Xiaomi Mi 11 evaluation: undercutting Samsung

Who’s Samsung’s largest cellular competitor? The primary identify that involves thoughts is Apple, in fact. However most individuals aren’t actually within the behavior of switching forwards and backwards between iOS and Android with every telephone buy. So who’s it?

Samsung is persistently ranked as the most important telephone maker on the planet. Huawei is normally quantity two, largely due to its gross sales in China the place Samsung is a nonentity. And quantity three proper now could be Xiaomi.

The explanation I carry this up is as a result of Xiaomi’s newest flagship telephone, the Mi 11, isn’t solely extraordinarily good in its personal proper however a telephone that arguably outflanks Samsung’s newest lineup. It prices lower than the $799 Galaxy S21 in markets the place it’s offered, however in some ways, it has extra in frequent with the $1,199 S21 Extremely.

The Mi 11 can be a powerful competitor to any S21 telephone when you noticed the 2 subsequent to one another in a US provider retailer. The one downside is you gained’t.

The Mi 11 isn’t notably thrilling to take a look at, nevertheless it’s well-built and solidly designed. It follows Xiaomi’s ordinary glass sandwich blueprint, with a frosted glass again panel and an iridescent however pretty understated gradient end. The most important visible flourish is the squircle-shaped digital camera bump, which options three distinct layers stepping as much as the big main lens.

With a 6.8-inch display, this isn’t going to be a telephone for individuals who desire smaller gadgets, nevertheless it manages to really feel comparatively svelte all the identical. The slight chin beneath the show may be very skinny, and the display curves gently on the edges. At 8.1mm thick and weighing 196 grams, it’s noticeably thinner and a little bit lighter than final yr’s Mi 10, with a barely smaller (however nonetheless huge) 4,600mAh battery.

Which will effectively have one thing to do with its Snapdragon 888 processor, which is Qualcomm’s high-end chip for 2021; not like final yr’s 865, the 5G modem is built-in instantly into the SoC, saving area and energy. My Mi 11 evaluation unit pairs the 888 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, although dearer fashions have choices for 12GB and 256GB, respectively.

In use, the Mi 11 greater than passes the “appears like a flagship” check. As anticipated based mostly on the spec sheet, it’s as quick and responsive as any Android telephone available on the market. There’s a powerful haptics system, and the Harman Kardon-branded stereo audio system sound good, although I’m undecided they’ve something in frequent with my long-serving SoundSticks. Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 software program is predicated on Android 11, and it’s much more streamlined than earlier iterations; Xiaomi has come a great distance with its software program design.

Battery life is robust: I acquired virtually precisely 5 hours of display time on one latest day of testing, and greater than three of these hours concerned utilizing the telephone to take photographs and movies in vivid, direct daylight, all with the display at its most 120Hz and 1440p settings.

The Mi 11 has an almost an identical display to the Samsung S21 Extremely.

That brings me to the show. If the Mi 11’s display isn’t an identical to the much-vaunted OLED panel present in Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Extremely, it’s extraordinarily related. Each are 6.8-inch curved LTPO OLED panels with a 120Hz refresh fee, a 3200 x 1440 decision, and a most brightness of 1,500 nits. What issues is that the Mi 11’s show is extraordinarily good, which it’s. It’s sharp and clean, with glorious distinction and colour copy, and the additional brightness is noticeable on sunny days. I do know not everyone seems to be a fan of curved display edges, however these are about as refined because it will get, and I didn’t have any points with visible distortion or unintended contact enter.

My solely criticism in regards to the display is a bizarre one: the corners are lower at a extra dramatic angle than the sides of the telephone itself, leading to a bezel that intrudes greater than it in all probability ought to. I’m undecided why Xiaomi designed the telephone this fashion — the in any other case related Mi 10 didn’t do that — however the impact is kind of odd. Nonetheless, it’s not one thing I’ve actually seen since I first began utilizing the telephone.

I’ll additionally add that the optical in-display fingerprint sensor within the Mi 11 is usually noticeably slower than what I are inclined to see in telephones from rivals like Vivo and Oppo. It’s not often inaccurate, however the half-second it usually takes to acknowledge my fingerprint can typically really feel nearer to a second, and people split-second delays do add up.

The Mi 11’s essential digital camera makes use of the identical sensor as final yr’s Mi 10.

One space the place Xiaomi appears to have saved cash on the Mi 11 is its digital camera system. The first sensor is identical 108-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL Brilliant HMX from the Mi 10, which Xiaomi says it co-developed with Samsung’s part division. It’s backed up by a 13-megapixel ultrawide and a 5-megapixel “telemacro,” which means there’s no actual telephoto functionality except you wish to get actually near your topic.

Regardless of the pedestrian {hardware}, I’m typically proud of how the Mi 11 cameras carry out, notably contemplating its worth. Element and dynamic vary are robust in good gentle, with pretty impartial colour rendition, and low-light efficiency additionally holds up effectively. The most important weak spot is dim lighting conditions that fall between these two extremes, which may get noisy.

The massive, high-resolution sensor has its advantages, however there are clear drawbacks. You may worth the truth that it affords shallower depth of subject (with no portrait mode) than most different telephones, for instance, however you’ll additionally should cope with sometimes busy bokeh or areas of the scene that seem unexpectedly out of focus. And whereas the 108-megapixel sensor can render a variety of element, it’s completely not an alternative to a telephoto lens; photos taken at even 2x digital zoom exhibit a variety of artifacts.

I wouldn’t usually even point out the macro lens, which is commonly a ineffective 2-megapixel sensor thrown at a telephone simply so the maker can declare a triple- or quad-camera system, however the Mi 11’s 5-megapixel 50mm-equivalent unit is a little bit higher than most. It really autofocuses, for one factor, which makes it a lot simpler to seize what you’re attempting to see shut up. I nonetheless don’t really feel the necessity for an excessive macro lens on my telephone, however I used to be at the least in a position to make use of it to take a look at the tiny PlayStation icons texture on my PS5 controller. So there’s that.

Total, the Mi 11 digital camera system is greater than match for goal, nevertheless it’s additionally maybe the one factor about this telephone that doesn’t go toe-to-toe with dearer flagships. The shortage of a telephoto lens hurts it, and the last-gen picture sensor has its quirks.

Match and end of the Mi 11 are similar to any premium telephone you may discover.

My largest takeaway from the Mi 11 is that Samsung is fortunate Xiaomi doesn’t promote telephones within the US. The Galaxy S21 begins at a full 100 euros greater than the €749 Mi 11, regardless of having a smaller, lower-resolution display and a plastic again. The identical goes for the S21 Plus.

The €1,249 S21 Extremely is the place the comparability will get fascinating. Samsung’s highest-end telephone is much dearer, however Xiaomi matches or beats it spec-for-spec besides on the battery and the digital camera. The S21 may be the higher all-around telephone for individuals who can afford it, but when I lived in Europe, I do know which one I’d take into account to be a greater worth for the cash.

That’s the rub, although. At this level, Europe is without doubt one of the few locations the place Xiaomi and Samsung really compete with each other on the excessive finish. Till that adjustments, flagship Android telephone consumers within the US gained’t have a lot cause to contemplate Xiaomi a part of the competitors.

The Mi 11 isn’t a telephone so spectacular that I might urge you to leap via import hoops with a view to purchase one. It’s simply an excellent telephone that shall be a particularly compelling possibility in any market the place it’s offered. When you occur to stay in considered one of them, it has my robust suggestion.

Pictures by Sam Byford / The Verge

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