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Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 Review: A Solid Performer in Work-From-Home Era

The Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 features 8GB RAM and up to 512GB SSD
The laptop comes with 46Wh battery and fast-charging capabilities

With the global smartphone market becoming saturated, OEMs are aggressively looking at opportunities to create new revenue streams. The emerging IoE (Internet of Everything) and 5G ecosystem is one such opportunity. As a result, smartphone makers are launching accessories like TWS (true wireless stereo) earphones, smartwatches and fitness bands. Xiaomi, which has now become the world’s third largest smartphone maker, has been expanding its portfolio in this direction as well. Besides getting into the smart TV segment and launching a range of IoT (Internet of Things) products, the company has also entered the laptop segment with the Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 series.

These Mi Notebooks offer mainstream to high-end configurations. India is the second country after China where Xiaomi is expanding its Mi Notebook 14 portfolio with a specially customized version. I have been using this version for over a month now, and it has managed to impress me.

counterpoint xiaomi mi notebook 14 review lead

COVID-19 Gives a New Lease of Life to Notebooks

PC and laptop sales were declining over the past few years. But while the COVID-19 lockdowns disrupted businesses, they also gave a new lease of life to PCs and laptops. As countries have not been able to contain the spread of the coronavirus so far, work from home and study from home have become the new norm. This has pushed the need for having a reliable computer at home. For Xiaomi, the timing could not have been any better to expand in this new laptop category.

Commenting on Xiaomi’s strategy, research analyst MengMeng Zhang said, “As part of its IoT strategy, Xiaomi has been actively expanding into different segments outside of smartphones through both developing in-house and investing in and incubating companies. The IoT ecosystem and smart home appliances that Xiaomi has built will allow it to create more synergies between smartphones and other IoT products.”

Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 Pricing and Specifications

Counterpoint Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 specifications

Like the smartphone strategy of aggressive pricing with better specifications than the competition, the Mi Notebook 14 comes with price-beating specifications. But does that translate into better performance? Well, there are three areas where the Mi Notebook 14 shines – design, performance and battery life. I will talk about these in the review below. The model that I am reviewing is the top-end variant with 512GB SSD and NVIDIA MX 250 GPU, available for around $660.

All-Metallic Premium Design

Xiaomi’s affordable mainstream laptop comes with an impressive all-metallic design. Made from anodized sandblasted coating, the metal frame is quite sturdy and looks premium too. It is not common to see laptops at this price point sporting an all-metallic design, and Xiaomi clearly has done well here. With all this, it weighs 1.5 kg and is just around 18 mm thick.

One of the interesting things that Xiaomi has done here is to keep the profile very neat and clean. There are no logos or brand engraving on the display lid or below the keyboard area where we rest our palms. There is just one sticker logo from Intel.

counterpoint xiaomi mi notebook 14 review clean logo-free

Talking about ports, there is a charging port, HDMI and two USB 3.1 Type-A ports on the left, whereas a 3.5 mm jack and a USB 2.0 Type-A port are on the right. Behind the lid is a 14-inch FHD display with 16:9 aspect ratio and anti-glare coating. The display has thick bezels on the top and bottom, and there is also a MI logo at the bottom. Watching content was fun, be it videos or playing games. Colors look good, although not too punchy, but a good experience overall. The text was crisp too. The anti-glare coating came in handy when I was sitting on the window with the sunlight falling directly on the screen.

counterpoint xiaomi mi notebook 14 review left ports

Unlike most mainstream laptops, Xiaomi has not included a built-in webcam, but has bundled a detachable USB one with every laptop. The quality of the webcam is good enough for video calls, but not great. Also, plugging the camera in and out every time may look inconvenient, but it is no big deal. You will only need it when you want to make video calls. The other inconvenience will be only when you go out leaving behind the webcam. But this is likely to be rare.

counterpoint xiaomi mi notebook 14 review webcam

Lastly, I would like to talk about the keyboard and trackpad. The keyboard comes with a scissor-switch mechanism with a travel distance of 1.3 mm. Xiaomi says it has also included a dust protection layer, which is a good addition. The keys have textured finish, making them easier to grip and type, unlike the smooth plastic ones. Backlit keyboard is missing though, but I do not think it is a big deal at this price point. My personal and work laptops both have a backlit keyboard, but I keep the light off when not needed. So, while having a backlit keyboard would have been great, not having one is not a deal breaker.

counterpoint xiaomi mi notebook 14 review keyboard

Moving to the trackpad, the smooth glass surface allows for easy swipe and scrolling gestures. Xiaomi has also added a palm rejection feature to avoid unintended touches when typing, and it works well. The only problem I have with the trackpad is that the touch response has a bit of a lag, and it is an area where Xiaomi can look to make improvements.

The all-metallic design makes it look premium and adds durability.

Performance: Enough Power to Get Going

Specifications-wise, the Mi Notebook 14 draws its power from Intel’s 10th Gen ‘Comet Lake’ Core i5-10210U quad-core processor. With base speed of 1.6GHz and turbo boost speeds of up to 4.2GHz, the laptop offers a good overall performance. There is 8GB of DDR4 soldered RAM clocked at 2,666MHz. Being a soldered RAM means it is not upgradable, but that is not a big deal as not many average users look to upgrade the RAM. Depending on the variant you choose, you will either get 256GB or 512GB SSD. There are two things to note here. First, Xiaomi has used a SATA SSD, meaning you can upgrade from 256GB to 512GB or 1TB, but you will have to swap out as there is no additional slot. Also, it does not support the faster NVMe SSD.

Specifications aside, real-world performance matters. If you look at the competition in the same price point, laptops come with slightly slower Core i3 processors, HDDs and 4GB of RAM. Clearly, Xiaomi is offering better hardware for the price, and that reflects in the performance too. Right from booting, which takes under 10 seconds, to waking up from standby in about five seconds, users upgrading from older laptops with HDD will find it much faster.

counterpoint xiaomi mi notebook 14 review right ports

I have been using the Mi Notebook 14 as a primary driver for work. Usage includes Microsoft Teams to collaborate with colleagues, surfing websites over the Edge Chromium browser, Yammer, and using Office apps like Outlook, Word and PowerPoint. I have also been using apps like Audacity to edit podcasts and Adobe Premier Rush CC for basic video-editing. And I did not encounter any performance related issues.

The Mi Notebook 14 handles basic photo- and video-editing (up to 1080p) tasks with ease.

Gaming performance on the laptop has also been smooth. Xiaomi claims it can run graphics-hungry titles such as GTA V too, but the experience was not smooth enough. However, games like Counter Strike: GO, Rocket League, Left4Dead2 and Flight Simulator X ran without a hiccup. There were occasional frame drops for a couple of seconds, especially when playing in balanced mode on battery. However, when the charger was connected and mode changed to high performance, the same issues did not crop up. Even games like Valorant ran smoothly.

counterpoint xiaomi mi notebook 14 review gaming

Our Global Content Editor, Rajiv Gupta, who is a basic user, using the MS Office and Teams programs, said, “I have been using the Mi Notebook 14 for more than four months now. Fast booting time is a pure delight compared to my older HDD-based laptop. Since I am using it for my office work, its battery, at an average output of 5 hours per charge, is a big positive. However, the lack of a built-in camera means I have to remind myself to remove the camera every time I am closing the laptop.”

Battery Life: Goes on For Hours

Now, battery life is subjective and will differ from person to person. The way I generally use is, when the power adapter is plugged off, I switch to a balanced mode, “Better Performance”, and screen brightness at 50%. When the adapter is connected, I switch to the “Best Performance” mode. This is an important setting which many users tend to ignore but can help in getting better battery life or performance. Fast-charging capabilities allow the battery to go from dead to 50% in just about 30 minutes. But you will get these speeds only when it is shut down, not during normal usage.

Depending on your usage and a few tweaks, you can get over nine hours on a single charge.

On a full charge with balanced mode, and usage that included writing an article, a few calls with colleagues for an hour and a half, and editing a podcast, the battery lasted for a little over seven hours before needing to charge again. This is impressive and people using it for regular office work or study from home will find the battery life good. On a similar usage with the performance mode, the battery lasted for nearly five hours. Similarly, continuously playing Valorant on a full charge, I got three full hours of gaming. Though the base of the laptop and the area around the keyboard did get quite warm after all the hours of gaming.

Conclusion: A Reliable Performer with Minor Compromises

Xiaomi has done a fantastic job in designing the Mi Notebook 14. The logo-free minimalist look and all-metallic body make it stand out from most competitor offerings. The choice of having a minimum 8GB RAM and SSD over HDD offers a performance boost compared to other laptops in the segment. A good display and keyboard coupled with a long-lasting battery and fast-charging capabilities makes this a capable laptop.

Commenting on the Xiaomi’s Mi Notebook strategy, our VP of Research Neil Shah said, “Mi can disrupt the Indian PC market with these attractive offerings and higher value proposition by expanding the consumer segment which is currently roughly six to seven million units a year. The timing is apt as the demand for laptops has accelerated due to the pandemic. However, Mi would need to leverage the right channel strategy and also need a B2E strategy to target education institutes. Similarly, Xiaomi will need to expand this offering to the other markets such as in South East Asia and Europe where it has been expanding its footprint for its portfolio and channels to gain further scale.”

counterpoint xiaomi mi notebook 14 review lid

However, there are some minor compromises and Xiaomi can improve on those with the successor. Given the current COVID-19 situation, traveling for business meetings, going to office or even schooling looks difficult for a few months. This means there will be an increasing reliance on video calls. Having a laptop with a built-in camera will save the hassle of always looking around for the webcam. The newly launched and more affordable Mi Notebook 14 e-Learning Edition with Core i3 processor includes a built-in webcam, and we hope to see the refreshed models of Core i5 and Core i7 to include the same.

A backlit keyboard and an SD card slot to transfer photos and videos from a digital camera would be an interesting addition too. Having a USB Type-C port will also be a good addition for charging and data transfer, considering most smartphones now come with Type-C to Type-C cable. Lastly, the touch responsiveness of the trackpad can be improved with the next iteration.

Ritesh is a Global Content Manager with Counterpoint Technology Market Research. With over 10 years of experience, he is joining Counterpoint from BGR India where he was the Head of Features. At BGR, Ritesh also used to cover tech news, product launches, and review consumer tech. Ritesh is a science graduate from Mumbai University, with major in Physics. He followed his passion for tech, took up writing as a career and is also a well-known tech journalist in the industry.

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