Review, Smartphone

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Review: Amazing Camera, Fast Performance, Subpar Software

I am very impressed with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. It has a very capable, very far-reaching camera system; fast performance courtesy of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset; as well as an equally fast (and sharp) 1440p AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate.

Which is why it’s so disheartening that the software experience of the Mi 11 Ultra is still subpar. Don’t get me wrong, I loved reviewing this flagship phone, but its software definitely doesn’t match other (excellent) aspects of the device. So…is the Mi 11 Ultra worth it then? Of course; but not if you value software experience above all else.

What It Is

Display6.81-inch WQHD+ AMOLED (3200 x 1440), 120Hz
1.1-inch 294 x 126 AMOLED (on camera module)
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 888 2.84GHz octa-core
GPUAdreno 660
Storage256GB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)50MP f/1.95, OIS, Dual Pixel Pro AF
48MP f/2.2 (ultra-wide angle), PDAF
48MP f/4.1 (telephoto), OIS, PDAF, 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom
Camera (front)20MP f/2.2
5,000mAh, 67W wired and wireless fast charging
Dimensions164.3 x 74.6 x 8.38 mm
OSMIUI 12 based on Android 11
Bluetooth 5.2
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6e
USB Type-C

Evidently, the Mi 11 Ultra has all the hardware you’d want out of a flagship-class smartphone. Now, retailing at RM4,299, it is definitely one of Xiaomi’s most expensive phones to date, but you do get your money’s worth – head on to the next section to find out why.

The Good Stuff

Let’s start with arguably the best feature of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra: camera performance. The triple camera system can truly deliver great-looking shots, especially at higher levels of zoom. Judge for yourself with these samples shots – the 120x digital zoom is particularly impressive.

However, while the 48MP telephoto sensor works great in adequate lighting (not surprisingly), it does struggle quite a bit in low light conditions. As you can see in the shots below, it can’t capture as much details in more challenging lighting, and even with optical image stabilisation, it still takes some effort to get blur-free images.

Fortunately, the Mi 11 Ultra’s 50MP primary camera still performs great regardless of lighting situation, and the same applies (for the most part) to the 48MP ultra-wide angle shooter as well.

Beyond its camera, the performance of the Mi 11 Ultra is worth highlighting as well. Powered by a Snapdragon 888 chipset, this is without a doubt a very fast smartphone. There’s no sign of sluggishness at all throughout my time with the phone, and gaming on it is simply a joy.

Further enhancing the user experience of the Mi 11 Ultra is its 6.81-inch 1440p AMOLED screen with a fast 120Hz refresh rate. Not only does the high refresh rate gives the impression of a smoother interface – not that this is a sluggish phone by any means – the panel quality is fantastic too.

While I wouldn’t say the Mi 11 Ultra’s AMOLED panel can rival, say, the screen quality of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, it’s still a very pleasant display to look at. This being an AMOLED panel, it offers vibrant colours, deep, true blacks, and wide viewing angles. It’s a screen that fits a flagship phone of this calibre.

As for battery life, the Mi 11 Ultra does quite well in this regard. On average, I can get about five hours of screen on time on a single charge. Of course, this isn’t exactly fantastic battery life, but for a phone this big with a sharp 1440p screen, this is quite respectable battery life.

Plus, this phone can charge up very quickly. Within 30 minutes of charging with the provided 67W charger, the battery got close to 90% from completely empty – that’s incredibly fast charging speed.

So the Mi 11 Ultra has a lot of good things going for it – what about its shortcomings? Well, let’s get to that in the following section.

The Bad Stuff

As is always the case with Xiaomi smartphones, the Mi 11 Ultra’s biggest shortcoming is its subpar software experience. I had some apps randomly crash on me throughout the review period, not to mention the fact that the phone has a tendency to mix up notifications from other apps.

These software-centric issues, combined with quite a number of bloatware pre-installed, really does blemish the overall software experience of the Mi 11 Ultra. Yes, these are by no means huge problems, but this is not a budget-friendly smartphone. With a higher asking price – RM4,299, to be specific – it has to meet higher expectations as well.

Aside from that, the Mi 11 Ultra also has a tendency to heat up quite a bit in longer gaming sessions. In fact, it can get to the point where the phone gets uncomfortably hot. Slapping on a case to the Mi 11 Ultra does alleviate this issue, but the thermal issue itself is not exactly solved.

Last but definitely not least is the absolutely huge camera bump of the Mi 11 Ultra. It sticks out of the phone in a very jarring manner, and the sheer size of the camera module just draws even more attention to it.

Oh, the small display right beside the camera sensors? It’s useful when I do want to take a selfie with the rear cameras, but for the most part, it just feels like a gimmick.

Is It Worth It?

Despite its shortcomings in the software department, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is still a fantastic flagship smartphone that can go against the best in the business. While its RM4,299 asking price is steep, that’s the going rate for a proper flagship smartphone in today’s market, and you’re definitely getting such a device with the Mi 11 Ultra.

After all, it has a very capable, far-reaching camera system, excellent level of performance – even though it heats up quite a bit in certain scenarios – and it just feels and looks like a premium, high-end smartphone. Xiaomi has proven itself to be capable of producing a compelling flagship device – all that’s left is for it to improve the software experience.

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