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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  • DigitalFreak - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    You guys need to say if a phone is a US model up front. I'd rather not waste my time reading a review of something that's only available in Asia/Europe. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    I agree but for the exact opposite reason. But on the bright side the non-availability of subsidised US versions means that we we non-US readers don't have to have to look up the unsubsidised prices elsewhere to actually get a feel for the real price... Reply
  • Jimbo - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    Yet your eventual cost for the very same hardware is always more, so how is that a "bright side" again? Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    I've no idea what you're trying to say. I applaud every attempt at providing comparable data: When AT reviews a laptop they'll tell you the MSRP (and street price), when they look at a phone they'll typically tell you some bullshit subsidised price which has only a meaning in the US and nowhere else in the world (and also only if you're actually looking to buying the device on contract). Reply
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, September 12, 2015 - link

    I really wish they'd stop doing that. Because of stuff like that, I'm sure most people don't realize their phones are worth more than a few hundred dollars. Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    order this phone through web so available everywhere. reading something on technology is wasting time? time for you to stay in the apple store...... Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    I'm the furthest thing from an Apple fan you'll find, moron. I'm not interested in buying a phone that most likely won't work on many of the US bands.

    You, on the other hand, should spend less time reading about technology and focus on learning the basics of the English language.
    Reply
  • jordanclock - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    Instead of being ass, you could just look up the available bands on a site like gsmarena. Not every product reviewed on Anandtech is going to be applicable to you. In this case, the phone does not support LTE on any US carriers but should support HSPA+ on ATT and T-Mobile. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    As a service to their readers, all AT needs to do is add one sentence. As for the rest, when someone attacks me they get it right back.

    Have a wonderful day.
    Reply
  • Vorl - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    I agree. They very rarely review anything that isn't for consumption in the US. I would also rather not waste my time reading about something that isn't available. Yes, it's a waste. There isn't anything here that's ground breaking tech wise, so nothing to "learn". It's just a matter of how they put the package together. if isn't nothing I can use, why would I care? Reply

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