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Xiaomi Mi Note Review: A High End Phablet At A Mid-Range Price

Xiaomi Mi Note 14
Standard edition Mi Note on the left, Mi Note Goddess Edition on the right

By: Richmond Li Tan

Speculations ran wild back in late 2014 about a possible successor to Xiaomi’s Mi 4 flagship. All signs pointed to a 5.5-inch flagship that had a curved glass body and a design that closely followed their previous device. Imagine everybody’s surprise when the company announced a phablet instead – the Mi Note. The Mi Note is the company’s first ever phablet device – a phone that’s destined to go up against the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy Note 4. Unlike Xiaomi’s Mi 4, the Mi Note is destined to arrive in the Philippine market in the near future.

Xiaomi Mi Note specs

  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 5.7-inch Sharp/JDI full HD display, Gorilla Glass 3 protection, 1920 x 1080
  • 13-megapixel rear camera, OIS, f/2.0
  • 4-megapixel UltraPixel front camera, 2-micron pixels
  • Dual-SIM, dual LTE
  • 3G, LTE
  • 16/64GB of storage
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, NFC, USB OTG
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with MIUI V6
  • 3090mAh battery
Xiaomi Mi Note 10
The Mi Note Pink Goddess Edition left, regular Mi Note right

Packaging and contents:

In this review/unboxing, we managed to get our hands on two versions of the Mi Note: the regular 64GB LTE version and the Mi Note 16GB Goddess Pink version. The packaging for the regular Mi Note mimics the one that we’ve seen on Xiaomi’s other products – namely a solid, brown carton that’s devoid of usual markings that you expect other boxes.

Xiaomi Mi Note 13

The packaging for the Mi Note Goddess Pink version is a bit different. There’s a very distinct pattern on the box and instead of recycled paper brown, the cardboard box is colored pink.

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The Mi Note Pink Goddess Edition left, regular Mi Note right

Inside the box of both devices, the accessories are pretty much the same. You’re getting a micro USB cable, charger, a SIM ejector and a user manual. Like Xiaomi’s other phones, you’re not getting headphones with the package. With the Mi Note Goddess Pink Edition, you’re also getting an extra 5000mAh silver power bank.

Xiaomi Mi Note 19

Elegant and classy

The Xiaomi Mi Note simply feels elegant the moment we got our hands on it. The brushed aluminum side and the glass back panel is simply gorgeous, making the entire device feel premium. This unit is simply thinner and lighter than its two competitors at 7mm and 161 grams – the Apple Iphone 6 Plus is a hair thicker at 7.1mm thick and 172 grams, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is 8.5mm thick and weighs 176 grams. Because the Mi Note sports glass on both the front and the back, you might want to be extra careful when you’re handling and using it because it’s a bit slippery, especially when you leave it on a slanted surface. Leather flip cases and TPU cases are available to buy from Xiaomi, fortunately.

Xiaomi Mi Note 17

The 3.5mm audio jack is placed on top of the Mi Note while the power button and the volume rocker is located on the right side of the unit. Both SIM slots (micro and nano) are located on the left side, which require a SIM ejector to release. At the bottom of the Mi Note lies the micro USB port (which has OTG) and the speaker grille. The position of the speaker is pretty good compared to the Redmi 2, which has its speaker located at the back of the unit, preventing user to hear the incoming call when the phone is placed on a table with screen facing the sky.

Xiaomi Mi Note 20

The front panel sports the MI logo on the upper left corner of the unit, while the sensor is located on top of the earpiece, with the notification light on left side of the earpiece. The 4-megapixel ultrapixel selfie camera is located at its opposite side. The Mi Note still utilizes capacitive Android navigation keys located at the bottom bezel that are illuminated. The side edges of the front glass sports 2.5D technology, meaning the side edges are curved.

Xiaomi Mi Note 21

The back panel sports Corning Gorilla 3 glass, giving it extra protection against scratches while in your pocket or placed on any rough surface. The 13-megapixel rear camera is located at the upper left while the dual flash rest on its right side. The camera features the latest Sony sensors, enabling user to capture 2160p videos.

The Xiaomi Mi Note features a 5.7-inch full HD IPS display with 386ppi (pixels per inch) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection against scratches. After putting it side by side with iPhone 6 at full brightness with the same photo, we noticed an overall brighter picture on the iPhone 6. The Mi Note’s display is a little bit darker, which isn’t a surprise why graphic editors almost always pick Apple as a brand when choosing devices to use for editing. The Mi Note has safety features that prevent accidental screen unlocking while it’s in your pocket, which is pretty handy and prevents accidental dialing when the phone is in your pocket.

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Still on KitKat, but that isn’t a big problem

The Mi Note still runs on Android Kitkat 4.4.2. Compared to newer devices launched this year, the Mi Note is pretty dated but thankfully MIUI V6 is pretty stable to use. We’re all aware of how Xiaomi updates the OS almost every week to address stability issues.

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Snapdragon 801 might be dated, but it still has plenty of power under the hood

Critics of the Mi Note will point out that the phone uses a dated Snapdragon 801 processor that might not be as fast as Snapdragon 805 and 810 processors being used by other devices. While that’s true, it’s also important to note that the 801 processor is still a beast of a processor, and can handle most apps and games without any troubles or issues.

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That processor paired up with 3GB of RAM allows you to install and run apps without any problems whatsoever. 3GB of ram is pretty generous, given the way it can handle all the tasks that throw at it with ease. Of course, you’ll have to close an app once in a while or use a task killer app to clean the memory consumption once in a while.

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Mi Note on standby
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Mi Note on normal browsing
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Mi Note while downloading via torrent

Because the Snapdragon 801 processor is a proven, solid processor, we did not notice any heat issues with the phone. Using a laser thermometer for testing, we found that the handset reaches 33 Celsius when in standby mode, 34.5 Celsius when normal browsing mode (Facebook, Viber and Google Chrome), and it reached 35 Celsius when the unit is put to work downloading a movie using torrent. The unit does feel hot a little, but not irritating to the palm.

Xiaomi Mi Note 25
Both SIM slots are LTE, unfortunately the review unit we had did not support Smart LTE

On the connectivity side, the Mi Note does well enough. Wi-Fi connectivity is pretty good, and the Mi Note notifies you if there’s a Mi router in range of the device. Unfortunately, the Mi Note (at least our version) can only connect to Globe LTE as it is only manufactured to have Band 3 and 7 (similar to that of the Redmi 2 offered by Mi Philippines). Smart LTE requires Band 1 as written in its manual, therefore Smart mobile data can only hit H+ or 3.5G in this handset. We’re hoping that the phone offered in the Philippines will have LTE connectivity to Smart as well. Both SIMs are capable of LTE as well.

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Ultra-pixel front camera for the ultimate selfie

Xiaomi Mi Note has itself equipped with a 13MP Sony camera with dual-tone LED flash, together with an f2.0 aperture and OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). The camera’s hardware infused with the advanced camera features found in MIUI V6 gives pretty good performance. The Mi Note can take really good photos under all lighting conditions.

Xiaomi Mi Note 07

The front has a 4MP UltraPixel camera embedded into it, making it a more fun to take clearer selfies than other smartphones.

Decent battery performance

Xiaomi has equipped a 3,090mAh battery inside the Mi Note which is pretty decent for a 5.7-inch  phablet. The Mi Note is capable of going around 72 hours when left alone standby, meaning no calls no internet and no music playing. The unit scored roughly 52 hours 2 Sims active with some incoming calls, surfing, VOIP calls and music. Antutu Battery Test gave it a score of 5769.

Xiaomi Mi Note 15

Verdict:  a high-end phablet priced at the mid-range

After all is said and done, we think that the Xiaomi Mi Note is a very worthy flagship for anybody looking for a high-spec device. Typical of Xiaomi, the Mi Note retails far less than competing flagships, going for just 2299 RMB (around Php 17,000) for the 16GB variant and 2799 RMB (around Php 20,500) for the 64GB variant. The biggest problem with the Mi Note is its non-expandable storage – you’re pretty much roped into either 16GB or 64GB – no more, no less. And since our review unit was bought in China, there’s no Google Play Store in the device – something that you’d want to put in mind. It’s a phone that Xiaomi made to go up against Samsung and Apple, and while it doesn’t exactly win the match, it does put up a bloody good fight.

By: Richmond Li Tan

A licensed mechanical engineer, a masters of business administration graduate, a businessman at day, and a tech enthusiast at night. Loves to explore new gadgets available in the market, always strives to be the first to land something new in the Philippines.

 

Richmond Tan

A licensed mechanical engineer, a masters of business administration graduate, a businessman at day, and a tech enthusiast at night. Loves to explore new gadgets available in the market, always strives to be the first to land something new in the Philippines.

9 Comments

  1. you can install google installer to xiaomi phones and install all google apps like play store, chrome,translator etc. i did that with my redmi note 4g

  2. hi guys! thanks for reading my review. Actually, Xiaomi Phils did make a statement this should be out Q2 2015 in Philippines. But, as we all know, we are not the priority market of MI, I have yet to see this unit debut in HK, SG, TW and Malaysia before it get to our shores.

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