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Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE review

NE stands for 'New Edition' but this one has a bit of 'old' in it

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

With a sleek design, an excellent 90Hz AMOLED display, and the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 778 5G (6nm) processor, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE is still a great value-for-money purchase (even though it comes with a slightly older mid-range processor). It’s an extremely well balanced device, with few of the glaring compromises that usually accompany such an affordable phone, though it faces a stiff challenge from its competitors.

For

  • Slim, stylish design
  • Decent performance
  • Capable main camera

Against

  • Ultra-wide camera not up to much
  • MIUI still a little too bloaty
  • Battery isn’t the biggest

TechRadar Verdict

With a sleek design, an excellent 90Hz AMOLED display, and the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 778 5G (6nm) processor, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE is still a great value-for-money purchase (even though it comes with a slightly older mid-range processor). It’s an extremely well balanced device, with few of the glaring compromises that usually accompany such an affordable phone, though it faces a stiff challenge from its competitors.

Pros

  • +

    Slim, stylish design

  • +

    Decent performance

  • +

    Capable main camera

Cons

  • -

    Ultra-wide camera not up to much

  • -

    MIUI still a little too bloaty

  • -

    Battery isn’t the biggest

Two-minute review

 If you follow Xiaomi's releases at the start of the year, you're surely completely confused by the end of the year with the sheer amount of variants the company produces. That being said, Xiaomi is still the king as far as producing phones that give you a bang for your buck. 

For the sheer experience in hand, thanks to it's incredibly slim body and gorgeous display, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE gives you most of what it's predecessor offers at an attractive price point. 

The global chip shortage has had many an effect on various industries including the smartphone industry. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE seems to be one such device. With the only glaring difference being that the Mi 11 Lite 5G NE has a one generation older processor compared to its older sibling the Mi 11 Lite 5G, the phones are pretty much identical. Like the Mi 11 Lite 5G, the NE model also continues to impress us.

It manages to do just that with a sleek design that’s as skinny as it is light. It might have a plastic frame, but the Mi 11 Lite 5G NE’s glass back looks and feels reassuringly expensive.

While it doesn't have the Snapdragon 780G chip like it's predecessor, the Snapdragon 778G (6nm) processor still holds its own throughout our usage. 

And if a 90Hz display might seem like yesterday’s specs, closer inspection reveals that the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE too has a splendidly vibrant AMOLED panel. It comfortably outdoes entry-level 120Hz displays.

The Mi 11 Lite 5G NE’s camera system doesn’t perform any Pixel-like miracles, but it is led by a capable 64MP main sensor. Xiaomi’s smart image processing ensures bright, balanced shots in good lighting, and passable night shots. The older processor doesn't really show any major signs of age but HDR images do seem a bit over-processed. 

If I do have one gripe with the Mi 11 Lite 5G NE, it would be the usual one, Xiaomi's MIUI. While the customisations on MIUI are thoroughly useful, the bloat is still immense. 

Overall, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE still promises everything the Mi 11 Lite 5G did and is a solid option if you're considering it as an affordable phone for a flagship-like experience. 

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G price and release date

  • Announced September 15, 2021, released October 2 
  • Pricing - AED 1,299

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE was launched in the UAE in October, 2021. There are three storage variants of the device. 

The Mi 11 Lite 5G NE with 6GBof RAM and 128GB of storage costs AED 1,199, the model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage costs AED 1,299 while the model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage will set you back AED 1,499.

This places the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE into direct competition with the Samsung S20 FE, the Samsung A52 and the OnePlus 8T

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

Design

  • Shiny plastic rim and bold, visually appealing glass rear
  • Extremely thin and light at 6.8mm/159g

Like the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G, the Mi 11 Lite 5G NE is a breath of fresh air as far as it's design and body are concerned.

Xiaomi has smartly done away with the dated teardrop selfie camera of the Mi 10 Lite, and has shifted its punch-hole alternative over to the left hand corner, like the full-fat Xiaomi Mi 11. The surrounding bezels are fairly minimal, albeit slightly thicker around the chin, which is a telltale sign of a more affordable phone.

Another indicator of the phone’s lower price tag is the thick black plastic buffer between the flat screen glass and the shiny plastic rim. The latter seems like less of a compromise than ever, given that even so-called flagship phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the OnePlus 9 are rediscovering the cost-cutting joys of plastic.

It’s when you flip the phone onto its front that the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE really makes its statement though. The satin-finish glass rear, bold colors, subtle yet reflective logo, and distinctive camera module look and feel like they belong to a much more expensive phone.

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

This is a seriously easy phone to live with too. At just 6.8mm thick and weighing a scant 158g, it’s blissfully unassuming when sat in a trouser pocket. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not a truly small phone like the iPhone 12 mini. You’re still getting a large 6.55-inch display, and the full-sized footprint that entails. But it feels like sweet relief after the heft of the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite.

Like that latter phone you’ll have to accept a fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button on the right hand edge. It’s a less overtly premium option than the in-display solutions usually favored for flagship and mid-range phones, but to this writer’s mind it’s preferable to the rear-mounted budget alternative. You can access the phone without picking it up, for one thing.

Display

  • 6.55-inch 1080 x 2400 AMOLED screen
  • 90Hz refresh rate
  • 800 nits peak brightness, 500 nits typical

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE packs the same 6.55-inch display, with a 1080 x 2400 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate, as the Mi 11 Lite 5G.

Like the the Mi 11 Lite 5G, this NE model has the added benefit of being an AMOLED panel. And not just any AMOLED, but one with 10-bit color depth support, which is capable of outputting 1.07 billion colors (64 times more than the Mi 10 Lite).

You also get the usual AMOLED benefit of being able to output true blacks, which really comes into its own with the always-on display and subtle edge notification lighting animations.

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

On balance, we’d take this more comprehensive combination over the seemingly faster LCD alternative. 90Hz is still plenty smooth enough, and you won’t even notice the shortfall unless you have a 120Hz phone to hand for a direct comparison. In fact, side by side, we found the Mi 11 Lite 5G NE's display to feel more responsive than the 10T Lite's, at least in part thanks to its 240Hz touch sampling rate.

A peak brightness of 800 nits tells you that this isn’t a top level OLED (you can almost double that with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra), but a typical brightness of 500 nits makes for comfortable viewing. Using it on a bright and sunny Dubai morning, the display does struggle a bit but not to the point where you can't see anything on the display. 

This is a dead flat display, which again hints towards a lower price tag, but a slight curve on the edge of there displays could've really nailed that feeling of how slim this device really is. Another little thing to note is that unlike the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G, the NE model doesn't come with Gorilla Glass 6, but a generation older Gorilla Glass 5. 

Camera

  • 64MP main sensor takes good shots in daylight
  • 8MP ultra-wide is pretty bad
  • 2x zoom shots crop in, but look quite good
  • Night mode a mixed bag compared to predecessor

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE comes with the same triple camera setup on the back as the Mi 11 Lite. 

Your main attention will be on the 1/1.97-inch 64MP wide sensor, which features an f/1.79 aperture and a 6-element lens system. By default, this captures 16MP shots through using a 4-in-1 pixel binning technique.

These shots can look great in good lighting. On a couple of sunny days, we were able to capture some genuinely striking shots of flowers bursting with vibrant color, with that wide aperture yielding buckets of natural bokeh.

Xiaomi’s AI assistant generally does well at picking out the appropriate scene profile, and the color balance - while on the punchier side of natural - rarely rings false. The company’s image processing game is strong.

The 8MP 1/4-inch ultra-wide sensor really isn’t up to anything like the same standard, whether you’re talking about detail levels or color balance. Shots taken with this secondary sensor tend to look murky and distinctly lacking in detail, with bags of mushy noise towards the edges.

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

Any zoom you apply will be entirely cropped from that main sensor, with no dedicated telephoto lens to speak of. 2x shots actually look pretty good here, however, thanks to the abundance of pixels at its disposal.

There’s a portrait mode, but it’s not the most convincing example we’ve ever used. The defocused background effect looks ever so slightly weird, almost like a painting, and our subjects failed to pop like they do on more expensive phones.

Xiaomi’s 20MP selfie camera isn’t too bad, however, with a fair amount of detail in good lighting.

Night mode is a bit of a mixed bag here. We’re not expecting great results from an affordable phone, but with a little bit of light and night mode switched on you could get a passable result. 

The phone’s video offering is pretty strong for an affordable phone, with 4K at 30fps or 1080p at up to 120fps. The 4K footage we took looked nice and stable, with electronic image stabilization (EIS) readily applied, unlike on the Mi 10T Lite. You also get 960fps slow motion video but only at 720p. 

Like any Xiaomi phone, the camera also offers gimmicky modes such as Dual Video, Clone and Movie Effects which aren't great but do offer a bit more than other devices at this price range. 

Camera samples

Image 1 of 7

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE Camera Sample

Xiaomi’s color science is punchy without looking false (Image credit: Techradar)
Image 2 of 7

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE Camera Sample

A lovely sharp close-up with natural bokeh. (Image credit: Techradar)
Image 3 of 7

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE Camera Sample

Xiaomi’s image processing renders the sky well from the main camera (Image credit: Techradar)
Image 4 of 7

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE Camera Sample

The 8MP ultra-wide is markedly inferior to the main camera though (Image credit: Techradar)
Image 5 of 7

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE Camera Sample

Night mode is passable, if a little blurry and yellowy. (Image credit: Techradar)
Image 6 of 7

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE Camera Sample

However, this extremely low light shot was too difficult for the camera (Image credit: Techradar)
Image 7 of 7

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE Camera Sample

The 20MP selfie camera is quite sharp and balanced in good lighting. (Image credit: Techradar)

Specs and performance

  • Snapdragon 778G is a bit of a drop from the regular Mi 11 Lite 5G
  • Together with stereo speakers, it’s a great affordable gaming phone

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE sees the adoption of an older processor (probably due to the global chip shortages), the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G. 

While the chipset might be slightly older, it is still a very capable one. It's still a leap over the Snapdragon 750G used by the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite. An average Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 2,795 for the Mi 11 Lite 5G NE absolutely trounces both the Mi 10T Lite (1,931) and the Poco X3 NFC (1,755).

In fact, it gets impressively close to the Oppo Find X3 Neo (3,147), which is a much more expensive contemporary device running on the Snapdragon 865. That was the go-to flagship chip of 2020.

The only thing that makes us start to question the value proposition of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE in performance terms is when we compare it with the Poco F3, which packs the superior Snapdragon 870 (and a 120Hz display) for less money. But the difference isn’t huge, and the Xiaomi wins out in other ways, such as that sleek design. 

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

Paired with a healthy 6 or 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM, the Snapdragon 778G supplies a fast and fluid experience. Everything here, from home screen navigation to app switching, feels close to flagship level. 

The true gap between the Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE’s Snapdragon 778G and the flagship brigade would appear to pertain to its Adreno 642L GPU, which falls a little shy of the Adreno 650 in the Snapdragon 865 and the Snapdragon 870. A 3DMark score of 2477 falls short of phones running the Snapdragon 888, like the OnePlus 9 and the Xiaomi Mi 11 itself.

Talking of gaming, you’ll benefit from proper stereo sound here, courtesy of a pair of speakers. You’ll be able to install all your games, music, and movies onto a standard 128GB of internal storage, and there’s also a microSD card slot for expansion purposes.

Software

  • Runs Android 11 with MIUI 12 .5 on top
  • Bloated and sometimes unintuitive interface
  • Loads of useful customization options

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE runs MIUI 12.5 on top of Android 11, just like its big brother the Xiaomi Mi 11. And while it’s still not the most tasteful custom Android skin on the market, it’s one of the better all-round performers.

It still suffers from way too much bloat though. If we have to write about our puzzlement at the presence of Xiaomi’s own Mi Browser alongside Google Chrome one more time… well, let’s face it, we’re going to have to. It’s here, and it’s just as pointless as ever.

Xiaomi’s own suite of apps stretches to include its own Music, Video, Gallery, Security, and Themes provisions. You also get a Cleaner for tidying up those memory-hogging apps and files, which is handy, though we object to being shown a full page ad every time we do so. Those ads rear their ugly heads when installing apps, too.

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

Talking of apps, the likes of Amazon Shopping, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn come pre-installed as standard, whether you want them or not. And they’re all bundled into a More Apps folder through which Xiaomi also tries to push a bunch of iffy games at you.

Bloatware aside, MIUI has grown to become a powerful interface. The ability to split the notification pane into dual drag-down menus - one for notifications, the other for control shortcuts - is welcome, as is the fact that it’s totally optional.

Indeed, customization is MIUI 12’s biggest asset. The Themes store is full of bespoke looks for your home screen, and some of the live ‘super wallpapers’ are really rather impressive. We went with a rings of Saturn theme that seems to swoop into a fresh angle every time we unlock the phone.

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

This power does seem to come at the expense of clarity, however. Navigating MIUI’s Settings menu can be a counter-intuitive nightmare, with certain everyday options seemingly having gone walkabout.

Wondering where the option to change the screen’s time-to-sleep is? It’s not in Display, where you might expect it. It’s in the separate ‘Always-on display’ menu. While several other options turned out to be roughly where we expected, we still somehow contrived to overlook them several times. There’s just something fundamentally opaque about Xiaomi’s menu design.

Battery life

  • 4,250mAh battery isn’t the biggest, but lasts a full day
  • 33W charger bundled in

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE comes with a 4,250mAh battery. That’s not small by any means, but it is a fair bit more compact than the 4,820mAh Mi 10T Lite cell, and way less than the 5,160mAh battery of the Poco X3 NFC.

Of course, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G doesn’t have to worry about running a flat-out 120Hz LCD display. Its 90Hz AMOLED is a far more economical component, in theory.

Thankfully the phone lasts well enough in practice, too. A light day with three hours of screen-on time would tend to leave us with a healthy 50% still in the tank. A more intensive period with 4 hours of screen time dropped that amount to 35%.

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

Media consumption will drain that battery rather faster, of course. Our usual battery test, which involves a 90-minute 720p looping video playing with the screen brightness cranked to the max drained 11% of a full charge. That’s better than your average 120Hz phone, but still not exactly amazing.

You get a 33W charger in box, which isn’t a particular stand out, but it’s still notably better than Samsung’s and Apple’s finest can muster. Half an hour of charging got us from 20% to 82%, which bodes well for those impromptu top-up situations.

Should I buy the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G?

Xiaomi MI 11 Lite 5G NE

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You want a good-looking but affordable phone
Buying an affordable phone often means compromising on its appearance and feel, but we’re fans of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE’s looks. It’s very slim, very light, and its rear panel looks and feels premium.

You want a fluid display that doesn’t compromise on image quality
We’ve seen been plenty of affordable phones offering sky-high 120Hz displays, but most will compromise on overall image quality. Xiaomi smartly scales back to a still-fluid 90Hz, but pairs this with a genuinely responsive and beautiful AMOLED panel.

You’re a gamer on a budget
Affordable phones also typically lack a little punch in the performance stakes. Not so the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE, which uses a very capable new Snapdragon 778G chipset that will get you close enough to flagship performance. Add in stereo speakers, and you have a great budget gaming phone.

Don't buy it if...

Stamina is your key requirement
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE isn’t deficient when it comes to stamina, but its 4,250mAh battery isn’t what you’d call large either. It’s not uncommon to find affordable phones with much bigger cells, and if you’re a power user this shortfall is going to take its toll.

You like a slick, no-nonsense OS
MIUI offers bags of features and customization potential, and it’s come on leaps and bounds in recent years. But it’s still jam packed with annoying rough edges and way too much bloatware. If you look up to Google and OnePlus for their clean UIs, best look elsewhere.

You’re a sucker for ultra-wide photography
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G NE’s 64MP main sensor is pretty decent, but its 8MP ultra-wide most certainly is not. It lacks the detail, balance, and vibrancy of the main sensor, and you’ll likely find yourself avoiding it whenever possible after a few murky attempts.