Solid battery life
Super fast charging
Heavy (and top-heavy)
Selfie screen is gimmicky
No software update promise
The Mi 11 Ultra is Xiaomi’s top-spec’d phone for 2021. It looks to tackle the shortcomings of its lesser sibling, the Mi 11, thanks to a wholly different and dramatically more useful camera configuration. More importantly, it aims right at Samsung’s marquee smartphone, the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It also features a unique selfie preview screen on the rear and a monster price tag. Does it deliver on its promises and topple Samsung’s ultra-premium king? Find out in Android Authority’s Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review.
What you need to know about the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
- Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (12GB/256GB): €1,199 (~$1,400)
With the introduction of the Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi now has an entire family of phones in the Mi 11 Lite, Mi 11i, Mi 11, Mi 11 Pro, and Mi 11 Ultra. These cover a variety of price points, meaning there’s a Mi 11 option available to you no matter your budget. The biggest change from the Mi 10 series is that the Pro version is only available in China. Meanwhile, the successor to the China-exclusive Mi 10 Ultra is now launching across Europe and other global regions. That means if you want a flagship Xiaomi phone in 2021, your choices are either the vanilla Mi 11 and the souped-up Mi 11 Ultra.
See also: Everything you need to know about Xiaomi
The Mi 11 Ultra shares many features with the regular Mi 11 but boasts a significantly upgraded camera experience, a trick selfie preview screen, and better battery tech. It also boasts a whopper of a price increase. The standard Mi 11 is hundreds less at €799 (~$950). On the surface, you’re paying a lot for the revamped camera and some bonus extras. In fact, the Mi 11 Ultra costs about the same as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and hundreds more than the OnePlus 9 Pro. This leads us to question just how good the camera is and whether it justifies the price increase.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is available in either Ceramic Black or Ceramic White. While China also gets two other RAM/storage configurations with either 8GB/128GB and 12GB/512GB, the global variant is locked at 12GB/256GB.
Design: Chonky boi
- Ceramic back, Gorilla Glass Victus
- 164.3 x 74.6 x 8.38mm
- In-display fingerprint reader
You might have noticed that there’s a phone attached to the back of this camera. There’s no question the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s camera module stands out; it’s impossible to miss. It is among the largest modules we’ve ever seen and practically defines the camera, err… phone.
The overall materials, fit, and finish of the Mi 11 Ultra are all best-in-class.
In all seriousness, the Mi 11 Ultra is mostly a carbon copy of the Mi 11 (apart from the camera, of course). Astute observers will note that the rear ceramic back of the Mi 11 Ultra is slightly less curved than the glass of the Mi 11, particularly near the side edges. This makes the phone feel just a hair bulkier. In truth, the Ultra is also 0.3mm thicker overall. The frame is a thin strip of metal along the sides that bulges to create end caps on the top and bottom edges.
As with the Mi 11, the overall materials, fit, and finish of the Ultra are all best in class. It’s also a fingerprint magnet. Our black review unit collected fingerprints as if they were going out of style.
The Mi 11 Ultra is a sizable piece of hardware. It stands tall but is narrow-waisted. This helps with usability as the phone is significantly heavier than the Mi 11. It jumps from 193g to 234g. That’s an increase of 20%, and you can feel it. Moreover, the camera module makes the phone top-heavy. This causes some hand strain when you hold the phone for long periods of time.
The rest of the experience mirrors that of the Mi 11. For example, the screen lock button and volume toggle are on the right edge of the phone. They have good profiles and excellent feedback. The SIM tray is located on the bottom edge. It supports up to two SIM cards, but not memory cards. You’ll also find the USB-C port, a microphone, and a speaker. A second speaker is located on the top edge to generate stereo sound. The speakers have been tuned by Harman Kardon. I thought the brightness and clarity were outstanding, and the bass response was balanced. The Mi 11 Ultra is loud enough to fill a standard-sized room with good-sounding music. It also contributes to a solid experience when watching videos.
The camera module is, well, it’s ginormous. It puts the already huge camera module of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra to shame. The module is a huge black block set at the top of the rear panel. It boasts two massive round lenses, with a deep periscoped lens beneath. The module also contains the phone’s most interesting feature: the selfie preview screen. This 1.1-inch secondary screen is mostly used as a rear-facing, always-on display, but it also allows you to take selfies with the phone’s main camera. The module defines the experience of the phone, as it will catch on your pocket when you stuff it in.
You might have noticed that there's a phone attached to the back of this camera.
Unlike the Mi 11, which is just splash-proof, the Mi 11 Ultra boasts an IP68 rating for protection from submersion. This was absolutely necessary for Xiaomi to add to its €1,199 phone, so we’re glad to see it here.
The fingerprint reader is built into the display. It’s a cinch to calibrate and use to unlock the phone. I found it always to be swift and accurate. The phone also includes software-based face unlock. This is equally easy to train and use, but it’s less secure than the fingerprint or a dedicated, hardware-style face unlock.
Xiaomi certainly designed an interesting device in the Mi 11 Ultra. The camera module makes it a less stylish and more utilitarian addition to the Mi 11 line, but the underlying quality still shines through.
Display: Bright and fast
- 6.81-inch AMOLED with punch-hole
- WQHD+ (3,200 x 1,440)
- 20:9 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh rate
- 1.1-inch AMOLED
- 294 x 126 resolution
- 450 nits peak brightness
Xiaomi carried the brilliant screen from the Mi 11 over to the Mi 11 Ultra. It’s a fantastic display that we really like.
The 6.81-inch AMOLED screen is by default set to Full HD+ resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. You can opt to improve the resolution to WQHD+ and the refresh rate to 120Hz. The Mi 11 Ultra allows you to set the display to both the high resolution and high refresh rate settings at the same time. When at the 120Hz setting, Xiaomi says the refresh rate will vary from 30Hz to 120Hz depending on what you’re doing with the phone. At its highest settings, the screen is simply a joy to behold. The WQHD+ resolution means the screen is tack sharp, and the 120Hz refresh rate results in buttery smooth animations. But it still looks really good at the lower default settings, too.
The Mi 11 Ultra pushes 900 nits of brightness, with peak brightness reaching a crazy 1,700 nits. The contrast ratio is 5,000,000:1. Despite these numbers, it only looked adequately bright when outdoors under the sun. I had absolutely no trouble using it, but I was expecting a bit more punch. Other specs include support for 10-bit color, HDR10+, and DCI-P3. In short, the Mi 11 Ultra offers rich colors and deep contrast.
The Mi 11 Ultra also packs a bunch of fancy tools to tweak the visual experience. For example, it can boost standard definition content to high definition and high definition content to WQHD+. This means your older videos will still look good on the high-res screen. There is an obvious improvement, particularly when viewing standard definition content.
Xiaomi was sure to include a generous array of sensors and controls. For example, there’s a 360-degree ambient light sensor for reading the ambient light. This works together with the reading and sunlight modes to automatically adjust for proper white balance and color.
It’s worth pointing out that the screen’s curve is pretty tight along the side edges. Xiaomi added mistouch prevention tech at the hardware level to ensure that your palm won’t accidentally launch apps when it brushes against the display’s edge. My testing showed this to work well. And, thankfully, the tightly curved glass doesn’t affect the appearance of the screen itself.
Then there’s that selfie screen on the back, which is quite limited in purpose. It acts as an always-on display if you want it to and can be set to show the time/date and notifications. Arguably its most useful function is as a preview screen for selfies using the rear camera.
At 1.1-inches, it’s not very big, and 450 nits brightness means this little AMOLED doesn’t pack the brightest punch. I had trouble seeing the always-on display out under the bright sun. You may be better off using the main screen for that functionality. As for the selfie preview, it’s just bright enough to get an idea of what you look like ahead of taking a shot outdoors. We’ll discuss it more in the camera section later in this review.
Performance: Keeping up with the pack
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
- Adreno 660
- X60 modem
- 12GB LPDDR5 3200MHz RAM
- 256GB UFS 3.1 storage
- Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
The Mi 11 was among the first wave of devices to ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. Several months into 2021, there are somewhere north of a dozen models with the high-end chip, including the Mi 11 Ultra.
The performance of the Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra should be identical, but that’s not quite the case. The Mi 11 Ultra has 12GB of RAM, where the Mi 11 has 8GB of RAM as standard. In our testing, this extra allotment of memory gave the Mi 11 Ultra the edge when it came to benchmarks, though just barely. The Mi 11 Ultra outscored the Mi 11 on most major benchmarks, but only slightly.
As expected, the Mi 11 Ultra performed well against other Snapdragon 888-powered phones such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro. The device ran our homemade Speed Test G benchmark in 76 seconds, which was one second more than the Mi 11 was able to run the same test, but several seconds faster than the Galaxy S21 Ultra and OnePlus 9 Pro.
The Mi 11 Ultra performs at the same high level as other Snapdragon 888 phones.
Several things in the Mi 11 Ultra’s toolbox really help out when it comes to gaming. First, it supports a response rate of 480Hz, which means it reacts to your touch input much faster than most other phones. Moreover, the Game Turbo software helps manage the performance and cataloging of your installed games. Game Turbo allows you to adjust settings, such as notifications, to achieve optimal gaming results.
On the performance front, the Xiaomi Mi 11 is a good everyday phone and a good gaming phone.
Last, wireless. There’s Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and 5G on board the Mi 11 Ultra. The phone supports sub-6GHz 5G, which means there’s no mmWave. Considering the phone won’t be officially sold in the US, that’s not a huge deal for now, but it does mean the phone won’t be future-proofed for when mmWave expands globally.
Battery: A cut above
- 5,000mAh battery
- 67W wired charging
- 67W wireless charging
- 67W GaN charger in the box
Xiaomi has significantly raised the Mi 11 Ultra’s battery performance when compared to the regular Mi 11. To start, the battery is 400mAh larger at 5,000mAh. That helps push the phone from breakfast to bedtime with a larger reserve in the tank at the end of the day. I was less nervous about pushing the phone hard. With careful, measured use you can easily get a day and a half from the battery. This is with the default Full HD+, 60Hz setting applied. Dialing up the resolution and/or the frame rate will impact battery life, but not as much as you might think. Even with the phone set to its highest settings, I could still get an entire day from the phone, even if barely. It outperformed the Mi 11, that’s for sure.
Along with a larger power cell, Xiaomi also gifted the Mi 11 Ultra with faster charging tech. Where the Mi 11 supports 55W wired and wireless charging, the Mi 11 Ultra boasts 67W wired and wireless charging. There’s also a 67W GaN wall plug included in the box. These speeds put it in the same zone as the Oppo Find X3 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro. However, Xiaomi did downgrade the speed compared to last year’s Mi 10 Ultra, which supported 120W charging. The company didn’t spell out why it made this change, but we imagine battery longevity played a role.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra can hang with the fastest charging phones out there.
How well does it do in reality? With the 67W wired charger we saw the phone reach 100% from 0% in 37 minutes. That’s a few minutes longer than the Find X3 Pro or 9 Pro, but it’s fast enough not to matter. Plugging the phone in for just a few minutes nets a huge increase in charge. The 67W wireless charging is only supported on Xiaomi’s optional (not included) wireless charger.
Last, the phone supports 10W reverse wireless charging for your accessories. The large camera module might get in the way of some accessories, but small headphone cases fit ok.
Camera: More function, more fun
- 50MP OIS AF dToF (f/1.95, 1.4μm)
- 48MP ultra-wide PDAF (f/2.2, 0.8μm, 128-degree FoV)
- 48MP 5x optical telephoto OIS PDAF (f/4.1, 0.8μm)
- Front: 20MP (f/2.2, 0.8μm)
- Video: 8K at 24fps, 4K at 60fps
Ah, the camera. Everything about the Mi 11 Ultra’s camera has been upgraded when compared to the Mi 11. It boasts all new sensors and, more importantly, a traditional wide, ultra-wide, telephoto lens arrangement. That means it ditches the “telemacro” lens found on the Mi 11 in favor of a periscoped optical zoom lens. The telephoto can handle 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, and up to 120x digital zoom — the longest zoom we’ve seen on a smartphone to date.
See also: The best camera phones you can get
At the same time, Xiaomi went for a totally extra ultra-wide lens with a crazy 128-degree field of view (FoV). Many phones stick to 107-120 degrees for the ultra-wide. This expanded FoV gives the Mi 11 Ultra a lot of room for squeezing things into the shot. You can use the ultra-wide for shooting macro shots, as well. All three cameras are pixel binned down by a factor of four, with only the main camera being capable of shooting at its full 50MP resolution.
The main camera mostly does a great job, but it has one major flaw that should be obvious to you in the shots above. Sharpness and clarity are excellent. You can see plenty of detail, and there’s very little noise in the images. I really like the look of most shots I took with the phone. The issue is color, and specifically yellow. The flowers and storefront suffer from oversaturation, which makes them look unnatural. I can assure you that the yellow in these photos is not accurate. In fact, the standard Mi 11 produces more natural yellows. Odd. Blues, greens, and reds, however, all look perfect. Exposure and white balance are spot on, too.
The ultra-wide camera does a fine job for what it is. It delivers 0.5x magnification and there is obvious distortion around the edges of the photo. You can see the stone railing bending in the sample below. Color, clarity, and exposure are all excellent. There’s no noise, and white balance is good.
If you want to zoom, the Mi 11 Ultra has you covered. Quick picks allow you to jump straight to 5x, 10x, and 120x zoom. You can also pinch-to-zoom for framing your shot just right. Shots taken at 5x zoom look excellent, with exceptional clarity, little noise, and good color. I was very pleased with these images. Shots taken at 10x also look good, though there’s more noise. You can get away with solid-looking photos out to about 20x. Anything beyond that starts to get a bit messy. Like Samsung’s 100x Space Zoom, Xiaomi’s 120x digital zoom is quite worthless.
As much fun as the selfie preview screen is, it's hard to justify the price differential between the Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra.
Low-light shooting delivered mixed results. Both of the images below were taken in low light settings and the camera automatically adapted to night mode. It has one of the largest sensors available on a modern smartphone (1/1.12-inches), which helps a lot. I like that the camera captured a lot of detail below the keyboard of the piano, including the bench, especially since the light source was bouncing off the white keyboard and the bench was nigh invisible. However, there’s plenty of grain in the image. Similarly, the cat photo’s longer exposure time led to far more light than was really there, but it’s a softer image than I’d prefer.
The 20MP front-facing selfie camera is identical to the one found on the Mi 11, as are the photo results. That means you get self-portraits that are sharp and clean in good light and a little soft in low light. Portraits taken with the main selfie camera can be a little hit-or-miss where edge detection is concerned.
The selfie preview screen on the rear allows you to really expand your repertoire of selfie shots. First, let me say this: the selfie preview screen is really, really small. It’s tough to see what you’re shooting at arm’s length. It is for basic framing purposes only; you’ll be able to take much more fine-tuned selfies if you use the regular selfie camera and main display for framing.
That said, the quality of selfie shots from the main cameras is much better than the front-facing shooter. The really cool thing is that you can use the selfie preview mode using all three of the rear lenses. This allows you to frame all sorts of different shots. You can see some samples below. In the end, the selfie preview screen is a bit of a gimmick. Sure, it permits you to take a wider array of selfie shots at higher quality, but using the main display as a viewfinder is much easier.
Last, here are two night mode comparisons shots. In each, the first is taken with the regular camera and the second is taken with the night mode. You can see the impact it has on the river scene, which is to say, it makes everything look unnaturally bright. There’s less of a difference on the shot of the building, though some details to stand out with night mode that aren’t visible without it.
The phone can capture 8K video at up to 30fps. The footage I captured looked really good. It was sharp, clean, free of noise, and colorful. You should keep the camera set to 4K at 60fps for the best balance of quality and storage, but it’s good to have 8K as an option, even if only at 24fps.
As for the app, well, there are a lot of camera modes. There’s a carousel in the viewfinder that slides between Pro, Video, Photo, Portrait, and More. The latter houses extended shooting modes like Night, 50MP, Panorama, Slow motion, Time-lapse, Long exposure, and more. There’s also a Multicam mode for taking shots with up to two cameras simultaneously if you like that kind of thing. The video recorder drops all the fancy shooting tools in the camera app of the Mi 11 (including magic zoom, slow shutter, time freeze, night time-lapse, and parallel world), which is weird. Bottom line, the camera app is multifaceted and gives you plenty of flexibility for getting the shot or effect you want.
Based on the photos I captured with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, I have to say it’s not enough of a step up from the regular Mi 11.
I really do appreciate the lens configuration, which I find much more useful when shooting. The ultra-wide and telephoto lenses, in particular, deliver really strong results, too. However, the tendency of the main camera to overblow yellows gives me pause. And as much fun as the selfie preview screen is, it’s hard to use that to justify the price differential between the two phones. Even so, the Mi 11 Ultra is a step up from the Mi 11 and closer than ever to the likes of Apple, Google, and Samsung, but it still falls a bit short.
You can view full-resolution shots here.
Software: Speedy Xiaomi skin
- Android 11
- MIUI 12
MIUI 12 runs really well on the Mi 11 Ultra, likely owing to the Snapdragon 888 and 12GB of RAM. I’m not 100% sold on the fonts and other UI elements, but you may not care about that stuff. There is some bloatware on board, such as Netflix. You can get rid of most of the bloatware, but not quite all of it.
Xiaomi’s record for updating phones is uneven, so that’s something to keep in mind if you want future versions of Android. In general, it provides two years of system updates to its flagships. When we asked about updates for the Mi 11 earlier this year, the company gave us a non-answer: “The updates cycles of our devices are in accordance with our agreements with Google and comply with corresponding policies.”
Samsung and others have stepped up their commitment to software and security updates. That’s a mark against Xiaomi and especially the Mi 11 Ultra. If you’re spending this much on a phone you want as many guarantees as possible that it’ll have long-term software support.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra specs
|Xiaomi Mi 11||Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra|
|Display||6.81-inch AMOLED |
19.5:9 aspect ratio, 92.4% body/screen ratio
|6.81-inch AMOLED |
20:9 aspect ratio, 92.4% body/screen ratio
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
Adreno 660 GPU
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
Adreno 660 GPU
|Memory||8GB LPDDR5 RAM||12GB LPDDR5 RAM|
55W wired charging
50W wireless charging
55W charger in box
67W wired charging
67W wireless charging
67W charger in box
Main: 108MP, f/1.85, 1/1.33-in sensor, OIS
Ultra-Wide: 13MP, f/2.4, 123-degree FoV
Telephoto macro: 5MP, f/2.4, 3cm to 10cm range
Selfie: 20MP f/2.2, punch-hole cutout
Main: 50MP, f/1.95, 1/1.12-in sensor, OIS
Ultra-Wide: 48MP, f/2.2, 128-degree FoV
Periscope: 48MP, f/4.1, 5X optical, 10X hybrid, 120X digital zoom
Selfie: 20MP f/2.2, punch-hole cutout
|Operating system||MIUI 12|
|Dimensions||164.3 x 74.6 x 8.06mm||164.3 x 74.6 x 8.38mm|
Value and competition
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a fine phone, but it’s overpriced for what it delivers. It exceeds the cost of the Mi 11 by some €450 but doesn’t go far enough in terms of upgrades to justify that increase. It has the same display, the same processor, the same software, the same selfie camera, and the same basic chassis. Upgrades include the camera system with a selfie preview screen, the battery, and the IP68 rating. These are nice upgrades, but they aren’t quite worth the extra €450 to get them.
Related: The best Android phones
Moreover, the phone goes head to head with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and that’s not a good thing for Xiaomi. For about the same money (in Europe), the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a better buy. It has better battery life, a better screen, a better camera package, better software, and a better record for software updates.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is overpriced for what it delivers.
Then there’s the OnePlus 9 Pro, which is priced hundreds below the Mi 11 Ultra. With the same Snapdragon processor inside, a competitive camera suite, and equivalent battery tech, the OnePlus 9 Pro makes more sense if you want a premium flagship without breaking the bank.
You might also look at the Oppo Find X3 Pro, which is another interesting, though slightly flawed, premium Android smartphone. It’s got one of the best designs we’ve seen this year, though performance falls slightly short of Galaxy-class.
In terms of raw performance, the only other phones in the same league are Apple’s iPhone 12 family — and that’s an entirely different ball of wax compared to an Android phone. Apple’s newer iPhones fall in the same price range but have better cameras and faster performance, but you’d have to stomach iOS.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: The verdict
Xiaomi certainly designed an interesting phone in the Mi 11 Ultra, and I give it credit for that. The selfie preview screen, more so than anything else, helps it stand apart from the pack. While I appreciate the effort to create a compelling feature here, it’s more gimmick than gimme. Are the rest of the phone’s upgrades worth the extra cost? That depends heavily on what you value.
The IP68 rating, the improved battery life, and speedier charging tech are definitely big draws for my money. Then there’s the camera. It absolutely features a more useful and fun set of lenses when compared to the standard Mi 11. If you care about photography, the Mi 11 Ultra is a more compelling device than the Mi 11. But these upgrades come at a price, and that price is mighty high.
Standing on its own, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a fine phone. Too bad for Xiaomi it's not selling the phone in a vacuum.
Standing on its own, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a fine phone. It covers all the basics and then some. Too bad for Xiaomi that it’s not selling the phone in a vacuum. With competitors such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro afoot, it’s hard to justify the high cost of the Mi 11 Ultra.