Xiaomi Mi 10i review: Beating the OnePlus Nord at its own game

Xiaomi Mi 10i review
(Image: © Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: The Mi 10i has a gorgeous gradient design with orange and cyan hues, a standout 108MP camera, robust hardware in the form of the Snapdragon 750G with 5G connectivity, and you even get a 3.5mm jack and IP53 dust and water resistance. It runs Android 10 out of the box and there's a lot of bloatware, but the value on offer is incredible.

Pros

  • +

    108MP camera is legitimately good

  • +

    Gorgeous gradient design

  • +

    Stereo sound and 3.5mm jack

  • +

    Reliable internal hardware

  • +

    Excellent battery life with 33W charging

Cons

  • -

    Still on Android 10

  • -

    MIUI 12 has a lot of bloatware

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Xiaomi makes some of the best cheap Android phones you can buy today, and while the Redmi Note lineup accounts for a bulk of its sales, Xiaomi also has a strong showing in the mid-range and flagship segments.

In fact, Xiaomi redoubled its efforts in the flagship category last year with the introduction of the Mi 10 Pro, offering the same great 108MP camera as the Galaxy S20 Ultra and high-end hardware — with 50W wired and 30W wireless charging — for significantly less than Samsung.

Xiaomi followed up the Mi 10 Pro and Mi 10 with the Mi 10T series, and is now going down-market with its latest device in the Mi 10 series, the Mi 10i. The Mi 10i is a variation of the Mi 10T Lite, but it has significant tweaks that allows it to stand out in Xiaomi's portfolio. The key differentiator is the 108MP camera module at the back, and there's a gorgeous new color option as well as a 3.5mm jack.

The i in the Mi 10i stands for India, with the device clearly aimed at bolstering Xiaomi's standing in the mid-range segment. While the Chinese manufacturer dominates the budget segment and has carved out a niche for itself in the high-end category with the Mi 10 and Mi 10T, it lacked a strong contender to take on the OnePlus Nord in the sub-₹30,000 segment.

The Mi 10i is that device. It combines the best features from the regular Mi 10 series at a much more affordable cost, and in doing so, becomes the ideal alternative to the OnePlus Nord in India's mid-range segment. Here's why the Mi 10i is an exciting phone in 2021.

Xiaomi Mi 10i Design

Xiaomi Mi 10i review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Although the Mi 10i is technically branded in the Mi 10 series, it doesn't share any design similarities with the Mi 10 or the Mi 10T. If anything, the device looks a lot like the POCO X3 thanks to the design of the camera housing at the back.

The Mi 10i combines an exquisite gradient finish with great hardware and a massive battery.

The Mi 10i is aimed at a younger audience, so Xiaomi went with a bold gradient pattern. We haven't really seen many gradient designs last year, so it is good that they're making a comeback in 2021. I'm using the Pacific Sunrise color option, and it alternates between orange and cyan hues — it starts off with a cyan finish at the top, and switches to a wonderful orange hue at the bottom.

The effect is quite striking, and the hues extend to the mid-frame as well, giving the phone just that little bit of added flair. The Mi 10i has a glass back with a glossy finish, and you'll find a matte texture on the sides. The camera housing is another feature that immediately makes the phone stand out; it evokes memories of the OnePlus 7T for me, and the module itself doesn't protrude too much from the body of the device.

Up front, the Mi 10i has a hole-punch cutout that's located in the middle of the display. The phone has thin bezels at the top, with the bottom bezel just that little bit thicker. There's a grille above the screen that doubles as the secondary speaker.

You'll find the power and volume buttons on the right, the USB-C charging port at the bottom with the primary speaker on its right, and the IR blaster at the top. Like the Mi 10T series, Xiaomi has added a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that's baked into the power button, and the sensor itself is fast to authenticate and doesn't have any issues.

Remember when Xiaomi got rid of the 3.5mm jack on the Mi 6 and said it did so to accommodate a larger battery? Well, the analog jack makes its return on the Mi 10i, and the device is packing a 4800mAh battery. The addition of the 3.5mm jack is another differentiator for the Mi 10i — it is the only model in the Mi 10 series to feature one. The Mi 10i also has a hybrid SIM card tray, and you can slot in two SIM cards or a SIM card along with a MicroSD card.

With dimensions of 165.3 x 76.8 x 9mm, the Mi 10i is nearly identical to the Mi 10T Pro in size, and at 214g it is just 4g lighter. The phone itself feels great to hold and use thanks to the matte coating on the sides, and the power button is ideally positioned for your thumb to unlock the phone.

Overall, this is one of the most attractive designs you'll find in the mid-range segment today, but if you're not a fan of the iridescent pattern you have the option to pick up the phone in black or blue.

Xiaomi Mi 10i Display

Xiaomi Mi 10i review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The Mi 10i has a massive 6.67-inch LCD panel with a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate tech. The screen has a resolution of 2400 x 1800, and you get a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 at the front and back.

Xiaomi's dynamic refresh rate tech is a clear standout on the Mi 10i.

There is some light bleed around the front camera module, but it isn't distracting enough to be a problem. As for the panel itself, it is decent enough for what you're paying here. You miss out on the color vibrancy that you get with a high-end AMOLED screen, but you can adjust the color profile to your tastes. For what it's worth, I didn't have too many issues with the screen itself.

The key differentiator with the Mi 10i is the AdaptiveSync tech that switches refresh rate on the fly based on what you're doing on the phone. For social media, browsing, or navigating the UI, you'll get the full 120Hz mode, with games running at 60, 90, or 120fps. For movies, the screen switches over to 48Hz, with TV shows at 50Hz, and videos at 30 or 60Hz.

The dynamic scaling is designed to optimize battery life while delivering the best fidelity when interacting with the screen, and Xiaomi has done a great job here. The Mi 10i also has stereo sound, and while it's not on the same level as the Mi 10, it is enjoyable to use the device for playing games or streaming videos. It has Widevine L1 out of the box, giving you the ability to stream your favorite shows in Netflix, Prime Video, or other streaming services at 1080p.

Xiaomi Mi 10i Hardware

Xiaomi Mi 10i review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The Mi 10i is one of the first phones to be powered by Qualcomm's shiny new Snapdragon 750G chipset. We've seen most mid-range devices in 2020 feature the Snapdragon 765G, and the 750G builds on that foundation but with a few key differences. It has two Cortex A77 cores that go up to 2.2GHz and six Cortex A55 cores at up to 1.8GHz — whereas the 765G has two Cortex A76 cores.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
SpecsXiaomi Mi 10i
SoftwareAndroid 10, MIUI 12
Display6.67-inch 120Hz LCD
Chipset2.20GHz Snapdragon 750G
RAM6GB/8GB
Storage128GB
Rear Camera 1108MP ƒ/1.75 (primary)
Rear Camera 28MP ƒ/2.2 (wide-angle)
Rear Camera 32MP (macro)
Front Camera2MP (portrait)
ConnectivityWi-Fi ac, BT 5.0, NFC
Battery5000mAh, 33W USB PD
SecuritySide-mounted fingerprint
ColorsPacific Sunrise, Blue, Black
Dimensions165.3 x 76.8 x 9mm
Weight214g

The Snapdragon 750G also has a built-in X52 5G modem, and the Mi 10i has Sub-6 connectivity in India — although you won't be able to use it for a few years as there's no 5G service in the country at the moment. The Snapdragon 750G also has an Adreno 619 GPU and is built on the 8nm node. For context, the 765G has the Adreno 620 is fabbed on a 7nm node.

So for the most part, the Snapdragon 750G delivers nearly the same level of performance as the 765G. I didn't notice any issues when playing games or other day-to-day tasks on the Mi 10i, and the phone is just as reliable as the Nord or any other mid-range device you'll find today.

Elsewhere, you'll find LPDDR4X RAM module and a UFS 2.2 storage module, with the Mi 10i available in three configurations in India: a base 6GB/64GB model that starts off at just ₹20,999, a 6GB/128GB model, and an 8GB/128GB option. There's also a linear vibration motor that delivers decent haptic feedback; it's good to see Xiaomi make decent progress in this particular area.

The biggest standout on the hardware side is the addition of IP53 rating; the Mi 10i has decent protection against dust ingress, and it can withstand water failing at up to a 60-degree angle. It isn't quite the same as the standard IP68 that we see on most flagships, but it is a positive move from Xiaomi.

Xiaomi Mi 10i review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Now let's talk about the battery life. The Mi 10i has a 4800mAh battery with 33W USB PD fast charging, and Xiaomi includes a 33W charger in the box. The phone goes from zero to 100% in just over an hour, delivering up to a 65% charge in just 20 minutes. The bundled charger works with the USB PD protocol, making it ideal for charging other devices as well.

The Mi 10i lasts over a day without any issues, and I had no problems whatsoever in this particular area. The phone ticks all the right boxes when it comes to the hardware, and we should see more phones powered by the Snapdragon 750G over the coming months.

Xiaomi Mi 10i Cameras

Xiaomi Mi 10i review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The Mi 10i features the Samsung HM2 imaging sensor, with Xiaomi noting that it is the smallest 108MP camera module. The module uses 9-to-1 pixel binning to deliver 12MP shots. The sensor itself is 0.7 micron, but with the pixel binning Xiaomi was able to get it to 2.1 micron. Samsung uses 9-to-1 pixel binning on the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra, and Xiaomi is now following suit with the Mi 10i.

As for the rest of the sensors, you get an 8MP wide-angle lens that's decent enough in its own right, but the 2MP macro and 2MP portrait lenses don't really move the needle for me. It's clear that these sensors exist solely for the quad camera branding that Xiaomi is going for, but for what it's worth you're at least getting two decent cameras here.

The camera interface itself should be immediately familiar if you've used a Xiaomi phone in the last year or so, with the shooting modes laid out in a ribbon at the bottom and toggles available for things like flash, timer, beauty effects, and more.

As for the camera quality itself, it is pretty decent for what you're ultimately paying for the phone. The resultant image quality isn't as good as the regular Mi 10 or even the Mi 10T, but it is better than most devices in this particular category — including the Nord. The daylight shots have good dynamic range and vibrant colors, but the low-light images are too grainy, with colors looking washed out.

You get a 16MP camera at the front, and it is aggressive with smoothening effects — much like every other Xiaomi phone. So overall, the Mi 10i has a lot to offer in this particular category, but that 108MP camera isn't as good as what you'll find on the Mi 10.

Xiaomi Mi 10i Software