The Mi11 Ultra has the makings of a flagship phone, with a bunch of “world’s firsts”, a gimmick you can show off, and the latest hardware that companies such as Qualcomm, Samsung and others provide
NEW DELHI : Companies such as Xiaomi have made a name for themselves by making phones cheaper. When a flagship phone would cost you about Rs40,000, Xiaomi made a phone with similar specs and sold it for under Rs15,000. Now, when companies such as Samsung and Apple have settled for a Rs1 lakh plus price point for their flagship phones, Xiaomi feels comfortable taking a shot at the premium segment, at price points that are expensive, but cheaper than an iPhone or a Galaxy S21 Ultra. Enter the Xiaomi Mi11 Ultra.
The Mi11 Ultra has the makings of a flagship phone. It has a bunch of “world’s firsts”, a gimmick you can show off, and the latest hardware that companies such as Qualcomm, Samsung and others provide. It also has a polarizing design, one that is meant to turn heads and photographs well, with a ceramic back, which is uncommon for smartphones even today. It is worth mentioning though that this feels more like a thin strip of ceramic, a significant step down from the slab-like implementation on the Mi Mix, which is the first time Xiaomi used ceramic on a smartphone.
To say that the Xiaomi Mi11 Ultra is a powerhouse would be an understatement. The phone feels slightly slow out of the box, but that applies only to folks who are used to phones with high refresh rate displays. The Mi11 Ultra supports 120Hz refresh rate and QHD+ resolution, but it is set to the more ‘normal’ 60Hz/FHD+ resolution by default. You can kick things into high gear, but the phone will intelligently change the refresh rate based on what you’re using it for—a feature that’s meant to preserve your battery life.
Speaking of the display, Xiaomi uses a top-tier AMOLED panel from Samsung, which provides really high contrast and colour fidelity. The phone also uses a bunch of sensors to tune the screen’s white balance, though it is nowhere close to the TrueTone software calibration Apple does for colours on its iPhones.
Either way, the Mi11 Ultra’s screen looks great. It is bright, doesn’t cower when you are out in bright sunlight, and has the premium feel that the best version of Gorilla Glass protection brings to flagship devices. It is also slightly curved on the sides, and Xiaomi’s touch detection software works pretty well to prevent accidental touches on the curved part.
The token gimmick on this phone is a secondary screen, which is placed next to the cameras on the back. It’s meant to be an always-on display that can be used as a viewfinder when shooting selfies with the rear camera. You can also use it as a clock or for other apps. It is unclear whether Xiaomi allows (or whether it is working to allow) other developers to take advantage of this screen. It is a fun feature to show off to your friends, but it is not particularly a meaningful addition that will change your life.
If you are looking for meaningful additions, the three cameras on the Mi11 Ultra’s humongous rear camera module make for a good example. Multiple camera setups are usually separated between a primary camera and lower resolution secondary sensors. On the Mi11 Ultra, all three are primary cameras, with a 50MP regular camera, a 48MP zoom lens and another ultra-wide camera with a 48MP sensor and 128-degree field of view (approximately the same field of view of human eyes).
The real meaningful change here, though, is the large sensor Xiaomi is using in the wide camera. The 1/12-inch sensor captures lots of details and provides sharp photos. However, strictly speaking, Xiaomi may need to tune its software. The colours are often reminiscent of early HDR software, where reds and yellows are noticeably oversaturated. The camera also seems to kick in its night mode, increasing shutter speed, when the ambient light isn’t significantly low. We expected a sensor this large will be able to shoot at low shutter speeds, thereby avoiding hand shakes, at late afternoon indoor settings. These aren’t issues per se, but worth pointing out, because flagship phones are about refinement, as much as they are about specs and hardware.
Generally speaking, the Mi11 Ultra’s cameras will fit the expectations of flagship buyers. It doesn’t, however, have the refinement of an iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max or the ground-breaking software you see on top-end Google Pixel and Huawei phones. It is no slouch, but you shouldn’t expect a camera that really pushes the boundary in terms of smartphone photography overall. The images aren’t ‘better’ than most comparable flagships, they only meet expectations for the most part.
And while we’re nitpicking, the Mi11 Ultra also charges really slowly when using wireless chargers. We tried two—the Pixel charger and a generic AmazonBasics wireless charger—and both charged the phone to less than 20% in nearly an hour. It makes sense, too, because Xiaomi sells a special 67W wireless charger for this device, which will charge it faster.
The battery lasts a workday easily though, so you won’t need to charge it too often, and the Mi11 Ultra can charge really fast through wired chargers, which works for a quick topup.
To sum up, the Mi11 Ultra’s big problem is in how Xiaomi has set our expectations from this phone. It matches the competition in specs and features, but you expect a “superphone” to be…well…super. Which this is not. The Mi11 Ultra is just another flagship phone, and though it’s worth considering, it doesn’t do anything that smartphones in this price range shouldn’t already do.