seen the Mi Note 10 going with the 855+ in order to create a full high-end package. Alas, that's not what happened, so we're evaluating the performance of the 730G for the first time in a long-term review. As usual, we're going to give you our inherently subjective opinion based on how it felt in day to day use, and not raw numbers - if you want those, make sure you read the charts in our normal Mi Note 10 review.

Frankly, if there is one area in which the Mi Note 10 falls short, that is performance. Don't get us wrong here - we mean that it may feel like it falls short in comparison with everything else about this phone. We weren't expecting the mid-range Snapdragon to be on par with flagship chipsets, naturally, and it's not.

The Mi Note 10 is just very clearly slower than any handset with a Snapdragon 855, day to day, in every task. There's not a huge amount of random lag or stutters (although we encountered those too a few times), but if you've used a device with a flagship chipset from 2019 and then switch to this, you will never not notice the delta between them, small as it may be. The experience is consistent, however, and that's a huge plus. It doesn't randomly slow down even more, or get fast for a few seconds and then slow again, none of that.

The Mi Note 10 is slower than even some phones boasting the Snapdragon 845 from 2018, such as a OnePlus 6T we had around just to do a half an hour unscientific test of using them side by side. One of the most obvious differences is how fast the same website loads, using the same browser, but even just navigating through the UI feels slower.

Again, it's important to stress that while we felt this difference, it's definitely small, and we do handle more phones than most people, which means we can more easily tell such things. And if you're coming to the Mi Note 10 from a mid-ranger you won't feel it. This may not all have to do with hardware - MIUI 11 is still fresh and there could be some more optimizing to do there in software to make things faster.

The Mi Note 10 is definitely not the smoothest phone ever, but it does okay in this highly subjective assessment. It's not so much choppy as it is just infinitesimally slow in everything. Not that it will win any smoothness awards, either, but if you want a comparison in your mind - it's about as smooth as the Samsung Galaxy S10+ was before the Android 10 update (we haven't retested that one so can't vouch for how things are after the new software version came out).

That's obviously not bad, but Xiaomi flagships (or 'flagship killers') usually top Samsungs in both perceived speed and smoothness. If you want to look at this another way, though - it means the Mi Note 10 is as smooth as a top of the line Samsung was a few months ago. And that's an interesting achievement in itself, though we were expecting more, based on our previous experiences with Xiaomi devices and MIUI.

Battery life

The Mi Note 10's huge 5,260 mAh battery capacity might get you to think that this would end up being the best phone for endurance we've ever tested for a long-term review (because it's certainly the one with the biggest battery).

But while battery life has been great, it's not actually record-breaking, weirdly enough. We hate to try and pin the blame on the SoC used, but what else can it be, really? With our usual use-case we never had a situation where we needed to charge the phone before our day ended. However, the Mi Note 10 also never lasted full two days, unlike some other phones like the Huawei P30 Pro for example (which has a much smaller battery).

Basically if we didn't charge every night, then we'd have to juice up the battery at some point during the next day. We got around six hours of screen on time on a regular basis in this scenario - so from waking up on day 1 to having to charge on day 2, sometime around midday or soon after that.

Usual screen on time from day one to mid-day two
If we're going with screen on time over just one day, we could have gotten around 7 (or rarely even 8) hours regularly, except that's not really earth-shattering considering the battery capacity. That said, the Mi Note 10's battery life is very good, and it's not likely you'll ever deplete its charge in just one day, unless your use case is even more extreme than ours and that's certainly a rarity.

Screen on time snapshots over one day of use
Speaking of which, our use case involves around 14-16 hours off the charger, with mostly Wi-Fi connectivity, an hour or two of mobile data on 4G, Bluetooth and location always on, an hour or two of music streaming via Bluetooth, and an hour or two of phone calls.

Camera

According to the company itself, the point of the Mi Note 10's development was for Xiaomi to have a smartphone that can beat the Huawei P30 Pro in the camera department. And while it's debatable whether the Mi Note 10 achieved that feat, it undoubtedly packs one of the best camera systems on the market right now. Not only that, but it's also the most flexible. Plus it's the first phone to sport a 108MP primary shooter. While it isn't Xiaomi's all-out true flagship right now in all respects, it definitely has the best cameras of any device the company has ever made.

So let's look at what the Mi Note 10 was capable of during the extended amount of time we spent with it. Note that we haven't shot any 108MP photos because while that's an option, cameras with Quad-Bayer filters are not supposed to be used like that. So, like always, we went with the defaults, which for the main cam means a resolution of 27MP.

Let's start with daylight shots coming from the main sensor. These are generally great, with plenty of detail and amazingly low levels of noise. We shot with HDR on Auto and the dynamic range is impressive. Colors are accurate, and overall you really can't go wrong with this camera in adequate lighting conditions.

Daytime samples from the main camera
The ultrawide has autofocus, which is very rare, but the quality of the shots it produces isn't on par with the main sensor (not that we expected it to be). Shots come out underexposed and the colors aren't nearly as accurate. The edge distortion correction works well, but the photos do turn out on the soft side.

Daytime samples from the ultrawide
The 2x zoom camera interestingly produces sharp images that are quite noisy. Colors are good and seem to match those of the 108MP shooter, and dynamic range is adequate, but not on par with the main camera.

Daytime samples from the 12 MP 2x zoom camera
The 5MP 5x zoom camera produces 8MP pictures, because upscaling, but let's ignore that weirdness and see what they look like. While there's clearly a quality hit here compared to using the other cams, OIS helps tremendously with creating shots that aren't blurry, and overall the images are sharp, if rather noisy. The theme of consistent color processing continues, though.

Daytime samples from the 5x zoom camera
The camera app lets you go all the way up to 50x through the magic of digital zoom, but unsurprisingly the results you'll get will be anything but outstanding. We took a few such samples just to let you know what to expect. On one hand, it's amazing that shots like these are even possible on a phone nowadays, on the other hand... Well, take a look for yourself.

50x hybrid/digital zoom
The dedicated macro camera may seem like an odd addition at first, and no one will judge you if you assume this is there just so Xiaomi can claim the Mi Note 10 has five snappers. In reality though, this module allows you to get closer to your intended subject than ever before in a phone, and that has the potential to create some very interesting perspectives. We tried our hand with food shots and plants, and while the quality isn't amazing especially when you go pixel peep, it's an interesting effect. We wish the photos were higher resolution, though, but for now we're stuck with 2MP.

Macro camera samples
When the lights go out, the main sensor churns out very good photos even in Auto mode, with good detail and accurate looking colors. It's not likely you'll need to use Night mode all that much because of how good the regular pictures come out.

Nighttime samples from the main camera
Another reason you might want to stick with auto is that Mi Note 10's Night mode is one of the most subdued we've seen - its improvements are barely visible. It does sometimes help to restore some clipped highlights, but it also seems to lose sharpness and some outright detail, so it's not even a clean win. You should also keep in mind that every Night mode shot makes the camera unavailable for a good 7+ seconds, which alone may outweight the benefits on many occassions.

Night mode
At night the ultrawide really feels stretched, producing underexposed shots that don't have a lot of detail or dynamic range. Autofocus struggles too, so it's best to only use this at night when you really have to have a different perspective. And even then, manage your expectations.

Nighttime samples from the ultrawide
The 2x zoom cam can be used at night up to a point, and its results are sharp and detailed but noisy.

Nighttime samples from the 12 MP 2x zoom camera
If you cross some unknown ambient light threshold, the phone isn't using the 12MP sensor for 2x shots anymore, since it spits out 27 MP images - this means the device is using a crop off the main sensor and then upscaling. Here are some samples.

Nighttime 2x samples cropped from the main sensor
When you try and use the 5x shooter in darker settings, understandably the quality will be far from amazing, but you can still get usable shots, which was more than we expected. Not stuff to have printed, definitely, and don't expect wonderful dynamic range or levels of detail. There's a lot of variance from this cam at night, so while some snaps can be very bad, others are actually decent considering you're zooming that much from a phone.

Nighttime 5x zoom shots
Selfies are good during the day with high dynamic range and accurate colors. The detail levels aren't outstanding, but perfectly passable. If you use Portrait Mode there won't be any HDR processing, and results are satisfying with good subject isolation. At night, unsurprisingly, images turn underexposed and soft and grainy, but with a little bit of attention to your surroundings and ambient lighting you can still come up with some usable shots.

Selfies, day and night, Portrait Mode off/on
Conclusion
The Mi Note 10 is really tough to evaluate, because it reminds us of the concept of a crossover in the car world, at least when that started to arrive many years ago. Here's a device that defies the norms we've gotten used to, and thus is hard to describe in one word. Flagship? No. Flagship killer? No. Mid-range? No. So what is it then?
Well, for starters it's a unique handset for Xiaomi, because for all of the company's talk about focusing on cameras more in the past, it's never really made a statement quite as big as the Mi Note 10 in that regard. This is Xiaomi's best phone ever in terms of cameras, by a long shot.
It takes very good pictures in all conditions, but where it truly excels is in versatility, provided by the five shooters on its rear. You got your usual wide (regular in smartphone terms), ultrawide, and 2x zoom, but then there's also a 5x zoom snapper, as well as a dedicated macro cam. That last one may sound like it was only included to take the final camera tally up to five, but in our use it has actually been useful on occassion. It can create a very unique perspective for shots of food or flowers, for example.


So the Mi Note 10 is a clear success when you only look at it from this point of view. It's proof that Xiaomi has finally gotten serious about cameras. Just consider that this is the same company that as recently as last year didn't have OIS on any lens of its flagship device, and now this model has OIS on two rear cams.

The Mi Note 10 is also a success in other ways - the battery is huge and the battery life very good (even if we were expecting even more, we really can't complain), the screen is of great quality, the build is outstanding, MIUI 11 is a breath of fresh air designwise, compared to its predecessor (while still not being a huge departure).

And yet. The mid-range chipset and software work together to create a user experience that is just slower than what most flagship devices offer you these days. It's consistently slower, but at least there are no random lags or stutters or freezes. As an aside, it's strange that this phone is still on Android 9 Pie, many months after the outing of Android 10, and that it's stuck on an old security patch level. The Mi Note 10 is also quite heavy and big, so handling it might prove uncomfortable for people with all but the largest of hands. On the other hand, if for you heft equals quality, then this will feel like even more of a premium device.

So we can judge the Mi Note 10 as a flagship, and then it falls short - as in, it's not a full package in that respect. We can judge it as a mid-ranger, and then it pretty much tops all of the charts - but it's Xiaomi's most expensive mid-ranger ever, and affordability has always been a huge part of the brand's mass appeal.

In the end perhaps the best strategy is to just lay aside those traditional evaluations and look at the Mi Note 10 by itself, without trying to make it fit into any predetermined category, because it doesn't. It's a great camera phone, with the most flexible rear setup we've seen yet. It has very good battery life. It has a good quality screen, but it's 60Hz and this is likely to become a bigger and bigger downside as this year progresses. It runs an old version of Android still, but with the newest iteration of MIUI. It looks like a flagship, it shoots like a flagship, but it performs like a mid-ranger. It's priced above a traditional Xiaomi mid-ranger though.

Hence, the Mi Note 10 is a sum of contradictions. It's one of the most intriguing phones of 2019, not in spite of all this, but because of it. And despite its price, it may just be the cheapest way to get your hands on a camera system that good - unless you can find a very good deal on a Huawei or Samsung from last year.
The Mi Note 10 is for those people who don't see the lack of a top of the line chipset as a deal breaker, but at the same time can't live without top notch cameras and want to spend as little as currently possible for that. We're not sure if the suddenly resurrected Mi Note line will continue to be all about experimentation in the future, but the Mi Note 10 definitely feels like one of the most interesting concepts of 2019 in the mobile world, even if you're not likely to have thought of it that way.








Xiaomi Mi Note 10 (CC9 Pro) 108MP Penta Camera Mobile Phone Global Version Online Smartphone


$608.48


$609.99








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