Mobiles & Tablets

Xiaomi’s Mi 10i: First of the 2021 phones

Mala Bhargava New Delhi | Updated on January 08, 2021

A 108MP camera, new 750G chip and dynamic refresh screen all in a mid-range device

Xiaomi is kicking off 2021 with its first smartphone of the year, an addition to its Mi 10 series which has Mi 10, Mi 10T and Mi10T Pro. If that’s confusing, that’s life in the mobile world these days.

This time the newbie is the Mi 10i where the ‘i’ in the phone’s name stands for India because the phone has been customised specifically for navigation in this country through a partnership with ISRO and Qualcomm.

Also read: Xiaomi launches Mi 10i 5G smartphone in India

As someone interested in gadgets, you will not have failed to notice how negligible the differences are between one phone and another, specially from the same brand. It sometimes seems like they pop all the features into a box, give it a shake, and see what comes out and build another phone with the combination. Well, the Mi 10i isn’t dramatically different from the others in the series and is also thought to be a rebranded version of one of the existing phones from the Redmi range.

The Mi series, Xiaomi says, is the one that brings all the big new features to the fray; so the Mi 10i has a few of them, rubbing shoulders with things that aren’t so new and desirable (such as no Android 11). First off, it’s got a brand new and eye-catching finish on the back. The signature colour is known as Pacific Sunrise and it mimics the colours of sky at dawn, starting out at a blush pink and shifting gradually to blue. What rises beyond that is a big round camera housing. It spells out that this is a camera phone, but it also happens to stick out a bit so it won’t lie totally flat on a table. The back is smooth and nice to the touch and doesn’t show up finger smudges easily.

Dynamic refresh

The Mi 10i is a pretty chunky phone. And heavy. And large. It’s obviously not meant for those who just want basic use out of their devices but those who use their phones maximally. Better have big strong hands for this one. The display is 6.67 inches across and thankfully there are no ugly notches to be seen, just a tiny dot for the front camera. But this is an LCD display, not the AMOLED type everyone loves. It’s a very good LCD, but still an LCD.

One of the highlight features has to do with the display, in fact. It has a dynamic refresh rate that adjusts itself depending on what you’re doing with the device. So it can be working at anything between 30Hz and 120Hz in six stop steps. This way you use only as much of the display’s resource as is needed and save some battery life. It’s a nice feature and makes a difference to the battery, but despite how advanced it is, I did find a bit of stutter or rather choppiness on scrolling and that’s a disappointment.

Also read: Xiaomi to launch Made in India smartphone on January 5

This phone has three storage and RAM variants with the base 6GB/64GB being just too little. For a device that clearly is meant for power users, there’s no call to offer this variant at all just to be able to say the phone starts at ₹20,999. It’s a 5G phone but which bands will work here in India and how it will transition into the era of high connectivity one can’t say. Phones are now all going to be 5G ready, above a certain price point. This is one of the first phones to be using the Snapdragon 750G, a new chip that is powerful enough for gaming.

A not unsubstantial 4,820mAh battery powers this device with fast charging and a 33W brick in the box. It charges fully in about 55 minutes. In my time with it, the battery held out very well indeed. The phone has other things users will like: the 3.5mm port, infrared, UFS 2.2 storage, and fast side mounted fingerprint sensor, among others. It also has Gorilla Glass 5 and a IP53 rating.

Xiaomi’s over-stuffed MIUI 12 is the software that the company uses on this phone. Fans are happy enough with it, but many others prefer simpler or stock Android inspired interfaces. The phone, of course, comes with a tonne of pre-loaded apps which is a continuing annoyance. At set-up you have to be very careful not to give GetApps permission to download yet more apps or life will be hell with notifications. Even when you refuse, GetApps doesn’t go altogether quiet and you have to spend some time trying to tame the prompts that will keep pinging you.

Also read: India’s smartphone market registered record growth in October driven online sale festivals: Report

A 108MP primary camera is the hallmark of the Mi 10 series, but in this particular phone, there’s a new ISOCELL HM2 sensor which apparently takes up less space but does a special job of combining 9 pixels. While all that may sound fancy, it does take rather nice images in good light, staying mostly true to details and colours but faltering now and then as well. It also does a nice job of night photos when you use the night mode. You have to select the 108MP mode if you want to use it, but it’s easy enough to find as is everything else in this very feature filled app. You can shoot dual video and take Diptic like shots in a clone mode which unfortunately only works for the main camera and not the front camera. There are more filters than you’ll know what to do with and plenty to play with for those who like phone photography. There are the usual ultra wide lens and a macro and depth sensing lens to make up a quad camera set up, but users are getting savvy about how these lenses just give the impression of offering a whole lot as it’s become traditional with all phones these days. The front camera is a 16MP and is decent enough.

This phone competes with the OnePlus Nord, Samsung M51 and several more models including the upcoming X7 from Realme.

Price: ₹20,999 for 6GB/64GB, ₹21,999 for 6GB/128GB, ₹23,999 for 8GB/128GB

Pros: Interesting look, 108MP camera, new specs including chip, 5G ready

Cons: Big, heavy, broad; some choppiness on scrolling, base variant has too low storage, missing an AMOLED screen

Published on January 08, 2021

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