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Xiaomi Mi 11 review: undercutting Samsung

Who’s Samsung’s greatest cell competitor? The primary identify that involves thoughts is Apple, after all. However most individuals aren’t actually within the behavior of switching forwards and backwards between iOS and Android with every cellphone buy. So who’s it?

Samsung is constantly ranked as the largest cellphone maker on the planet. Huawei is often quantity two, largely due to its gross sales in China the place Samsung is a nonentity. And quantity three proper now’s Xiaomi.

The rationale I carry this up is as a result of Xiaomi’s newest flagship cellphone, the Mi 11, just isn’t solely extraordinarily good in its personal proper however a cellphone that arguably outflanks Samsung’s newest lineup. It prices lower than the $799 Galaxy S21 in markets the place it’s offered, however in some ways, it has extra in frequent with the $1,199 S21 Extremely.

The Mi 11 could be a robust competitor to any S21 cellphone in the event you noticed the 2 subsequent to one another in a US service retailer. The one drawback is you gained’t.

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Verge Rating

8.5 out of 10

Good Stuff

  • Wonderful display
  • Nice efficiency
  • Spectacular worth

Unhealthy Stuff

  • Good however not class-leading digicam
  • Barely odd nook bezels
  • …not out there in all places

The Mi 11 isn’t notably thrilling to take a look at, however it’s well-built and solidly designed. It follows Xiaomi’s typical glass sandwich blueprint, with a frosted glass again panel and an iridescent however pretty understated gradient end. The most important visible flourish is the squircle-shaped digicam bump, which options three distinct layers stepping as much as the big main lens.

With a 6.8-inch display, this isn’t going to be a cellphone for individuals who want smaller units, however it manages to really feel comparatively svelte all the identical. The slight chin beneath the show may be very skinny, and the display curves gently on the perimeters. At 8.1mm thick and weighing 196 grams, it’s noticeably thinner and a bit lighter than final yr’s Mi 10, with a barely smaller (however nonetheless massive) 4,600mAh battery.

The Mi 11 greater than passes the “appears like a flagship” check

Which will properly have one thing to do with its Snapdragon 888 processor, which is Qualcomm’s high-end chip for 2021; in contrast to final yr’s 865, the 5G modem is built-in straight into the SoC, saving house and energy. My Mi 11 evaluate unit pairs the 888 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, although costlier fashions have choices for 12GB and 256GB, respectively.

In use, the Mi 11 greater than passes the “appears like a flagship” check. As anticipated primarily based on the spec sheet, it’s as quick and responsive as any Android cellphone in the marketplace. There’s a robust haptics system, and the Harman Kardon-branded stereo audio system sound good, although I’m unsure they’ve something in frequent with my long-serving SoundSticks. Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 software program relies on Android 11, and it’s much more streamlined than earlier iterations; Xiaomi has come a good distance with its software program design.

Battery life is robust: I bought nearly precisely 5 hours of display time on one latest day of testing, and greater than three of these hours concerned utilizing the cellphone to take images and movies in shiny, direct daylight, all with the display at its most 120Hz and 1440p settings.

The Mi 11 has an almost similar display to the Samsung S21 Extremely.

That brings me to the show. If the Mi 11’s display isn’t similar to the much-vaunted OLED panel present in Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Extremely, it’s extraordinarily related. Each are 6.8-inch curved LTPO OLED panels with a 120Hz refresh fee, a 3200 x 1440 decision, and a most brightness of 1,500 nits. What issues is that the Mi 11’s show is extraordinarily good, which it’s. It’s sharp and clean, with wonderful distinction and shade replica, and the additional brightness is noticeable on sunny days. I do know not everyone seems to be a fan of curved display edges, however these are about as delicate because it will get, and I didn’t have any points with visible distortion or unintended contact enter.

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My solely criticism in regards to the display is a bizarre one: the corners are minimize at a extra dramatic angle than the perimeters of the cellphone itself, leading to a bezel that intrudes greater than it in all probability ought to. I’m unsure why Xiaomi designed the cellphone this fashion — the in any other case related Mi 10 didn’t do that — however the impact is kind of odd. Nonetheless, it’s not one thing I’ve actually observed since I first began utilizing the cellphone.

I’ll additionally add that the optical in-display fingerprint sensor within the Mi 11 is typically noticeably slower than what I are inclined to see in telephones from opponents like Vivo and Oppo. It’s not often inaccurate, however the half-second it usually takes to acknowledge my fingerprint can generally really feel nearer to a second, and people split-second delays do add up.

The Mi 11’s major digicam makes use of the identical sensor as final yr’s Mi 10.

One space Xiaomi the place appears to have saved cash on the Mi 11 is its digicam system. The first sensor is similar 108-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL Shiny HMX from the Mi 10, which Xiaomi says it co-developed with Samsung’s element division. It’s backed up by a 13-megapixel ultrawide and a 5-megapixel “telemacro,” which means there’s no actual telephoto functionality except you need to get actually near your topic.

Regardless of the pedestrian {hardware}, I’m usually pleased with how the Mi 11 cameras carry out, notably contemplating its worth. Element and dynamic vary are sturdy in good gentle, with pretty impartial shade rendition, and low-light efficiency additionally holds up properly. The most important weak point is dim lighting conditions that fall between these two extremes, which might get noisy.

The massive, high-resolution sensor has its advantages, however there are clear drawbacks. You would possibly worth the truth that it presents shallower depth of discipline (and not using a portrait mode) than most different telephones, for instance, however you’ll additionally must cope with often busy bokeh or areas of the scene that seem unexpectedly out of focus. And whereas the 108-megapixel sensor can render numerous element, it’s completely not an alternative to a telephoto lens; photos taken at even 2x digital zoom exhibit numerous artifacts.

I wouldn’t usually even point out the macro lens, which is commonly a ineffective 2-megapixel sensor thrown at a cellphone simply so the maker can declare a triple- or quad-camera system, however the Mi 11’s 5-megapixel 50mm-equivalent unit is a bit higher than most. It really autofocuses, for one factor, which makes it a lot simpler to seize what you’re attempting to see shut up. I nonetheless don’t really feel the necessity for an excessive macro lens on my cellphone, however I used to be a minimum of ready to make use of it to take a look at the tiny PlayStation icons texture on my PS5 controller. So there’s that.

(*11*)Total, the Mi 11 digicam system is greater than match for objective, however it’s additionally maybe the one factor about this cellphone that doesn’t go toe-to-toe with costlier flagships. The shortage of a telephoto lens hurts it, and the last-gen picture sensor has its quirks.

Match and end of the Mi 11 are similar to any premium cellphone you would possibly discover.

My greatest takeaway from the Mi 11 is that Samsung is fortunate Xiaomi doesn’t promote telephones within the US. The Galaxy S21 begins at a full 100 euros greater than the €749 Mi 11, regardless of having a smaller, lower-resolution display and a plastic again. The identical goes for the S21 Plus.

The €1,399 S21 Extremely is the place the comparability will get fascinating. Samsung’s cellphone is nearly twice the value, however Xiaomi matches or beats it spec-for-spec besides on the battery and the digicam. The S21 is likely to be the higher all-around cellphone for individuals who can afford it, but when I lived in Europe, I do know which one I’d contemplate to be a greater worth for the cash.

That’s the rub, although. At this level, Europe is without doubt one of the few locations the place Xiaomi and Samsung really compete with each other on the excessive finish. Till that adjustments, flagship Android cellphone patrons within the US gained’t have a lot cause to contemplate Xiaomi a part of the competitors.

The Mi 11 isn’t a cellphone so spectacular that I might urge you to leap via import hoops to be able to purchase one. It’s simply an excellent cellphone that can be an especially compelling choice in any market the place it’s offered. For those who occur to stay in considered one of them, it has my sturdy suggestion.

Pictures by Sam Byford / The Verge

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