The Mi Notebook Ultra is a mammoth upgrade. Not just in the specs, but the overall footprint too. Xiaomi has made some interesting additions to the lineup that was introduced last year in India, and based on the past four days of usage, it seems to hold a lot of promise as a capable daily driver that feels both premium and durable. Here’s my first impressions —
A Premium, Immersive Experience
The Mi Notebook Ultra is actually a regular 15.6-inch laptop, but the first thing you’ll notice is the 16:10 aspect ratio that makes the panel slightly taller than usual, and increasing the viewable area significantly. As a result, it looks much larger than other laptops with the same form factor. The panel is also the best thing about the laptop.
For one, the 3.2K resolution looks fantastic on this large screen. I was a bit skeptical of the higher resolution on a smaller display, but Windows automatically scales up the UI to fit the resolution and elements doesn’t appear tiny on the screen. It’s also quite well tuned. I had the Asus ExpertBook B9 as a reference display, and the Spiderman: No Way Home trailer looked identical on both panels.
Furthermore, the Mi Notebook Ultra boasts of 90Hz refresh rate, which is slightly better than the 60Hz panels you get in mainstream laptops, and it’s heartening to see a non-gaming laptop offering the high refresh rate experience. For anyone unaware, a 90Hz screen feels much more responsive and smoother than the 60Hz displays you usually get.
So looking at the screen itself, it’s clear that Xiaomi wanted to max out the very experience of using the laptop. From last year’s Mi Notebook Horizon Edition, these are meaningful upgrades that brings the lineup dangerously closer to rivals entrenched in this space for long.
However, the audio is in stark contrast to this large, immersive display. The 2W dual speakers at the bottom is louder than last year, but still can’t fill up a room with audio. It works fine for Zoom calls and online classes, but not if you’re watching a movie or playing a game.
A Familiar design
You’ll get no points for guessing where the Mi Notebook Ultra took its inspiration from. It’s even more apparent now than last year. The aluminum unibody, with rounded edges, 16:10 aspect ratio display and gray colour finish, are a dead giveaway that this one’s a blatant copy of the MacBook aesthetics, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. MacBooks are a premium offering with excellent build quality. To provide that at a much lesser price is indeed impressive. Thankfully, that’s as far as the similarities go. You get a few more ports than a MacBook, including a ThunderBolt 4 port.
And the the Mi Notebook Ultra feels nice and sturdy. The palm rest is solid and there’s no flex in the panel or the keyboard. Compared to last year, it feels a lot more durable. It’s also quite chonkier than before and at 1.7Kgs, you will feel the weight of this while carrying in your backpack.
Aesthetics aside, the Mi Notebook Ultra does well in heat management too. There’s a large vent to disperse hot air, while a protected mesh covering at the bottom sucks in clean air, keeping the internals from boiling over. I laptop never got remotely warm during the few days I’ve used it so far, but I still haven’t stressed the hardware as much to know for sure.
Top Notch Performance
The Mi NoteBook Ultra is offered in two CPU variants — The Intel Core i7 11370H and the Intel Core i5 11300H. Both are part of the 11th Gen Tiger Lake lineup made on the 10nm SuperFin process that bestows a significant IPC improvements as compared to the previous generation. The latter also powers the more affordable RedmiBook 15 Pro, and after testing it, the Core i5 variant makes the most sense for mainstream use.
But at Rs 76,999, the Core i7 variant is a steal. There are two more laptops (Lenovo IdeaPad S540 and the Acer Swift 3X) with the 11th-Gen Core i7 CPU under Rs 80,000 and the Mi NoteBook Ultra feels a much better deal than both of them, especially when you factor in the display and build quality.
The Core i5 variant is offered with both 8GB and 16GB RAM, while the Core i7 is only with 16GB RAM. That’s actually more than enough for mainstream use and combined with up to 512GB M.2 SSD, this one just purrs. I primarily used the laptop for my daily work which involved lots of Firefox tabs, Spotify and a few Lightroom edits, and the Mi Notebook Ultra never felt slow. It boots up in an instant, wakes up from sleep in an instant and launches apps in an instant. For everyday use, there’s nothing more that you can really ask for.
Unlike last year, there’s no discrete GPU on the Mi NoteBook Ultra. The Horizon Edition features the Nvidia MX350 GPU, but Xiaomi claims the Intel Iris Xe graphics that’s integrated with the Intel Core i7 is actually more powerful than that, and can handle some of the latest games, and Adobe apps with ease.
A Gigantic Trackpad and an Improved Keyboard
Xiaomi started teasing the new Mi Notebooks with the backlit keyboard as the highlight. Well, the backlight is definitely a plus when compared to last year, but that’s not what makes this keyboard great. Xiaomi has moved on from rubber key that featured in the Mi NoteBook Horizon Edition last year, and fitted it with plastic keys with concave key caps, and offers a fantastic typing experience. There’s also a programmable Macro Key on the top right edge, and a fingerprint-sensor enabled Power Key that’s kept away from the main keyboard area to avoid accidental shut downs.
The trackpad is now huge and is built out of the same material as the rest of the body, and it feels smooth AF to operate. There’s plenty of space for cursor navigation and scrolling, and Windows Precision drivers enable Windows 10 gestures to switch between windows and desktops.
Mi NoteBook Ultra: Should You Buy This in the First Sale Starting August 31st?
Xiaomi is getting serious about its laptop business in India. The Mi NoteBook Ultra feels a lot more earnest in its attempt to take over the high-end mainstream segment. With the overall Windows experience remaining the same no matter what laptop you use, the onus falls on the hardware to make laptops stand out. And while the legacy manufacturers aim for better performance, the Mi Notebook Ultra takes that extra step to improve the overall experience with an immersive 3.2K display, and solid build quality. On the face of it, there’s no inherent flaw I noticed during my first few days of use. Xiaomi also has a vast service network across the country, and that should feel comforting when you’re switching over from a legacy laptop brand.
The Mi NoteBook Ultra goes on sale from August 31st, 12 noon and will be available via flash sales. Going by the specs and the initial experience, it feels like a wholesome offering with intricate attention to detail. The variant we are reviewing is priced at Rs 76,999 and that’s only Rs 1,000 more expensive that the cheapest 11th-Gen Core i7 laptop in India. And that one doesn’t have a high-res, high refresh-rate display.
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