Xiaomi Mi Note 2 review: Design and build
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is one big piece of loveliness, with its gorgeous curved edges at the front and back, high-gloss black finish and rich OLED display. Unlike the Mi5s and Mi5s Plus, which now feature a metal unibody, the Mi Note 2 retains its glass front and rear, which is very much like the design used by Samsung in its S- and Note-series flagships.
It’s not quite the Note 7 copycat people are calling it, and an obvious difference is the lack of a stylus here, but there are some similarities. The Xiaomi, too, has a 5.7in panel, although it has a lower screen resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. The difference between full- and Quad-HD will not be noticeable in most use cases, but if you demand the very best multimedia experience then regardless of what you read the human eye can tell the difference between the two. That’s not to say the Xiaomi isn’t pin-sharp, however, and we really don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this screen.
This is the first Xiaomi phone to get the dual-curved-edge screen at the front of the device, but it’s not as obvious as on the Galaxy S7 edge. This results in fewer accidental app presses from the side of the screen, but also means the panel doesn’t appear to wrap around the body so far - although they are minimal the left and right screen bezels are indeed visible. Also see: Best phone under £300
The overall effect is gorgeous nonetheless, and makes us even more excited about the bezel-less Mi Mix we’re expecting to arrive any day now. And it’s not just about how the phone looks: the way the Mi Note 2’s front and rear curve into each other and are separated by only a thin metal chassis feels fantastic in the hand. This is a big phone, but it feels easily usable - especially so when you invoke Xiaomi’s One Handed mode.
In order to achieve this curved screen Xiaomi has ditched the IPS LCD used in its Mi5s and Mi5s Plus in favour of a flexible OLED panel. That’s a great thing in our opinion, as we love the vibrant colours and deep contrast of OLED tech, and you can fine-tune the screen appearance to your taste. Sunlight Display means it’s ideal for use in bright sunlight, and there’s also a handy reading mode.
For this particular screen Xiaomi lists 100 percent NTSC colour gamut, 100,000:1 contrast ratio and a screen-to-body ratio of 77.2 percent. The latter is lower than is seen on many flagship phones, which may be surprising given the slim bezels. However, there is a fair amount of space above and below the screen, which is where you’ll find the new lightning-fast fingerprint scanner built into the home button.
There are some other key differences in the build between this Mi Note 2 and its predecessor, for instance the move to USB-C and the new speaker grilles that sit either side - though there is still only one speaker. The Mi Note 2 has some decent audio credentials with 192kHz/24-bit audio, and it’s plenty loud provided you keep its bottom-facing speaker clear.
The battery capacity has also increased by more than 25 percent, from 3,000mAh in the Mi Note to 4,070mAh in the Mi Note 2, and yet the new phone adds just 7g and less than a millimetre to its belly. It’s still remarkably thin at 7.8mm. This battery supports Quick Charge 3.0, which Xiaomi says can charge the phone to 83 percent in half an hour.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is available in Glacier Silver and Piano Black, both with a glass front and rear and 7-series aluminium frame. We received the black model to review, and are struggling to fault its design. If we had to point to something it would be the way the front and rear panels remember every touch, though we expect fingerprints would be less of an issue with the silver model.
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 review: Core hardware and performance
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 was previously available in two configurations: one with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (reviewed here), and another with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The top-end model is also available with Global LTE support. Now there is a new Special Edition that pairs 64GB of storage with 6GB of RAM.
All models run the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor at 2.35GHz with Adreno 530 GPU, which is quite a jump up from the Snapdragon 801 and Adreno 330 seen in the Mi Note. (Of course there was also a Mi Note Pro that ran the more recent Snapdragon 810 and Adreno 430 GPU).
When considering the core specifications the Mi Note 2 begins to look even more like the Mi5s Plus. After all, both have the Snapdragon 821 processor, 4/6GB RAM, 64/128GB storage and a 5.7in full-HD screen. The key differences between the two are the curved OLED panel on the front and glass rear of the Mi Note 2, plus a slightly higher-capacity battery (4,070mAh vs 3,800mAh) and a single 23Mp camera (the Mi5s Plus has two 13Mp lenses).
With the Snapdragon 821 inside the Mi Note 2 becomes an instant rival to the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, OnePlus 3T and Xiaomi’s own Mi5s line-up. In our benchmarks it held its own against those phones, falling behind the 6GB RAM OnePlus 3T and smaller-screen Google Pixel, but keeping ahead of the Pixel XL. We haven’t tested the Mi5s Plus, but against the 3GB RAM Mi5s it was only a couple of frames behind in our games tests. General processing performance was very close in Geekbench 4, but the Mi Note 2 fell behind in AnTuTu 3D.
You can compare the results of our benchmarks below, but what really matters is real-world performance. And here we cannot fault the Mi Note 2. This is an incredibly fast smartphone, and no matter what it does it doesn’t hang around. Also see: What's the fastest phone?
Storage is incredibly generous at 64GB as standard, though it’s a shame there’s no microSD card slot for those who demand more. The battery is also very high in capacity at 4,070mAh. In our experience it lasts for around a day and a half, though the ability to charge it to 83 percent in half an hour makes runtime seem less important. Wireless charging is not supported, and the battery is not removable.