The Mi 11 Ultra means business. The keystone of this new Xiaomi phone is its unflinching focus on taking on, not OnePlus, but Samsung in the high-end premium space. The Mi 11 Ultra is Xiaomi's answer to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Needless to say, it has comparable hardware but if history is anything to go by, specs alone do not guarantee success. The Mi 11 Ultra must also deliver in the real world.
With high-end specs like curved screens and latest and greatest SoCs, big batteries and lightning quick charging, becoming a staple among premium phones, it is how these phones use all this tech to make your lives easier is what makes or breaks a smartphone today. In the case of Xiaomi, there is also the baggage of perception that needs to be broken -- that is a totally different discussion altogether.
With everything that the Mi 11 Ultra packs inside -- and it packs a lot inside, mind you -- it is expected to be a fast phone with a bright and colourful screen, top-notch audio, and good battery life. What you can't really expect, at least at face value, is if it also has great cameras despite there being a truckload of tech inside it. Remember, OnePlus has been trying to do this for years and even partnered with Hasselblad for the OnePlus 9 Pro to sell you what can only be referred to as mediocre cameras at best.
Whether or not the Mi 11 Ultra is able to live up to all the hype that Xiaomi has built up -- going so far to call it a superphone -- is something that I will tell you in my full review. What I can tell you now is, I have had a lot of fun using the Mi 11 Ultra so far. It is the best phone that Xiaomi has ever made. Long story short: the hype is real.
By now, I am sure, you've seen all that there is to see about the Mi 11 Ultra. If not, here's a quick summary anyway: it is unapologetically big, bold, and quite literally, one of its kind. There are three reasons why it is built like a tank. Unlike most phones, the Mi 11 Ultra is made of ceramic, which means in theory, it is the most durable phone in the market today. The outer frame is made of metal. Further adding to its heft is a camera island -- rather, a continent if you will -- floating on top of all that ceramic. The bump is so prominent, it makes the phone top heavy but the silver lining is, it does not wobble at all on a surface. Rounding off the package is a sizeable 5,000mAh battery. Despite all this, the Mi 11 Ultra is still thinner than the S21 Ultra (it is heavier though) which come to think of it, is a remarkable achievement.
The camera island isn't without its share of gimmicks either. Xiaomi has squeezed a 1.1-inch rear AMOLED display here for rear camera selfies. This means, you can use the phone's headlining rear camera for selfies (this needs to be manually enabled from the camera app) making its 20MP front camera more like a prop than anything else -- it is barely serviceable anyway. Sadly, you can't record videos in this mode. Additionally, the rear display serves double duty as an always-on panel for quickly checking time, date, battery stats and notifications although I am not totally convinced how many people will be willing to keep their phones front facing down to use this feature. Also, for some curious reason, it is not really always-on as Xiaomi limits it to 30 seconds max.
The Mi 11 Ultra has a total of three cameras on the back. There is a 50MP primary camera with a massive 1/1.12-inch Samsung GN2 sensor (a first for this form factor) sitting behind an optically stabilised f/1.95 aperture lens. This is paired with two 48MP cameras (Sony IMX598 sensor), one with an f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens (128-degree field-of-view) and another with a periscope-style telephoto lens for a total of 120x zoom (5x optical). Xiaomi claims the Mi 11 Ultra is the world’s first phone with Dual Pixel Pro technology for fast auto focus and the first Mi phone with multi-point direct Time-of-Flight laser focus system for higher accuracy. All the three cameras in the Mi 11 Ultra support night mode and can shoot in 8K.
The Mi 11 Ultra has a 6.81-inch E4 AMOLED display with a 2K or QHD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate (480Hz touch sampling). It can also play Dolby Vision content like the iPhone 12. The panel is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.
The Mi 11 Ultra easily has the best combination of smooth, immersive tech and just the right amount of curves and bezels to make it the best smartphone display in the market today -- the phone is built for content consumption through and through and does not disappoint on any front, be it contrast, brightness or viewing angles. The 120Hz refresh rate is also adaptive.
Xiaomi offers a ton of customisation to tune the display to your liking including AI HDR enhancement and MEMC for videos. For biometrics, the phone has an optical in-display fingerprint scanner that is fast and accurate but there is some room for improvement.
The Mi Ultra has Harmon Kardon dual stereo speakers which get quite loud and bassy with good stereo separation. There is no headphone jack.
Under the hood, it packs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor with 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB UFS3.1 storage. This is non-expandable. Software inside the phone is Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 which is based on Android 11. Powering the phone is a 5,000mAh battery with 67W fast wired and wireless charging. Xiaomi bundles a 55W charger in the box.
The Mi 11 Ultra is a dual-SIM phone with 5G support. It is IP68-certified for dust and water resistance.
The Mi 11 Ultra costs Rs 69,999 (12GB/256GB) in India. That’s same as the OnePlus 9 Pro while at the same time, it undercuts the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (starting Rs 1,05,999).
The last time Xiaomi tried to pull something like this, it was back in 2017 when it launched the rather unconventional Mi Mix 2 in India. That phone did not do so well, despite it being way ahead of its time when it came to design and feature set. This has been the story of most "Mi" branded flagship phones in India. But in early 2020, Xiaomi realigned its focus and strategy and entered Mi 2.0. It went on to launch the Mi 10, Mi 10T and Mi 10T Pro phones in India the same year and with the Mi 11 series, it is looking to continue on that path. The Mi 11 Ultra is at the pinnacle of all this with cutting-edge technology at a price, that though it is expensive for a Xiaomi phone in India, undercuts everything that it is going to compete with. Times have changed, and yet, the song remains the same. Watch this space for our full review of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. (Photo credits: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)