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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Worth Shelling 70K For A Xiaomi Phone?
The Mi 11 Ultra is Xiaomi's reply to Apple and Samsung's most powerful smartphones. It screams flagship with its top-of-the-line hardware, a QHD+ display like no other, and a massive camera bump that houses three sensors capable of recording 8K video and far-field zoom of up to 120x, first on a smartphone. The camera array even has its little display, which sounds just crazy and it is indeed. Wait till you find out more about the secondary display in the following article.
- Stunning Design (Ceramic & Glass)
- Adequately Durable (IP68 & Corning Gorilla Glass Victus)
- Gorgeous QHD+ 120Hz Display
- Excellent Cameras
- Best Sounding Speakers
- Spam-free UI
- Smooth Gaming Performance
- Good Battery Life
- Bulky Design, Inconvenient For One-Hand Use
- MIUI 12 Might Not Please Everyone
- In-screen Fingerprint Scanner Could Use Some Improvements
- Night Time Camera Performance Could Have Been Better
Moving on, the phone is powered by the top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC, has an IP68 dust and water-resistant body, and is fueled by a Li-Po 5000 mAh battery which supports up to 67W fast-charging. However, Xiaomi offers a 55W charger in the box. In all, the Mi 11 Ultra's spec-sheet has everything that one would want to see on a true flagship phone.
Despite these specs and features, the Mi 11 Ultra has to overcome one major hurdle to topple the big guns in the flagship category and i.e. the brand perception. Notably, Xiaomi has been leading the budget and mid-range category in India but the premium flagship category has entirely different dynamics. Stakes are higher as battling Samsung and Apple in their territory and even OnePlus for that matter isn't an easy job.
That said, I started using the Mi 11 Ultra after using the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro to find the answer to the big question- Should you spend 70k INR on a Xiaomi flagship? Let's find out.
What’s Special About The Massive Camera Bump?
While the entire package is no less than an X-factor, the huge camera module is undoubtedly the biggest talking point of Xiaomi's 2021 flagship. The massive rectangular camera array houses three sensors- Samsung GN2 50MP primary shooter and two 48MP Sony IMX586 sensors; one wide-angle (128-degree FoV) and one telephoto sensor that offers 5x optical zoom and the best-in-class 120x far-field digital zoom. The 50MP Samsung GN2 sensor is the definite highlight here.
The optically stabilized GN2 sensor is massive (1/1.12″) in size, the largest sensor on a smartphone yet, and is capable of creating a huge 2.8μm pixel size (Individual Pixel size-1.4μm) with 12.5MP default picture resolution. The camera can record 8k 24fps, 4k 30/60 fps, and 1080p 30/60fps videos and gives you quite a wide range of focal lengths from 12mm to 120mm to create pictures. Lastly, the potent camera setup allows you to shoot in Night mode with all three lenses. You also get a triple LED light if you care.
Overall, Xiaomi has devised one of the most advanced camera systems on a smartphone. Let's find out how the phone's optics works in real-life conditions.
Camera Autofocus, Colors, And Picture Clarity
The Mi 11 Ultra's camera is super fast and fun to use and I almost felt like I am using a dedicated camera and not a smartphone. The autofocus is very snappy and accurate in almost all light situations in both photo and video mode. The camera even maintains steady focus with 5x and up to 10x zoom, which yields crisp shots.
The pictures have plenty of details and very natural processing. Colors look good, mostly natural; however, the AI mode should be disabled for a true natural output. Moving on, images have adequate sharpness, excellent dynamic range, no noise issues, and HDR also works very well. I liked what Xiaomi has done with the color processing and sharpness on the Mi 11 Ultra. The phone captures realistic-looking pictures in both daylight and complex light situations.
Mi 11 Ultra’s Normal Mode Beats Even Some Phones’ Dedicated Portrait Mode
Moving on, thanks to a bigger sensor, the Mi 11 Ultra creates a very natural shallow depth-of-field. The primary camera creates a very pleasing bokeh and the results are surprisingly good and sometimes better than dedicated portrait shots, provided that you are careful with the subject distance and focusing since the narrower plane of focus can be a disadvantage if not put to good use.
As the perspective is not impacted by the focal length, a good sense of framing and composition (subject distance from the camera) can help reduce the unwanted blurriness around the main subject. Here you need to understand that the bigger sensor on the Mi 11 Ultra gives you more flexibility to experiment with the composition, something no other smartphone camera offers. Just use it wisely.
The regular portrait mode magnifies the view (1.4x) and delivers excellent portraits with good subject isolation. The camera app allows you to tweak the depth of field in real-time (and after taking a shot), apply cinematic effects and filters, something the OnePlus 9 Pro misses out on.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Zoom Capabilities
Xiaomi has indeed taken things to next level with the Mi 11 Ultra in the zoom department, at least on papers. The phone captures crisp 2x Shots via its massive primary sensor and the actual telephoto lens offers good 5x zoom pictures without losing much clarity, sharpness, and colors.
The phone can also capture decent 10x pictures but these won't blow your mind. Post 10x, the images start losing on details but still hold pretty well till up to 30x in broad daylight. You can zoom up to 120x but as it goes with the far-field digital zoom implementations, the output is nothing exciting but serves as a good party trick.
Good Landscape Camera (128-Degree FOV)
The Mi 11 Ultra has an impressive wide-angle photography setup that gives one of the widest- 128 degrees field-of-view. The 48MP sensor offers crisp wide-angle shots that show the impressive dynamic range and vivid colors. Exposure is mostly on point and noise is kept at a minimum.
There is some distortion at the corners that can't be avoided due to the nature of the sensor and the area of field it covers. You have to live with it. You can shoot in the full aspect ratio to reduce some distortion around the edges.
Also, I must admit that I didn't get an opportunity to test the Mi 11 Ultra's wide-angle capabilities to its fullest, no thanks to the Covid-19. Given a chance, the smartphone will prove to be an excellent street photography device to capture the hustle and bustle of the city and streets. Once things settle down, I would take this camera beast out on a spin.
Low-Light And Night Photography- No New Benchmarks
Despite carrying the biggest sensor on a smartphone camera, the Mi 11 Ultra's low-light capabilities are pretty extraordinary. The 50MP sensor pulls up a lot of details in challenging lighting and the images look pretty good. The dedicated night mode manages to bring some additional details in the darker spots in the frame.
The dedicated night mode also makes colors a bit more vivid, keeps noise in check, and adds a notable contrast to pictures. Despite the potent hardware, the Mi 11 Ultra fails to match the likes of Google Pixels and even Vivo X-series phones- the X50 Pro to be precise.
What the Mi 11 Ultra misses on is a long-exposure mode for standard dedicated night mode photography. The special long-exposure night modes (Moving crowd, Neon trails, Oil painting, Light painting, Starry sky, and Star trails) are very useful but cannot be used to capture well-exposed standard night shots.
A 30-sec or longer exposure mode could have made a huge difference. Since the mode is not given, you have to use the manual mode to capture some good long-exposure pictures, and thankfully, the pro mode can make the most out of the capable hardware.
Plenty Of Camera Features To Experiment
On the software side, there are plenty of modes, filters, and features that will keep you busy. The camera app is by far the most feature-rich on a Xiaomi phone and even Samsung and OnePlus cannot come close. Some notable modes include- Supermoon, Movie effects, and beautifully crafted filters that reduce your dependency on third-party photo/video editing applications.
Xiaomi has also added a rather unique Multi-cam mode that takes full use of high-end processing of the underlying SD888 chipset. The camera mode employs all cameras to click pictures at once. Just tap on the shutter button and the phone will give you a total of six pictures- wide-angle, 1x, 2x, 5x, 10x, and even a selfie. I wish OnePlus had half of what Xiaomi is offering on the Mi 11 Pro.
6.81-inch 120Hz OLED 10-bit Panel (1440 x 3200 pixels)
Starting with other features that impressed us is the gigantic 6.81-inch 120Hz OLED screen with 2K resolution (1440 x 3200 pixels). Its one-of-a-kind curved AMOLED panel with a fluid 480Hz touch input rate and an impressive peak brightness of 1700 nits ensures excellent outdoor visibility.
The display produces stunning visuals that make video playback and gameplay super immersive. Colors look vivid but not Samsung-level saturated and that's a good thing as you get a sense of the realistic color output. It's a 10-bit OLED panel capable of showing 1.07 billion colors.
Excellent Display For Binge-Watching
I streamed the latest Superhero series- Jupiter's Legacy (Netflix) on the Mi 11 Ultra and the episodes looked amazing. The Dolby Vision and the HDR10 content looks super immersive on this wonderful QHD+ panel.
Gorgeous 120Hz QHD+ AMOLED Display
Moving on, the display can be set to run at 120Hz with QHD+ resolution (1440x3200px) which means you get to experience buttery smooth UI navigation and scrolling. Now, this might not be a deal breaker since the OnePlus 9 Pro also offers the same specs; however, the MIUI animations and graphics make a difference here. The UI on the Mi 11 Ultra just feels snappier and makes the 120Hz refresh rate feel more alive.
There's a rather new and unique ‘Paper mode' in the Reading mode section that makes the QHD+ panel mimic the paper-like texture. It's a good add-on and will come in very handy if you are an avid reader and mostly use your handset for reading. Overall, the Mi 11 Ultra's display is a treat to the eyes and fingers. It's just a more fun display to use for visuals and features than the competition.
Immersive Speaker Setup
The big and bold OLED display is complemented by equally good sounding speakers with Hi-Res audio support. The Mi 11 Ultra boasts a stereo speaker setup- housing two Harman Kardon-tuned speakers that generate powerful audio. The sound delivery is very clean and loud enough to let you enjoy multimedia content even if you don't have earphones/headphones handy. The overall sound quality is a notch higher than what Samsung and OnePlus offer on their flagship phones.
Premium Aesthetics- Ceramic Back Panel With Secondary Display
Needless to say, the Mi 11 Ultra is stunning to look at. The ceramic back with the huge camera bump is a head turner and even has its tiny OLED screen (1.1-inch) which displays some basic information like date, time, and battery life.
You can change the clock type, add some cute pictures, messages, etc. from the ‘Rear display theme', and can also use the tiny LED strip to take selfies via the rear camera. Xiaomi might extend its usage with OTA updates in the future as it can be utilized for various other apps and use cases.
Mi 11 Ultra Feels Rock Solid In Hands
Moving on, the front fascia is mostly occupied by the gorgeous quad-curved OLED display. With an aluminum frame and a dense body, the Mi 11 Ultra feels rock-solid in the hands and comes in two color variants. I am using the Black edition, which is extremely difficult to keep clean from smudges as the glossy material is a fingerprint magnet. The White variant looks better and has a more up-market feel to it.
IP 68 Water-Dust Resistant & Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
In addition to offering premium aesthetics, the phone also scores very well on durability. In fact, the Mi 11 Ultra is Xiaomi's most durable phone yet. The handset has an IP68 dust-water-resistant body and can survive underwater submersion to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. For display, Xiaomi has used the latest Corning Gorilla Glass. The Mi 11 Ultra's QHD+ OLED is protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which is also offered on the Samsung Galaxy S21Ultra.
Performance- Qualcomm SD 888 SoC And 12GB RAM
Raw performance seems to be another area where the Mi 11 Ultra shines. We have been playing the COD Mobile and some other high-end games at max settings, and have not experienced any performance slowdowns. The SD88 SoC, 12GB RAM, and the fluid 120Hz display (480Hz touch sampling rate) make for an excellent overall package.
I did experience slight heating issues but nothing alarming here that restricts you from using the device to its full potential. Also, the in-screen fingerprint scanner isn't the best at this price. The OnePlus 9 Pro's biometric scanner is comparatively snappier and more accurate.
Spam-Free MIUI 12.0.2
The Mi 11 Ultra runs on the latest MIUI 12.0.2 based on Android 11. The software is free of unwanted ads and spam. I only experienced app update notifications from 'Get Apps' and nothing more than that. It is important to note that Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra shows much more advertisements and notifications than the Mi 11 Ultra. The MIUI on the Mi 11 Ultra is relatively spam-free. Also, the Mi 11 Ultra's haptics are top-class and contribute a lot to enhance the UI performance.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Benchmarks Results
We also ran our usual benchmarks to check the synthetic scores of Xiaomi's 2021 flagship phone. As expected, the Mi 11 Ultra scored some of the best numbers in the game. The phone scored 687743 in Antutu, 5618 in the 3D Mark's Wildlife test, 12808 in the PC Mark's Work 2.0 performance test, and 1110 in the Geekbench's single-core and 3397 in the multi-core test.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Battery Life & Charging
As far as the battery life is concerned, the Mi 11 Ultra once again does not disappoint. It easily lasted for a day with the screen set to run at 120Hz on 1080p resolution with heavy usage. Interestingly, the battery holds pretty well even when you are running the display at 120Hz at QHD+ resolution.
The battery life is marginally better than what I have experienced on the OnePlus 9 Pro. The 55W fast-charger is another good addition. It takes around 58 minutes to refuel the big battery. The phone also supports 67W wireless charging but you have to purchase the accessory at an additional cost, which is quite understandable.
Big, Bulky, And Poor Ergonomics
Despite using some of the heavyweight champions (Galaxy S21 Ultra, Note 20 Ultra, ASUS ROG Phones, etc.) in the last few months, I found the Mi 11 Ultra quite inconvenient to use in the daily routine. The thick slab of ceramic, glass, and metal (164.3x74.6x8.4mm) weighs 234 grams and is just not suited for one-hand use. You have to be very careful while using it with one hand for basic tasks such as dialing phone numbers, scrolling through the phonebook or your Twitter timeline, etc.
Since there's a huge camera sensor at the top, the top portion of the handset feels slightly heavy. The weight isn't very disproportionate but could be easily felt while using the device. In comparison, the OnePlus 9 Pro feels lighter and much more one-hand friendly. Overall, the Mi 11 Ultra isn't an ideal phone for one-hand use and you must not forget it.
MIUI Software Is Not For Everyone
While the MIUI on the MI 11 Ultra is relatively spam-free and feature-rich, it might not feel as welcoming and intuitive as Samsung's OneUI and OnePlus's OxygenOS. Each skin has its personality and it ultimately comes down to personal preference. It wouldn't be right to say that the MIUI falls behind the rival UI in terms of features or visual aesthetics; it is just a different skin and might not match everyone's taste.
Xiaomi's MIUI is very well accepted in the budget and mid-range price bracket but the user's taste is a lot different in the premium price-point, something you can experience if you get to use all three skins at the same time.
After using these different skins, I can say that the MIUI is no less than any custom Android skin in the market and I won't mind investing in it. Moreover, Xiaomi might bring some positive changes with the MIUI 12.5 update and the Mi 11 Ultra will surely be the first device to receive the benefits.
The Mi 11 Ultra is as good as a flagship Android phone can get in the year 2021. But it's not alone. The OnePlus 9 Pro is cut out from the same cloth; however, it falls short in the camera performance and that's where the Mi 11 Ultra gets things right. That massive camera bump means serious photography and it hardly disappoints. It only struggles in extreme low-light situations; otherwise, it even beats Samsung's top-of-the-line flagship in almost every camera aspect.
The Mi 11 Ultra's display is also my favorite among the lot, and the supporting speakers are simply icing on the cake. Performance-wise we don't have any complaints about the smartphone. It's smooth and always ready to deliver top-notch gaming and multitasking performance.
Now, if you compare the prices of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, OnePlus 9 Pro, and the Mi 11 Ultra, the Xiaomi flagship comes across as a more value-for-money product. It delivers on every front at a better price-point. We believe you should give this phone a try if you are planning to buy a flagship device. The overall performance, in all aspects, will not disappoint you.