Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite review: Feels like a space frontier

Lite in price, definitely heavy in features

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It’s been a while since I last tested a Xiaomi phone. I previously reviewed the Xiaomi Mi 9T and its Pro sibling, which both received outstanding marks. After almost a year, I finally have another chance to play with a Xiaomi device — this time it’s the Mi Note 10 Lite.

Don’t be confused. This isn’t the 108-megapixel-touting Xiaomi Mi Note 10. Instead, it has a lower but still respectable 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 sensor.

However, at less than the price of its big brother, you get the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chipset with the option to get more RAM. But is it a smarter purchase? Just keep following the star trails to find out more.

A design that reminds me of the cosmos

The Mi Note 10 Lite (obviously) got its design cues from the Mi Note 10. The left-justified camera placement plus the gradient, flashy back are both familiar to other Android smartphones out there — but this phone still stands out on its own.

Upon seeing the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite for the first time, it reminded me of a nebula that can be seen from a distant galaxy like ours. Cool enough, Xiaomi named this as the Nebula Purple colorway.

Those shimmering streaks that blend well with its dominantly purple gradient body are little details that remind me of my astronomical fascination since I was a kid. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you can get a more basic Midnight Black or a cleaner Glacier White option.

How come people love curved displays but not people with curves?

The inclusion of a 3D curved edge display is a nice design highlight for a smartphone that’s priced lower than most of its flat-display midrange competitors. Most might think of a waterfall when you see that “overflowing” display but for me, it’s more of a continuous flow of space — just like the universe.

Unlike the motorized pop-up cameras and newer punch-hole cameras, you get the old Dot Drop notch found on the Mi Note 10 and older Mi smartphones. It’s honestly not the best thing in the universe but that single piece of front camera for your selfies still gets the work done (more on that later).

Also, you can find another “old” feature which is the IR port that’s responsible for making this phone a universal remote.

They now use the new Xiaomi logo instead of the old “Mi” logo

It’s not the lightest phone you can hold as it’s literally hefty. In fact it felt heavier than my iPhone XR. Over time, I just got used to it as the “thicc” body serves its purpose. Overall, the Mi Note 10 Lite’s design is cohesive — a perfect balance between aesthetics and ergonomics.

The illusion of an ever-expanding display just like the universe

What a perfect time to watch Cosmic Girls’ new music video

Just like the Mi Note 10, it has the same 6.47-inch 3D Curved AMOLED display with Full HD+ resolution. Other than that, you also get an Always-On Display feature for better information and notification support.

What trims down the display quality is the level of brightness nits. The Mi Note 10 has a maximum brightness of 600 nits while the younger sibling only has 430 nits — which is enough for indoor usage but looks washed out when you’re outside with direct exposure to sunlight.

For display nerds, this isn’t equipped with a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate. The standard refresh rate may look normal to most consumers though. But, it’s still disappointing as the Poco X2 is equipped with a high refresh rate display even if it’s a lot cheaper.

When a dialogue in Hospital Playlist is more relevant than my whole existence

Anyhow, watching on its big display still delivers vibrant colors with whiter whites and deeper blacks — as dark as the center of the black hole.

Other than enjoying the colorful and visually-stunning music video of Cosmic Girls’ “Butterfly” on YouTube, there’s also a certain level of viewing pleasure when you watch Netflix series, especially that this phone supports HDR10 for most titles.

As someone who has big hands, there’s a palm rejection feature which is flawless as it doesn’t touch screen items even when I grip the edges of the display.

Performance as fast as a rocket launch

As fast as falling in love with the wrong person

The moment I heard that the Mi Note 10 Lite packs the Snapdragon 730G chipset coupled with 6GB of RAM (which is the same as the Mi Note 10), I immediately tested its processing power.

Surprisingly, it’s decent enough for graphically demanding games. In my case, I tried playing my favorite racing game, Asphalt 9. I experienced no lags while playing it. For sure, most of your mobile game favorites will run on this phone.

It runs the latest Android 10 with Xiaomi’s heavily-skinned MIUI 12. This version gives you most of the security and performance patches you need for the phone.

Best of all? It has Google Mobile Services (GMS), specifically Google Play for most of your app needs.

The optical in-display fingerprint scanner is fast too. Though it has a face unlock feature, using your fingerprint for biometrics is more secure rather than a 2D image scan that can quickly unlock your phone even when you’re asleep.

Don’t get your hopes up though for an expandable storage as it doesn’t have a microSD card slot.

Battery life that’s light years ahead

This phone lasted longer than the the conversation you’ve had with your ghost 👻

The heading might be an exaggeration but this is truly one of its superior features. If you’re the type of user who consumes a lot of media, plays hardcore games, and even scrolls through social media feed or does online shopping for hours, the Mi Note 10 Lite can withstand all of that for a day or so.

Just like its older sibling, it has a 5,260mAh battery paired with an efficient processor, which are both ideal for long-term power and blazingly fast performance — like an ice-cooled comet.

Large battery and turbo charging should be mutually inclusive

Check the label first 🥴

Large battery capacity in future smartphones should be equipped with fast charging technology — just like how the gravitational force between the Earth and the moon are correlated to each other (or how LOONA and Orbits are connected to one another).

Luckily, the Mi Note 10 Lite supports Turbo Charge with a 30W USB-C charger right out of the box. True to its words, it was able to fill up the phone from zero to 100 percent in just a little over an hour. That’s fast considering its gigantic battery.

If you’re into wireless charging, it doesn’t support that by any means.

Audio jack is still in orbit

I miss the pleasure of plugging

Unlike most of today’s gizmos, Xiaomi still decided to keep the 3.5mm headphone jack in the Mi Note 10 Lite. Although I personally don’t use wired earphones anymore as I’ve transitioned into a more wireless lifestyle, it’s still surprising to see a rounded port in 2020 smartphones.

Day6’s Zombie is my current anthem. The lyrics best describe my life right now.

Although it may not have the Quad DAC support from the LG V60 ThinQ, I was still able to enjoy the sound delivered by my old pair of earphones with its extra heavy bass.

This reminds me of my college years where I used to listen to music even with the hassle of tangled wires. A lot of audiophiles will surely love this smartphone.

Odd placement for speaker grilles

Going Nonstop (for Arin)

Just like Uranus’ weird axis, the Mi Note 10 Lite has a weird speaker placement. As I tried playing some music videos, I noticed that my hands cover and muffle the speaker grilles. It’s unfortunate that this phone only has one speaker (I mean having two speakers is TWICE the fun, right?).

It’s hard to avoid blocking the speaker grilles especially when you hold your phone like this while trying to consume media in loudspeaker.

When I hold a phone in the usual portrait orientation, I use my pinky as support. If you do the same thing, you’re gonna block the left speaker placement, too. This may not be a big deal for left-handed or ambidextrous people, though.

Telescope-like camera quality

Don’t be silly! I’m not talking about the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s more like the generic telescope. It’s not that bad as it still gets the job done of seeing objects from afar. But still, it’s not the best viewing experience either, considering you bought a telescope with less fancy glass elements within.

Ultra-wide | Wide | Telephoto

As stated earlier, it packs a 64MP f/1.9 main camera. Other than that, you’ll get an additional 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens with a 120-degree Field of View (FoV). Moreover, there’s a 5MP depth sensor and 2MP macro sensor, both in f/2.4 aperture.

Three of those lenses are downgrades from Mi Note 10’s setup: 108MP f/1.7 main, 20MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, and 8MP f/2.0 telephoto with 7x optical zoom. The Mi Note 10 Lite can only zoom up to 2x.

It doesn’t have a telephoto lens but zoom is still clear

Wide | Telephoto

For most part, HDR and AI produce quality photos

…but large megapixel count doesn’t mean better photos

Although the Galaxy S20+ and Mi Note 10 Lite aren’t totally similar in terms of price range and hardware, I still tried to test how both of their 64-megapixel sensors perform.

Galaxy S20+ (64MP) vs Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite (64MP)

Unlike Galaxy S20+’s processing technique, the Mi Note 10 Lite failed to lessen the image’s highlights in favor of a “better” dynamic range that shows lighter shadows on most dimmed objects in the photo.

Don’t be fooled! These samples obviously show that better image quality isn’t based on how large the megapixel count of a phone is. If you’re really into photography, you should know that sensor sizes matter, as well as aperture, the phone post-process techniques, so on and so forth.

Galaxy S20+ (low light) vs Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite (low light)

Mi Note 10 Lite’s sample might look fine from afar but if you closely look at the details, it failed to deliver sharper details and whiter highlights. Even shadows in low light weren’t exempted in its image processing. To make it worse, the main camera lacks optical image stabilization (OIS) which resulted in a blurry, shaky output.

Vlog mode might be handy for some of you

This only works on rear camera, though

I’m not totally a fan of vlogging but the Mi Note 10 Lite has a special camera feature called “Vlog mode” which lets you shoot videos with eight vlog templates. This can save you time and hassle from stylizing your vlog from scratch. Although there’s no sample video, I tried testing it on my sleeping cat and it worked wonders!

Selfies are just right

Beauty Mode (Off) vs Beauty Mode (On + AI)

Not a selfie fanatic either but I think selfie camera quality is preferential. I just find it odd that it still smeared some parts of my face even when Beauty Mode is completely turned off.

This feature might work for aspiring “Instagram stars” and “influencers” though. But who knows? That feature might totally entice the person you like the most.

Is the Mi Note 10 Lite your GadgetMatch?

You can get the 6GB/64GB variant at just PhP 16,990 (US$ 340). Meanwhile, there’s another 128GB/8GB option priced at PhP 18,990 (US$ 380).

By the time you reach this line, you’ve probably passed through the phone’s pros and cons. To simply put it, this is a phone meant for power users who don’t demand a flagship-grade processor and heaps of RAM.

Having the right amount of punch paired with long-lasting battery that can last you more than a day are already enough for most consumers out there.

If you’re looking for an out-of-this-world camera performance in a midrange smartphone, this isn’t your best option. Unlike the previous Xiaomi devices I’ve reviewed, I can immediately tell this lacked the outstanding camera performance that those two midrange phones possessed.

Don’t be too disappointed, it can still be a great camera companion if you’re into vlogging, selfies, or maybe for someone who’s just not into the nitty-gritty of manual photography. The camera is ideal for those who mostly rely on Auto Mode and just need to upload photos and videos on their social media accounts.

But if we’re talking about the price tag, it’s definitely a bang for your buck even if it doesn’t have the excellent camera setup of the Mi Note 10. After all, you can’t have it all (just like the person you desperately like).

Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

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The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

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Reviews

LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

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Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

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Accessories

Redmi Earbuds S review: Affordable TWS without compromises

Making TWS earphones more accessible

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Truly wireless (TWS) earphones have been around for a while. Apple kick-started the hype with the launch of the AirPods and numerous brands have released alternatives since. However, they’ve always been very expensive.

With brands keen on ditching the headphone jack, users are often left with no option but to find wireless options. Redmi phones continue to have a headphone jack, but the brand also wants to remain focused on its target — deliver quality products at an affordable price.

The Redmi Earbuds S is the first TWS offering in India under the Redmi brand. While the brand stands strong in the smartphone segment, it has some cut-throat competition from realme. With a price tag of INR 1,799 (US$ 24), does it have enough firepower to take on the competition? If you’re looking for an entry-level TWS solution, can you trust the Earbuds S? Let’s find out!

Not AirPods knock-offs

If you’ve been following the TWS market, the Earbuds S will look familiar. These are sold as the AirDots S in China and many have ordered them previously via international marketplaces. In India, Redmi is calling them the Earbuds S and these could land in more south-east Asian markets soon.

While the trend is to follow Apple’s design language, the Earbuds S is going against the flow. It has its own distinctive design that looks nothing like a cheap knock-off.

The pill-shaped case is compact, feels solid in hand, and has a subtle curve on the bottom. The case size is perfect and it’ll always slide into your pocket smoothly.

Each earbud weighs just 4g and the in-ear design is immensely comfortable. I’ve worn them pretty much all day long and never felt any irritation, pain, or slightest of inconvenience. The snug fit also ensures adequate noise isolation and wearing them while driving for calls is seamless.

There’s not much to talk about with the design since it’s basic and gets the job done. They’re built out of plastic and its clearly evident at first sight.

I won’t count this as a drawback since it helps reduce overall weight and I wouldn’t expect metal or premium construction at this price.

Easy to use, fairly straightforward

The lid is very basic but has a satisfying feel to it when closing. Unlike the popular AirPods, these sit in your ears at a 45-degree angle. Paired along are two earbud tips to suit your ear canal. I didn’t have to use them and the standard size that comes along worked fine.

Using them is a very straightforward process. Open the lid, remove the earbuds, and wear them.

They’ll connect to your phone as soon as they’re disconnected from the case. I’ve never faced any connection issues so far. Each earbud has a button for quick controls such as music playback options and calling up Google Assistant.

On the flip side, you can’t rely on the earbuds to change the volume level or play a previous song. That can only be managed via your phone.

Pressing the button thrice will trigger the low-latency gaming mode. A feature that’ll be very handy while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile or Mobile Legends.

Each earbud has an indicator light that shows the status. Red means they’re charging while white means successful connection establishment. Lastly, they’re IPX4 certified, meaning sweat resistance. This obviously translates to a perfect workout session.

Punchy bass, relatively good audio

This is where I was surprised the most. Considering the nifty features it already has, I expected some kind of compromise in this department. And, I was wrong.

It has 7.2mm drivers and delivers punchy bass — a must-have for Bollywood music. Mainstream genres like pop sound amazing and if you’re not an audiophile, you won’t have any complaints.

The maximum volume is sufficiently loud and coupled with good isolation, even a busy market street is easily navigable.

However, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, these aren’t meant for you. The low frequency takes over while the mids are flat. You can use an equalizer to change the settings but the inherent tuning is in favor of bass-heavy music.

Furthermore, these connect via the SBC codec and there’s no support for aptX. I wouldn’t call this a drawback because the brand has to cut corners to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Adequate playback duration

Xiaomi claims the earbuds can deliver up to four hours of playback on a single charge and I’ve reached 3 hours 45 minutes in one go. So, their claims aren’t farfetched.

The case can charge the earbuds fully twice, delivering a total of 12 hours of playback in one go. If you’re going to use them for conference calls, music, and other work-related activities, they’ll easily get you through a working day.

The case takes almost two hours to charge fully. For frequent travelers, this can be a major drawback. Furthermore, the case charges via a microUSB port instead of the now-standard USB-C. Don’t forget to carry that extra charging cord along!

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

Yes. It definitely can. While there are a lot of minor additions I’d want to see, the price brings me back to reality.

In a nutshell, they’re designed aptly, deliver ordinarily better audio, and have 12 hours of playback. For US$ 25, there’s no better deal available. Keep in mind, the Redmi Earbuds S are making TWS earphones more accessible to everyone.

If you’re looking for top-notch audio quality, there are premium offerings like the OPPO Enco Free, Galaxy Buds, and 1More Truly Stylish. On the affordable side, realme Buds Air Neo and OPPO Enco W31 can be alternatives but are still priced considerably high.

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