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Xiaomi is taking the fight to Samsung with the launch of its new Mi 11 smartphone. This latest handset comes packed with many of the same features found in Samsung’s Galaxy S21, but crucially, Xiaomi undercuts it on price. You can pop a brand-new Mi 11 in your pocket for £749, which is £20 cheaper than Samsung’s entry-level flagship. When you consider the cuts that Samsung has to make to achieve its £769 price tag (swapping glass for plastic on the back of the phone, settling with a 1080p screen, the list goes on…) the Xiaomi Mi 11 seems like an even better deal.
The big question is, can Xiaomi really match its main rival and should you invest all that money in this smartphone? Express.co.uk has been putting the Mi 11 to the test and here’s our full review.
Xiaomi Mi 11 review
Straight out the box, the Mi 11 catches your eye. We took delivery of the Horizon Blue model, which looks fabulous thanks to the anti-glare frosted glass case that subtly changes colour depending on the angle of the light hitting it. There’s a pretty radical-looking camera bump on the rear case that might divide opinion, but we like what Xiaomi has done with its rear snapper and prefer it to the contour cut design found on the Galaxy S21.
Spin the device around, hit the power button and prepare to be treated to a glorious 6.81-inch AMOLED display, which is not only bright and colourful but also offers a silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate. That means everything you do feel stutter-free. Trust us, once you try this technology you’ll never want to go back to anything else.
Like most manufacturers, Xiaomi does allow you to lower the refresh rate to 60Hz to save some battery life, but we think it’s worth taking the hit on power to get this eye-pleasing experience.
The Mi 11 is one of the first gadgets to ship with a screen capable of displaying one billion colours. It’s also sharper than the Galaxy S21, thanks to the 515 pixels-per-inch resolution. And you don’t just need to take our word for it, the Mi 11 has already achieved an A+ rating as well as the “Best Display” gong from the team at DisplayMate.
If we had one criticism of the AMOLED display, it would be that it does curve slightly around the edges of the device. Although it looks great, we still prefer the experience of typing and watching on entirely flat screens. That’s because text and video tends to bend around the edges, which can make things pretty irritating to read. It’s something we’ve been critical of Samsung for in the past and pocketing this Mi 11 for the last week or so hasn’t convinced us that curved screens are the way to go.
Of course, along with that delightful display, the next vital part of any phone is its camera and, on paper, the Mi 11 certainly looks like a winner.
There’s a massive 108-megapixel rear camera, which the firm boasts will “create crystal-clear images with pin-sharp detail comparable only to that of professional-grade DSLR or mirrorless cameras” – that’s a bold claim.
In reality, the Mi 11 performs well, but we think the Chinese firm might be over-egging things slightly as this phone won’t beat a professional camera in any shoot off. That said, it’s a solid effort and you won’t have any issues with the snaps shot on this device. There’s also plenty of fun effects built-in and a Pro mode allows you to dig deep into the settings. If that sounds like too much effort there’s also a very good AI mode that basically does all the hard work for you and makes sure every image looks perfect.
That massive main lens is joined by a 13MP ultra-wide-angle camera for landscape shots and a 5MP telemacro lens for improved close-ups.
This triple-lens system is also pretty good at night although we have seen better results on some of its rivals including. the S21.
If it’s video you want, you can film in picture-perfect 4K at 60fps – there’s even the option to go up to 8K quality although this will make a serious dent in your storage. To help bring some cool effects to those home movies there are six one-click AI cinema features that make artsy shooting a lot more simple for amateur snappers.
You’ll find effects such as Parallel World, which duplicates and inverts your scene to give the appearance of a mirrored world, to Freeze Frame Video, which freezes and clones video frames to create the illusion that parts of your video are frozen in time. It’s all clever stuff and the overall camera experience is really good especially as a lot of hard work of taking perfect pics is done for you.
One thing to note – there’s no telephoto camera to be found in the Mi 11, so you can forget shooting crystal-clear close-ups of your family pet.
Away from that snapper, other extras worth mentioning include the incredible Snapdragon 888 processor from Qualcomm, which makes the Mi 11 supremely capable. This is one of the first devices to launch with the flagship chip inside and there really is nothing it won’t cope with.
Liquid cooling is also included which stops the phone from getting too hot, especially when gaming and charging at the same time.
There’s a 4,600mAh battery too. With light use, this phone will get you through the day, but start pushing the Mi 11 with a few games and shooting video – and the power will drain really fast. Thankfully, when things do run dry (and they will ….often), Xiaomi supplies a ludicrously fast 55W charger in the box that can refill your handset in minutes.
The Mi 11 is also compatible with 50W wireless charging although that dock isn’t included in the box so you’ll need to head to the shops if you want to take advantage of that technology.
We’ve certainly enjoyed our time with the Mi 11, but there are some niggles including a slightly irritating embedded fingerprint scanner which has a habit of being slow or simply not working. With Samsung recently upgrading its embedded fingerprint sensors in the Galaxy S21 series, this effort from Xiaomi really stands out and needs fixing fast. Xiaomi has recently pushed out an update to the phone and the scanner is now working a little faster. We’ll keep testing and update this review in the future.
Finally, we need to address the software. First up, the Mi 11 comes pre-installed with a ridiculous amount of bloatware to sort through. Start-up this phone for the first time and you’ll find endless games and duplicate apps that you don’t want and will never bother using. Of course, these can be deleted, but why Xioxmi insists on installing them in the first place (rather than offering them as optional downloads during the set-up process) is unbelievably baffling.
Then there are the bugs. In our time with the Mi 11, we’ve encountered some weird glitches which Xoami will be working hard to iron out. In fact, we’ve just updated the device to a new version of Android so hopefully, things will now start running more smoothly.
The look of Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 software is pretty good with plenty of ways to customise the device including some fun always-on display clocks and a nifty edge glow when a text comes through on the device. However, some of the menus do get pretty confusing and we’d say to get the most out of this phone you’ll need to be an Android Jedi.
Xiaomi Mi 11 review: final verdict
PROS • Great screen – Ultimate performance – Solid camera – Plenty of Android customisation
CONS • Battery life could be better – Slow fingerprint scanner – Software bugs
There’s no question the Mi 11 is a fabulous phone which offers all the top-end specs you’d expect from a premium smartphone. In a device that’s slightly cheaper than some of its rivals, you’ll find a stunning 120Hz screen, one billion colour display, super-speedy charging and a blisteringly quick Snapdragon 888 processor.
The design looks great, the camera performs well, and it’s compatible with the latest 5G data speeds.
Be in no doubt, we’ve enjoyed our time with the Mi 11. However, there are some sizeable downfalls here, including that awful preinstalled bloatware you’ll need to remove, a sub-par fingerprint scanner and annoying software bugs.
One final thing to note is there’s no expandable storage so make sure you pick the right model before hitting the “buy” button. The 128GB version costs £729 while the 256GB model sets you back £799.
Despite the niggles, the Mi 11 has everything most people want in a phone and you get all those features at a price that seems pretty reasonable.
The Galaxy S21 might want to watch over its shoulder as Xiaomi has got a lot of things right on this new flagship and it’s pretty hard not to recommend.
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