Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition review: Xiaomi brings its magic to laptops, but is the show any good?

By: |
Updated: Jul 15, 2020 12:25 PM

The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition has a premium design, capable hardware, and an attractive price tag, but is that enough to make HP, Lenovo, Dell, and Asus nervous? We find out.

mi notebookWhile the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition with 10th Gen Intel Core i5 is priced at Rs 54,999, the version with 10th Gen Intel Core i7 costs Rs 59,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

In India, Xiaomi is largely a smartphone brand. Off late, it has also become a smart TV brand here. When I say Xiaomi has become a smartphone or a smart TV brand, I mean people know its products well. In many cases, a Xiaomi Redmi or a Xiaomi Mi TV is their go-to choice too. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight. Xiaomi has had to work very hard to become India’s number one smartphone and smart TV brand. And while it continues to do that, it is now also looking to shake India’s laptop market up with the newly launched Mi Notebook 14 and Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition.

Now Xiaomi is known to launch phones (and TVs) by the dozen but with its laptops, it is trying to do something different. With the Mi Notebook 14 and Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition (and the other laptops that might follow them in the near future) Xiaomi says it is looking to “declutter” India’s seemingly crowded (and confusing) laptop market.

I don’t know what that means (or what all of this might entail in the future) exactly, because both the Mi Notebook 14 and Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition spawn five different models among themselves which means you still need to sift through numerous product pages to pick the best one out for you, but then, we’re not here to judge Xiaomi’s marketing tactic here. We’re here to talk about whether or not the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, which is Xiaomi’s first flagship laptop in India, should make HP, Lenovo, Dell, and Asus nervous. The answer is yes and no.

Design, build quality and display

Sleek and minimal are the defining characteristics of the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition. The laptop is made of magnesium and aluminum alloy with an additional sandblasted coating on top to avoid corrosion. It comes in grey and without any branding (on the lid). Xiaomi has taken a lot of cues from the MacBook, sure, but I don’t see why that would concern buyers, when the whole package looks and feels so good while costing so less (in comparison).

mi notebookXiaomi has taken a lot of cues from the MacBook. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

There’s also one area where Xiaomi’s laptop trumps Apple’s. Weighing in at just 1.35 kg, the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition is even lighter than the MacBook Air. It’s in fact one of the lightest (also thinnest) laptops in the market today. You can also flip it open with one hand.

The bezels here are just 3mm on top, right, and left sides. This allows Xiaomi to pack a 14-inch screen (anti-glare with FHD resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio) inside a 13-inch form factor. The screen gets nice and bright and has 178-degree viewing angles like Xiaomi’s Mi TVs.

mi notebookThe Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition is built well. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The same level of good craftsmanship extends to the laptop’s keyboard. Xiaomi’s implementation of the scissor keyboard has impressed me a lot. There’s ample spacing between individual keys and these have 1.33mm travel. They are nice and tactile, possibly one of the best on any laptop in the market today. The laptop has a pretty sizable trackpad (for such a compact form factor) that also supports gestures.

The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition is built well. Despite its thin and light structure, it does not flex (or at least it does not flex weirdly) which is often the case with even more expensive laptops.

mi notebookXiaomi’s implementation of the scissor keyboard has impressed me a lot. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

But, it’s not perfect. The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition has three shortcomings or rather omissions when it comes to design, something that you can’t ignore (even) at its price point.

  • The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition does not have a backlit keyboard.
  • The trackpad is made of plastic and feels rather flimsy to use when compared to the rest of the body (which is premium to the T).
  • There is no webcam on the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition. Xiaomi bundles an HD webcam (at no additional cost) in the box which feels more like a temporary makeshift solution that only adds to your woes (since there’s no clip or magnets on it for proper attachment) plus it also takes away a connectivity slot.

Performance, connectivity and battery life

The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition comes with up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7 Comet Lake 10510U processor paired with NVIDIA’s GeForce MX350 graphics, 8GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB PCIe Gen 3 NVMe SSD. This is the configuration that I have for review. The base Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition uses a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 Comet Lake 10210U processor paired with SATA SSD (512GB), keeping the RAM and graphics the same as the maxed out variant.

mi notebookThe Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition is easily the most powerful laptop at its price. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Before jumping into the real world performance stats of the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, there are a few things you must know about this laptop:

  • The Intel Core i7-10510U processor cores are clocked between 1.8 and 4.9 GHz though Xiaomi has tweaked things up a bit that allows it to boost base frequency to 2.3GHz (also offering a higher 25W TDP) which you can manually toggle. The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, to that effect, supports silent and turbo modes.
  • Xiaomi is using fast 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 RAM in the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition.
  • The top-end model also gets a Samsung-sourced 512GB fast PCIe Gen 3 NVMe SSD.
  • NVIDIA’s dedicated GeForce MX350 graphics means the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition can theoretically pull some high-end gaming (at medium or low settings) as well.

The reason why I reiterated on those hardware specs and broke them down for you further is to stress upon the fact that the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition is easily the most powerful laptop that you can get at its price today. In essence, it’s like any other Xiaomi product, which means that it is punching way above its weight when it comes to pure specs and making those specs available at mainstream prices.

mi notebookThe Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition also offers very little when it comes to upgradability. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

For most users, the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition will be a light productivity-focused laptop that can also do some gaming. It is not a gaming laptop, or even a laptop that you can do a lot of pro-grade editing on though. There are dedicated, more expensive machines that do that, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect the same or even compare the Mi Notebook with them. The Mi Notebook competes with the HP Pavilions, the Dell Inspirons, the Asus VivoBooks and the Lenovo IdeaPads and it is pretty well stacked to handle that competition.

But, it’s not perfect. While Xiaomi has gone to great lengths to pack its flagship laptop (in India) with high-end specs, it hasn’t given its thermals the same treatment. Heat management is a major concern in the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition especially when you’re stress testing it (which is the whole point of a review). Not only is the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition lacking any efficient cooling technology on the inside, its outwardly design elements (that focus largely on portability and aesthetics) don’t offer enough surface area for dissipation either. The system is designed to soak up air from the bottom while hot air is supposed to pass out from vents positioned on the left — the problem is Xiaomi’s laptop doesn’t have enough elevation and rests totally flat.

mi notebookThere is no webcam on the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition also offers very little when it comes to upgradability. The RAM is soldered on to the motherboard, which means 8GB is all you get, now and forever. That may not be enough for many users, especially Chrome users. The SSD, though it’s very fast (it’s in fact the headlining feature of the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition) is also only swappable since there’s no additional slot for expansion.

Speaking of which, the top-end Horizon Edition includes 2 USB 3.1, 1 USB 2.0, Type-C, HDMI, and headphone jack, along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. The base model lacks a USB Type-C port.

The 46Wh battery inside the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition is claimed to offer up to 10 hours of usage. Battery life is good. I have been constantly averaging 7-7.5 hours on it with moderate to heavy usage. The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition also supports fast charging though this is only achieved with the bundled 65W barrel charger (you can’t charge it over USB Type-C).

One more thing

The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition runs Windows 10 Home software as is, but there are a couple of pre-installed Xiaomi apps, Mi Blaze Unlock (to fast unlock the laptop with a paired Mi Band) and Mi Quickshare (to wirelessly transfer files using a Xiaomi phone). You can uninstall both these apps from the laptop.

Should you buy the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition?

mi notebookThe laptop has a premium design, capable hardware, and an attractive price tag. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Xiaomi is bringing its magic to laptops with the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition. There are no two ways about it. The laptop has a premium design, capable hardware, and an attractive price tag (while the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition with 10th Gen Intel Core i5 is priced at Rs 54,999, the version with 10th Gen Intel Core i7 costs Rs 59,999). But unlike its smartphones and smart TVs, its flagship laptop does not translate into an “instant” recommendation just because it looks good, has good hardware, and is priced just right. This is because there are some very visible issues with it, some of which could be deal breakers.

But the biggest concern, right now, is support. Remember, this is Xiaomi’s first laptop in India, and because it is not being made in India, the real test will be how well can Xiaomi deal with after sales and repairs. Xiaomi has confirmed to Financial Express Online that every Mi Notebook 14 will come with a one-year warranty and buyers can reach out to any of its 2,500 Mi Service Centres across the country for after sales support.

For now, surely the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition looks like a winner on paper as well as in many real world scenarios, but does it have enough to be your go-to laptop? Well that’s complicated. I know expectations are always high when it comes to Xiaomi products, and while the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition does live up to a lot of them, it could have done better had it (just) stuck to the basics, like its other products.

Still, if you’re in the market for a high-end Windows laptop for your “basic” work from home needs, you should definitely “consider” the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition. That it looks so good is just another icing on the cake.

Pros: 

  • Premium design and display
  • Capable hardware
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • No backlit keyboard
  • Heat management could be better
  • Not the most upgradable laptop around

Also Read Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition first impressions: Should HP, Lenovo, Dell, and Asus be worried?

Also Read Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14, Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition laptops simplified in 10 quick points

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1US-China row: US imposes curbs on exports to China’s top chipmaker SMIC
2Intel’s latest 11th Gen Core, Atom x6000E, Pentium, Celeron N and J processors are specifically enhanced for IoT
3LinkedIn set to get slew of big updates including Stories, video calls, dark mode and more