The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 offers a 5.7-inch curved full-HD display. The rear also consists of curved glass and the Mi Note 2 provides the currently fastest mobile Android processor, the Snapdragon 821. You can choose between 4/64GB and 6/128GB storage and between black and silver in terms of colours. Only the GLOBAL version offers full LTE support all over the world. Except for the concept smartphone Mi Mix, the Mi Note 2 is the most expensive smartphone by Xiaomi so far. If the Mi Note 2 is worth its 400$, you’ll find out in the following review.
Design and build quality
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 consists merely of two strongly rounded off sheets of glass (3D glass), which are attached to a thin aluminium frame. Holding the phone in the hand, you only feel the glass, but not the metal frame. You can’t build a smartphone better than the Mi Note 2. The device feels as if it were made of only one piece while holding it. The common disadvantages of double-glazing apply more than ever to this phone. Because of the curved glass the risk off breakage is extremely high when the smartphone is dropped onto the side. The device is also a lot more slippery than a Mi5 for instance, which at least has a frame that is easy to grip.
The Mi Note 2 is as light as a feather with its weight of 166g, considering the 5.7-inch display and the 4000mAh battery. Its dimensions of 156 x 77.5 x 7.7mm are quite compact. Weight, dimensions and the materials used create a really nice feeling while holding it in the hand. Operation with only one hand is not always possible, but Xiaomi’s one-hand mode (reduce the display size to 3.5, 4 or 4.5 inch) is sometimes a good feature. In order to activate it, you have to swipe from the home button to one of the sensor keys. Xiaomi uses a physical power button and two illuminated sensor keys. With Xiaomi’s own MIUI operating system you can customize the keys’ functions. Power button and volume control are located on the smartphone’s right hand side. Both are made of metal and are fixed well in the casing. The notification LED shines in different colours and can be found at the top left.
The home button can either be pressed or simply be touched, and probably it is the fastest fingerprint scanner in the world. However, you have to press the button before the phone is unlocked. Within the moment of pressing the smartphone is turned on and ready to use. The Mi Note 2 recognized my finger always on all 10 days of testing. The Mi Note 2 provides dual-SIM and you can use two Nano-SIMs at the same time. The 22MP camera is perfectly fixed in the rear and a metal ring protects it from scratches. The USB type-C port (which has become a standard) can be found at the bottom.
All in all, the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is one of the most aesthetic smartphones I’ve ever held in my hand. The build quality is excellent and the double-glazing secures a very high quality feeling. Before purchasing the device you should be aware of the disadvantages of double-glazing. After five minutes of use, the Mi Note 2 is covered with fingerprints, the glass is very likely to break if the phone falls down, and the smartphone itself is very slippery.
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 scope of delivery
The scope of delivery contains a charging adapter, a USB type-C cable, a SIM ejection tool, and probably the cheapest protective cover in the world. Xiaomi is known for its Spartan scope of delivery, and considering the price/performance ratio there should be no complaints, but then they should forgo the extremely cheap hard plastic cover. Accessories can be found on Aliexpress or in the respective online shop.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 offers a 5.7-inch OLED display with a 1920×1080 pixels resolution, which means 386 pixel per inch. The readability outside is quite good, but the Mi5s’s display does an even better job. The sharpness of small fonts does not fully convince, in comparison to the Mi5s’s IPS display I like that one better. However, you only notice this difference in direct comparison, but not in daily use. The OLED display is slightly curved, which leads to bluish colour changes at the edges especially when having white backgrounds. Despite the 3D curved glass, you can see 2.5mm bezels. The colours are strong as it is typical for OLED displays. The high contrast secures a perfect black.
The touch screen registers 10 points of contact simultaneously, and it works directly without any delays. The accuracy is absolutely perfect. You can find the popular double-tap-to-wake-up function in the settings menu. As usual, Xiaomi doesn’t use Gorilla Glass but scratch resistant glass. The 3D glass curves at the left and right side of the display are without function; during the testing phase there were no unintentional operations.
Performance and operating system
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 runs with the currently fastest processor in the world. The Snapdragon 821 is supported by either 4/64GB or 6/128GB storage. The storage is not expandable via a micro-SD. The reading/writing speed of 419/162MB/s is insanely fast and the RAM’s speed of 15.6GB/s is excellent as well. The Snapdragon 821 in combination with the Adreno 530 GPU secures unlimited performance. No matter which game you play on the Mi Note 2, it runs absolutely smoothly. The heat management is convincing, the smartphone did not get significantly warm after one hour of gaming Asphalt 8. The benchmark results also confirm the great performance, the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 scores 160,000 points in the Antutu benchmark. The Mi Note 2 is one of the fastest smartphones on the market, and it’s perfect for excessive multitasking thanks to an enormous RAM of either 4 or 6GB.
Our testing device is the Chinese version with 6/128GB and it currently runs with the official China ROM. The GLOBAL ROM with the preinstalled Playstore will be available in one month at the latest. Most of the preinstalled Chinese apps can be uninstalled, and you can/should deactivate notifications of the remaining apps. In the security centre (“Permissions” -> “autorun”) you should tick every app from which you wish to receive notifications (WhatsApp, e-mail…).
MIUI V8 is based on Android 6 and of course it will get an Android 7 base as well. In the end, this is not that important, as MIUI is an extremely adapted system. Thanks to the integrated theme app, you can customize the system and MIUI brings along some nice features. As we discussed these features intensely in all the other Xiaomi review, I refer to the Redmi Note 4 review. The MIUI V8 system is stable and runs insanely fast on our Mi Note 2.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 uses a 22.5MP IMX318 sensor by Sony with an f/2.0 aperture. The Mi Note 2 takes excellent pictures in daylight, which convince especially with their details and sharpness. In comparison to the Mi5s, the pictures are a bit darker depending on the scenario, but still nice. The Mi Note 2’s images are richer in detail than the Mi5s’s pictures in good lighting conditions. The colour representation is accurate and the autofocus works very fast. There is virtually no trigger time and even HDR images are taken almost immediately. If you want to do macros, you can’t zoom in too much, as you then can’t focus anymore. In the MIUI V8 camera app you can find some filters and a lot of setting options, as for example the manual mode or the panorama mode.
The 8MP front camera is perfect for selfie lovers. If the camera focus is right, you can take beautiful selfies. The front camera is suitable for talking via Skype as well.
Taking pictures in the dark or in bad lighting conditions are a clear niggle of the Mi Note 2. As soon as there is low light, significant image noise occurs. The Mi Note 2’s video recordings however can convince thanks to the electronic image stabilization. The EIS function is used even in 4K and clearly reduces shaking. During recordings, the autofocus does a great job as well. The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 takes appropriate pictures considering the price. Images taken in low light cannot convince and optical image stabilization would have made video recordings better. But don’t get me wrong, the Mi Note 2 does a good job in terms of 4K video recordings.
Connectivity and communication
The reception as well as the voice quality are excellent, with high volume if needed. Here you can see three screenshots of speed comparison between 4G, 3G and Wi-Fi.
Only the Xiaomi Mi Note 2‘s GLOBAL edition supports every LTE band. The Mi Note 2 uses an up-to-date dual-Band Wi-Fi (ac-standard) and range as well as throughput are excellent. The Bluetooth 4.2 module connects fast to all devices without inference.
2G: GSM B2/B3/B5/B8
CDMA: CDMA: BC0
3G: WCDMA B1/B2/B5/B8
TD-SCDMA: TD-SCDMA B34/B39
4G: FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B7
TDD/TD-LTE: TD-LTE B38/B39/B40/41
The audio jack’s sound quality is totally convincing with our Xiaomi Pistons 3 Red Dot Edition headphones, but the volume could be a bit higher. In the MIUI system, you can customize the sound via the integrated equalizer, and there you should address your Xiaomi headphones directly. Connecting USB type-C headphones, the sound is significantly louder (we used LeEco DLNA headphones, 15$). The internal speaker even generates a bit of bass, and music is played differentiated and clear with good volume.
The Mi Note 2’s GPS reception is good, the device carries out a fix even inside buildings and the position is determined quite exactly. The position is up to 3-4 meters precise in a car or outside. Car as well as pedestrian navigation worked perfectly thanks to the electronic compass. Besides the three standard sensors (acceleration, proximity and brightness sensors), a gyroscope sensor (for the use of VR glasses) and an infrared sensor are also provided. NFC and OTG are supported, too.
The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 uses a 4000mAh battery, which is not replaceable. The renunciation of a 2K display can be noticed in a positive way, as the battery life is extremely good considering the high performance. After two days of use with gaming, benchmarks, YouTube, surfing and dual-SIM operation I got a DOT (display-on time) of 6-7 hours each day. In the PC-Mark battery benchmark, the Mi Note 2 runs with medium brightness for 9 hours with dual-SIM and for 10 hours with single SIM. Xiaomi is expected to noticeably increase their battery life by means of software optimization. The phone is charged up to 80% in 20% steps every 15 minutes. After that, however, you have to wait 40 minutes until the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is fully charged. The smartphone does not get warmer than 30°C during the charging process with the quick-charge 3.0 adapter, which is simply great.