Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Note Review: Something Special

The leading Asian smartphone brand, Xiaomi, strives to keep the position on the market by providing exquisite devices at affordable prices, and always take a step ahead of the competition. Their product line is extensive, and they strive to maintain the position. You can find quality products from Xiaomi in every price tier – from the cheaper ones to the top flagship models that stun the eye and amaze by performance.

The trend of different variations of premium devices from smartphone manufacturers is at its prime, and every brand provides slightly different models with slightly distinct name prefixes. Today we are reviewing the Mi Note, one of the variations of the latest flagship devices line from Xiaomi. A premium build, flagship-class specs, and popular MIUI interface built on Android platform are the features of this model. To challenge the competition, Xiaomi put up the Mi Note and Mi Note Pro, covering the several market segments simultaneously.

Even though Mi Note Pro is the current flagship of the brand, packing the today’s top tech specs, the Mi Note is not far behind. The improvements in MIUI launcher and camera, alongside the quality casing that provides several coating options, are the enough reasons to have a look at this smartphone.

Xiaomi-Mi-Note-Front

Here are the official specs of the phone:

5.7″ IPS capacitive touchscreen with 386ppi; 1080p resolution; Corning Gorilla Glass 3

2.5GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU; 3GB of RAM; Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset

13Megapixel camera, f/2.0 aperture, dual-tone dual-LED flash, 4K video capture

4Megapixel (16:9) front camera, 1/3” sensor size, 1080p video recording

Android 4.4.4 KitKat – MIUI v.6

16/64 GB of built-in memory

Dual SIM dual standby (1x Micro-SIM, 1x Nano-SIM)

Active noise cancelation with a dedicated microphone

Android 4.4 Kit Kat with MIUI v.6

3,000mAh battery

The Packaging

The phone comes in traditional Xiaomi box, made from recycled paper. The box is small and provides enough space for the phone itself, the AC adapter, and Micro USB cable, alongside the standard English and Chinese manual, and an SIM card pin. The type of cable that comes with the packaging can vary, depending on the retailer you choose.

Xiaomi-Mi-Note-packaging

Some online retailers provide additional flip cases and screen protectors alongside the smartphone, which is added value for the money – you won’t need to search for these accessories later.

Design, Build Quality

The design of this model comes from the Xiaomi MI 4, as it was a big hit on the market when it came out (and it still is). The MI 4 design was improved, resized, and the final product looks and feels great. Thin bezels, thin metal frame, and glass back. Gorilla Glass 3 is protecting the cornered display, providing 2.5D effect along the edges. The rear curve is really noticeable, and one of the first impressions when you hold the phone in your hands. The curving edges trend started with Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, and the buyers loved it, so the Mi Note designers implemented it, with great results.

We find the buttons scheme the same as in the predecessor, the MI 4. The front is capacitive, with no physical buttons. Some will love this, some won’t (Galaxy Note fans, for example). Above the screen is the earpiece and sensors, alongside the front camera, with audio rocker on top of the device. The bottom side contains speakers and micro USB connection port. On the left side, there is an SIM tray, and volume buttons paired with the power button are on the right. The SIM tray can hold one Micro SIM and one Nano SIM. The Micro SD slot is left out of Mi Note, which can be a downside to some users. The storage variations are 16GB/64GB.

The device is built with quality and durability in mind, and the assembly is top-notch. The great sensation of holding the Mi Note has its downside – glass back is very slippery.

Display

The Mi Note has a beautiful 5.7″ IPS display, with 386 pixels per inch density, and 1080p resolution. The Corning Gorilla Glass 3 ensures the durability of the screen in almost every condition. 2.5D curve provides a great experience and view angles. The display is brighter than one on the Mi 4 while other characteristics are similar. The direct sunlight performance of the unit is decent. Still, on the regular daily usage, the viewing angles and visibility are great.

The pixel density is good overall, and lower than Mi Note Pro, which rocks both higher resolution and pixel density. Contrast is high, and colors are live and strong. Same goes for the brightness – you’d want to turn off the automatic brightness function, as it tends to set the display too bright.

display of the Xiaomi Mi Note

The display is a definite plus of Mi Note, and one of the reasons to get this phone.

Next, we will talk about the hardware inside this smartphone.

Processor, RAM

The unit powering the Xiaomi Mi Note comes from the worldwide known family – Qualcomm Snapdragon, and the chip is labeled 801. two a slightly older model (mid-2014), which utilizes a quad-core setting from Krait, clocked at 2.5 GHz. The processing unit is paired with Adreno 330 GPU, which runs at 578 MHz. To ensure the quality and smooth multitasking, the Mi Note provides 3 GB of RAM.

snapdragon 801

The processing unit is solid, and provides good performance, in range with every other device that features the processors from this product line. Octa-Core units are the only ones that outperform the 801, and those can be found in more expensive smartphones. The lack of 64-bit support isn’t that important at the time, but it will gain importance in the future.

Camera

Here’s where Mi Note shines – the camera of this phone is excellent. The 13 MegaPixel sensor is equipped with a dual-tone LED flash and improved with optical image stabilization. The interface is simplified and changed since the latest MIUI – three segments for three functions: shutter, flash trigger, and front camera button.

Xiaomi-Mi-Note-Camera Interface

The camera has more than a dozen filters to apply to photography, with a live preview before you decide to take the photo. Next, there are functions like Panorama, Refocus, Manual, Delay Shutter, and Highlight tones. The face detection works like a charm, in both front and rear cameras – you’ll make great selfies with this one.

Here are the image samples:

click on a thumbnail for a full-sized image

As you can see on the samples, the lightning is good, the colors are very accurate and sharp almost to the HDR level. With this option, you’ll enhance them even further, but it won’t be necessary often. Manual focus performs better than the autofocus.

Video recording of the rear camera has multiple options, and it can record in 4k at 30 frames per second,  and at 1080p resolution on 30 & 60 frames per second. The bitrate of the video recording is around 40 Megabits per second while audio is captured at 96 Kilobytes per second with 2 channels (stereo). Mi Note records great, and provides excellent results, with a high level of detail.

The front camera of the Xiaomi Mi Note packs a 4 Megapixel lens, with UltraPixel sensor tech setup that was introduced by HTC. The images made by front shooter are detailed, the camera is capturing quickly, and the detail quality is high, even when zoomed. This is one of the best front cameras so far.

Storage

The Xiaomi Mi Note can be purchased in both 16 or 64 GB versions. The phablet can access the memory in the Security app, which allows you to manage your space quickly. Here’s how it looks.

Security app - storage

It is very handy when you are trying to manage cache memory.

Unfortunately, the memory can’t be expanded via MicroSD. The manufacturer could follow the trend and make the 128GB version as well, but they didn’t go with this option, either on Mi Note Pro.

Operating system, User Interface

The Xiaomi Mi Note works on Android 4.4.4 KitKat together with the company’s latest MIUI v6 launcher. Xiaomi’s customizations run very efficiently, and they replace everything, including all Google services. The Mi Note phones that are sold in China don’t have the access to the Google’s services, but the models that are sold by Xiaomi on official markets outside of China, come with the entire Google package pre-installed.

The MIUI v6 completely improves the user interface, though it keeps the same layout and operational logic. Xiaomi has put an enormous effort to make the UI flat and simplistic as possible and yet maintain the complete functionality intact.

The MI Note home screen has a very elegant and simple interface. There is no app drawer which means that all apps are stored on the home screen (Similar to iOS). We can find some tiny indicators that are located at the top right corner, which is quite contrary to what other manufacturers do.

Notifications can be removed by sliding them left to right (swipes in the opposite direction will lead us to the quick settings). Even notifications panel can be changed in the settings. We can decide whether they should pop up above, be displayed in the status bar with small icons, etc.

The battery symbol can be displayed in two ways; a battery that represent a percentage or a thin bar. If we press and hold the multi-tasking button, we can see the options that will allow us to modify our launcher. We can drag and drop widgets and apps for our convenience. Also, it is possible to change the background to any desired transitions.

The improvements to the Home Screen can go further. The theme store will offer us countless themes that alter the look of the menus significantly. Some are purchased by Mi credits that can be bought via Mi store, but many are free.

here are some screenshots of the themes variations – does one on the right look familiar?

Connectivity

Dual SIM is a standard these days, and Mi Note follows. When one SIM card is connected to the 3G or LTE network, the second one will be in the GSM-only connection mode. Speaking of wireless connectivity, Mi Note offers high speeds with 4G – up to 150 Mb/s of download and 50 Mb/s of upload. The Wi-Fi module is packed with all frequencies up to 200 Mb/S of bandwidth, and there is the latest Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity feature.

The small connectivity-based downside is the lack of NFC.

Mi Note supports GPS, GLONASS, and BeiDou. Unfortunately, there is no FM radio module, as the Snapdragon 801 doesn’t come with FM support. The market analysis showed that people rarely use FM chip nowadays and opt for online radio streaming more often.

Battery

The Xiaomi Mi Note is equipped with large 3000 mAh battery that can be taken from 0 up to 100% in just 2 hours thanks to a Quick-Charge 2.0.
The discharge time is fortunately much longer. We have tested the battery with the LaptopMag’s program, and we the results of endurance were approximately 9 hours of opening a series of websites in a loop. We have set the display brightness to a constant 65%, which is more than enough in a well-lit room as well as outside.

Here’s the battery life of the Mi Note compared to other popular Asian smartphones.

Xiaomi-Redmi-Note-2-AH-battery

An ordinary day included about 1 hour of Spotify running, managing two email accounts, half an hour in Youtube, half an hour of browsing the Web, and the rest in many social networks. The battery will get you through a whole day in a balanced mode, but those who want longer battery life will have to look elsewhere.

Additional Features

The phone is packed with features, and as additional ones, we can mention Mi Cloud support. The manufacturer provides cloud sevice for syncing between devices; every user gets 5 gigs of storage for free, where multimedia, and other files can be stored and syncronised. Everything can be stored on this cloud: your contacts, messages, logs, notes, settings, etc. Here are the screenshots:

Additionally, there is a messaging service which provides users to send SMS via data package, and without using credit – this showcases that Xiaomi learned from leading worldwide brands. The “Find My Phone” feature is also incorporated within the Mi Account that you’ll make as a new user. The quality of the additional services that are available to users is good and it adds great value to the purchase.

Pros & Cons

After some time spent with this smartphone, we can say that is really easy to get used to it. The premium design, and build quality unquestionably catches the eye of the beholder, and people definitely notice the phablet. The price tag is cheaper compared to the prices of other brands flagships. The big, bright display and the quality cameras are the features that will surely satisfy the majority of its users.

On the other hand, there are some illogical disadvantages that we couldn’t comprehend. The storage capacity variations are weird & Micro SD slot is missing.

Next, we have no NFC, and FM radio and the older Android build, lacking some really good features that newer versions bring – like ultra power saving mode. Speaking of energy, the battery can’t be removed. That was the price to pay for the great design, which will be compromised by some, and not by many.

Our Opinion

We can say for sure that the Xiaomi Mi Note has a precise goal, which is to provide a flagship-worthy performance at an affordable price. Not only that it looks classy, and it’s an excellent piece of craftsmanship, the Xiaomi Note Mi is also fast, has a good camera and new UI.

The Xiaomi Mi Note 64GB model brings a hefty price tag – which is by no means unusual for what this phablet offers. It’s still steeper than usual for Xiaomi Mi Note, which is about $107 /654.16 Yuan less than a 16GB Samsung Galaxy Note 4 that we would buy in Europe. It is easily justified by the extra software features, the proper after-market support, and the more reliable OS updates.

We do have a couple of complaints also; we would like to see the housing less slippery, and the auto-focus faster. One factor to take into consideration is worldwide connectivity compatibility – different countries might experience some issues or limitations.

Overall, if you decide to purchase Xiaomi Mi Note, you’ll get a great value for the money.

Buying from online stores is smart – it will get you discounts and other commodities. We browsed the online markets for you, and  here are the best Mi Note deals  for you to get:

Mi Note 16GB on lightinthebox.com – $354.99 / 2324 Yuan

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