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Xiaomi Mi Note first impressions

By Adam Doud February 11, 2015, 10:00 am

I’ve been experiencing a lot of firsts of the past few months. I’ve had my first smartwatch review, first time carrying a BlackBerry, and first time testing a device from overseas. It’s the latter I want to discuss today. The fine folks over at Efox-shop hooked us up with a recently released Xiaomi Mi Note and are allowing us to play with it. I’ve had the device in hand for a few days, and been using it as a daily driver for just a couple of days, since saying goodbye to the Galaxy Note Edge. So I wanted to share with you a few first impressions of this device.

First of all, the hardware is four parts great and one part “whoa”. The Mi Note is a large device with steel frame, a large 5.7” screen on front and slick curved glass back. It has a non-removable 3000 mAh battery and no SD Card support. Our unit was a 16GB capacity device, but it also comes in a 64 GB flavor. The lack of SD card support is less than ideal, but at 6.95mm thick, that’s forgivable. The bezels on the phone narrow to just a scant 4mm. This is a very thin phone.

Did I mention the phone was slippery? Watch it compared to an iPhone 6
Did I mention the phone was slippery? Watch it compared to an iPhone 6

Slippery when…dry

But the part I’m still coming to grips with – quite literally – is the glass on the back on the device. I have never held such a slippery phone in my life. Placing it on a table is very much like placing a slab of ice on a table. It is slip-sliding all over the place, almost on its own. In the hand, it’s not as noticeable, but I will warn you to beware trying to use this phone one handed on a windy day. Placing the phone on my desk at home – a desk that holds the tower for my PC – saw the phone slipping its way off my desk and down to the (thankfully carpeted) floor four times in the space of about an hour. The Blackberry Classic and Note Edge were not affected when placed in the same place.

Beyond that though, the hardware on this phone is well crafted, and shiny, so it’s all right in my book. The software, however, initially seemed very buggy. That was before I decided to factory reset the phone; then it started to behave. The phone ships with MIUI 6.3.7 without the benefit of Google Play and Google services. There is a custom Google installer app you can download from the MI Apps app store which quickly takes care of that problem. Once that’s done, app installation is not an issue. Where those apps go however is a different story.


Keep your drawers on

Early in my Android-judging career, I questioned the need for an App Drawer and home screens on and Android device. If all of your apps could be on the home screens, the app drawer itself seemed a bit redundant. That was an opinion I held right up until I started using MIUI, which doesn’t have an app drawer. This is not a huge deal, but now I see the reasoning behind having the app drawer independent of home screens. This isn’t to say that MIUI is unlivable, but it took some major league getting used to. After all, the concept seems fine for the Apple toting world, which is where MIUI seems to have drawn much of its inspiration.

There are some things that MIUI does well, and some things I frankly don’t prefer. But overall, it’s not hard to learn once you let go of your preconceptions of where things should be. I’ve been working with a variety of Android devices at my day job, and ‘Android debugging’ is always in the same place – except on MIUI. ‘Unknown sources’ is always in the same place – except on MIUI.

The other notable feature of MIUI is the multi tasking, which only shows you the app icon, not a small snapshot of the app itself. I’m rather indifferent on this – I know what Instagram looks like, so I don’t need a thumbnail of it – but it’s certainly a different experience.



Connectivity is good, though I can’t seem to use AT&T’s 4G. I’m maxing out at HSPA+. Follow-up with AT&T confirmed that this phone won’t get all the G’s with AT&T. Phone specifications confirm that the phone is capable of supporting AT&T’s LTE bands (850 and 1900 MHz) but it may be a software limitation, so I think I’m going to have to explore that after the review. The Mi Note does have a dual SIM tray for both a Micro and a Nano SIM, so that’ll be a bonus to you folks who are so popular one phone number just isn’t enough.

Overall, the Mi Note seems like a solid device with a minor peccadillo here or there. There are no deal-breakers thus far (the no-LTE thing stings a bit), and nothing that makes using the phone a bad experience. I look forward to our time together. Have anything in particular you want me to watch for? Hit me up in the comments below so you can help me flesh out the full review coming in a couple of weeks!

Once again, I’d like to thank our friends at Efox-Shop for providing our review unit. If you want one of your own, pick one up at one of Europe’s biggest online retailers of electronics, including phones, tablets and wearables. Go ahead and get your own first impressions with these photos.



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