Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Xiaomi has truly outdone itself with this superphone
The Mi 11 Ultra has a second screen on the back, but it's really just the icing on the cake.
Are two screens better than one? Xiaomi hopes to prove so with the Mi 11 Ultra. Announced last month, it's the Chinese company's latest superphone and rounds out its new Mi 11 lineup. With the regular Mi 11, Xiaomi already gave us an excellent device, packing nearly everything we expect from an Android flagship in 2021. But Xiaomi has outdone itself with the Mi 11 Ultra. After a week with the Mi 11 Ultra, I can say Xiaomi has once again leveled up its flagship game by stacking a fabulous array of features -- it really left me stunned.
Xiaomi has tons of brag material here. The Mi 11 Ultra has the world's largest camera sensor, the world's widest ultrawide camera, one of the brightest screens around, it shoots 8K video on all three cameras, and of course there's that headline-making second screen on the rear.
But that second display is really just icing on the cake. The Mi 11 Ultra holds its own without it. There's also a 6.5-inch OLED panel, Qualcomm's fastest chip, the Snapdragon 888, a sharp and punchy front display, and a loud set of stereo speakers co-developed by Harman Kardon. Xiaomi usually gets a small ding in our coverage for leaving out the IP rating for water and dust resistance, but that's no longer the case: the Mi 11 Ultra's IP68 rating means it's waterproof.
One thing absent in the Mi 11 Ultra is a memory card slot for expandable storage, but this phone has 256GB of storage -- at least the European version I was given did -- so most won't need the extra storage, at least not for a while. Models are likely to vary depending on the country.
Either way, there's no denying this is one of Xiaomi's smartphone jewels, but you'll have to import if you want in -- there are no plans for a release stateside. You won't have to buy a Chinese version, which doesn't have Google, as the Mi 11 Ultra will launch in Europe for 1,119 euros, which converts to $1,435, £970 or AU$1,860. That's almost exactly the same as the Galaxy S21 Ultra's starting price of 1,124 euros, which includes Europe's 20% sales tax. The S21 Ultra starts at $1,125 for the 256GB version in the US, for comparison.
Mi 11 Ultra design: Business in front, party in the back
The Mi 11 Ultra features the design trappings of a standard Android flagship in 2021 -- from the front, at least. It has a hole-punch notch housing the front selfie camera, a gently curved display and ports or buttons in their usual locales. Once you flip this behemoth of a handset over, you won't miss the standout feature: a second display, living in a supersized camera bump that takes up roughly a quarter of the Mi 11 Ultra's rear. It's probably the biggest camera bump I've ever seen and eclipses the massive bump seen on 2020's Galaxy S20 Ultra.
The best use of the 1.1-inch AMOLED screen is to display selfie previews, meaning you have the privilege of using the three higher-resolution cameras, usually reserved for regular photos, to help you nail selfies or group photos. But when the phone's main screen is facing down, the second screen can display notification alerts from apps like WhatsApp, or show you what audio you're listening to, or tell you the time. That said, the second display certainly contributes to the Mi 11 Ultra's weight, which adds up to 234 grams (8.25 ounces), so it probably won't be comfortable to use one-handed for most people.
Meanwhile, the front display is the same as on the Mi 11. There's a 6.81-inch AMOLED with a 120Hz refresh rate, except it's brighter with a peak brightness of 1,700 nits. Unlike most flagships, which typically use glass shielding, the Mi 11 Ultra has a ceramic rear, which is considered to be more durable than glass. Corning's tough Gorilla Glass Victus is on the front.
The overall materials, fit, and finish of the Mi 11 Ultra are all best-in-class.
In all seriousness, the Mi 11 Ultra is mostly a carbon copy of the Mi 11 (apart from the camera, of course). Astute observers will note that the rear ceramic back of the Mi 11 Ultra is slightly less curved than the glass of the Mi 11, particularly near the side edges. This makes the phone feel just a hair bulkier. In truth, the Ultra is also 0.3mm thicker overall. The frame is a thin strip of metal along the sides that bulges to create end caps on the top and bottom edges.
As with the Mi 11, the overall materials, fit, and finish of the Ultra are all best in class. It’s also a fingerprint magnet. Our black review unit collected fingerprints as if they were going out of style.
The Mi 11 Ultra is a sizable piece of hardware. It stands tall but is narrow-waisted. This helps with usability as the phone is significantly heavier than the Mi 11. It jumps from 193g to 234g. That’s an increase of 20%, and you can feel it. Moreover, the camera module makes the phone top-heavy. This causes some hand strain when you hold the phone for long periods of time.
The rest of the experience mirrors that of the Mi 11. For example, the screen lock button and volume toggle are on the right edge of the phone. They have good profiles and excellent feedback. The SIM tray is located on the bottom edge. It supports up to two SIM cards, but not memory cards. You’ll also find the USB-C port, a microphone, and a speaker. A second speaker is located on the top edge to generate stereo sound. The speakers have been tuned by Harman Kardon. I thought the brightness and clarity were outstanding, and the bass response was balanced. The Mi 11 Ultra is loud enough to fill a standard-sized room with good-sounding music. It also contributes to a solid experience when watching videos.
The camera module is, well, it’s ginormous. It puts the already huge camera module of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra to shame. The module is a huge black block set at the top of the rear panel. It boasts two massive round lenses, with a deep periscoped lens beneath. The module also contains the phone’s most interesting feature: the selfie preview screen. This 1.1-inch secondary screen is mostly used as a rear-facing, always-on display, but it also allows you to take selfies with the phone’s main camera. The module defines the experience of the phone, as it will catch on your pocket when you stuff it in.
Mi 11 Ultra's rear display is the icing on the cake
Although phones sporting rear displays do exist (the Nubia Z20, for instance), it's a rare feature that seems even more unusual considering the Mi 11 Ultra isn't foldable. Plus it's the first time I've ever used one, so I'm definitely soaking it all in. Customizing the image or signature on the rear display added an extra layer of personalization, a cool touch that made the phone feel even more my own.
At the same time, however, I can't say I'm convinced the second screen will catch on. It has limitations in its current form. It's challenging to see any detail when snapping selfies since you're depending on a tiny display, but it does function as a rough guide. You can only take 15 seconds of video using the selfie viewfinder, and portrait mode can't be used at all. By the way, the selfie preview feature isn't part of the default settings, and needs to be switched on from the Special Features menu in settings.
You might have noticed that there's a phone attached to the back of this camera.
Unlike the Mi 11, which is just splash-proof, the Mi 11 Ultra boasts an IP68 rating for protection from submersion. This was absolutely necessary for Xiaomi to add to its €1,199 phone, so we’re glad to see it here.
The fingerprint reader is built into the display. It’s a cinch to calibrate and use to unlock the phone. I found it always to be swift and accurate. The phone also includes software-based face unlock. This is equally easy to train and use, but it’s less secure than the fingerprint or a dedicated, hardware-style face unlock.
Xiaomi certainly designed an interesting device in the Mi 11 Ultra. The camera module makes it a less stylish and more utilitarian addition to the Mi 11 line, but the underlying quality still shines through.
Display: Bright and fast
- 6.81-inch AMOLED with punch-hole
- WQHD+ (3,200 x 1,440)
- 20:9 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh rate
- 1.1-inch AMOLED
- 294 x 126 resolution
- 450 nits peak brightness
Xiaomi carried the brilliant screen from the Mi 11 over to the Mi 11 Ultra. It’s a fantastic display that we really like.
The 6.81-inch AMOLED screen is by default set to Full HD+ resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. You can opt to improve the resolution to WQHD+ and the refresh rate to 120Hz. The Mi 11 Ultra allows you to set the display to both the high resolution and high refresh rate settings at the same time. When at the 120Hz setting, Xiaomi says the refresh rate will vary from 30Hz to 120Hz depending on what you’re doing with the phone. At its highest settings, the screen is simply a joy to behold. The WQHD+ resolution means the screen is tack sharp, and the 120Hz refresh rate results in buttery smooth animations. But it still looks really good at the lower default settings, too.
The Mi 11 Ultra pushes 900 nits of brightness, with peak brightness reaching a crazy 1,700 nits. The contrast ratio is 5,000,000:1. Despite these numbers, it only looked adequately bright when outdoors under the sun. I had absolutely no trouble using it, but I was expecting a bit more punch. Other specs include support for 10-bit color, HDR10+, and DCI-P3. In short, the Mi 11 Ultra offers rich colors and deep contrast.
The Mi 11 Ultra also packs a bunch of fancy tools to tweak the visual experience. For example, it can boost standard definition content to high definition and high definition content to WQHD+. This means your older videos will still look good on the high-res screen. There is an obvious improvement, particularly when viewing standard definition content.
Xiaomi was sure to include a generous array of sensors and controls. For example, there’s a 360-degree ambient light sensor for reading the ambient light. This works together with the reading and sunlight modes to automatically adjust for proper white balance and color.
It’s worth pointing out that the screen’s curve is pretty tight along the side edges. Xiaomi added mistouch prevention tech at the hardware level to ensure that your palm won’t accidentally launch apps when it brushes against the display’s edge. My testing showed this to work well. And, thankfully, the tightly curved glass doesn’t affect the appearance of the screen itself.
Then there’s that selfie screen on the back, which is quite limited in purpose. It acts as an always-on display if you want it to and can be set to show the time/date and notifications. Arguably its most useful function is as a preview screen for selfies using the rear camera.
At 1.1-inches, it’s not very big, and 450 nits brightness means this little AMOLED doesn’t pack the brightest punch. I had trouble seeing the always-on display out under the bright sun. You may be better off using the main screen for that functionality. As for the selfie preview, it’s just bright enough to get an idea of what you look like ahead of taking a shot outdoors. We’ll discuss it more in the camera section later in this review.
Mi 11 Ultra has the largest camera sensor on a smartphone right now
The party on the back of the Mi 11 Ultra continues with the stellar camera module, composed of three rear sensors: a 50-megapixel main lens with a 1/1.12-inch sensor; a 48-megapixel ultrawide lens, with a 128-degree field of view; and a 48-megapixel telephoto lens. The 1/1.12-inch sensor on the main camera, Samsung's GN2, is probably the largest ever on a smartphone. Bigger sensors can let more light enter, helping produce all-around better photos, especially at night. For context, the GN2 sensor is nearly 20% larger than the one on the S21 Ultra, and more than 18% bigger than the one in the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Those aren't just numbers: Taking vibrant and detailed photos was effortless. Zoom was impressive too. The Mi 11 Ultra has 120x zoom, which based on the specs at least, means it's better than the 100x zoom of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but I didn't have a Galaxy device on hand to compare. Either way, pictures taken with 120x zoom were a jumble of pixels and entirely unusable. You can get away with crisp photos up until 15x zoom, maybe 20x on a clear day, but after that it gets pretty blurry.
Auxiliary features not forgotten
The Mi 11 Ultra is a meticulously designed device, and it's clear that Xiaomi paid attention to auxiliary features that don't catch attention on other devices. For instance, the flashlight's powerful rays beam bright and far thanks to its triple LED lights. Using the Mi 11 Ultra, I managed to make it through an otherwise dark night with limited visibility. I've harped on at length before about the Mi 11 lineups' excellent stereo speakers, so if you want to read about the quality, take a look at my review of the Mi 11. The Mi 11 Ultra uses the same speaker system, co-developed by Harman Kardon.
As has been the case with the rest of the Mi 11 lineup, Xiaomi includes accessories that main rivals Apple and Samsung have removed from their boxes. There's a 67-watt charger, a plastic case and a USB-C cable inside the Mi 11 Ultra's black box.
Performance: Keeping up with the pack
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
- Adreno 660
- X60 modem
- 12GB LPDDR5 3200MHz RAM
- 256GB UFS 3.1 storage
- Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
The Mi 11 was among the first wave of devices to ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. Several months into 2021, there are somewhere north of a dozen models with the high-end chip, including the Mi 11 Ultra.
The performance of the Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra should be identical, but that’s not quite the case. The Mi 11 Ultra has 12GB of RAM, where the Mi 11 has 8GB of RAM as standard. In our testing, this extra allotment of memory gave the Mi 11 Ultra the edge when it came to benchmarks, though just barely. The Mi 11 Ultra outscored the Mi 11 on most major benchmarks, but only slightly.
As expected, the Mi 11 Ultra performed well against other Snapdragon 888-powered phones such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro. The device ran our homemade Speed Test G benchmark in 76 seconds, which was one second more than the Mi 11 was able to run the same test, but several seconds faster than the Galaxy S21 Ultra and OnePlus 9 Pro.
The Mi 11 Ultra performs at the same high level as other Snapdragon 888 phones.
Several things in the Mi 11 Ultra’s toolbox really help out when it comes to gaming. First, it supports a response rate of 480Hz, which means it reacts to your touch input much faster than most other phones. Moreover, the Game Turbo software helps manage the performance and cataloging of your installed games. Game Turbo allows you to adjust settings, such as notifications, to achieve optimal gaming results.
On the performance front, the Xiaomi Mi 11 is a good everyday phone and a good gaming phone.
Last, wireless. There’s Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and 5G on board the Mi 11 Ultra. The phone supports sub-6GHz 5G, which means there’s no mmWave. Considering the phone won’t be officially sold in the US, that’s not a huge deal for now, but it does mean the phone won’t be future-proofed for when mmWave expands globally.
Battery: A cut above
- 5,000mAh battery
- 67W wired charging
- 67W wireless charging
- 67W GaN charger in the box
Xiaomi has significantly raised the Mi 11 Ultra’s battery performance when compared to the regular Mi 11. To start, the battery is 400mAh larger at 5,000mAh. That helps push the phone from breakfast to bedtime with a larger reserve in the tank at the end of the day. I was less nervous about pushing the phone hard. With careful, measured use you can easily get a day and a half from the battery. This is with the default Full HD+, 60Hz setting applied. Dialing up the resolution and/or the frame rate will impact battery life, but not as much as you might think. Even with the phone set to its highest settings, I could still get an entire day from the phone, even if barely. It outperformed the Mi 11, that’s for sure.
Along with a larger power cell, Xiaomi also gifted the Mi 11 Ultra with faster charging tech. Where the Mi 11 supports 55W wired and wireless charging, the Mi 11 Ultra boasts 67W wired and wireless charging. There’s also a 67W GaN wall plug included in the box. These speeds put it in the same zone as the Oppo Find X3 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro. However, Xiaomi did downgrade the speed compared to last year’s Mi 10 Ultra, which supported 120W charging. The company didn’t spell out why it made this change, but we imagine battery longevity played a role.
Camera: More function, more fun
- 50MP OIS AF dToF (f/1.95, 1.4μm)
- 48MP ultra-wide PDAF (f/2.2, 0.8μm, 128-degree FoV)
- 48MP 5x optical telephoto OIS PDAF (f/4.1, 0.8μm)
- Front: 20MP (f/2.2, 0.8μm)
- Video: 8K at 24fps, 4K at 60fps
Ah, the camera. Everything about the Mi 11 Ultra’s camera has been upgraded when compared to the Mi 11. It boasts all new sensors and, more importantly, a traditional wide, ultra-wide, telephoto lens arrangement. That means it ditches the “telemacro” lens found on the Mi 11 in favor of a periscoped optical zoom lens. The telephoto can handle 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, and up to 120x digital zoom — the longest zoom we’ve seen on a smartphone to date.
At the same time, Xiaomi went for a totally extra ultra-wide lens with a crazy 128-degree field of view (FoV). Many phones stick to 107-120 degrees for the ultra-wide. This expanded FoV gives the Mi 11 Ultra a lot of room for squeezing things into the shot. You can use the ultra-wide for shooting macro shots, as well. All three cameras are pixel binned down by a factor of four, with only the main camera being capable of shooting at its full 50MP resolution.
The main camera mostly does a great job, but it has one major flaw that should be obvious to you in the shots above. Sharpness and clarity are excellent. You can see plenty of detail, and there’s very little noise in the images. I really like the look of most shots I took with the phone. The issue is color, and specifically yellow. The flowers and storefront suffer from oversaturation, which makes them look unnatural. I can assure you that the yellow in these photos is not accurate. In fact, the standard Mi 11 produces more natural yellows. Odd. Blues, greens, and reds, however, all look perfect. Exposure and white balance are spot on, too.
The ultra-wide camera does a fine job for what it is. It delivers 0.5x magnification and there is obvious distortion around the edges of the photo. You can see the stone railing bending in the sample below. Color, clarity, and exposure are all excellent. There’s no noise, and white balance is good.
If you want to zoom, the Mi 11 Ultra has you covered. Quick picks allow you to jump straight to 5x, 10x, and 120x zoom. You can also pinch-to-zoom for framing your shot just right. Shots taken at 5x zoom look excellent, with exceptional clarity, little noise, and good color. I was very pleased with these images. Shots taken at 10x also look good, though there’s more noise. You can get away with solid-looking photos out to about 20x. Anything beyond that starts to get a bit messy. Like Samsung’s 100x Space Zoom, Xiaomi’s 120x digital zoom is quite worthless.
Software: Speedy Xiaomi skin
- Android 11
- MIUI 12
The Mi 11 Ultra runs identical software to the Mi 11. That means Android 11 with Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 on top. We expect the phone will be updated to MIUI 12.5, though Xiaomi hasn’t specified how soon.
MIUI 12 runs really well on the Mi 11 Ultra, likely owing to the Snapdragon 888 and 12GB of RAM. I’m not 100% sold on the fonts and other UI elements, but you may not care about that stuff. There is some bloatware on board, such as Netflix. You can get rid of most of the bloatware, but not quite all of it.
Xiaomi’s record for updating phones is uneven, so that’s something to keep in mind if you want future versions of Android. In general, it provides two years of system updates to its flagships. When we asked about updates for the Mi 11 earlier this year, 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.”
Samsung and others have stepped up their commitment to software and security updates. That’s a mark against Xiaomi and especially the Mi 11 Ultra. If you’re spending this much on a phone you want as many guarantees as possible that it’ll have long-term software support.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra specs
|Xiaomi Mi 11||Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra|
19.5:9 aspect ratio, 92.4% body/screen ratio
20:9 aspect ratio, 92.4% body/screen ratio
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Adreno 660 GPU
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Adreno 660 GPU
|Memory||8GB LPDDR5 RAM||12GB LPDDR5 RAM|
55W wired charging
50W wireless charging
55W charger in box
67W wired charging
67W wireless charging
67W charger in box
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
Selfie: 20MP f/2.2, punch-hole cutout
Main: 50MP, f/1.95, 1/1.12-in sensor, OIS
Ultra-Wide: 48MP, f/2.2, 128-degree FoV
Periscope: 48MP, f/4.1, 5X optical, 10X hybrid, 120X digital zoom
Selfie: 20MP f/2.2, punch-hole cutout
|Operating system||MIUI 12
|Dimensions||164.3 x 74.6 x 8.06mm||164.3 x 74.6 x 8.38mm|
Mi 11 Ultra vs. Samsung Galaxy S21
|Mi 11 Ultra||Galaxy S21 Ultra|
|Display size, type, resolution||Front: 6.81-inch AMOLED display, 3,200x1,440 pixels. Rear: 1.1-inch AMOLED, 294x126 pixels||6.8-inch Edge Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 3,200x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||Front: 515 ppi. Rear: 291 ppi||515 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.4x2.93x0.32 inches||2.97x6.5x0.35 inches|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||164.3x74.6 x 8.38 mm||75.6x165.1x8.9 mm|
|Weight ( Grams)||234g||229g|
|Mobile software||Android 11||Android 11|
|Camera||50-megapixel (main with 1/1.12-inch sensor), 48-megapixel (ultrawide with 120-degree FOV), 48-megapixel (telephoto)||108-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 10-megapixel (10x telephoto)|
|Processor||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 888 64-bit octa-core processor 2.8GHz (max 2.4GHz+1.8GHz)|
|Storage||256GB (in Europe)||256GB, 512GB|
|Battery||5,000 mAh||5,000 mAh|
|Special features||Rear display, 120x digital zoom, 5x optical zoom, 5G, 67W wired and wireless charging, 10W reverse wireless, 120Hz display, Samsung GN2 sensor||IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 100x Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 10x optical zoom|
|Price (USD)||Euro price converts to $1,435 (256GB)||$1,200 (128GB), $1,250 (256GB), $1,380 (512GB)|
|Price (GBP)||Euro price converts to £970 (256GB)||£1,329|
|Price (AUD)||Euro price converts to AU$1,860 (256GB)||AU$1,849|
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Camera review: Large sensor power
The Mi 11 Ultra is the brand-new flagship model from Xiaomi and has big shoes to fill, given that its predecessor, the Mi 10 Ultra, was one of the best phones we tested for Camera in 2020.
Compared to the Mi 10 Ultra, the new model offers a few important changes in the camera department. At 1/1.12″, the Samsung ISOCELL sensor in the primary camera is quite a bit bigger than the 1/1.32″ variant used last year and comes close in size to the sensors found in enthusiast compact cameras, such as Sony’s RX series. The new sensor also offers Dual Pixel Pro autofocus that splits every pixel vertically and diagonally (vs. only vertically in standard dual-pixel systems) to measure contrast.
In addition, the new sensor can use different HDR methods, depending on the scene or use case. Smart ISO Pro uses a single capture, but each pixel has two readouts with different conversion gains that the camera instantly combines to create a high dynamic range image. The device uses this mode mainly for capturing the preview image, for scenes with a medium dynamic range, and for video.
The Mi 11 Ultra uses staggered HDR mode for scenes with higher contrast. In this mode the sensor captures several frames and then merges them for an optimized result while keeping ghosting artifacts to a minimum.
Other camera highlights include a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor that the AF system uses to focus on close subjects, for example in portrait shots. In night shots it works in combination with the dual-pixel system on the sensor. There’s also a multispectral color temperature sensor to help optimize white balance and color rendering.
In video mode the camera can record 8K footage at 24 fps and 4K at 60 fps. At the latter setting the frame rate is variable and in low light the Mi 11 Ultra automatically reduces the frame rate to 30 fps to better control noise. Its Superlight video mode is designed to record video in low-light conditions down to extreme low light levels under 1 lux. The user has to select it and it is not covered by our test protocol. The same is true for the always-on display on the back of the device, which can be used for rear camera selfie preview and capture, or for notifications; further, it also allows activating a super power saver mode that switches the main display off.
Read on to find out how these specs and features impact image quality and how the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra performed under version 4 of the DXOMARK Camera test protocol.
Key camera specifications:
- Primary: 50 MP 1/1.12″ Quad-Bayer sensor, 1.4μm, 24 mm-equivalent lens with f/1.95 aperture, Dual Pixel Pro AF and OIS
- Ultra-wide: 48 MP 1/2-inch sensor, 0.8μm, 128° lens with f/2.2 aperture
- Tele: 48 MP 1/2-inch sensor, 0.8μm, 120 mm-equivalent lens with f/4.1 aperture, OIS
- LED flash
- Video: 8K 4320p at 24 fps, 4K 2160p at 30/60 fps (2160p/60 fps tested)
- Multispectral color temperature sensor
- ToF sensor
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset
About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 3000 test images and more than 2.5 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.
What you need to know about the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
With the introduction of the Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi now has an entire family of phones in the Mi 11 Lite, Mi 11i, Mi 11, Mi 11 Pro, and Mi 11 Ultra. These cover a variety of price points, meaning there’s a Mi 11 option available to you no matter your budget. The biggest change from the Mi 10 series is that the Pro version is only available in China. Meanwhile, the successor to the China-exclusive Mi 10 Ultra is now launching across Europe and other global regions. That means if you want a flagship Xiaomi phone in 2021, your choices are either the vanilla Mi 11 and the souped-up Mi 11 Ultra.
The Mi 11 Ultra shares many features with the regular Mi 11 but boasts a significantly upgraded camera experience, a trick selfie preview screen, and better battery tech. It also boasts a whopper of a price increase. The standard Mi 11 is hundreds less at €799 (~$950). On the surface, you’re paying a lot for the revamped camera and some bonus extras. In fact, the Mi 11 Ultra costs about the same as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and hundreds more than the OnePlus 9 Pro. This leads us to question just how good the camera is and whether it justifies the price increase.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is available in either Ceramic Black or Ceramic White. While China also gets two other RAM/storage configurations with either 8GB/128GB and 12GB/512GB, the global variant is locked at 12GB/256GB.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: The verdict
Xiaomi certainly designed an interesting phone in the Mi 11 Ultra, and I give it credit for that. The selfie preview screen, more so than anything else, helps it stand apart from the pack. While I appreciate the effort to create a compelling feature here, it’s more gimmick than gimme. Are the rest of the phone’s upgrades worth the extra cost? That depends heavily on what you value.
The IP68 rating, the improved battery life, and speedier charging tech are definitely big draws for my money. Then there’s the camera. It absolutely features a more useful and fun set of lenses when compared to the standard Mi 11. If you care about photography, the Mi 11 Ultra is a more compelling device than the Mi 11. But these upgrades come at a price, and that price is mighty high.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is overpriced for what it delivers.
Then there’s the OnePlus 9 Pro, which is priced hundreds below the Mi 11 Ultra. With the same Snapdragon processor inside, a competitive camera suite, and equivalent battery tech, the OnePlus 9 Pro makes more sense if you want a premium flagship without breaking the bank.
You might also look at the Oppo Find X3 Pro, which is another interesting, though slightly flawed, premium Android smartphone. It’s got one of the best designs we’ve seen this year, though performance falls slightly short of Galaxy-class.
In terms of raw performance, the only other phones in the same league are Apple’s iPhone 12 family — and that’s an entirely different ball of wax 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.