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Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Ultra competitive

Our Rating :

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra one-ups its Pro brother on both design and camera flexibility but sadly it won’t be launching in the UK


  • Superb display
  • Bold pro camera design
  • Excellent, flexible camera system


  • Clunky MIUI software
  • UK release isn’t happening
  • Battery life seemingly thrown by video playback

If you thought Xiaomi had topped out with the lavishly specced Xiaomi 13 Pro, you’d be mistaken. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra goes even further, with one of the most high-end camera systems on the market and a correspondingly fresh design.

The issue, however, is that it seems as though this range-topping smartphone won’t actually come to the UK. With that doubt in our minds, we’ve been using the initial Chinese model for the past few weeks – here’s what you can expect if Xiaomi changes its mind and does eventually drop the 13 Ultra in a shop near you.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: What you need to know

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra has an awful lot in common with the Xiaomi 13 Pro. Both phones are built around the same pairing of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and a 6.73in WQHD+ AMOLED display.

The two phones also share the same core camera setup, with a 1-inch Sony IMX989 50MP main sensor, a 50MP 3.2x telephoto, and a 50MP ultrawide. However, with the Ultra you also get a 50MP 5x periscope camera and a TOF 3D depth sensor. That main sensor also offers a dual-aperture in the Ultra, so you can manually flit between f/1.9 and f/4.0.

Elsewhere the Xiaomi 13 Ultra gets you a slightly larger 5,000mAh battery, and it’s all wrapped up in a much more alluring design that leans into Xiaomi’s partnership with premium camera manufacturer Leica.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Price and competition

I was sent the original Chinese model of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra to review, and we haven’t heard a peep in the way of a global price guide. It’s also now been confirmed that it won’t see an official UK release, despite launching elsewhere in western Europe.

As such, I can do nothing but speculate on what a UK price might have looked like.

Given that the Xiaomi 13 Pro costs £1,099, we would have to assume that the Xiaomi 13 Ultra would cost at least £1,199. Whatever that price would have been, it’s realistically going toe to toe with the £1,249 Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and the £1,199 iPhone 14 Pro Max, which are the two major players in the premium flagship phone market right now.

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Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Design and key features

I never really warmed to the bland curves of the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s design, far preferring the sharp-edged and purposeful Xiaomi 13. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra is something else entirely, however.

Xiaomi has really run with the high-end street camera aesthetic of partner brand Leica, covering the back of the Ultra in vegan leather. This real panel slopes outwards towards a truly huge and circular camera module, and it proves nice and grippy, as well as being easy on the eye. It does tend to suck up every last piece of lint in your pockets, but fingerprints aren’t so much of an issue, thankfully.

The phone’s metallic frame is pleasingly chunky, wrapping around to the back of the phone more than you might expect, yet flattening out a little on the sides. The combined effect makes the phone easy to wield as a camera, which was presumably the whole point.

You’ll certainly notice the Ultra in your pocket when it’s not in use, however, with a body that’s both thick (9.1mm) and heavy (227g). That’s 2g lighter than the ceramic model of the Xiaomi 13 Pro, which is another stick to beat the lesser phone’s design with. Even so, the thin and lightweight Xiaomi 13 remains the most ‘liveable’ phone of the three.

Elsewhere, you get the expected IP68 certification, so the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is as water and dust resistant as any other modern flagship. This being a Xiaomi phone, you also get an IR blaster on the top edge. Boot up the Mi Remote app, and you’ll be able to take direct control of your TV or stereo.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Display

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra doesn’t mix things up all that much on the display front, and that’s just fine with me. The Xiaomi 13 Pro already had one of the best screens in the business.

You get broadly the same 6.73in AMOLED screen with the same 3,200 x 1,440 (QHD+) resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. Xiaomi has purportedly cranked up the brightness ever so slightly, with a stated maximum typical brightness of 1,300cd/m² and a peak of 2,600cd/m².

In practical terms, with auto-brightness switched off, I recorded a maximum brightness that got a little higher than the Xiaomi 13 Pro, to a fraction off 500cd/m², which is plenty bright enough.

Xiaomi’s screen calibration tends to be excellent, and none more so than it is here. On the default ‘Original color PRO’ colour setting (which is, somewhat unusually, also the best one to go for), I recorded an sRGB gamut coverage of 98.1% and a volume of 100%, as well as an average Delta E score of 1.02. Those are top-tier results.

Sure enough, this is a glorious screen to get anything done on, with pinpoint clarity and silky smooth responsiveness. My only quibble is with the choice to go with curved edges, which is never the best when it comes to watching landscape video content, and which can lead to the odd false palm press. It’s the one display area where the dead-flat Xiaomi 13 comes out on top.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Performance and battery life

With the same top-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor as the Xiaomi 13 Pro and Xiaomi 13 – not to mention the rest of the 2023 Android flagship crowd – the Xiaomi 13 Ultra performs phenomenally.

Sure enough, our usual Geekbench 5 and Geekbench 6 benchmark tests broadly match the rest of the range and the opposition. It’s a similar case with the usual GPU-based GFXBench tests, where the Xiaomi 13 Ultra holds its own with the best of Android.

This speedy processor is paired with either 16GB of RAM (as with my test model) or 12GB, which is ample in both cases. In terms of storage there are 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB models out there, though we’re not entirely sure which of these will apply to which global regions.

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra’s 5,000mAh battery is the largest in the range, topping even the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s 4,820mAh cell, and giving it parity with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. I found that it would stand up to a full 16-hour day of light to moderate usage with around half a tank left, even with the display maxed out to WQHD+ and a constantly-on 120Hz.

Curiously, however, it fell several hours short of the Xiaomi 13 Pro in our looping video test, and more than ten hours short of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Xiaomi phones in general don’t seem to be well optimised for this particular all-day video task, and it’s not a huge worry in practical day-to-day scenarios.

Another odd point to note is that the Xiaomi 13 Ultra has support for 90W wired charging, which is fine, but slower than the 120W charging of the Xiaomi 13 Pro. It will still get you from empty to 50% in less than 15 minutes, and on to 100% in around 40 minutes, but it’s not the absolute fastest in the business. You do get the same 50W wireless charging as the Pro, though, which is very good indeed.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Software

One thing that remains consistent across the Xiaomi 13 line – and indeed across all Xiaomi, Redmi, and Poco phones – is Xiaomi’s custom MIUI software. Sadly it’s not particularly appealing on any of them.

Indeed, the MIUI 14 I tested was even more convoluted than usual. It’s a Chinese model, which means that it has none of the western concessions of what we usually see. Simply setting it up to function normally was a bit of a slog, with no Google Play Store out of the gate, lots of Chinese text to navigate, and a bunch of Chinese apps and services to delete or deactivate in the Settings menu.

Naturally, this shouldn’t be a problem in the global edition of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra. But from using the Xiaomi 13 Pro and Xiaomi 13 extensively, I have a fair idea that software is going to be one of the weaker parts of the Ultra package.

Even in its latest iteration, MIUI’s menus are still somewhat clumsy and cluttered, and there’s way too much app bloat and duplication. Flitting back to a supposedly less capable Pixel 7a with its stock Android proved to be like a glass of cold water on a hot day.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Cameras

It’s safe to say that the defining feature of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is its camera system. As we’ve already discussed, the whole phone is designed to highlight that Leica branding.

Thankfully, Xiaomi has justified those pro-camera pretensions with one of the best camera systems in the business. I can’t say that the quality of most of the shots I captured were markedly different to those of the Xiaomi 13 Pro – there are very similar components at the heart of both, built around the same 1-inch Sony IMX989 image sensor – but that’s no bad thing.

Shots captured in good lighting are extremely sharp and full of contrast, with excellent handling of dynamic range. As with the rest of the Xiaomi 13 family, you get the choice of two main shooting themes: the more natural Leica Authentic or the more punchy Leica Vibrant. While I mostly shot with Authentic, Vibrant certainly has its appeal, and doesn’t look too fake.

Portrait mode is capable of genuine excellence here. Aided by a TOF 3D depth sensor and those zoom lenses, shots capture a clearly defined, slightly zoomed-in subject against a creamy bokeh background.

Night shots are excellent, too, with that huge main sensor, OIS, and depth sensor ensuring fully locked-on, bright, and crisp low-light snaps. You might find that you need to specifically select Night mode less than normal, too, as the Xiaomi 13 Ultra sucks up so much light as standard.

Where the Xiaomi 13 Ultra really distinguishes itself from the Xiaomi 13 Pro isn’t so much image quality, but rather flexibility. The addition of a fourth 50MP periscope lens for 5x zoomed shots adds yet another weapon to your photographic armoury.

Yes, you can get clearer shots from further away (even when extending beyond 5x using hybrid zoom techniques), but it also helps burnish the Ultra’s street photography potential. You can now take decent quality ‘regular’ shots from further away, adding a greater sense of spontaneity and discretion to your everyday snaps.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you get more flexibility with your close-ups thanks to the availability of two distinct apertures. You can manually switch between f/1.9 and f/4.0, with the latter offering more pronounced bokeh, and the latter getting more of your close-up subjects in focus.

It’s annoying that you have to dive into the camera settings menu to reach this provision, but I did find it effective, particularly when taking food shots where you want as much of the dish in focus as possible.

Both the 5x and the 3.2x sensors capture sharp, balanced shots in a variety of lighting conditions. Of course, they can’t compete with that huge main image sensor when the light drops, but they’re still very usable thanks to the provision of their own dedicated OIS systems.

The ultrawide camera is decent, but lacks the OIS of the other sensors. Combined with the familiar detail fall-off at the edges, it’s the weakest sensor of the four, but still very capable.

Selfies are decent rather than great, using the Ultra’s 32MP front-facing sensor. Sharpness is okay, but they can look a little washed out, especially with hints of overexposure in the backgrounds. Edge detection on selfie portraits is solid, if not the absolute best around.

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Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Verdict

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra is arguably unnecessary given how strong this year’s Xiaomi 13 Pro is, but it does make a couple of meaningful improvements if photography is your priority.

It has a much more flexible camera system to shoot with, offering greater options at range and more nuanced control when up close. More generally, it’s just a great camera system to shoot with in any conditions.

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra design is also much more appealing than the bland and indistinct Xiaomi 13 Pro. Though it’s still quite a hefty handset, I dig the whole ‘pro camera’ aesthetic.

Add in the high quality core components that it shares with the Pro – a brilliantly bright and accurate display, top level performance, and speedy wireless charging – and you have a phone that’s worthy of its premium flagship billing. MIUI continues to be a bloated mess, but at least it’s a highly customisable one. It is weird that we’re paying more for slower charging, though.

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