Xiaomi 13 Ultra Smartphone Review

Xiaomi 13 Ultra 4

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra smartphone is the latest flagship to push the boundaries of what is possible with a camera on a smartphone. The 13 Ultra offers a great balance of design, performance, camera system and other high-end features that make it stand out from the competition. While there are some things to be aware of, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra smartphone is an option worth considering for users looking for a device that can deliver an exceptional experience without major compromises.

Unpack the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, and you will find an incredibly premium-feeling smartphone. You’ll also find a number of goodies in the box, including a 90w charger, a pouch, a USB Type-A to Type-C cable and the usual pin ejector tool and manuals. It’s good to see that Xiaomi is still bucking the trend and including the charger and case in the box, unlike other brands that only include the phone, even on their premium smartphones.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra 7

Out of the box, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra immediately looks unique, with a sloping body to accommodate its colossal rear camera module. The size and truly outstanding camera design make it one of the most unique phones on the market right now. To minimize the camera bump, Xiaomi has designed the body to be thicker around the camera module, resulting in a surprisingly balanced weight distribution despite weighing in at 227g, making it slightly lighter than the Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro Max, but it never feels unwieldy in use.

Available in white, black and olive green, the 13 Ultra features a vegan leather finish for a comfortable grip and enhanced durability. The design is inspired by classic SLR cameras, adding a touch of sophistication to the user experience, and is truly great to hold and use. With an aluminum frame that blends flat sides with rounded corners, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra feels incredibly good in the hand, and its premium design and materials make it one of the most outstanding phones I’ve ever used.

With such a stunning device, it’s good to see Xiaomi using the latest protection technology to keep it looking good for as long as possible. The display is made from Gorilla Glass Victus, and the phone has an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, making the 13 Ultra one of the toughest flagships on the market. For biometrics, the device relies on an in-display fingerprint sensor and a face unlock feature provided by the punch-hole selfie camera, both of which work incredibly quickly, giving you ease of use and peace of mind.

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As a gamer on the go, I loved the Xiaomi 13 Ultra’s spacious 6.73-inch display, perfect for my hobby or just productivity and media consumption. Utilizing LTPO OLED technology, the screen offers a dynamic refresh rate between 1Hz and 120Hz, delivering smooth scrolling and animations while conserving battery life when needed. The impressive 1440 x 3200 resolution ensures a high-quality viewing experience, making it one of the best smartphone displays available. I was incredibly impressed with how clear and crisp everything looked, from a game of Genshin Impact or Fortnite to watching the latest episode of Succession.

As we have seen on previous Xiaomi smartphones, the 13 Ultra offers various colour profiles and settings to fine-tune the display to your liking. As well as its stunning screen, the phone also boasts a powerful and crisp stereo speaker system. With one speaker at the bottom and one at the top, the stereo effect is well-balanced, with plenty of volumes and an open soundstage with remarkable sound separation.

The top-fired speaker does lose some of its impact compared to front-fired speakers, but fortunately, it makes up for it with clarity and solid levels that make music, films, and games sound fantastic. For anyone that demands truly fantastic sound, a dedicated Bluetooth speaker or pair of headphones is still the best option. Considering the trend of current devices, there is no 3.5mm headphone jack on the phone.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra 5

Given the ‘Ultra’ moniker, it’s no surprise that the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is powered by the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, which at the time of writing is the pinnacle of performance for Android smartphones. Its performance is only slightly surpassed by the custom overclocked version of the same chip found in Samsung’s Galaxy S23 range.

With storage options up to 1TB and RAM configurations up to 16GB, the 13 Ultra is a true powerhouse, capable of running the latest Android games and multitasking with ease. We used the 16GB variant for our review, although we never came close to maxing out the RAM in testing, so either option should work for most people.

“With its top-of-the-line display, industry-leading camera system, powerful performance, and solid battery life, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is an attractive choice for those looking for a premium flagship device.”

Gaming on the Xiaomi 13 Ultra was fantastic, as you would expect, with the power under the hood. Genshin Impact looked stunning on the vibrant screen, and throughout our testing, I never saw any slowdown or stuttering. Jumping into Diablo Immortal, the story is the same, with even the most densely populated areas showing no problems, and the vibrant OLED screen allows the visuals to pop even in dimly lit areas. It may not be able to beat the latest ROG phone, but the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is capable of taking on intense tasks without breaking a sweat.

In terms of connectivity, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra offers standard 5G support alongside Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3 and NFC, GPS and all the normal options you’d expect from a flagship smartphone in 2023. During testing, there were no problems connecting to a range of smart devices, including headphones, watches, and other wearables and smart devices. The MIUI OS can make connecting devices a challenge, depending on the companion app, but once everything is sorted, I didn’t find anything the 13 Ultra couldn’t work with.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra 3

If you’re reading this, you’re probably most excited about the Xiaomi 13 Ultra’s robust camera system, which consists of a quad 50MP rear camera setup and a 32MP selfie camera. The main camera features a 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor with a unique feature: variable aperture. With the ability to switch between a fast f/1.9 setting for low light and a slower f/4.0 setting for landscapes and group shots, the 13 Ultra achieves versatility not found in most smartphones.

During testing, the main camera performed exceptionally well in a variety of lighting conditions. I’m used to Xiaomi’s tendency to produce slightly oversaturated and vivid images in the past, but it seems that the partnership with Leica is helping to make shots from the camera look vibrant and natural. In low-light situations, the large 1-inch sensor and f/1.9 aperture combine to produce stunning images, making the 13 Ultra one of the best performers in its class.

Supporting the main camera, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra features a 50MP ultrawide lens, a 50MP 3.2x optical zoom telephoto lens with OIS, and a 50MP 5x optical zoom telephoto lens with OIS. The ultrawide lens, although less exciting, is capable and consistent, closely matching the main camera’s performance in most situations. The telephoto lenses impress with their detail, dynamic range, and low-light performance, delivering crisp and well-exposed images even in challenging scenarios.

Thanks to Xiaomi’s careful colour matching and the use of similar sensors, the different lenses offer a seamless transition in image quality, creating one of the best all-around rear camera setups on any smartphone. There’s been a lot of talk about how closely Leica is working with Xiaomi, and if the 13 Ultra is anything to go by, I’m inclined to believe it. There are few phones I would recommend over a standard camera when out and about, but the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is at the top of my list after using it.

I used the 13 Ultra while I was in Brazil for both stills and video and was incredibly impressed with the clarity. We usually take a full setup everywhere we go, but this was the first time I felt comfortable leaving it at the hotel and tackling a range of things, from interviews to event footage with the 13 Ultra alone. In terms of video recording, the rear cameras support up to 8K resolution at 24fps, although most users will prefer the 4K option. The selfie camera, on the other hand, is limited to 1080p@60, which is a potential drawback for users who frequently record themselves.

Speaking of selfie cameras, the 32-megapixel shooter takes bright, detailed pictures. Some users may find the level of detail uncomfortable, but there are a number of beauty options and a portrait mode. Despite some shortcomings in edge detection and sky exposure, the selfie camera will be satisfactory for most users. However, in our experience, it over-saturates in bright rooms, so while it should serve most people’s needs, I’ve seen better from the likes of Apple, OnePlus and Samsung, and the 1080P limit really does make content creation more difficult for individual creators, and that’s a shame.

With all this power, it is great to see Xiaomi grace the 13 Ultra with a generous 5000mAh battery that provides strong battery life despite the device’s powerful components and large display. While testing it in real-world situations, both at home and while travelling, I never felt stressed about the phone dying while in use. I would often go a full day with heavy use and still have a solid 20-30 percent when I finally plugged it in at night. Users can expect the phone to last a full day comfortably and potentially stretch to two days for light usage scenarios.

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Thanks to Xiaomi’s various options, there are ways to make the phone last even longer if you ever have a problem finding a power outlet. When you finally do run low on juice, charging the phone is a breeze with 90W of wired fast charging and 50W of wireless charging options. A 15-minute wired charge can replenish 48% of the battery, while a full charge takes just over 30 minutes. Using a Xiaomi wireless charger will provide faster wireless charging results. Otherwise, the device is compatible with most standard Qi chargers.

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra runs Android 13 with Xiaomi’s custom MIUI 14 interface on top. For international users, MIUI will include full Google support, making app installation and usage more straightforward compared to the Chinese version. Although MIUI may appear cluttered and clunky to some users, it offers a wealth of customization options. There is a wealth of ways you can adjust the phone experience with MIUI, and even though it can feel overwhelming, once you get the hang of things, it quickly becomes intuitive.

“The Xiaomi 13 Ultra is an exceptional smartphone that offers a well-rounded suite of features, only held back by Xiaomi’s software limitations.”

There are some security features that can get in the way of connecting to external devices, but thankfully these are not hard to adjust, and often times it is just a matter of jumping into the app’s settings to make sure everything is enabled. While I like Xiaomi’s attempts to keep users safe, it can get frustrating when you just want to connect a smartwatch and get notifications.

If you are in an international market and don’t speak Chinese, I would recommend waiting for the global release. While you can use the Chinese variant in international markets, it will be some work getting Google apps all setup, and there are a few menus and apps that have not been translated.

At the moment, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is only available in China, with a starting price of ¥5,999 (around $870/£690/€790). For those who don’t want to wait for an international release, the phone can be imported, although I personally would advise waiting due to the few issues listed above.

When the 13 Ultra is released worldwide, the prices will probably be higher than the converted Chinese prices due to regional differences in taxes and other factors. Considering that the Xiaomi 13 Pro is priced at £1,099/€1,299, the European price of the 13 Ultra is expected to be higher. Xiaomi has promised an international launch in the “next few months,” following its debut in China in March. The release is expected in Asia and Europe, with no word yet on North America.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra 1

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra is an exceptional smartphone that offers a well-rounded suite of features, only held back by Xiaomi’s software limitations. With its top-of-the-line display, industry-leading camera system, powerful performance, and solid battery life, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is an attractive choice for those looking for a premium flagship device.

From gaming to content creation, Xiaomi has built a phone that does it all and does it all well. The 13 Ultra is a content creator’s dream come true, with a camera array and performance ready to take on anything you can throw at it. While I may have issues with the MIUI OS, it does not take away from the performance and wealth of features at my fingertips. Apple, Samsung and other brands should take notice. This is the new flagship smartphone to beat in 2023.

Final Thoughts

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