Xiaomi makes a lot of cool things but if there’s one Xiaomi product that people in India have literally been waiting with baited breath for all these years, it has to be the laptop. On Thursday, June 11, 2020, Xiaomi launched its first laptop(s) in India, and based on the two days that I have spent with one, I can tell you, it was well worth the wait. The reason why I put the launch date up in actual numbers is because it’s an important day. Every category that Xiaomi has entered so far, be it smartphones or smart TVs (and others), it has emerged setting a trend or two, even redefining the category, if you may. I can see that happening with laptops now.
When Xiaomi started teasing and hyping its impending foray into India’s laptop market, it made it quite a chest thumping affair, challenging conventional brands like HP, Lenovo, Dell, and Asus head-on by dropping in a cheeky “hello [we’re coming for you (and your laptop space)].” I won’t go into the technicalities but each of these brands has launched at least one new laptop in the short period (from when Xiaomi dropped the bomb) leading into Xiaomi’s launch. Some have even launched budget laptops that will compete directly with what Xiaomi has to offer. Could be a coincidence, could be not, but does that really concern the average buyer? Not at all. It’s actually good that we’re finally seeing some action in India’s mainstream laptop segment.
Laptops are an essential product category now that a majority of us (those who can afford it) are forced to stay cooped up inside our homes in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Even more so than a smartphone. Laptops need to be good and laptops also need to be affordable. There was a time when cheap phones (also) had to be cheap. And then Xiaomi happened. So you see where I am going with this.
Looking at its debut laptops in India, the Mi Notebook 14 and Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, you can instantly tell they are Xiaomi products. Typical Xiaomi products. This starts with the pricing. The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, which is Xiaomi’s flagship product, starts at Rs 54,999, while its top-end model costs Rs 59,999. The Mi Notebook 14, which is a more budget friendly offering, starts at Rs 41,999, while its top-end model costs Rs 47,999. There is one more variant of the Mi Notebook 14 that comes at a price of Rs 44,999. For a limited period, Xiaomi will be selling all these laptops with a Rs 2,000 instant discount for HDFC Bank debit and credit card users, bringing down their price even further.
Now before you ask, what’s the catch, let me tell you there’s none. I am talking about mere specs right now. Again, it’s all typical Xiaomi, which means you get some high-end specs and a good-looking (though not the most original) design.
Xiaomi’s focus, as always, is to offer the best bang for your buck, even with laptops. Mi Notebook 14 and Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition boast of some impressive specs and features and a sleek minimalist design at a relatively mass-market pricing.
You get up to a 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 (user upgradable). You get stereo speakers with Dolby DTS support and a 46Wh battery which is claimed to offer up to 10 hours of usage. There is also fast charging. Connectivity options include 2 USB 3.1, 1 USB 2.0, Type-C, HDMI, and headphone jack, along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. This is of course for the top-end Horizon Edition model which I have for review (that’s coming soon, so stay tuned). The base Horizon Edition model uses a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 Comet Lake 10210U processor paired with SATA SSD (512GB), while keeping the rest of the specs the same.
Let’s talk about the design for a bit now. There’s no doubt that the Mi Notebook Horizon Edition takes major design cues from the MacBook, but then again, it’s a lot more affordable and it runs Windows 10 (Home), so, everyone’s a winner here. Slim and light seem to be the buzzword(s) with the Mi Notebook. It has a body that is made of magnesium and aluminum alloy with an additional sandblasted coating on top to avoid corrosion. Weighing in at just 1.35 kg, it’s even lighter than the MacBook Air. Unlike other laptops, Xiaomi’s Mi Notebook does not have any branding, in a bid to offer a clean and minimalist look. It comes in grey and it looks really, really nice. And it is very well made too.
The bezels here are just 3mm on top, right, and left sides. All of this entails a laptop that packs 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.
But more than anything, it’s Xiaomi’s implementation of the scissor keyboard that has impressed me the most. 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. Though, the keys are not backlit, which could be a deal breaker for some. The laptop has a pretty sizable trackpad (for such a compact form factor) that also supports gestures.
Coming to software, Xiaomi’s laptop runs Windows 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 an Android phone).
It’s difficult to judge the performance and battery life parameters of a laptop in two days so I will hold those details for my full review. First impressions have been very solid so it’s a good start I’ll say. It is important to know what you’re getting into when you’re buying a laptop like the Mi Notebook. The Mi Notebook is a productivity-focused laptop that can also do some high-end gaming (at medium or low settings). It is not a gaming laptop, or even a laptop that you can do a lot of pro-grade editing on. 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 and the Dell Inspirons and the Lenovo IdeaPads and it is pretty well stacked to handle that competition.
I wouldn’t say that Xiaomi’s Mi Notebook(s) should worry HP, Lenovo, Dell, or Asus, because there are a lot of other factors that need to be taken into account when buying a laptop than just specs or pricing. Support is necessary. Remember, this is Xiaomi’s first stint at laptops in India, and because they are not being made in India, the real test will be how well can Xiaomi deal with after sales and repairs. The Mi Notebook looks like a winner, much like any other Xiaomi product in the market today, but can it also be your go-to laptop is something only time will tell.
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