The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is not a Samsung Note 7 rip-off, but even if it was, the Note 7 is dead anyway. The Note 2 is not original either. It’s not a cheap phone, but it’s still somewhat cheaper than similar devices from mainstream brands. It’s might not be as big as you’d expect from a 5.7-inch beast, yet it doesn’t exactly have a small footprint (Samsung still beats it on account of its smaller bezels, made possibly by the curvier AMOLED display). That’s sort of our problem with the Mi Note 2. It feels like it was designed by a committee.
It’s a great phone, but we get the feeling that Xiaomi went about designing it the wrong way – it made it “good enough” on all fronts, but not exceptional in any way. This usually works like a charm for Xiaomi, since the company focuses on value, but the Note 2 is an upmarket design. It’s not a bargain bin phone from China, it’s supposed to showcase the company’s tech prowess and it sort of does, but... That role has been taken over by the new Mi Mix concept phone, which features similar internals in a truly ground-breaking design. While impressive, the Note 2 doesn’t come close to the Mix in terms of head-turning potential, and that might be its biggest shortcoming.
The other one is display quality. Yes, we’ll continue to see more and more curved displays, and even bezel-less devices, but there is a price to pay for this trend – we won’t see IPS LCD displays on them. OLED and AMOLED displays have a number of things going for them, but they also have their fair share of problems, which is why most flagship phones still ship with good old IPS panels. Most people just prefer them. If the industry moves to curved displays, we’ll see more vendors trading display quality for style. The same is true of the rear camera – Xiaomi's focus was clearly on making it flush with the glass back, rather than employing a bigger sensor (with bigger optics, obviously).
From a geek perspective, this emphasis on style might not sound like a good idea, but geeks aren’t the only people buying flagship phones. If they were, the smartphone industry would be in a world of hurt. The Mi Note 2 might not be the best phone for tech enthusiasts, but it’s supposed to appeal to a much wider audience, and it does. It’s an extremely attractive device with flagship performance and an acceptable, although by no means cheap, asking price.
We tried out the 4GB/64GB model and, to be honest, if you don’t absolutely need more storage, there’s no need to go for the flagship 128GB model. 4GB of RAM is plenty. Xiaomi knows this as well, which is why it’s offering Global LTE only in the 6GB/128GB flavour. It’s good for margins, but not so much for consumers.
Our 4GB/64GB review unit was supplied by GearBest, which lists it for $589 at press time. The problem? Demand is high, so availability is limited, at least for now. If you're reading this in 2017, chances are this won't apply to you. Once demand eases up, you should be able to find the model of your choosing in stock, with an even better price tag.
Xiaomi Mi Note 2 Pros and Cons
- Gorgeous design, premium materials
- Curved sides make it appear and feel smaller
- Audio quality (speaker and output)
- 4070mAh battery
- Unimpressive display quality
- Price/performance compared to other Mi phones (namely Mi5s series)
- Hm… That’s a lot of glass you can shatter