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Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Review

The first phone to integrate a 108Mp camera sensor, Mi Note 10 has a more refined design than the flagship Mi 9, and a huge-capacity battery for two-day working. But how does the rest of the phone stack up?

Should I Buy The Xiaomi Mi Note 10?
With Mi Note 10 Xiaomi has made a giant step forward in design, and complements its elegant body with enhanced MIUI 11 software.

Its USP is the penta-lens 108Mp camera, which wows on paper but can't stand up to the best cameraphones. More successfully, then, battery life is incredible.

This is not a flagship phone, but it’s a strong all-round mid-ranger, and thanks to an attractive price point it has serious appeal.

Price When Reviewed
  • $549
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Xiaomi announce a new model in the Mi Note line, but it’s been worth the wait, with the Mi Note 10 garnering column inches as the world’s first penta-lens 108Mp cameraphone, rocking Samsung’s ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor. This is a big-screen, big-battery smartphone, the global version of the Mi CC9 Pro. 

Unveiled in Spain in November 2019 at an attractive price of €549, Xiaomi’s Mi Note 10 now finally comes to the UK on 25 February. Here it costs £459 with 128GB of storage, and £549 with 256GB, and can be bought direct from the UK Mi Store - but that's not the best deal you'll find. GearBest offers the 128GB model at £370.64.
Aside from the aforementioned 108Mp sensor, which is capable of billboard-size photos at 4.24m high, what else do you get for your money? Highlights include a massive 5,260mAh battery paired with super-fast 30W wired charging, as well as a 6.47in full-HD+ AMOLED screen with an enhanced optical fingerprint sensor built right into the display, and a Dot Drop notch that houses a 32Mp selfie camera. MIUI 11, the latest instalment to Xiaomi’s own take on the Android mobile operating system, is also installed out of the box. 

There’s 6GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable storage in this standard edition of Mi Note 10, here paired with a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G octa-core processor and the Adreno 618 GPU. Core performance is therefore not class-leading, but more than sufficient for all but the fussiest users - and where it really counts these days, in the battery, Mi Note 10 can last a full two days. 

Be sure to also check out our coverage of the best Xiaomi phones.

Design & Build
Xiaomi has paid huge attention to detail in the design of Mi Note 10, protecting both front and rear with Gorilla Glass 5 and in doing so snubbing the plastic designs of competing models such as the Samsung Galaxy A50. It’s not waterproof, but it’s otherwise as tough as any other glass-bodied smartphone.

Instantly recognisable as a Mi phone, the Note 10 will look familiar to Xiaomi enthusiasts - and why not? If something works, don’t change it. Curved 3D glass and a thin aluminimum frame seem very much to be the order of the day among premium-looking smartphones such as this. 
It reminds us very much of the Huawei P30 Pro, with the same screen notch and selfie camera layout - except that here you’ll find five cameras at the rear.

We tested the Midnight Black model, and found fingerprints are a problem more with this model than with the Glacier White option. Xiaomi has placed the SIM tray and volume and power buttons all on one side, with a USB-C and 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom. There’s an IR blaster too, which are becoming increasingly rare outside Xiaomi’s line-up.

This isn’t the first Xiaomi phone to utilise an in-display fingerprint sensor, but for Mi Note 10 it has been upgraded, now covering a wider area and offering a more immediate response. There’s face unlock, too, should you prefer it. 
With a huge battery and a large screen it’s no surprise that Mi Note 10 is not as dainty as some of Xiaomi’s flagship and mid-range phones before it, significantly chunkier than, for example, Mi 9 Pro at 9.7mm and 208g against its 7mm, 196g. Xiaomi has taken steps to reduce the overall size, however, and with a notably slim chin the overall screen-to-body ratio is 87.6%.

A 19.5:9 aspect ratio ensures that Mi Note 10 remains comfortable in the hand. Its 6.47in screen is a sharp and vibrant AMOLED panel with 2340x1080 pixels (full-HD+), offering a maximum brightness of 430 nits. We found excellent usability in even bright daylight, though some whites can be a little blueish at certain angles.

Cameras & Photography
Not only is Mi Note 10 the first commercially available 108Mp smartphone, it’s also one of the first to feature a penta-lens setup at the rear. The assembly sits vertically to the left side of the rear, with two of the five lenses sitting outside the main group but without protruding from the phone’s body.
The primary sensor is of course the Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX, rated at 108Mp. It has an f/1.7 aperture and 4-axis image stabilisation. It is possible to shoot enormous billboard-size photos with this lens, but more likely you will take advantage of the pixel binning whereby four pixels are combined into one for a much higher-quality and more detailed 27Mp shot.

The sheer size of these photos means it is easy to zoom in on a particular area without losing detail, but in other respects the camera itself is no better than that offered by the competition. 
This lens is accompanied by a 20Mp wide-angle lens with f/2.2 aperture and a 117-degree field of view, as well as a 12Mp lens with 2x telephoto. The two other lenses in the ensemble comprise a 5Mp f/2.0 telephoto lens with 5x optical, 50x digital and 10x hybrid zoom, and a 2Mp Macro lens that can shoot from 1.5cm distance. 

When shooting video we enjoyed experimenting with different zoom levels, though noted that these must be selected before recording begins. Object tracking and image stabilisation both work well here, though we found that when recording 5x 4K video Mi Note 10 would digitally enhance the feed from the 2Mp lens, resulting in lower quality. At 1080p, 60fps we found better results. You can also record in slow motion with the primary lns, or in Macro mode using the wide-angle camera.

Our least favourite of the five was the 32Mp, f/2.0 selfie camera, though we expect performance will be able to be improved via a software update.
Performance
This isn’t the first time we’ve tested a Snapdragon 730G smartphone, with the processor also used in Realme handsets, and we continue to be pleased with the results. We found no lag in the mobile interface, with the processor ably supported with 6GB of RAM. This is as much memory as you see in some flagships, but without such an intensive processor.

Despite having the same processor as the Oppo Reno 2, a €50 cheaper smartphone that uses the same processor, the Mi Note 10 was not able to compete with its 7000-point Geekbench 4 score. If performance is your main priority, however, look to the cheaper flagship Mi 9 (or Mi 9 Pro, though it’s not officially available in the UK yet either). 

An upside of the lower-power processor is that when combined with a high-capacity battery the results are spectacular: we recorded 13 hours and 13 minutes of battery life in our synthetic benchmarks, making this one of the best battery life phones we’ve ever tested. It outpaced even the 4200mAh Huawei P30 Pro, which recorded 11 hours 50 minutes.

It’s impossible to fairly test real-world battery life, but you should easily expect a full two days. Moreover, given the large screen and impressive camera, you can happily go about playing games, watching video and capturing photos without worrying about Mi Note 10 not getting through the day. And when the battery does run low, fast 30W wired charging lets you reach 80% in 40 minutes, and 100% in 65.

In common with so many other models in Xiaomi’s line-up, wireless charging is not supported.

Software
The Mi Note 10 is running the latest version of Xiaomi’s custom Android OS, MIUI 11. It has an updated design and new features that help to improve day-to-day operation.

Two of our favourite new features are a system-wide Dark mode and an Always-on display. MIUI 11 also introduces new dynamic sound effects that switch to suit day or night.

Conclusion
Priced higher than Xiaomi’s flagships, this is in fact a mid-ranger - but one with a balanced specification in terms of performance, photography and design, and incredible battery life.

Though they fared reasonably well in our tests, the unique selling point - the 108Mp penta-lens camera - simply proves the point that that there’s more to making a decent smartphone camera than piling on the megapixels and lenses. More exciting, though, is that this technology is for the first time available in a phone - and a €549 phone at that.

We recommend Mi Note 10 for its large screen and very good battery life, as well as its gorgeous design. The only real catch for some will be the mid-range processor.

Specs
  • 6.47in full-HD+ (1080x2340) 19.5:9 AMOLED display, Gorilla Glass 5
  • MIUI 11 (Android 9)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
  • Adreno 618 GPU
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128GB storage
  • penta-lens rear camera: 108Mp + 12Mp 2x telephoto + 5Mp 5x telephoto + 20Mp wide-amgle + 2Mp macro
  • NFC
  • 5,260mAh battery
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