Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: A breath of fresh air
A superb mid-range phone with a 108-megapixel camera and excellent battery life, even if rivals are faster
Xiaomi might not be a household name in the UK yet, but surely that will change if it continues to offer handsets with flagship features at palatable prices. While the Mi Note 10 is more expensive than most of the company’s products, it also includes one unique feature: a 108-megapixel camera.
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Camera
This is a tad surprising when you consider that Samsung makes the Isocell Plus sensor inside; until now, this sensor could only be found on high-priced digital cameras. By default, the camera captures a 27-megapixel image, merging four neighbouring pixels of the same colour into one big pixel, in a process called “pixel-binning”. Xiaomi says this method increases the resolution of images, with brighter nighttime shots and reduced visual noise. You can also take a photo at the full 108-megapixel resolution with a quick trip to the Settings.
However, as we’ve previously seen with similar cameras, this process isn’t always flawless. Highlights can often be clipped, images can lack dynamic range when compared to rival sensors with lower megapixel counts, and the file size is obviously much larger than usual.
Luckily, we’re happy to report that this sensor is not so affected. No other smartphone is capable of packing this much detail into a single image, and while the colour rendition is a little off – images can look candy-coloured – there’s simply nothing better out there.
It’s so good, in fact, that you can count the bricks on buildings way off into the distance, and even identify the outlines of individual leaves buried in tree foliage. Naturally, the file size is massive – coming in at around 20MB, rather than the usual 2MB or 4MB – but it’s a small price to pay for such exceptional quality.
In tricky indoor low-light conditions, the Mi Note 10 still does a good job at cutting through the darkness without adding too much visual noise and blurriness. In fact, it’s better than competitors such as the OnePlus 7T Pro, which really struggled in low light.
And don’t forget the other four cameras on the back. The 108- megapixel camera is accompanied by an f/2.0 12MP 2x telephoto sensor, and another f/2.0 5MP 5x telephoto camera – which can be combined for a 10x hybrid zoom. The results are excellent, capturing detail at a distance that only the Huawei P30 Pro can match.
There’s also a 20-megapixel wide-angle camera with a field of view of 117˚ and a two-megapixel macro lens that lets you take close-up pictures between a distance of 2cm and 10cm. This ultra-close camera is fast becoming a common addition, and despite being gimmicky, we can’t argue with the Mi Note 10’s impressive results.
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Design
The excellent hybrid zoom isn’t the only thing the Note 10 has in common with the Huawei P30 Pro. It’s a little chunkier – the Mi Note 10 measures 9.67mm thick to the P30’s 8.4mm – but the similarities between the two are so plentiful that we could copy and paste the design section of our Huawei review and almost every point would be accurate.
As with the P30 Pro, you can choose the Note 10 in a fetching set of jewellery shop colours, with the pearlescent “Glacier White” glistening nicely in the light. There’s also “Aurora Green” and a less exciting “Midnight Black”. While there is a 3.5mm jack, you’ll be disappointed if you’re hoping to find an integrated stylus: despite including a “Note” in its name, this is no rival to the Samsung Galaxy Note range.
It’s a swish-looking phone – we prefer it to the typical iPhone copycats from Xiaomi – that’s only enhanced by a 6.5in screen that curves around the left and right edges. The Mi Note 10 has a teardrop notch eating its way into the top of the display, which houses the 32-megapixel selfie camera and earpiece speaker.
That screen is one of Xiaomi’s finest yet. You can choose between three different display profiles, but we recommend that you stick with the “Standard” profile as it’s the most colour accurate: it scored a practically perfect average Delta E of 1.04. This is unheard of from a smartphone at a mid-range price, with colours that look as good as can be across the entire palette.
As this is an AMOLED panel, contrast is equally perfect, and it’s still able to reach a maximum brightness of 400cd/m2 – which is good enough to prevent you from squinting in most brightly-lit environments. Other phones offer a higher resolution than 1,080 x 2,340, but that translates into a 398ppi pixel density. No one is going to complain about that.
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Specs and performance
Unfortunately, the Mi Note 10 doesn’t benefit from the fastest Qualcomm chipset. Instead, it’s powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 730G system on a chip. This includes an octa-core 2.2GHz/1.8GHz processor that’s built using an 8nm fabrication process, meaning it’s in the upper echelons of the mid-range, but if you want the last word in performance then you should choose a phone powered by the Snapdragon 855.
For instance, in Geekbench 4 the Note 10 scored 2,544 and 6,861 (single core and multicore respectively), versus 3,710 and 11,134 from the 855-powered OnePlus 7T. Graphics processing paints a similar picture. Here, the Mi Note 10 failed to reach the perfect 60fps average in the GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 onscreen test achieved by the OnePlus 7T, only managing 38fps. That’s not bad, of course, but you might struggle to compete in matches of Call of Duty: Mobile or Fortnite.
As far as configurations go, there are two Mi Note 10 variants available. One includes 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage while the other has 8GB and 256GB respectively, but note that storage can’t be expanded via microSD.
Casting things in a more positive light is the Xiaomi Mi Note 10’s 5,260mAh battery, which supports lightning-fast charging speeds of up to 30W. Unsurprisingly, the Mi Note 10’s battery life is very impressive, reaching 23hrs 12mins during our video-rundown test before needing to be recharged.
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Verdict
Much like Huawei, Xiaomi has the threat of US sanctions hanging over it. While it hasn’t received a ban, there’s a chance it may happen – especially if the company calls attention to itself by becoming more successful in the West.
So is it worth taking a risk on the Xiaomi Mi Note 10? Simply put, yes. The 108-megapixel sensor – as good as it is – isn’t the only thing that the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 has going for it. It’s well-priced, has a gigantic battery, looks fantastic and the screen is almost perfect. Yet again, Xiaomi’s pricing is a deep breath of fresh air.
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 specifications
Octa-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G (2x2.2GHz, 6x1.8GHz)
2,340 x 1,080
108MP (f/1.7), 12MP 2x telephoto (f/2.0), 5MP 5x telephoto (f/2.0), 20MP wide (f/2.2), 2MP macro (f/2.4)
Dust and water resistance
3.5mm headphone jack
USB connection type
Memory card slot (supplied)
158 x 74 x 9.7mm
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