Hands-on with the Xiaomi Mi Note, a super-light phablet

The Xiaomi Note has an impressive thin design

The Xiaomi Note when accessing the camera.

The Xiaomi Note when accessing the camera.

Chinese Handset maker, Xiaomi, wasn't afraid to take a few jabs at Apple when it unveiled its newest smartphone, a 5.7-inch phablet that could give the iPhone 6 Plus a run for its money.

"Our phone is lighter, thinner, narrower and shorter than the iPhone 6 Plus," declared Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun. "But we have a bigger screen."

So how good is Xiaomi's latest phablet? Well, in our brief hands-on with the device, we were quite impressed, especially with its polished and compact design that stands out from other big-screen smartphones.

Called the Mi Note, the phablet is meant to be a high-end device, but will start at the relatively low price of 2299 yuan (US$376) when it goes on sale in China on Jan. 27.

For consumers in China, that could be a bargain, considering Apple's iPhone 6 Plus starts at 6088 yuan in the country.

Despite the product's low price, Xiaomi hasn't made any major compromises with the Note's design or specs. When we picked it up, we found that the device was surprisingly light and thin, which made it comfortable to hold.

The phone weighs 161 grams,11 grams lighter than the iPhone 6 Plus. It's also 0.15 mm thinner than Apple's phablet.

This new phone, however, isn't just a bigger version of Xiaomi's other flagship handset, the smaller Mi 4, which was sometimes referred to as an iPhone-look-alike.

When we tried the Xiaomi Note, we didn't feel like we were handling an iPhone at all. Although the device uses a metal frame, it has a glass back that curves around its edges.

Those curves made the phone feel less like a large block, and easier to grip. The device is still wide at 77.6 mm, so using the phablet will probably require two hands.

The Note's 5.7-inch screen was another attractive feature. It has a 1080p resolution and was supplied by Japan Display. We enjoyed having such a large and sharp screen to look at, but even at full brightness, we found it a little dim at times.

In addition, the phone has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 3000 mAh battery, and MIUI, Xiaomi's own version of Android. Built with 4G LTE connectivity, the device also has slots for two SIM cards.

When we accessed the phone's camera and apps we found the device's performance was fast and that the software ran without a hitch.

Inside the Note is a 2.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, along with 3GB of RAM.

During Thursday's presentation some in the audience seemed disappointed that the Note wasn't using a more cutting-edge processor. But Xiaomi was quick to add that the company is coming out with an even more powerful version, called the Mi Note Pro.

That device will use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 64-bit processor and 4GB of RAM, in addition to having a 2K display. Arriving in late March, the Mi Note Pro will cost 3299 yuan.

Although the company hasn't begun selling phones in the U.S., it hopes to one day become the biggest smartphone player in the world, within five to ten years. Already, it leads in China as one of the top vendors, and is expanding across Southeast Asia and India.

Clearly, Xiaomi is stepping up with its smartphone design, and its new phablet goes to show that the company is no slouch in the business, but can run with the best of them.

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Tags smartphonesAppleAndroidconsumer electronicsXiaomi

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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