The Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra looks and feels familiar, that is, if you have ever handled the Mi 10 or 10 Pro. It is a phone of the same curvy shape and a solid footprint. And unless you are among the few lucky ones to get the Transparent Edition (like us, we do brag, yes), the Ultra will also look like your typical glass-sandwich phone.
The Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra is every bit as premium as you can expect - it has durable and curved Gorilla Glass pieces on both ends, a polished aluminum frame on the sides, one impressively thin camera setup, and a nearly bezel-less HDR HRR OLED screen with a small punch hole.
The lack of water protection is a disappointment, but Xiaomi has never had an IP68-rated phone for reasons unknown, so we can't say we were surprised of its omission on the Ultra. It is a long-overdue step, though, and we hope Xiaomi doesn't wait another ten years to take it.
Back to the Ultra, we want to start with the screen, which may be a 1080p one, but what a marvelous piece it is! The 6.67" AMOLED screen is of the same size and resolution as on the Mi 10 and 10 Pro, but the actual panel behind the curved Gorilla Glass 5 is different.
TLC is the manufacturer of the said screen, and it offers a lot over the other Mi 10 phones - 120Hz refresh rate (vs. 90Hz), can show up to 1 billion colors (vs. 16 million), and can be 800 nits bright when necessary (vs. 500nits). Then there is the sensor grid with 240Hz touch sampling rate.Mi 10 Ultra next to Mi 10 Pro (right)
We are fans of this panel, as you can tell. Xiaomi did try its best with the new wallpapers and MIUI12 animations, and everything is just so smooth and sweet. The maker wanted the screen to awe people, and indeed it does that.
We are not the biggest fans of the curved screens because we often hold them wrong and trigger unwanted finger registers, but not on the Mi 10 Ultra. Frankly, the panel beneath the glass does not have an as steep curve as suggested by the glass, and that's probably what solved the thing for us.
The front of the Ultra has a couple more features deserving of attention. The most obvious one is the small punch-hole for the 20MP selfie snapper. It is quite tiny and it was not a distraction for when watching Netflix or similar.
Then there is the earpiece/speaker, which is invisible to the naked eye. It is within one razorblade-thin gap between the frame and the screen glass. The Ultra offers a stereo speaker setup, and the earpiece, as it is often done these days, acts as a speaker even if it is not as loud as the full-blown bottom piece.
Finally, there is an optical fingerprint reader behind the OLED screen, as usual - near the bottom. It is plenty fast and accurate, and we haven't had a single issue with it throughout the week we handled the Mi 10 Ultra.
Now, let us flip the Mi 10 Ultra. The back is made of Gorilla Glass 6, a curved single piece bent towards all four sides. You can have it painted in Obsidian Black or Mercury Silver. Or opt for the Transparent Edition - the one we have right here.
The transparent back is, well, indeed transparent, fading to black near the sides and thus hiding the internal pieces of the metal frame that holds everything together. But what you can see beneath the glass is not that interesting. The wireless charging coil, the NFC antenna, and a single screw. The rest is covered by a thin black layer, probably graphene for taking the heat off the battery.
The lack of interesting stuff to see is probably what made Xiaomi to mark the spots of everything important on the glass and you can see some mockups of the circuitry and the borders of the periscopic lens. There are some cool inscriptions here and there, too.
It is true the transparent panel looks cool, even cooler with the markup, but it is not really showing the chips or the battery. If you adjust your expectations, you will not be disappointed for sure.Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra next to Galaxy Note20 Ultra (in bronze)
Of course, what's even more impressive is that this transparent piece of Gorilla Glass is the camera setup. It is huge, and yet it does not protrude as many of the competitors, which is some sort of achievement itself.
Top to bottom you are seeing the end of the periscopic lens over a 48MP sensor - this combo provides 5x optical zoom. Then follows another zoom camera, this time a 12MP shooter that is best for portraits as it does 2x optical zoom.
The third camera is the primary one, with an innovative 48MP OmniVision sensor, with a wide lens and optical stabilization. This one, and the 5x snapper support 8K video capturing.
Finally, the last one is the 20MP snapper with ultra-wide lens and autofocus, meaning in addition to those ultra-wide shots, it can also do ultra-macro.
Around these impressive snappers is a triple-LED dual-tone flash and the laser emitter and receiver that assist the autofocus.
Let's talk about the frame for a bit. It is very thin and slightly curved, with a glossy finish - ergo the lack of comfortable grip. The aluminum is very thin around the longer sides, meaning most of the left and right parts of the Mi 10 Ultra are basically made of glass. Xiaomi managed to fit the volume and power keys on the right, though, so that's good.
The top of the Mi 10 Ultra has the IR blaster and one mic, while the bottom is overcrowded with the dual-SIM tray, the mouthpiece, the USB-C port and the second speaker.
The Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra is beautiful, and the transparent edition looks beyond cool. But it is not for everybody, but that's fine - the black or silver options are still some excellent choices.
No matter what option you get - revealing or concealing - the Mi 10 Ultra is of premium quality and build all around. Handling is far from ideal, as is the case with such beauties, and that's why you should consider using the bundled transparent case.Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra next to Mi 10 Pro
If only the Ultra was water-proofed, too, but that is a wish not coming true today. We did find some rubber sealing around the SIM tray, so we'd throw this wild guess and say Xiaomi did make it splash-proof, it is just not advertising it - better survive some accidental splashes rather than die when deliberately splashed, we guess.