Quick question can you name the five biggest phone makers in the world? Chances are you can think of Samsung and Apple and you might have got LG and Huawei but did you get Xiaomi? If not have you heard of the Mi line of phones? If you’re not in the tech industry or China the chances are you haven’t and you’re missing something. I’ve always wanted to have a look and I got one of Xiaomi’s big sellers aimed at the Chinese market the Mi Note Pro via a reseller and it’s been an interesting couple of weeks.
First the hardware. As the Note name implies the Mi Note Pro is a large 5.7 inch IPS screened phone which looks very reminiscent of the earlier Samsung Galaxy Notes with a smooth (and slippy) all plastic back. The screen is less bright than I’d have expected from the specs and suffered a small amount of blurring when I worked it particularly hard. The CPU is a Snapdragon 810 with an Adreno 430 GPU and a massive 4GB of Ram. Onboard storage is only available as 64GB and there’s no microSD card slot but instead two sim slots – one micro and one nano. It should be noted that as this is aimed at the Chinese market it has different radios inside it to most phones in the UK. The upshot is that you might not get 4g LTE on some networks or if you do not full speed. I can verify it works on EE but have heard that it does not on O2.
Wifi and Bluetooth are well served with dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.1 LE but there’s no NFC and I found the GPS autolocation somewhat unreliable.
The camera has decent if not outstanding specs with 13 MP, f/2.0, OIS and a dual-LED (dual tone) flash. In good light the pictures came through well if somewhat over dramatic with the autoHDR and it was acceptable in lower light. It’s got a particularly impressive burst mode that manages 20 pictures per second continuously at a decent quality. Video goes up to 4K but is defaulted to 1080p and again produces decent if unremarkable results.
All in all the hardware is decent and particularly at the price point better than I would have expected.
The software has been more problematic. Xiaomi makes its own version of Android for the Chinese market and has skinned and altered and developed it to such an extent it seems somewhere between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android but it’s Android 5.1 under the surface. In the Chinese market, the Google store is not loaded so resellers turn the phone on and sideload the Play Store to give you access to Google and worldwide apps. So far so good. Unfortunately, it also had uninvited guests added – malware. I’d heard stories of this and the first thing I did on getting the phone was to run Malwarebytes on it and I found three separate infections. Malwarebytes was able to clean up two of them but the third was rather a nightmare and ended with me having to root and use the Android Debug Bridge to fix it and very carefully tidy up. Bear in mind this phone was a review unit from the reseller – they knew I’d be writing about it and it was still infected leading me to conclude that a very good proportion of phones must be infected.
Moving on past that the MiUi is interesting. Apple users will be more comfortable with it initially with it’s lack of an app drawer, its distaste for widgets and iOS styling. Xiaomi bundle their own apps for everything from browsing to camera and although these are generally reasonable but unless you’re a Chinese speaker you’re going to want to download the more familiar Google alternatives.
Included in the box: Mi Note Pro, microUSB Cable, Chinese charger, third party Chinese to UK plug adaptor.
Retailer: Mi or Aliexpress +:
Xiaomi is a privately owned Chinese electronics company headquartered in Beijing. It is the world’s 5th largest smartphone maker in 2015 Xiaomi sold 70.8 million units and was accountable for almost 5 percent of the smartphone global market share. Xiaomi designs, develops, and sells smartphones, mobile apps, and related consumer electronics. They have the bulk of their sales in China but are actively looking to expand globally and have been concentrating on the Indian market
They have been involved in several controversies with questions being asked about the servers in what their servers record, flash sales having far less stock than they report and similar.
Xiaomi has been criticised in the past for being very similar to Apple and the Mi Note Pro has a distinctly Appley look and feel. It’s sheer size makes it look thicker than it is person and it’s quite an attractive, somewhat feminine looking device.
- Target age range: Teens, Adults,
- Target gender: Unisex to female.
Environment & People
The big attraction the Mi Note Pro is the price. It compares very favourably with the mid-range flagship phones that it has generally better specs than being around half the price and is much much cheaper than the Apple and Samsung Note phones it resembles.
Product dimensions: 15.5 x 7.7 x .7 cm
Item Weight: 161g
Colour: Black, Gold, white
Materials: Plastic back, Gorilla Glass front and Metal band sides
Release date: May 2015
Made in China
Operating System: Android 5.1 Lolipop
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
Memory: 4GB DDR4
Display: 5.7″ 1440 x 2560 pixels
Camera: 13 MP, f/2.0, OIS, autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Connectivity: USB 2.0 Micro USB
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth: v4.1, A2DP, LE
NFC (Near Field Communication): No
Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh, QuickCharge 2.0
Warranty: Depending on the reseller from very little to no warranty. Buying through Aliexpress, for example, there is a 60 day cover.
The Mi Note Pro is an odd mix. On one hand it looks and feels impressive and well made in the hand and the price is great for the specs and the design. On the other, the software is occasionally confusing and came with malware preinstalled. The key is the fact that the device wasn’t aimed at the worldwide market and the hoops that third-party vendor had to take to get Google on it opened security holes.
If you’re willing to take the time and effort to get the holes fixed the Mi Note Pro is a well built and specced phone at a budget price but this is very much a case of buyer beware. Recommended for those who really know what they’re doing and are after a large screen phone at a budget price, everyone else stay away.
The review is based on the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro kindly provided by AliExpress
Click to read more about our eco icons and access icons used in this review. This article was first published on 8th May 2016.