Worth it? Xiaomi 14 Ultra Review: A Top-Tier Camera Phone

For the first time, Lei Jun was not the speaker at the Xiaomi phone launch event. There was talk of Lu being the presenter, but in the end, the speaker changed yet again. Nevertheless, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra—the most powerful smartphone from Xiaomi to date—has generated significant buzz. It has been a hot topic on various platforms and trending searches lately, sparking discussions such as why the Xiaomi 14 Ultra dares to command such a high price, and whether it’s more worth buying than competitors like the Mate 60 Pro or the X100 Pro.

I firmly believe that you have to experience a product to have an opinion on it, so I went ahead and tried out the Xiaomi 14 Ultra myself, even helping a friend pick one up from a local Xiaomi store. The configuration we got was even slightly better than mine.

Despite lots of talk about the many differences between the 14 Ultra and its previous iteration, what I can’t quite get on board with is the enormous camera module on the back—it sticks out quite a bit, doesn’t it?

This comparison here isn’t just for laughs—it highlights the Xiaomi 14 Ultra against its competitors. Xiaomi touts this model as the new generation of professional imaging flagships, boasting a 1-inch main sensor with a variable aperture: 50MP, Sony LYT-900 image sensor, large light-sensing component, f/1.63 – f/4.0 continuously variable aperture, equivalent 23mm focal length, and support for 3.2μm pixel output through pixel binning. Admittedly, the f/4.0 aperture size is rather impressive for a smartphone.

It features a Leica floating telephoto lens: 50MP, Sony IMX858, f/1.8 aperture, equivalent 75mm focal length, OIS, and 10cm macro capability; a Leica portrait telephoto lens: 50MP, Sony IMX858, f/2.5 aperture, equivalent 120mm focal length, OIS, Zoom EIS stabilization, and 30cm tele-macro; and a Leica ultra-low distortion wide-angle lens: 50MP, Sony IMX858, f/1.8 aperture, equivalent 12mm focal length, 122° ultra-wide-angle, AF, and super macro mode down to 5cm.

When it comes to specs, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra certainly lives up to its photographic promise, and its Ultra version has been stunning since its 12th iteration, especially with its new 3.2x zoom mode, which functions similarly to an automatic mode on cameras, reducing concerns about composition or manual adjustments like aperture, shutter speed, or ISO. With a minimum focusing distance of around 10cm—better than the iPhone 15PM or the vivo X100 Pro, which need about 25-30cm—the Xiaomi 13 Ultra stands out in its category.

You don’t need to set up a camera stand; you can shoot directly handheld. The detailed texture on the A7M4 and the reflected scenery on the 24-70mm lens are captured well without color cast, and the bokeh effect, although good, still has room for improvement. Xiaomi might consider adding iPhone’s post-capture focus and bokeh adjustment feature in the future, given the 8Gen 3 processor can handle it.

The phone doesn’t disappoint even in near darkness when capturing the moon, a task many smartphones struggle with, and still manages a decent shot without needing to use a flash. Night photography isn’t perfect on phones or even regular cameras, but Xiaomi does a reasonable job with what they have.

In normal mode, without giving any time for focus and just snapping away, the result after zooming in 1.5x is impressive, with the different shades of green accurately rendered.

Still, I can’t help but wish Xiaomi would adopt a camera design similar to Samsung’s integration style. Although not perfect, it can be more visually appealing than piling up lenses. In terms of video: 8K 24/30fps; 4K 24/30/60/120fps; and it supports 4K 60fps across all four lenses, meaning you can switch at will during recording, a feature rivaled only by the iPhone to my knowledge. That said, when it comes to prolonged recording stability and jello effect control, Xiaomi still falls short of the iPhone.

In conclusion, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra’s performance is pretty much aligned with other domestic brands on hardware. The impetus now is on system optimization, and personally, I’m not interested in the potential AI developments, as those can be managed by server-based apps, letting the phone’s performance focus elsewhere. Nevertheless, I did put the gaming capacity to the test, not on my base model but on a friend’s higher-end 16+512 variant, and Genshin Impact ran at a stable 60 FPS for over 33 minutes. Just take a look at the data below.

I didn’t test other features like screen quality or battery life since there’s plenty of information available and, frankly, to keep the launch buzz alive. Vivo’s new model hasn’t been released yet, so setting aside brand loyalty filters, the saying “you get what you pay for” holds true for the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. The comparison with the Mate60Pro seems pointless as Xiaomi has moved beyond its reputation for budget-friendly models at 1999 yuan, slowly entering into the 3000+, 4000+, and 5000+ price brackets. Claiming to be a photography flagship, the camera capabilities do stand out, though I find the starting price of 6499 yuan a bit steep. If you’re serious about purchasing it, I’d recommend waiting for discounts on events like the 618 Shopping Festival or taking advantage of trade-in deals, which will likely make it more wallet-friendly.

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