“While asking for a higher price as compared to previous Xiaomi devices, the Mi Note offers an alluring design and flagship hardware specifications”
Xiaomi as a brand has always been regarded as a value-for-money smartphone maker until today, but with the new league of smartphones coming from the brand, things are certainly changing for the good. The new Xiaomi Mi Note and Xiaomi Mi Note Pro are two devices that could potentially rewrite Xiaomi's story in international as well as in the Indian market in the coming days. Both smartphones offer an uber premium look-and-feel while asking for a premium price as well.
Its latest Android smartphone that we have exclusively imported all the way from China has a new story to tell with its appealing design and loaded hardware. The Mi Note was recently launched in China carrying a price tag close to 2,399 Yuan, and with this detailed review, we intend to find out how well it can justify its price tag. If you are a little short on time, you can also check out the quick review here for the highlights about this new smartphone.
Building upon the design ideology of the Xiaomi Mi 4, the Mi Note takes things to a completely new level with a higher degree of finish and finesse. The device features glass-sandwich design with the use of a metal frame in between two layers of glass. Despite that, it tips the scales at a mere 161 grams in terms of overall weight. This has been done with the use of high density, lightweight metal alloy that adds sturdiness without adding weight.
The 5.7-inch display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3, but as compared to the front, the company has added an innovative design on the back of the device as well. The recently-unveiled Samsung Galaxy S6 is the perfect example to explain the design of the Xiaomi Mi Note, but on the back of the smartphone. The back features a dual curve based design in addition to the 2.5d curved glass on the front, which along with the chamfered metallic edges offers utmost comfort for long calls.
The back gets a glossy finish that looks good, but makes it prone to smudges and fingerprints. The colour treatment has been provided from the inside for longevity. In addition, the rounded and tapered edges add to looks as well as usability. Small design innovations have been adopted to ensure longevity. For instance, high-density metal has been used on the sides, which should ensure that it can withstand rough use. The smartphone sports the volume rocker and power key on the right. On the front, the smartphone features the standard three capacitive button layout for UI-related actions.
In addition to great looks, the Mi Note also displays many minute little details that show the quality of craftsmanship that has gone in the making of this device. The speaker grill has perfectly evenly drilled-out holes, the laser cut keys have tapered edges and above all, the seamless design just adds to the look and feel.
The display of this smartphone is a 5.7-inch IPS unit, which bears a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. In terms of colour reproduction, the display is as good as AMOLED displays and offers ample amounts of contrast and brightness levels. However, the colour reproduction is a little over-saturated resulting in overwhelming colours, which are good for gaming and multimedia but for everyday use its might be slightly straining for the eyes.
The simplest test is to capture a picture and check the results using a calibrated monitor and the display on the device. In that test the display on this smartphone did offer brighter and more vibrant colours while in real life the image was not that vibrant. Nonetheless, overall the display is a treat for the eyes and has ample brightness to make sure that everything is legible even in brightly-lit conditions.
Despite being one of the most expensive smartphones launched by Xiaomi till date, the Mi Note still features full HD resolution on a 5.7-inch display offering a pixel density of 386ppi.The display is vibrant and there is no pixelation due to the higher pixel count. The brightness levels are good and owing to the slim bezels, close to 74 percent of the area on the front is occupied by the display alone, making it comfortable for one-handed use as well.
Although the Mi Note does not boasts of a super sensitive touch, but in reality it does offer one. All the actions, gestures and movements are easily and accurately registered by the device, resulting in perfect corresponding action. In addition, this smartphone also works well with gloves and even though the sensitivity goes down marginally, the users can still use the Mi Note without having to take off their gloves, which is perfect for cold weather.
The MIUI 6.0, pronounced as Me-UI, which has been layered on top of Android KitKat 4.4, handles the software part on the new Xiaomi Mi Note. Being the sixth generation platform, MIUI 6.0 brings a host of features to the table along with a simple and easy-to-use layout, which is beneficial for both amateur and experienced Android users. In terms of look and feel, the user interface gives utmost control to the users to change and personalise the device the way they want. To facilitate this, a lot of personalisation features and apps have been baked into the software so that users can personalise the device right out of the box.
The Mi Note is yet to be announced for the Indian market and hence the available storage might differ slightly in the India specific units as we have seen with the previous Mi4 smartphone as well.
First and foremost, the units in China come without the Google app suite and devoid of any Google services running on it. However, there is a simple and quick fix for it and the whole suite of Google apps and services can be easily downloaded and installed.
Once that has been taken care of, the Mi Note with the MIUI6 offers a great deal of features to the users with its unique security system that includes a very useful app permissions manager. This nifty little software monitors and intercepts each and every application that is being installed or even running on the device. While doing that it carefully monitors the permissions that application is asking for and prompts the user for appropriate action. Users can create a rule for a particular app or can also choose to allow the app to run as a singular instance. This potentially protects the users from malicious apps, offering a more secure user experience.
As another one of its biggest features, the 13-megapixel camera is among one of the best mobile phone cameras available today, featuring 13-megapixel resolution. However, the 13-megapixel resolution is where its relation and similarities end with most other smartphones and cameras.
The sensor offers good image capture quality and coupled with the optical image stabilisation, the device can deliver stunning visuals. In low light, its dual-tone flash kicks in, offering bright images with the flash while minus the flash, the images do turn out to be a bit grainy. Its fast auto-focus mechanism allows the device to take images super fast while keeping the focus in check for quality and sharpness.
Additionally, Xiaomi has offered a very useful camera app. With this, users can fine-tune settings for the best possible picture as per need. The app allows users to take control of the settings and image modes for creative photography. In addition, the whole app is simple and laid out neatly making it more useful.
On the front, the Mi Note features a 4-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens and a 1/3 inch image sensor with 2um pixel size. In simpler words, the front camera offers better and sharper looking selfies which due to its bigger sensor size capture ample amount of light and detail resulting in better pictures overall.
Overall, the camera offers good image captures in varied scenarios however, for a detailed look at the images captured using the Mi Note’s shooter, check out the camera review.
Flaunting the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked at an impressive 2.5GHz, the Mi Note falls straight in the flagship category. Along with a speedy processor, the Mi Note also gets the Adreno 330 GPU running at an impressive 578MHz for graphical prowess. Although it is not the only smartphone flaunting the 801 chip but the Mi Note gets a great benefit from its display department. While most other flagship devices bearing the same chip get QHD resolution displays, the full HD resolution display that the Mi Note sports demands far less in terms of computing muscle, leaving more room for the apps to perform well, resulting in better performance. However, as one of its characteristics, the Snapdragon 801 heats up fast, but the metal frame offers passive cooling and helps the smartphone stay within bearable range.
To support the processor, there is 3GB of RAM and a choice between 16/64GB of internal storage. Similar to previous Mi devices, there is no option of adding more storage, but if you wish for more, you can opt for the 64GB storage variant. For connectivity, the smartphone supports 4G for calling and data access. Wireless connectivity is offered in the form of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It misses out on NFC though. The device does feature support for Indian 4G networks and has support for both TD as well as FD LTE frequency bands, meaning users can use this in India as well as while travelling abroad.
The hardware offers ample computing power for the device to offer flawless performance for multitasking as well immersive gaming experience. We tried to open a number of applications to check its multitasking capabilities, but it did not crash or give up at any point. The device with this hardware can easily work with a number of applications running in the background and 3GB of RAM really comes in handy during such occasions when the application load is higher.
One of the highlights of this new smartphone is its battery backup and with its 3,000mAh battery pack the smartphone easily manages to go beyond a day and a half for most users. Even with heavy use, the device should easily last through the day. Light users would be easily able to stretch the device beyond a couple of days with regular use of both cellular data and Wi-Fi usage as well.
In our battery drain test, where a 720p resolution video was played on the device in a continuous loop at 50 percent brightness and volume level, the device managed to offer close to eight hours of playback time.
In terms of cellular connectivity, 3G connection does not seem to have much difference on the battery life, however what adverse effect 4G network will bring is something which we are unable to test out, since the 4G networks are unavailable in the Delhi-NCR region.
The Mi Note features a nice set of features offering functionality and utility. the build quality offered by the device is amazing, and there are barely any flaws in the design. While the price at which the company has made the device available in the international market puts it in league with other devices that the Mi Note can beat some or the other way.
However if you compare the hardware offered by the device, the closest competition would be in the form of the LG G3(Review), Sony Xperia Z3(Review) or the HTC One M8(Review), which feature the same processor and hardware combination more or less. The Mi Note with its pricing can give the competition a run for their money and still end up offering way more than what these device would, at a higher price.
Overall, the Mi Note is priced as a premium product as far as Xiaomi’s pricing goes and definitely looks and feels more premium than what the company is asking for it. For now, it has managed to impresses us quite a bit and we hope that the Indian version would offer an even greater experience with much more improved software for the users here.
Photos by Raj Rout