Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra long-term review
A masterpiece of a handset
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is the loveliest phone this reviewer has used. Though I much prefer a black phone with a matte finished-rear panel that I tuck into a standard rubber case and have all the peace of mind left to me, I can’t help but enjoy the Mi 11 Ultra, a bit guiltily so.
First of all, I don’t use it with a case. That means that I’ve developed a mindfulness to my grip that I can’t say I enjoy too much. But the Mi 11 Ultra requires you to grip it mindfully, as it’s one of the slipperiest phones around. It’s like Xiaomi designed it specifically to be slippery – the razor-thin frame, which is sandwiched between heavily curved glass plates, leaves no place for purchase, and picking it up from a table is a hassle.
The rear Ceramic panel is even more smooth to the finger and slides off just about any uneven surface you leave the phone on. And to add insult to injury, the humongous camera island disbalances the entire phone with its weight.
But the constant worry of dropping the Mi 11 Ultra fades in the face of the joy it is to hold. Its lack of sharp corners makes it slide about seamlessly in your hands, and it has the reassuring weight of a well-made flagship phone.Some users might frown at that weight, which at 234g is on the higher end of the spectrum, but this is a big phone, and it’s made with quality materials – why wouldn’t you want it to be weighty?
Back to that ceramic for a sec – it has a palpable feeling of quality that isn’t there with glass panels. Resting your fingers on this phone’s back feels nicer than on most any other around.Xiaomi put a lot of thought into the design of the Mi 11 Ultra. There are subtle touches here that you’ll notice when you’re using it. The frame expands at the corners, from where the front glass curves downward.
The frame’s surface is rounded throughout, except at the top and bottom, where it’s flat. Because of this flat base, the Mi 11 Ultra can stand on its own on a table.
Another subtle design feature is the speaker grille on the bottom, which is shaped like a sound wave, to emphasize the Harman Kardon-tuned speakers beneath – which are excellent, by the way.
Moving to the rear and you’re met by the biggest camera bump on a phone. Both protruding and wide, this continent-sized island makes up for its size in the packed technology inside. There are three big camera sensors, a triple LED flash, and an entire 1.1-inch secondary screen. When the screen is off, it blends into the blackness, but you could set it to show the time or use it as a camera viewfinder.
How has it held up?
Before I get to battle scars, I have to address the smudge retention of this phone. Both the front and back panels are prone to smudges and grease, and it’s a bit unpleasant. The ceramic back especially. It’s gotten to the point where I wipe the Mi 11 Ultra with a microfiber cloth a few times a day. Perhaps the oleophobic anti-smudge coating has worn off faster than usual or something.I haven’t dropped the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra from more than 50cm high, so I can’t attest to its break resistance. But I have carried the phone only without a case for the past 7 months and have accumulated some fine scratches on its front. They’re visible only under direct sunlight and aren’t palpable. In my world, this is par for the course of using a phone.The frame and rear panel are immaculate. Not a single scratch on them.Because the ceramic rear panel is as slippery as I’ve said, it’s a bit of a chore to find a suitable wireless charger for the Mi 11 Ultra. I charge my phones overnight at the bedside table and have a wireless charger for that purpose. The Mi 11 Ultra would slide off my regular coaster-style charger, but it would do it very slowly – the night I found this out, I was woken to the jarring sound of the phone dropping to the table and subsequently to the floor.
I tried a few other chargers we had lying around at the office, but I found that the Mi 11 Ultra only really stood still on Xiaomi’s own 20W wireless charger, which has a grippy surface. Yet that one has a fan to cool a fast-charging phone, and it’s audible in a bedroom, so it’s no use either.Luckily, the Mi 11 Ultra can charge extremely fast through its 67W wired adapter, so I’ve used that. But it brings me to the only hardware fault the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has manifested. Its USB-C port is a bit wobbly. It doesn’t always connect to a cable when you insert it and needs a bit of jerking around.
It’s not a big issue when charging, but when you need to pick up the phone, it could disconnect and reconnect, which displays an annoying charging animation that blanks the entire display.
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