Xiaomi Mi 10 in the test: disappointing despite top performance

The Mi-9 generation was a real price-performance hit last year, and the expectation for the Xiaomi Mi 10 is correspondingly high. The TechStage test shows whether this is met.

Great technology for comparatively little money – that was exactly what Xiaomi convinced with its Mi-9 series in 2019. The biggest drawback was the fact that the individual devices sometimes hardly differ from each other and users had to be well acquainted with the matter in order to keep an overview. We have therefore provided clarification with our purchase advice: Xiaomi Mi 9 vs Mi 9T vs Mi 9T Pro vs Mi 9 SE.

If the biggest problem last year was that there were too many good models from Xiaomi, it should be clear that the expectations of the new Mi-10 series are extremely high. In the meantime, Xiaomi has launched the first new models in the Mi series: Xiaomi Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro. We first tested the cheaper model – surprisingly “cheap” is a very elastic term for the new Xiaomi top models, because with 799 euros for the normal Mi 10 and 999 euros for the Pro model, the manufacturer has turned the price screw noticeably .

The Xiaomi models are almost always chic, and the new Xiaomi Mi 10 is no exception. Rounded glass on the front and back is held together by an extremely narrow metal frame that only completely covers the front and bottom. The manufacturer integrates power and volume buttons and two visible but not noticeable antenna joints on the right side, the left side only has such antenna strips. The controls on the right offer optimal pressure point and key travel, and they sit wobble-free in the frame. It is therefore all the more surprising that the Mi 10 produces a distinct rattle when shaken. Since this comes from the area of ​​the camera, the optical image stabilizer of the main camera could be the source of the noise. It also fits that the clacking can no longer be heard when the camera is activated and the OIS is activated accordingly. Since other users also report about it and our camera did not make a faulty impression in the test, this seems to be normal with the Mi 10 – even if it does not look particularly high quality.

Little has changed in design compared to its predecessor. The innovations include a punchhole notch on the upper left edge of the display instead of the drop notch of most Mi-9 models. The smartest solution was probably the Mi 9T Pro (test report), which has a front camera that can only be extended when needed and therefore does not need a notch at all. However, after several smartphones with such an extendable camera came onto the market in 2019, which are now being replaced by conventional front camera models, these mechanically and motor-controlled extravagances are likely to have had their day. We find this a shame in principle, but at least this means that a potentially error-prone component disappears – even if we didn’t have any problems with our test models. Water tightness, on the other hand, cannot be a reason for doing without – the Mi 10 lacks IP certification.

Little change in design means a vertically arranged camera row on the back. Although it is far less noticeable than the square lenses of the competition such as Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra (test report) or Huawei P40 Pro (test report), it again protrudes quite a bit from the case. This can be minimized with the supplied protective cover. It also prevents ugly fingerprints and other ugly grease marks, which are otherwise the order of the day due to the glossy glass surface of the Xiaomi Mi 10. Despite its size and the typical slipperiness of glass smartphones, the Mi 10 lies surprisingly well in the hand. The reason for this are the almost imperceptible transitions from glass to metal and the gentle curves on all edges. In terms of feel, but also optics and value, Xiaomi is currently hardly a competitor.

The Mi 10’s OLED screen measures 6.7 inches and represents 2340 × 1080 pixels. This results in an image sharpness of 386 pixels per inch – a value that is not exactly outstanding in comparison to the competition like Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (test report) , but is perfectly fine in everyday life. The PPI value below 400 is often forgiven for the screen because its remaining parameters are exemplary. The Mi 10 offers great contrasts and colors, in which even white is displayed correctly and without a blue or yellow tinge. In addition, there is an OLED-typical excellent black level and excellent viewing angle stability, with which it is almost irrelevant whether users look directly or from the side of the smartphone.

The brightness is also convincing, with around 500 cd / m² in manual and briefly over 850 candela in automatic brightness mode, it is better than the predecessor and overall excellent. When it comes to refresh rate, Xiaomi is again lagging behind in comparison to some competitors, because the Mi 10 is “only” 90 Hertz. Models like the Razer Phone 2 (test report), again the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (test report), but also Xiaomis The latest prank, the Poco Phone 2, offers 120 Hz. However, we consider the step from 60 to 90 Hertz more important in everyday life than the jump from 90 to 120 Hz and are therefore very satisfied with the screen of the Mi 10.

Last year, the Mi-9 models convinced us with great photos of the main camera, which may not have been one of the sharpest on the market, but with their almost always present smooth bokeh sometimes looked more appealing than with actually better competitor products. Accordingly, the yardstick for the Mi 10 is also very high here – and the manufacturer also rips it promptly. At least that is the first impression when looking at the data sheet: Although the manufacturer, like Samsung, uses a 108-megapixel main camera with a 13-megapixel wide angle, it then disappoints with a macro and depth sensor with 2 megapixels each. This is not worthy of a top smartphone, the last two sensors are sometimes already available in 200-euro models! In addition, we have often referred to the fact that a macro sensor with 2 megapixels always takes worse pictures than a smartphone that uses a magnification with a main or wide-angle sensor for macro shots – the resolution of 2 megapixels is simply too low.

The main camera is great, the overall configuration without the telephoto lens of a top model is unworthy

In addition, the Mi 10 dispenses with a telephoto lens, which has long belonged in every top smartphone, since it significantly increases the scope of application for the user. Only the Pro model offers Tele – and there twice. What did Xiaomi think? Hopefully Xiaomi will use the Mi 10 again with good image quality. Unfortunately, the manufacturer does that. Unfortunately, because it makes the strange decisions made by the two 2-megapixel sensors and the missing telephoto lens even worse. First of all: The image quality of the main camera is really good, but the camera of the Mi 10 is not an unreserved recommendation for photo fans.

The main camera with its 108-megapixel Samsung chip, f / 1.69 aperture and optical image stabilizer takes 27-megapixel pictures by default using pixel binning, which are consistently very sharp in good lighting conditions and offer excellent image dynamics. Colors are of course also banned into the memory. The approximately 20 MByte 108-megapixel pictures offer even a bit higher image sharpness, thanks to the strong hardware, the operation of the Mi 10 is also much more direct than the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 (test report). The smooth bokeh in normal shots is a little weaker than in the previous models, but still intense. We like that, recordings look very high quality. This can be taken to extremes with portraits. For this, Xiaomi no longer uses the telecamera with the Mi 10 as before, but the main sensor and users have to move a little closer to the subject. The results are first class in all areas of image quality, and the foreground and background can also be separated very well. The strength of the bokeh effect can be adjusted later on the finished photo.

Night shots look particularly good with a tripod and are then roughly at Huawei level, free-hand models like a Huawei P40 (test report), but also the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (test report) are in front. Then the sharpness of the image drops more than that of the competition, even if pictures are appropriately brightened by continuous exposure. The white balance is also not always correct. The wide angle of Omnivision takes acceptable shots, but visible distortions are visible at the edges. In addition, the image sharpness cannot keep up with the main camera. Because of the weaker f / 2.4 aperture, the image quality also drops faster at night with the wide angle than with the main camera. Accordingly, the qualitative difference between the main and wide-angle lenses is too large for our taste.

Main camera

The macro camera can be dealt with in two sentences: As feared at the beginning, pictures with their lack of resolution are too blurred, and colors are also very pale. Users should rather refrain from doing so right away, as Xiaomi should have done. The Selfiecam with its 20 megapixels and the f / 2.3 aperture, on the other hand, takes sharp and natural pictures, portrait shots with artificial bokeh become very good even without an additional depth sensor – further proof that the depth sensor of the main camera is largely unnecessary.

The Mi 10 delivers excellent video performance. The combination of optical (OIS) and electronic (EIS) image stabilization ensures that when shooting in FHD and 4K with a low frame rate of 30 frames per second, it almost looks like a good action cam or a gimbal. Even strong camera shakes are filtered out – amazing! When shooting at 60 FPS, the stabilization is still sufficient, but much weaker. In return, videos no longer lose image sharpness due to tearing even when panning. The Mi 10 even allows 8K videos, even in 30 FPS instead of 24 as with Samsung. However, since there are still no affordable players for this, this feature should be irrelevant for 99.9 percent of buyers.

As a real top smartphone, the Xiaomi Mi 10 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 with eight cores and up to 2.84 GHz in combination with 8 or even 12 GB RAM depending on the version. This means that the smartphone currently outperforms all other Android smartphones with a different processor, at least in benchmarks; the performance of high-end smartphones is usually so high in everyday life that there are hardly any differences. The Mi 10 achieved a proud 571,000 points in the Antutu benchmark, which is really good. Together with the new and even faster LPDDR5 memory, the Mi 10 shows irrepressible power in all situations and certainly has power reserves for the next few years.

Xiaomi relies on non-expandable storage for the data storage – too bad. But there is enough with 128 or 256 GB depending on the version and very fast memory thanks to UFS-3.0. Overall, the Mi 10 is one of the fastest devices on the market for everyday tasks such as multitasking and games and also for starting apps. The smartphone gets noticeably warm after a long period of use, but not uncomfortably hot and the performance is only throttled to such an extent that there is no noticeable loss in use. This shows the enormous power reserves of the device.

Even with the rest of the equipment, Xiaomi doesn’t do things by halves with the Mi 10. From NFC to Wifi 6 to GPS with numerous other variants, the top smartphone supports everything that is currently feasible, in addition there are 4G, 5G and even an IR blaster for using the smartphone as a remote control for stereo and Co. Xiaomi deserves praise for the powerful stereo speakers. Although they don’t produce maximum volume levels, they sound very balanced, full and clear.

Small restrictions only have to be made for jack plugs, SIMs and the USB-C port: There is no jack plug, in the global version of the Mi 10 there is no dual SIM capability for the Chinese version and the USB port provides a top-of-the-range device little fitting only over 2.0 speed. As mentioned at the beginning of the test, there is also no IP certification.

Processing, value and hardware are exemplary

Xiaomi uses MIUI 11, which is based on Android 10, as software. MIUI changes the menu structure, which initially confuses Vanilla Android users, but is ultimately coherent and expands Android in some interesting places. There are own themes, notifications by lighting up the curved display edges, a cross-system dark mode, meanwhile an app drawer and extensive rights management. In addition, Xiaomi excelled in its top models with a reliable update policy. The security patch of our test device was sufficiently up-to-date in May 2020.

The Xiaomi Mi 9 from 2019 had to put up with criticism of its only 3300 mAh strong – or rather weak – battery, the other Mi-9 models delivered better results on this point. With the Mi 10, the manufacturer apparently took this criticism into account and increased the battery in the new top model to a decent 4780 mAh. So it’s no wonder that the Mi 10 is much more durable than its direct predecessor. In the PCmark Battery Test, the device lasted over 12 hours with the 90 Hz display activated, and even 2 hours longer at 60 Hz – both are very good values. During the test period, a pleasing picture emerged that suggests that a two-day charging cycle is realistic under normal usage.

Then, in addition to 30-watt fast charging via cable, owners of the Mi 10 can wirelessly charge at the same speed. The Mi 10 battery will be full again in around 1 hour. In order to charge wirelessly with 30 watts, however, interested parties need accessories from the manufacturer, such as the Oneplus 8 Pro (test report).

Incidentally, the Mi 10 also masters reverse wireless charging, so other compatible devices can be charged from the Xiaomi smartphone by hanging up with 10 watts – a real premium feature.

The Xiaomi Mi 10 is available in Germany in the colors green and gray, and there are also equipment options with 128 or 256 GB of internal memory. The main memory is always 8 GB. The prices for the smartphone start at around € 650 at the time of testing, the MSRP is € 799 for the smallest memory configuration.

The Xiaomi Mi 10 is without a doubt a top smartphone, but one with quirks. The highlights include the great 90 Hz display, the incredible performance of the hardware, a lot and faster memory and the very good main camera. Design and workmanship are also great and the battery does an exemplary job.

On the other hand, there is the price that is unfortunately just as high as that of the competition, the strange camera configuration, which is not convincing for a top device, the lack of IP certification and only USB 2.0. The price is probably the easiest to explain: Xiaomi now has such a good name in Germany that – like Oneplus – the manufacturer no longer needs to forego a profit. There may also be a reason for the surge in price 5G – but we think that is a mistake, at least for German customers. Because in Germany for the foreseeable future 5G is pretty irrelevant, a proper camera configuration with a telephoto lens that would be appropriate for a top model would have been far more important.

So the bottom line is a very good smartphone, which, due to its serious limitations depending on the focus, does not receive a comprehensive recommendation from our side. Instead, we recommend a look at the Mi 10 Pro, which, at least on paper, is not subject to any criticism in terms of camera – for a proud 200 euros more.

Suitable alternatives are the Galaxy S20 Ultra (test report) for around 1000 euros in the 128 GB version, which definitely offers a better camera combination. The Huawei P40 Pro (test report) is also a recommendation for camera fans and is also significantly cheaper at around 730 euros – unfortunately without Google services. A good mix of both models is the Oneplus 8 Pro (test break), which is available from 900 euros depending on the version.