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Xiaomi 14 Review — With a camera that never fails, can the latest flagship phone overcome the screen size barrier?

Xiaomi 14 Review — With a camera that never fails, can the latest flagship phone overcome the screen size barrier?
  • Xiaomi recently introduced the Xiaomi 14 series in India
  • Xiaomi 14 features a much-talked-about Leica camera setup
  • The smartphone is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
Xiaomi surprised everyone in the market when they simultaneously introduced both the 14 & 14 Ultra in India, breaking away from the norm. Up until now, we have always seen only one of the Xiaomi flagship number series devices showing up in India. Last year it was just the 13 Pro and not the 13 Ultra. This was a long time coming, considering brands like Vivo, with their X100 & X100 Pro, have already made this move. While this isn’t a comparison piece between any smartphone brand or device, I can safely say this is the best time to be a smartphone enthusiast in India — more competition, more options!

While the 14 Ultra is yet to be seeded to us for review, the Xiaomi 14 has been my daily driver for close to 2 weeks now. Sharing the same chipset and optical DNA with its elder sibling, this device is the closest I have gotten to a compact, efficient, and mighty powerful smartphone, apart from the commendable camera specifications. But like anything, it’s not perfect. where does it lack? And what makes it special, I tell you in my detailed review.

Price and availability
Xiaomi 14 is available only in one specification, 16GB RAM and 512GB of internal storage. It is priced at ₹69,999 and is available on Amazon, Flipkart and Xiaomi’s official website. It is also available on select offline stores.

Design and build

Xiaomi 14 swims against the current in terms of size. Unlike the usual flagship screen size of 6.7-inches or above the 14 sticks to a modest 6.3-inches. Some people might dub it compact, but I think it's well-balanced. Yes, a bigger display is generally favourable for watching content, but it also comes with a bigger form factor. Something many users including myself can’t enjoy for long. This is also one of the reasons why my primary SIM is in the iPhone 15 Pro, that size is perfect to carry around everywhere.

Xiaomi 14’s size gave me the confidence to use my primary SIM in it, something I haven’t done in a while. And of course, you do get other benefits attached to a compact smartphone, like lighter weight. So far in my testing and living with the device I haven’t felt the need for a bigger display, because for me these benefits outweigh any other aspect.

Xiaomi has done a good job by combining this form factor with a stellar build quality. The device, although compact, feels like a tank, with a really impressive combination of materials put together. Sporting an aluminium frame, it is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus upfront and comes with a silicone or glass back. I have the black variant with me, which has a silicone back with a matte finish, it looks good but can register smudges.

On the back, we also have a fairly big camera module housing the Leica triple camera set-up. The housing unit is square, similar to what we saw on the 13 Pro, unlike what we see on the 14 Ultra. It is protruding but doesn’t wobble much especially once you put in a case. Volume rockers and the power button on the right edge are placed neatly. And since the size is favorable it's easy to reach the buttons with one hand. At the bottom, you have the SIM card tray that can house 2 nano SIMs and a downward-facing speaker grill.

It also supports IP68 dust and water resistant rating, so yes you are secure in that aspect as well. Overall, Xiaomi 14’s design will grow on you and has a solid potential to become your preferred form factor over a period of time.

Display, audio and viewing experience

In 2023, curved displays dominated the tech scene, but the industry is now making a shift back to flat-screen displays, especially in flagship devices like the S24 Ultra. The 14 series embraces both trends, offering a flat display on the 14 model and a curved screen on the 14 Ultra. I prefer a flat display for its typing convenience, and the 14 meets that preference perfectly with its ideal size, sharp display, and highly responsive feedback.

The Xiaomi 14 comes with a 6.3-inch LTPO OLED display boasting a resolution of 1200 x 2670 pixels. The bezels are virtually nonexistent, presenting a stunning visual experience. Xiaomi emphasized that this display isn't just for content consumption but also for viewing photos. With 3000 nits of peak brightness, the display remains clear and visible in varying lighting conditions, be it Delhi's varying visibility range or Mumbai’s unpredictable weather.

The auto-brightness feature on the 14 works exceptionally well, adapting to changes in ambient light effectively. The display supports Dolby Vision, enhancing both video and audio output noticeably. The high-definition content compatibility allows a satisfying viewing experience, and the device's audio setup matches its stature, featuring a dual speaker system that can reach impressive volumes. The responsive display, especially during typing, is an underrated but notable feature. The default keyboard is precise and responsive, adding to the overall user experience.

With a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz and support for adaptive refresh rate, the display smoothly transitions between different tasks, ensuring a lag-free experience. The in-display fingerprint sensor, though optical and therefore slightly delayed compared to ultrasonic sensors, offers an additional security option. Face unlock, on the other hand, provides instant and mostly accurate access.

Before concluding this section, I have to address the buzz around the screen size here. Yes, it is a 6.3-inch screen and it might not be the best size for some. I personally didn’t find myself complaining about the size while watching content, but if you read a lot from your smartphone then you will not be a fan of this device. Another aspect is if you are an avid gamer, yes you will adapt to the size overall, but a bigger surface area ensures more room to set up your controls.

For me, these are not deal breakers, but for some of you, it might be!

Software and performance

Out of the box, the Xiaomi 14 is equipped with Android 14, coupled with the all-new Hyper OS. Although currently more of an aesthetic overhaul, Xiaomi has ambitious plans to build an ecosystem around this software, with the EV SU7 already operating on the same OS, promising an exciting future.

Aesthetically, the user interface (UI) bears a resemblance to typical MiUi, with some distinctions, particularly in widget design. However, it still carries some bloatware, albeit offering a smoother experience overall.

In terms of usability, the Hyper OS on the Xiaomi 14 proves to be remarkably stable and devoid of bugs. As expected from a flagship device, there are no intrusive pre-loaded apps that might compromise the user experience. The UI is clean, visually pleasing, and easily customizable. The impressive display of the Xiaomi 14 enhances the visual appeal of legacy features like theme access, wallpapers, and customization options.

One standout feature is the game turbo, offering stability and instant functionality. It provides options for screen recording, screenshot capture, and custom profiles, making the Xiaomi 14 a delightful choice for gaming enthusiasts. While there are some notable areas for improvement, such as the floating windows feature that allows users to pin windows on the screen, it generally functions well across various applications.

The integration of AI is significant this year, with Samsung introducing Galaxy AI features in the S24 lineup. While not a deal-breaker, there is anticipation for future enhancements, especially with Hyper OS in the equation. Regarding updates, Xiaomi commits to a respectable 4 years of Android updates and 5 years of security updates. Although generous, it falls short when compared to Samsung Galaxy S24's promise of 7 years on both fronts.

The Xiaomi 14 is fueled by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC, marking my second encounter with this processor within the past two months. Having previously tested it on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, and now on the 14, I continue to be impressed by its seamless integration with diverse hardware.

The performance of the Xiaomi 14 is predictably rapid, evident in favourable benchmark results. A Geekbench 6 test yielded a single-core score of 2153 and a multi-core score of 6455. While the average user may not immediately discern the performance disparities, I noticed reduced throttling and heat generation during my extensive use. Playing COD: Mobile every day showcased the device's stability, maintaining optimal graphics with no frame drops or surprises. The combination of robust performance and the previously mentioned game turbo in the software section underscored the smartphone's commendable gaming capabilities.

In India, the single configuration offering of 512GB internal storage and 16GB RAM might seem excessive for most users, but those consistently working with heavy formats like 4K or 8K videos may even find the storage capacity falling short. So, this is a welcome improvement compared to the 256GB internal storage of the previous year's 13 Pro. The RAM effortlessly handles all tasks, eliminating the need for fusion memory.

The 4610 mAh battery has proven resilient during a week of testing, providing an average screen-on time of 6 hours, even with a weekend filled with continuous content consumption, social media usage, and calls. This surpasses the performance of the Galaxy S24, a device known for its impressive battery life. The 120W charger efficiently replenishes the battery from 0-100% in about 40 minutes, without causing undue heat. Additionally, the Xiaomi 14 supports 50W of wireless charging, although the wired option proves to be quicker.

Camera, a star highlight?

Xiaomi 14’s camera set-up has completely been swapped and upgraded over its predecessor. We now have a 50MP primary camera paired with a 50MP telephoto sensor and a 50MP ultra-wide sensor. The novel OmniVision OVX9000 sensor for the primary camera is a first-time inclusion. Significantly larger, Xiaomi aptly names it Light Fusion 900.

Xiaomi has assured users that the Xiaomi Imaging Engine guarantees uniformity in tone across all cameras by deriving white balance and exposure and so far I believe them. Throughout daylight hours, the primary camera achieves image quality on par with flagship standards. It encompasses sharpness, intricate details, expansive dynamic range, and precise colour reproduction while maintaining consistent performance both outdoors and indoors.

Certainly, there are instances where the results appear slightly oversaturated. However, the overall details remain exceptional and the intricate details are well-preserved. Even upon zooming in, the details remain intact until the final pinch, where some distortion begins. The camera's focus shift is also praiseworthy. I tested this by capturing a model in motion within a single frame, and the camera maintained a consistently sharp focus throughout.

Colour science plays a crucial role, especially when photographing individuals with varying skin tones. In the samples provided, the camera subtly enhances the skin tone, imparting a lighter complexion without deviating significantly from the original. Users can mitigate this effect by utilizing the pro mode, allowing adjustments for a more customised result.

Night photography remains consistently strong, having been tested in both low-light conditions and under artificial lighting. As evident in the collage below, the camera excels in capturing details, although achieving the perfect shot may require some patience.

Moving on to the 50MP telephoto lens with floating lens technology, it's important to note that while it may not match the Galaxy S24 Ultra in terms of detail, it unquestionably gets the job done. The floating lens technology becomes apparent when the camera surpasses expectations, as illustrated in the collage featuring samples at 0.6X, 2X, 10X, 30X, and 60X, with a noticeable colour shift at the 30X mark. The details remain impressive, only slightly diminishing at the brink.

In the realm of portraits, the Xiaomi 14 truly shines, especially for enthusiasts of monochrome portraits. Multiple images captured with the device are magazine-cover worthy, with the portrait results being stunning, thanks to the master-lens system presets available in the camera app. The black & white filter with the documentary 35mm setting is a standout, closely followed by the swirly bokeh at a 50mm focal length. The 75mm portrait shots are solid, standing out as some of the best in the price range.

The super macro mode, under natural lighting, proves impressive, delivering detailed images suitable for wallpapers. As depicted in the samples below, the colours are accurate, and the details are finely preserved.

While the camera's video capabilities may not rival those of an iPhone 15 Pro, it stands out as one of the strongest on an Android device in recent memory. Shooting a B-roll for a video at 4K 30FPS yielded clean results, though the saturation issue, particularly with reds standing out, persists. While the camera can record up to 8K videos, opting for 4K is advisable to avoid heavier files and potential heating issues.

Turning the selfie camera, equipped with a 32MP sensor, it may pale in comparison to the primary setup, but it still delivers sharp images as a standalone unit. However, it tends to soften skin tones, imparting an artificial appearance, especially when AI is enabled. While the AI enhancement is well-executed, it may not align with personal preferences.

Xiaomi 14 ticks the boxes in every possible category you look for in a smartphone. With a well-developed camera system, a brand-new intricate UI, efficient performance hardware and a respectable size. The performance-hungry users and users with optics as a priority have something to root for with this device.

However, I understand that screen size is an important factor for many users, which is fair. In that case, I recommend the OnePlus 12 which falls in the same price segment. The camera performance there is also competitive and perhaps a more stock UI will add to the appeal as well.


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