Xiaomi 14 Ultra review: it’s going global, and it’s not pulling punches!

Xiaomi 14 Ultra review: it’s going global, and it’s not pulling punches!

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Xiaomi 14 Ultra Intro

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra is global! Well, kind of — no USA launch as of yet. So, what is it and should someone be jealous? What’s so Ultra about the Xiaomi 14 Ultra?

The Xiaomi Ultra series has been around for a few years now, sold 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 mode in the camera app.

It was announced, at the Xiaomi keynote leading into MWC 2024, back in the last days of February. Now, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is available 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 sensor
  • 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.

Yeah, you read that right — the main camera has a variable aperture, and if you work it manually in the Pro mode, you can actually see the physical ring inside the camera lens closing and opening said aperture. It’s very obviously a camera-centric smartphone. Aside from the main camera, which rocks one of Sony’s fancy new LYT-900 sensors, the rest of them all have the same Sony IMX858 — an expensive luxury, which ensures 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. It’s vegan leather, reportedly tear-resistant, and it does feel like a very sturdy material. The entire phone is, of course, IP68 rated for dust- and water-resistance.

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 are holding.

But speaking of the camera — this thing definitely clicks and clacks as you wave it in your hand. That’s the stabilization and probably other moving parts inside that quad camera module — and it’s a bit unnerving. We’d trust Xiaomi that everything is held in place securely, but also — we wouldn’t shake this phone for fun, or take it to vigorous physical activities.

Inside the box, we actually get more than what your typical flagship comes with — a charger! And a case! Well, it’s not a phenomenal case — it’s a thin plastic that gets greased up easily and will only provide basic protection. But it’s still a freebie.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra what’s in the box:

  • Xiaomi 14 Ultra
  • 90 W wall charger
  • USB C cable
  • Plastic case with patterned back
  • Booklets and SIM tool

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 in a fancy soft corner.

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, but we won’t be drop testing that to confirm. The best we can say is that we haven’t accumulated any micro-scratches on the display as of yet.

There’s an optical fingerprint scanner under the display, and it works pretty fast — some fractions of a second slower than Samsung’s ultrasonic scanners, but in no way would we say the scanner of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is slow or annoying. It’s accurate, it vibrates with a reassuring click, and the software itself lights up and unlocks with a very quick animation.

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. Even more impressively, we have a variable aperture, which can go from f/1.63 to f/4.0 in seamless steps of 0.01.

If you don’t know what this means — don’t sweat it, the phone’s Auto mode will take care of it for you. Shutterbugs will have a blast entering Pro mode and opening that aperture for some luscious natural bokeh and a ton of light.

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 distances (as low as 10 cm). By all means, this phone pulls no punches when it comes to the camera. Let’s get to the samples:

Main Camera

The photos come out lively, warm, bright, and with great dynamics. The colors may be a bit too saturated for you, so you may want to try using Authentic mode within the camera — it only tones down saturation and contrast by a bit.

Details are sharp and fine. You can definitely spot signs of oversharpening if you go looking for them, but — in general — we don’t find the Xiaomi 14 Ultra to be overdiong it.

When the sun sets, you can still take some striking photos. The camera’s handling of dynamics and colors does not fade by a bit — you can definitely take some striking night time shots with this one. Depending on the scene, you can see noise reduction and sharpening working to make the finer details a bit more cartoon-like, but in general, it’s a great performer at night.

In line with other flagships in the space, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra‘s “super zoom” camera is a 5x lens. Any magnification beyond that is being helped by very complex algorithms for a maximum of a respectable 120x. At “normal” zooming distances, we think the Xiaomi does quite well — keeping details sharp and dynamics in check. Even up to 10x, you wouldn’t feel it’s a digital zoom.

Selfies

The selfie camera mirrors the dynamics and colors from the main one, maybe with less saturation. Details are captured to the extreme — down to pores in the face. If you find this quite unflattering, there are a number of beautify sliders which do their job quite discreetly.

Video Quality

Video Thumbnail

When it comes to video, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra does quite well. Here, we have it compared against the iPhone 15 Pro Max and you can see that the Xiaomi is a bit more contrast-y, with slightly more sharpness applied. However, the footage is toe to toe — we’d say the stabilization of the Xiaomi is a bit wonkier, but that’s a side-by-side. If we only had that to shoot with, we’d be happy with it!

Our camera benchmark is done in-house, by taking all phones through a static set of tests that end up giving us a specific score and point of reference in the end. It’s designed to take any subjective opinions the author may have out of the equation and give you a better idea of how the quality of one camera measures up against another. Read more about our camera test here.

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.

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.

And wow, that cooler is putting in the work! The Xiaomi slightly outdoes the Galaxy S24 Ultra with it’s “For Galaxy” branded Snapdragon in the Geekbench tests. Then, on the 3DMark tests, notice how the Xiaomi 14 Ultra result barely fell off. The 3DMark Wildlife Extreme is specifically designed to heat up the phone and force it to throttle. The Xiaomi barely did, while all other phones dropped to a lower score when the kitchen got too hot.In real life, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is exceptionally snappy and responsive — it doesn’t bow to a mobile game, it doesn’t flinch when cycling through webpages, taking 4k videos, or photos.

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. It seems there’s no other variation right now. You’ll have to make do with that 512 GB chip since there’s no microSD card slot.

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.

For the time being, HyperOS looks like the MIUI we are used to — swipe in from the top right for a Control Center style menu, swipe in from the top left for notifications. By default, there’s no app drawer, but that can be activated in Settings. You can have nav buttons — with the back button located on the left or right — or you can use gestures to navigate. Completely personalizable, filled with smooth and pleasing animations and feedback. And, of course, there are the inspirations from iOS — like Portrait wallpapers that use the depth effect to hide the clock behind your subject.

Additionally, you can have enlarged folders on your home screen, which is a recent Android skin trend that we fully embrace. A plethora of Always On screen effects, Edge Lighting notification effects. You can get lost in all the settings, but we know a lot of Android fans love that.

But underneath 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, which we put to the test — and here’s how it did:

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra‘s endurance shines under heavy load — we don’t know what’s going on under the hood, but it definitely beats the Android competition when gaming. Interestingly, it’s quicker to drain its battery doing casual tasks — our web browsing test is designed to simulate average daily browsing about.

Whenyou manage to squeeze it dry with too much video recording or gaming, you can fall back on the 90 W HyperCharge brick or 80 W wireless HyperCharge:

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:

With the included powerplug, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is a beast — if you only have 15 minutes on the wire, you still get almost half your battery. This should definitely be good enough to keep you connected through the day if you are mindful. 30 minutes of charging and you are pretty much set to use your phone as usual.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Audio quality and Haptics

The stereo speakers here are quite loud and — at first listen — impressive. However, when you attempt to dive deep and enjoy some music, they just don’t deliver quite as well. They sound great for talking head videos, Reels and TikToks, games, and your stock notifications and ringtones. However, they lack some bass, their mids are a bit muddied up, and there’s a faint piercing quality around the high end. The Galaxy S24 Ultra, for example, has slightly better sound, with a more pronounced bed of bass and sweeter tones in the high register.

The haptics of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra are quite good. They are all throughout the interface, and it’s not a strongly pronounced click, that would get annoying after some time, but a feint enough tap that’s still assertive and precise. That’s at the maximum, but you can dial the vibration motor down if you wish to.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Summary and Final Verdict

So, we have another Ultra, now hitting international markets. And that’s fantastic. Xiaomi promised a lot of camera chops and it delivers — great details in beautiful photos at the tip of your fingers. And the Pro and Movie modes will keep shutter enthusiasts busy for hours. The battery ensures the phone will last during that time, too. The performance is fantastic and the screen is beautiful. There are very few reasons to not recommend the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, aside from its exorbitant price tag.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is worth a mention here — it delivers a high quality quad camera, plus software and ecosystem that the modern consumer is used to (and may even want to explore further). Samsung’s 7-year software update promise is also nothing to snark at, but if we are to be fair, Xiaomi does give you a total of 5 years of updates, which is absolutely nothing to snark at. And we do expect most users to be planning an upgrade before or around the 5th year anyway.

We go in depth on that topic in our Xiaomi 14 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra comparison.

Bottom line — the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is excellent and is a nice alternative for anyone wishing to look in a different direction from the current mainstream portfolio of premium smartphones. But it’s in no way a budget option — you will be coughing up a pretty penny and there are no Enhanced trade-in deals with this one, as there are with Samsung’s flagships.

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