A few years ago, Xiaomi released their Mi Note smartphone. The Mi Note was a big deal because it was the first large screen Xiaomi (5.7-inch display) and the first that was made of really high-end materials and featuring a really quality design. Interestingly Xiaomi got a lot of flack for the Mi Note, with people complaining that it was too expensive, but move on a few years and every Chinese phone maker is moving further up market.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 (Available from Gearbest) launched a few years after the original Mi Note, and as I predicted Xiaomi have combined the curved rear of the original Mi Note with a curved display and new features. It’s a sexy phone but is it really that good?
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 Review – Design
Xiaomi can only be commended on the design and build of the Xiaomi Mi Note 2. Imagine a Samsung Galaxy S7 if it had a curved glass rear panel to match the curved display and you’ll have a good idea of how the phone looks and feels.
It’s a damn classy handset and one which is just a joy to hold. The beautiful design is backed up with quality materials and a build quality that is second-to-none! Yes, this is really high praise, but you didn’t see the faces of the iPhone 7 Plus owners when I pulled this puppy out and told them the specs and the pricing.
Although the Mi Note 2 is made of glass and features a wonderful CNC machined chassis, the phone is surprisingly lightweight, which with the curved design and narrowly edges really makes for one comfortable to use phone.
Since the original Mi Note launched technology has moved on quite a lot, so Xiaomi had to find room to include a fingerprint scanner. They chose to build the fingerprint scanner into a physical home button in the chin of the phone below the screen rather than on the rear like some other phones.
Flip the phone over and we have a super glossy glass rear panel with the same curve to it as the front. The rear of the phone also features a subtle Xiaomi logo, rear camera and dual tone LED flash.
That glossy black glass finish looks much better than the usual while I receive demo phones in, but like the original Mi Note the glass panels mean you have to be very careful where you rest the Mi Note 2. Leave it on anything not completely flat and the Mi Note 2 will start to slide.
Between the two curved glass panels is a CNC machined chassis with black finish. It’s very narrow to the left and right with just enough room on the right side for a power button and volume rocker, the left side is where the dual SIM card tray can be found.
There is a little more meat on at the top and bottom of the phone, so Xiaomi have been able to include a USB Type C and dual speaker grills in the base while the top of the phone has an IR diode for controlling home device and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Have I already said that this is a stunning phone? I think I have, but what about durability?
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Well with all that curved glass and pretty narrow metal frame some of you are going to worry about how the Mi Note 2 might handle a tumble? Well look a little closer to the phone in the photos and you might find the answer. Yup, I managed to crack the rear panel on my phone. It was a drop of about 4 feet on to concrete and I didn’t notice it had cracked until I got home. Pretty upset about that!
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 Review – Features
To match that stunning body Xiaomi equipped the Mi Note 2 with the type of hardware that we all expect from a flagship phone. The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 boasts a Snapdragon 821 chipset, 4GB RAM and 64GB internal memory (at least my model does).
A 5.7-inch FHD display seems the same as the Mi Note’s on paper, but it’s curved on this phone. Above the display is an 8 megapixel front-facing camera, while the rear is a 22.56 megapixel sensor with F2.0 aperture.
Below the display is a physical home button with built-in fingerprint scanner. Finally inside the phone is a non-removable 4070mAh battery with fast charging.
Ok, so now we know what the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is packing let’s take a look at each feature in a bit more detail.
First up how about performance. Well I’ve been using the Snapdragon 820 powered OnePlus 3 with 6GB RAM and pretty much stock Android. With a Snapdragon 821 and 4GB RAM I was expecting similar performance, but also expected the Mi Note 2 wouldn’t be able to handle multiple apps as well as the OP3.
Those were my expectations, but in reality I instantly found the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 slower than the OP3. Apps don’t instantly load, browsing is a little slower, and the overall feel of the UI is slower and a little bogged down. This is a little underwhelming, and I place the blame solely on MIUI 8, which is quite obviously not optimised for the hardware.
Moving on to the cameras and again I was left wanting a little more. The speed of the cameras is slower than that of the OP3 and was behind the Xiaomi Mi5 (I’ve not tried the MI5S so I cannot compare). The actual images aren’t bad, and do replicate the real scenes well, but I prefer the vibrancy of the OnePlus 3.
While I’m pointing out the faults I may as well mention the display. The curved design is very cool, but the display is pretty poor. Colours are pale, and it’s even lacking when compared to the OP3 display (which is depressing). Not only is the panel lacking, but its responsiveness is below par too. I often need to tap an app a few times before the phone realises what is going on.
It’s not all bad though! The battery lasts well giving me longer battery life than the OnePlus 3, but I’d prefer it actually work as I hoped it would even if it meant I have to charge it more often.
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 Review – Photo Samples
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 Review – Conclusion
So what we have here is a stunning phone, made from the best materials on the market and boasting the latest Qualcomm processor. It should make for one of the best phones on the market, but in reality it performs worse than handsets that launched at the start of the year.
I believe that updates to MIUI 8 could boost performance, and may also bring a more vibrant and response display too, but I don’t want to buy a phone now and hope it improves with updates! That was ok a few years ago when the Chinese phone market was still young, but I don’t expect this from a mature phone maker like Xiaomi.