Xiaomi Mi Note vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus: the weigh-in

Is this even a fair match? How will it all end? These questions and more answered right here, right now

The long-awaited Mi Note has just been announced in Singapore. And our first instinct is to pit it against another phablet favourite - the iPhone 6 Plus.

We see the look of incredulity on your face, but we have done it before with the Xiaomi Mi 4i vs Apple iPhone 6, and we’re doing it again. Why? It’s because Xiaomi has made a point of comparing its phones with Apple’s in its own keynotes. We’re just filling out the rest of the picture in this specs arms race to see if their claims hold water.

Stay with us, we promise this will make sense.

Hey, good-looking

The Mi Note is a svelte 6.95mm and 161g as compared to the 7.1mm thin and 172g light (or should we say heavy?) iPhone 6 Plus. Although numbers say that it’s the Mi Note that’s the clear winner, a 0.15mm difference in thinness and 11g in weight difference are hardly going to register in your handling of the phones. What matters is quality and ergonomics.

The Mi Note is an incredibly beautiful piece of hardware. Unlike its polycarbonate (plastic, really) brethren, Xiaomi’s flagship is carved out of a classy combination of curved glass and aluminium, with those chamfered edges that has had Apple's Jony Ive sputtering with indignation. It’s easy to see why he’s not the happiest designer in the world, the Mi Note looks a lot like the iPhone 5S, down to its speaker grill, which the iPhone 6 Plus has since abandoned in favour of a new look.

With that in mind, the Mi Note next to the iPhone 6 Plus just looks like it got the design update a little too late. Although to be fair, the Mi Note is a beast that’s just as beautiful to behold as it's comfortable to hold.

Just that it’s a slight step behind the iPhone 6 Plus.

Winner: iPhone 6 Plus

Inner strength

The Mi Note is packing a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor that’s clocking 2.5GHz while the iPhone 6 Plus’ A8 processor is a dual-core deal that gets the job done. Backing the Mi Note up is its Sensor Hub co-processor that tracks activity via its gyroscope, compass, and accelerometer.

But here’s where the iPhone 6 Plus one-ups the competition. It has all of the sensors that the Mi Note has plus one more - the barometer to measure elevation changes so it can track stair-climbing and hiking, if you’re bringing your iPhone 6 Plus into the wild with you.

The Mi Note’s 3000mAh battery delivers up to 10 hours of HD video playback while the iPhone 6 Plus' 2915mAh of Li-ion juice that will give it up to 14 hours of the same quality video playback. So it’s not size that matters, but the way the battery handles the running of the system. It’s also important to note that the Mi Note has a slightly larger screen too, which might account for the slightly shorter battery life, and faster charging times with Quick Charge 2.0.

Winner: iPhone 6 Plus

Picture perfect

The Mi Note is equipped with a powerful 13MP of all-seeing power, while the iPhone 6 Plus has stuck firmly by its 8MP rear camera since introducing it in the 4S. While a higher megapixel count does not equal a better camera, the Mi Note also has a larger aperture of f/2.0 while the iPhone 6 Plus’ is slightly smaller at f/2.2. Theoretically, it means that the Mi Note’s camera is able to operate better in low light situations. But the sensor size on the iPhone 6 Plus is larger at 1.5 micron pixels (to take in more light) while the Mi Note’s Sony IMX214 CMOS sensor has a smaller 1.12-micron size. Ultimately, it’s how all these components work together to churn out the perfect picture that counts.

Unlike the iPhone 6 Plus, the Mi Note’s camera is flush with the phone’s body, a fact that Xiaomi has pointedly stated in its keynote earlier this year. It’s no big technical deal, but it's a crucial factor to those obsessed with detail. In fact, when the iPhone 6 Plus was announced last year, there was a mild brouhaha over how the design perfectionist in Apple could have overlooked this. So it is fitting that Xiaomi's making an unstated “whatever Apple can do, we can do better” claim, showing that they’re keeping a close eye on the competition. 

Both cameras feature OIS, handy for the slightly more cumbersome handling of larger phones. The Mi Note does notably record video in 4K, but the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t. But Apple's smartphone more than makes up for the fact with its slow-mo and time-lapse video-recording features. It all depends on what you’d find more useful. If not, you can probably find apps that can replicate the fun iPhone 6 Plus video-recording features.

Guess Xiaomi takes this round for its camera-bump achievement and irreplaceable 4K video recording feature. 

Winner: Mi Note

The big screen

The Mi Note has thinner bezels than the iPhone 6 Plus, and 5.7 inches of screen real estate versus the latter’s 5.5 inches. But what’s the point of bigger screen real estate when details are going to be a little fuzzy around the edges?

While both phablets are full HD 1920 x 1080p resolution, the iPhone 6 Plus packs an eye-searing 401 ppi into its Retina HD display, while the Mi Note’s full HD resolution translates into 386 ppi when you take into account the screen sizes. If detail is what you’re after, you should be able to solve a Where’s Wally puzzle quite easily on the iPhone 6 Plus without squinting too much.

Winner: iPhone 6 Plus

Extra, extra

Like some of Xiaomi’s other phones, the Mi Note comes dual SIM-enabled which is great for people living double phone lives for work and personal purposes. But in terms of storage, it only comes in one size - 64GB. The iPhone 6 Plus comes in a trio of flavours - 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB - to cater to everyone from regular storage spring-cleaners to media hoarders. 

Both phablets pack a different special something. The Mi Note promises pure aural pleasure with its audiophile-grade sound system. If you want to hear every intake of breath in your live studio session recordings, the Mi Note's high fidelity sound setup will tune it through. Although it's a nice thought, it's also a niche offering, as compared to something as convenient and useful as the iPhone 6 Plus' fingerprint sensor. Touch ID is one of the best things that the iPhone introduced, that's also fast becoming a feature that everyone who uses it can't go back to living without. 

Winner: iPhone 6 Plus

Verdict

The Mi Note might have faltered in the face of the iPhone 6 Plus’ fab phab features, but it didn’t crumble under the competition. In fact, its specs only fall slightly shy of the iPhone 6 Plus's. Here's where it will all make sense. In light of the Mi Note's super affordable S$569 price tag (slightly less than half of the 64GB iPhone 6 Plus’ S$1288), it’s clear that the Mi Note is where it’s at if you're looking for sheer value. 

Plus, Xiaomi still has a hidden phablet weapon in the form of the Mi Note Pro that might prove to be tough competition for the iPhone 6 Plus in terms of both specs and price. Your move, Xiaomi.

Stay tuned for our full Mi Note review to see how the numbers translate into real-life usage and if our initial impressions were right on the money.