Smartphone cameras have sure come a long way this year. Not only did we get smartphone cameras that climbed up from 48MP to 64MP, we also saw triple to quad camera setups that included lenses such as telephoto and macro. As we reach the end of the year, it looks like Xiaomi has more to contribute to the evolution of smartphone cameras - by introducing a penta camera setup with a 108MP main camera.
For those unaware, a penta camera setup means it has 5 cameras and for comparison, both the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S10 - both flagships for the brand - have 12MP for their main cameras. Xiaomi has really raised the bar with the introduction of the Mi Note 10's impressive penta camera setup with the 108MP. And while that makes the Mi Note 10 one of the best smartphone cameras around in terms of specs, the question remains on whether that makes it a great smartphone overall.
That design looks familiar
In terms of looks, the Mi Note 10 is pretty much the same as the Huawei P30 Pro: flat bottom and top and a curved glass back and front. Even the colours are similar - our UK counterpart had the Glaciar White while we had the Midnight Black and while they're both undoubtedly gorgeous, they definitely look similar to the White and Black options of the P30 Pro. This isn't a bad thing at all, especially since the P30 Pro is a well designed smartphone and does look amazing overall.
To clarify a bit more on the colours, the Midnight Black edges are more towards matte compared to the shiny edges on the Glaciar White or even the Aurora Green. This is definitely preferable for me as that means less fingerprint marks on the device.
For size, the Mi Note 10 is big – close to the size of the iPhone 11 Pro Max. But at least Xiaomi made space for a headphone port. On the back is the penta camera setup which definitely sticks out a little so you will need to use the cover case given with the device to make it even. Can't say I like the setup of the camera being one long vertical as my hand tends to cover the bottom cameras. Thankfully that's the macro camera, which is something I won't likely use with my hand covering the back.
As for the screen, you're getting a 6.47 inch Full HD resolution and a pixel density of around 400ppi with an AMOLED display. Together with the HDR10 credentials, the screen overall looks amazing; nice and bright (600 nits), relatively edge-to-edge, with a small water-droplet notch at the top. You also get an in-screen fingerprint display which works really well, too. Together with a 5260 mAh battery, the device is packed to keep you on your screen for long.
Less than powerful
Xiaomi uses the MIUI, and with the Mi Note 10 it's the MIUI11. Yes, you're still getting Android but it comes with some changes such as the lack of an apps tray and there's no tiny notifications on the top of the screen - which can be worrying to those who may miss out on notifications as now you have to drag the top down to see them. It gets worse as you use certain apps like the Cleaner and after you're done with cleaning the system, you get served an ad. They can be disabled thankfully, but it's still odd that you paid for the device and UI and still get ads.
The next issue you may have with the Mi Note 10 is their processor. The Mi Note 10 utilises the Snapdragon 730G with 6GB RAM which is definitely lacking in power when compared to a Snapdragon 855 or 855 Plus – two chips found in cheaper devices like the Mi 9T Pro and the Realme X2 Pro. This means gaming and other powerful apps will be slow or lackluster on this device. And while having 128GB storage can be more than enough for most, power users might fill it up after a few months, and it will get even more frustrating when they realise the Mi Note 10 has no SD card slot.
If you're just a casual user, using the device for social media and streaming videos and music, the device works well enough. But push it to the limit, and you may see some cracks. This brings us to the big star of the Mi Note 10; the camera.
Impressive 108MP camera
There's no doubt it; the Mi Note 10 is the sharpest smartphone camera available in the market today. The main wide-angle camera is 108MP. There’s also a 12MP 2x zoom camera, a 5MP 5x zoom camera, a 20MP ultra-wide camera and a 2MP macro photography camera.
With all that, the photos taken on the device is hands-down impressive. On its own, the photos are taken in 27MP but take on the 108MP camera and it's almost ridiculous. My husband took a photo with the Mi Note 10 as I drove and we were shocked to see the furthest car's number plate after zooming in on it. It's just that insane.
The other cameras are just as impressive. The 12MP 2x zoom combo makes for a great portrait camera and the ultra-wide-angle lens captures everything well though the same cannot be said for night and dark shots. The Macro camera is a nice touch too, and the front 32MP selfie camera is one of the better ones around.
Video capture is also decent, though at 4K the frame rate is capped at 30fps. With optical image stabilisation, however, its footage is held together well, and I especially loved the inclusion of the Vlog button that functions similarly to TikTok. So much so that I would like to request that Xiaomi gives more options for Vlogs and make it further customisable. It's a lot of fun, and I imagine it would be so for the younger folks.
As mentioned earlier, the device lacks power and even that lack of power will affect the camera. There's a noticeable lag, especially when using the 108MP camera so do take note that these great features lack great power.
Xiaomi's Mi Note 10 is definitely one of the most impressive smartphone devices available in the market. I imagine they managed to keep the device affordable by sacrificing power for the sake of a powerful penta camera setup, which is a little disappointing as the device would have been a hit if it was just higher in power. But there's no doubt about it that the Mi Note 10 has opened possibilities to what a 108MP camera smartphone can do, and it's likely this is the stepping stone for more great things to come from Xiaomi.