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Xiaomi Mi 11 review: A flagship-killing powerhouse

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
749
inc VAT

With a Snapdragon 888, 108MP camera and 120Hz screen, the Xiaomi Mi 11 is (almost) the complete package

Pros 
First Snapdragon 888 handset
Display colour accuracy is unmatched
Astonishing value
Cons 
Battery life could be better
Lacks IP-rated waterproofing
No telephoto camera
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Huawei’s dwindling popularity has left a bit of a flagship-sized hole in the smartphone world. Its troubles aren’t self-imposed, of course – the US’ trade sanctions are still ongoing – but while we wait for Huawei’s phones to get back on track, UK consumers are lacking a well-priced yet high-spec Samsung or Apple alternative.

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Chinese firm Xiaomi is clearly doing its best to potentially fill this void with the launch of the Xiaomi Mi 11. Instead of doubling down at the budget end, Xiaomi is this time training its sights on plumper wallets, with Qualcomm’s new flagship processor, the Snapdragon 888, onboard as well as a 108MP camera and a 120Hz display. With plenty to like at a great price, is there a catch?

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: What you need to know

From the very beginning, that answer seems to be “no”. Just like Xiaomi’s previous flagships, the Mi 11’s exhaustive feature list makes for a more tantalising purchase than most and it already looks like you can’t do much better for your money.

What does that list consist of? To start with, the Xiaomi Mi 11 is the first phone to arrive with the Snapdragon 888 chipset, which builds on its predecessor’s strengths and is the first Qualcomm CPU manufactured on a 5nm fabrication process – just like the Apple A14 Bionic, Samsung Exynos 2100 and Huawei Kirin 9000.

The Mi 11 has a 6.81in edge-to-edge screen, with a native resolution of 1,440 x 3,200 and a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. It has the same 108MP main camera unit (Samsung’s Isocell HM3 sensor) as the pricier Galaxy S21 Ultra and it also has ultrawide and macro cameras. Lastly, it runs Android 11 from the get-go and comes with either 128GB or 256GB of storage as well as 8GB of RAM.

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: Price and competition

The good news is that the Xiaomi Mi11 is finally available to buy in the UK. The international release was delayed slightly, but you can now pick up the 128GB model for £749 or the 256GB variant for £799. 

At that price, the Xiaomi Mi 11 easily undercuts similar flagships such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra (£1,149), the Apple Phone 12 Pro (£999) and Huawei Mate 40 Pro (£1,100) by a considerable margin.

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: Design and key features

Not only has the Xiaomi Mi 11 received a handful of internal upgrades but it’s also gained a fresh lick of paint as well. Available in either Midnight Gray or Horizon Blue, the Mi 11’s rear is coated in an iridescent frosted glass finish. It’s easier on the eye than the last Xiaomi flagship we reviewed – the drab-looking Mi 9 – and it doesn’t pick up greasy fingerprints as easily, either.

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The rear camera housing is perhaps the most obvious new addition. Just like Apple’s camera housing, the Mi 11’s is a rounded square located in the top-left corner of the phone’s rear panel. It looks quite different to Apple’s arrangement, however, with the main camera surrounded prominently by a silver border and the other two lenses taking more of a back seat. It’s a smart look and the embedded black oblong within the main square camera housing reminds me of HAL 9,000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The phone’s large screen curves slightly around the left and right edges of the handset, stretching out to all four corners, with a 20MP selfie camera embedded in a neatly-placed hole-punch notch in the top-left corner.

Elsewhere, the Xiaomi Mi 11 is equipped with the usual flagship trappings, including fast 55W charging via USB-C, 50W wireless charging support (as well as 10W reverse wireless charging), Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, plus a protective layer of Gorilla Glass Victus. It also has an optical fingerprint sensor underneath the display which unlocks the phone in the blink of an eye, even while it’s raining.

The phone lacks two key things, however: a 3.5mm headphone jack and a water resistance rating. The first omission is quite common for a flagship handset in this day and age – if an audio port is absolutely essential, then you’ll have to buy one of Moto’s budget handsets instead – but the absence of an IP rating isn’t ideal if you’re a bit clumsy.

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: Display

The Xiaomi Mi 11 follows the trend of high-refresh 120Hz displays, although unlike the Galaxy S21, it has a native WQHD+ resolution (1,440 x 3,200). In default settings the Xiaomi Mi 11 runs at 60Hz, though; you have to enable the 120Hz mode in the display section of the phone’s settings menu to get the benefit.

How does the phone’s screen perform under the scrutiny of our display calibrator? Exceptionally, as it turns out. With two colour profiles to choose from, as well as an “auto” mode, which adjusts colours based on ambient lighting, I found the “original” setting to be the most colour accurate, returning a Delta E average of 0.71 (the closer to zero in this test, the better).

Colours across the spectrum are pretty much bang on, with not a single complaint from these weary eyes. Display brightness is as good as can be, peaking at 538cd/m2 with the auto setting engaged, and a dazzling 1,283cd/m2 when displaying HDR content. This is an AMOLED panel, too, so the contrast is essentially perfect at Infinity:1.

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: Performance and battery life

The good news continues in the performance stakes. The Xiaomi Mi 11 is the first smartphone we’ve tested powered by the brand-spanking-new Snapdragon 888 chipset, which is Qualcomm’s first 5nm SoC, so we should expect to see higher levels of sustained performance with a boost to overall efficiency as well.

Let’s start with positives first. The Snapdragon 888 inside the Xiaomi Mi 11 delivered a performance increase of up to 28% when compared with the previous-generation Snapdragon 865 in the Geekbench 5 single- and multi-core CPU tests. It also outperformed the Samsung Exynos 2100 in the same benchmark but failed to match (or beat) the iPhone 12’s speeds. The A14 Bionic remains the CPU king for the time being.

Improved graphics rendering is also on the cards, with the embedded Adreno 660 GPU returning an average frame rate of 96fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 benchmark at native (WQHD+) resolution.

As a point of comparison – rival phones differ in terms of maximum refresh rates and resolutions – the 888’s offscreen score (1080p equivalent) is identical to the A14 Bionic and 36% faster than Samsung’s Exynos 2100.

The not-so-good news is that the Xiaomi Mi 11 fails to impress in the stamina department. Lasting for 16hrs 38mins on a single charge at the default 60Hz and WQHD+ resolution, the Xiaomi Mi 11’s video rundown score isn’t anything special, matching the iPhone 12 but trailing behind the Galaxy S21 by over two hours. Switch to 120Hz, and the Mi 11’s battery life plummets to 13hrs 19mins.

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: Cameras

The Xiaomi Mi 11 has an intriguing mix of cameras. To start with, it shares the same 108MP camera as the wallet-shakingly expensive Galaxy S21 Ultra and it can also record in 8K at either 30fps or 24fps. This is backed by a secondary 13MP (f/2.4) 123-degree ultrawide camera, as well as – bizarrely – a 5MP (f/2.4) macro unit. A telephoto camera is arguably more useful but it does a good job of taking up-close pictures, so no major complaints here.

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Not a budding macro photographer? Thankfully, the rest of the Xiaomi Mi 11’s photographic arsenal is positively astounding. The default shooting mode, which captures “pixel-binned” 16MP images, is among the best I’ve tested and is capable of capturing detail-rich images, with a subdued colour palette and well-judged contrast. The lock at Blackwall Basin has never looked so good:

Naturally, the Mi 11’s potential for detail capture is miles ahead of the iPhone 12 Pro, but Xiaomi’s back-end image processing algorithm is clearly more effective than Samsung’s, too. To my eyes, at least, the Mi 11’s colour balance is more neutral, and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra suffers from increased contrast, with unnaturally dark shadows.

The Xiaomi Mi 11’s software can be a bit fiddly at times, however, and the ultrawide camera isn’t anything special. Scene-packed images look good in well-lit environments but as soon as the sun sets, the dim f/2.4 aperture begins to struggle a bit.

Back to the positives, and the Mi 11’s nighttime shots (with the main camera) are exceptional. Striking a perfect balance of boosting the brightness of an image – without adding visual noise, blowing out street lights or adding unnatural tints – the Mi 11’s twilight pictures are second-to-none, outpacing both the iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra by a wide margin:

I was equally impressed with the Xiaomi Mi 11’s portrait mode. Much to my fiancée’s dismay, skin blemishes and wrinkles were picked up perfectly, with crisp outlines against a nicely blurred background.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the Xiaomi Mi 11 is the second phone we’ve reviewed that’s capable of recording 8K video. You’ll need an 8K TV or monitor to view it – and you’ll have to pay 79p for HEVC playback in Windows 10 if you haven’t already – but the footage is richly detailed, and surprisingly stable during quick pans, too. Just be warned that the file size is about twice the size of the equivalent 4K footage; a 10-second video is roughly 222MB.

Xiaomi Mi 11 review: Verdict

How about that, then? It’s pretty obvious, but the Xiaomi Mi 11 is (almost) the complete package, and yet another reminder that there’s absolutely no need to spend excruciating sums on the latest Apple or Samsung handset. Do your wallet a favour, save hundreds and consider picking up a Mi 11 instead. You won’t be disappointed, it's an absolute crackerjack of a smartphone.

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