Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Smart Phones

Xiaomi 14 Ultra hands-on preview

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Intro

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra is global! Well, kind of… not going to be sold in the US, it seems, at least not officially. But wait, why are we excited and what is so Ultra about the Xiaomi Ultra? 

The Xiaomi Ultra series has been around for a few years now, shipped only in China. They are usually the peak of Xiaomi smartphone photography — full partnership with Leica for top-tier lens materials, and expensive sensors underneath. The 14 Ultra comes with four different sensors on its main camera module, covering multiple focal lengths and use cases. Plus, it has a new pro-grade video app for the filmographer inside you.

It has just been announced, at the Xiaomi keynote leading into MWC 2024. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra will be sold for €1499 in Europe, which translates roughly to $1623 (but rough conversions rarely match market reality).

What’s new about Xiaomi 14 Ultra

  • New design with a symmetrical curved glass
  • Stepless variable aperture on the main camera
  • New Sony LYT-900
  • Dolby Vision end-to-end workflow — record, watch, edit, export
  • Single block aluminum build

Table of Contents:

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Specs

Coming out swinging
The Xiaomi 14 Ultra is a flagship phone to the bone… or to the processor and cooling, that is.

Aside from the main camera, which rocks a LYT-900, the rest of the sensors of the main camera module are the Sony IMX858, ensuring similar quality as you swap through different focal lengths. And, of course, we have LPDDR5X and UFS 4.0 storage to complement the extra-fast Snapdragon 8 Gen 3.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Design & Colors

Leather camera finish

Repeating the design of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, but refining it to a good extent — the Xiaomi 14 Ultra has a flat back, instead of a slope towards the camera side. It’s covered in faux leather, which feels soft and grippy to the touch, and definitely invokes the feel of camera equipment.

The aluminum frame has a flat side with stark bevels, which do feel sharp but not rough. It’s all cut from a single block of aluminum, Xiaomi says, so it has better durability than most phones, that have frames fused from multiple cuts. But no, it’s not covered by titanium.

The power button is engraved with a pattern that’s very pronounced and hard to miss, while the clicky volume rocker is smooth by contrast.

That camera bump on the back is pretty respectable-looking, but we found that it doesn’t add a weight unbalance to the device. In fact, if felt pretty balanced, even somewhat light, considering the calibre of phone we were holding.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Display

The screen glass has a curve on every side, perfectly symmetrical even around the corners of the phone. However, it does not cut into the image of the display, it just helps it round off and meet the aluminum frame seamlessly.

It’s an LTPO AMOLED panel with a 1-120 Hz refresh rate and a 1440 x 3200 resolution for a 522 pixels-per-inch density. It looks crisp, clear, and colorful. Xiaomi stated 3,000 nits peak brightness, which means only a single area of the screen can hit that, but the promised 1,000 nits typical brightness should be good enough for use in bright ambiance. It also has DC dimming, so those sensitive to the flicker when setting an OLED screen to low brightness shouldn’t see or feel the odd vibrations here.

The glass panel is a new Xiaomi Shield Glass, developed to be stronger than the previous iterations, the vegan leather on the back has a strong wear resistance (and it didn’t feel flimsy), and the phone is rated IP68 for the highest ingress protection.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Camera

A very impressive setup
The Xiaomi 14 Ultra comes with the new Sony LYT-900 sensor. It’s 1″ in size — which is quite big for a smartphone and typically found in point-and-shoot cameras instead. The new LYT sensors by Sony have a new 2-layer transistor, which helps for more light collection in shorter time periods.

The other 3 cameras — ultra-wide, 3.2x telephoto, and 5x telephoto, all have a 50 MP Sony IMX858 inside — pretty high-class sensors in their own right, even across the board for every camera. Each of them is covered with Leica lenses and the 3.2x zoom camera has a floating telephoto lens, ensuring better focus at closer distanced (as low as 10 cm).

There’s lots to look forward to here. The main sensor has a stepless variable aperture, going from a wide f/1.63, with a deep bokeh and lots of light coming in, to a narrow f/4.0 that will allow you to capture scenes where you need to keep more things in focus.

The camera has an AI boost when it hits 30x magnification and above — the algorithm should intelligently recognize objects and reconstruct and sharpen them as you keep rolling that zoom wheel. Its maximum is 120x.

For camera buffs, the Ultra Photography Grip accessory adds a camera-like grip, hardware buttons for shutter, video, and custom dial, an extra 1,500 mAh battery, and a 67 mm adapter for standard camera filters to be mounted directly over the camera module.

On the software side, we have RAW capture as well as AI enhanced modes — Master Cinema Mode and Master Portrait have presets, suggestions, and post-processing to get the most out of your photo. Exporting in RAW gets you 16 bit color depth and 16 steps of exposure HDR to play with, all calibrated in partnership with Adobe Labs.

The camera here is more than just a toy and we’d love to get some play time with it. The hands-on area was not it, so stay tuned!

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Performance

Gen 3: Return of the Snapdragon

Obviously, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is going to be the ruling processor in Android land, at least for the first half of 2024. And it is here, powering the Xiaomi 14 Ultra without compromise. The phone itself responds in kind with Xiaomi’s proprietary IceLoop cooling system, which should keep things at a lower temperature when gaming and shooting video.

No compromise in memory chips, too, as the Xiaomi 14 Ultra comes with UFS 4.0 storage and LPDDR5X RAM — starting at 512 GB and 16 GB respectively. Info about other variants is not available at this time.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra OS / Android version

MIUI is no more, say hello to HyperOS

Xiaomi is doing a big push into several fields — AI, electric vehicles, premium smartphones. The new HyperOS is supposed to be the cornerstone of this developing ecosystem. From smart home to smart car to smartphone, Xiaomi imagines all of this running on HyperOS and working seamlessly together.

Of course, we are still at the start of this developing system, so we can sort of see where the imagination of the creators is going, but we have nothing concrete to play with.

Xiaomi wants HyperOS AI to be learning from your lifestyle and to be proactive and helpful. For example, if you light the same smart lamp at a specific time, and at a specific brightness setting — it may just start doing that on its own. The same can be applied to air conditioners, air purifiers, your smart TV, and music playback.

File sharing across Xiaomi devices is meant to be as easy as drag-and-dropping, and workflow should travel seamplessly from phone to tablet to big screen.

But underneat HyperOS on the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, we have Android 14. And Xiaomi promises 4 generations of Android updates and 5 years of security patches. That should translate to:
  • 2024:Xiaomi 14 Ultra launches with Android 14
  • 2025:Xiaomi 14 Ultra is on Android 15
  • 2026:Xiaomi 14 Ultra is on Android 16
  • 2027:Xiaomi 14 Ultra is on Android 17
  • 2028:Xiaomi 14 Ultra is on Android 18
  • 2029: Last security patches and end of support

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Battery

Built to last long and recharge fast

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra has a 5,000 mAh cell — nothing out of the ordinary, but still a pretty respectable power pack. Xiaomi promises it has optimizations for improved longevity. And, even if you manage to squeeze it dry with too much video recording or gaming, it should charge pretty fast via the 90 W HyperCharge brick or 80 W wireless HyperCharge.

We can’t guarantee any numbers just yet — we are champing at the bit to put it through our own battery life tests.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Competitors

Obviously, we will be drawing comparisons to the current big player in the market — Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra looks great, feels great, and has a very good camera which topped the score of our new camera benchmark. Then, it’s hard to look at a premium smartphone and not ask how it compares against the iPhone 15 Pro Max. But, it’s more accurate to say that the new Honor Magic 6 Pro is a comparable competitor — a camera-centric flagship that is just now starting its own journey with AI and ecosystem integration.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Summary and Final Verdict

So, the Ultra is going global. That’s fantastic. It seems like it’s the right time for it to do so, too, with a plethora of big upgrades in the camera department, and the super-solid Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset. As you can guess, we are quite hopeful and excited that it would deliver on the top-class photography and videography that Xiaomi promised. All that remains now is to hang tight and wait for the tests!


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