Xiaomi has been a significant part of the Android ecosystem for a number of years - even before they had ever launched a phone, they were already getting some level of attention from XDA-Developers and other custom ROM communities in the form of ports for MIUI. The launch of the Mi1 smartphone went almost unnoticed in places like the US, and compared to something like the Galaxy S2 at the time there wasn’t all that much to be amazed by other than price. However, the launch of the Mi2 was notable as it was the first smartphone to launch with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro with quad core Krait CPU and Adreno 320 GPU. Although the baseline specifications of the phone were amazing, the truly incredible part was the price at 1999 RMB or 315 USD at the time. The Xiaomi Mi line has continued to develop, with high end hardware at a mid-range price. In the past 4 years, we've continued to notice how Xiaomi seems to always follow this same pattern. This brings us to the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro and Mi Note, which represent Xiaomi’s attempt to conquer the phablet market with this formula.

The Mi Note and Mi Note Pro have the same industrial design (dimensions, weight), but differ in specifications to represent different price bands of product. They weigh in as follows:

 

Xiaomi Mi Note

Xiaomi Mi Note Pro

SoC MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801
4x Krait 400 @ 2.5 GHz
MSM8994 Snapdragon 810
4xA57 @ 2GHz
4xA53 @ 1.5GHz
GPU Adreno 330 @ 578MHz Adreno 430 @ 600MHz
RAM 3GB LPDDR3 933MHz 4GB LPDDR4 1555MHz
NAND 16/64GB eMMC 64GB eMMC
Display 5.7-inch 1920x1080 IPS LCD 5.7-inch 2560x1440 IPS LCD
Network 2G / 3G / 4G
Qualcomm MDM9x25 IP
UE Category 4 LTE
2G / 3G / 4G
Qualcomm X10 (Integrated)
UE Category 6/9 LTE
Dimensions 155.1 x 77.6 x 6.95 mm
161 grams
155.1 x 77.6 x 6.95 mm
161 grams
Camera 13MP Sony IMX214 rear camera,
1.12 µm pixels, 1/3.06" CMOS size,
F/2.0. OIS

4MP F/2.0 FFC OmniVision OV4688
13MP Sony IMX214 rear camera,
1.12 µm pixels, 1/3.06" CMOS size,
F/2.0. OIS

4MP F/2.0 FFC OmniVision OV4688
Battery 3000 mAh (11.4 Wh) replaceable 3090 mAh (11.74 Wh) replaceable
OS Android 4.4 with MIUI 6 (At launch) Android 5.0 with MIUI 6 (At launch)
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, WiFi Display 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, WiFi Display
SIM Size 1x NanoSIM/1x MicroSIM 1x NanoSIM/1x MicroSIM
Launch Price 2300 RMB for 16GB (~$360)
2800 RMB for 64GB (~$439)
3000 RMB for 64GB (~$470)

Immediately, we can see that the Mi Note Pro is clearly targeted for a more high-end audience than the Mi Note, as the Mi Note Pro has a higher resolution 1440p display along with a more expensive Snapdragon 810 SoC and 4GB of RAM. The Mi Note by comparison has a 1080p display, Snapdragon 801 SoC, and 3GB of RAM to make the device cheaper. Both have the same design, dimensions, cameras, battery (90 mAh difference in favor on the Pro), and various other high level specs. The Mi Note Pro at a high level is par for the course for high end smartphones. At 299 RMB/470 USD, it noticeably undercuts other flagships in this category by about 230 dollars or more.

Design

As always, one of the most immediate things about any smartphone will always be the design. Even before you turn the phone on, it’s possible to form an opinion about how a phone feels ergonomically. Going even further, just looking at a device render or some press photos is often enough for people to start forming opinions about the industrial design of a phone or tablet. In many ways, this is one of the most important parts of any device though, as poor design can make a device unbearable to use. In the case of the Mi Note and Mi Note Pro, which both share the same chassis, we see a significantly evolved version of the Mi4 design.

Starting from the front of the phone, this lineage is clear. The top left side of the phone has the Xiaomi logo, which seems to be a staple of Xiaomi phones. The earpiece is slightly sunk into the glass, with a proximity/ambient light sensor directly above it, and the front facing camera to the right of the earpiece. The vast majority of the front face is display, but the capacitive buttons are directly below the display. Like all of their previous phones, these buttons are menu/home/back, but in the case of the Mi Note and Mi Note Pro the menu button is actually a multitasking button. Although I suspect that the menu button is kept out of tradition or something similar, Xiaomi should probably change the icon to a multitasking icon to make things less confusing. The edges of the glass that covers almost all of the front face is also rounded at the edges, which means that edge swipes feel smooth and seamless. However, this does affect glass lens durability as drops to the front face of the phone are more likely to shatter the glass lens.

Moving on to the back of the phone, the Mi Note line has a camera and a dual LED flash on the top left of the phone. Other than some logos and regulatory information, this is otherwise just an expanse of glass that curves significantly at the edges. Rather than just curving the top surface like the display glass, the back cover glass has a bend throughout the glass near the left and right edges. This makes for a noticeably more comfortable feel in the hand. However, this basically means that the phone is even closer to all-glass than devices like the Xperia Z3. Combined with the lack of camera hump, this makes the Mi Note line incredibly adept at falling off of flat tables. Out of all the phones I’ve reviewed so far, I don’t think I’ve ever had a phone as prone to sliding off of tables as the Mi Note and Mi Note Pro. I would definitely invest in a thin TPU case or something similar if I were to buy this phone.

Leaving behind the back of the phone, the sides are similar to the Mi4 with an anodized aluminum frame and chamfered edges. The right side has the volume rocker and power button, with the volume rocker above the power button.

The bottom contains the speaker and a microUSB port which is towards the left side of the phone. Although this makes for worse compatibility with various docks and isn’t symmetrical, this helps to improve usability of the phone in landscape when charging.

The left side contains the SIM tray, and the top contains the 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s no IR port here, so there aren’t any particular holes other than ones for microphones.

Overall, I found the design of the Xiaomi Mi Note line to be impressive. Other than the problems that come with slippery glass, I found the design to execute well when it comes to attention to detail. The logo on the front of the device may be a bit much, but I otherwise had no problems with the phone in everyday use. The ergonomics of the device are excellent as the power and volume buttons are appropriately placed and spaced far enough apart that it’s impossible to confuse the two. The curved back glass means that it won’t wobble on a table but also fits well in the hand. A potential improvement I would request here is porting the sound from the speaker from the bottom of the phone to actually point towards the user, and possibly moving the 3.5mm jack to the bottom of the phone.

Battery Life and Charge Time
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  • Mike89 - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    Xiaomi phones are not optimized for the US. I bought the Redmi Note 2 and when I got it found it would only do 2G in the US no matter the carrier. For every model number there are numerous sub versions of the same model number for different Countries and for the most part the vendors don't tell you which one they are selling. Mine (from Gearbest) was the China version even though it was stated "worldwide". Doesn't have the right bands or the right bands activated for US use. Reply
  • 1010101100 - Thursday, October 29, 2015 - link

    Did you even research the product you wanted before getting it? Did take time to check what bands were supported for the product? Did you have knowledge that not all out of state phones might not work within the US? Lastly did you research to see what data speed your carrier provided for the product you were planning to buy? I'm using a Mi Note Pro right now and have no complaints about my data speed since I know for sure at best right now its HSPA+ on T-Mobile or ATT, currently on the GoSmart mobile prepaid network available in NYC. Like someone mentioned earlier majority of our products sold in the US is produced from China for cheap labor and production cost. The design of a certain product can be from US but was not produced in US but from another country mainly China hence the term "Made in China". Leather goods from India or Italy. Surely US is not at a point where it's just stealing credit for the manual labor? I mean Apple has already been stealing credit for where it should be given. Reply
  • irresistible - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    After reading this review I decieded to buy an Xiaomi Note Pro for 500€ including all shipping costs and taxes.
    Today I own an Xiaomi Note Pro for over seven months now and while using it daily, I can assure you the following :

    1. Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 has different versions (check here http://www.anandtech.com/show/9388/comparing-snapd...
    Xiaomi Note Pro has one of the best version (v.2.1), if not the best version. Therefore the main overheating issue does not exist. From my real-world testing, I assure you that it's not getting warm at 30 degree Celsius room temperature when doing basic tasks (messaging, calls, browsing and so on). When playing taxing games, it will get warm (not hot!) at 30 degree Celsius room temperature. When watching movies for many hours with hardware-acceleration (mandatory in my opinion) your phone will get warm (not hot!). So basically if your room-temperature is about 20 degree Celsius your phone will not even get warm. Were is the overheating issue? If you are gaming 24/7h on max brightness without hardware-acceleration, you might experience throttling. All other scenarios have 0 overheating issues. In my opinion Xiaomi Note Pro is not optimal for heavy daily gaming.

    2. Camera
    It's okay for most people, but nothing special. Shooting is very quick. Like SNAP (1sec) and picture is taken :). It's true that the low-light performance is not good, but which phone has good low-light performance? Oh, yea you are right, flaghship phones which STARTS at 500-700$.

    3. Storage
    Non-expandable storage is not always to be seen negatively. Xiaomi Note Pro is 6.9mm thick and it was released at a date were micro-SD slot was not implemented on flagship phones for various reasons. And still to-date there is only a handful phones e.g. Samsung Galaxy S7 which incorporate flagship design with an micro-SD card slot. For the vast majority of users 64GB is more than enough. And those who want more, shouldn't buy this phone.

    4. Battery Life
    You cannot call battery life: subpar. Why not? This phone is only 6.9mm thick (!!!) and comes with an 1440p display (!!!). And they were able to implement an 3000mah battery, which is huge. But it's also true that it's powerdraw ratio is not that good. Battery lasts about one whole day for most tasks including watching videos (hardware accelerated). You can drastically optimize your battery life with xposed modules e.g. amplifiy, greenify and so on. If you want even more battery life, you can buy Xiaomi Note (non-pro) edition. If you want to do heavy gaming over multiple hours, you shouldn't buy this phone. Games, especially not hardware-accelerated on max brightness will drain your battery fairly quickly. If the battery capacity would be about 2000mah, I would call that sub-par, not 3000mah. Do not forget that this phone is supporting Quick Charge 2.0, your charging time is not that long compared to other phones.

    5. Gaming in general
    If you are like me and play games on your phone occasionally on the way to work or school or whatever, your battery life will be fine. But if you are sitting down on breaks or e.g. in a park with super nice sunlight playing 3-5 hours at max. brightness your favorite JRPG, your battery won't last a whole day. If you are me, you would solve this issue by connecting an sleek powerbank from Xiaomi :)

    If you have any questions, feel freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee to ask meeeeeeeeeee.

    I would like to end this write-up with the following:

    Xiaomi Mi Note Pro is the best 1440p 5.7" smartphone in the world. Only Galaxy Note 5 can compete. (summer 2016)
    Reply
  • Coffeemilotea - Saturday, October 8, 2016 - link

    Hi is your phone with Android 6.0 Marshmallow or KitKat with MIUI 8? Thanks. Reply

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