The Xiaomi Mi 11 has now officially launched in the west, bringing some serious heat down on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But which phone is best?
Samsung just confirmed record pre-orders for its Galaxy S21 range of phones. And that’s great news too because its last two flagship phones – the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S20 – did not sell well at all, calling into question Samsung’s approach and entire strategy with its Galaxy S range of phones.
In 2021, competition at the top of the market is stiff. You have Apple with its iPhone 12 lineup, new OnePlus phones coming, and a bunch of very competitive phones from VIVO and RealMe to consider.
And then there’s Xiaomi with its new Xiaomi Mi 11 – a phone that packs in true-flagship specs but retails for considerably less than both Apple’s iPhone 12 and Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra.
If you’re thinking about the Mi 11 in 2021, make sure you know which carriers support it.
And in the context of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Xiaomi Mi 11, which is the better phone? Or, more specifically, if you’re upgrading your phone in 2021 which should be going for? Let’s find out, shall we?
Xiaomi Mi 11 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Design is subjective. Beauty resides in the eye of the beholder. And both the Galaxy S21 and Xiaomi Mi 11 are very good looking phones. They’re very similar in size, they’re both made from premium-grade materials, and they have similar-sized displays, as well as an in-display finger print scanner.
Personally, I prefer the look of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But that’s my personal preference; I love the clip-on camera module on the rear and I really, really like the matte black color option – it just looks so damn cool.
The Mi 11 is still a very good-looking phone. It has everything you’d expect from an ultra-flagship phone, including one of the most powerful cameras ever fitted to a phone – a 108MP main camera sensor.
From a purely design-focussed perspective, both the Mi 11 and Galaxy S21 Ultra are great-looking phones. I prefer the styling of the S21 Ultra, but I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at the Xiaomi Mi 11 either.
Display & Screen Tech
- Xiaomi Mi 11 – 6.8in AMOLED 120Hz, HDR10+, 1500 nits
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – 6.8in AMOLED Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1500 nits
With respect to display tech, both the Mi 11 and the Galaxy S21 Ultra use AMOLED panels, though there is slightly different tech used on each. The Galaxy S21 Ultra uses a Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel, while the Mi 11’s is just a standard AMOLED screen.
Both screens are extremely bright, topping out at 1500 nits. And both have 120Hz refresh rates. So far, pretty similar. The Mi 11 and Galaxy S21 Ultra screens are also the same size (6.8in) and both feature HDR10+ too. In a side by side comparison, you’re going to struggle to pick a winner here…
- Xiaomi Mi 11 – Snapdragon 888
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100
There’s plenty of debate about which SoC is the best out of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 or Samsung’s new Exynos 2100. If you’re in the US, you’ll be getting the SD888 version of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Those elsewhere will get Samsung’s Exynos 2100-powered version.
With the Xiaomi Mi 11, you only have one version of the phone, the Snapdragon 888 version. Both the 888 and 2100 are based on a 5nm process and both will deliver very good performance.
But as you can see inside our SD888 vs Exynos 2100 benchmarking test, each SoC appears to have pros and cons, so saying which is theoretically better is always going to be tricky.
Bottom line? Both of these phones, regardless of CPU, are positively rapid with excellent all round performance. Although there has been some reported “issues” with the Mi 11’s thermal performance which is not something you want to be dealing with on a new phone.
Storage & RAM
- Xiaomi Mi 11 – 8GB or 12GB RAM + 128GB or 256GB ROM
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – 12GB RAM + 128GB, 256GB or 512GB ROM
Xiaomi Mi 11
- 108 MP, f/1.9, 26mm (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
- 13 MP, f/2.4, 123˚ (ultrawide), 1/3.06″, 1.12µm
- 5 MP, f/2.4, (macro), 1/5.0″, 1.12µm
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- 108 MP, f/1.8, 24mm (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
- 10 MP, f/4.9, 240mm (periscope telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
- 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm (telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
- 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
Multiple reports claim the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has the Mi 11 beat in the imaging department – both on the front and back cameras. According to most reviews of each phone, the Galaxy S21 Ultra takes more natural-looking photos with better balance and less image smoothing.
I have yet to test the Mi 11, but I am very interested to see what its 108MP camera can do. The specs and hardware on show here are very impressive, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s setup – even from a pure specs-on-paper perspective – has it banged to rights with an extra lens and more advanced machine learning.
Still, the Mi 11 is a big step up for Xiaomi’s camera performance, so I’d expect very good things from the company in 2022 with the Mi 12 and other releases from Xiaomi’s many, many brands including POCO and Black Shark.
Software & Android Version
- Xiaomi Mi 11 – Android 11 w/ MIUI
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – Android 11 w/ One UI 3.1
- Xiaomi Mi 11 – Black, White, Blue, Purple, Khaki
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, Phantom Brown
- Xiaomi Mi 11 – $799.99
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – $1131
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.