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Hands on: Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review

The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 will blow you away with the detail in its 108MP shots

Hands on: Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review
(Image: © Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Our Verdict

We can't help but be impressed with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. It costs a mid-range €549 ($609 / £472) and dares to do something different from an imaging point of view with its world-first 108MP penta-camera. In the right environments, its record-breaking resolution captures staggering amounts of detail. And while we're yet to test it extensively in low light environments, on first impression, the Mi Note 10 is definitely a contender for the best smartphone camera crown.

For

  • Innovative camera tech
  • Premium design
  • Giant battery

Against

  • Mid-range processor
  • No microSD card slot
  • Mono speaker

The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 and Mi Note 10 Pro are official, have mind-bogglingly high pixel counts, come in at surprisingly affordable prices and are vying for the title of best camera phone. Both phones are identical, save for their storage and RAM configurations, and the Pro also has an extra element in its primary camera, taking it up from seven elements to eight.

Just a few weeks before it launched, we thought that 48MP on a camera phone was as high as pixel counts would get in 2019 (especially as the industry only climbed to 48MP at the end of 2018 with the Honor View 20). Then the Realme X2 Pro bumped it up to 64MP, and just a few weeks later Xiaomi and Samsung have partnered up to blow the competition out of the water with the ridiculously high-resolution 108MP sensor and penta-camera on the Mi Note 10.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 camera

It looks almost exactly like a Huawei P30 Pro and has a distressingly similar name to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, but the Mi Note 10 isn’t a copycat smartphone across the board.

Starting with the elephant in the room, that gargantuan resolution, it’s made possible by Samsung’s Isocell Bright HMX 108MP 1/1.33” sensor. By employing pixel binning it shoots at 27MP by default, combining every four pixels into one. If you want to unleash the phone’s full megapixel clout, though, you can crank up resolution to create 12,032 x 9,024, 108.6MP images. These come in at about 11-16MB in size, and actually look much better than we expected them to – you can see some examples below.

We weren’t expecting to see OIS on a phone that costs what the Mi Note 10 does, but it’s here on the primary lens and one of the two telephoto lenses. 

Xiaomi Mi Note 10, 108MP sample (click top-right to view full size)

Xiaomi Mi Note 10, 108MP sample (click top-right to view full size) (Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

The first telephoto camera is a 12MP 2x zoom module, with a 50mm focal length, though this doesn’t feature OIS. The second, however, does, clocking in at 5MP and delivering a 5x zoom as well as a 10x hybrid zoom. Hybrid zoom may sound strange, but it grabs information from the 108MP module to boost clarity, supplementing and enhancing detail that the optical zoom captures. It features an f/2.0 aperture, which should help its low light performance.

Next up is the 117° wide-angle camera, with a resolution of 20MP for ultra-wide landscapes. There’s also a 2MP macro camera that, unlike some of the competition, isn’t fixed-focus. Even more impressive is the fact that it can capture 960fps slow-motion video, though this only works in very well-lit conditions.

Additional camera specs include a 32MP selfie camera and up to 4K video capture at 30fps, as well as a fun new ‘Vlog mode' that creates short montages against music, complete with transitions.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10, 108MP sample (click top-right to view full size)

Xiaomi Mi Note 10, 108MP sample (click top-right to view full size) (Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Specifications

We know that the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 has a pretty special central camera, but what’s the rest of the phone like? For the price, it’s incredible in certain areas, and a little less so in others. 

Let's start with horsepower: the Snapdragon 730G processor inside isn’t going to deliver as high-end performance as the Snapdragon 855, as found in the Google Pixel 4, or the 855 Plus, which is in the ZTE Nubia Z20

In turn, processing the 108MP images can leave you unable to open them for a couple of seconds, so if you’re in a hurry then stick with the 27MP mode. Additionally, the processing power is likely the limiting factor when it comes to 4K video framerates, explaining away the lack of 4K 60fps capture. 

Xiaomi Mi Note 10, 108MP sample (click top-right to view full size)

Xiaomi Mi Note 10, 108MP sample (click top-right to view full size) (Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Storage options impress for the most part; the Mi Note 10 features 128GB storage and 6GB RAM, while the Mi Note 10 Pro bumps that up to 256GB storage and 8GB RAM. If you don’t think 128GB is enough, definitely go for the Pro, as there’s no microSD card storage expansion here. That said, both versions put the paltry capacities of the pricier Pixel 4 s to shame.

To look at, while we ribbed Xiaomi for aping the Huawei P30 Pro design, the phone is still a beauty. The curved glass front and back mask just how thick it is, and while it’s heavy at over 200g, it feels manageable. There’s a 6.47-inch curved AMOLED display on the front, with Full HD+ resolution and an under-display fingerprint scanner. The back is all about those cameras, with a marked camera bump, and both sides are protected by Gorilla Glass 5.

Most impressive is the fact that the Mi Note 10 has a giant 5,260mAh battery, which should deliver up to two-day battery life, and it charges quickly, shipping with a 30W power brick in the box. 

Xiaomi Mi Note 10, 108MP sample (click top-right to view full size)

Xiaomi Mi Note 10, 108MP sample (click top-right to view full size) (Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Early verdict

We can't help but be impressed with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. It has a reasonable mid-range price tag and dares to do something different from an imaging point of view with its world-first 108MP penta-camera. 

In the right environments, its record-breaking resolution captures staggering amounts of detail. And while we're yet to test it extensively in low light environments, on first impression, the Mi Note 10 is definitely a contender for the best smartphone camera crown.

While UK pricing is yet to be confirmed, we’re expecting the Mi Note 10 to launch in late November or early December, and European pricing has been set at €549 ($609 / £472) for the vanilla Note 10, and €649 ($720 / £559) for the Mi Note 10 Pro. A reasonable sum for a record-breaking camera phone? On first impressions, absolutely, but be sure to check back for the full review.

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