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Aside from Apple, Samsung’s biggest competitor is Xiaomi. This is especially true if we forget iOS which is a pretty closed eco-system with its own demographic. When it comes to android users there is much more choice but Samsung is essentially ranked top of the list, followed by Huawei in China (where Samsung has no market) and Xiaomi is certainly giving them both a run for their money with their latest model.

The company’s new Mi 11, has merits all of its own but when we compare it to its hottest competition it trumps some of Samsung’s latest lineup. For starters, it is much cheaper than the Galaxy S21 which retails for around $799, and even has features available that compare to the S21 Ultra that will set you back more than a thousand giving you much more bang for your buck.

Sam Byford at theverge put it really well in his article the Mi 11 competes hands down with any S21 lineup model but sadly you won’t see them competitively side by side in any US carrier store. 

XIAOMI MI 11 REVIEW

Pros:

  • Durable Screen
  • Top-notch processing and Performance
  • Great value for money

Cons:

  • Camera is not mind-blowing
  • Aesthetics aren’t impressive
  • Less widely available than other leading brands

While the Mi 11 might be a little lacking in any aesthetic flourishes of its own it presents itself with a hardy, solid design. It follows in the footsteps of the Xiaomi models that came before it with a durable frosted glass back panel and minimalistic, iridescent finish. The only real distinct visual that sets it apart from your average phone is the camera bump, which has three distinct layers to it that go up in size to accommodate the primary lens. The shape of which is a hybrid square/circle combo that will either be to your taste or not at all.

It is a large screen mobile, measuring 6.8-inches for those who prefer a larger device. Yet its streamlined proportions keep it manageable in your hands and keep it feeling svelte. It has gentle curves and is much thinner (8.1mm thick) and a little lighter (196 grams) than the previous series (Mi 10).  There is a subtle chin to it below the display but again it is comfortable in the hands and not an eyesore. 

The Mi 11 features a smaller battery because of its new skinny profile, but it is still pretty ample given it is a 4,600mAh battery. The smaller battery is compensated for by the addition of one of Qualcomms’ new for 2021, high-end,  snapdragon 888 processing chip. The 5G modem has been directly integrated into chip circuitry itself which again saves space allowing that slimmer profile. It also drains less power, bolstering the battery capacity. It runs comparatively better than previous editions.

The Mi11 is available with up to 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage if you can afford to cough up the extra cash, but this review is based on a Mi11 with an 888 chip, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.

Like the stats of its impressive spec sheet would lead you to expect, the Mi11 is fast and responsive surpassing the flagship test. It features a great haptics system, and the software designs have really evolved along the way. Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 software is based on Android 11 making it far more efficient these days.

The speakers are also more than satisfactory, the Mi 11 sports miniature Harman Kardon arrays that give it great cross-spectrum definition despite the tiny size.

Battery life is indeed strong: you can get five hours of screen time out of which more than three hours were spent taking photos and videos in bright, direct sunlight, all with the screen at its maximum 120Hz and 1440p settings.

The Mi 11’s screen is nearly identical to Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra. The similarities are so striking that it might just be the same highly praised OLED tech. Both measure 6.8-inches and have curved LTPO OLED panels. The refresh rates and resolutions also match (120Hz and 3200 x 1440 respectively). The maximum brightness put out hits 1,500 nits. 

Xiaomi Mi 11 display
LTPO OLED display with maximum 120Hz refresh rate. Image credit: theverge.com

We can only speculate whether they are matching manufacturing but one thing is for sure the Mi11 display is sharp, smooth, and as good as it gets in the price range, perhaps even better than some android competitors. The brightness is much improved and especially noticeable in the sun. The curved edges are subtle, there is no notable distortion and the touch input doesn’t seem to be affected at all as it can, unfortunately, sometimes be with a variety of other curved-screen models.

The only major caveat with regards to the display design itself is that the corners have a bigger angle than the Mi 10 ever did. Which might not be to everyone’s taste aesthetically speaking. It doesn’t affect the use in any way but it is worth noting that the appearance is odd and makes you wonder what Xiaomi was thinking in the design dept?

The only other standout negative with the Mi 11 display, is again rather insignificant. The integrated fingerprint sensor in the Mi 11screen seems comparably slower to other phones with optical in-screen sensors such as a Vivo or Oppo model. The accuracy is without fault but it can take a good second to correlate your print, a delay which can feel far faster if you are in a rush to get something done. 

With its accessible price tag, you’re probably wondering where the sacrifices come with the Mi11 model. This largely boils down to the camera system which is where Samsung comes out top-dog. The primary sensor is in fact a 108-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX straight out of the Samsung component division but co-developed with Xiaomi. It is the same as the previous Mi10 sported so there is no real upgrade in terms of camera capabilities. The lead sensor is bolstered by a 13-megapixel ultrawide and a 5-megapixel “tele-macro,” lens. But you don’t get any telephoto capturing like some of the latest phones are touting without getting up close and personal with your subject.

Hardware drawbacks aside the camera array can perform pretty well and is arguably impressive for the asking price. With good lighting conditions, you get a good range of detail, depth, and definition. The low-light performance is acceptable but a little noisier than idyllic. 

Unless you are in portrait mode the high-resolution sensor gives you a shallow depth of field which can provide a good bokeh, but also has drawbacks. You may not be able to get what you want to focus on without a few attempts. It provides a lot of detail, just not necessarily where you were expecting it! It has its benefits but doesn’t really substitute for some of the latest telephoto lens offerings. Your digitally zoomed-in shots will suffer from wild artifacts, blurring, and definition loss. 

That said, the macro lens on the Mi 11 is much more meritable than most. Typically the macro lens inclusion on a mobile phone seems to just be added so that the company can boast about a triple or quadruple array as though the addition of a useless 2-megapixel sensor makes some real difference. 

However, Mi 11’s 5-megapixel unit autofocuses and outperforms most. For the most part, none of us really need such a lose-up option on our phones, those who enjoy macro capture generally opt for a dedicated DSLR camera for their close-up photography pursuits but the Mi11 inclusion is pretty sweet and not entirely redundant

On the whole, although not the top of the range the Mi 11 camera system fit for function and honestly commendable given the retail price and the rest of the specs you get instead. The telephoto lens is a bit of a bummer and it doesn’t compete well side by side if we only look at camera capabilities but it is more than an acceptable loss when everything is considered in perspective.

The most important thing to note about the Mi 11 is that it has a better resolution screen than both the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus but retails for 1000 bucks less than the starter Galaxy starter. It also has a better build quality as the Samsungs only have a cheapy plastic back. 

Even Samsung’s high-end model has been matched in the spec department for everything aside from the camera array and the battery power. Given that the Samsung model will set you back well over $1000 the Xiaomi substitute is a more much more accessible and commendable substitute. It provides unbeatable value. If you can’t afford an S21 which is a great all-rounder then the Xiaomi has plenty of merits. 

However, it is only sold throughout Europe currently. If it were available in the US then Samsung would definitely have some stiff competition to worry about. If that were to change, the playing field would be considerably different. 

Although the Mi 11 probably isn’t worth navigating import loopholes to acquire, it is worth a recommendation for anyone who lives with access to the market. Especially if cash is a little tight.

XIAOMI Mi11 AGREEMENTS

Like all other smart devices, you will be met with a range of terms and conditions as part of the use as standard. The majority of us neglect to read all of the fine print, but in the interest of helping you work out your commitment, we are trying to include a record of just how many agreements you are making by counting the numbers of times you have to hit accept.

In the case of Xiaomi’s Mi 11, you have four mandatory agreements which are as follows:

  • A general user agreement 
  • A Privacy Policy revision
  • Google’s terms of service and privacy policy
  • Google Play’s terms of service

On top of that, there is a range of optional agreement settings to get through such as location access, system updates, and personalized ads. You also have a handful of other system app permissions to navigate as with any android phone.

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