Barely a few months after launching the super-slim Mi 11 Lite in the Indian market, Xiaomi has now come out with a new version of it – the Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G. The new Lite also plays on the “crazy slim” factor, but also brings a number of new features to the Lite table. Does that make it a better buy than the original, and should one even be interested in the Mi 11 Lite now that there’s a new Lite in tech town? Let’s take a closer look at the new “Liteweight” in the market – and just as we did with the original Mi 11 Lite (review), let us do so in eleven points:
1. Check the name… it ain’t Mi!
Yes, it belongs to the Mi 11 Lite family, but it is not called the Mi 11 Lite. The Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G (hence referred to as the Lite NE, for the sake of simplicity) is the first phone in India to come with Xiaomi rather than Mi branding. The move reflects a change in strategy by the brand, which will now release phones with Xiaomi branding instead of the Mi tag – maybe THAT explains why the much-talked about changes in the Mi logo a few months ago seemed so hard to spot2. Looks, feels and is light like a Mi 11 Lite… and that’s awesome!
In terms of design, the Mi 11 Lite NE 5G does not go too far from the Mi 11 Lite. The design is the same – you get a glass front and back, with the back having a smooth finish that manages to be subtly rather than loudly shiny and is not glossy. And of course, just as with the Mi 11 Lite, you will be struck by just how light it seems when you pick it up. It has almost the same proportions – 160.53 x 75.72 x 6.81mm as compared to 160.53 x 75.73 x 6.81mm – and is just 1 gram heavier (158 grams as opposed to 157 grams).
That makes it one of the lightest and slimmest phones around – just for comparison, the iPhone 13, which has a smaller display, is 174 grams, and is thicker at 7.65mm. The overall appearance is like in the case of the Mi 11 Lite, that of a super slim, sleek phone. But yes, it does not look at all different from the Mi 11 Lite! Its weight will surprise you, for it is actually not exactly a small phone like the Pixel 4A or the iPhone 13 mini. It is a proper full-sized phone that weighs much lesser than what you would expect. And it is as stunning as its predecessor. This is easily the most stylish looking phone in its segment, although some might like the slightly more radical appearance of the Realme GT ME and the POCO F3 GT.
3. Chipping in with 5G connectivity and a newer chip
They might look similar but there are some differences between the Mi 11 Lite and the NE Lite. The two most striking changes are the fact that the NE Lite is running on a newer and far more powerful processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G, as compared to the older 732G on the Mi 11 Lite. It also comes with 5G connectivity, and well, the display too gets a touch-up, which takes us to the next point.
The size of the display on the Lite NE is the same as the Mi 11 Lite, and so is its resolution – it is a 6.55-inch 10-bit AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,400 x 1,800, a brightness level of up to 800 nits, and a refresh rate of 90Hz. The Lite NE however gets Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ support. That might sound like a technicality until you see Netflix on both these displays – the detail and clarity on the Lite NE are markedly superior. Mind you, this will not strike you in most use cases. I had called the display of the Mi 11 Lite as being among the best in the sub-Rs 30,000 segment. The same applies to the Lite NE. I would say that the display is one of the highlights – perhaps THE highlight of the phone, and adds a lot of spec substance to its slimness.
5. The new chip makes a difference, and gets into the premium mid-segment
The original Mi 11 Lite’s biggest shortcoming in the eyes of many was the fact that it came with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G processor, which was a respectable mid-segmenter but was seen as being a bit on the old side. The Lite NE has no such frailty. It is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G, similar to the chip on the very good Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G and the impressive Realme GT ME. It comes paired with RAM and storage variants of 6GB / 128GB and 8GB / 128GB. It needs to be mentioned that unlike many slim and trim devices that come with no expandable memory, the Lite NE does have that option, courtesy a hybrid SIM slot.
And the difference it makes in terms of performance is significant. Get into the game zone and you will see games loading faster and playing more smoothly, especially when you look at games like Call of Duty or the Asphalt racing series. In terms of gaming, this is a device that is well ahead of the Mi 10i and the Redmi Note 10 series. It also adds a much-needed performance edge to the Lite NE. That said, I would not recommend trying to play games at super-high settings, as you will then see the lags creep in.
6. The cameras are similar, but deliver better results
The camera set up on the Lite NE is again, broadly similar to what we saw on the 11 Lite. You get a 64-megapixel main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor, and a 5-megapixel telemacro (Xiaomispeak for macro) sensor on the back, and a 20-megapixel selfie camera in front. However, the performance levels are a clear notch above what we saw in the 11 Lite, and that is likely because of the processor and its graphic capabilities. No, this is still not likely to give the likes of the Galaxy A52s sleepless nights leave alone the Pixel 4a, but if you take a bit of care, there is a chance that you will end up with good snaps, especially in well-lit conditions. There is no OIS so both low light photography and videos are decent enough for social networks but not much beyond that.
You also get slightly flattering selfies from that front camera. A big point in favour of the cameras however are the numerous effects and shooting options you get – there are some very neat touches like clone (where you can have two versions of you in the same shot), long exposure, dual video (which uses front and rear cameras simultaneously) and of course, movie effects which add some very dramatic touches to video footage. It is not a great set of cameras, but a very good set nevertheless and one that will let you do a lot if you are patient enough with them.
7. Good sound from those stereo speakers
The Lite NE gets dual speakers like its predecessor, and like it, it delivers some very good sound through them. Combine that with Dolby Vision and I would say that this is perhaps one of the best devices on which to view content in the sub-Rs 30,000 category. Yes, there are larger and brighter displays, but the sheer lightness of the Lite NE makes it so easy to hold and watch content for hours. That said, it would have been good if Xiaomi had managed to squeeze a 3.5 mm audio jack into the phone – there is a USB Type C to 3.5 mm jack adaptor in the box though.
8. 5G is for the future, NFC for the present
The NE Lite does highlight its 5G connectivity and support for a dozen 5G bands, giving anyone who purchases a better chance than most of getting on to the 5G wave when it comes. Those last three words are however telling – “when it comes.” For, at the time of writing, 5G has been in the news, but not on networks in India. More practically, the Lite NE also comes with NFC (something the Mi 11 Lite lacked), and that opens the door for you to make payments using the device. This being a Xiaomi device, it comes with Mi Pay installed.
9. MIUI 12.5 out of the box, and with assured updates too
Unlike the 11 Lite, which was released with MIUI 12 (it has been since updated to MIUI 12.5, the Lite NE comes with MIUI 12.5 out of the box That means a cleaner interface and hardly any ads – a far cry from the ad-heavy past of the UI. The phone also comes with an assurance of three years of Android updates and four years of security updates – so it should be getting Android 12 fairly soon. This is the first time Xiaomu has offered this sort of assurance for a phone, so how it follows it through will be interesting. But it is definitely a step in the right direction.
10. Same battery, better battery life?
On paper, the Lite NE gets the same battery and charger as its predecessor – a 4,250mAh battery accompanied by a 33W charger in the box. Battery life, however, seems to be remarkably better. The Mi 11 Lite used to last about a day, and the Lite NE actually goes a bit beyond it. We easily were able to take it into a second day. And the charger gets it from 0 to 100 in about seventy minutes. Honesty, I am surprised at how they managed to squeeze that big a battery into such a slim phone, just as I was with the original 11 Lite. The improved battery life could be down to better power management on the chip but that’s just me guessing.
11. Now an even better every day (and a bit more) phone
In my review of the Mi 11 Lite, I had pointed out how it being so light made it a great phone for everyday use. You got a screen big enough to view content well and to type easily on (typing on the iPhone 13 mini is a pain, take it from me) and the phone was good enough for most daily tasks. Well, the Lite NE has all that and goes a step further thanks to its superior processor, which gives it a bit of muscle that its predecessor lacked. The Mi 11 Lite was mainly about the sheer slimness and lightness of the phone. The Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G is not a spec monster but does not give too much ground to the competition in that department. This is for the most part (until you drag into high definition gaming at high settings) a very smooth and fast phone – speaking of speed, the fingerprint scanner on the side is very quick indeed. All of which makes this phone a very compelling proposition, and not just for its shape and weight.
The Mi 11 Lite had seemed a little on the expensive side with its price tag of Rs 23,999. The Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G, is actually more expensive, starting at Rs 26,999 for the 6GB / 128GB variant and with an 8GB / 128GB variant at Rs 28,999. However, the presence of the new processor and the support for 5G do make it more competitively priced than its predecessor, which was criticised for its elderly processor and absence of 5G support. The real reason to buy the Mi 11 Lite was its incredibly slim frame and lightness. The Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G keeps the lightness and slimness and throws some power into the mix. Yes, it will still appeal more to those who want a slim and trim phone, but it will also grab the attention of those who have no such requirement but are willing to spend between Rs 25,000 – 30,000 on a smartphone. At its price point, it provides a viable alternative to the Realme GT ME and the Samsung Galaxy M52 5G and might even make those considering the Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G think a bit.
That processor and 5G support add a lot of spec and performance substance to the flair and style of the original Lite. You bought the Mi 11 Lite mainly for its insane slimness – the Lite NE is a performer too. If you are looking for a slim, smart-looking phone with minimum performance compromises, this is it.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Slim, lightweight design
- Gorgeous display with Dolby Vision
- Decent performance
- Cameras not the greatest
- Battery smaller than others in the segment
- No 3.5mm audio jack