[First Cut] Xiaomi Mi 10: Walking that premium talk?
Returning to the high end in India
It has been the most discussed phone in India for the past month or so, provoking some very fierce debate. And now it is here, trying to make a space for itself in the premium segment. We are talking of course, of the Xiaomi Mi 10. At Rs 49,999, it is easily the most expensive phone Xiaomi has launched in India. And these are our first impressions of it.
A big phone, this
There’s no hiding it – the Mi 10 is a big phone. At 162.5 mm, it is around the same height as the OnePlus 7T Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S20+, although it is smaller than the massive 165.3 mm tall OnePlus 8 Pro (we have not got it yet, that said). It is reasonably slim at 8.96 mm but at 208 grams is not exactly lightweight. This is a phone for two-handed use, let’s be honest about it. It is heavy, but the curved edges mean that holding it is not uncomfortable.
And well, in terms of design, it is more of a box-ticker than a radical reinvention. You have the curved glass display – a 6.7-inch AMOLED affair with a punch hole in the top left corner and a fingerprint scanner underneath it (we would have loved it on the side!) – with sides that curve out to meet the back. The back is glass and if you like shiny, glossy backs, you will like it. We got the Coral Green variant, and while the design is not exactly going to jump out at you, with its largely predictable capsule-shaped camera unit jutting out from it (although the presence of one camera outside the unit, does give it an exclamation mark like feel!), it does look premium enough. It will pick up smudges aplenty, though.
Xiaomi has added a slightly hard-is transparent case to the box with a matte finish, and although it does (further) bulk up the device and takes the edge off its looks, we would advocate using it unless you have a smudge and scratch fetish. The left side of the phone is totally bare, but interestingly there are speaker grilles at the top and at the base. The base is actually a little crowded, also packing in a dual SIM tray and a USB type C port. The top has an infrared blaster as well, whereas on the right are the volume rocker and the power/display button. Nope, there is no 3.5 mm audio jack, although Xiaomi has put a USB Type C to a 3.5 mm adaptor in the box.
Truth be told, we kind of think the Redmi K20 stood out more with its gradient finish, and the OnePlus 7T with its frosted glass looked a bit more classy, but this is not to say the Mi 10 looks bad. No, it looks premium enough, but it will not exactly stand out in a crowd or clamor for attention on a table. In Xiaomi terms, this is not the Mi Mix class. It does come with p2i splash resistance, which is not really on par with IP ratings but well, is handy.
With big specs
But then we doubt anyone is actually going to go for the Mi 10 for its design. No, we suspect most of those investing in these flagships will be eyeing its specs more than its looks. And those specs are, well, spec-tacular. Pun totally intended. That 6.67-inch display is a Full HD+ one (Xiaomi decided against going on the quad HD+ path to conserving battery, we are told) with a 90 Hz refresh rate (rejoice, frequent scrollers) but what marks it out is just how bright and brilliant it is – this is close to Samsung territory, and that is saying something. So far, we would call it one of the best displays we have seen on a phone in 2020, right alongside those S20s from Sammy.
Of course, this is a 2020 flagship so it runs on Qualcomm’s latest and greatest – the Snapdragon 865 processor. This is accompanied by 8 GB LPDDR5 RAM and 128 GB and 256 GB UFS 3.0 storage, which should make this a very snappy device indeed. No, there is no expandable storage but with the base model being a 128 GB one, we do not think that is likely to be an issue.
The highlight, of course, is the main camera sensor, which is a massive 108-megapixel affair (only the second in the country after the S20 Ultra, although Motorola has released the Edge+ with a similar sensor as well). At 1/1.33 inches, it is one of the larger sensors out there and comes with an f/1.69 aperture and OIS, with support for 8K video too. Xiaomi claims it is among the best out there and on paper, it certainly is.
However, its supporting cast is slightly underwhelming in comparison – a 13 megapixel ultrawide with an impressive 123 degrees field of view (FOV), a 2-megapixel depth sensor, and another 2-megapixel macro sensor. Xiaomi says that the massive main sensor could compensate for a telephoto sensor – you do get 2x lossless zoom and 10x digital zoom – but some might hem and haw at the low megapixel counts of the depth and macro sensors, not least because even the Redmi Note 9 Pro has a 5-megapixel macro sensor. The tiny notch in front houses a 20-megapixel camera, which is par for the course at this price point. A key ingredient of the camera performance will be all the modes that Xiaomi has packed into the device.
Which brings us to the software on the phone. It is MIUI 11 minus the ads on Android 10. You do get the traditional MIUI tools and some additional apps, but this is perhaps as clean as MIUI will get. There are also dual stereo speakers and unlike on other devices, these are of the same size, which we are told, will deliver better and more consistent sound.
Rounding off the hardware goodness is a 4780 mAh battery, which comes with support for 30W fast charging (with a fast charger in the box) as well as 30W wireless recharging (with Xiaomi offering its 30W wireless charger at Rs 1,999 in India). And well, there is 5G connectivity for those who aspire to it, as well as good old Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G, GPS, and infrared!
Worth that so-called big price?
All said and done, the Mi 10 packs a truckload of hardware goodness inside that relatively routine design. There are not too many corners cut here – you have what seems like a very good display, the promise of terrific sound, one of the few 108 MP camera sensors in cell world, a big battery, and lots of other bells and whistles besides. The Mi 10’s big challenge is going to be to show to the Indian audience that all this adds up to being worth paying Rs 49,999 for. That too, in a market in which, the OnePlus 8 Pro is lurking (we do not think the OnePlus 8 is a contender, to be honest, as it gives ground on too many fronts), and where many feel that Xiaomi is associated with lower-priced products, the success of the K20 series notwithstanding. It has the hardware to do so, but the Mi 10 also needs the performance to put Mi back in the premium zone. Will it succeed? Stay tuned for our review. Oh, and there will be comparisons!