It has been one of the most talked-about phones in recent times. And rather unusually for a phone from Xiaomi, the stress has been on its design rather than its spec sheet. Xiaomi claims the Mi 11 Lite is the slimmest and lightest smartphone of 2021 and while that might certainly be true, does that make it worth investing in? Let me try to sum up the essence of the Mi11 Lite in (rather appropriately) 11 not so light points:
1. It is astonishingly light, and slim as well
The first thing that will strike you about the Mi 11 Lite is just how light and slim it is. Actually, the light bit will hit you first, for (as we will see in the next point), the Mi 11 Lite is not actually a small phone. So when you see a phone of that size, you tend to expect something, well, heavier. But at 157 grammes, it is very light for a phone with a 6.5-inch display. The 6.81 mm slimness is impressive too, but it is the sheer lack of weight for its size that will hit you.
2. And looks premium too (but is NOT compact)
It might literally be light in weight, but the Mi 11 Lite is not a lightweight in the design department. The phone is rather normal sized with a length of 160.5mm (almost the same as the iPhone 12 Pro Max) and at 75.7mm is wider than the iPhone 12. Which as I remarked earlier, makes its weight all the more remarkable. What’s more, it looks remarkably premium too. I got the Tuscany Coral variant (you also get Jazz Blue and Vinyl Black) and while the front was the normal tall, bezel-less display with a punch hole in the top left corner, the slightly peach shaded back with an almost velvet finish (Xiaomi calls it an anti-glare matte design) looks beautiful. The texture of the square-shaped camera unit is slightly different as well, giving the phone a neat touch. The frame is plastic (and the same colour as the back in a neat touch)but the front and back are Gorilla Glass 5, and the phone looks very classy indeed. And in a neat touch, it is dust and splash resistant with an IP53 rating – something that far too many phones still miss out on.
Xiaomi has gone to great pains to stress that the Mi 11 Lite is a “lifestyle” phone to take the stress off its specs, but one spec department in which the Mi 11 Lite can go against pretty much anyone out there is the display. It comes with a 6.55-inch, full HD+ 10-bit AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. It is wonderfully bright and handles colours and contrasts very well, and technically is superior to the 8-bit displays we see on most other phones. Is this difference obvious? Not quite, but there is no doubting that this is comfortably one of the best displays in the sub-Rs 25,000 (perhaps even sub-Rs 30,000) segment and is great for viewing content.
4. Although that processor seems a little old
Take the display and design out of the equation and the Mi 11 Lite starts looking more mid-segment than premium. The phone is driven by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G processor, which is a very able performer but is definitely a little long in the tooth now (we saw it in the POCO X3 last year, remember). The phone comes with two RAM and storage versions: 6GB / 128GB and 8GB / 128GB, but rather remarkably for such a slim device, you do get the option of expandable memory, although only through a hybrid SIM slot. And no, there’s no 5G here.
5. Decent cameras
The mid-segment feeling continues in the camera department. The 64-megapixel main sensor at the back does take some very decent shots, especially in good light conditions, with a good amount of detail, although the colours seem a little over-saturated at times. And thankfully the two secondary cameras – an 8-megapixel ultrawide and a 5-megapixel telemacro lens – actually add value rather than make up numbers. You are not going to get amazing pictures all the time from this phone, but by and large, you can get good shots with a little careful framing and effort. The same applies to videos too. There is no OIS, but you will get reasonably good quality videos here, and with Xiaomi having added a number of editing options, you can do more with what you shoot. The 16-megapixel selfie snapper gets some very good portrait snaps, though it insists on smoothing out skin and brightening it up. In short, these are decent rather than exceptional cameras. All right, I will say it – the Note 10 Pro Max has better cameras, but these are not too far behind and with a bit of effort can match it!
Not surprisingly, the Mi 11 Lite comes with no 3.5mm audio jack – that poor port gets sacrificed on the altar of slim-ness ever so often. But a very pleasant surprise is the fact that the phone not only comes with support for Hi-Res audio but also packs in dual speakers, which means the sound on the phone is surprisingly good. Considering how some more expensive devices still come with single speakers, this is a very pleasant surprise.
7. An able multitasker but no gaming beast
That processor allied with the RAM and storage configurations makes the Mi 11 Lite a steady rather than spectacular performer. It is not going to run high-end games at maxed-out settings super smoothly, but it will handle most day to day tasks without too much effort, and will also be comfortable with regular multi-tasking of 10-12 apps running at the same time. Remarkably, the phone does not actually heat up much while being used, which is a rarity in slim phones. This is a phone that will help you get through the day easily.
8. Why no MIUI 12.5, eh?
The Mi 11 Lite runs Android 11, with MIUI 12.0.4 on top of it. Xiaomi has considerably cleaned up its software and the number of ads and bloatware is almost non-existent. However, I was a little disappointed not to see the latest, super clean MIUI 12.5 on the phone (it is available on both the Note 10 Pro Max and the Note 10S). It is expected to arrive on it through an update but it would have been great to have it out of the box. That said, MIUI runs very smoothly on the phone.
9. A surprising battery
When a phone is this slim and light, there is a tendency to think that it would house a small battery. With good reason. After all, batteries are big and bulky things. Xiaomi has pulled off a bit of a coup here by packing in a relatively large 4,250mAh battery into the Mi 11 Lite – that’s big when you consider that the thicker, heavier OnePlus Nord has a smaller battery. It gets one through a day of usage with the refresh rate at 90Hz and well if you turn it down to 60Hz, you could get a few hours more. There is a 33W charger in the box and the phone gets charged at a bit over an hour (65-70 minutes), which is very good by most standards. The battery, like the speakers, is a very pleasant surprise in the device.
With its relatively slim and lightweight frame, the Mi 11 Lite is perhaps one of the most convenient phones for everyday use. You do not have to put up with too small a display so viewing and typing remain easy, there is no compromise on sound quality (although the absence of the 3.5mm audio jack might rankle for some) and general performance is very smooth indeed. Signal reception was very good and while the phone is too big to be handled with one hand, it is perhaps the easiest to handle this side of the Pixel 4a, iPhone SE and iPhone 12 mini, all of which come with considerably high price tags. The dust and water resistance and good battery life do its cause no harm at all, and neither do the svelte looks.
11. It might seem expensive, but…
In terms of sheer pricing, the Mi 11 Lite might strike some as being a little on the expensive side. It starts at Rs 21,999 for a 6GB / 128GB variant, with the 8GB / 128GB variant priced at Rs 23,999. Now, when you consider that you can get devices like the iQOO Z3 with a Snapdragon 768, and Xiaomi’s own Redmi Note 10 Pro and Pro Max as well as the POCO X2 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 732 chip, with the Mi 10i with a Snapdragon 750G processor, all for lower prices (and many with better cameras), and the Mi 11 Lite might start looking like an expensive proposition.
However, the point to remember is that this is not a phone that fights solely on specs and performance, but on design and feel, and in those categories, it is in a zone of its own, truth be told.
Verdict: Get it…or not?
So, should you buy the Mi 11 Lite? It simply depends on how much you value that slim and light form factor. If you do not, then this is perhaps not the phone for you. There are better specced and equally good looking phones out there at this price point and even for lesser. The Mi 11 Lite is perfect for those who want a phone that works and which literally is not a weight on their hands and pockets, and are willing to pay a premium for it. It is an exceptionally designed phone that is perfect for everyday use. And that is surely worth something – Xiaomi deserves credit for having the nerve (chutzpah?) to release such a device in a spec-driven age.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Amazingly light and slim
- Premium design
- Good display
- Generally smooth performance
- Might be considered expensive in spec terms
- No 3.5mm audio jack
- Not meant for heavy-duty gaming
- Cameras could have been better