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The Best Camera (Phone) I’ve Ever Used


Going into this review, I really had to learn a lot. This is because I have not actually used a Xiaomi phone in quite a few years. The last time I used a Xiaomi phone was when I reviewed the Mi 9T Pro back in 2019. That was over four years ago. Xiaomi no longer uses “Mi” in its product names, and it has also changed over from MIUI to Hyper OS. So lots for me to relearn with this phone. It’s like going in with a pair of fresh eyes, and I really liked what I saw with the Xiaomi 14 Ultra.

After getting a chance to play with the Xiaomi 14 Ultra at MWC Barcelona last month, I was really excited to get my hands on one when I got back to the States. And it did not disappoint. You might ask, what’s so interesting about this phone? Well, the big thing for me is the camera. Xiaomi has included a 1-inch camera, something that’s not really available in the US, among a few other cameras and the photography kit is such a good add-on. Now you might be wondering if it lived up to the hype. Well, let’s find out in our review of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Review: Hardware and Design

Xiaomi has always built perfect hardware, even on its more inexpensive smartphones. But with the Xiaomi 14 Ultra costing €1,499, you expect it to be top-notch, and it is. The 14 Ultra has a metal frame with a vegan leather back. The back is slightly curved at the edges, which makes it feel so much nicer to hold. The vegan leather is a nice touch; while I’d rather have horween leather, the vegan leather looks great and also provides a good bit of texture. Making it easier to hold onto and less likely to slip out of your hands.

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The sides are pretty flat, with the volume rocker and power button on the right side. On the bottom, you’ll find the speaker grille, USB-C port, and SIM card slot. Unfortunately, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra does not support eSIM.

Then there’s the front, which looks absolutely stunning. It has a 6.8-inch display, which is curved on all four sides. It’s a very subtle curve and mostly makes the screen look like it’s floating above the rest of the phone. I normally don’t like curved displays, but this one is pretty good.

The camera bump is pretty massive on the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, which, given all the cameras included in this phone, as well as the 1-inch sensor, is to be expected. Even in a case, it won’t sit flat on a table. But since the camera bump is a round module, it doesn’t rock on a table when typing on it on a table. So there’s that.

Overall, this hardware is pretty incredible. It looks stunning in the black color and definitely stands out quite nicely. The white version also looks pretty good with the white vegan leather back and the silver frame. I’d say it’s on par with the price of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Review: Display

Like I said before, I normally don’t like curved displays, but while using the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, I’ve almost forgotten that it was even a curved display. Because it is such a subtle curve, it really makes it look like the screen is floating above the rest of the phone, which gives it a really cool look. It is curved on all four sides, too, making it more uniform.

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Using this curved display has been an absolute joy to use. When watching content on the Xiaomi 14 Ultra on this curved display, it does still have that waterfall effect like a lot of other curved displays, but the difference here is that it’s all four sides. It doesn’t make it hard to hold and doesn’t add any accidental touches as we might see with some other curved display phones.

This is a 6.73-inch QHD+ display with up to 3,000 nits of peak brightness. You’ll most likely only see it reach about 1,000 nits, which is the high brightness mode rating. In our testing, we were able to get it just above 1,000 nits. That’s by shining a flashlight on the light sensor and showing a white screen, measuring it with our Lux meter, as you can see below.

Xiaomi, like most other manufacturers, defaults to FHD+ resolution out of the box, which is what I’ve left it to. Honestly, I’ve had no real reason to push it above FHD+. It does already look super crisp. The colors on the Xiaomi 14 Ultra are also quite impressive. Xiaomi does have a few different modes for the screen color, including “Original color PRO”, “Vivid”, “Saturated”, and “Advanced Settings”. I normally put phones in their Vivid mode; however, on the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, I prefer the Original color PRO mode, as it looks more realistic to my eyes. However, the good thing here is that Xiaomi allows users to adjust every aspect of the color scheme in the “Advanced Settings.” This includes using the original, P3, and sRGB color gamut, as well as changing the Hue, Saturation, Value, Contrast, Gamma, and just about anything else you can think of.

Overall, the display looks absolutely fantastic, and it’s honestly one of my favorite displays on the phone so far this year. We’ll have to wait and see if it holds that crown for long.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Review: Performance

In a bit of a strange move for Xiaomi, there’s only one variant of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, which includes 16GB of RAM and 512B of storage – which is what we have here. There’s also the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor inside, which at this point, I pretty much know what to expect from these internals. And that is a pretty impressive performing phone that will likely never run out of RAM, especially with Xiaomi using a portion of the storage to extend RAM up to 24GB. Basically, it’s 16GB of actual RAM and then up to 8GB of extension RAM. You can choose to use 2GB, 4GB, 6GB, or 8GB of extended RAM, which will utilize some of your storage. So if you’re running out of storage, you’ll want to change that option.

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However, I’ve usually had more than 10GB of RAM available, so the extend RAM hasn’t really been a must-have feature for the way I use and test phones. But I could see it being needed in six months or even longer. When more apps are installed, more games are installed and played, etc.

With the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 inside, I have not had any issues with the phone slowing down, nor have I had issues with the phone getting warm. Really, the only time it got warm was while running our benchmarks or while using the camera for a good bit. Both of which are expected.

Benchmarks

Now let’s talk benchmarks. We run a variety of benchmarks on each phone that we review. This includes Geekbench 6, 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress Test, as well as a Capcut test that will test the speed of exporting a minute-long video, and a few thermal tests.

First up is Geekbench 6. This test is used to measure the raw speed of the CPU and the GPU. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra scored 2,146 in the single-core test, 6,641 in the multi-score test, and finally, for the GPU test, it scored 13,848. As you can see in the graph below, it performed pretty similarly to the HONOR Magic6 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, which both use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. It really outperformed the Pixel 8 Pro in the multi-core and GPU tests, which uses the Tensor G3 SoC.

Geekbench 6Geekbench 6

Next up is the 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress Test, which is actually used to see how far the device can be pushed. This test runs the same minute-long benchmark twenty times in a row. It provides us with the best loop score, the lowest loop score, and then a stability score. Obviously, you want a higher stability score, as that means the phone can perform better and longer while gaming. We also use this test as a thermal test since it really pushes the phone to its limits. For 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress Test, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra scored a Best Loop score of 4,717, a Lowest Loop score of 3,617, which resulted in a Stability score of 76.7%. That puts it right on par with a lot of other Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 devices.

Finally, for performance, we have one more test that we do here. Which we call the “Capcut Test”. Basically, we use Capcut, which is an easy-to-use video editor, and we import the same 60-second video on every phone and then export it at the default settings of 1080p at 30fps. We then time how long the export takes to complete.

Capcut video Test (lower is better)Capcut video Test (lower is better)

For this test, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra scored just 7.96 seconds. That’s not the absolute best score we’ve seen, but it does put it on par with every other Snapdragon 8 Gen 3-powered device. The HONOR Magic6 Pro scored 8.75 seconds, while the Galaxy S24 Ultra scored 7.75 seconds. All three of which absolutely demolished the Pixel 8 Pro which was over 40 seconds.

Thermal testing

Now let’s talk about the thermals. This is a pretty important aspect for smartphones these days, and it’s important for us to test these and compare them to other phones we also test. For thermals, we run three (technically four) tests. The first is 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress test, after we run that benchmark, we break out the temperature gun to see the temperature and the Xiaomi 14 Ultra 111.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, we’re comparing this to the HONOR Magic6 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and the Google Pixel 8 Pro. All four had relatively the same temperature, within about five degrees of each other.

Thermals (3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress Test)Thermals (3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress Test)

The next test involves Genshin Impact, which is one of the most popular and most demanding games on mobile right now. Basically, what we do here is max out the graphics settings, max out the brightness, and play the game for an hour. Then, measure the temperature. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra scored 94.2, which is one of the lowest temperatures we’ve recorded in this test.

Finally, we tested the thermals by recording a video at 4K60 for 5 minutes and then re-recording the temperature at 10 minutes. Video recording, especially at 4K, can really heat up the phone. The temperatures were a bit warmer than other phones, but not by much. At five minutes in, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra was 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and at ten minutes in, it was 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, the thermals look pretty good here on all of the tests that we’ve performed. Good job to Xiaomi on that front.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Review: Battery Life and Charging

Xiaomi is actually one of the few smartphone makers that stuck to 5,000mAh capacity in their batteries this year. At the same time, many of their competitors have finally crossed that 5,000mAh threshold like the HONOR Magic6 Pro at 5,600mAh and the OnePlus 12 at 5,400mAh. But that doesn’t really mean that the battery life is bad. Quite the contrary, actually.

Admittedly, I’ve been using the camera a lot on this phone since receiving it, and the Xiaomi 14 Ultra lasts me a full day. Now, unfortunately, HyperOS does not allow me to see the screen on time. I can say that I typically unplug around 7 AM, and by 11 PM when I’m about to go to bed, I typically have around 30% left. So that’s pretty good and pretty much on par with other big, Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 smartphones I’ve used lately.

But luckily, we have another test for battery life. Essentially, what we do is we run the same 24-hour-long YouTube video on the phone at full screen and maximum brightness. Starting at 100% and going down to around 1% so we can record the time before it dies. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra scored just under 20 hours, with a time of 19 hours and 54 minutes. That puts it in seventh place on phones we’ve tested in the past year or so. Interestingly, that puts it above the OnePlus 12, one of those phones that did get a larger battery this year.

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Now, let’s talk about charging. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra can charge at up to 90W, using the included charger. Yes, Xiaomi is still including the charger in the box; who would have thought that? The charger is an EU charger, so using a converter, I was able to conduct a charging test of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. In our benchmark test, it scored just above 35 minutes. That’s just two minutes longer than Xiaomi’s stated charging time. That is quite good, and not to mention crazy fast.

I’ve often times charged it with a USB-C to USB-C cable, which means that I can’t use the charger in the box because its a USB-A charger. Even with a USB-C, it charges quite quickly. Using a cable that shows the charging speed, I was able to see that the Xiaomi 14 Ultra still charges at above 40W on a USB-C charger. So, it’s still easy to top off.

Wireless charging

Lastly, we can’t forget about wireless charging. Xiaomi claims that this phone can wirelessly charge at 80W. Xiaomi did not send over their 80W wireless charger, so I was not able to test out that speed. However, the OnePlus wireless charger defaults to a much slower speed. That’s the same case with MagSafe wireless chargers. Now, if you’re like me and only use wireless charging at night to charge your phone, then the speed really doesn’t matter. As long as the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is fully charged when I wake up, that’s all that matters.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Review: Software

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra runs on Android 14 with HyperOS 1.0.4 installed. The company is promising four years of OS updates and five years of security patches. It’s not quite as good as what Samsung and Google are offering, but it’s in line with most other smartphone makers these days. That means that the Xiaomi 14 Ultra should get Android 18, which isn’t too shabby.

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Having said that, this is HyperOS, a relatively new skin from Xiaomi, which was announced last October. The Xiaomi 14 series is actually the first to launch with HyperOS. It’s pretty similar to MIUI, so if you’re a long-time Xiaomi user, you won’t notice a huge difference here. You still get the option of having an app drawer with different categories at the top to quickly swap to other types of apps. This is actually really useful if you have a lot of apps installed on your phone.

Swiping down on the left side, you get your notifications, while a swipe on the right gets your quick settings. It definitely has that feel of a phone from the east, which is fine. I actually like HyperOS, though it’s not my absolute favorite Android skin – Pixel Experience or OxygenOS is still the best in my experience. But for those who like those types of features, HyperOS will feel right at home for you.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Review: Camera

Now, let’s talk about the camera. By far, this is my favorite aspect of this phone and the main reason why I wanted to check it out. On the back of the phone, there’s a pretty large camera module, including a 1-inch sensor, which is a 50-megapixel Sony LYT-900 sensor with an f/1.65 aperture. That’s not all, as Xiaomi has also equipped the 14 Ultra with a 75mm “floating telephoto” camera, which is also a 50-megapixel sensor. There’s a 120mm periscope 50-megapixel camera that can do 5x optical zoom, and finally, a 12mm ultrawide camera. Of course, we can’t forget about that 32-megapixel front-facing sensor.

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Now that we have gotten the specs out of the way let’s talk about the actual cameras. They are pretty incredible. Let’s start with Leica Vibrant vs Leica Authentic. These are two options that you can shoot on all five cameras on the phone. Leica Authentic provides a more authentic look and feel to your images. They are going to look more true-to-life but perhaps a bit flat. At the same time, Leica Vibrant does add some vibrancy to the picture. I shot a number of photos in both modes and looked at them side by side. Most of them had very subtle differences. At the same time, others had a few more differences.

One example that made a huge difference for Leica Vibrant vs Authentic was a macro shot of the side of a brick building. The Leica Vibrant mode did indeed add a bit more color and made it brighter. Making the picture look much better overall. Another example is of the gates at Michigan Stadium. You can really only see the differences in the “Maize” color that spells out “Michigan Stadium”. The concrete also looks more vibrant, and just provides a better overall picture. There are a few more examples in the gallery below. The first picture is in Leica Authentic, and the second is in Leica Vibrant for each set of pictures.

Xiaomi has a ton of different features with this camera, and one that I thought for sure was going to be a gimmick was Super Macro. I thought for sure, this was just going to be a gimmick and not that good. Boy, was I wrong. I took a ton of super macro shots with the Xiaomi 14 Ultra and almost always was amazed at how good they came out. Basically, Super Macro uses the 75mm lens, so you’re actually shooting at 3.2x zoom. I prefer this because it means you don’t need to get as close to the subject as you would with Macro on most other phones. This is because most other devices use the ultrawide lens for macro shots.

Above, you can see a number of Super Macro shots that I took with the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. None of these were edited, and the only changes I made besides turning on the Super Macro mode was to tap to focus. These are almost as good as what I’d be able to get out of my Sony ZV-E10 mirrorless camera with the 30mm f/1.4 lens, which is saying quite a bit since it was all done on a camera that can fit in my pocket.

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Now, let’s move on to night photography. With a 1-inch sensor, you’d expect that you wouldn’t need to use any type of night photography mode or to stand still so it can take multiple shots. And that’s pretty true. I took the Xiaomi 14 Ultra to Los Angeles for a work event, and during a gathering at night on the rooftop of a hotel, I got some pretty amazing night shots with some harsh lighting and some rather interesting colors. Environments that most other smartphone cameras would really struggle with. But the Xiaomi 14 Ultra did a fantastic job here.

The first picture in the gallery below is of the rooftop pool of the hotel where I was staying. It was at night, with some lights on around the pool, and the picture came out exactly how it looked in real life. It didn’t use a night mode to make it look way brighter than it actually was. The pool was the right color, blue, while the lights were not blown out either. I’ll tell you, when I took this photo and looked at it in the gallery, my first thought was, “It’s basically perfect!” and that’s because it is. The next picture is of a building that was lit up at night. These are typically tough to take photos of with phones because they are bright and dark at the same time. But the Xiaomi 14 Ultra did really well here, too. It really only blew out one light that was the closest to the camera. Everything else in the photo looks almost exactly as it did in real life.

Another thing we need to talk about here is the coloring of these photos. Some phones will turn up the vibrancy and make it pretty saturated so greens are really green. But the colors on the Xiaomi 14 Ultra are about as accurate as I’ve ever seen from a phone. So, in the gallery below are a few samples taken with the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. In each one, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra performed better with better HDR and better true-to-life colors.

Finally, as an added bonus, I was able to take some photos of a SpaceX rocket as it launched across Los Angeles with the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. I have to say, these photos came out great. You can check out the zoom level on each one at the bottom of the picture.

The Photography Kit

Finally, let’s talk about the photography kit. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra also includes its photography kit. This kit is not included for the €1499 price and is sold separately for around €150. So, what do you get in this kit? Well, you get a nice nylon braided case for the phone, as well as the grip that attaches via USB-C and also has a lock, so it can stay in place. The grip includes a scroll wheel that you can use for different settings (I have it set to aperture), as well as a zoom wheel, record button, and shutter button. It also has a built-in battery, which will charge your Xiaomi 14 Ultra a bit. Of course, we can’t forget about the different rings you can put on the case. There is even a ring that will allow you to put on a 67mm filter. I’ve used this a bit with an ND filter, and it’s such an incredible experience.

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The photography kit is by far my favorite feature of this phone. It really makes it feel like you have a real camera in your hands versus just a phone. The grip does make it feel more ergonomic to hold versus just holding a phone to take photos. If you’re buying the Xiaomi 14 Ultra to use a camera first, then you definitely want to splurge and get the photography kit, it’s definitely worth it in my opinion.

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Should you buy the Xiaomi 14 Ultra?

This is always a tricky question with phone reviews: should you actually buy it? For the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, that would be a resounding yes if it was available worldwide. But as you might have expected, it’s not coming to the US. However, it is available across Asia and Europe. So it’s not one of those China-only type releases, thankfully. Here in the US, it does work on AT&T and T-Mobile, but not entirely. I’ve been using it on Google Fi for the past few weeks, and it’s working pretty well. Not perfectly, but pretty close. So if that’s good enough for you in the US, then yes, you should buy it.

For those in Europe, however, pricing might make this less of an absolute must-buy. This is a €1500 smartphone. That translates to about $1,628 USD, which is only about $100 less than a folding phone, which the Xiaomi 14 Ultra doesn’t do. So what it really comes down to is, do you want the best camera you can get that can also make phone calls? If you do, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is a good pick-up. And that’s absolutely why I wanted to check out the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. It won’t completely replace a mirrorless or DSLR camera, but it will get very close in a lot of circumstances.

You should buy the Xiaomi 14 Ultra if:

  • You want the best camera that fits in your pocket.
  • You want the best Xiaomi phone ever made.
  • You want a powerful smartphone that can do just about anything.
  • You want fast charging and a charger in the box.

You should not buy the Xiaomi 14 Ultra if:

  • You don’t need the absolute best camera phone.
  • You don’t want a phone that costs €1500
  • You don’t like HyperOS.



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John Smith

My John Smith is a seasoned technology writer with a passion for unraveling the complexities of the digital world. With a background in computer science and a keen interest in emerging trends, John has become a sought-after voice in translating intricate technological concepts into accessible and engaging articles.

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