Review Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Review: The 108 Megapixel Monster for $503.16
Xiaomi is known to have a lot of smartphone series, such as the Mi-Flagship series or the popular Mi Mix series, which was recently expanded with the Mi Mix Alpha. But not all series will be continued consistently. So it’s all the more surprising that after the last Xiaomi Mi Note 3 (release in September 2017) the new Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is now being released. The 108 megapixel Penta camera has attracted attention – and yet we’ve never been so sceptical about a Xiaomi smartphone.
- Xiaomi Mi Note 10
- at Gearbest for $503.16 (Coupon: GBXMNT10)
New, old curved design
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 could actually also be a Huawei P30 Pro. The 6,47″ AMOLED panel with Waterdrop-Notch reminds strongly of this, especially because of the curved design. In fact, it’s not the first curved smartphone to be released by Xiaomi. In the same series the Mi Note 2 with such a curved design has already been launched on the market. The front side is slightly bent over the edge to the left and right, in fact just like the P30 Pro mentioned above. The Mate 30 Pro from Huawei is much more reminiscent of a so-called waterfall design, the curves here are not so pronounced.
This curved design greatly enhances the effect of “borderlessness” and it looks very chic, but is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. On the left and on the right the frame is still minimal and the color of the back shimmers through. In fact, the lower edge of the screen is very thin and should easily compete with a Mi Mix 3, but even on the upper side there is hardly any room for the edge, despite the auricle.
The case frame, which is unusually thin on the sides due to the curved display but still securely connects the two glass sides, also barely has room. This results in a symmetry, as the back side is bent at the long sides in the same way as the front side. With our test device, the back definitely provides a wow effect. Not only the “Aurora green” underlines the high standard of the phone, but also the five cameras on the back are an eye-catcher. The Xiaomi lettering again runs vertically upwards from the lower left corner, opposite are the CE mark and technical information.
The top and bottom of the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 are also definitely interesting, because they are flat. So you can simply put the phone down, which can be quite helpful for some photo scenarios. We would be interested to know how deliberately Xiaomi did this. You have felt such a design recently seen on an iPhone SE.
Handling & Processing
With a total weight of 208 g it is definitely one of the heaviest Xiaomi smartphones, the Mi Mix 3 with integrated mechanical slider is even a few grams heavier. On the other hand there is a much larger battery, so despite the same display diagonal it is 15 g heavier than the Huawei P30 Pro, the model of the Mi Note 10. The slightly heavier weight suits the Mi Note 10 well, it’s smooth in the hand, yet looks very slim due to the curved design.
Since you want to get off to a good start with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, the workmanship is extremely important. After all, you don’t want cheap “Made in China” quality – luckily you don’t have to worry about that with Xiaomi. The Mi Note 10 is well crafted, even though they are striving for a rather “new” design again. No edge is sharp, the connections on the underside are neatly milled out, the gap dimensions as thin as they can be. The keys on the right side have a very pleasant pressure point.
Only the camera is far out of the display again! You might forgive that with a large 108 megapixel sensor rather than with the “normal” camera sensors, but for the price that Xiaomi demands here, you expect a more chic solution on the other hand. After all, this can’t be completely compensated with the included case, so the phone never lies flat on the table.
Only a 60 Hz AMOLED
After installing an IPS panel in the predecessor, the expensive smartphone is rightly given an AMOLED panel. With a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels, the 6.47″ diagonal is achieved with a pixel density of 398 ppi, which is still an average value. The brightness here is 600 nit, also a standard value that can also be found in the much cheaper Xiaomi Mi 9T or Mi 9 Lite. Thanks to the AMOLED panel, there is also a high contrast ratio here. Xiaomi has to be kept in mind that the curved display is secured with Gorilla Glass 5. However, the manufacturer already equipped the cheaper Xiaomi Mi 9 with Gorilla Glass 6 at the beginning of the year; one can actually expect that at this high price.
As far as the display quality is concerned, there shouldn’t be any differences to be seen in a direct comparison and at first glance there’s nothing to be seen. But of course we took a closer look at it and get the impression that the Mi Note 10 display is slightly blurrier compared to the Mi 9T. At least fonts appear to be less rich in contrast, which results in this minimal blur. This is more noticeable even with a sharp viewing angle. That’s a very high level of complaining, but somehow it surprises us. This can’t be due to the slightly lower pixel density.
It was speculated in advance that the Mi Note 10 would be the first Xiaomi smartphone with a 90 Hz frame rate. Unfortunately this is not the case, but for the price we were quite surprised. Finally, the cheaper Realme X2 Pro uses a 90 Hz panel. Then the Redmi K30 from Xiaomi will probably be the first mobile phone with an increased refresh rate, after all directly with 120 Hz.
Functionality & setting options thanks to MIUI 11
In return, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 gets the full score in terms of functionality and possible settings. Thanks to the AMOLED panel, we already have a fingerprint sensor in the display that reacts quickly and reliably. By default, a new animation blocks the speed a bit, so far we couldn’t find a setting to activate it. In addition, an additional unlock animation is played as usual, which can at least be adjusted.
Furthermore, thanks to the AMOLED display there is again an Always-On mode, which is called “inactivity display” here. It’s one of the best on Xiaomi in general, but has now been refined a bit. Not only that MIUI offers many different (more than 20) styles, some of which can even be adjusted in the text color. With all styles you can also decide if you want it to show battery status and notifications – very nice! The Always-On mode can also be scheduled.
The curved design & the inaccurate work
Finally we have something to complain about with the “processing” of Xiaomi. This doesn’t refer to the device itself, but rather to the display. Apparently Xiaomi didn’t tailor the AMOLED panel completely to the notch and curved design. Around the cutout you can see black pixels, so the Notch is a bit bigger than it should be. That’s almost more blatant at the bottom of the screen. There, between the first illuminated pixels of the screen and the edge of the screen, there is an approximately 0.5 mm thin black strip, also black pixels. Probably no user will notice this directly, but of course we took a close look at the proud price.
My dislike of curved design is much more subjective – I’m just not a friend of it. First of all, I had several unwanted entries because my palm triggered some kind of app. In addition, I watch YouTube videos or Netflix, which is still funny in full-screen with the curved design. Video content is then bent at the edges, which I couldn’t get used to during the test period. I find this most annoying in the camera app, though. The curved design results in a distortion at the edges that reminds me of an ultra wide angle camera.
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 with 5 cameras
As already announced by Xiaomi itself, the Mi Note 10 is the first smartphone with five cameras on the back of which a 108 megapixel photo can be taken – also a premiere. This sensor is the ISOCELL Bright HMX from Samsung, which also landed in the Mi Mix Alpha. Again, four pixels are combined into one so that you end up with photos with 27 megapixels and not a huge 108 MP, which saves storage space and ensures that more light can be captured thanks to the “larger” pixels. This is also achieved by the fact that the f/1.7 aperture is relatively large. The sensor is also blessed with optical image stabilization.
This impressive main camera is then joined by two cameras for zoom photos. One has a resolution of 12 megapixels (f/2.0) and offers 2x optical zoom and is also used for portrait shots. The other one is used for a 10x hybrid zoom and offers 5 megapixels as well as optical image stabilization and a 50x digital zoom. An ultra-wide angle camera is also a must in 2019, of course, and Xiaomi has installed a 20 MP camera with a shooting angle of 117° in the Mi Note 10. The last camera is also for macro photos , but with a distance of 2 to 10 cm.
And as if five cameras weren’t enough, the Mi Note 10 also has two separate dual tone LED flashes, a total of 4 “flashes” to illuminate even the darkest scenes. The front camera then has 32 megapixels (f/2.0), which are combined to 8 MP and thus also offers 1.6μm large pixels.
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 test photos main sensor
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is a dedicated camera smartphone, 5 sensors and 108 MP resolution speak a clear language. We liked the first test photos, but were not completely impressed. Unfortunately, this impression became more and more solid after hundreds of test photos: The camera is not as good as everyone had hoped.
Where do we start? Since the 108 megapixels cause far too much data, the camera usually shoots with 27 megapixels, which is still more than enough. The resulting sharpness can be very good if the autofocus reacts correctly and you only look at the focus point. You can zoom in on the phone itself and get details where photos of other smartphones are almost muddy. But this only becomes apparent when zooming in, at first glance the photos sometimes appear out of focus. Then rather the other way around, who wants to zoom in on the beard hair?
In addition, the sharpness is not concentrated on the entire image, but really only on the focus. A picture by Julian shows that fonts in the background cannot be read. In comparison: the Mi 9T, where the writing is clearly recognizable. Since we have two Xiaomi Mi Note 10 here, we took the photo with both phones, both of them the writing isn’t as sharp as with the Mi 9T.
Normally, I am always relatively satisfied with the color profile and the software processing of the raw photo files at Xiaomi, Xiaomi obviously couldn’t give so much love to the new 108 MP sensor yet. Many photos look pale, skin tones are very cool with a slight grey cast. The Chinese otherwise prefer an almost supersaturated look, as the Realme X2 Pro proves in comparison, the pictures of the Mi Note 10 are very flat.
This can be helpful for post-processing, but certainly doesn’t help most users. By the way, this also applies to objects. Perhaps the high saturation of the competition isn’t the real answer either, here the answer is probably in the middle.
In addition, there is the exposure, which varies greatly. The photos of the normal camera are much brighter and not as contrasty as the 108 MP photos. This is due to the better light absorption capacity of the larger pixels, but the difference is still too serious for me.
Unfortunately, I have the impression that the Samsung sensor doesn’t handle artificial light so well. Otherwise I can’t explain the strongly fluctuating results. In daylight the photos of the Mi Note 10 are much better. Beautiful, rich colors with a good exposure, here the sharpness comes into its own. Nevertheless, a blatant difference to a Mi 9T is probably not recognizable for the layman.
Comparison to competitors
Since I was very surprised by these results, we photographed the same scenarios on four mobile phones: the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, the Realme X2 Pro, the Xiaomi Mi 9T and the iPhone 11. It’s almost frightening that the half as expensive (!) Xiaomi Mi 9T usually takes better photos. Better lighting, no image noise at the edges and the more natural/better colors. The iPhone produces the most lifelike colors in many situations, but in terms of sharpness and detail it has to leave points in almost every situation. But see for yourself.
The 108 Megapixel Mode
“The more megapixels, the better the camera” – a misbelief that has lasted for half an eternity thanks to the local consumer electronics stores. We are also very sceptical about the 48 megapixel and 64 megapixel sensors this year – the new 108 MP sensor is no exception. Nevertheless, you have to say that in this mode you get significantly more details from a photo than from the normal photo mode. You can zoom in infinitely, that’s really very impressive. I also like the photos a bit better because of the higher contrast.
But here again the great conflict of the Mi Note 10 reveals itself: it is not a top model. The Snapdragon 730G processor plays in the upper class, but with these large amounts of data it is more likely to stumble and takes four seconds to process a 108 MP photo. 4 seconds: That means holding still for one second, waiting three seconds. At least the photo can then be opened directly. This is not the case, by the way, if you open a normal photo, already for a 27 MP photo the Mi Note 10 needs about 2 seconds to process it – weak! I don’t enjoy taking photos like this, even opening the camera takes a relatively long time.
Apart from that, I wonder why you need the ability to zoom in so much on a picture. So you don’t consume your photos after all and lower resolutions are definitely enough for a poster printout. Even a Hasselblad medium format camera offers “only” a 50 megapixel resolution.
I hoped for improvement from the other sensors and was taught better. For portrait photography, Xiaomi finally integrates its own 12 megapixel sensor, which brings the object much closer with a 50 mm focal length equivalent. But the photos are simply out of focus and also reveal the sad color profile of the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. The comparison with the Xiaomi Mi 9T reveals everything here. Both photos were taken at a distance of ten seconds, with the same illumination, the same distance, the same MIUI 11 operating system and the same Tim. Where is the sharpness?
After all, the edge detection is at the high Xiaomi level. The person in the foreground is very precisely separated from the background and the bokeh is very natural. Xiaomi remains the industry leader for me with the Mi Note 10.
Ultra wide angle camera
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10’s ultra wide angle camera probably performs best. The photos offer the desired effect, trigger relatively quickly and show a successful color profile, at least for objects. Skin tones also seem unnatural to me here, the missing sharpness does the rest. Actually I hoped for more from the high 20 megapixels, for me there are no differences to the 13 megapixel sensor from the Xiaomi Mi 9T.
Even though many of you don’t think too much of the macro sensor, I still consider it a nice gimmick. Again, you can get very close to an object, the close-up limit is up to 1.5 cm. But the resolution is again very small with 2 megapixel, but for sending via messenger or social media this is definitely sufficient. However, one has to mention that such a sensor is also available in the much cheaper Redmi Note 8. Here I would have wished for at least a higher resolution, if you already have to pay so much for it.
Perhaps the best camera on the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is not on the back, but on the front. The 32 MP front camera shoots high-resolution photos, with a clear focus, good sharpness, but also with slightly milky skin tones. But this is still forgivable, as you get a lot of details here. Also in portrait mode, the camera is completely convincing, the edge detection is super, just like with the other Xiaomi smartphones. However, you have to deactivate all preset beauty filters first.
In addition: you also get just as good photo quality in the other mid-range and top models from Xiaomi. So the Selfies aren’t really a surprise either.
But rather a video smartphone?
Maybe the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is a little misunderstood. The look into the video mode reveals new functions, which are not available despite MIUI 11 update on a Mi 9T for example. These include a VLOG mode (video blog) and the new super stabilization. This at least theoretically provides you with creative means to improve your videos. The video quality of the video recordings with the main sensor can definitely also be arranged in the upper class, especially because the autofocus works fast and reliably.
What’s annoying is that for example 4K shots at 60 fps are not possible, because the Snapdragon 730G processor inside doesn’t support this. In contrast to the Realme X2 Pro or an iPhone, it is also not possible to switch between the different sensors during the video. I expected a lot more.
Calling the Vlog mode the highlight would be a bit of an exaggeration, but I had a lot of fun for a few minutes. You can choose a theme for the video in advance, for example “Holidays” or “Dreams”. This is a preset with predefined music and predefined cuts and transitions. If you take “Dreams” for example, this Vlog is eleven seconds long, consists of four scenes, offers a rotation effect and zoom-in transitions. In addition there is a predefined “Color Grading”. Works well and looks good, is a very cool idea from Xiaomi.
Preliminary conclusion on the camera in Xiaomi Mi Note 10
Either we are dealing with a defective test device or the camera optimization software has not been integrated or the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 simply does not have a particularly good camera. Not only does it fall short of the high expectations, the photos are partly even mediocre. The camera is not bad and not a total failure, but in many situations I don’t see any added value of the high resolution.
Enough power for everything except the camera
The processor used is the new Snapdragon 730G. The Octa-Core consists of two powerful Kryo 470 Gold cores (2.2 GHz) and six energy-saving Kryo 470 Silver cores (1.8 GHz). The chip is manufactured using the 8 nanometer process and is therefore energy-efficient. The G in 730G of course stands for gaming, as the 730G is supposed to offer 15% more gaming performance than the normal 730. In general, the performance should be slightly above that of the Xiaomi Mi 9 Lite and Mi 9 SE, which are equipped with the SD710 and 712 respectively. With memory, you currently only have the option of combining 6 GB RAM with 128 GB internal memory.
The processor is currently a popular choice in the upper middle class, and quite rightly so. A lot of performance, which thanks to MIUI is also well implemented, almost no matter what. In contrast to the Mi 9T with the Snapdragon 730 – without G – a slight performance increase can actually be noticed. But this is only noticeable when opening and closing apps, in gaming both cut a very good figure in games like Asphalt 9. The performance is definitely more than enough for everything – except for the camera. Unfortunately, it opens slowly and takes a long time to process the photos.
There also surprise the benchmark results, which are all very good by the bank away. The benchmarks only serve as orientation and rightly classify the Mi Note 10 in the upper middle class.
Large 5,260 mAh battery
At a size of 5,260 mAh, the battery probably wouldn’t even need such an efficient processor to give the Mi Note 10 a good battery life. Xiaomi talks about two full days of battery life, and that’s true. In the battery benchmark, the Mi Note 10 has reached an impressive value of over 15 hours. That’s definitely enough for 2 days, the drain didn’t attract any negative attention in everyday life either. But if you calculate the benchmark value down to the total capacity, you get an average value in proportion.
Charging with the included 30 Watt charger and Xiaomis Charge Turbo takes 30 minutes for 55% and only 65 minutes for the full 100% – that’s also impressive, but not a top value either. We like to refer to the Realme X2 Pro, which charges from zero to 100% in 32 minutes with the included 50W charger. Wireless charging is unfortunately not supported, but you still have to use Mi 9 (Pro) or Mi Mix 3.
Charging is of course via the USB-C port on the underside, which is located directly next to the 3.5mm headphone port. The SIM slot is located on the right and offers space for two Nano-SIMs, but memory expansion is not possible. On the upper side there is even an infrared transmitter for controlling TVs, for example. Everything is also available in wireless connection options: NFC, LTE, ac-WLAN, Bluetooth 5, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/BDS.
We didn’t notice any problems with the internet or with phone calls during the whole test period. In combination with the fast CPU you can quickly stream a YouTube video on the go.
MIUI 11 – the new Xiaomi operating system
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is the first Xiaomi smartphone that ships directly with the new MIUI 11 operating system. This shines in a new surface, which looks much more modern and tidier. You notice this immediately when you go into the settings. But also the “classic” theme looks more modern due to rounded icons, there are some new backgrounds and the settings have been restructured a bit. MIUI Global 11.0.5 runs on the Mi Note 10, there were no updates during the test period.
In the global version – the Mi Note 10 is only available in a global version – the whole operating system is available in several languages and all Google services including Google Play Store are pre-installed. However, the operating system is still based on Android 9.
Even though we still have to do without the App-Drawer, Xiaomi has finally got the notification problem under control. The setting “Notch & status bar” can be found under Display. You can even hide the Notch and have the option to hide the status bar. But you can also set if you want notifications to be displayed in the status bar and they stay there and don’t disappear after 2 seconds. Amazing that Xiaomi took so long for that.
Furthermore MIUI offers the usual services like Mi-Video or Mi-Cloud and comes with some Bloatware. At least the games like “Bubble Story” leave a bland aftertaste, but can also be easily uninstalled.
The Xiaomi Note 10 – missed the chance
As mentioned, we were sceptical about the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 right from the start, mainly because of its above-average price. A Mi 9T Pro as current “flagship” officially costs $400, for the Mi Note 10 Xiaomi demands $100 more. This already makes a difference for Xiaomi in the middle class between Redmi 8 and Xiaomi Mi 9 Lite. This would also be justified, if we would hold the Huawei P30 Pro-Killer in our hands, which Xiaomi has aimed for.
But we don’t have that. The camera is maybe just middle class, the half as expensive Xiaomi Mi 9T takes good or even better pictures. We can’t recommend the Mi Note 10, especially not for this high price. This is mainly due to the combination of the Snapdragon 730G and the 108 MP Sony sensor. Even from China it costs $450, but for $150 less you get the superior Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro from China. Xiaomi stands for an unbeatable price-performance ratio, that’s simply not given here for the first time!
We can’t explain it, except that Samsung has his fingers in the pie here. The processor doesn’t follow the camera, you don’t have a nice experience taking pictures, everything takes time, looks unattractive and is rather exhausting. Xiaomi looks far too much at the “big ones” here: the same name as the Samsung Note 10 and then a pure Huawei P30 Pro clone. Why not something of your own? And if you want to copy, why not use three or four strong sensors that offer the same quality at all focal lengths, similar to Apple’s? Why not integrate a mechanical aperture into a camera smartphone like Samsung?
The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 should have been different. As processor the Snapdragon 855+ would have to sit on the board, the display would have to be 90 Hz and there would have to be wireless or extra fast charging on board. Then the price from 500 to $550 would have been justified.To the gadget