Xiaomi mocks Apple with its very own premium phablet

There's just no stopping for the world's most valuable startup. After adding an air purifier, an IP camera, a smart light bulb and the affordable Redmi 2 to its portfolio, Xiaomi is now going right after the iPhone 6 Plus with its very own high-end phablet, the 5.7-inch Mi Note. While kicking off today's keynote, CEO Lei Jun emphasized that his 6.95mm-thick, 161g-heavy phone is ever so slightly slimmer and lighter than Apple's offering. But even without the cheeky comparison, the dual-SIM Mi Note is already impressive enough, given that it's mostly wrapped in Gorilla Glass 3 on both the front ("2.5D" curved) and back ("3D" curved), with an aluminum alloy frame exposed in the middle. Most interestingly, though, is that this CN¥2,299 (about $370) off-contract base price is a tad higher than Xiaomi's usual sub-CN¥2,000 tease, but it'll unlikely deter Xiaomi fans in China.

This aptly named device packs a large 5.7-inch screen, but you get two options for the resolution. The base model, due January 27th, has a Sharp / JDI 1080p (386 ppi) NEGA LCD, which boasts a 95 percent NTSC color gamut, improved outdoor performance and lower power requirements. The "Pro" model, slated for end of March, has the sharper Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440; 515 ppi) panel, though the company didn't go into detail about its other specs.

As for the largely glass-covered body, even though Xiaomi showed off a video clip of the phone passing its steel ball drop test and free fall test, the company is still offering a CN¥199 annual insurance to cover screen damage plus glass damage for both sides of the phone, as well as accidental liquid damage for the clumsy users. Having said that, we're still skeptical about how tough the glass is in real life; we'll believe it when we see the Mi Note drop on a corner without cracking.

The cameras aren't too shabby, either. The main camera is a 13-megapixel f/2.0 module with optical image stabilization plus dual-color LED flash by Philips, coupled by a 4MP "large-pixel" front-facing camera that's said to be the same as HTC's efficient UltraPixel imager. With the latter, we're certainly seeing a trend here.

During this section of the presentation, Lei didn't waste another chance to poke fun at Apple by pointing out that the Mi Note's main camera is flush with the phone's body. What he didn't admit, however, was that the 8-megapixel image sensor on the iPhone 6 series has large 1.5-micron pixels (UltraPixel's are 2 micron), whereas the 13-megapixel counterpart on the Mi Note is stuck with a less-efficient 1.12-micron size. This particular detail is, of course, left out of Xiaomi's spec sheet. Ultimately, we'll have to let the sample photos do the talking.

With the Mi Note, Xiaomi is also taking a leaf out of its local competitors' books (especially Vivo's) by adding a HiFi feature: It comes with a Sabre ES9018K2M high-end DAC, along with Analog Devices' ADA4896 and TI's OPA1612 amplifiers to cater to headphones of both high and low impedance. As you'd expect, the phone has native playback support for lossless formats like APE, FLAC, DSD and WAV. Xiaomi's even offering a pair of its own on-ear 50mm headphones for just CN¥499 (about $80), which are meant to be very cheap for their performance.

Going back to the phone itself, the base model packs the common lot of components you get on today's flagship devices: 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip, Adreno 330 graphics processor, 3GB LPDDR3 RAM, 3,000mAh battery (with Quick Charge 2.0) plus internal storage of either 16GB (CN¥2,299 or about $370) or 64GB (CN¥2,799 or about US$450); and it'll come in black or white.

For those who with more cash to burn and don't mind waiting until end of March, the Mi Note Pro will pack the aforementioned Quad HD screen, as well as a 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 810, Adreno 430 GPU, faster 4GB LPDDR4 RAM, 64GB of internal storage, LTE Cat 9 (450Mbps) radio plus a slightly larger 3,090mAh battery; all for CN¥3,299 or about $530. And of course, it'll come in gold color.