One cool customer, but is it a Galaxy S21 killer?


Xiaomi is making no secret about who should buy the new Mi 11. “The Mi 11 is for movie lovers,” says Xiaomi boldly on its website. Whether you’re watching movies on the luscious display or shooting your own movies with the pixel-rich camera, the Xiaomi Mi 11 is all about the cinematic experience. But the phone is so much more than that. Can a phone such as the Xiaomi Mi 11 convince Samsung and Apple owners to jump ship? Find out in Android Authority’s Xiaomi Mi 11 review.

About this Xiaomi Mi 11 review: I spent a week evaluating the Xiaomi Mi 11 review unit, which was running Android 11 and MIUI 12. Xiaomi supplied the review unit to Android Authority for the purposes of this review.


What you need to know about the Xiaomi Mi 11

Xiaomi Mi 11 hero shot

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Xiaomi Mi 11 (8GB/128GB): €749
  • Xiaomi Mi 11 (8GB/256GB): €799

The Mi 11 is Xiaomi’s first flagship of 2021 and it contends with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S series, as well as the best from Apple, Google, Oppo, and others. The company went all out. Not only does the phone boast a stunning design, but it also packs an impressive spec sheet. It’s a high-end phone for everyday creators, those who capture their world in all its forms as they walk through it.

Xiaomi plans to sell the phone in Europe starting in February. The two storage variants cost €749 (~$900, £660) and €799 (~$960, £700), respectively, for the 128GB and 256GB models. Right now the Mi 11 stands on its own, though a Lite version is in the works, as is an Ultra version. Several designs are available, including Cloud White, Midnight Gray, and Horizon Blue. Special edition finishes will also be available at a later date.


Design: Frosty, but in a good way

Xiaomi Mi 11 face against white wall

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Aluminum, Gorilla Glass Victus
  • 164.3 x 74.6 x 8.06mm
  • 196g
  • Under-display fingerprint reader

Xiaomi checked off all the boxes as it designed the Mi 11. It boasts a thinner, lighter build than last year’s Mi 10 and it comes in attractive frosted glass colorways. If you want sleek, the Mi 11 has you covered.

The phone is a metal and glass sandwich. Contoured glass slabs are fitted to the aluminum frame snugly. I particularly like the way the glass tapers near the side edges, which makes the phone more comfortable to carry around whether in your hand or your pocket. The metal frame is slim along the side rails and forms end caps on the top and bottom edges. The materials, fit, and finish are all top-notch. I tested the Horizon Blue model and I found its color-shifting look to be very attractive.

Xiaomi Mi 11 face blue and pink

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The large display makes for a large phone. You can’t have one without the other. The Mi 11 stands tall, but the slim aspect ratio of the display makes for a narrow-waisted phone. This helps with usability. The weight is really balanced. I found the phone comfortable to hold and use in all manner of positions; it never felt awkward.

The materials, fit, and finish are all top notch.

Controls and ports are standard for a modern flagship. The screen lock button and volume toggle are on the right edge of the phone. They have good profiles and excellent action. The SIM tray is tucked into the bottom edge of the phone. It supports up to two SIM cards, but not memory cards. Along the bottom, you’ll also find the USB-C port, a microphone, and a speaker. A second speaker is located on the top edge, as are more microphones. I’ll take this opportunity to point out that the phone supports stereo sound that’s been tuned by Harmon. The brightness and clarity are excellent, as is bass response all things considered. The speakers can easily fill a typical room with sound.

Xiaomi Mi 11 angled color

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Apart from the frosted glass (which, sadly, still collects fingerprints), the most visible aspect of the design is the rear camera module. It’s a circle, set in an oval, set in a squircle. It reminds me of camera designs from the 1980s, for some reason. All the curves give it an analog look that I find appealing. You may think it’s jarring. Xiaomi used different tones to set apart the three pieces of the module. It’s something. Like most modern phones, the Mi 11’s camera module is large and sticks out from the rear glass quite a bit. This means the phone will wobble when placed on hard surfaces.

The phone is splash-proof, according to Xiaomi, but it cannot be submerged. That’s a major missing feature for a flagship. Much of the competition boasts an IP68 rating for protection from dunking.

Last, the phone’s fingerprint reader is built into the display. It’s a breeze to set up and use, and I found it consistently quick and accurate.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 is every bit as appealing as other market-leading phones. Some might think it’s even more so.


Display: Truly great

Xiaomi Mi 11 bokeh

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • 6.81-inch AMOLED
  • WQHD+ (3,200 x 1,440)
  • 515ppi
  • 20:9, 120Hz

I could talk about the display all day. I’ll say this to get the discussion going: it’s good. Really good.

Out of the box, the 6.81-inch AMOLED screen is set to Full HD+ resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. You can ramp the resolution up to WQHD+ and the refresh rate up to 120Hz if you wish. Unlike some devices (ahem, Samsung), the Mi 11 allows you to set the high resolution and high refresh rate at the same time. In this setting, the refresh rate will jump around from as low as 30Hz to as high as 120Hz depending on what you’re doing. With these settings turned up, the screen looks fantastic. The high resolution means everything on the screen is sharp and clear, and the fast refresh rate means motion is silky smooth.

Xiaomi has delivered a very impressive display that’s great for watching movies

Let’s start with the brightness. You get 900 nits, with peak brightness reaching 1,500 nits. The contrast ratio is 5,000,000:1. Moreover, the screen supports 10-bit color, HDR10+, and DCI-P3. All this means you get rich colors and deep contrast. This is particularly evident when you find some high-quality content, such as HDR movies/shows from the likes of Netflix.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 includes super-resolution tech to help with your content. It boosts standard definition content to high definition and high definition content to WQHD+. In other words, your older video files will still look good on the high-res screen. It’s not a perfect implementation, but there is an obvious improvement, particularly when viewing SD content.

You get the full spate of sensors and controls. There’s a 360-degree ambient light sensor for reading the color of the light where you are. This pairs with the sunlight and reading modes to give you proper white balance and color. There is also mistouch prevention tech build into the display at the hardware level. This means your palm won’t accidentally launch apps when it brushes against the display’s edge. Speaking of which, the screen’s curve is pretty tight along the side edges. The curved glass doesn’t impact the visibility, clarity, or brightness of the screen at all.

Taken as a whole, Xiaomi has delivered an impressive display that is great for watching movies.

More reading: The best phones with in-display fingerprint scanners


Performance: World class

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Adreno 660 GPU
  • X60 modem
  • Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
  • 8GB LPDDR5 3200MHz RAM
  • 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 storage

The Mi 11 is among the first wave of devices to ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. It’s the top chip you can get in a smartphone right now and it has the goods.

In benchmark tests, the Mi 11 scored above most of the competition. It fared well against the similarly Snapdragon 888-powered Galaxy S21 and even Apple’s high-powered iPhone 12 range. The Mi 11 blew the doors off phones running last year’s Snapdragon 865. The device ran our homemade Speed Test G benchmark in a record 75 seconds. Most importantly, the phone performed exceedingly well in everyday use. Everything about the experience was exceptionally fluid and quick.

Xiaomi is serious about the Mi 11’s all-around performance. It’s exceptionally fluid and quick.

I tested it with some Asphalt 9 and the phone made short work of the game. The action was smooth and there was no lagging whatsoever. I’ll take the opportunity here to point out that the Mi 11’s display has a 480Hz response time, which means it reacts to your touch input much faster than most other phones. This improves the gaming experience in a noticeable way.

In addition, the Game Turbo software, which is similar to the Asus ROG Phone series’ gaming center, is a great tool for managing performance and cataloging your installed games. You can tweak a number of settings to achieve optimal gaming results. This shows that Xiaomi is serious about the Mi 11’s all-around capabilities, and not just its cinematic prowess. It’s a good gaming phone and a good everyday phone.

On the wireless front, there’s Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and 5G on board the Mi 11. In other words, all the latest specs. The phone supports mid-band 5G, which means sub-6GHz. There’s no mmWave on this phone, but that’s not that big a loss. If you live in areas with 5G service, it’s possible the phone will support the spectrum your provider operates on. We were unable to test this feature.


Battery: It depends

  • 4,600mAh battery
  • 55W wired charging
  • 50W wireless charging
  • 55W GaN charger

Xiaomi has fielded a very competitive device when it comes to battery performance… in certain circumstances. The battery itself is large enough to push the phone through an entire day with room to spare. During our testing, it was rare the battery dipped below 50% after a full day’s use, despite running demanding benchmarks, using the camera, and playing games. The best I got was one and a half days with the battery under heavy duress. That’s a fine number for most any flagship.

Keep in mind, these results were with the display set to Full HD+ and the refresh rate set to 60Hz (which is how it’s set out of the box.) You will see a drop in battery life if you up the resolution and refresh rate to their higher settings. With both those specs maxed out, the phone barely made it through one day. That doesn’t surprise me one bit.

Read more: What is GaN and what does it mean for your tech?

The device charges lickety-split. It supports 55W wired charging and 50W wireless charging. Moreover, Xiaomi includes a 55W GaN charger in the box. In our wired tests, the phone charged from 0% to 100% in just 47 minutes. Very few phones can match those speeds.

Last, the phone supports 10W reverse wireless charging for your accessories. It works, but it’s slow going.


Camera: Not Galaxy class

Xiaomi Mi 11 camera closeup

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Main: 108MP, f/1.85, OIS, AF
  • Ultra wide: 12MP, f/2.4
  • Telemacro: 5MP, f/2.4, AF
  • LED flash
  • Selfie: 20MP, f/2.2
  • Video: 8K, 30fps

The camera is clearly where Xiaomi spent much of its engineering budget. As I pointed out earlier, the marketing around the phone centers on its ability to let users make movies like the pros do. That means a lot of hardware and a lot of software is on board this phone.

To start, it has a three-lens setup, with standard, wide-angle, and tele-macro lenses gracing the rear. Personally, I’d much rather have seen a true telephoto lens, rather than the macro. Both the 108MP main camera and the 20MP selfie camera bin down by a factor of four, making for 27MP and 5MP “Super Pixel” images, respectively. Video speeds range from 240fps for slow-motion down to 24fps for cinema-style footage at resolutions all the way up to 8K.

Your basic photos look good. I came away pleased with the results, if not totally blown away.

Your basic photos look good. I took the phone out to shoot some snaps one afternoon and came away pleased with the results, if not totally blown away. Shooting snow is hard, but the phone managed to keep detail in the drifts without overexposing it too much. It did struggle with shadows in the snow. You can see in the photos of the bridge that any detail in the bridge itself is gone. The same is true of the train tracks shot; the tracks offer no detail at all, they’re just dark lines in the snow. Focus was generally good too, and I can’t complain about the sharpness of the shots I took.

Color was harder to capture. There’s not much color during the winter months here, but you can see the balloon, flower, and flag show off some nice color. What impressed me with these shots is the accuracy of the hues. The deep red of the flag really stands out against the wintry backdrop and was dead-on as far as accuracy was concerned.

Let’s talk zoom. The phone relies on its lenses and huge megapixel count to zoom from 0.6x to 30x. I thought wide-angle shots were a little soft, and there’s some obvious optical distortion when shooting buildings and such. You can control this a little with software if you want. Zooming out to 5x worked wonderfully, with relatively sharp results. The 10x and 30x zoom region is pretty much worthless, as you can tell by taking a gander at the ducks below. The tele-macro uses zoom to help you get closer to your subject without pressing the phone directly against what you’re shooting. You need a steady hand to get the sharpest shots, and the 5MP resolution is a definite limitation.

The selfie camera is decent. In the selfie and the self-portrait below, you can see that I am in good focus. There’s enough detail in the background (trees, wall) of each to keep me happy, though that came at the expense of the snow, which is blown out. I like the bokeh effect of the portrait shot and the colors turned out well.

Camera modes are robust. You get a basic carousel in the viewfinder that slides between pro, video, photo, portrait, and more. Extended shooting modes include night, 108MP, short video, panorama, document scanner, vlog, slow motion, time-lapse, dual video, movie effects, long exposure, and super moon. Oddly, these modes aren’t fully installed. Tapping on vlog, for instance, caused the phone to download the required software.

Beyond these, the video recorder has dedicated movie modes, including magic zoom, slow shutter, time freeze, night time-lapse, and parallel world. Each of these employs some software trickery to snag shots you’d normally need expensive equipment or editing suites to capture.

As you can tell, you’ve got tons of options on the video front. Though it’s possible to capture 8K footage, I strongly suggest you keep it set to 4K at 60fps. This delivers crisp, clean results that are smooth and pleasing to the eye, though the colors were a touch muted.

See also: The best camera phones you can get

As for the special cinema modes, you need a good subject and some action to really take advantage of them. If you’re filming your friends’ skateboard antics, you’ll have fun with the dolly zoom effect, though I submit that the night time-lapse feature is the best tool of the bunch. It reduces grain when shooting in the dark.

Taken as a whole, the Xiaomi Mi 11’s camera is very good, though it falls short of the results available from Apple, Google, and Samsung.

You can view full-resolution shots here.


Software: Thick skinned

Android 11 is at the chewy core of the Xiaomi Mi 11, and that’s good. Android 11 is a fine base platform for the phone. The device does run Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 on top of Android 11 and this is what you’ll see when interacting with the phone. MIUI 12 as a skin is much better than older versions of MIUI. It still has a certain look to it that I don’t care for, but the basic UI elements of Android 11 are more apparent out of the box. There is some bloatware on board, mostly games. You can get rid of most of the bloatware, but not quite all of it.

Xiaomi says the device will be updated to MIUI 12.5 mere weeks from launch. I didn’t get to test MIUI 12.5, but Xiaomi says it focuses on simplifying gestures and other UI navigation pain points. We’ve asked Xiaomi how many system updates will be made available to the Mi 11, and how long security updates will be pushed out. The company gave us a non-answer: “The updates cycles of our devices are in accordance with our agreements with Google and comply with corresponding policies.” Xiaomi’s record for updating phones is uneven, so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re keen to have future versions of Android.


Xiaomi Mi 11 specs

  Xiaomi Mi 11
Display 6.81-inch AMOLED
19.5:9 aspect ratio, 92.4% body/screen ratio
120Hz
WQHD+
HDR10+
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Adreno 660 GPU
Memory 8GB LPDDR5 RAM
Storage 128GB/256GB
Battery 4,600mAh
55W wired charging
50W wireless charging
55W charger in box
Camera Rear:
Main: 108MP, f/1.85, 1/1.33-in sensor, OIS
Ultra-Wide: 13MP, f/2.4, 123-degree FoV
Telephoto macro: 5MP, f/2.4, 3cm to 10cm range

Front:
Selfie: 20MP f/2.2, punch-hole cutout

Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2
Wi-Fi 6
5G (Sub-6GHz)
Dimensions 164.3 x 74.6 x 8.06mm
Weight 196g

Value and competition

Xiaomi Mi 11 One cool customer, but is it a Galaxy S21 killer?

Xiaomi has created a compelling phone in the Mi 11. It has the right price and the right specs to compete with the current crop of flagships in the market. There are just a few things holding it back from true greatness.

Priced at under €800, even for the 256GB storage variant, the affordability of the Xiaomi Mi 11 means Samsung and others need to do a whole lot more to appeal to buyers. It’s hard to say no to such a reasonable price for a Snapdragon 888-powered phone right now. If that’s the chief selling point for you, you needn’t look elsewhere.

In Europe, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 family ranges in price from €849 to €1,349. That’s a lot more scratch to cough up for a phone. While I think the S21 range is outstanding, it may be worth saving €100 or more to go with the Mi 11 if you prefer the design or other aspects of the hardware.

If you want the most bang for your buck, you needn’t look elsewhere.

In terms of raw performance, the only other phones that are in the same league are Apple’s iPhone 12 family — and that’s an entirely different ball of wax when compared to an Android phone. Apple’s newer iPhones fall in the same price range, but have better cameras and faster performance, but you’d have to stomach iOS.

It’s expected that a Snapdragon 888-powered OnePlus 9 will be coming in the near future. Such a phone from OnePlus would surely be priced similarly to the Xiaomi Mi 11. For now, though, the Mi 11 is the affordable Android powerhouse to beat.


Xiaomi Mi 11 review: The verdict

Xiaomi Mi 11 back against brick

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Xiaomi has created a compelling phone in the Mi 11. It has the right price and the right specs to compete with the current crop of flagships in the market. There are just a few things holding it back from true greatness.

The design and manufacturing are top-notch. It’s a pretty phone that looks as good as it performs. Highlights include the gorgeous screen, the stellar sound, and the sheer power of the Snapdragon 888. The Xiaomi MI 11 is a performant beast and an excellent companion when it comes to binging movies or campaigning your favorite games. Battery life is also solid, though it takes a hit when you push the phone to its limits.

At €749, the Xiaomi Mi 11 has some swagger as it enters the flagship race.

If there’s anything holding the phone back from greatness, it’s the camera. The Mi 11’s camera performs very well, but it stops short of excellence. In the competitive flagship space, excellence is a must. MIUI 12 is another chink in the phone’s armor. I look forward to seeing the improvements wrought by MIUI 12.5 when it’s made available. It’s also a shame that there’s no IP rating.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 goes on sale this month for €749 in selected European markets. At that price, it’s got some swagger as it enters the flagship race. If the best from Samsung and Apple is too pricey for you, then the Xiaomi Mi 11 is an enticing alternative.




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