Mi Notebook Ultra Review: good features, good value for money

The 2021 Mi Notebook models called the Mi Notebook Pro and Mi Notebook Ultra are not direct replacements for last year’s Mi Notebook 14 family of ultraportables. These are both premium, but also a bit larger, with added value features you might find compelling for daily work or entertainment on the go. They are placed above the new Redmibook series, which was launched this year. More importantly, they repair many of the shortcomings of last year’s models, giving Xiaomi a stronger foothold in the Indian laptop market.

We have the new Mi Notebook Ultra with us today, which is a premium 15.6-inch laptop aimed at creative professionals and anyone who wants more power and performance than the entry-level segment can deliver. Prices starting at Rs. 59,999, this is not the most sleek or portable laptop around, but it offers style, features and performance. Let’s start with our full review.

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The Mi Notebook Ultra weighs 1.7 kg and measures 17.99 mm thick

Mi Notebook Ultra price in India

The Mi Notebook Ultra is a step above the Mi Notebook Pro that was launched at the same time. The Ultra model is physically larger, with a larger screen and battery, but specifications are quite similar in both product families. Prices start at Rs. 59,999 for the base variant of the Mi Notebook Ultra, which is an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB RAM.

Continuing to the variant with 16GB RAM will cost Rs. 64,999 – this is slightly higher than the Rs. 63,999 price that Xiaomi announced at launch time but still makes a lot of sense because the RAM is not upgradeable. The top-end variant, which we are considering today, has a Core i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM, and costs Rs. 76,999.

Mi Notebook Ultra design and features

The body of the Mi Notebook Ultra is made of Series 6 aluminum. This laptop weighs 1.7 kg, which is well beyond ultraportable territory, but it is still easy enough to carry every day when you need to commute. It’s also pretty slim at 17.9mm. As for build quality, I have no complaints. The hinge feels solid, and the lid does not bend too much. You can open this laptop with one finger. There is a large grille for air intake on the bottom, and hot air is through vents at the back that are masked by the hinge barrel.

The metallic body has a sandblasted texture and looks nice, although the large black Xiaomi logo is a departure from the completely low appearance of last year. Other than that, the body is quite minimalist and does not call itself much attention. The Mi logo below the screen on last year’s models has been updated in line with the company’s recent rebranding effort, although the product name is still Mi Notebook Ultra.

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The keyboard is not cramped, and the power button has an integrated fingerprint sensor

The most striking feature of the Mi Notebook Ultra is its 15.6-inch, 16:10 aspect ratio screen. The borders are pretty slim, but there’s still room at the top for a 720p webcam – leaving the webcam was a big miss for Xiaomi with the previous Mi Notebook lineup, especially because of remote work and video calling have become much more important and common over the past year or so.

There is enough space for a large, comfortable keyboard on the lower half of this laptop. I was happy to see a column of paging keys on the right, and luckily the arrow keys are not cramped at all. You even get one macro key in the top right corner, allowing you to launch any program quickly. Adjustable backlighting addresses another of the major shortcomings with models from last year, but there are only two brightness levels (Xiaomi says three, but it counts “out” as one of them).

The power button has an integrated fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello authentication. It caches your fingerprint when you turn on the laptop, so you do not have to touch it again to log in after Windows starts – but you just have to get used to touching the button with the pad of your finger. The trackpad is large and comfortable. Windows multi-touch gestures are supported and work well. At the bottom, the physical click mechanism is a bit stiff.

On the left you will see one USB 3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) Type-C port, one HDMI video output, one USB 3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) Type-A port, and one Thunderbolt 4 Type-C port. DisplayPort video output is supported only by the latest, but the Mi Notebook Ultra can be charged with any of these ports. On the right side is another USB Type-A port, but disappointingly this only works at USB 2.0 speeds. Finally there is a 3.5 mm audio socket. Unfortunately, this laptop does not have an SD card slot or physical Ethernet port.

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All ports left and right of the Mi Notebook Ultra

Mi Notebook Ultra specifications

On the inside, Xiaomi has gone with Intel’s 11th Gen H35 series CPUs, which are actually somewhat more powerful versions of the U-series chips used for ultraportable laptops, and not part of the more powerful H-series used for gaming and high-end models. H35 refers to the 35W TDP rating, which is a measure of how much power a CPU can draw to run faster for longer stretches of time. Xiaomi sticks to the integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, and there are no discrete GPU options.

You can choose between 8GB or 16GB RAM if you go with the Core i5-11300H CPU, but the Core i7-11370 is only paired with 16GB. The RAM is soldered and is not upgradeable. All three variants have a 512GB NVMe SSD that can be replaced, should you choose to upgrade in the future.

The 15.6-inch screen stands out in this segment for a number of reasons. It has a resolution of 3200×2000 pixels, which works at a very nice 16:10 aspect ratio. It also has a refresh rate of 90Hz, which is unusual for laptops in general, and Xiaomi says it occupies 100 percent of the sRGB color gamut. However, brightness is only rated at 300nits. This panel is really great for doing work and multitasking. It is quite sharp and clear. Colors are not the most vivid when watching video, but the anti-reflective finish is good for productivity.

The Mi Notebook 14 has a stereo speaker system and built-in microphone. Xiaomi does not specify a battery capacity rating, but says the battery life is good enough for 12 hours of local video playback. You get a 65W Type-C charger in the box, and should be able to charge up to 50 percent in 45 minutes. This laptop also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

You get Windows 10, which is upgraded to Windows 11. Xiaomi also includes a full license for Microsoft Office Home & Student 2019, and a tool called MIUI + that is said to allow easy file sharing with smartphones with MIUI, on many the same way that Apple’s AirDrop feature works.

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The 16:10 display ratio is great for work, and the refresh rate of 90Hz is unusual

Mi Notebook Ultra performance

I had no issues with the Mi Notebook Ultra in daily use. I was able to get work done, involving multitasking with 20 or more web apps across browser tabs. The top-end variant I look at has more than enough power for daily productivity and even creating a bit of light content. Typing was enjoyable thanks to good key trips, although I would have liked a slightly more springy action.

The large screen with high resolution is a pleasure to work on if you are used to more compact laptops. It is also decent for watching TV shows and movies. Music, however, does not sound great at all, because the speakers that are under fire but are just good in terms of volume and completeness.

Benchmarks show how well a device performs in situations that simulate intensive use in the real world. Starting with PCMark 10, the Mi Notebook Ultra managed 4,680 and 4,195 points in the standard and extended runes, respectively. These figures are only slightly higher than what last year’s Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU managed. SSD performance was measured at 2378.7MBps and 1508.2MBps for sequential read and write, while random read and write came at 1171.2MBps and 458.5MBps, respectively, which are pretty good speeds.

Cinebench R20 passed 548 and 2014 in its single-threaded and multi-threaded tests. POVRay’s render benchmark took 2 minutes, 45 seconds to complete. Compressing a 3.24GB folder of assorted files with 7zip took 2 minutes, 29 seconds and transcoding a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265 in Handbrake took 1 minute. These are both major improvements over last year’s model.

The Unigine Superposition graphics benchmark averaged 15.96fps at its 1080p Medium preset. 3DMark’s Time Spy and Time Spy Extreme tests returned scores of 1,363 and 576, respectively, while the Night Raid scene passed 14,209 and the Fire Strike Extreme test score was 1,555. Interestingly, last year’s model performed better in some cases, probably thanks to its entry-level Nvidia GeForce MX350 GPU.

You just need to be able to play casual games, but 3D titles strive to run smoothly. Many games recognize 16:10 screens, so scaling means you do not have to deal with stretching or letterboxing. At 1280×800 and using the Medium quality setting, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s built-in benchmark averaged only 23fps. Far Cry 5 could average 30fps. Neither game looked very good at these settings, so you’ll have to deal with older or simpler titles if you want to play on the Mi Notebook Ultra.

As far as battery life is concerned, you should be able to get a working day on one full charge, as your usage mainly consists of browsing the web and productivity. The heavy Battery Eater Pro 3D test ran 2 hours, 8 minutes, which is pretty good. With heavier tasks such as running games and benchmarks, the entire left side of the body including the wrist rest became quite warm. The cooling fan is not audible at all unless this laptop is heavily clamped.

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The Mi Notebook Ultra has an understated look, and build quality is good

Verdict

The Mi Notebook Ultra has a lot going for it in terms of features and performance. You get great value for money, even compared to the entry-level Redmibook series that was also launched quite recently. The display and keyboard are the highlights of this device. Battery life is also good enough for a work machine, and the hardware should be more than enough to last a few years. At the bottom, things like the speakers, trackpad, and port selection can be even better.

Xiaomi has struck a good balance between cost, features and performance. This is not the most portable laptop and it is definitely not aimed at gamers either, but you should still be able to carry it every day and get a lot of work done comfortably. It can be a good option for students, the self-employed or remote workers, and home users. The Core i7 variant tested here is worth checking out if you have a budget that is up to Rs. 80,000.

The mid-tier variant with its less powerful CPU should also be good enough for most people. This could be even better value, because you still get the same 90Hz 16:10 high-resolution screen, comfortable keyboard, and Thunderbolt port at a significantly lower price, and the CPU specs are not that different. However, I would not suggest considering the base variant as it only has 8GB of RAM which is not upgradeable. The price difference will not save much on the life of a laptop.



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