Xiaomi has made a name for itself not just with its low-priced devices, but also for its effort in design and build.
This makes their phones stand out more among a selection of phones in the same price range.
Maintaining this balance between optimal hardware, good looks and low price has allowed the company to win over users, even if it sometimes cuts some corners.
The Mi Note is a 5.7-inch device with a glass and metal body. It runs on the older Android 4.4 KitKat operating system. It also runs on the older MiUI 6.6 user interface, instead of the latest MiUI 7 which was launched last month.
There is no microSD slot for expandable memory, and the battery is non-removable.
Its curved rear and thin body make it an elegant gadget to cradle in the hand. There are also neat design touches such as chamfered edges and the use of curved-edged 2.5D glass.
It uses a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, which is not Qualcomm's best chip. This puts the Mi Note a step behind its China-made peers that have octa-core processors.
Part of the reason this phone is behind everyone else is because it was announced earlier in January but went on sale here only in July. This has allowed its competitors to catch up, and offer something better and more powerful.
The Mi Note has a decent camera and a couple of interesting camera features.
The first is its multiple High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging modes. Many phones offer HDR, which is a process that combines shots taken in quick succession but at different exposure settings.
This phone goes a step further by providing different options involving hardware and software-based HDR.
Hardware-based HDR usually delivers good results but the process can be laggy. The more common software-based HDR is faster but the image quality may not be as good.
The Mi Note comes with Auto, Pro and Live HDR modes.
The Auto mode triggers software-based HDR, while Pro mode triggers hardware-based HDR. Live Model is a software-based HDR mode that allows you to see what the HDR image looks like in real time, in case you want to look for better lighting. I found this very useful during indoor shoots. For shots that matter, I'll go with the Pro mode.
Besides the HDR modes, the other noteworthy camera feature is a selfie function that detects your age, based on your smile and angle of your face. Turning your head or the camera can have a big effect on the final image, so you want a smaller age to show up on screen.
This age detection function, which works on only one face within the image, can also be a useful alert when you are not at your selfie-taking best.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
BATTERY LIFE: 3/5
This article was first published on Sept 9, 2015.
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