The Xiaomi Mi 11 Review: A Gorgeous Screen and Design

Xiaomi had first announced the Mi 11 in back in the last few days of 2020, with availability of the domestic Chinese version of the phone taking place in the early weeks of January. Later in February, the company followed up with the global launch of the device, divulging the pricing strategy in markets such as Europe.

The Mi 11 is a very interesting device – it was actually the very first Snapdragon 888 device worldwide, and to this date in many countries still is the only such available smartphone – at least until other vendors catch up with their model releases. In the past year or so, we’ve seen Xiaomi having gained a lot of market share in global countries, mostly picking up customers from Huawei – particularly in European markets where Xiaomi has been seeing lots of new success with carriers.

What characterises the Mi 11 from other devices – other than the new Snapdragon 888 SoC, is Xiaomi’s new design cantered around a new 6.81” AMOLED 3200 x 1440 screen with up to 120Hz refresh rate. It’s not Xiaomi’s first QHD device as we’ve seen some other implementations in the past, but those were all on LCD panels. The move to QHD and 120Hz this generation is a major leap for the Mi 11 series, particularly because Xiaomi is still pricing the device starting at only 749€ – much less than other current generation devices featuring the same specifications such as the S21 Ultra.

Xiaomi Mi Series
  Mi 10
 
Mi 11
(Reviewed)
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 
1x Cortex-A77 @ 2.84GHz
3x Cortex-A77 @ 2.42GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.80GHz

Adreno 650 @ 587MHz

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 
1x Cortex-X1 @ 2.84GHz
3x Cortex-A78 @ 2.42GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.80GHz

Adreno 660 @ 840MHz

DRAM 8GB LPDDR5-5500 8/12GB LPDDR5-6400
Display 6.67″ AMOLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)

90Hz Refresh

6.81″ AMOLED
3200 x 1440

120Hz Refresh

480Hz Touch
HDR10+ / 10-bit panel

Size Height 162.58mm 164.3mm
Width 74.80mm 74.6mm
Depth 8.96mm 8.06mm
Weight 208g 196g
Battery Capacity 4780mAh (Typical)

30W Charging

4600mAh (Typical)

55W Charging

Wireless Charging 30W 50W
Rear Cameras
Main 108MP 1/1.3″ 0.8µm
4:1 Binning to 27MP / 1.6µm

f/1.69 w/ OIS

108MP Module

f/1.85 w/OIS

Telephoto 5MP (Macro only)

50mm eq.
f/2.2

Extra
Telephoto
Ultra-Wide 13MP 1.12µm

f/2.4
117° FoV

13MP

f/2.4
123° FoV

Extra 2MP Depth Camera

2MP Macro Camera

Front Camera 20MP 0.8µm
f/2.3
f/2.2
Storage 128 / 256GB
UFS 3.0
128 / 256GB
UFS 3.1
I/O USB-C
Wireless (local) 802.11ax (Wifi 6),
Bluetooth 5.1
Cellular 4G + 5G NR NSA+SA Sub-6GHz
Special Features Under-screen fingerprint sensor
Full-range stereo speakers
Splash, Water, Dust Resistance No rating
Dual-SIM 2x nano-SIM
Launch OS Android 10 w/ MIUI Android 11 w/ MIUI
Launch Price 8+128GB: 799€
8+256GB: 899€
8+128GB: 749€
8+256GB: 799€

As mentioned, the new phone is powered by Qualcomm’s newest generation Snapdragon 888 SoC. We’ve covered the new chip extensively in our chipset-centric article of the Galaxy S21 Ultra where we pitted the new Snapdragon against the latest Exynos. In general, although the new chip does bring performance advantages this generation, it has to compromise in power efficiency as the new process node had seen some regressions compared to last year.

Xiaomi offers the Mi 11 in 8GB LPDDR5-6400 configurations in the global markets – the 12GB variant only exists in China. Storage comes in the form of either 128GB or 256 of UFS 3.1. Xiaomi is one of the vendors who do not offer expandable storage, but at least the 256GB version of the phone only costs an extra 50€ this year, half the cost of last year’s configuration up-sell.

The new display is a key feature of the phone and probably the main characteristic of the device. After a few years of 1080p OLED flagships, I’m very happy to see Xiaomi finally jump over to QHD, particularly given the phones are growing in size and the PPI of 1080p really isn’t sufficient at these dimensions. Xiaomi of course had to include 120Hz this generation as well as it’s a must-have feature to incorporate in 2021. Surprisingly, Xiaomi advertises that this is a 10-bit panel, which should offer better brightness and colour graduations, however comes at a cost power efficiency. The screen lacks variable refresh rate – neither hardware, nor software based, so it’s more in line with the screen technology generation we’ve seen in the Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8 Pro series devices.

The design of the Xiaomi Mi 11 is quite attractive, and the company goes for an almost completely rounded aesthetic, with curved front and back glass. The back glass is a matte chemically etched finish similar to that of the Mi 10 Pro – it’s still quite smooth, but it’s much better than glossy materials.

 

What’s maybe a bit weird about the design is the corners of the screen and the frame, the metal frame actually covers most of the phone’s thickness in the corners, unlike the sides where the front display curves around. It’s a design that reminds me of the Huawei P40 Pro – it’s a bit odd at first glance, but I think the companies are either doing this on purpose for better drop resistance, or it’s a manufacturing side-effect of the new build.

The side frames on both sides are extremely minimal and thin, which give the phone excellent ergonomics and in-hand feel even though it’s a larger device at 74.6mm width.

Xiaomi also managed to shave off some thickness this generation, going from 8.96mm to 8.06mm, a difference that’s immediately noticeable between generations. The weight of the phone has also been reduced from 208g to 196g, which is also very welcome in my book. The reduced form-factor cost 180mAh from its predecessor, and the new battery lands in at 4600mAh which is still plenty respectable.

On the right side of the phone, we see a simple textured power button as well as the volume rocker – the metal side frame here slightly extends towards the back glass cover which reminds me of Samsung’s recent aesthetic.

The main camera is the same as last year’s 108MP Xiaomi shooters – a Samsung HMX sensor that natively captures 108MP shots, but in general photography 2×2 bins things down to 27MP. Since there’s no telephoto module on the phone, the Mi 11 uses the raw resolution of this module to get tighter framed shots. The optics were changed this generation to a smaller f/1.85 aperture, which in my view might be more reasonable as the Mi 10 suffered in terms of its optics. There’s still OIS present here, which is good news. The Ultra-wide module is a 13MP f/2.4 module with a very wide 123° FoV, great for indoor capture, architecture, or landscapes.

I like how Xiaomi engineered the camera island to accommodate for the thick Z-height of the main camera module: it’s a 3-stepped design in terms of its thickness, with each “island” only being as thick as the minimum the cameras require. While the main camera module thickness is still thick, it’s not as evident as on other phones with similar giant sensors.

The top and bottom sides of the phone feature a relatively flat edge, and are characterised by dual-speaker setups the company employs. There’s a hardman/kardon logo on the top side, and generally the speakers get extremely loud and are among the best sounding on any device right now.

Generally, I really liked the design of the Mi 11, and I feel the company has managed to create their sleekest and most ergonomic design to date. It feels very premium and is very clearly a flagship device, which comes at a surprise given its 749€ starting point.

System performance of the Mi 11 should be great given the new Snapdragon 888 SoC as well as the 120Hz screen. Of course, between different device vendors we can see slightly different variations as each company tunes their software stack different, so it’ll be interesting to see how Xiaomi fares compared to what we’ve seen in the S21 series devices.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0

In the web, test the Mi 11 fares excellent and keeps up with the best performing devices in the market, signalling that the SoC is tuned quite aggressively in lighter workloads.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

In the writing sub-test however, we’re seeing that there are more differences in the stack and the device doesn’t differentiate itself too much from most other Snapdragon 865 devices last year, trailing the new S21 phones.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

The photo editing score is in line with the S21 Ultra and its Snapdragon 888, both posting almost identical scores, which are a bit lower than that of S865 devices.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

The data manipulation score is single-thread bound and the Mi 11 also comes in as one of the top-performing devices, even though there’s small variations.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

In the overall performance score in PCMark, the Mi 11 ends up with a great result.

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebViewJetStream 2 - OS Webview

In the sustained Javascript browser benchmarks, the Mi 11 lands equal to the Snapdragon 888 S21 Ultra, although for some reason not in the JetStream 2 test.

WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

Finally in WebXprt 3 which is more sensitive to performance latency (how fast a CPU ramps up), the Mi 11 takes the lead amongst all other Android device, albeit only by a small margin.

Overall performance of the Mi 11 is excellent and is clearly a 2021 flagship device. The Snapdragon 888 SoC along with the 120Hz screen signify that you’ll have amongst the best performing devices in the market, there’s really not much more to add to that.

When we covered the new generation SoCs in our chip-coverage of the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100, GPU performance was an extremely contentious topic there as the new 2021 silicon generation showcased some extremely hot peak power consumption numbers in excess of 8W. These kind of power figures really aren’t sustainable in any phone, and the Snapdragon S21 Ultra really didn’t do well in terms of its throttling, ending up with performance that’s really no better than its predecessor generation in most cases.

I alluded in that piece that the Mi 11 would be a more aggressive device in terms of its thermals, as Xiaomi allows its phones to reach higher peak skin temperatures whereas Samsung seems to have a 42°C maximum target.

Indeed, the new Mi 11 will in routinely reach peak skin temperatures of 50-51°C, but it’s at that stage where we hit an enormous problem with the device: it errors out with an overheating warning.

This is by far not the first time we’ve encountered this issue. I remember the Snapdragon Galaxy S9 encountering it as well as many other Samsung Snapdragon phones, and I’ve seen it happen to many Xiaomi devices as well.

Generally speaking, when this occurs it’s a sign there’s something absolutely wrong with the device and its thermal management. In the past, there’s been indications that these are “optimisations” that are trying to cheat benchmarks, particularly for devices that are targeted at the Chinese market.

In the case of the Mi 11 – I don’t really have any kind of evidence that this behaviour is targeted solely at benchmarks, as I cannot see the device behaving differently with anonymised workloads. Let’s go briefly over the results before I comment more on the real-world device performance:

Basemark GPU 1.2 - Medium 1440p - Off-Screen / BlitGFXBench Aztec Ruins - High - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screenGFXBench Aztec Ruins - Normal - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screenGFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Off-screenGFXBench T-Rex 2.7 Off-screen

As you see, the Mi 11 is able to top the charts in almost every benchmark. Again, the problem with those scores is that they’re not actually truly indefinite “sustained” scores, as the device at some point will simply give off that overheating warning.

Ignore the Benchmarks Here

It’s a very special scenario we’re encountering here where the actual benchmarks absolutely do not line up with the actual performance of the device in real games. Although the Mi 11 will go about and sustain 7-8W in the benchmarks, heating up to silly temperatures, but posting great performance figures, it really doesn’t behave that way in games.

In Genshin Impact, which is one of the most demanding games out there right now, the Mi 11 will start off with great performance and will showcase power consumption of >7W. However after prolonged plays, the device will actually throttle, and power consumption will reduce to the 5W range, and surprisingly, the phone won’t heat up beyond the 44°C range. I’ve seen the GPU operate in the 400MHz range here, which is half of its peak performance, and obviously enough the game also falls down well below the 60fps mark which it might achieve when it’s cool. This indicates, that in real games, the thermal management seems to be working well.

This discrepancy between benchmarks and real games is extremely frustrating for me here as I cannot pin down why exactly it happens. Are the vendors cheating through whitelisting only real games in the thermal management? Whatever the real answer is, the end result of the Mi 11 in gaming is that it’s not drastically different than past Snapdragon 865 devices, or at least only marginally better. This is a case of where I suggest to just ignore the above benchmark numbers – although I’m still publishing them until I see definitive proof of possible malicious behaviour.

The display of the Mi 11 is a highlight of the device. A 1440p, 120Hz AMOLED panel is a major step-up in Xiaomi’s device line-up, and is a definitive improvement over past year implementations in the mainline Mi series.

The panel is of a similar generation we’ve seen in last year’s Galaxy S20 series as well as on the OnePlus 8 Pro – more similar to the latter unit as Xiaomi allows 1440p at 120Hz simultaneously. What’s lacking for the device, is any kind of variable refresh rate mechanism, no software based coarse VRR as on the base S21 series, neither a more advanced hardware one as on the S21 Ultra.

In terms of screen calibration and controls, Xiaomi gets top marks here as the company offers various different default operating modes which offer fine-tuning of the colour temperature, as well as offering an advanced fully custom mode where you can fully control the screen calibration from hue, saturations and even gamma controls. Generally speaking, you are able to set up the display of the Mi 11 however you like it the most, and I applaud such levels of customisation.

What we’re testing today is the “Original colour” mode at its default settings, which is supposed to be a calibrated target to sRGB and P3 standards.

We move on to the display calibration and fundamental display measurements of the Xiaomi Mi 11 screen. As always, we thank X-Rite and SpecraCal, as our measurements are performed with an X-Rite i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, with the exception of black levels which are measured with an i1Display Pro colorimeter. Data is collected and examined using Portrait Display’s CalMAN software.

Display Measurement - Maximum Brightness

In terms of brightness, the Mi 11 is a top performer. At 850 nits peak full screen white brightness when in auto-brightness and under brightly lit ambient light, the screen only falls behind the newer S21 Ultra which has a superior emitter technology. Under manual brightness, the phone lands in at 487 nits, which is in line with what we’ve seen in the Mi 10 Pro last year.

Portrait Displays CalMAN

In the greyscale performance, the Mi 11 is quite a bit off the mark in two aspects. First of all, the reds are quite dominant as average colour temperature lands in at 6314K, and whites land in also reddish at 6241K, below an ideal 6505K target for pure daylight white. This gives the Mi 11 a colour dETIP of 2.19.

The more offending discrepancy however is in the gamma, where the Mi 11 apparently targets a 2.3 figure, measuring in at 2.31 average. This is higher than a typical 2.2 calibration, and it means that tones will appear slightly darker than they should be, possibly giving content a little more contrast than what they’re meant to be displayed at. This regresses the overall dEITP to 5.45.

Portrait Displays CalMAN

In the saturations, we’re seeing generally good performance in most colours except for the reds and the magentas, which are oversaturated and too dominant, again similar to the too warm colour temperature in the greyscale values.

Portrait Displays CalMAN

Finally, in the GretagMacbeth patches of commonly found tones such as skin tones, the Mi 11 does averagely. It’s not a total disaster, but we’re seeing the too dark luminance due to the higher gamma, as well as oversaturation in the reds. Both aspects end up with the Mi 11 getting an dEITP of only 5.04.

Generally, the screen of the Mi 11 is still excellent when it comes to its fundamentals – fantastic brightness, contrast, resolution and of course that 120Hz refresh rate. The colour calibration isn’t the best, but it’s still adequate enough, and at least Xiaomi gives you extensive controls to adjust the screen to your liking. At least at this price point, the Mi 11 is able to compete extremely well with just the fundamental characteristics of the display, even if it’s not the most advanced or accurate panel out there.

When it comes to battery life, the Mi 11 sports a 4600mAh battery, and comes with the newer Snapdragon 888 SoC. We’ve already seen that the new chip isn’t quite as power-efficient as its predecessor, requiring more energy to achieve its higher performance levels.

However, the biggest issue for the Mi 11 is its idle power consumption, which is just terrible. Under all situations, even under 60Hz, the device will consume in excess of 700mW when displaying a black screen, and this figure goes up to the 900’s mW’s when under 120Hz mode. These are pretty horrible figures and bad news for the device, as it’s a constant power drain that happens no matter what you’re doing with the phone, especially dominant for battery life at lower brightness levels.

I don’t know exactly why this is happening to the phone, but’s the lack of VRR makes the situation even worse.

Web Browsing Battery Life 2016 (WiFi)

Due to the high base power consumption, the phone doesn’t do all to well in the web browsing test. The most interesting device to compare things to is the OnePlus 8 Pro, which also features a QHD 120Hz screen of a similar generation, and both devices end up towards the bottom part of our battery life results here. It’s interesting to see that the 60Hz to 120Hz delta is smaller than that of the OnePlus 8 Pro. At 60Hz, the Mi 11 also does worse than the Mi 10 Pro.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Battery Life

In PCMark, the Mi 11 does averagely at 60Hz, but at 120Hz it’s really falling behind by a lot and bottoms our chart again, near the Exynos S21.

When it comes to weaknesses of the Mi 11, battery life is probably its biggest one. While performance and screen quality are great on the phone, the SoC remains very power hungry, and the screen is as well. The situation is exasperated by the very high and unusual base power consumption of the device. I don’t know where the problem lies here, but given Xiaomi hasn’t fixed it in a firmware update yet signifies it’s some hardware mis-design that’s unlikely to get changed by software.

The camera setup of the Mi 11 is rather simple in that we’re only really dealing with to modules: the 108MP main camera, and the 13MP ultra-wide unit. This creates an interesting situation in that we’re dealing with a flagship device without a dedicated optical telephoto, which is becoming a bit of a rarity nowadays, but also not exactly unique – Samsung’s S20 and S21 series also had no such unit and relied on the 64MP secondary sensor. Xiaomi here has the opportunity to use the ultra-high-resolution main camera for crop magnification.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( )( ) ]

Starting with the first scene here, there’s a few different unique aspects to the camera. In the predefined zoom stages in the camera UI, 2x, 5x and 10x, we’re seeing different resolution results. At 2x and 5x, unfortunately it looks like Xiaomi is still doing digital upscaling of the 27MP binned sensor input. This is alright at 2x, however the quality is a bit disappointing at 5x.

At 10x, however, the phone produces a 12MP picture. This isn’t a native crop but still a up-scaled result, but it’s out of the 108MP of the camera. Comparing the full frame 108MP picture to the 10x result actually ends up not much different in terms of details, however there’s large differences in exposure and metering.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( )( ) ]

This method of zooming in can be extremely competitive when we compare the Mi 11 against all other devices which feature a more traditional 12MP class sensor setup, the Mi 11 here for example destroys the iPhone 12 Pro’s camera setup, and also does better than the 64MP unit of the S21.

Lower zoom levels are also surprisingly good, albeit don’t compete with some of the optical modules in the line-up.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( )( ) ]

In scenarios where more dynamic range is required, this method of zooming doesn’t fare as well as the 0.8µm pixels of the sensor don’t have sufficient capability to capture the dynamic range throughout the scene. Periscope modules such as on Huawei’s phones or the S21 Ultra are much higher quality.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( )( ) ]

In some situations, the phone produces fuzzier telephoto pictures than usual, the OIS really needs to be highly performant to be able to keep up with the minute movements required to get a sharp 108MP capture needed for better quality telephotos.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( )( ) ]

In this scene, the phone’s exposures in the telephoto ranges really didn’t do well, but admittedly it’s also a very demanding scene and few phones were able to generate a satisfactory result.

Doing The Best With a Simple Solution

In general, the Mi 11’s telephoto and zoom capabilities are above average – even though the phone has no telephoto module whatsoever. The 108MP main sensor and its default 27MP resolution is generally sufficient for the general use-case 2x magnification pictures without too much noticeable detail loss, while at longer focal lengths the module switches over to from out of the native 108MP capture modes. It’s satisfactory and adequate solution, although it doesn’t compete with the more advanced telephoto module solutions.

While telephoto is interesting, on a phone like this what’s most important is the quality of the main camera at its native 1x modes, as well as the ultra-wide module. HDR processing this generation should have changed given that we’re using a new SoC with a new ISP, with possibly different algorithms.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ] [ Note20U(S) ]
[ iPhone 12 Pro ] [ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

In this demanding scene, we’re seeing that the new optics on the Mi 11 fare much better than on the Mi 10 Pro, producing apparently less optical flares in the sun and also producing more contrast than the predecessor.

It’s also immediately visible that the Mi 11 is able to produce a more natural colour temperature compared to the Mi 11, this applies to the main sensor as well as the ultra-wide module. What I don’t think is as great is the details in the shadows, where the Mi 11 more notably clips details to black.

In terms of dynamic range, the Mi 11 does well, but it’s noticeable that it falls behind the competition with less details in the highlights and shadows.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ] [ Note20U(S) ]
[ iPhone 12 Pro ] [ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

In this scene, we again see the Mi 11 produce a better colour temperature than the Mi 10 Pro, and the phone also has better dynamic range versus its predecessor, but again lags behind the competition when it comes to pure HDR detail recovery in the highlights and shadows.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ][ Note20U(S) ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 (  ) ]

Next up, the most visible generational improvement is again the colour temperature which is more accurate with the Mi 11 now.

This is also a good scene to talk about the detail capture of the Mi 11. The Xiaomi devices are the only phones which actually capture auto-shots at 27MP resolution, and in that sense, are actually far superior to all other devices in the market right now which capture at 12MP, especially against those which also employ artificial detail sharpening.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ] [ Note20U(S) ]
[ iPhone 12 Pro ] [ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 (  ) ]

In less demanding HDR shots like here, the Mi 11 again shows minute improvements over the Mi 10 Pro, I notice the colour temperature again being much better, and there’s also slight improvements in the shadows.

The 27MP picture gets a tremendous amount of natural detail – the S21 Ultra appears to be sharper at first glance but comparing the textures 1:1 to the Mi 11 and the Fuji results showcase that it’s more of a detail enhancement in post-processing.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ] [ Note20U(S) ]
[ iPhone 12 Pro ] [ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 (  ) ]

The ultra-wide on the Mi 11, although not as strong in the dynamic range as the S21 series, is able to produce a much more natural rendition of the details, although we do see not so strong optics as there are quite a lot of chromatic aberrations and fringing happening towards the edges of the frame.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ] [ Note20U(S) ]
[ iPhone 12 Pro ] [ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 (  ) ]

This shot had an extremely stark difference between the Mi 11 and the Mi 10, where the new phone blows the old out of the water in terms of the end-result – at least on the main camera as the ultra-wide isn’t that different.

Although the shadow retention isn’t the best amongst the phones, the highlights and overall metering on the Mi 11 was amongst the best of all phones in my view.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ] [ Note20U(S) ]
[ iPhone 12 Pro ] [ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

The next shot on the main camera also what pops out is the better colour temperature of the Mi 11 compared to its predecessor. Details are strong and natural throughout the frame, lacking any of the post-processing we see on other phones. 

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ] [ Note20U(S) ]
[ iPhone 12 Pro ] [ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

When it comes to quite flat scenarios with little dynamic range, the Mi 11 really shines in terms of resolution as it differentiates itself with its 27MP default mode, and here it just captures way more information than any other phone.

Overall Daylight Verdict: Very Competent

The Xiaomi Mi 11 doesn’t have a very fancy camera setup in that its main module and the ultra-wide have to carry the phone through all everyday scenarios. Although it’s a simple solution, it also does it quite well and consistently, even though it might not reach as far as some competing devices.

What I found to be quite good for this generation was just the overall better colour temperature rendition of the Mi 11 which popped up to me as the most evident change compared to the Mi 10 Pro, which is extremely welcome.

HDR this generation has also improved, although there are competitor devices which can do better – but the Mi 11 is a top-performing contender still.

What really differentiates the Mi 11 and Xiaomi’s phones in general compared to the competition is the fact that the main camera is just much higher resolution than the competition. The 2×2 binning of the 108MP sensor results in 27MP auto images. While these are not pixel-perfect, they are just far superior to that of any other phone’s 12MP shots, particularly against devices which have more artificial sharpening and structure enhancements in post-processing.

Overall I think the Mi 11 is an extremely capable day-light shooter, and fits well within the price-range of the device.

Low-light photography of the Mi 11 on paper shouldn’t be exactly a strong-point of the device: Due to the way the main sensor is 2×2 binning to 27MP at the lowest resolution, it means that it effectively has smaller pixels than comparable 12MP shooters, or even the other 1/1.3”-class sensors from Samsung or even Huawei. On top of this, the Mi 11 has a smaller aperture versus the Mi 10 Pro in the optics. Still, the new phone has a newer SoC so maybe there’s some new processing algorithms which could come to play in terms of generationally improving the low-light capabilities of the phone.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11  – [ Mi 10 Pro  – ]
[ S21U(S)  – ] [ S21U(E)  – ]
[ S21(E)  – ] [ S20+(E)  – ]
[ Note20U(S)  – ] [ iPhone 12 Pro  – ]
[ Mate40 Pro  – ] [ Pixel 5  – ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

In the first scene here, we see a very different result when looking at the Mi 11 compared to the Mi 10 Pro, and it’s actually not a positive one. The Mi 11 regresses in terms of dynamic range, posting brighter highlights (than they should be) and darker shadows with less detail. The EXIF says the Mi 11 had a twice as long exposure – though the loss of detail in the shadows points out that the night mode processing is very different.

Although the Mi 11 has strong natural detail retention, the competition just does better in terms of bringing out details in the darkness.

The ultra-wide’s night mode hardly makes any difference on the Mi 11 which is a bit weird, as the Mi 10’s was quite adequate.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

In terms of colour temperature, the Mi 11 was quite off in terms of the magenta hue. Where’s still reasonable amount of even light, the Mi 11 again does really well with details due its higher resolution sensor.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

Here, although the Mi 11 overdid it in terms of the colour temperature compensation and really isn’t representative of the hue of the sodium vapour lamps, the Mi 11 still somehow manages a very good compositions in the tone curves.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

In terms of raw dynamic range in night mode, the Mi 11 doesn’t fare as well as some of the competition, however it’s still above average, and it does a much better tone-mapping than the Mi 10, maintaining better mid-tone contrast whereas the predecessor tended to make things very flat.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ]
[ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ]
[ Note20U(S) ] [ iPhone 12 Pro ]
[ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

In even more low-light conditions, the Mi 11 does very well in the overall scene. The phone prefers to bring out shadows rather than maintaining highlight details, but that’s generally acceptable for the end-result.

Unfortunately the ultra-wide isn’t really usable here, the Samsung phones and their superior sensor as well as Huawei are well ahead in terms of quality.

Click for full image
[ Mi 11 ] [ Mi 10 Pro ]
[ S21U(S) ] [ S21U(E) ][ S21(E) ] [ S20+(E) ] [ Note20U(S) ]
[ iPhone 12 Pro ] [ Mate40 Pro ] [ Pixel 5 ]
[ X-T30 ( ) ]

Finally, a scene that I did just for fun was the night sky when in handheld mode. It’s not really a realistic shooting mode, but it does show some of the processing styles of the phones. The Mi 11 has better noise control than the Mi 10 but due to the exposure being twice as long we’re seeing obvious ghosting and mirror images in the stars – either that, or the image stacking algorithm from Xiaomi isn’t quite as strong as the competition.

Low-light verdict: Not the best, but still quite good

The general conclusion for low-light capabilities of the Mi 11 is that it’s a plenty adequate shooter with some strengths as well as some weaknesses. Xiaomi’s processing isn’t quite as strong as Samsung’s, but does better than other vendors bar Huawei. The capabilities of the sensor are still plenty, and in general it’s a competent shooter. On the ultra-wide module however, the sensor really is far too weak, and even night mode cannot save it, producing images that are far too dark and barely usable compared to other high-end competitors.

Xiaomi’s flagship devices have always been quite interesting as alongside Samsung they’re always the first amongst a new generation of phones each release cycle. This means that at least from a technical standpoint, they have far fewer competition at this point in time before other vendors catch up with their release in the coming months. The Mi 11 is a real step-up for Xiaomi as it combines a few key changes that do differentiate it quite a lot to last year’s Mi 10 series.

The design of the Mi 11 – at least from the front of the phone, is rather iterative over the Mi 10, however with a few changes such as the now flowing frame edges and the front glass panel that is now also slightly curved at the top and bottom of the phone. Xiaomi has been able to reduce the weight and thickness of the phone which in my view is a general positive to the ergonomics of the phone.

The big new upgrade of this generation has been the display. A new 1440p 120Hz panel really augments the device from previous generation iterations and in terms of picture quality it’s absolutely a phone that competes with the best of that’s currently available in the market.

The one aspect where the display doesn’t keep up is in terms of its under-the-hood technology. It doesn’t feature any VRR – either software or hardware, and this means that the power consumption at 120Hz is quite bad. On top of that, the phone seems to suffer from quite high base power consumption even at 60Hz, well beyond that of other phones, and this results in less than expected battery life for the device. It’s not unusable, but it’s definitely not competitive with other same-class devices in the market.

Performance of the Mi 11 is fantastic thanks to the Snapdragon 888. As of right now, it very much could be said that it’s the fastest Android device in the market, due to how Xiaomi is being more aggressive with the thermal envelope of the phone, compared to Samsung. There’s still doubts about the generational gaming performance improvements here, as it still cannot fully harness the new Snapdragon’s full performance for prolonged periods, but it’s likely the best we’re going to see for 2021 Android phones.

The camera performance of the Mi 11 is quite strong. In daylight, the camera’s ability to capture in 27MP mode means that it results in pictures that are of higher detail than anything the competition is able to offer, although dynamic range doesn’t quite go as far. Xiaomi has also a much more natural look to its details, and aren’t as over-sharpened or processed as other competitors’ results. Generationally, Xiaomi has also improved its colour temperature processing which in my view is one of the biggest changes over the Mi 10 series, and that’s a bigger positive.

In terms of telephoto – because the device doesn’t have a dedicated module, you’d think that it doesn’t do as well in this aspect of photography. That’s actually not quite correct, as Xiaomi is able to take advantage of the 108MP main sensor’s sheer resolution at higher magnifications. Even at a 2x magnification, the Mi 11 tends to do better than other devices in the market. Of course, it can’t compete against periscope implementations at far longer focal lengths.

In low-light, the Mi 11 is an adequate performer and above-average, though there are competitors which do better. Particularly the ultra-wide angle is lagging behind the superior hardware of some of the competition.

A winner at 749€, though availability is scarce

The most attractive aspect of the Mi 11 is its price. Starting at 749€ MSRP, the phone offers a very compelling package that I think rationalises itself against the nearest competition. The nearest competition of course is the Galaxy S21+ which lands in at 849€ at the time of writing. The Xiaomi has a higher quality screen, generally better main camera module (though worse ultra-wide), a more premium design and build, a faster SoC (In Exynos markets), however it’s likely to have notable worse battery life.

For our readers in the US of course, the phone won’t be officially available at all unless you somehow get an imported unit, so it’s not really a viable option for consideration.

What’s actually more of an issue is the availability of the phone in other western markets. At the time of writing the Mi 11 isn’t readily available yet in Europe, so while we’ve reviewed the phone and deemed it good, it’s still very hard to get one. If that situation changes in the coming weeks, then the Mi 11 should be a strong contender.