Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Is a mid-range penta-camera smartphone worth the hype?

A 108MP camera. But how does it perform?

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It is well known that mid-range smartphones no longer have to rely on aged processing power. In fact, this segment is where all the magic happens. And Xiaomi’s Mi Note 10 is a good example of this segment. Decked with a 108MP penta-camera with 5x optical zoom and a 5,260mAh cell, the phone puts other flagship specifications on paper to shame. But does that all translate to real world usage? With phones like the OnePlus 7T and the Realme X2 Pro available for lower than its Dh1999 price tag, where does the Mi Note 10 stand? Let’s find out.

Build and feel in hand

Make no mistake, the Mi Note 10 is a chunky phone. Coming in at 9.7mm thick and 208g, it may be hard to manage one-handed for people with small hands. Both the front and back of the phone come protected with Gorilla Glass 5, with an aluminium frame around the device. The top edge of the device houses the secondary microphone alongside an IR blaster. On the right edge, you find solid feeling volume and power buttons and the SIM tray. This supports up to two SIM cards with no micro-SD card option to expand on the 128GB storage the phone has, which is disappointing. The bottom has the speaker, Type-C USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and the primary microphone while the left side of the phone is bare.

The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 has a robust feel in the hand

From a functionality standpoint, the phone is great. Perhaps using it with a case would be your best bet though, as it not only provides extra grip but may also get rid of the camera bump on the back. This in turn would make usage on a flat surface less wobbly. Noticeable absent, the phone does not have a hardware fingerprint scanner but instead opts for an in-screen sensor.

Display and multimedia use

With its 6.47-inch 2,340 x 1,080 resolution display, you get plenty of screen real estate for browsing media. Whether it is watching a movie or zooming into a web page, everything looks fairly sharp. Not just that, the curvature of the screen makes content look immersive, with the only bit of obvious bezel being the 32MP camera notch. Even for colours, the display supports HDR10 and DCI-P3 coverage for a saturated look. Although, at its 60Hz refresh rate, scrolling is not as smooth as other smartphones that come with 90Hz displays or higher.

What is otherwise a great display, the curved edges make it a slightly difficult to type on

Another aspect of the experience that may be a bit underwhelming is the speaker. Although loud, it does not offer a rich and encompassing sound. There is a noticeable lack of depth to audio and if you happen to cover the loudspeaker, it will deteriorate quality further. Of course, to completely avoid this situation, you can use some wired or wireless headphones.

User experience and performance

Running Android 9, the Mi Note 10 comes draped in MIUI 11. This is a new software operating system which takes a bit of time to get used to. There is no application drawer on the phone and elements look different from stock Android. But with some additional features such as Game Turbo and Second space, you can tailor the software according to what you are doing. Other enhancements include gesture support and a ‘Quick ball’ feature that helps you navigate easily. There is nothing extraordinary of the software suite aside from that though. And getting used to the notification pane or the navigation menu can take a bit of time. However, once you make that adjustment, it is not all bad. On more affordable Xiaomi phones in different regions, we have heard how MIUI pushes users with constant advertisements. But that is not the case here.

With time, you can get used to MIUI 11

As for the phone’s performance, you are looking at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 730G processor. It is an octa-core chip clocked at 2.2GHz with the Adreno 618 GPU and accompanies the 6GB of RAM. For a mid-range processor, performance is quite good. There are no noticeable hiccups but once you start pushing the phone a bit more, there are a few instances. If you are someone who likes to game, the Mi Note 10 offers a more than playable experience.

108MP penta-camera array

A lot is expected of a phone that is marketed to have a great camera. But unfortunately, the Mi Note 10 falls short of that. Its 108MP primary lens, while capable of capturing detail, struggles with inconsistency and the lack of colour accuracy. And at the end of the day, distinct differences are difficult to notice on the 108MP sample even with photos side by side.

Colour shifts are most noticeable with portrait images, where its 12MP telephoto lens does well with edges but struggles with skin tones. There is another 5MP telephoto lens on the device, which boasts 5x optical zoom for some pretty great detail capture and even the 20MP ultra-wide lens does a fairly good job with landscapes. To complete the setup is a 2MP dedicated macro lens which comes in handy for close ups.

Battery life and charging

Something that cannot be disputed is the Mi Note 10’s 5,260mAh cell. It is mammoth and is the primary reason for the phone’s thickness. With general usage, you should get about 1.5-2 days without having to worry about conserving battery in any way. Even with intense gaming, you should see the phone last at least a day. As for charging, the phone supports 30W speeds which should get you from 0-100 per cent in just under 90 minutes.

Conclusion

The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is a good phone but it fails to deliver on all of its promises. One of its biggest selling point may be its 108MP camera and with its penta-array, you get a lot of flexibility. However, due to the inconsistencies it comes with, it fails to completely blow you away. Maybe Xiaomi can consider a few updates and this could be a non-issue in the near future.

At maybe Dh300 lower, this phone would have been a viable option

That aside, the phone is great for daily use and unrivalled when it comes to battery life. Xiaomi’s software too is something you can get used to with time.

Have any thoughts about the Xiaomi Mi Note 10? Let us know in the comments below.