Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

Xiaomi Mi Note 10


The Good

  • Excellent camera
  • Long-lasting battery

The Bad

  • No water resistance
  • Mid-range processor

The Bottom Line

The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 has one of the best cameras on the market, but it lacks a few options its competitors have.

⚡ Mashable Score 4.0

Cool Factor 4.0

Learning Curve 4.0

Performance 4.0

Bang for the Buck 4.0

Xiaomi has a simple smartphone strategy: Focus on the features people really want, and offer that at the lowest possible price.

The company's latest smartphone, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, takes this approach to the extreme. It's a phone that outmatches expensive flagships with its 108-megapixel, penta camera and massive battery, while keeping the price at a fairly reasonable 550 euros ($610).

At the same time, the Mi Note 10 has a mid-range, Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor, no face unlocking capabilities, and no water resistance. Are the tradeoffs worth it? Read on.

Predictably fast

Typically, I'll start a review with an overview of the phone's design. But let's get performance out of the way. The Snapdragon 730G processor is not as powerful as the Snapdragon 855+, but I've been struggling to notice the difference. The phone is fast and responsive. The end.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 has an AMOLED display with slightly curved sides.


The review unit I was sent had 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage; for me, this was plenty, but those who crave more storage should keep in mind that this phone does not have a memory card slot, so those 128 gigabytes are what you get.

For a similar price you can probably get a phone with more storage, and you can definitely get one with a faster processor. The OnePlus 7T comes to mind. But if you think about it for a minute, camera and battery life might be more important to you than having the most powerful processor and tons of storage.

About that battery — it's an absolutely humongous 5,260mAh cell that will certainly last you a day and a half, but not more, as the phone seems to drain the battery a bit faster than what I would've expected. You also get a fast charger which will charge the phone from 0-100 percent in a little over an hour. Put the two together, and you get pretty great battery performance, even if it's not the best on the market. (I'd say that honor still belong to Xiaomi's Poco F1.)

The in-display fingerprint scanner was one of the better I've used; after a while, I forgot it's there as it just worked, which is always a good thing.

One more thing: The Mi Note 10 has a headphone jack on the bottom. Two thumbs up for that.

Dark mode yes, ads hell no

The Mi Note 10 is the first phone to sport Xiaomi's new MIUI 11 Android skin, which is combined with Android 9 (pity it's not Android 10). Overall, I've found MIUI 11 to be better and more intuitive than the user interfaces of some competitors from China.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 may not be a stunner on first sight, but it has a few nice design touches.


Most of these UIs copy one another (and iOS) and offer basically every feature under the sun. The new MIUI follows more useful trends with a system-wide dark mode, an always-on display option, dynamic wallpapers, a new task switcher and improvements to its health-tracking capabilities, including a new steps tracker and menstrual cycle tracker.

And while the MIUI does a pretty good job at the basics — the Settings menu is well organized, the control panel isn't too cluttered, and notifications work well — I don't like some of the new features. The dynamic wallpaper animations never cease, making them annoying in about 10 seconds. The new task switcher, which shows apps in groups of two, side by side, isn't that great either. But overall, I was able to set the phone up to my liking, and would have no issue switching to it from my iPhone.

One thing that I absolutely detest is Xiaomi's decision to include ads (certain markets only) in its UI. I understand that this likely enables Xiaomi to offer its phones at a competitive price, but at 550 euros it's not as if Xiaomi is giving the Mi Note 10 away. I don't want ads built into the user interface, ever. Period.

Without the cameras, it would just look like any other phone

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

OK, let's count them anyways: One, two, three, four, five.


The review unit Xiaomi sent me is in the Midnight Black color, and while I personally do like the look, it won't cause many heads to turn. The 6.47-inch AMOLED display has fairly small bezels and a waterdrop notch on top. Its sides curve into the gunmetal gray frame, and the similarly curvy back is actually a dark shade of gray instead of black. The vertically laid out penta camera setup on the back will catch the eye of camera nerds, but it's not particularly exciting.

There are details in that design that I love, like the way the frame is curvy all around but flattened on the top and bottom. Details like that make the Mi Note 10 really pleasant to hold; compared to my slightly-too-big iPhone 11 Pro Max, its size feels just right. But overall, the Mi Note 10 doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from other Android phones.

With most premium and even mid-tier smartphones switching to AMOLED these days, it's getting harder to see a difference between displays in terms of quality. I've compared the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 with several phones with OLED displays, and it's not the brightest, nor does it have the best contrast, but the differences are minor. One thing I did notice is the color can sometimes shift blue. In fact, you can permanently see it on the display's curved sides, which are bluish compared to the rest of the display.

So many cameras

With a 108/20/12/5/2-megapixel penta camera setup on the back and a 32-megapixel shooter on the front, you'd expect fireworks, but Xiaomi keeps things fairly simple in its camera app. That's smart — most users want to just point and click, and swarming them with too many options is counterproductive. However, this approach sometimes backfires; I struggled to find the macro mode, only to realize it's hidden in one of the dots above the menu in the camera app.

The options largely reflect the versatility of those five sensors on the back. Besides the macro mode and various zoom settings (0.6x, 1x, 2x, 5x, and up to 50x hybrid zoom if you swipe out with two fingers), there's also a portrait mode, a night mode, and even a dedicated 108-megapixel mode.

But how's the quality of that Samsung sensor? Given this is one of the first 108-megapixel camera phones around, I've decided to pit it against the best cameraphone: the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The 108-megapixel camera, by default, combines four pixels into one to create sharp, bright, 27-megapixel images. And given that 27 megapixels is a lot more than 12 megapixels, which is what Apple and Samsung flagships have nowadays, Xiaomi's photos offer a lot more details when you zoom in.

The difference in detail between a 108-megapixel photo from the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 and a pic from the iPhone 11 Pro is astounding.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

On the left, a detail from a 108-megapixel photo taken with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. On the right, a detail from the same scene taken with the iPhone 11 Pro's 12-megapixel camera.

Image: stan schroeder/Mashable

In daylight, the Xiaomi phone took gorgeous photos with fairly accurate colors; the photos taken on the iPhone were a little bit punchier and a tad sharper but the difference was minor.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

This is the same scene as the one above, but taken with the Mi Note 10 on default settings. It's still sharper than the iPhone photo, though the dynamic range is a little worse.


But as the lighting conditions worsened, the iPhone tended to take better photos — brighter with far more accurate colors. Indoors, for example, not even Xiaomi's night mode helped very much.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

This photo is a tad blurrier than what I would've liked. HDR was on auto, but the dynamic range could use some improvement.


In the evening, the iPhone with night mode was overall better (and faster), but Xiaomi's photos without night mode were surprisingly good, making night mode mostly unnecessary. In the comparison below, Xiaomi (left) actually took a brighter, more detailed photo without night mode.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 on the left, iPhone 11 Pro Max on the right.


The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 also boasts 5x optical zoom and as high as 50x zoom in hybrid optical/digital mode. The phone actually has two telephoto sensors: a 12-megapixel one capable of 2x zoom, and a 5-megapixel one capable of 5x zoom, and I suspect the company is doing some uncanny software magic to produce consistent images at various degrees of zoom. Despite that, the results are quite good. At 5x zoom, the photos stay sharp, and aren't particularly noisy.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

Zoom in, and the photo stays sharp.


Yes, even in the dark. The photo below was taken with a 2x zoom setting.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

Xiaomi's one of the few smartphones that can take decent photos in the dark with zoom on 2x or even more.


Selfies were very sharp thanks to that 32-megapixel sensor (which also combines pixels together to create an 8-megapixel image), but colors were washed out. Portrait mode, as is often the case on phones without a front-facing 3D scanner, was hit or miss, depending on whether the phone managed to blur the right parts of the image.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

This selfie is incredibly sharp, but the sky in the background is washed out, and the colors are a little bland.

Image: Stan schroeder/Mashable

I tested videos only briefly, and overall the quality was average, though I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were in the dark. You can do slow motion videos, as well as macro videos, which isn't a feature commonly seen on phones. One feature you won't get is 4k video with 60fps, which is something the iPhone 11 can do.

Overall, I have to hand it to Xiaomi: This phone more than held its own against the iPhone 11, and was better in many regards, though overall I still prefer the iPhone for its simplicity of use. But if you're looking for a truly versatile cameraphone, the Mi Note 10 fits the bill perfectly.

Buy it for the camera

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review: Monster 108-megapixel camera can really zoom

Camera and battery life: Great. Processor: Mid-tier.


One problem that most phones these days have is that the iPhone 11, which is an excellent phone, starts at $699. An Android phone without Samsung's brand power has to be considerably cheaper than that, on top of being really good, for me to recommend it.

Xiaomi's Mi Note 10 makes the cut, but just barely. Its cameras and battery life are pretty great, and they should be the primary reason for you to consider this phone. If you can live without face unlock and water resistance, and with a mid-range processor, that is.