When most phones are getting bigger, beefier and bulkier, Xiaomi has something else on their cards. Earlier this year, the company announced the Mi 11 Lite, and instead of being some crappy toned-down variant of a high-specced smartphone, the “Lite” here refers to being light and slim, weighing just about 150g and 6.8mm thick.
Cut to the second half of 2021, the Mi 11 Lite has been refreshed, now dubbed Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G, and “NE” here stands for “New Edition”. Well, at first, it might seem the same as Mi 11 Lite because it comes with the same 90Hz OLED display, a 64MP primary camera and the good old 4,250mAh battery. However, the new edition features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G chipset and a EUR50 price bump. But does it make Xiaomi’s lightest and slimmest phone a worthy upgrade over its predecessor, or is it the same wine in an old bottle?
This one’s going to be a quick review since there are not many changes between the Mi 11 Lite and Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G. So, we’ll be discussing the most about what’s new here and how do these new features fare in one’s normal life.
You get to understand the meaning of the ‘Lite’ moniker as soon as you unbox the device. That said, it is not a compact phone by any means – its 6.55-inch display makes it as big as some of its competitors in the market. The Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G feels quite comfortable, making your old phone feel a lot bulkier in comparison.
Now, let’s jump to that 6.55-inch screen. It’s the same 90Hz 10-bit AMOLED panel from the Mi 11 Lite, but now it comes with support for Dolby Vision in addition to HDR10+. The 90Hz here is smooth as it’s supposed to be; a 120Hz panel would’ve made more sense considering its competition. On paper, a 10-bit panel can show up to 1.07 billion colours while an 8-bit panel can display only up to 16.7 million colours, but frankly, one won’t be able to find much difference between an 8-bit and a 10-bit panel. You might not get the 10-bit panel to work since there’s not much content available in 10-bit on the internet. Nevertheless, Dolby Vision comes in handy while watching shows or movies on Netflix. Most people won’t be able to figure out any difference between HDR or Dolby Vision content on Netflix, but it’s a good addition for cinema nerds.
As for the performance, the new Snapdragon 778G sails the ship smoothly. The chip is more than capable of handling day to day tasks but takes a blow while gaming. Cut to the chase, the MIUI 12.5 is a lot better than previous iterations, but it’s nowhere close to perfect. If anything is holding back the performance, then it’s Xiaomi’s in-house software. The software is feature-ridden, with its fair share of annoying bugs like the proximity sensor that doesn’t work most of the time, and dark mode in MIUI glitches out some of the apps, making it look ugly and forced. Overall, the performance is much better than the Mi 11 Lite 4G. As far as 5G is concerned, we are not getting it anytime soon, so just don’t buy this or any smartphone for the sake of 5G.
Like the Mi 11 Lite 4G, the Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G impressed me with its battery life. The 4,250mAh battery will get you through a full day without any need to charge in between. However, if needed, the 33W charger takes around an hour to charge up the phone even before you wake up from an afternoon nap. But Xiaomi, please, it’s time to get past the 33W chargers now.
Click here for Mi 11 Lite 4G camera samples.
You could feel a little disheartened if you were expecting some upgrades in the camera department. The Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G borrows the camera setup from the Mi 11 Lite. So, it comes with a 64MP camera accompanied by an 8MP ultra-wide and a 5MP macro camera. The main and ultrawide camera produces good enough pictures given the right amount of light, but as soon as the sun sets down, both the cameras start to struggle. Even the Night Mode is more of a hit or miss. Macro photography has a very niche audience, but you might start enjoying it once you start using the macro camera on this phone as it takes some amazing close up shots. The Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G captures a tad of saturated images with an improved dynamic range compared to the former.
Should you buy the Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G?
It’s time for a conclusion. So should you buy the Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G? Yes, if you want a phone with a style factor and sustainable performance that doesn’t leave a hole in your wallet. The software experience might not bother you much unless you start nitpicking, and the cameras are also decent enough to click photos for social media. However, the improvements are very subtle compared to its predecessor, and Xiaomi could have easily skipped the NE 5G as the 11 lite is already a pretty capable smartphone.