Xiaomi’s phones have long been known for their exceptional value proposition. You can always find the latest specifications and features in a Xiaomi flagship phone, and it will not cost you an arm and a leg. This is something you do not often see these days as $ 1000 has become the standard price for advanced hardware. That’s not how Xiaomi rolls, though. With the Mi 11, Xiaomi has one of the best flagship phones on the market, offering killing specs and good value, unless you happen to be in the United States.
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
The Xiaomi Mi 11 design is typical of a Xiaomi phone. It has a frameless design with holes in the upper left corner. Mi 1
The screen of the Mi 11 is a 6.81-inch 1440p AMOLED screen of 120 Hz with 10-bit color. A 10-bit screen means it can deliver 1.07 billion colors compared to 16.7 million colors on an 8-bit screen. The 1500 nit top brightness put it on a par with the S21 Ultra, making it one of the brightest screens on the market. The Mi 11 also has a 480 Hz touch sampling rate. This should make everything, especially games, feel more responsive. I honestly could not see the difference between 480Hz on Mi 11 and 240Hz on phones like S21 Ultra, OnePlus 8 Pro or OPPO Find X3 Pro.
The build quality of the device is quite good. The chassis is completely glass and aluminum – no plastic frame like the OnePlus 9. The Mi 11 feels about as premium as most flagship phones, but still not as solid as something like the Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro.
Mi 11 has an optical fingerprint scanner that is very fast and also works as a heart rate monitor. Using the Xiaomi Health app, you can hold your finger on the fingerprint scanner for about 15 seconds and it will log your heart rate. It is also accurate with about ± 3 bpm of the Apple Watch.
I absolutely love what Xiaomi did with haptics. The haptic engine is one of the best I have ever felt, which I would say is almost as good as Apple’s Taptic Engine. It is an effective tactile feedback spread throughout the UI. When you scroll and press the top or bottom of the page, it will give a gentle feeling to tell you that you are there. When you use the fingerprint scanner, it vibrates while you hold it, and finally it gives a nice burst just when it is unlocked. When you move icons on the home screen or remove them, the haptics match the user interface and animations almost perfectly. It’s such a small feature, but makes the phone so much more fun to use.
The global model of Mi 11 has a 55W charger in the box, something Apple and Samsung can not say. Along with that, it has a clear plastic case and the usual manuals in the box. There is nothing surprising here.
Software, performance and battery
I know many will disagree with me on this, but I think MIUI 12 based on Android 11 is one of the best Android ROMs right now. From the visual design to the customization, it’s just amazing to use. It’s one of the fastest and smoothest versions of Android I’ve ever used, and Xiaomi does not include a bunch of redundant Xiaomi-branded apps, and trusts Google’s standard apps where possible. There are about 10 or so bloatware apps and games, which are incredibly annoying to see included in phones in 2021, but they can be uninstalled.
I’m happy with the MIUI 12, but Xiaomi will launch the MIUI 12.5 soon with lower CPU usage and better battery life. Xiaomi is also adding a dedicated thread for the user interface, to give the already slick interface a little extra speed. MIUI 12.5 even lets you uninstall or remove all seven core system apps. It’s not a huge overhaul, but it will make the phone feel even better, and it’s nice to know that Xiaomi is working to let these phones age gracefully. This is especially good since Xiaomi does not promise more than two Android and security updates. It usually supports newer versions of MIUI to older Android versions, but it’s a half-ass way to update phones.
Although I’m a fan of MIUI, the ads that appear in some regions are a constant frustration. I do not get ads on my European model to the US as a place, but they are widespread in some markets, and Seeing ads for different apps while installing apps is simply annoying. Disabling them is usually quite easy, especially in India where there is a dedicated option. Even with opt-outs, there is no need to have ads built into a $ 750 phone.
In terms of performance, the Mi 11 is as fast as any other Snapdragon 888 phone. There are no delays or stuttering, and apps load almost instantly. I noticed that the phone would get hot during prolonged tasks, such as recording video or taking many pictures, but it was not uncomfortable or worrying. I do not play many games on my phones, but when I loaded Fortnite, it worked well with the highest settings. It was a little beautiful, but it stammered or dropped some frames.
MIUI has historically had quite aggressive RAM management, and that still seems to be true. I would not get any music folders closed in the background, but while I open the email, Twitter or even Chrome after a few minutes, everything will reload when reopened.
The battery performance is good, so I get through most of a day, but I have sometimes had to charge it before bedtime. Charging is very fast at 55W (wired) charging with the included charger. It would fully charge the phone in around 50 minutes in most of my tests. The phone also supports 50 W wireless charging with Xiaomi’s custom charger (which I unfortunately do not need to test). Xiaomi says it will take about 50 minutes to charge the Mi 11 completely wirelessly at 50W. Over USB PD, it only ends up using Qualcomm 18W fast charging technology.
Xiaomi put the year-old Samsung ISOCELL HMX sensor in this phone. It has 4-in-1 pixel binding and produces 27.1 MP images, giving detailed images in well-lit situations, but the quality deteriorates with poorer light, resulting in faint, blurry images. The dynamic range is good, but has some issues with extreme highlights and shadows.
With the Mi 11, Xiaomi spent a lot of time focusing on video and gimmicks around it. There are a few magic modes for movies that are fun to mess with (and make good TikToks), but that’s about it. On the more useful and professional side, Xiaomi supports video recording in a pro LOG format, which uses no setting and expands the dynamic range for better editing. It is very good for video.
I’m impressed with the main sensor, but the ultra-wide and telemacro cameras leave me cold. The ultra-wide one just lacks detail compared to other phones. Telemacro is a strange combination of macro camera and telephoto that seems to do well as a macro camera, but not as good as a telecom recording. Xiaomi upscales the 5MP sensor to 12MP for telemacro, adding only the camera’s overall weirdness. Xiaomi could really have used a proper telecom camera and a closer focal point on the ultra-wide, like most other flagships this year.
What I would do actually have liked to see is better software integration with apps like Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. These apps are very important and honestly, the camera looks like shit when you use these apps. You do not have to figure out how to record in the main camera, export from there and then import to another app in order to get good image quality in some of the most popular apps worldwide.
Are you going to buy it?
Yes, if you are not in the United States. The Mi 11 is one of the best phones I have ever used. Although not the top of the Mi 11 product line, it easily competes with the OnePlus 9 Pro, S21 Ultra and Find X3 Pro.
If this phone supported US networks, I would probably run this daily until the Mi 11 Ultra or Mi 12 comes out. I like it so much that I can stand the lack of American mobile tapes. I can connect to the T-Mobile network, but most of the time it’s on 3G and has almost useless speeds. It’s just LTE sometimes for me, and there’s no US 5G support at all. If you are in a city, it may work a little better, but you should only buy a phone designed to work in US mobile networks.
For $ 750 (£ 649.00), I think this phone is quite great value. It’s still expensive compared to some other Xiaomi devices, but it’s probably the best value of the current Snapdragon 888 phones. Despite the ads in the system and the weird telemacro camera, I would still recommend the Mi 11 to anyone in Europe or Asia who is looking for the latest mobile hardware without breaking the bank.
Buy it if …
- You want a good camera cheap
- You like MIUI’s interface like I do
Do not buy it if …
- You live in the United States
- You will have 3 or more years of Android updates
Where to buy