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Xiaomi mi 11 lite 5G review: A lightweight phone with plenty of heavy-hitting features

With its ultra-slim design and high-end processor, we put the handset through its paces

David RS Taylor
Monday 04 October 2021 11:09
<p>The mi lite is the slimmest 5G phone we’ve ever tested </p>

The mi lite is the slimmest 5G phone we’ve ever tested

Challenger to the smartphone throne, Xiaomi, has a range of phones under its mi flag that have been praised for their performances, but they’ve been resolutely named to encourage maximum confusion.

For handsets that actually offer a wide range of different features, they have very similar names: the mi 10T has been upgraded to the mi 11T, which is topped by the mi 11T pro and mi 11T ultra, or you can go wild with the mi note 10 pro. It’s quite a lot to decipher.

One such phone from Xiaomi’s latest roster is the mi 11 lite 5G, a device aimed at the more premium end of the mid-budget market. The brand’s greatest success has been in this part of the industry, so it’s no surprise that its phones here are generally seen as heavy-hitters.

What is a slight surprise is the inclusion of 5G capability in this version of the 11 lite, something that should still command more of a fee, despite the rapid development of the extra-quick network.

Looking at the 11 lite’s specifications, it’s an ambitious phone for the price, with an AMOLED display and impressive chipset. Can a mid-budget smartphone with 5G tech avoid the pitfalls of compromise, or will the 11 lite 5G be consigned to the “also-ran” pile?

How we tested

The mid-range smartphone market is saturated with handsets that promise almost-flagship features for a fraction of the price. We kept this in mind throughout testing, weighing the 11 lite’s performance up against both its direct rivals and more expensive competitors. Aspects more suited to the more expensive end of the market, such as the phone’s processor, were of particular interest: can certain higher-end features suitably elevate a mid-budget phone?

Read more:

Xiaomi mi 11 lite 5G: £329, Mi.com

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Dimensions: 160.53mm x 75.73mm x 6.81mm
  • Weight: 159g
  • Display: 6.55in FHD+ AMOLED dot display with 10-bit colour depth
  • Battery: 4250mAh
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 780G
  • OS: Android 11 with MIUI 12
  • Camera: Rear 64MP, 8MP ultra wide, 5MP telemacro; front 20MP

Design

The 11 lite is an understated beauty: it’s the slimmest 5G phone we’ve tested, a huge plus point in a world of relatively clunky budget smartphones, making it a pleasure to use. In fact, using other phones after testing this one has been a matter of weighty disappointment.

The attractive matte mirror-effect finish on the case is a real winner, adding a level of premium looks that isn’t often seen at this price. The plastic support around the screen and plastic rim are more of a known entity at this end of the market, but even this doesn’t detract from the sophisticated general feel of the 11 lite.

We tested the black version, but it’s available in citrus yellow and mint green too. These colours are perfect choices for the matte finish, as they feel fresh without being garish. The Xiaomi logo is reflective without being gaudy, although the brand’s decision to include manufacturer information on the back of the phone is extremely odd and does detract from the aesthetic.

Read more: Nokia G50 review – our verdict on the brand’s £199 5G phone

The daintiness of the phone doesn’t end at its slimline looks – this thing is light. For a regularly-sized smartphone, it’s the most unassuming handset we’ve tested. At just 159g, it sits subtly in the pocket or hand, and while its dimensions could have you worried that you’ll snap it in two with a particularly vigorous tap on Instagram, the phone feels pleasingly sturdy.

The camera set-up looks professional and manages to stay pretty slim itself, although there’s a little wobble room when you lie the phone down on its back, due to varying lens depths. Overall, it’s a phone with timeless looks (besides that weird information on the back) that feels premium, light and sturdy all at once.

Display and sound

The 1080x2400 AMOLED display is impressively vibrant, with clear contrasts between darker colours and intricacy across the spectrum. While the display only offers a 90Hz refresh rate, it’s still smooth enough to handle most mobile games, with the vibrancy of the AMOLED screen’s 10-bit colour depth mitigating this. Gaming is also elevated by the fantastic sensitivity and accuracy of the display’s touch feedback, even improving the experience of everyday actions such as typing.

Read more: Apple iPhone 13 pro and iPhone pro max review

The 11 lite’s sound is impressive, with speakers at the top and bottom of the phone offering stereo for YouTube and gaming. Audio clarity is also pretty good, even down to the administrative sounds the phone makes. When setting up the phone, the 11 lite’s water droplet noise for notifications was so unnervingly clear that we momentarily thought we had a leak. We wish we were joking.

Performance

The aspect of the 11 lite that sets it above the rest at its market level is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 780G processor, a chipset that elevates the phone almost into the realm of recent flagship models. Navigation is snappy and crisp, with very little jaggedness between windows, for instance. Gaming is also a smooth experience, thanks to a combination of the Snapdragon 780G and the aforementioned impressive display and sound specs.

Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 skin fits neatly over Android 11, resulting in a straightforward OS that offers plenty of customisation. The interface still insists on downloading apps that you might not necessarily want, such as Amazon Shopping, Agoda and TikTok, and even starts life with online multiplayer game PUBG downloaded, but these are slight annoyances made up for by the array of options for personalising your experience.

The battery isn’t the biggest by any stretch, but holds enough power to cope with a day’s normal usage, which is more than can be said for some far pricier phones. It’s not a device for heavy media users who don’t have a plug nearby, but charging is pretty rapid for those of you fancying a long gaming session or YouTube deep-dive into a subject you didn’t know existed until five minutes ago.

Camera

The 11 lite’s main camera, a 64MP sensor, takes great landscape shots in regular lighting, with a real bounce to colours while remaining natural and true to the scene.

The 11 lite’s main camera impressed us when taking landscape shots in regular lighting

Shot clarity when zoomed in is still at a decent level, although isn’t as impressive as other phones around or slightly above the 11 lite’s RRP, such as the Google Pixel 4a. The other cameras – an 8MP ultra-wide angle and 5MP telemark – aren’t high-rollers, but the telemarco lens manages to add good detail to close-ups, but there are some issues with autofocus and light balance that make certain shots fiddly to manage.

Night mode is a little disappointing, seemingly washing everything in a yellow hue, but is by no means a total disaster. Dark settings are dealt with handily – just don’t rely on this phone for top-end night shots. The selfie camera is decent, especially in portrait mode, with plenty of detail gathered from even a quickly-taken photo, and, once again, really comes into its own in good light. Video is also a solid performer, especially for the price, with smooth footage captured in daylight and impressive audio pick-up.

The verdict: Xiaomi mi 11 lite 5G

The mi 11 lite 5G is a long-winded name for a very well put together phone. The mi range can be a bit of a confusing place to shop, but this is a handset that stands out from the rest. The word “lite” only refers to the weight, as the phone offers plenty of heavy-hitting tech. The AMOLED, 90Hz display is backed up by solid processing power, the battery brings plenty of heft, and Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 skin for Android is a decent piece of software.

The mi 11 lite is a smart, polished operator that delivers when it comes to multimedia usage. While other phones at this price might offer more power, or slightly better camera specs, the inclusion of 5G capability here really makes the device a serious, stylish contender for your cash.

Xiaomi mi 11 lite 5G

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