Xiaomi phones run a customised version of Android called MIUI. This isn’t handicapped in the way recent Huawei devices are, you still get Play Store access which means oodles of apps. That said, if you’re coming from another Android phone, things will feel different.
There’s no apps tray, for example, so just like on an iPhone, when you install an app, it’ll be plonked on your homescreen. Additionally, your notifications won’t create tiny icons in the bar at the top of your screen. To get any indication as to what apps want your attention, you’ll need to pull that bar down for an expanded notification view. Text selection is also a bit different too.
All this means that MIUI isn’t our favourite interface from a day-to-day point of view, but it’s still easy to get used to and is clean and customisable. That said, one aspect that just cheapens the phone are the adverts sprinkled across the UI. Run the ‘Cleaner’ to cull some background processes and you’ll be served an ad. Install a new app and it’ll be scanned for viruses alongside an ad. You can disable a lot of these, but when you’re paying €549 for a phone the fact that they exist in the first place is pretty cheeky.
Also interesting is the choice of chipset Xiaomi went with. It’s a Snapdragon 730G with 6GB RAM. This won’t power through the latest games and chores with as much gusto as a Snapdragon 855 or 855 Plus – two chips found in cheaper devices like the Mi 9T Pro and the Realme X2 Pro.
Day-to-day performance is great for the most part: there’s no slowdown when swiping through the UI, browsing the web or watching videos. That said, photo-taking can be a bit of a juddery process, which is hardly surprising considering the 108MP images the Mi Note 10 has to handle. If the phone had flagship power, would it have been able to handle its humongous pixel-count better?
Power-hungry apps can drop frames too, so if you prioritise gaming over picture-taking, skip the Mi Note 10 and look to the pricier OnePlus 7T or the more affordable Huawei Nova 5T.
Inside the phone is 128GB storage. While it should be enough for most, power users might fill it up after a few months, so the lack of an SD card slot might put you off. There’s also a fingerprint scanner under the screen which is great to see, even if it isn’t quite as zippy as top-tier flagships.
Nothing comes close to the detail the Note 10 camera grabs – it’s staggering. Pictures are taken at a default resolution of 27MP, combining four pixels into one, a technique called pixel binning. Override this and shoot at the full 108MP, however, and things just get ridiculous.
In good light, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 can grab shots that can be cropped into time and time again – it’s incredibly sharp. While snaps from its 108MP camera lack a bit of the colour-popping dynamic range those shot on Pixels and iPhones do, their detail and shallow depth of field is sensational.
Low-light performance is good, though not quite Huawei Mate 30 Pro, Pixel 4 or iPhone 11 Pro good, and the same can be said for dynamic range.
The additional cameras also impress. The 12MP 2x zoom combo makes for a great portrait camera and the ultra-wide-angle lens gets plenty in the frame. At night, these are seriously inconsistent though, so stick to the main 108MP module when the lights drop. The Macro camera is a nice touch too, and the front 32MP selfie camera is one of the better ones around.
Video capture is good too, though at 4K the frame rate is capped at 30fps – half that of the similarly priced OnePlus 7T. With optical image stabilisation, however, its footage is held together well, and the inclusion of a fun Vlog mode, which automatically applies transitions to short clips, is ace.
All this and more means the Xiaomi Note 10 Pro is definitely the best camera phone you can get for €549, even if it isn’t necessarily the best phone you can pick up for that price.
You won’t get a better camera phone for €549 than the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 – it’s that simple. The fact it also looks gorgeous and has a bright, punchy screen adds to its appeal. That said, as an across-the-board smartphone, the price is a bit harder to swallow if you don’t need the best camera around.
Missing mod-cons like wireless charging, a 90Hz screen, expandable storage and flagship power, which is especially noticeable in the camera app, hold the Mi Note 10 back though. The Realme X2 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 9T provide a more consistently smooth, powerful UI experience, even if they pack weaker imaging capabilities.
While it isn’t perfection, then, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 is still a fairly priced mid-range flagship with some fantastic flourishes and a best-in-class camera.