Smartphone-giant Xiaomi now enters a new territory. The manufacturer’s new Mi Notebook Air was introduced to stir up the laptop market. The small version of Mi Notebook comes with Intel Core M3-6Y30, 4/128GB SSD storage and a 12.5-inch display. The bigger version, in turn, runs with a Intel Core i5-6200U processor, an 8/256GB storage and a 13.3-inch display and thus with a considerably more powerful hardware. We have tested the 12.5-inch model of Notebook Air for two weeks and now present our results in the following review.
Versions of the Xiaomi MI Notebook Air at a glance
|Mi Notebook Air 12.5 Zoll||Mi Notebook Air 13.3 Zoll|
|Weight and dimensions||
Design and build quality
The most important feature of Mi Notebook Air is its mobility. With its size of 31cm x 21cm it fits in any backpack or bag. Its width measures 14mm which is relatively thin. Its weight of 1.1kg is tolerable. The casing entirely consists of aluminium and is perfectly built. There are no clearances or edges. You can easily open the PC with one hand and the main body remains stable on the table. When touching the display the joint yields and shakes for two to three seconds. Five plastic bumps on the bottom side of the laptop guarantee solid position on any surface. With its light weight and compact dimensions, it is perfect for travelling. Mi Book Air rather belongs on your knees than on the table.
It follows the common business laptop standard and thus has no optical features. One could describe it as ordinary looking with its silver and uniform casing and rather boring than spectacular design. Even the brand on the back of the device was removed. Hence users can personalise the design by attaching stickers or buying a back cover from Xiaomi. When strongly pressing the centre of the keyboard or the rear side of the display, it only gives in a little which is a clear advantage of the notebook’s high build quality. The bottom casing is fitted with seven star screws and can be opened. Therefore, you can easily install a m.2 SSD for storage expansion.
Scope of delivery and equipment
Part of the delivery is a 1.5m charging wire with Chinese plug. In order to charge the PC, you need an adapter which most of the sellers already include in the delivery. The USB type-C plug can be extended by an additional wire. The Chinese manual is not much of a help, however, this is not a big problem as Windows runs on the Mi Book.
Interface and communication
Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air has a standard USB 3.0, USB type-C and a HDMI port. Further, above the display, there is a 1MP camera and a double microphone. On the bottom right and left side of the computer you can find one AKG loudspeaker which is really disappointing when it comes to quality. Basses are not audible and high sounds are very blurred. Unfortunately, there is no SD card reader. On the bright side, all ports are perfectly integrated in the laptop’s casing and each wire is excellently fitted without any disconnections. Also there is a 3.5mm audio jack.
The device possesses the most up-to-date ac standard WLAN module and transmits in the 2.4GHz, as well as in the 5GHz network. Its reception is very strong and with its two antennas (MIMO 2×2) you can theoretically achieve transmission rates of up to 867Mbit/s. No matter where I was, downtown, in the WIFI network, university or my apartment, the reception was always strong. WIFI runs stable and constantly with high transmission rates. Via the Bluetooth 4.1 module it is possible to connect either a smartphone for tethering or simply headphones. If you stay within a range of 15m, there will be no disconnections.
Touchpad and keyboard
The two most important features of a laptop are its input units. No matter how fast a laptop is, or how beautifully its display is, if the input units are crap, working on the device becomes unbearable. Xiaomi used an advanced glass touchpad without separate mouse buttons. Even with sweaty fingers, the device provides ideal slide characteristics. The cursor always functions evenly and constant when using the finger. Left click is performed either by pressing the touchpad firmly (with feedback) or a light touch. Both functions work flawless. Standard actions like zooming (two fingers sliding in-/outwards) or scrolling (two fingers sliding up and down) are mostly successful; however, sometimes I zoomed instead of scrolling. Those activities are usable after installing the Synaptics driver.
The keyboard is fully illuminated. It has no additional buttons and backlight has only one setting (on and off). For me personally, this feature was rather annoying in dark environments as the keyboard glows excessively bright. Except for that, the keyboard offers highly convincing, slightly absorbed, yet clearly noticeable keyboard strokes. Xiaomi’s notebook does not make much noise and thus is very well usable for working in the library. The single keys can be comfortably accessed and have a 1.5mm distance to one another.
Mi Notebook Air’s display has a resolution of 1920×1080 pixel and measures 12.5 inches with 176 pixels per inch. These are much better values compared to Macbook Pro with 13.3 inches (227 pixels per inch) and Macbook Air which also measures 13.3 inches and only 128 pixels per inch. Xiaomi provides the balance here. The computer’s display presents content in perfect sharpness. Depending on the sunlight, the display reflects very badly and readability is strongly deteriorated. A brightness of 300cd/m², however, ensures a good usability outside when being placed in the right angle. Apart from that, you will notice an intense black tone, accurate colours and stable viewing angles. The display’s illumination level in each corner is ideal.
In the 12.5 inch version of Mi Notebook, Xiaomi used a considerably more inefficient Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor. Maximum clock rate is 2.2GHz. Together with a 4GB 1866MHz DDR3 memory and an Intel HDGraphics 515 chip you will still not be able to play the newest or graphics-intensive computer games. Counterstrike Global Offensive, for example, runs with acceptable 50FPS, whereby graphic settings can always be adjusted in the game itself. The 12.5 version is mainly intended not for playing computer games, but for Office work. Bearing this in mind, the performance is more than sufficient.
When being shut down, it takes only 10 seconds to boot the desktop. Overall operation is fast and snappy. Websites open quickly and you can use up to ten tabs at once. Further, multitasking is poses no problem for Mi Notebook Air as long as you don’t want to edit videos or play games on it. Netflix and Youtube, including fast-forwarding and rewinding, are not lagging at all. When deactivating stand-by mode, it takes nearly four seconds to use the laptop.
Samsung M.2 SSD impresses with fast transfer rates. You can use 100GB out of the PC’s 128GB. As stated before, the notebook is also expandable with a M.2 SSD. Transfer rates are high, however, vary considerably after each benchmark reset. The other CPU and GPU benchmarks correspond to an Intel M3 laptop.
The Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air is a good choice for those looking for a handy and fast work laptop. Fluent performance and fast charging times in Office are only two of its advantages. After one hour of gaming, the laptop heats up to 45°C at its hottest spot (in the middle, above the keyboard). The notebook is cooled passively and the processor’s power consumption gets lower with increasing temperature. The processor had 60°C at most, no matter how long I strained the system. Of course, there are no annoying fan noises.
At the moment, Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air is delivered with the Chinese Windows system. Up to now, there is no information whether it will be changed to the international Windows version. Moreover, most of the shops don’t sell Mi Notebook Air with activated Windows which means you have to use your own activation code or buy one. There are only a few simple steps if you want to install Windows.
- Download the media production tool here.
- Connect a USB stick with at least 8GB
- Create Windows boot stick
- Keep pressing ‘F2’ when starting the laptop, then go to ‘boot’ and ‘boot device order’ and select your USB stick.
- Install Windows
- Windows 10 automatically gets each required drivers for Xiaomi MI Notebook Air, the only driver which you have to install yourself is the multitouch function.
After following this guide, you have the regular Windows system with unlimited access.
Xiaomi Notebook Air houses a 7.4V 5000mAh battery. Hence, the laptop provides 37Wh which is on average compared to its competitors. It is charged with the provided adapter to 50% battery life within 30 minutes. It reaches 100% after 1.5 hours. These are great marks. Xiaomi praises 9.5h of video playback and 7.5h of surfing. In practice, for the last two weeks I could not reach those values. With WLAN turned on and medium brightness setting, the battery lasted approximately five hours of Netflix streaming. When you switch to flight mode, you are able to watch for 7.5h. During Office operation with WLAN and much surfing, battery lasts five to six hours. The overall battery life is on average compared to competitors. Still, after intensive usage during the day the notebook had to be charged again which, however, does not take much time with the quick charge function.