The Note is dead, long live the Note! Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard that the Samsung Galaxy Note7 is no more, but Xiaomi has a Note of its own to bring phablet lovers some solace this season – the Mi Note 2.
The high-end smartphone from China will inevitably be compared to its Samsung namesake – you can’t escape that with the Note moniker and a dual-curved screen. Sure, those haven’t been exclusive to Samsung phones for a while now (wink, vivo Xplay 5), but they still manage to stand out and get us excited. Less thrilling is the resolution, but more on that later.
Curves and edges aside, the Mi Note 2 is a true flagship and in the fall of 2016 that mandates a Snapdragon 821 chipset. We have the ‘low-spec’ 4GB/64GB version, but there’s another one with 6 gigs of RAM and twice the storage. Even 64GB is plenty though, so we won’t hold the lack of a microSD slot against the Note.
On the other hand, we might be inclined to complain about the camera. While 22.5MP and a f/2.0 aperture sound in between ‘great’ and ‘just fine’, the tiny 1.0�m pixels are a bit troubling. No other red flags in this department though – there’s 4K video recording and phase-detect autofocus, and on the front an 8MP cam promises detailed selfies.
Oh, did we mention there’s an IR emitter? Last found on a Galaxy Note in their 4th generation and unlikely to be seen ever again in Samsung products.
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 key features
- Dual-curved 5.7″ OLED display of 1080p resolution; 386ppi
- Snapdragon 821 chipset: quad-core CPU (2×2.35GHz + 2×2.2GHz), Adreno 530 GPU
- 22.5MP f/2.0 main camera with hybrid phase-detect autofocus; 2160p at 30fps video recording
- 8MP f/2.0 front-facing camera; 1080p at 30fps video recording
- MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
- 64GB of built-in storage, 4GB of RAM; 128GB/6GB version available too
- Cat.12 4G LTE (600Mbps); Dual-SIM; Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.2; NFC; GPS, GLONASS and Beidou; IR blaster
- Dual-microphone active noise canceling
- 4,070mAh non-removable battery, fast charging
- Fingerprint reader
- No waterproofing
- FullHD resolution may be stretched a bit too thin over this diagonal
- Not the most recent Android OS version (though an update should come eventually)
We like our flagships waterproof, and that’s one area where the Mi Note 2 fails to deliver. But Xiaomi hasn’t cracked waterproofing yet so we didn’t expect any different this time around.
We’re not overly excited about the phone launching on Marshmallow either, but at least Xiaomi is known for updating its phones to newer major Android versions, eventually.
We won’t be sitting on our hands here waiting for that to happen before we put the Mi Note 2 to the test, that’s for sure. Let’s kick off this review with the usual unboxing and hardware overview on the next page.
Xiaomi Mi Note 2
|Technology||GSM / HSPA / LTE|
|2G bands||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2|
|3G bands||HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100|
|4G bands||LTE band 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 12(700), 13(700), 17(700), 18(800), 19(800), 20(800), 25(1900), 26(850), 28(700), 29(700), 30(2300), 38(2600), 39(1900), 40(2300), 41(2500)|
|Speed||HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A (3CA) Cat12 600/150 Mbps|
|Status||Available. Released 2016, November|
|Dimensions||156.2 x 77.3 x 7.6 mm (6.15 x 3.04 x 0.30 in)|
|Weight||166 g (5.86 oz)|
|SIM||Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)|
|Type||AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||5.7 inches (~74.2% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Resolution||1080 x 1920 pixels (~386 ppi pixel density)|
|Protection||To be confirmed|
|– MIUI 8.0|
|OS||Android OS, v6.0 (Marshmallow)|
|Chipset||Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 821|
|CPU||Quad-core (2×2.35 GHz Kryo & 2×1.6 GHz Kryo)|
|Internal||64 GB, 4 GB RAM or 128 GB, 6 GB RAM|
|Primary||22.5 MP, f/2.0, EIS (gyro), phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, check quality|
|Features||1/2.6″ sensor size, 1 �m pixel size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama|
|Video||2160p@30fps, 1080p@30fps, check quality|
|Secondary||8 MP, f/2.0, autofocus|
|Alert types||Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones|
|– 24-bit/192kHz audio
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot|
|Bluetooth||v4.2, A2DP, LE|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS|
|USB||Type-C 1.0 reversible connector|
|Sensors||Fingerprint (front-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer|
|Messaging||SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM|
|– Fast battery charging: 83% in 30 min (Quick Charge 3.0)
– XviD/MP4/H.265 player
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/Flac player
– Photo/video editor
– Document viewer
|Non-removable Li-Ion 4070 mAh battery|
|Colors||Black, Gold, Silver|
|Price group||9/10 (About 610 EUR)|
|Performance||Basemark OS II: 2814 / Basemark OS II 2.0: 2381
Basemark X: 36506
|Display||Contrast ratio: 66800 (nominal), 3.228 (sunlight)|
|Camera||Photo / Video|
|Loudspeaker||Voice 63dB / Noise 68dB / Ring 76dB|
|Audio quality||Noise-94.4dB / Crosstalk -91.7dB|
|Battery life||Endurance rating 92h|
We approached the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 review with high expectations. The vacant spot left by Samsung’s phablet this fall season was prime for the taking and we really wanted to see the Mi Note 2 as a product that’s as at least as much disruptive as its pedigree suggests.
Those are certainly some big shoes to fill. And as far as we were concerned, Xiaomi’s phone missed the point.
Try not to get that wrong – the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is a fine smartphone, but there’s simply nothing truly extraordinary about it, and certainly not where it counts the most. It’s got a powerful chipset, a pretty loud speaker, good audio quality, and a capable selfie camera – just like as a real fill-in, it will do the job, but it wasn’t the first choice, was it?
Take the display, for example. What should have been the single greatest bit about the Mi Note 2 in theory, has little to offer other than a couple of (barely visible) curves. Resolution, brightness, viewing angles – all of these have been compromised.
And what’s with Mi flagships this season and their camera sensors with minuscule 1.0-micron pixels? Both the Mi Mix and the Mi Note 2 here could have benefited greatly from the more versatile and overall superior dual camera setup of the Mi 5s Plus, but no. The Mi Note 2 still produces good images, but only in the best of lighting, and we’re past the point of being content with that.
The Xiaomi flagship does redeem itself when it comes to battery life, but even there one could find grounds to complain – if you’re surfing the web most of the time, you’d be getting fewer hours from the Note 2 than from many of its rivals.
Xiami Mi Note 2 key test findings
- Solid build with premium feel, glass back is prone to accumulating fingerprints.
- The dual-curved flexible OLED display is otherwise nothing special in most respects – low actual ppi, below average maximum brightness with no auto mode boost, strong blue tint when viewed from the sides.
- Wide network coverage over a total of 37 bands (for the international version) for the globe-trotters, IR emitter for controlling just about any home appliance.
- Dependable battery life – 92h endurance rating, excellent results in voice call and video playback longevity, on the good side of average in web browsing.
- MIUI 8 is the same across the entire lineup – the proprietary Android overlay takes after iOS, but is rich in functionality and customization options, has its quirks, but comes with a promise for future updates.
- The Snapdragon 821 is a proven top-class performer. Even if the Mi Note 2 is often beaten in benchmarks by the OnePlus 3T, we’re splitting hairs – you won’t be left waiting on the Note 2. The FullHD resolution helps in the graphics department against higher-res rivals.
- Loudspeaker scored a Good rating.
- Very good audio quality.
- Rich in detail 22.5MP photos in bright daylight, with pleasing colors and good dynamic range. Dimmer settings produce soft images with desaturated colors
- 2160p video footage is good, but not quite on par with the best available – colors are nice, but detail could be more. 1080p videos are mostly disappointing – entry-level models in the company’s lineup can do better.
- 8MP selfie camera is capable of resolving a lot of detail and produces nice skin tones. Its focusing isn’t foolproof, though.
A few obvious competitors deserve a mention, and we’re starting with none other than Xiaomi’s own Mi Mix. Packing an impressive display in its own right, the borderless Mi Mix offers a lot more screen estate, but also unmatched wow factor. It’s more expensive though, and has an inferior camera and zero IR blasters (the Mi Note 2 has the one).