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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

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We would believe anyone who told us that the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra was a parody on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro Max superphones. The design and features of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra are reminiscent of luxury smartphones, but they add one feature that almost seems sarcastic.

Jump TO…

Prices and availability

Design

Display

Cameras

Performance and specifications

Software

Battery Life

Should it be bought?

The rear camera bump is a Xiaomi material memo that appears to state “You want more?” It is huge. The three cameras are powerful and have large lenses. There’s also a secondary display of 1.1 inches.

  • Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (256GB Black) at Newegg for $999(opens in new tab)

What is the point of having a second screen on this phone? We don’t know. Mobiles have managed to survive without rear displays so far (no offense Nubia). This is just one of many unnecessary features that the Mi 11 Ultra offers – but it’s not the only one.

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This is the biggest problem with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. The phone’s weight actively detracts the user experience in many ways. It is difficult to place the phone flat on wireless charging mats. The phone also doesn’t fit in pockets. And cases aren’t designed to protect phones that large. The second-screen functions can be either useless (an almost non-functional display) or annoying (music controls occasionally pop up in an area that is easy to misplace).

The Mi 11 Ultra’s high price is likely due to the large rear camera bump. However, the top specs of the phone probably do not help. We couldn’t help but imagine a version with a smaller rear camera bump and a better design. It’s the Mi 11.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra looks very much like the Mi 11. Although the Ultra has a larger camera bump, faster charging, and better cameras, the phones still have many similarities. Both screens have 2K resolution and refresh rates of 120Hz. The chipsets, rear materials, fingerprint scanner, reverse wireless charging speed, audio capabilities, and chipsets are all identical. However, the standard phone is much more affordable.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is still a fantastic device, provided you can overlook its most obvious flaws, which is much easier said than done.

The Mi 11 Ultra has three rear cameras: one ultra-wide, one standard, and one periscope zoom. Each camera can record at resolutions of 48MP, 50MP, and 48MP. All three cameras are top-of the-line, with the exception of the last camera which can achieve 10x hybrid zoom or 120x digital zoom.

We took beautiful pictures thanks to the hardware displayed here. However, there are a few issues with certain modes and one of the lenses.

The Mi 11 Ultra’s Snapdragon 888 processor is extremely fast to use. This is great for gaming but also for editing photos and videos. The powerful processor can sometimes be affected by overheating.

The display is also a great feature. It has a 2K resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. This makes it look amazing, no matter if you’re watching Netflix or scrolling through your favorite social media sites. We also found the charging speed to be extremely useful. The 67W wired powering charges the phone in a matter of seconds.

You’ll likely have the same thoughts as us when you read this review – we were astonished at the phone’s design and specs, and we are ready to give it top marks.

After using it as our standard phone for a month, cracks began to form. These were not literal, but equally troubling. This is why we have a mixed opinion about the phone. It’s still a great phone. In fact, it barely makes it onto our list of best Xiaomi phones at the time we wrote this review. But it’s not the top.

Price and availability for Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a very expensive phone. It costs PS1,199/AU$1,799 (roughly $1,600), though Xiaomi does not sell phones in the US. You’ll be able to see that the handset is more expensive in the UK than it is in Australia if you do your price conversions quickly. It’s therefore a better deal in Australia.

The phone competes with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, priced at $1,199 / PlayStation1,149 / AU$1,849 and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, priced at $1,099 / PlayStation1,099 / AU$1,849. However, unlike Apple and Samsung, Xiaomi has never had a global-released phone at this price point.

Design

  • Large body that is difficult to fit into pockets
  • Large camera bump with rear display
  • Corning Gorilla Glass Victus

This phone is huge. Even without the massive rear bump, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is huge for a phone. It’s a formidable weapon.

The dimensions of the phone are 164.3×74.6×8.4mm. Although the camera bump is not included, we estimate that it increases the thickness to over 10mm. The phone weighs 234g. You’ll find only heavier handsets in the world of huge gaming phones.

The power button and volume rocker are located on the right edge of your phone. We found them easy to access. The bottom edge has a USB-C port but no 3.5mm headset jack. Sorry wired audio lovers. There’s no expandable storage because the phone has a dual SIM slot but no microSD card slot.

It sounds like the phone is protected on paper. Corning Gorilla Glass Victus is the back of the phone’s glass. This is a toughened glass that is not meant to be smudge. It is also IP68-protected against dust and water.

Let’s now get to the elephant in the room, or the elephant on your phone. Because it houses three large lenses and a secondary display and is visible from the rear of the phone, the camera bump is quite impressive.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is difficult to fit into a small pocket. We found ourselves sometimes carrying it in our backpack, as it was too big for our jeans. The case covers only a small portion of the phone and leaves the bump exposed. This made it possible to fear that the camera and mini display could be damaged by a fall.

The bump has some great features. It could be used to attach the phone to our laptop. This was a great way to multitask. We also could use the bump for gripping the phone while holding it in landscape mode, a la a Kindle Oasis. The bump’s novelty is more than compensated by its annoyances.

Display

  • 6.81-inch 120Hz LCD with 1440×3200 resolution
  • Screen looks great
  • Rear 1.1 inch display with a few functions

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra displays exactly the same screen as the vanilla Mi 11. It’s 6.81 inches in size, and has a cutout for the front camera at the top-left corner.

The phone is large enough to have one of our largest displays; it’s more than just “Ultra” in name.

The screen has a resolution of 1440×3200, which is more than the 1080p standard. It also features a 120Hz refresh rate and HDR 10+ support.

You can also use the in-screen fingerprint scanner. This piece of tech has been a problem with Xiaomi phones in the past. They can be temperamental and sometimes difficult to use. The Mi 11 Ultra does not have these issues, but we often had to lift our thumbs to get the scanner recognize our print.

What about the rear 1.1 inch screen? This is the same screen as the Xiaomi Mi Band 6, but unlike that multi-talented sportsband, the rear panel is used only for three tasks.

Its primary purpose is to display the time and battery level. Although that sounds great, the device doesn’t actually stay on all the time. It switches off after a while so it’s not very useful.

You can also use the rear display as a viewfinder when taking photos of people with your rear cameras. This allows you to see their faces and how they look. However, the 1.1-inch display is difficult to see from far away so it doesn’t work well for this purpose. Plus, the viewfinder works only in default Photo mode and not Portrait. This would be what you would use to snap a picture of someone.

Finally, and again in theory – when you play music, a skip forward, skip back, play/pause, and play/pause buttons appear on the rear panel. In theory, these should allow you to control your music but we found them to be the most irritating aspect of the phone.

These buttons would only appear occasionally – sometimes, we’d flip our phone and they wouldn’t appear. Other times, they’d be active when we held the phone in regular fashion with the rear screen facing us.

This was annoying. It was easy to press the rear display accidentally and skip a track. We’d often be holding the phone in a normal way, but our finger would accidentally touch the rear display to pause or skip the song. This was even more frustrating when the phone was in our pocket. We’d walk along and listen to music while we did our normal business, only for our song to randomly start over or our podcast to jump ahead by 10 seconds.

We are most annoyed by the music player problem, despite all the other complaints about the rear bump. Although it may seem like a minor issue, considering how many people listen to music on their phones and how often the problem has been experienced, it will be a problem that many phone users will have to deal with time after time.

Cameras

  • 50MP main, 48MP ultra-wide, 48MP periscope, 20MP selfie cameras
  • Most cameras are reliable and offer many modes
  • Macro images and ultra-wide are questionable

Three rear cameras are included in the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, which is the same as the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and one less than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, OnePlus 9 Pro or OnePlus 9 Pro. However, quantity does not necessarily equate with quality when it comes smartphone photography – it’s often far from the truth.

These include 50MP f/2.0 main camera, 48MP F/2.2 ultra-wide, and 48MP F/4.1 periscope cameras. The latter has a 5x optical zoom and 120x digital zoom. A 20MP f/2.2 front facing snapper is also available.

The main camera takes stunning pictures. They are bright and bold with lots of detail and natural depth effects. The Mi 11’s 108MP snapper clearly shows that Xiaomi has made the right decision to prioritise large sensor sizes over high resolution.

Images were sharp in well-lit conditions and excellently exposed. As you will see in the “Camera samples” section, it is difficult to fault photos taken using the main camera.

Next is the periscope camera which can zoom in. The 5x optical zoom was a great option. We were amazed at the quality of snaps taken with it. These photos were as bold and detailed and similar to un-zoomed pictures. We also found that 5x zoom was better than 1x for photos. It improved the framing and quality of the snaps.

The quality drops when you zoom in too far, especially towards the 120x zoom limit. Although these zoom limits are nice, the images are rarely very useful. The hybrid pictures at 10x zoom that combine optical and digital zoom are quite impressive. We took sharp photos with this smaller range.

We shared our “Two-minute Review” of the camera experience. While regular and zoomed photos were great, macro and ultra-wide shots, which were both captured with the 48MP ultrawide lens, were disappointing.

Wide-angle photos were noticeable distorted at the edges. Horizons and subjects appeared curved or barrel-like towards edges. This is probably due to the fact that the phone has a wider angle ultra-wide lens than others. You can crop out on photos to remove most of the distortion. We still found this lens to be a bit too wide for our liking.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 featured a great telemacro lens that allowed for close-up photos, which the Mi 11 Lite 5G also used. However, the Mi 11 Ultra uses a more common technique, using the ultra-wide camera to take close-up shots. The Mi 11 Ultra proves that this technique is rarely successful.

Macro photos suffer from the same distortion issues as ultra-wide shots, which can make them look bloated and bulbous. We were unable to take any macro shots that we were proud of and found ourselves longing after the Mi 11’s Telemacro lens.

The selfie camera at the front is quite good. It took great pictures and Portrait mode did a great job of balancing the highlights and shadows. However, it blurred the background a bit by default. We found that we used the main cameras to take selfies and the rear viewfinder to compose them. This way, the depth effect looked natural and colors were bold. The pictures were also high enough to be cropped if needed.

Video recording can be done at speeds up to 8K at 24fps and 4K up until 60fps. Video recording is done using the main camera. With all the depth- and color-benefits we have already mentioned, video taken on the Mi 11 Ultra was among the best ever captured on a smartphone. While the device did heat up during shooting, this was not an issue for longer takes.

The Mi 11 Ultra offers many of the same photo settings as the Mi 11 Standard. You can use ‘Movie effects’ to create different video effects. Sky editing allows you to change the weather effects on a photo by using AI. VLOG mode automatically cuts video clips together. The Ultra doesn’t appear to have any new tricks.

Performance and specifications

  • Snapdragon 8888 with 12GB RAM
  • High performance
  • A problem with overheating can cause a reduction in phone’s power

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, like most high-end Android phones, uses the Snapdragon 888 chipset. It is paired with 12GB RAM. These internals make the phone powerful enough to handle all sorts of tasks, at least according to our daily experience.

The phone scored 3519 on the Geekbench 5 benchmark testing, which is roughly the same as the Mi 11 at 3569, and the iPhone 11Pro Max score at 3424. Our testing involves running the test three more times and then calculating the average score. We ran the test again and found that the score had dropped.

We ran the test five times and found that the score dropped between 100 to 350 points each time. By the time we stopped testing, the scores were comparable with the Moto G100, which is more affordable, and the Sony Xperia.

This is a software bug. Although we can’t be certain, we think it is a software bug. We noticed that the phone heated up quickly during our month with it – multiple TechRadar testers confirmed this. The phone got really hot while running the Geekbench 5 test. This is likely to be the reason for the declining results.

The phone’s performance may drop so quickly that it is dangerous for power-users. If you are a heavy user of video or play a lot of games, you might notice the phone becoming less responsive. This issue has not been reported in any other Snapdragon 888 phones.

We didn’t experience any problems gaming, no matter how many games we played of COD Mobile or PUBG Mobile. If you are like us and don’t play too much at once, heat management and performance issues won’t be a problem. Our experience isn’t exactly what the numbers say.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra comes with dual stereo speakers. This means that audio is great no matter if you are listening to Spotify loudly, watching a movie on your phone, or making a video or voice calls.

Software

  • Android 11 with Xiaomi MIUI
  • MIUI has lots of bugs
  • Many customization options

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra runs Android 11 and has the MIUI user interface added on top.

We’ve seen MIUI on other Xiaomi phones. It can be both great and frustrating at the same time, as we’ve seen. It is quite attractive and offers many customization options that allow you to customize the look of your phone.

MIUI can be a bit buggy. There are visual glitches with the swipe-down menu and notifications can sometimes be sent multiple times. You may also get ‘phantom notifications’ that make your phone vibrate and light up even though no message has been received.

Another issue is MIUI’s Bloatware. These are third-party apps you will likely delete. A security scan popup appears when you install new apps. It can also appear above and beyond what you’re currently doing.

Another recurring problem was that the phone would not respond to our typing, sometimes taking several seconds. Although it wasn’t related to the overheating issue mentioned above, it was frustrating when it happened, especially when using WhatsApp and Notes.

MIUI is a controversial topic among Xiaomi phone owners. Some love it, while others find it difficult to use. However, it’s relatively easy to install custom OS if you have the technical skills or are able to follow a YouTube tutorial.

Battery life

  • The 5,000mAh battery is good for about one day of usage
  • 67W wireless and wired charging, 10W reverse power
  • Wireless powering awkward requires a big camera bump

There are many accounts of the Xiaomi Mi11 Ultra’s battery life. Some say it’s great, others criticize it as poor. Based on our experience, we would be closer to the former.

Although the phone’s 5,000mAh capacity battery is quite large, it can still keep up with the 120Hz display and powerful processors. We often found that the phone was unable to last more than a day without charging.

We’d typically finish the day with between 10% to 20% remaining on our phones, while more frequent use would see it completely empty by the time we got to bed. To be able to charge the phone at night, it took a lot of use.

The phone’s power consumption increased dramatically when it got hot. This is what we have described in the section ‘Performance & specs’. It’s something you should keep in mind if your are a power-user.

Although we can’t put battery life on the ‘Cons” list, there are many phones that don’t last for more than a day. However, we wouldn’t recommend this phone to anyone who suffers from frequent battery anxiety.

The 67W wired solution charges the phone in just half an hour. Wireless charging is also available at the same speed. However, there’s a catch.

We tried the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra wireless charger with a camera bump. It prevented us from placing the device flat. Even when we did, it was painfully slow to charge.

You can also use the reverse wireless charging of 10W to charge your phone to charge Qi-compatible earbuds, watches, and other devices.

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