Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: is the selfie screen worth all the hype?

The phone is great, but the secondary screen isn’t necessary.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review
Bottom Line
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a well-rounded high-end phone that offers great performance, along with a great display and camera, but its secondary screen is unnecessary and its high price tag makes it difficult to recommend over the competition.
Excellent display and build quality
Blazing fast performance
Great cameras
Solid battery life
Fast charging
Secondary display is gimmicky

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a luxurious follow-up to the Xiaomi Mi 11. It packs in a more impressive display, camera array, a more rugged body, and a very unusual rear selfie display. This is a phone that is trying to compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max. That means it’s focused on offering premium specs, along with a few bells and whistles.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra houses a huge 6.81-inch AMOLED 120Hz display with slightly curved edges. We usually don’t like curved edges on a display, but the Mi 11 Ultra’s curved edges are very subtle and unobtrusive. The display packs in HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and it’s capable of a peak brightness of 1700 nits! We also really like its ultrawide 20:9 aspect ratio. That said, it’s not the best display we’ve come across, but it’s excellent.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review
Made with a ceramic back and an aluminum frame, the build quality of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra  is excellent

Made with a ceramic back and an aluminum frame, the build quality of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is excellent. And unlike the Mi 11, it’s IP68 certified. Unfortunately, it’s also heavy – weighing in at 8.25 oz, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra manages to be a smidge heavier than the hefty Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Contributing to the Mi 11 Ultra’s weight is its large rear camera bump and a 1.1-inch secondary (selfie screen) display with an AMOLED display.

Initially, we were excited to use the secondary display, but in practice, it’s just a gimmick. The secondary display is designed to be used as an always-on display for the time/date and notifications. It also works as a selfie preview screen, specifically, it allows you to take selfies with the rear camera. But because it’s very small, it’s not very practical to use as a selfie screen. When taking selfies and holding the phone at arm’s length, we’d have to squint to see what’s on the display, effectively making the display pretty impractical for posing for selfies.

Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and 12GB of RAM, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra manages to outperform all of its competition. The phone earned a Geekbench 5 single-core score of 1121 and multi-core score of 3697, effectively beating out the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro. In contrast to the Mi 11, the Mi 11 Ultra is a little bit faster too.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra comes packing a 5,000 mAh battery. The battery life is actually a lot better on the Mi 11 Ultra when compared to the Mi 11. We got about a day and a half from it with regular use. On the charging front, the Mi 11 Ultra offers both 67W wired and 67W wireless charging, effectively beating out the 55W of the Mi 11. The phone also supports 10W reverse wireless charging.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra offers a camera array that is a significant upgrade over the Mi 11. To that effect, the phone has scrapped the somewhat useless tele-macro lens on the Mi 11 that we mostly got blurry shots with. In its place, you get an ultra-wide lens with an impressive 128-degree field of view, a traditional wide lens, and a telephoto lens that is capable of 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, and a record-breaking 120x digital zoom.

When it comes to the main camera and ultra-wide cameras, daylight photos are very good with excellent clarity, sharpness, balanced exposure, great white balance, and barely any noise. The telephoto lens offers impressive zoomed-in images at up to 10x, but anything beyond that isn’t really worth taking. Low-light night photos are quite good, the camera is able to reveal a lot of detail in the dark without adding too much graininess.

When it comes to selfies, the front-facing camera is identical to the one on the Mi 11. It’s a solid selfie camera that can take solid portraits, but it’s not as good as the competition. Likewise, portraits taken with the main camera are good, but can’t quite compete with the polish produced by the likes of the S21 Ultra. We’ll update this review with sample photos shortly.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review verdict

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a well-rounded high-end phone, but it’s facing stiff competition from the likes of the OnePlus 9 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and even Xiaomi’s own more affordable Mi 11. In comparison to the Mi 11, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra does offer an improved camera and a more durable body, and better battery life, but it comes at a hefty starting price of $1399 unlocked. You do get a quirky secondary display with the Mi 11 Ultra, but we prefer the Mi 11 over the Mi Ultra since it’s ultimately the better value.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is currently available for sale in the U.S. through AliExpress.

Update 4/30/21: The review has been updated to correct inaccurate statements about the selfie screen. 

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