Mi 11 Ultra Review: Finally, a worthy flagship of Xiaomi

Mi 11 Ultra Review: Finally, a worthy flagship of Xiaomi

The Mi 11 Ultra is Xiaomi’s most important phone till date. It promises a camera supposedly comparable to a DSLR, and that’s not a claim that phones should make so lightly. Of course, it sports all high-end specifications, which are expected from a flagship in 2021. It is also the most expensive Xiaomi phone in India till date at a starting price of Rs 69,999. 

But it also comes with some unique design aspects like a ceramic body, and a secondary display at the back. But how does all of this translate into performance? And is this Xiaomi’s strongest pitch so far in the ‘premium segment’ here? Here’s our review.

Mi 11 Ultra review: What’s different?

The Mi 11 Ultra has a ceramic body and that camera bump at the back is hard to miss. The ceramic body also means this is a fairly bulky phone. If you want a sleek, slender flagship, this phone might not be for you. Plus the shape of that camera bump means finding a third-party cover won’t be so easy and you will have to rely on options from Xiaomi.

The phone also sports a secondary display at the back, which can be used to display notifications, battery details, date, time and other notifications. One can go into the settings to customise these further.

Users can also rely on this rear display to take a selfie-style shot with the rear camera. The option for this is inside the camera app’s settings and it took me sometime to find it. But I had some trouble taking those selfies since using the phone with one hand is not easy. I would say that the selfies with the rear camera are punchier given the superior camera at the back.

Mi 11 Ultra review: Camera

The Mi 11 Ultra’s highlight is the camera at the back, which packs a lot of features. The camera at the back includes a 50MP custom Samsung GN2 sensor, a 48MP ultra-wide sensor (128-degree field of view) and a 48MP telephoto sensor. The 12 mm to 120 mm focal range is unique, especially because of the added  120X AI Super Zoom and 5X optical zoom.

The camera can also record videos at 8K resolution for up to 6 minutes. The phone also supports multi-camera mode, where you can shoot with each camera at the same time.

When it comes to camera performance, there’s no doubt this is one of the most superior Xiaomi phones. Photos taken from the rear camera are crisp, have plenty of details, even when you zoom in and the colours are punchy without looking saturated.It really does deliver on the flagship-level performance in the camera department.

Portraits shot on the Mi 11 Ultra are impressive and the camera does a really good job of separating the subject and the background. The edge detection was also accurate in most of the Portrait shots.

I enjoyed using the 5X zoom option a lot because it gave some of the best results in photos. This despite the objects in question being at quite a distance and my hands being very shaky at times. The 5X zoom, even 10x zoom gives excellent results. It’s when you go beyond this number that things don’t look so great.

I still don’t see the point of a 120X zoom and this holds true for the Mi 11 Ultra as well. The pictures are just too grainy and require a tripod and very steady hands to get an accurate focus on anything when shooting at such high zoom.

The Night mode on the camera is no doubt impressive. But is it the best night mode I’ve seen compared to other flagships I’ve used recently? I’m not entirely convinced. For one, the Mi 11 Ultra’s Night mode does have a tendency to saturate colours, especially when you shoot in very little lighting. 

Some shots, such as of the white flower look really good. I also tried to take a picture of a statue in total darkness, and it does struggle to deliver, but that was also expected. Most night modes need some source of light.

For me, the most disappointing aspect of the camera on the Mi 11 Ultra would be the macro camera. The performance was too buggy. I could never get too close to an object, and it just didn’t deliver the kind of details I expected.

Overall, I’d say the biggest strength of the Mi 11 Ultra is its ability to deliver excellent results when you just take it out to shoot, all the fancy features notwithstanding. And that’s really what most users want from their phone.

Mi 11 Ultra: Performance, battery, and the rest

The Mi 11 Ultra has a 6.81-inch display with a resolution of 3200 x 1440 p. This display is crisp and sharp, no matter the task at hand. I played over an hour of Genshin Impact on this and the game looked excellent on this screen. It works very well even in bright sunlight and the screen is clearly legible.

The highest refresh rate supported is 120 Hz, though you can keep it to 60 Hz to preserve the battery. I had the setting at 120 Hz during my review period. It also supports a higher touch sampling rate of 480 Hz, which means a faster and smoother response from a gaming perspective.

The phone runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor coupled with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. Performance is not really an issue on this device and it is not expected to be either. What I noticed was that long gaming sessions such as Genshin Impact or even long sessions of photography did leave the phone rather warm. It was getting quite hot after prolonged gaming, so keep that in mind.

The Mi 11 Ultra sports a 5000 mAh battery and comes with support for 67W charging, though at the moment Xiaomi is bundling a 55W charger in the box. With the current charger, you can get it to 100 per cent in a little over an hour. With moderate usage, you can get more than a day’s battery life, with heavy-duty usage expect it to last just over a day.

The device also comes with Stereo Speakers with sound by Harman Kardon. Is this the best quality audio you can get on a phone? I’m not entirely convinced because at times I felt I had to crank up the audio levels for some of the content to be audible.

Mi 11 Ultra: Should you buy?

For Xiaomi, the challenge isn’t that it has built a great phone. The Mi 11 Ultra ticks all the right boxes, when it comes to performance and the camera is excellent. In the camera department, the Mi 11 Ultra does come close to being a top-class flagship, though it is not entirely without flaws. But this camera can definitely hold its own against other premium devices in the market, be it the OnePlus 9 Pro or even the iPhone 12 series.

The challenge really for Xiaomi will be convincing users in India that they should pay top dollar for a flagship made by them. That’s an image the company slowly wants to change. Whether the Mi 11 Ultra can help change that perception further is what remains to be seen.