It’s no exaggeration to say that Xiaomi is one major reason why the Indian smartphone market is amongst the most competitive in the world. What started with the Mi 3 over 6 years ago has now snowballed into the biggest smartphone player in the Indian market; toppling the likes of Samsung, Apple, and Huawei amongst numerous other players.
All that growth for Xiaomi is largely attributed to the launch of their budget-defining Redmi Note series, which although isn’t the only horse in the stable, is definitely one that has galloped. Even other popular smartphones from the Chinese smartphone manufacturer have all been in the budget smartphone segment.
But having dominated the budget smartphone market, Xiaomi is now stretching to make a leap to the lucrative premium flagship market in India with its Xiaomi Mi 10. At a price of INR 49,999, the Xiaomi Mi 10 doesn’t shy in establishing the ambitions it breeds and numbers like 108 and 865 only help it place a firmer foot.
So, how is the Xiaomi Mi 10? Worth it? For now, here’s what I’ll say: although this is the third time that Xiaomi is trying to make its presence in the flagship territory, the Mi 10 is definitely their best attempt so far. Read on our full review to know why!
I’ll say it right away, the Xiaomi Mi 10 is one sweet-looking phone and definitely the company’s most refined attempt so far. The Mi 10 is made of what most premium smartphones are made of – glass and metal. But, in my opinion, what works the most to its advantage is the gracious curvature of the sides, on the front and the back, that really helped my hands coddle the phone.
The exclamation-shaped camera setup at the back makes it easy to recognize the Xiaomi Mi 10 in a sea of glass-and-metal flagships.
Tipping the weighing scale at 208 grams, the Mi 10 is not a light phone by any standards. But Xiaomi has done a pretty good job with weight distribution and the phone won’t strain wrists. Protected by Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and the back, the Mi 10 also scores well on the durability section. In fact, I’ll be honest, the phone slipped through my butter-fingers twice but still held up without any visible scratches or scuffs.
Sitting to the right of the phone is the volume rocker below which rests the power button. The buttons are pretty tactile and are easy to reach despite the tall form factor. The top of the phone houses an IR sensor (oh so handy!), a mic, and a speaker outlet. The bottom of the phone is where the second speaker outlet resides alongside the USB Type-C port, a mic, and a dual SIM card tray. Unfortunately, there’s no support for microSD card on the Mi 10.
Although there are no over-the-top colours, the Xiaomi Mi 10 is offered in two colours that satiated the needs of two crowds. The first colour is “Twilight Grey” that is quite understated and might be the one for you if you don’t want your phone screaming for attention. Although, the glossy back will attract fingerprints and be more visible.
The second colour is the one we have – “Coral Green”. The Coral Green is a colour that evokes joy and there’s a very good chance it’ll remind you of the greenish-blue waters of a heavenly beach you might’ve visited or seen on your screen. What I really liked is that there’s no gradient to the colour and what you online is what you get. It’s really simple.
The Xiaomi Mi 10 sports a 6.67-inch FullHD+ display that supports a refresh rate of 90Hz; the latter being a staple in flagship phones in 2020. Being a premium offering, the display gains curves that really add to the experience of the device and make using the back gesture on Android 10 a pleasure.
The higher refresh rate display also warrants for a fluid user experience which is further enhanced by the animations made use within MIUI 11. Since this is only a FullHD+ display that the phone is pushing, the 90Hz refresh rate won’t sip on juice thirstily. The display is also sensitive enough to take inputs from gloves that I’ve found myself wearing quite often due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Xiaomi claims that the display covers 100% of the sRGB, NTSC, and DCI-P3 colour gamut which basically means the colours you see are quite accurate. In case you don’t like what you see, there’s a lot you can change about the display in the settings. But for me, the default settings worked just fine and the colours weren’t as saturated as I’ve seen on some Samsung phones.
The sunlight legibility of the Xiaomi Mi 10 is on the money too and with a claimed peak brightness of up to 1120 nits, it’s easy to know why.
Being an AMOLED panel, the Mi 10’s display shows great promise to be the go-to display for content consumption if you decide to purchase one. While I really missed watching higher resolution videos on YouTube, content on Netflix looked quite good. The display’s support for HDR10+ content is just the icing on the cake.
The phone also has support for an Always-On Display and you can customize the hell out of it to make sure it shows you just what you want. In fact, you can also add an image of your liking to the always-on display. But that will definitely consume more battery.
The Mi 10 makes use of an in-display fingerprint scanner that didn’t give me any problems in my use of over two weeks. It’s decidedly quick and accurate. But since it’s not an ultrasonic scanner, good luck unlocking the phone with wet fingers. Although, bundled face unlock will be of saving grace in such situations (not if you’re wearing a mask though).
Note: Our Mi 10 unit displayed green tint when using certain applications. However, it seems like this is an issue only with our unit as fellow reviewers I got in touch with haven’t been able to notice a similar problem.
The Mi 10 is packed and I mean packed. Running at its heart is the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC that is one of the most powerful processors out there. Accompanying the processor is 8GB LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB of UFS3.0 storage. If you don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of what those terms mean, you don’t have to. But what you need to know is that there are absolutely no hiccups while using the phone and everything simply flies.
I have to admit, Xiaomi has done a great job in optimizing MIUI 11 for the Mi 10. This also means that gaming is nothing the Mi 10 sweats about. It handles it like a champ. In my numerous sessions of playing Asphalt 9 or PUBG, the game didn’t skip a single frame. Although, the phone certainly gets warm.
“LiquidCool 2.0 Vapor Chamber + 6 Stack Graphite + Graphene Cooling System” is the jargon that Xiaomi uses to say that the phone can be expected to run cooler and sustain peak performance. While it does sustain peak performance, as I’ve noticed in extended gaming sessions, the phone does get warm. It’s not uncomfortable to a point where you can’t hold it for long, but taking calls right after gaming is something I couldn’t do.
One aspect where the Mi 10 doesn’t perform as well you’d expect a flagship to do is memory management. MIIUI’s aggressive RAM management means that applications won’t stay open in the background for long periods of time. While this is something you might not necessarily have a problem with (since it helps extend battery), it’s something you should know about.
Moving on, I’d like to bring your attention to the oh-so-good stereo speakers on the Mi 10. Certified for Hi-Res audio playback, the dual speakers on the Mi 10 are amongst the best speakers I’ve ever tested on a smartphone. While the speakers can get loud like many other smartphones out there, there are not a lot of smartphone speakers out there that can retain as much detail and thump as the Mi 10.
There’s also support for WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, and NFC. Lastly, the Mi 10 delivers great haptic feedback that’s littered around MIUI 11 and makes for a delightful experience.
If it wasn’t clear to you how excited Xiaomi was in housing the 108MP sensor on the Mi 10, the exclamation mark-shaped camera setup should give you a good idea. Apart from the primary 108MP sensor, the Mi 10’s setup consists of a 13MP ultrawide sensor, a 2MP depth sensor, and a 2MP macro lens. Without twisting my words, let me tell you one thing upfront, the 108MP is the sensor doing all the heavy lifting here.
The inclusion of a 2MP macro lens doesn’t seem to add a lot of value to the overall usage, at least in my opinion. The 2MP macro lens doesn’t have support for autofocus and it’s quite cumbersome to take close-up shots with it. But if you like to take close-ups of ants and notes and everything in between, you might be able to derive some utility out of it.
Keeping that aside, let’s bring our focus to what’s of paramount importance: the Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX 108MP sensor. The 1/1.33-inch f/1.68 sensor is one of the largest sensors on a smartphone today and the sizeable sensor lets much more light in than your average smartphone sensor, for better night photography too.
By default, the phone uses quad-pixel binning to produce 25.2MP shots but there’s a dedicated 108MP mode if you want a high-resolution image. Shots taken on the Mi 10 are characteristic of excellent details and there’s some really good dynamic range on show too. Shadows aren’t breeding grounds for noise. There’s support for HDR too but it’s switched off by default.
Night Mode on the Mi 10 also works pretty well. The huge sensor drives light in, in droves, and produces shots that have relatively less noise. Although the software processing isn’t as good as we’ve seen on the Pixel range of phones, the Mi 10’s hardware helps in delivering good shots.
Although, there’s one inherent problem with the 108MP sensor. If the object you’re shooting is to close the sensor, there’s a good chance that a part of the object won’t be in focus. To ensure you don’t face this, it’s recommended to not get too close to the subject.
The 13MP ultrawide sensor on the Mi 10 produces decent shots too. Surprisingly, the colour science of the ultrawide sensor doesn’t differ from that of the primary sensor – something we can’t say about a lot of smartphones out there. Although, the relatively small f/2.3 aperture doesn’t allow for great shots in poor lighting conditions. But performance in daylight scenarios is definitely appreciable and shots are worth sharing on social media.
One weird problem I had with the Mi 10 is the placement of the ultrawide sensor on the Mi 10. Being placed at the bottom, you might find your finger making its way in the viewfinder while taking shots in the portrait orientation.
The 20MP hole-punch sensor on the Mi 10 takes some detailed shots too and portrait mode works really well. Although, I’d suggest you switch off beauty mode if you want to retain skin texture on your face. There’s no support for Night Mode though.
The Mi 10’s primary sensor can shoot up to 8K videos at 30 frames per second – something that might not be useful to most, but just comes to show the processing power of modern-day flagships. The primary sensor has support for OIS which can be used for up to 4K at 60 frames per second.
Videos shot with the phone show vibrant colours and the mic recording quality is also pretty good. Although, shooting 4K video for anything more than 4-5 minutes will considerably heat up the phone. There’s also support for slow-motion videos but it’s only limited to 1080p at 120fps. Although this might not be a big deal to most, would’ve been good to see support for higher frame rates.
If you’re a professional, you’ll be happy to know that there’s support for Pro mode that has features like AE/AF lock (can be locked separately) and Focus Peaking. There’s also an in-built Vlog mode that’ll help stitch videos right on the phone and add some dynamic video effects to make producing videos easier.
All in all, the 108MP sensor on the Mi 10 is excellent but the other sensors don’t quite make up the flagship package you’d expect. It would’ve been nice to see a telephoto sensor here.
The Xiaomi Mi 10 has a sizable 4,780mAh battery that has support for 30W wireless and wired charging. Before I get to the utility of the charging solutions, let’s talk about the battery endurance first. For most users, the Mi 10 will easily last a day while running at 90Hz all day. In my usage of over two weeks, the Mi 10 gave me an average of about 5-5.5 hours of screen on time. This definitely reduces depending on how often you use the camera and how long you game for.
But one thing I should mention is that my usage has mostly been on WiFi since I haven’t been able to step out as often because of the lockdown. Mileage may vary when the usage of mobile data increases. But don’t expect a drastic change in the numbers unless network reception really sucks where you live (or work).
There’s also a battery saving mode built into MIUI 11 that can be configured to kick in when your battery drops below a certain threshold. This should help the phone last longer in dire situations.
But the charging solutions bundled with the Mi 10 is what should really make up for any sort of shortcomings you might have with expected battery life. Firstly, the 30W brick that comes with the phone fully juices up the phone in a matter of an hour and 10 minutes – the 50% mark reaching in a matter of 30 minutes.
Although, if you do plan to buy the Xiaomi Mi 10, I highly recommend you buy the enticingly-priced Mi 30W Wireless Charger. The well-designed wireless charger comes with a fan and can fully charge the Mi 10 in about 80 minutes. according to Xiaomi. Unfortunately, I haven’t found this to be true in my usage of over two weeks. The quickest I’ve managed to charge the phone using the wireless charger is about 100 minutes. But this depends a lot on the ambient temperature. If you’re in an air-conditioned room, you can expect quicker results.
Despite the slower charging speed, the wireless charger is just a great way to charge the phone relatively quickly and when you couple it with Google’s Ambient Mode, the 30W Wireless Charger found a permanent spot on my work desk.
Also, the phone does have support for 10W reverse wireless charging that can charge devices and accessories that have support for Qi wireless charging.
What’s Not Smashable
One major gripe I have with the phone is that software experience is barely any different from that of the budget phones that we’ve seen from the house of Redmi. This is both good and bad. Good because you get a dearth of useful features like Ambient Display Customization, Game Turbo, and Second Space. Bad because there’s still bloatware and spam notifications.
The software situation is not exactly the same. For instance, most bloatware can be uninstalled. But some Mi applications like the Mi Video, Music, and ShareMe can’t be uninstalled. While their existence isn’t really a trouble, it’s the push notifications that some of these applications deliver is what irks me. Now while they’ve been claimed to not be ads, I don’t see it the same way. Tomato tomato. To be fair, we’ve even seen this on phones from other OEMs like Samsung and OnePlus to a certain extent.
Another change in the software is that the Xiaomi Phone and Message applications have been replaced by Google’s cleaner alternatives. Now while this might be a welcome change for all, I’m unperturbed by it. In fact, I’m slightly disappointed as Google’s Phone application doesn’t have support for recording calls, something that’s possible with Xiaomi’s Phone application.
Also, there’s still no app drawer present. While I quickly changed my default to the Lawnchair launcher, I really wish Xiaomi worked on a launcher for its premium range of Mi smartphones. This would also help Xiaomi differentiate the software a bit from its more affordable offerings. We saw POCO do something similar with its POCO launcher.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that it’s June but the Mi 10 is still stuck on the March Android security update and for some reason, the phone hasn’t even found a place in the first rollout of MIUI 12.
Wireless charging and an IP rating are two features that although might not seem necessary to most, have come to be staple offerings across all premium flagships. While the Xiaomi Mi 10 does have support for fast wireless charging, it doesn’t offer any IP rating. The phone only comes with a P2i coating that we’ve seen on the Redmi Note line-up too. An official IP rating would’ve really been appreciated here.
“Okay, can you just tell me if the Xiaomi Mi 10 is worth it’s asking price of INR 49,999?” In a nutshell, yes. The Xiaomi Mi 10 gets a lot of things right. The phone has a great AMOLED panel, blazing performance, an excellent primary camera, quick wired and wireless charging, a really good set of stereo speakers, and appreciable build and design. Although, it’s not perfect, The quad-camera moniker rides heavily on the primary sensor, there’s still bloatware and spam notifications, and there’s no IP rating.
Unfortunately, since Xiaomi wasn’t able to manufacture the Mi 10 in India, the import duties have added to the price of the phone. This might be slightly bothersome for Xiaomi as the market has a bunch of other Snapdragon 865-powered phones for much cheaper. But then again, the Xiaomi Mi 10 has a lot more to offer and if you’re not looking to derive snob value from the phone, the Xiaomi Mi 10 is a great smartphone.
All said and done, I’m personally glad that Xiaomi finally decided to introduce their flagship smartphones to the Indian market. In the larger scheme of things, a formidable player like Xiaomi will really spice up the flagship segment in the years to come and history is proof that stiff competition has only proved to be beneficial for consumers at large.
It’s the start of something more.
Image Credits: Prasham Parikh | Mashable India