The Mi 11 Ultra is Xiaomi’s answer to Samsung’s latest flagship Galaxy S21 Ultra, that too at a much lower price. Price is not the only area where Xiaomi seems to have the Galaxy S21 Ultra beat, it also has its over the top features like a quick preview display at the back. But not all is good, the phone does heat up like a saucepan.
I spent around a week with the new Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and it was an interesting ride, to say the least. Here we will be taking a look at how the Mi 11 Ultra performed in stressful conditions and also if it is the flagship smartphone you should get for yourself next.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Price in India: Rs 69,999
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra specifications: 6.8-inch WQHD+ AMOLED quad-curved display | 120Hz refresh rate | Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor | 12GB RAM | 256GB internal storage | 5,000mAh battery | 20MP front camera | 50MP+48MP+48MP rear cameras | 120x zoom | MIUI 12 based on Android 11 |
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: An attractive price
Flagship smartphones crossed the Rs 1,00,000 mark a long time ago and there seems no bar to the price. However, companies like OnePlus and Xiaomi do try to keep a check at the big players, by releasing flagship-grade smartphones like the Mi 11 Ultra at a much lower price point.
At Rs 69,999, the Mi 11 Ultra comes with everything the Rs 1,05,999 Galaxy S21 Ultra has to offer and then some. But keep in mind, even though the spec sheet might seem better, but it doesn’t guarantee real-life performance. That is what we will be taking a look at below.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Design and build
Most flagship smartphones these days, apart from the foldables are metal glass sandwiches. Xiaomi has tried to break this monotonous look with the addition of a quad curved display and a secondary quick view display on the back.
For the front and the rear display, the company has used Gorilla Glass Victus, which is the latest and most sturdy glass that Corning has to offer as of now. Over that, the company has also used Ceramic to cast the back instead of glass, making the phone a bit more durable. This also provides us with a much more premium feel.
The back camera module on the Mi 11 Ultra has one of the largest camera modules we have seen to date. One of the reasons behind this is the secondary display, other reasons include two large 2-inch sensors, a 1.12-inch sensor and a 120x digital zoom telephoto setup.
The phone does feel quite bulky weighing in at 234 grams. Surprisingly, the phone, which I felt would be top-heavy due to the massive camera module, was not so. The device was very balanced, with it not tipping to either side when held. This level of detail is appreciated and welcomed.
I received the Ceramic Black variant for review, which looks nice, but is extremely reflective and a fingerprint magnet. The Ceramic White variant would have fared much better.
The frame is a thin strip of metal with a cut out on the top covered with an end cap. The bottom edge includes a speaker grille, its primary microphone, a USB Type-C port and a SIM card tray, which includes two SIM card slots. The left edge is left plain, with the right edge consisting of the volume rockers and a textured power button. Coming to the top edge, it features a secondary speaker grille and a secondary microphone. It also features Harman Kardon branding and an IR blaster.
The Mi 11 Ultra also features an IP68 rating for dust and water protection, which has become one of the most necessary features these days along with wireless charging, which is also present on the device.
Overall, I personally liked the fit and finish of the Mi 11 Ultra a lot, with the premium materials and solid build quality.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: The secondary display
One of the main features that will swing you towards buying this smartphone is its secondary display, located on the back. The main purpose of this 1.1-inch AMOLED secondary display is that of an always-on display, but it also allows you to receive or decline calls, and also acts as a selfie display for the primary camera setup.
The secondary display is not as bright under the sun especially while using it with the always-on display feature.
The notification previews and the quick call rejections were what I used the rear display most for. However, I do feel that people getting this phone would use it for the selfie taking capabilities of the display.
The secondary display is touch enabled, however, it only works for the call functionality. I would have appreciated, if Xiaomi had worked in more touch enabled features for the display, making it much more effective.
Note, this is not the first smartphone to feature a rear display. Meizu and a few other brands have already released devices with similar rear displays, but with much more functionality.
Overall, the secondary display is a good touch from the company’s side, and I would like to see how it advances it with future software updates.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Display
The 6.81-inch AMOLED display of the Mi 11 Ultra is one of the best smartphone displays I have used to date. It is initially set in the full HD+ resolution mode along with a 60Hz refresh rate, which you can increase up to WQHD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. The refresh rate will stay variable ranging between 30Hz to 120Hz.
At its highest settings, the primary display is a joy to use and consume content on. Even though the display has a variable refresh rate, it does not feel janky anywhere, rather it is quite smooth and looks pretty good.
The Mi 11 Ultra has a claimed maximum brightness of 1,700 nits, which in terms of numbers is great. However, while using it in the bright outdoors under the sun the display looked adequately bright only. I personally seeing the peak brightness levels, was expecting a bit more oomph. In low light situations, the display could dim enough to not hurt the eyes.
Images and videos on the device showcased rich colours and deep contrasts. The images were quite sharp and the videos with 120Hz upscaling looked extremely smooth.
While using the device in different situations, I noticed that it tweaked the colour science accordingly, to provide the best viewing experience according to the ambient lighting. Such subtle touches made using the phone a lot of fun.
If you do not like the default output, the Mi 11 Ultra also features a bunch of tools to tweak the display settings. These settings include setting a specific temperature for the display, natively upscaling any content to hi-res and more.
Apart from the software tweaks and the display colour science, this was the first device I have used with a quad curved display. And using it was amazing, with the tight curves along the edges. The content flowed seamlessly along the edges without there being any accidental touches caused due to my palms.
Overall the display is pretty user friendly with a bright and sharp image output. The colour science was also on point. However, the quad curved edges do make me fear for its durability.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Speakers
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra comes with stereo speakers tuned by Harman Kardon. The speakers are loud enough to fill a mid-size room with a good sound stage, clear vocals, great audio response and balanced bass. The mids and the highs were pretty balanced as well. However, take note, I did not test the device in a proper sound room to clock in the real numbers of the audio output.
These came in extremely handy while playing games like Call of Duty: Mobile and watching movies on Netflix.
Overall, I would like to state that the Harman Kardon tuned speakers were great and I would love to see how the company takes this partnership forward.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Security
I personally do not like in-display fingerprint sensors, however, in recent times they have become much more fast and accurate. The Mi 11 Ultra features a similar fingerprint sensor, which makes unlocking the device extremely easy. The speed of the fingerprint sensor is comparable to the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor.
Face Unlock is also pretty fast. However, take note for facial recognition, the device utilises the front camera module, which is comparatively less secure than the integrated fingerprint sensor. So it is recommended that you use the fingerprint sensor to unlock the device.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Software
The Mi 11 Ultra runs Google’s latest Android 11 operating system with the company’s own MIUI 12 skin on top. The company has promised an update to MIUI 12.5 soon, however, it has not provided any timeline for the same.
MIUI has gotten pretty mature since its early days and now comes with a lot of nifty features that one easily grows a liking to. Moreover, the company has started providing a lot more customisation options to users making the learning curve even smoother.
I personally liked the custom animated UI elements and fonts, however, they are a subjective thing, meaning that some people might not agree with me on the same.
The device does come with some bloatware like Netflix, and some double apps like a file manager and Files by Google. You can remove some of this bloat, but not all of it. However, the adequate storage space and RAM can deal with it.
The software experience remains similar across the board with Xiaomi smartphones. This is a good thing, as customers using Xiaomi devices do not have to adapt a lot while trying to use the flagship devices of the company.
Overall, Xiaomi still needs to work on a few little tweaks to its software. However, seeing the refinement in its software as of now, I am excited to test out the future build of the MIUI skin.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Camera
The Mi 11 Ultra is a camera first smartphone, so let’s first the camera specifications out of the way and then let me tell you about my experience. The Mi 11 Ultra features a triple camera setup on the back, consisting of a 50-megapixel primary wide angle sensor with OIS support and an f/1.95 aperture. This is paired with a 48-megapixel sensor with an ultra wide angle lens and PDAF support. Lastly, there is a 48-megapixel sensor with a periscope lens that supports OIS and PDAF. This sensor can click photos in 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom and 120x digital zoom. 120x zoom is currently the highest spec you can currently get on a consumer smartphone. The camera can shoot videos in 8K resolution at 24fps and 4K at 60fps. The front camera module consists of a single 20-megapixel sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and a 0.8μm lens.
The primary camera in good lighting situations both outdoors and indoors provide good shots. The images clicked come out with vivid colours and are pretty crisp. However, I did find a small issue with the colour science, which was that the camera does pump up the colours a bit, especially ones with warmer tones, like yellow. Sometimes the images of objects with a warm tone would even come out oversaturated, thus making them look unnatural. Apart from this, other factors like the exposure and the white balance are perfect with no need for much correction.
The ultra wide angle lens also does a good job in decent lighting conditions. There is a bit of distortion around the edges, however, that is expected with an ultra wide angle lens. The images clicked come out with punchy colours and a good dynamic range. Using this sensor to click crisp group selfies and wide scenic shots, once this Covid-19 pandemic is behind us would be what I would want to do with it. As of now, I suffice with clicking shots of the park below my building.
Coming to the zoom lens, the device features quick zoom options including 5x, 10x, and 120x zoom. It also offers you the pinch to zoom feature to set the right shot. Using the periscope camera at 5x is great, with good image clarity, almost no noise and good colour. I was pleased with all the shots taken at 5x zoom. Images captured using the 10x hybrid zoom also look pretty solid, with similar results to that of the 5x zoom. This performance continues till around 30x zoom, after which the noise levels in the images increase drastically.
The 120x zoom will let you capture far away objects, but the image will consist of a lot of grain and the colours would also look a lot dull. You will be able to tell what the images generally are off, but that’s it. Comparatively the Galaxy S21 Ultra clicks better images at its 100x zoom. Xiaomi can better the mode with future software updates, however, as of now, it is not a marquee feature that I would stand behind.
Low light photography has mixed results with some images just being perfectly captured with all the elements just right, whereas, other images having difficulty in focusing, having a jittery colour science and introducing grain. However, most of the shots clicked in low light were of the first variant.
Low light photography can be improved with future updates, considering the perfect shots that the device was able to deliver.
Due to its large sensors, the Mi 11 Ultra can take in a lot of light bringing out the best performance. The images captured with it came out with a lot of detail, good colours and a wide dynamic range.
Coming to the selfie camera, which performed quite well during my testing period. The images came out sharp and had punchy colours. The phone did smooth out my skin a bit, however, you can turn the beautification mode off if you prefer natural images. Portrait images clicked with the front camera had edge detection issues, most of the times blurring out the edges of the subject.
You can also use the secondary display on the back to click selfies using the rear cameras, which are much better in quality compared to the front sensor.
I even tried recording 8K video with the device and it came out pretty good. The footage was clean, vivid, sharp and appealing to the eyes.
Overall, I am pretty impressed with what the Mi 11 Ultra’s cameras can do as of now. There are a few flaws like the oversaturation of warm tones that I would like fixed, but as a point to shoot camera, it is a really good one. Night photography is one of the best camera features that I explored on the device and would like to dig deeper into this in the coming days.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Performance
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra just like most other Android flagships is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC. Apart from this, the device comes bundled with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 internal storage.
Now that the first quarter of 2021 is over, multiple smartphones powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor are already available in the market, which would place the Mi 11 Ultra in the same playing field as the top-performing smartphones right now. However, the 12GB of RAM and its allocation process along with the fast UFS 3.1 storage seems to provide the device with a competitive edge.
Taking a look at synthetic benchmark results we get to find that the device managed to score 783894 in the AnTuTu benchmark test, which surprisingly is more than the Asus ROG Phone 5, which is the current leader with a score of 731376. During the Geekbench test, the device managed to score 247 in the single core test and 1404 in the multi-core test, which is again similar to its competitors. In the 3DMark Wild Life test, the device managed to gain a score of 5576.
A lot of the times, the device would stop the synthetic benchmark tests, showing an overheating warning of over 45 degrees. However, we found that after the tests were stopped the temperatures of the back would go up to highs of above 55 degrees. The temperatures reached similar heights during long gaming sessions. Shooting images or video for a while would also yield similar heating results. Such sort of overheating is not appreciated and will hurt hands if held for long. This will even affect the adherence of the glue, thus compromising the IP68 rating if it happens for longer durations over time.
During day to day carry, I did not face many problems using the Mi 11 Ultra, apart from the overheating issue that persisted throughout my review period. The device managed to get me through the day while using all my social media apps, playing a few games, watching Netflix, YouTube videos and more. There wasn’t a point where I encountered even a single stutter in the UX.
During my base tests, where I opened around 40 tabs in Chrome, Brave and Opera web browsers and started switching between them. I was unable to detect any noticeable lags or stutters, with none of the tabs or browser apps being killed. Taking it to the next level, I moved to my multi-app test, where I opened up around 50 different apps including productivity apps, games and more. Just like the browser test I kept switching between them and found the results to be similar to the previous test.
Coming to the gaming performance, I played a number of games on the device, including small games like Crash On The Run!, Head Ball 2, Marvel Champions, Crowd City and more to heavy and demanding games like Call of Duty: Mobile, Asphalt 9: Legends, Pokemon Go and more. No matter the game I chose, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra managed to perform smoothly and never showcased any lag or stutter. After three hours of extensive gameplay, the device did manage to cross 50-degree centigrade in temperatures that were too hot for me to keep on playing. The ceramic build also did not help as it was trying to dissipate the heat faster than glass, due to which the surface got too hot too fast.
Overall, I had a smooth gaming experience, until the overheating issue made me leave the phone on the side. Other than that in daily usage I did not face any issues and found the phone to be quite a good carry.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Battery
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is backed by a 5,000mAh battery with support for 67W wired and wireless charging. However, in India, the company has bundled the device with a 55W charger, due to regulations. The company has stated that it is trying to figure out a way to bundle the 67W charger along with the phone, but it will take time.
With the default settings (full HD+, 60Hz refresh rate), the device managed to provide me with a full day worth of usage starting at around 8 AM and ending at around 12 AM with around 32 percent battery left. With the highest setting, the device managed to only last a full day with around 1 or 2 percent battery left by the end.
Even though the 67W GaN charger does not come bundled with the device, the 55W charger does manage to juice up the device pretty fast. According to my test, the device charged from 0 to 22 percent within 10 minutes, to 42 percent in 20 minutes, to 66 percent in 32 minutes and to 100 percent within 47 minutes.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Verdict
The Mi 11 Ultra is an interesting proposition priced at only Rs 69,999 in India, making it a much more affordable alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. With all the features of a flagship and then some, this is not a perfect smartphone, however, it does manage to get near with its overall performance and gimmicks like the rear display. But some points like the overheating issue, the overhyped 120x zoom camera and more bring it down a bit.
Overall, considering all pros and cons, the Mi 11 Ultra is currently one of the most affordable and premium flagship you can currently get in the market alongside a few others like the OnePlus 9 Pro. If you can get past all the above-stated issues, then this is the smartphone to get.