Xiaomi has found itself in a bit of a pricing conundrum in India. It tried distancing itself from the Redmi brand last year in order to keep the Mi name reserved for premium products. However, it then went ahead and launched the Mi A3 under Rs. 15,000 later in the year, which somewhat defeated the purpose. Redmi smartphones are hugely popular in India, primarily due to their pricing. Over the years, Xiaomi has developed a reputation for itself as being a disruptor in the budget segment, with very few of its phones exceeding the Rs. 20,000 mark.
Xiaomi has now made a bold move by launching the Mi 10 5G in India at Rs. 49,999, in the “value flagship” segment that OnePlus now calls home. Yes, you might be thinking that's a lot of money for a Xiaomi phone, but that's the exact perception the company hopes to kill.
We've seen a lot of chatter on social platforms about how the Mi 10 5G is dead on arrival and that it won't sell at this price, so we decided to check it out ourselves. We've spent a good week with the Mi 10 5G to see if this Xiaomi phone is worth the high price it commands.
A flagship phone is expected to have the best specifications, but more than that, it should also look and feel the part. The Mi 10 5G does deliver on that front. The curved glass on the front and back of this phone looks classy. This, coupled with the high-gloss finish makes it striking to look at. The Coral Green colour that we have looks very nice, and is something you'll want to show off. The Mi 10 5G is fairly large in size, even with the slim display bezels, and it's heavy too at 208g. However, it doesn't feel too bulky as the thickness is under 9mm.
The buttons on the Mi 10 are clicky and placed within reach. There's no headphone jack, but Xiaomi provides an adapter in the box. The dual-SIM tray is at the bottom, along with the Type-C port and a speaker. There's another identical speaker at the top for stereo sound. According to Xiaomi, this should offer a balanced stereo sound compared to phones that use their earpieces as the second speaker. You also get an infrared emitter on the top.
Xiaomi is making a big deal about the Mi 10's display and its colour accuracy. It's definitely a very good-looking panel with punchy colours. It's a 6.67-inch AMOLED screen and is sharp enough, but the resolution is full-HD+ (2340x1080) and not QHD+. It supports the DCI-P3 wide colour gamut and HDR10+ with a peak brightness of 1,120nits. The display also runs at 90Hz, which is a big trend right now.
The Mi 10 5G has a cutout for the selfie camera in the upper left corner, which looks a bit bigger than the one on the Galaxy S20+ (Review) but is still relatively unobtrusive. Most shows on Netflix will have black bands on either side, which automatically hides the hole. At the back, the four cameras cause a bit of a bump, which rocks the phone when it's placed flat on any surface. We'll get to the cameras in a bit as that's one of the big features Xiaomi is touting.
Overall, the Mi 10 looks and feels the part of a flagship smartphone. It's very well built and looks classy. The retail package contains a charger, cable, case, Type-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter, and SIM ejector tool. A headset isn't included.
The Mi 10 5G checks nearly all the boxes in terms of specifications for a flagship phone — but there's no IP rating. Xiaomi says that the Mi 10 has a P2i coating to repel water, so it should be able to survive accidental splashes. Just don't go submerging it in water. Other than this, it has almost everything you can think of, starting with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, LPDDR5 RAM, UFS 3.0 storage, an in-display fingerprint sensor, Wi-Fi 6, fast wireless charging, and 5G. We have the 8GB RAM + 128GB storage variant, but there's a second model with 256GB of storage. There's no microSD card slot to expand storage.
Xiaomi claims that it has used a multi-level cooling solution with graphite, graphene, and a vapour chamber to keep the main components running cool. The Mi 10 5G is also said to have nine temperature sensors placed across key areas such as the battery, USB port, etc. All of this is said to reduce temperatures by up to 10 degrees Celsius compared to the previous generation.
While this may be the case, it hasn't stopped the outer body of the phone from getting quite hot when doing anything taxing. Perhaps this is the result of the cooling system dispelling heat, but our hands ended up bearing the brunt of it during our review period. The Mi 10 doesn't get too hot to hold, but definitely enough for you to think about taking a break from whatever you're doing. This happened when we were charging the phone, using the cameras heavily, and gaming.
Another little detail that often goes unnoticed is the use of a linear vibration motor for haptic feedback when typing, authenticating your fingerprint, etc. According to Xiaomi, a linear motor gives you extremely precise feedback, and it did feel good when typing. The intensity can even be adjusted.
The Mi 10 5G runs MIUI 11 and is in line to receive the MIUI 12 update, whenever that rolls out. We know that for many, using MIUI on a Rs. 50,000 smartphone might be a big deal-breaker due to its history of spam and ads. Xiaomi promised a premium Android experience for this phone with no bloatware or promoted content, but we found the Mi Music, Mi Video, Themes apps and GetApps marketplace preinstalled, and they did generate unwanted notifications occasionally. After going through these steps to disable ads in MIUI 11, we were down to getting about two spam alerts a day on average, which was tolerable.
MIUI 11 itself is similar to what you'd get with Xiaomi's budget phones, with the same shortcuts and gestures to play with. One big difference is the use of Google's stock dialler and SMS apps, among others. There are some additions of course for the Mi 10 5G, such as a toggle in the quick settings menu for reverse wireless charging, an always-on display menu with customisable widgets, and new ‘pro' features in the camera app. There's also something called Multilink in the Wi-Fi settings, which is said to combine both Wi-Fi bands and mobile data for a boost in speed if your Wi-Fi connection is weak.
The Snapdragon 865 is a powerful chip and easily crunches through all our benchmarks. For the numerically inclined, the Mi 10 5G posted 5,63,101 points in AnTuTu, which is much higher than what the Samsung Galaxy S20+ managed. However, since the Mi 10 5G heats up quite a bit when running benchmarks, the CPU seems to get throttled quite a bit. We noticed this in Geekbench, when our initial run returned scores of 780 and 2,747 for the single and multicore tests, but another attempt after a few hours gave us 902 and 3,002 points respectively.
We didn't notice any negative impact of throttling in games, but it's something to keep in mind. Speaking of games, we ran everything from PUBG Mobile and Mario Kart to Asphalt 9: Legends, and the Mi 10 5G handled everything just fine.
The Mi 10 5G's display is easily one of its best features. It's big, bright and has very good colour saturation. Looking at the phone from the front, it could easily pass for a OnePlus or even a Samsung flagship device. HDR content also looks great, and streaming apps automatically detect the display as HDR-capable. The 90Hz refresh rate also makes a big difference in how MIUI feels, as makes any interaction feel smoother. We also love how quickly and seamlessly face recognition worked even in dim lighting.
The fingerprint sensor on the other hand is not very quick, and it took a good second before it recognised our finger and unlocked the phone. We even had many mis-reads during our review period. The always-on display is a nice touch but we wish it was more functional, with the ability to at least control music playback for example.
The stereo speakers on the Mi 10 5G sound balanced but they don't get very loud. Locally stored files sounded good enough, but we had to max out the volume bar with a lot of streaming music and video apps. When holding this phone loosely for watching videos, your palms help amplify the sound a bit, but when gripping it while gaming, your palms can just as easily block the speakers. Dolby Atmos or some kind of software level boost would have been nice to have.
Battery life is another area where the Mi 10 5G fares well. It has a fairly large 4,780mAh capacity with support for 30W proprietary fast charging. It also supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 and standard USB Type-C Power Delivery fast charging. With typical usage, we were able to sail past a full day on one charge with enough power left for a few hours the next day. Constant camera usage and gaming drains it faster, but it still lasted through the day at least. Charging the Mi 10 5G completely from zero takes a little more than an hour, with the bundled 30W adapter.
However, the real impressive feature is its wireless charging capability. Like the OnePlus 8 Pro, the Mi 10 5G supports up to 30W wireless charging, which promises a full charge in just 65 minutes. You'll need to buy Xiaomi's proprietary 30W wireless charger of course. The wireless charger can also work with other devices using the Qi standard, but slower. Lastly, the Mi 10 5G also supports reverse wireless charging at up to 10W, and this works just like the solutions from Samsung and Huawei.
The absence of a telephoto camera on the Mi 10 5G has sparked much debate on social channels, and it might stand out as a weakness when comparing this phone to others in the segment. Xiaomi seems to have decided to prioritise the 108-megapixel primary camera, which is a great selling point, and you won't find it in other phones at this price right now. The company also says that with the level of detail captured at this resolution, you can crop and enlarge your shots and still get great results.
The 108-megapixel primary camera in the Mi 10 5G uses a large 1/1.33-inch sensor with optical stabilisation and an aperture of f/1.7. By default, images go through a 4-in-1 oversampling process. If you do the math, they should be saved as 27-megapixel images, but when we checked, the resolution of the photos was actually 25 megapixels. There's digital zoom of up to 10x if needed, or 2x when using 108-megapixel mode.
So, it's time to put the 108-megapixel sensor to the test to see if it can deliver images just as good as a telephoto camera. We compared its output to shots captured using the hybrid zoom capability of the Samsung Galaxy S20+.
Shooting at the full 108-megapixel resolution should generally give you much better results than using digital zoom on the Mi 10 5G. In the daylight image, the 108-megapixel shot manages to retain the right colour and good detail on the car even though there's less detail in the shadows. The 10x digital zoom shot taken with the Mi 10 5G is brighter but there's a lot of colour noise and artefacting in the textures. However, the Galaxy S20+ offers the best image quality here at 10x hybrid zoom, making it almost impossible to tell that any enhancement was even used.
In low light and with a similar frame, both phones struggled to deliver a usable shot. Even with Night Mode on the Mi 10 5G and Galaxy S20+, the shots at 10x zoom don't look very appealing. The cropped output of the 108-megapixel sensor looks the best in this case, relatively speaking.
When we look at landscapes and close-ups shot in the default oversampled (Photo) mode, the Mi 10 5G manages to do well in daylight. Photos pack in a lot of detail, colours are punchy, HDR is handed well, and everything looks great on the phone's display. However, when we checked the same samples on a laptop and zoomed in to certain areas, we noticed a few issues. Even on a bright sunny day, landscape photos in particular had visible grain at the sides of the frame. This is even more noticeable if there's a shadow or darker colours. Finer detail such as the leaves on a tree can look mushy, and moving objects, like a bird, can sometimes leave a ghost image.
Close-ups fared better but colours can look wildly exaggerated. Turning the camera's AI off helps a bit, but not always. For example, the actual colour of the flowers in the shot was light pink and not this dark hue of pink that was captured. We noticed some autofocus issues here too, where the Mi 10 5G would randomly refuse to focus on where we would point.
Low-light shots are decent, but not great. Noise is suppressed well but photos are generally darker than ideal, with heavy contrast. Night mode helps fix the exposure and also brings back some detail but the final result varies depending on how much light is around. In other words, don't expect Google Pixel-level night mode results. Sadly, Night mode only works with the main camera, so wide-angle shots and selfies look quite poor in low light.
The other cameras on the back of the Mi 10 5G are a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 2-megapixel depth camera, and a 2-megapixel macro camera. The wide-angle camera delivers good results in daylight, but details are noticeably weaker and focus is softer compared to the primary camera. The macro camera is once again only really useful if you have enough light around, but you can get some interesting perspectives. Honestly, Xiaomi should have simply given the wide-angle camera autofocus and used it for macro shooting, but then it wouldn't be able to use the “quad camera” buzzword. The depth camera does a decent job when you use Portrait mode. The level of background blur can be adjusted too.
The 20-megapixel selfie camera shoots at the full resolution all the time, without any oversampling. During daytime, selfies look great as long as you don't zoom in too much. When you look closely, skin textures are a bit blotchy. Portrait mode works well, with decent edge detection. Selfies are decent with good ambient lighting at night, but without it, the results aren't too favourable.
Xiaomi is making a big push for video with the Mi 10 5G, touting 8K video recording, the ability to use LOG mode, and full manual controls too. The Mi 10 5G has a leg up on Samsung's S20 series as it can shoot 8K at 30fps, compared to 24fps on Samsung's phones. Image quality is good during the day, and even in low light we didn't notice much noise. There's no stabilisation at this resolution but that's okay. However, keep in mind that 8K footage will eat through your storage very quickly. A 25 second clip takes about 337MB of space, compared to a 4K clip of a similar duration which is roughly 170MB.
At 4K resolution, the stabilisation is superb during the day, but colours are heavily saturated and the colour tone is too warm for our liking. In low light, image quality is retained well with good colours and not a lot of noise. The wide-angle camera can also record up to 4K video but you can't switch between the main and wide-angle cameras once you've started recording. Footage is stabilised well, but colours are heavily saturated. The ‘Shoot Steady' mode crops the frame quite a bit, but video is stabilised very well.
In video mode, you get a ‘smooth zoom' slider, which offers a cinematic zoom effect which is a nice touch. From the settings, you can enable object tracking but this uses the wide-angle camera, so it's not particularly useful as the quality is not great. The Vlog mode lets you create mini movie clips with transitions and a music track all added automatically. There are a few templates to choose from, but these aren't customisable. Short Video mode lets you create small clips with a kaleidoscope effect.
Pro mode now lets you fine-tune stills as well as video. For the latter, you can manually set the white balance, focus, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation — just like you would for stills. You can shoot at up to 8K too.
LOG mode shoots a flat colour profile, allowing you to adjust the contrast and brightness in post-production. This can be done in the default video editor itself. You can enable a histogram for monitoring exposure levels, and ‘Movie frame' lets you shoot in a cinema-style aspect ratio. There are also options for focus peaking and zebra lines for checking exposure.
The Mi 10 5G starts at Rs. 49,999, which is the version we reviewed, and the 256GB version retails for Rs. 54,999. Considering all the premium features it packs in, we feel the pricing is very competitive. Now before you jump into the comments hammering at your keyboards to tell us we've completely lost it, let's look at this objectively for a moment. The competitors to the Mi 10 5G right now are the iQoo 3, Realme X50 Pro 5G and OnePlus 8 series — all of which have the Snapdragon 865 chipset.
The iQoo 3 5G version costs Rs. 44,999, which gets you more RAM and storage compared to the base variant of the Mi 10 5G. However, it lacks wireless charging, a 90Hz display, and of course the 108-megapixel camera. In our review, we found its cameras to be quite lacklustre and the overall design is definitely not as eye-catching as that of the Mi 10 5G in our opinion.
It's a similar story with the Realme X50 Pro 5G (Review). It offers great value at a starting price of Rs. 41,999, but in our experience with the phone, it had some quality issues when shooting 4K video, the Night mode wasn't too impressive, and we found it to be relatively bulky and heavy. It also lacks wireless charging and an IP rating.
The OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro are probably the Mi 10 5G's only real competition right now and are also pretty evenly matched in terms of features. We've yet to test either of these phones so we'll reserve our judgement until we do.
We think the Mi 10 5G was a good choice for Xiaomi to make a comeback in the ‘value flagship' segment with. It will take some time for everyone to get used to seeing a Xiaomi phone at Rs. 50,000, which is a big jump from the usual perception of this brand. The Mi 10 5G offers a great design, an excellent display, good battery life, decent camera performance, and fast wireless charging. Having said that, it does get hot quite easily, the fingerprint sensor isn't the fastest, and the camera app needs some tweaking. The lack of an IP rating might put some people off too.
Overall, if you don't care about having a Mi badge on a Rs. 50,000 phone and simply want good hardware and features, then Mi 10 5G is a good option to consider.
Is Mi 10 an expensive OnePlus 8 or a budget budget S20 Ultra? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.