The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a pricey phone with world-class specs, but as a whole, it isn’t always greater than the sum of its parts. This is the reason its excellent camera, flagship power, ultra-fast charging and stunning screen being set against chunky design, mediocre battery life and an occasionally clumsy interface hold it back from justifying its high price tag.
- Excellent camera system
- Plenty of power
- Ultra-fast charging
- Sharp, punchy, smooth screen
- Chunky camera bump
- Mediocre battery performance
- Occasional UI gremlins
- Can get hot when gaming
- Camera:On the back is a 50-megapixel main camera and 2 x 48-megapixel sensors
- Battery:5000mAh battery and 67W wired and wireless charging
- Two screens:6.81-inch on the front and a 1.1-inch screen on the back
Xiaomi has had plenty of success with budget smartphones, recently (and notably) with the confusingly good Redmi Note 10 Pro. However, can its confidently priced Mi 11 Ultra secure the same kind of success at the top-end of the market?
Looking at the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s specs, there’s no reason the £1199 (roughly $1600, €1199) handset can’t cement the brand as a class leader for world-first technology to be the best phone around.
The phone’s screen is sharp, smooth and of excellent quality; its ceramic design feels super-premium; there are Harman/Kardon tuned speakers at the top and bottom; and it charges at a staggering 67W – wired and wireless with a compatible charger.
There’s no doubt about it, the Mi 11 Ultra is an exciting smartphone – but following a month of life with the device, does the reality live up to the spec sheet?
Design and screen
- Premium but chunky ceramic body
- Four-sided curved glass display
- WQHD+, 120Hz AMOLED technology
At 6ft 4in, I’m a tall guy with huge hands, and even I made an ‘ooof’ sound when handling the Mi 11 Ultra for the first time.
It’s 234g, making it one of the heaviest phones around – the oversized iPhone 12 Pro Max weighs 228g, and when you account for its camera bump, it’s one chunky slab of a smartphone. Size aside, and the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra does feel fantastically premium. It’s also unique in its heft and shape – no something many smartphones can really claim.
At the base of the Mi 11 Ultra is a dual-SIM slot and a USB-C port. Disappointingly for a phone of the Mi 11 Ultra’s price, video-out from the USB-C port isn’t supported. Meanwhile, phones such as the Huawei Mate 40 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 feature full desktop UIs when hooked up to an external display, while the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro project their mobile interfaces at the very least.
The right side of the Mi 11 Ultra is where you’ll find power and volume buttons. At the top is an IR blaster for TV channel changing, while around the back is that hefty bump and curved ceramic goodness.
The front and back sandwich a buffed metal frame, and the phone (available in Black or White) is IP68 water- and dust-resistant. It also comes with a case; something Apple and Samsung don’t include.
The Mi 11 Ultra’s build quality (and size) extends to the front display, with its quad-curved WQHD+ panel clocking in at 6.81 inches. The AMOLED screen features a 3200 x 1440 resolution, which is super-sharp, resulting in an iPhone-bettering 515 pixels-per-inch. With a 20:9 aspect ratio, the phone isn’t quite the tallest around, but it isn’t too far off – and in turn, between its width and height, small hands may have trouble navigating it.
The pure display quality of the Mi 11 Ultra’s screen is also fantastic when set aside the competition. It features a 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio, with HDR 10+ support and a peak brightness of 1700 nits. The tonal depth covered by the display makes it one of the best on the market in real life, and the in-hand feel of the Huawei P40 Pro-like four-sided curve screams premium as your fingers swipe across its responsive, zingy pixels.
With a 120Hz refresh rate, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s screen is as smooth as the competition, although one thing it isn’t is quite as optimized for battery-saving, with a higher minimum refresh rate than phones such as the Oppo Find X3 Pro or S21 Ultra. I don’t know if this is the reason I occasionally struggled to make it through a day with the phone – more on that later.
Where the Mi 11 Ultra does compete is colour accuracy, with a JNCD of 0.4 (the lower the number the better), and 10-bit (also referred to as billion colour) display tech. Protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, it’s packing top-tier protection, too.
- 50-megapixel wide-angle camera is the main sensor and it’s huge
- 48-megapixel ultra-wide camera for variety
- 48-megapixel periscope camera for zooming
The big deal about this big phone is its main camera. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra features a 1 /1.12-inch sensor size, which isn’t much smaller than the one-inch sensors on premium compact cameras such as the Sony RX100.
The bigger the camera sensor, the better chance it has of grabbing light and capturing the best possible picture. This instantly puts the Mi 11 Ultra at an advantage when compared to smaller camera sensors on some of the best camera phones around.
With its 50-megapixel resolution, the primary camera on the Mi 11 Ultra packs plenty of pixels, but doesn’t shoot full-res shots by default.
It takes 12.5-megapixel photos with four-in-one pixel combining. The phone’s lens sports an f/1.95 aperture, optical image stabilisation (OIS) and eight elements.
Photos from the main camera are totally tanked up with depth when a subject is less than half a metre away. Background blur makes for rich, high-impact photos, be it a person or a succulent. Despite shallow depth and striking bokeh, however, where the Mi 11 Ultra’s main camera drops the ball is usable detail. If the tap-to-focus misses the mark just a touch, the Mi 11 Ultra’s shots aren’t as crisp as those taken on significantly lower-cost, older-generation 48-megapixel camera phones such as the 48-megapixel Poco F3, owing to the limited focus depth.
In other words, the Mi 11 Ultra has idiosyncrasies, so to get the most out of it, you really need to understand how it works.
The phone’s nuanced camera story extends to the 48-megapixel telephoto camera. Doubling up as a macro camera when capturing subjects from roughly one metre away (or more), it’s one of the more versatile ‘zoom’ modules available. While Xiaomi claims it packs a 120 times digital zoom and a 10 times hybrid zoom, its optical zoom range is five times, putting it on par with the Huawei Mate 40 Pro. The zoom module packs OIS, a half-inch sensor size and an f4.1 aperture.
While not quite as stellar at picking up far away detail as the Huawei P40 Pro Plus or S21 Ultra in my experience, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is still a formidable camera system for going wide and far without compromising on detail.
The telephoto camera comes into its own in bright environments and when Night mode is engaged. Its shots also benefit from more neutral colour balance than the punchy main camera. Having said that, colour consistency across the three modules could be better.
When it comes to the 48-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, this might be our favourite module on the Mi 11 Ultra. It sports autofocus, which not many ultra-wide cameras feature, and its 128-degree field of view lens is matched with a wide f/2.2 aperture. Most impressive is that it’s also able to capture macro photos, giving you three cameras with which to shoot close-up objects, each with its own characteristics.
Even with distortion correction applied, the Mi 11 Ultra’s ultra-wide sports a fair amount of barrel distortion, given just how wide its angle of view. That said, with all the detail it captures and its 48-megapixel resolution, you can happily crop into photos taken on the ultra-wide camera, zapping peripheral distortion and making for a more realistic shot. Alternatively, put it in Photoshop or Lightroom, and it can be adjusted. With its almost GoPro aesthetic, I enjoyed the creative ops slightly distorted, super-wide photos delivered, but they won’t be for everyone.
If you’re getting a sense the Mi 11 Ultra’s camera is one for enthusiasts more than amateurs, you’re on the money. Folks who just want to point, shoot, and be guaranteed a reliable shot would be better off with an iPhone 12 Pro Max or a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. That said, if you’re keen to master your camera phone’s quirks, the Mi 11 Ultra can – in the hands of a trained photographer – capture truly world-class shots.
The phone also shoots up to 8K resolution video across all three of its rear cameras, and in bright environments the footage it captures looks great, with stabilisation working a treat across all resolutions. When the lights drop, the main and ultra-wide camera are the best to lean on for video. The phone also features a 20-megapixel front camera for selfies, which is a mighty flattering module with software-enhanced beauty features that range from naturally enhancing to totally over-the-top – the choice is yours.
- Flagship power great for 3D games
- Plenty of storage, but no SD card slot
- Becomes hot with certain intense games and benchmarks
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset matched with up to 12GB of RAM, you won’t be seeing slowdown on the Mi 11 Ultra – although that doesn’t mean its user experience is flawless.
Day-to-day, my first impression of the phone’s power was great thanks to its nippy performance matched with a smooth screen and a good-looking interface. It all runs on Android 11, with Xiaomi’s familiar MIUI 12 over the top – and, unlike Huawei, Xiaomi phones don’t have Google limitations, so you can access all the apps you need.
While the interface looks good, and runs much better than it did on older Xiaomi phones with less frustrating adverts and blocks to your smartphone flow, it still serves up some UI gremlins.
When the phone’s dark mode is activated, some of my Twitter contacts’ profile photos were inverted. Interactive notifications for apps such as Spotify also appear with invisible buttons. This is a danger of heavily redrawn user interfaces over Android – and of the main Android phone makers (including Huawei, Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Samsung and Sony), Xiaomi’s UI has the most gremlins.
Not surprisingly, the phone benchmarked well, scoring 1126 (single-core) and 3655 (multi-core) on GeekBench 5. Meanwhile, when faced with Wild Life on 3DMark, it scored 5594, placing it at the upper echelon of flagship smartphones – although not quite at the top of the pile, with the iPhone 12 Pro and Asus ROG Phone 5 bettering it.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra also heated up quite a bit when running intensive benchmarks and high-octane games such as Genshin Impact. Given the phone will likely attract power-hungry gamers with its maxed-out specs, the fact you might need to run top-tier titles at anything less than maxed-out graphics settings will be a bitter pill to swallow, especially with the £1199 price tag.
What the Mi 11 Ultra does do really well is play back videos. Its expansive screen was a treat when showing off episode after episode of HDR show on Amazon Prime Video or Netflix, and the Harman/Kardon-tuned speakers are loud and broad.
- Big battery can struggle to get through the day with heavy use
- Wireless and wired charging are super-fast
The Mi 11 Ultra didn’t make it through a full day on a single charge with moderate to heavy use.
My full day looks like a 6am start and a 10pm stop, complete with lots of photo taking, Instagram scrolling, Spotify listening and some Netflix or YouTube watching. You could make it work if you’re more restrained, but my Mi 11 Ultra time benefitted greatly from a wireless charger at the office.
Watching an hour of Netflix used up around 7% battery with the screen at 60% brightness. Ramp up to full brightness, and that battery drain climbs to 10%.
In a turn for the books, the Mi 11 Ultra’s fast wired charging is as fast as its wireless charging – both 66W. With that in mind, the phone only ships with the wall charger and cable, so you’ll have to buy the Xiaomi-compatible charger to take advantage of those top speeds. I didn’t have one to test the wireless speeds, but I did have a wired charger, and the phone powered up to full in around 37 minutes. While not the fastest phone to get to 100%, it’s the fastest to do so with a 5000mAh battery.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is one of those phones that isn’t easy to recommend for most people, but it’s a lot of fun to use if you consider yourself a massive geek.
The handset’s second screen alongside the camera is too small to be really practical when taking selfies – it’s more useful to give people you’re photographing a view of themselves. Gaming also falls behind some lower-cost smartphones thanks to the fact that demanding titles at max settings heat up the phone. Then there’s that battery life – it’s only ever fine.
What the Mi 11 Ultra does do is take stellar pictures when you get to grips with its camera quirks. It also looks fantastic when playing back video on its bright, punchy screen, plus it sounds excellent and performs smoothly day-in-day-out.
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Should you buy it?
You consider yourself a geek who wants a phone that’s different The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra definitely isn’t the best all-rounder, but it’s definitely one of the most unique handsets you can buy.
You want a safe bet The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a complex phone with a number of quirks. It also becomes hot when gaming for a long time at max graphics settings. Anyone after a simple life would be better off with a Galaxy S21 Ultra or an iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max.
Ultimately, when the price drops – or if you find it on a great contract price – the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra could be a novel alternative to the Apples and Samsungs, with its high-impact camera and premium design and features. Those after a safer bet, however, will be well served by an S21 Ultra, or a lower-cost flagship such as the OnePlus 9 Pro.
The Mi 11 Ultra has an IP68 rating, which means it can be submerged in 1m of water for 30 minutes
This is a 5G phone if you have the right data plan
Yes, there’s support for wireless charging here