We all know the drill by now… Xiaomi makes budget phones that appeal by packing a lot of power into a tiny price tag. But with its newest phone, the Mi Note, Xiaomi is doing things a bit differently. This time, Xiaomi is aiming at the high-end, pitching the Mi Note up against the iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Note 4 in terms of size and ambitions.
What hasn’t changed is that the price is low – the Mi Note starts at just RMB 2,299, which is US$370. That’s only US$50 more than its previous flagship phone, the Mi4, which is now relegated to being Xiaomi’s mid-range device.
More accurately, the Mi4 and the Mi Note are like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The looks and specs are very similar; the main difference is the size.
And what a size it is. The Mi Note comes with a 5.7-inch full HD screen. Xiaomi has managed to make it slightly thinner, lighter, and shorter than the iPhone 6 Plus, despite it packing a larger display than Apple’s gargantuan 6 Plus. Despite the clever design, it still looks and feels big. In your hand, the Mi Note looks big enough to be used to give someone a 50 Shades of Grey-style spanking.
Here are the specs:
OK, let’s dive into the Mi Note review for real.
HardwareThe Mi Note, at first glance, looks a lot like the Mi4, which is OK because the Mi4 is quite a handsome thing, as we established in our review last year. Aside from the monumental size and the larger screen, the main difference between Xiaomi’s top two phones is that the Mi Note has a very nicely rounded rear that curves in at the edges. It’s only a few millimeters, and it’s hard to capture in a photo (see below), but it helps make the Mi Note feel thinner than it is.
The curved edges and the slimmer metal frame also help a lot in terms of ergonomics. They make the Mi Note really easy and pleasant to hold in one hand. Despite its girth, you could still hold it in just one hand and use your thumb to hit some areas of the screen. That makes it unlike the iPhone 6 Plus, which is pretty much impossible to hold in one hand because the perfectly round edges make it as grippy as an eel in a lube factory.
Below the screen there are three capacitive buttons that light up. Most Android phones ditched these years ago, but the Chinese market seems to like them and Xiaomi is persisting with them. If you’re going to have capacitive buttons, common sense should dictate that the “back” button is on the far left so that it falls easily in reach of your thumb, but Xiaomi has put it on the right. However, that doesn’t really matter with the giant Mi Note because you thumb can hit precisely none of the buttons when you’re holding it in one hand. But that’s also a problem with the 6 Plus’ “home” button.
The rear of the Mi Note is home to a camera accompanied by a two-tone flash. More on the camera later.
Absent from the phone is a fingerprint scanner. At less than half the price of equivalent phones from the likes of Apple and Samsung, Xiaomi had to cut corners somewhere.
But the phone on the whole doesn’t feel like any corners have been cut. The tacky and slippy plastic of most Xiaomi phones has been replaced by glass both front and rear. The whole thing feels solid, and there’s not a creak to be heard and not even a little rattle from the volume or power buttons. Because of the glass, there isn’t even any flex. (This phone, which is 64GB, is one I bought, so no drop tests from me.)
There is the option of black for the Mi Note, but the black version seems to be in very short supply.
By the way, that Mi Note Pro you heard about during the launch isn’t out yet. Once it does arrive, it’ll pack a 2K screen, add even more RAM (4GB of it), and come with a choice of white-plus-silver, white-plus-gold, or black. It’ll be a lot more expensive than the regular Mi Note – a whacking US$530.
Of course, all this is pretty much academic to people living outside of mainland China. Xiaomi is slow at rolling out new models to its existing markets (the Mi3 from 2013 is still the newest top-end device it sells everywhere apart from China and India), so it could take – we’re guessing here, going on past performance – as long as six months before the Mi Note lands in a country outside of China. And that’ll probably be India first.
Screen and soundThe Mi Note’s 1080p screen is bright and superbly clear. Across the 5.7-inch screen, it works out at 386PPI.
The phone has auto brightness – a good power-saving feature – but it seems either very slow or rather buggy. It responds fairly well to entering a dark room by dimming the screen so that it’s at a comfortable level to the eyes, but once you leave that room and go into a lighter space, it doesn’t light up again. Locking the screen and then reopening fixes the auto brightness. We had the same issue last year with the Mi4 even though that was using an older version of Xiaomi’s Android skin (MIUI V5; but the Mi Note ships with MIUI V6).
The earphone jack is on the top. On the bottom, there’s a micro-USB port as well as a sizable speaker outlet. The speaker’s big enough to pump out a good amount of sound, though it’s overly loud. Individuals who blast out music from the phone’s speakers – seriously, stop doing that in public – will find that the phone tends to distort the music a bit because it’s so loud. But it’s perfectly fine for games, online radio, TV shows, and other such stuff where the missing sonic elements won’t be noticed.
Software and featuresMIUI is Xiaomi’s secret weapon. Back when almost nobody had stock Android and when HTC and Samsung were producing Android skins that were seemingly designed by a committee of Windows XP enthusiasts, Xiaomi’s MIUI made its debut and looked young and fresh.
After a few years it started to look outdated as iOS and then Android got flatter and sleeker, so Xiaomi has given MIUI its biggest ever refresh for MIUI V6 – based on Android 4.4 at the moment, not 5.0.
MIUI adds quite a lot to stock Android, but there are also a few omissions that, for the way I use my phone, feel like bad choices. For example, interactive notifications – those useful “reply” or “delete” buttons on your alerts that were first pioneered by Google and then picked up by Apple’s iOS – are really useful, but MIUI has got rid of them. Also, the very minimal lockscreen features only a number to indicate new notifications, so you can’t just glance at your screen when the phone is locked to see what the alert is – you’ll have to tap on the number to make the notifications appear in detail.
Furthermore, the lockscreen doesn’t show things like controls for the radio app you’re using, so I have to go through the whole rigmarole of unlocking the phone just to skip to the next segment in the NPR One app. There are music controls, however, on the notification shade.
I think the notification shade is accessible from the lockscreen in some instances, but because I added a VPN and was forced to apply a phone security pattern, I could only access the notification shade after unlocking the phone. That interrupted the usual workflow I’m used to on iOS or stock Android.
Apart from those quibbles, Xiaomi’s additions to Android have practical, day-to-day benefits. You can choose precisely which toggles (pictured above) appear on the notification shade and arrange their order. I also like the app-by-app controls over which ones can display notifications (a lot like in iOS). The “do not disturb” scheduling is also vital for unwinding from work. There are lots more additions, of course, but those three are the most significant and useful from my point of view.
There is, of course, the option to do easy theming, but I really don’t like those mostly childish themes.
I don’t see any software features in the Mi Note geared towards the larger screen.
CameraMy biggest bugbear with the Mi4 was the camera, which produced photos that were over-processed. It even failed to see some colors, especially struggling to deal with strong purples or pinks. In my review I gave the example of a purple lamp in my home that the Mi4 displayed in its photos as blue. The good news is that Xiaomi has largely fixed this problem in the Mi Note, though the phone’s HDR is still too unrealistically strong to my eyes.
While the worst excesses of the previous generation camera are fixed, the Mi Note still produces photos that are a bit too bright for my liking when shooting indoors in good lighting. Being too bright, the colors are drowned out. On the plus side, indoor photos in poor light benefit from the extra light without needing the flash; the Mi Note camera manages that with minimal low-light fuzziness.
When taking photos outdoors on an overcast or polluted day, the Mi Note tended not to pick up on subtle lighter shades, such as touches of blue in the sky, and created a scene that looked even gloomier than it really was – and that was even with HDR on (see the example photos embedded in the gallery below). It made a slightly polluted day look even worse than it was.
Elsewhere in the camera, there are options for snapping a panorama, “refocus”, manual, skin tones, “handheld twilight”, and video shooting. The panoramas are easy to make and don’t force you to use so much precision as on iOS. The refocus thing is something we saw on the Meizu MX4 last year, allowing you to snap a dynamic image with multiple focal points. While it works well, the resultant image can only be displayed on your phone (tap anywhere on the image to change the focus range – it’s really neat, like with those Lytro cameras) because there’s no format to export such images.
When shooting videos on the Mi Note you have the choice of recording it in SD, low HD, full HD, or 4k. The camera can also do fast-motion videos at all resolutions, as well as slow-motion only at 720p HD.
Here’s a gallery of unedited photos from the Mi Note:
Performance and batteryThe elongated battery inside the 155mm-long chassis of the Mi Note means that – like with the giant iPhone 6 Plus – the battery life is excellent. Even on a busy work day, the phone only sipped about half of its battery.
The phone is faultlessly quick, thanks to all that RAM allied with a Snapdragon processor, and MIUI’s controls over which apps can send notifications – I disallowed nearly all apps apart from those related to email, messaging, and social media – also seemed to rein in errant apps from running in the background excessively. That’s usually a major problem on Android, and yet stock Android provides no such form of user-oriented controls. (Apple’s iOS does it best, allowing users to control background app refreshing as well as per-app notifications.)
Here’s the Mi Note compared in size to the iPhone 6:
While the Mi Note feels quick, it’s interesting to observe that iOS 8 is a lot more responsive than MIUI V6. Putting the Mi Note side-by-side with the (less powerful) iPhone 6, tapping on the same app in each phone at the exact same time always results in iOS 8 acting quicker; iOS 8 is instantaneous, while MIUI take two blinks of the eye to perform the same action. It’s like the difference between the Tesla Model S P85D and a BMW M5 – the all-electric Tesla can deliver its power instantly, while the V8-powered BMW needs to build up the revs before it punches forward.
ConclusionThe Mi Note is a beautiful piece of hardware. Despite its huge size, it sits great in the hand and is even usable to a limited extent with just one hand. There are no flaws or deal breakers, but I’d contend that the camera is still some way off the all-round top-notch photo quality of the iPhone.
For those who’d rather have something not so massive, the Mi4 is the smaller sibling – but I’d steer clear of the Mi4 because of its color-challenged camera.
To play devil’s advocate, I’d say that despite MIUI smartening itself up a lot in V6, Xiaomi’s version of Android still seems too focused on childish customization – like those themes – and not enough on serious, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-down-to-work customizations that are geared towards people who use their phone as a serious work tool. That’s something I’d like to see more of.
I get the feeling the Mi Note will sell well in China, though the budget Redmi Note will probably continue its streak as Xiaomi’s top-selling phone. When will the Mi Note arrive in your country? The answer to that is 乁། * ❛ ͟ʖ ❛ * །ㄏ
Mi Note pros:
- Very good build quality
- Nice ergonomics make it feel not as large as it actually is
- New notifications manager in MIUI V6 helps you tame asshole apps that spam you
- Excellent battery life
- Feels like a bargain for US$370
Mi Note cons:
- MIUI has ripped out a few practical, workflow-related features from Android that I really miss
- Camera doesn’t do well outdoors in poor light; HDR is too strong
- No software tweaks take advantage of the larger screen
- orignal post copied from :techAisa