Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G review: Chic and unique

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The Xiaomi Mi 11 range spans a significant spectrum from top-tier flagship, in the Mi 11 Ultra, to the standard Mi 11, down to the more entry level – which is where this, the Mi 11 Lite 5G, finds itself.

Despite plonking ‘Lite’ into its name, however, the Mi 11 Lite 5G really is not a low-power phone by any means. It’s just not as crazy-powerful as the upper echelons in the range. The second clue to that regard is the ‘5G’ aspect of the name – because, yes, there’s also speedy connectivity.

So if you’re not looking to spend a fortune on a phone, want 5G connectivity, and having a slimmer and easier-to-manage handset is high up your list of appeals, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G ticks a lot of boxes. But then so do a bunch of competitors. So can this entry-level 5Ger deliver?

Design & Display

Display: 6.55-inch AMOLED panel, 90Hz refresh, 1080 x 2400 resolutionFinish options: Truffle Black, Mint Green, Citrus YellowDimensions: 160.5 x 75.7 x 6.8mm / Weight: 157gSide-mounted fingerprint scannerNo 3.5mm jack

Upon pulling the Mi 11 Lite 5G from its box we let out a rare gasp. Because, shown here in its apparent ‘Mint Green’ finish – it looks more ‘Bubblegum’ to us, which is the name for the non-5G variant – this handset looks really fresh and standout. Very dapper indeed.

That’s partly because Xiaomi has redesigned the range, so the Mi 11 Lite looks way more evolved than the previous 10T Lite version. Look at those side-by-side and the older model looks rather dated – it’s quite a stark difference. Yet there’s mere months between them in terms of release cycle.

That said, the Mi 11 Lite 5G is only a little like other Mi 11 handsets in terms of design. The cameras are far different to the Ultra’s “megabump”, arranged in a really neat format that, although similar to the Mi 11, doesn’t protrude to the same degree from the rear.

The rear finish is good at resisting fingerprints too, which is a breath of fresh air (minty fresh, eh!), while the branding is subtle and nicely integrated.

But above all else, it’s the Mi 11 Lite 5G’s thickness that’s its biggest take-away point. By which we mean thinness: because this handset is far slimmer than, well, pretty much anything we’ve used for months and months. We can’t think of a slimmer 5G smartphone. That, for us, has bags of appeal – it’s been really refreshing not carting a brick around in the pocket for the couple of weeks we’ve been using this phone.

Such a svelte design means the 3.5mm headphone jack has been binned, though, so it’s wireless connectivity only in that regard. But we can take that – it makes the design look more enclosed and complete anyway. There’s also no under-display fingerprint scanner here, with a side-mounted one in the power button a perfectly acceptable alternative – that operates speedily and we’ve got very much used to using it.

The display, at 6.55-inches, is still large despite the phone’s overall trim frame. It’s flat, with the phone body curving gently at the edges to make it really comfortable to hold. And there’s no teardrop notch to cry about this time around either – it’s a single punch-hole one to the upper corner, which is fairly inconspicuous.

That screen, an AMOLED panel, delivers on colour, brightness and verve, while a 90Hz refresh rate can deliver a little added smoothness to proceedings. There’s not a 120Hz option here – kind-of odd, as the 10T Lite did have that – but, really, most eyes aren’t going to tell the difference. We’d take the battery life gains every time instead, thanks.

Performance & Battery

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 780G, 8GB RAMSoftware: MIUI 12 over Google Android 11 OSBattery: 4250mAh, 33W fast-chargingStorage: 128GB/256GB, microSD

Speaking of battery, that’s the first thing we assumed would be poor in the Mi 11 Lite 5G – because of how slim it is. But how wrong we were. For starters the 4,250mAh capacity cell is pretty capacious – and in our hands was easily able to deliver 16 hours a day with around 25 per cent battery or more remaining.

collection:Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite software MIUI

That’s been irrelevant of what we’ve asked the phone to do in a given day. Strava tracking for an hour and an hour of gaming in the evening, in addition to hours of screen time, calls and so forth. It’s no problem for this device. Note, however, that we’ve been unable to locate a 5G signal area during testing – lockdown and all that – so whether that would adversely affect battery life is for debate. What we do see in the settings, however, is a 5G option to toggle the connectivity off when it’s not needed, to further extend battery life.

However, while battery life ticks along just fine, part of the reason is down to the rather hardcore software approach. Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 – skinned over the top of Google’s Android 11 operating system – by default has a lot of “off” switches selected. Seriously, MIUI is hell-bent on ensuring battery lasts and lasts – sometimes to the detriment of the experience and use of apps.

As such, you’ll need to investigate individual apps within the settings and permit them to self wake as and when they need, removing any automated battery restrictions from the important ones that you have and would, say, expect push notifications from. In the past we’ve had MIUI cause delays with notifications in other Xiaomi phones. In the Mi 11 Lite 5G, however, that’s been no problem whatsoever – perhaps because we’re so used to it and in setting the software in how we want to conduct our business; or, perhaps, because Xiaomi has sorted that issue out in an incremental update!

Otherwise the software is pretty robust. There are some oddities, such as an additional Xiaomi store as an addition to Google Play, but the two hardly interfere too much. And having copied over a bumper crop of apps, it’s clear to see that there are Xiaomi pre-install favourites and various not-needed staples – browsers, calendars, that kind of stuff – that just clogs up the home screen to start with, but is easily replaced with Chrome and your other favourites.

Regarding the phone’s innards, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 780G platform handling proceedings, putting the Mi 11 Lite 5G one step down from the top-tier 800 series platform. Does that really matter? We’ve not found it to at all. From general user interface use, to app opening time, fluidity has been high throughout.

Besides, a 700 series chipset is more than good enough to run your more demanding favourites too. We’ve been plugging away at South Park: Phone Destroyer and PUBG: Mobile without hindrance, showing just how good the balance of power and battery life can be in devices such as this.

Cameras

Triple rear cameras:Main: 64-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, 0.7µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus (PDAF)Wide-angle (0.5x):  8MP, f/2.2, 1.12µm, 119-degree angle of viewMacro: 5MP, f/2.4Single front-facing punch-hole selfie camera: 20MP, f/2.2

Buy a ‘Lite’ phone and you’re never going to expect too much from the cameras, right? However, Xiaomi has done a reasonable job here of balancing things out. For starters all three lenses are actually useful – there’s not a lens here for the sake of number count, like with so much of the competition.

The main 64-megapixel sensor uses four-in-one processing to output 16-megapixel shots as standard, which hold enough colour and detail. Even in low-light conditions we’ve found the quality to hold up fairly well, too, so this sensor delivers the goods.

It’s a shame that there’s no optical stabilisation on the main lens, because holding it steady – especially when shooting Night Mode shots – is tricky and can result in a little softeness in dim conditions if you’re not careful.

collection:Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite cameras

The wide-angle, however, is a weaker sensor. It’s just 8-megapixels in resolution, can’t deliver the fidelity of the main one by any means, and displays some blur to the edges. That’s pretty common for wide-angle cameras, sure, but there are better iterations around. Still, there’s practical use from a sensor such as this, so it’s a positive to have it rather than not.

Last up out of the trio is a macro sensor. Now, typically, these are throwaway afterthoughts. But, actually, the one on this Mi handset is acceptable – probably because it’s a 5-megapixel sensor, not the 2-megapixel type that too many other budget handsets opt for. That means images are of a usable scale, and you’ll get a little extra something out of super close-up shots from this sensor. We doubt you’ll use it a lot, though, as it’s hardly a practical everydayer, plus its activation is tucked away in settings – but there’s fun to be had from it nonetheless.

What we like about the Mi 11 Lite 5G’s camera setup is that it’s not trying to oversell you a bunch of pointless lenses. It doesn’t protrude five miles from the back of the phone, either, delivering a neat-looking handset that, while hardly reaching for the stars in what it can do, is perfectly capable. And, compared to the likes of the Moto G100, for example, the Xiaomi actually has the upper hand in its image quality delivery.

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