Published in Reviews

Xiaomi’s curved Mi Note 2 put to the test

by on21 December 2016



Design and Build Quality

Oh no, we have to explain why Xiaomi didn’t rip off Samsung again? Well, it just didn’t and couldn’t in such a short time-frame, unless the Note 2 was conjured into being by magicians instead of engineers. Anyone who claims otherwise is dead wrong and knows as much about engineering as Fudzilla reviewers know about traditional Senegalese cuisine. There we go. That settles that, now let’s move on.

The original Mi Note sported a curved glass back too, and in fact, it was the first phone to do so. With the second incarnation, Xiaomi went a step further a stuck a curved OLED display at the front. Sounds like Samsung, but Xiaomi is using a somewhat different approach.

For starters, the display isn’t nearly as curved as Samsung’s curved AMOLED panels on the latest Galaxy Edge devices or the ill-fated Note 7. Xiaomi’s curve is much more subtle, and the bezels are more visible. However, Xiaomi’s design is symmetric, so you have the exact same curve at the front and back.

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This doesn’t just look good, it feels good, which is much more important in our opinion.

When Hugo Barra showed off the Note 2 to the public, he outlined the design philosophy behind the device, and he did not oversell it. The Note 2 truly looks and feels like a premium device. He also pointed out a rather obvious issue – if you’re designing a curved phone, you sort of tend to end up with a curved phone. Guess what, no matter who designs a phone with a curved siplay, it's going to look like this, or close.

And no, Samsung doesn’t “own” curved phones, in much the same way Apple doesn’t “own” rounded rectangles, although the US judiciary and patent office tend to believe you can actually patent geometric shapes. Since US judges have a medieval track record of ignoring science and basic logic, we choose to ignore them and their ignorance.

One thing, though. With so much glass, the Note 2 is quite reflective and we had trouble taking good product photos, just like we did with the Mi5. In other words, it looks a bit better in real life than in our photos, so sorry about that. Use your imagination. That’s what it’s for.

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The downside to having a completely curved phone is that you sort of can’t have a truly original design. Any phone with a curved screen and curved glass back is bound to look similar to a Samsung Note 7, or Mi Note 2, or any other glass phone.

When it comes to mobiles, glass certainly has its pros and cons. It looks and feels good, you don’t need antennae cut-outs, and it’s scratch resistant. However, glass can shatter on impact, it’s expensive, and attracts a lot of smudges.

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The metal frame on the Mi Note 2 feels like some sort of weird alloy, but we can’t figure out what it actually is. We also conducted an accidental scratch test on the metal flank – only to realise that it’s scratch-resistant too. Whether it’s some sort of Magnesium alloy, or aluminium with a ceramic coating, Xiaomi certainly did its homework. The front and back of the Note 2 won’t scratch unless you really try hard, which is good to know considering the sheer amount of glass used in the design. The metal frame is impressive, too.

The design is minimal. Xiaomi decided to use a physical home button on the Note 2, similar to the one used in the Mi5. Oh, it’s ceramic, so you won’t scratch that, either.

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The top and bottom of the device are more or less standard.

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You’ll find the 3.5mm audio plug, secondary mic, and IR blaster at the top, while the USB Type-C port is at the bottom.

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If the front is minimal, what can we possibly say about the back? It’s dominated by the oversized camera lens with a couple of LEDs, and that’s about it.

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And the sides? We'll let the photos speak for themselves. Xiaomi's curves are gorgeous.

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Overall, Xiaomi did an admirable job. The Note 2 looks and feels like a top notch device that can hold its own against any flagship phone today. Considering the price, few people would settle for less. Oh yeah. It’s available in Piano Black and Glacier Silver. We feel the black version is a better fit, considering the curved OLED display. 

Last modified on 20 January 2017
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