Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: a lightning-fast smartphone with two screens

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a luxury phone that has plenty to boast about

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

Joining the race to be the biggest and best smartphone of them all is the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. The second display on the back camera module sets it apart from the crowd. But that’s not all it has to offer, it’s also lightning fast with an excellent camera - so naturally, it has an eye-watering price tag to match.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    6.8inch front display, 1.1inch rear display

  • +

    Impressive rear cameras

  • +

    Powerful performance

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Very big and heavy to hold

  • -

    The massive camera module is an eye-sore

  • -

    Second display isn't very responsive

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra - key specs

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Dimensions: 164.3 x 74.6 x 8.38mm
Weight: 234 g
Screen: 6.8 inches AMOLED (120Hz, HDR10+)
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
GPU: Adreno 660
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 256GB
Rear cameras: 50MP, 48MP, 48MP
Front cameras: 20MP
Battery: 4,6000 mAh
OS: MIUI 12 based on Android 11
5G: Yes

To sum up this Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review in a few words: this phone is big, fast and just a little bit different.

All of the best smartphones you can buy right now are actually very similar, it’s a recipe for success so why mess with that? Well, the smartphone market is becoming pretty oversaturated and it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out against the crowd. So no wonder Xiaomi has pushed the boat out a bit with the Mi 11 Ultra. 

At first glance, it looks like any other flagship handset. Turn it around and you’ll find something that no other phone has. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has a second tiny screen on the camera module. Meant as an always-on display, notification window and for previewing your selfies, it is a little gimmicky but during testing, I actually used it much more than I expected. 

Two screens isn’t all this luxury phone has to show for itself, it’s also one of the fastest handsets on the market and one of the best Android phones you can buy. In this Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review, I’ll take you through everything you need to know including what’s new as well as a rundown on its design, display, camera and performance. 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: video overview

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: price and availability

Launched in the UK in May 2021, the Mi 11 Ultra is available now direct from Xiaomi in Ceramic Black for £1,199. In Australia, you’ll be looking at AU$1,799. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get your hands on one in the US as Xiaomi doesn’t sell its phones there. 

Going up against the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with its eye-watering price, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra means business. 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: features and what’s new 

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is a complete overhaul of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, Xiaomi’s premium phone from 2020. Not only is it now a much more powerful device thanks to an improved processor and more RAM, but Xiaomi has also boosted the screen resolution and size, renewed the camera system as well as packed in a bigger battery. Oh, and not to mention the second screen they’ve included on the back of the phone. They’re such different phones that you can’t even really compare them. Coming more in line with other flagships this year like the OnePlus 9 or the Samsung Galaxy S21, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra also has wireless charging, a 120Hz refresh rate and 8K video.

Earlier in 2021, Xiaomi released the Xiaomi Mi 11 which sports the same processor, battery and operating system. It also has a similar display, as well as wireless charging - the biggest differences are the camera system and the lack of a second screen. If you like the idea of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra but can’t stomach the price, it’s a much more accessible option.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: design and display

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

Taking the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice is how big the handset is. It measures 164.3 x 74.6 x 8.38mm and weighs 234g, so in comparison to its competitors, it is one of the heaviest devices around. For me personally, the phone soon became uncomfortable to use one-handed, so that’s worth bearing in mind if you have small hands too.

On the front, it has a large curved display while on the back is a three-lens camera module that stretches across the entire width of the phone, with a small screen on the right-hand side.  It comes in two classy colourways: Ceramic Black and Ceramic White. You’ll find the standard USB-C charging port on the bottom, and on the edge of the frame, there's the usual power button as well as volume controls. Xiaomi hasn’t included a 3.5mm headphone jack. If that’s a problem for you, the phone comes with a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adaptor. 

The camera notch is undeniably huge and will most certainly get in the way sliding the handset in and out of your pocket. One of the most common issues with a large camera module is usually that it makes the phone unstable to use on a table or other flat surfaces. That’s actually not a problem here because it stretches across the whole width of the phone keeping it secure although it did mean the phone lies tilted. 

You can use the tiny 1.1inch display to check the time, see your notifications or battery level and preview selfies. If you are playing music, you can use it to pause or play the music and skip through tracks without turning the phone over. Although, it wasn't always that responsive and sometimes took a few taps to recognise my touch so it would probably be easier to just pick the phone up. I did actually find myself using it way more than expected. Partly because the phone was always lying on its front so it was the easiest way to check the time. I must admit when the rear display isn’t switched on, it is a bit of an eye-sore. 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

Boasting a WQHD+ (3200x1440) 6.81inch AMOLED display with 1.07 billion colours, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra does not skimp on its screen. All of that alongside a whopping 1,700nits peak brightness makes for a seriously eye-popping display. Super sharp lettering and vibrant colours give this phone a stunning edge while HDR10+ support means you’ll be able to make the most out of your favourite Netflix shows too. Despite its impressive specifications, I wouldn’t say it’s better than other recent flagship phones from 2021, like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for instance. To unlock the phone there’s an in-display fingerprint sensor that works quickly, reliably and will also be able to link up to some health apps as a heart rate monitor.

Following the trend set by other smartphone manufacturers, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has a 120Hz refresh rate with AdaptiveSync to automatically adjust it according to the type of on-screen activity, helping to conserve battery life. No matter what it is you’re doing, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra delivers effortless scrolling and swiping whether it’s in mobile games or simply browsing the web.

Included in the box is a clear protective case, it’ll help protect the body of the phone but I can’t see it doing much to shield the camera module. Unlike both its predecessor (the Mi 10 Pro) and its little sibling (the Mi 11) the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has IP68 water resistance which is sure to give you extra peace of mind using it on a rainy day or by a pool.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: camera 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

The camera tech is equally as impressive as the rest of the handset. There are three rear lenses- a 50mp wide-angle lens, a 48MP ultra-wide-angle lens and a 48MP telephoto camera. On the front is a 20MP selfie camera.

For simple point-and-shoot photography, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra did a cracking job. Shots of cityscapes and landscapes were well-balanced with vibrant colours, and they had tons of intricate detail even when you zoom right into the shot. I took a few snaps of plants, bikes and buildings on a gloomy day and the camera did a great job at brightening darker areas of the scene without overcompensating. 

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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

Colours look natural and accurate from the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra's camera.
(Image credit: Future)
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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

Colours look natural and accurate from the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra's camera.
(Image credit: Future)

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has 120x digital zoom, 10x hybrid zoom and 5x optical zoom. Up to 10x zoom, you’ll easily get shots precise enough to use on social media. The 120x zoom won’t give you that but it will give you far more than the naked eye can. Take a look at its abilities in the gallery below.

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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

Shots of landscapes and cityscapes look balanced and detailed.
(Image credit: Future)
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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

Shots of landscapes and cityscapes look balanced and detailed.
(Image credit: Future)

When it came to portraits, shots came out looking sharp and bright. I did find that they weren’t the most flattering because they were so detailed and slightly oversaturated yet this was easily rectifiable by tweaking the settings slightly. Selfies from the front camera were okay, they looked a little bland and even slightly grainy at times though. 

With tons of camera modes to play around with, the Mi 11 Ultra is well equipped for all sorts of scenes, be it at night, photographing documents or even snaps of the moon. The Macro mode took incredibly detailed shots up close, even though it put a weird fish-eye effect on the frame. 

What’s really interesting about the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is the tiny screen on the back camera module which allows you to preview shots. Ultimately this means you no longer need to lose out on image quality using the front camera, you can make the most of everything the main lenses have to offer even when it comes to taking selfies. Anyone who posts a lot on social media is sure to go mad over this feature.

Using the rear display to take selfies worked a treat. You aren’t going to see everything in the shot yet it does give you a good idea of whether you’ve managed to fit everyone in. If you are trying to capture smaller details in the background, holding it at arm’s length or putting it on a timer and moving even further away does mean you’re likely to miss parts. I can’t see that being an issue very often though.  

 Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: performance and battery 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra - Geekbench 5 scores

GeekBench

(Image credit: GeekBench)

[CPU]

Single-Core Score: 1,132

Multi-Core Score: 3,722

[Compute]

OpenCL: 4,592

Vulkan: 4,053

Under the hood is the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. Paired with that is the Qualcomm Adreno 660 GPU. After having used it for everything from a bit of social media scrolling to more intense activities like mobile gaming and photo-editing, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra feels seriously fast and completely capable. It got a little warm at times yet still managed to keep up with just about anything. 

Its speed was backed up by Geekbench 5 where it scored 1,132 in single-core and 3,722 in multi-core. That’s even higher than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (1,109 / 3,674) and the OnePlus 9 Pro (1,087 / 3,510). I then ran 3DMark’s Wild Life test on it, to benchmark its gaming abilities. It scored an average frame rate of 34.10 (that’s the same as both of the above flagships). The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra actually maxed out 3DMark’s Sling Shot and Sling Shot Extreme tests. So this phone is a notch above the rest when it comes to performance, making it an absolute joy to use for any task you can throw at it. If you are seriously into mobile games then rest assured this will make a fantastic gaming handset.

Naturally, the Mi 11 Ultra has 5G so you’ll be able to make the most of next-gen mobile data speeds as well if you live in an area that supports it. Similarly, Wifi 6 means if you have the kit for it, you’ll get the fastest internet possible. 

There’s no point in having a fast phone if its battery isn’t up to scratch. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has a large 5,000mAh battery which is certainly promising. I put it through its paces and found it easily lasted me the whole day.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra - 3DMark scores

3DMark

(Image credit: UL, 3DMark)

Wild Life: 5,687 (Average frame rate = 34.10fps)

Sling Shot: Maxed Out!

Sling Shot Extreme (OpenGL ES 3.1): Maxed Out!

To test it out more accurately, I downloaded a video and ran it for two hours on full brightness. In that time, the battery dropped by 14% suggesting it would have lasted almost 14 and a half hours. Despite not being the most impressive battery in a flagship smartphone, that’s not at all bad. To recharge it again, there’s a 67W wired turbo charger included in the box, or if you have the kit for it, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra also supports 67W wireless charging.

Running MIUI 12 OS, it’s based on Android 11 so feels familiar and intuitive. Starting the phone up for the first time, it comes with an app or two that most will be quick to uninstall like Agoda. Others might actually be handy to have pre-installed (depending on who you are) such as all of the core Google apps, TikTok, Facebook and Amazon.

Built-in dual speakers are tuned by Harmon and Kardon and make for a loud warm sound. You’ll be able to get away with watching TV shows and movies using them, however music did sound a little distorted with the volume turned all the way up so you’ll still want to hook up a separate speaker or pair of headphones before opening up Spotify.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: verdict 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

You can’t call the Xiaomi Mi 11 the perfect phone - it’s heavy, bulky and not to mention the eye-sore that is the camera module on the back. I also think it's a shame that the second display isn't more responsive and doesn't have more uses. Having said that, this handset surprised me with lightning speed performance, long battery life, an impressive display and detailed point-and-shoot photography.

Because of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s price, not everyone will be convinced by it. After all, this is a luxury phone through and through. But for those who want something a little different and can see themselves making use of selfie previews on the second display then there’s nothing else like it. It doesn’t even have to be about the second screen though - if you need a powerful phone to make photo edits on the go, or you are massively into mobile gaming, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra will be a good fit for you. 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: also consider  

If you don’t have a strict budget and want one of the best Android phones for performance, then you won’t get much better than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or the OnePlus 9 Pro. But if those phones are a little too pricey for you, then you should consider the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G or the OnePlus 9, both of which can offer you superb performance with detailed camera systems at lower prices. 

For the best phone overall, the iPhone 12  combines beauty with speed and a camera that professionals will happily vouch for. If you are reading this Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review then it’s likely you’re a self-professed ‘Android person’ still it’s worth considering this iOS heavyweight. 

Yasmine Crossland
Yasmine Crossland

Reviews Writer for T3, Yasmine, started writing reviews in 2019 and is always knee-deep in the latest tech products. She keeps a finger on the pulse when it comes to the most exciting and innovative tech and is happy to tell you exactly what she thinks about it too. In her free time, you'll catch her tending to her plants and planning her next big trip.