With Mi Notebook Air, Xiaomi already showed how to combine an economic price with a high-quality ultrabook design and a decent hardware. The manufacturer now takes the next step and ventures into the high-end segment. With the Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro, the manufacturer presents a product that does not only share the name with Apple’s MacBook Pro.
In contrast to Xiaomi’s previous models, the Mi Notebook Pro now has a big 15.6-inch display. Because of the bigger display and more performance, the filigrane design was given up. The laptop has a dark-grey aluminum casing, which strongly resembles MacBook Pro. Mi Notebook Pro is a competitor for the MacBook not only in terms of appearance. Xiaomi sets new standards in terms of hardware as well. The cheapest version of Mi Notebook Pro costs 720$ and houses an 8/256GB storage and an i5-8250U processor. The i5-8250U was presented in August 2017 and is made by the new Kaby-Lake-Refresh architecture. Next to the low-price version, there are also 2 versions with Intel i7-8550U (either 8/256GB, 820$ or 16/256GB, 900$) available. Therefore, the most expensive laptop of the Xiaomi line-up stays below 1000$ and offers one of the most powerful and up-to-date SOCs on the ultrabook market.
Mi Notebook Pro’s secret is: high-end hardware and premium build quality at a reasonable price. This concept already worked in the smartphone market. Will it work also with Mi Notebook Pro? We’ve tested the Mi Notebook Pro for 2 weeks and we will share our experiences with you in the following review.
Design and build quality
The Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro has a pale grey aluminum casing that strongly resembles the color of the new MacBook Pro series. Build quality seems to be good and on a high level. The casing is only slightly rounded off at the edges, which makes it a bit sharp-edged. As the only manufacturer logo is placed on the bottom of the laptop, Mi Notebook Pro appears to be quite discreet. The high-quality materials and the excellent build quality are impressive, but the laptop does not attract too much attention. I really like this business-like design.
When opening up the display, you notice how much attention was paid to details: the top side can be opened up using only one hand without Mi Notebook Pro moving just a millimeter from the desk. In addition, the display is pleasantly torsion-resistant. With a weight of 2kg, Mi Notebook Pro is slightly heavier than the new MacBook Pro (1.87kg). Dimensions are 36×24.4×1.5cm and are almost the same as those of the Apple MacBook (35 x 24 x 1.55cm), although Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro houses a bigger screen (15.6“ vs. 15.4“).
At the bottom of Mi Notebook Pro, you find the speakers and the fans. The laptop has a secure stand on any surface thanks to the 5 rubber studs. Those who need to have a look at the laptop’s inner workings can remove the 9 TORX screws (one sits beneath the middle rubber stud below the display) and then remove the bottom. Inside the laptop, you find a free M2-SSD slot, with which it’s possible to expand the main storage. The RAM, on the other hand, cannot be expanded, as it was soldered with the mainboard.
In terms of design and build quality, Mi Notebook Pro does a fine job. You get a beautiful 15.6-inch Notebook with premium a feeling that doesn’t need to hide from a MacBook. The design convinces with its simple elegance and it is quite easy to get access to the inner workings of the laptop. The only niggle is the relatively heavy weight, which is however not unusual for a laptop of this size. Xiaomi’s 13.3-inch Notebook only weighs 1.3kg, and is therefore superior in terms of mobility.
With 15.6 inches, the display is much bigger than the predecessors’ displays. The big size makes Mi Notebook Pro an ideal device for office tasks. As the previous models, also Mi Notebook Pro has a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, resulting in a pixel density of 162ppi. The image is pleasantly sharp, but when looking closely you’ll notice a difference to the 2K display of MacBook Pro (220ppi). Corning Gorilla Glass protects the display from scratches. Color representation and contrast can convince. Contents appear strong with a natural color representation. The display is equally illuminated and there are no halations or dead pixels. Since it is a Glare-Type display, contents appear to be right on the display surface. The disadvantage of such displays is the strong reflection under direct sunlight. In nice, normal weather or in the shade, you can use the device well, but with bright sunlight the use is reduced.
In terms of display, Mi Notebook Pro makes a nice overall impression. Of course, a 2K display would have been nicer, but the full-HD display also offers a good image. Brightness, color representation, and contrast are great.
The device for our test is the least powerful version of Mi Notebook Pro and has an Intel i5-8250 processor and 8GB of RAM. Alternatively, you can get the Mi Notebook Pro with an Intel i7-8550U processor with either 8 or 16GB DDR4 RAM. All Mi Notebook Pros have a 256GB SSD by Samsung and a second, free M2-SSD slot for storage expansion. Besides the powerful processors, the laptops also house a dedicated Nvidia Geforce MX150 graphics card.
The used chipsets in all versions are the latest mobile Intel processors. Amateurs shouldn’t think that the new Intel i5-8250 is less powerful than older i7-models. In general, the performance of the new Kaby-Lake processors is up-to-date and is manufactured with the 14-Nanometer process. The i5-8250 of our version is a quad-core processor with 4 cores and 1.6 – 3.4GHz. The new i7-8550U of the more powerful version offers 4 cores with 1.8 – 4GHz and has about 20-30% more power. It is one of the fastest mobile processors ever, and it is normally used only in Notebooks with a price higher than 1000$. Both processors are supported by an Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphics card. In the Mi Notebook Pro, the internal GPU is supported by another NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU with 2GDDR RAM. This makes it possible for the Notebook to fall back upon the external GPU to provide enough power when dealing with graphically demanding tasks. Although the Nvidia GPU is not the most powerful on the market, it still provides much more power than the internal graphics chips of ordinary ultrabooks. Considering the low price it is especially notable that Xiaomi does not only provide powerful processors, but also a dedicated graphics card. Although Mi Notebook Pro in this combination cannot keep up with most gaming notebooks, it is still much more suitable for gaming than ordinary ultrabooks.
An M2 Samsung PM961 SSD serves as internal storage. The chipset is identical to that of the 2017-version of Mi Air. In the Crystal SSD benchmark, the storage is significantly slower than Mi Air’s storage (ca. 1700MB/s vs. 3000MB/s). Several reviews on the internet also pointed out this niggle. We were rather surprised by the difference in speed, which is why we compared the SSD’s speed of Mi Air 2017 to the one of Mi Notebook Pro in practice. Mi Notebook Pro was however slightly faster in copying, unpacking and transferring data, so we suspect that the benchmark results (for whatever reason) differ from the actual performance.
The new Mi Notebooks’ processors combined with the price are unique on the market. But how good is the performance in daily use?
The Mi Notebook masters all daily Office tasks perfectly. There is no load time when editing documents, watching videos or surfing. We were also impressed by the fast boot process. It takes less than 10 seconds to start the Windows system. There are barely any restrictions and if you want to do many Office tasks, Mi Notebook Pro is the perfect device.
In terms of gaming performance, Mi Notebook Pro does a fine job as well. The second GPU is not a high-end model, which you find in dedicated gaming laptops, but the power is sufficient for occasional gaming. Usually, current high-end games like Battlefield run smoothly with medium or low graphics settings. Older games like Counterstrike Global Offensive or League of Legends run smoothly even on high graphics settings.
If you use Mi Notebook Pro for gaming, you will notice it acoustically as well. Below the casing there is a fan output, with which the fans cool the hardware. Working with full power, the increasing noise is audible, but it’s not too loud to be really annoying. Heat development is low with normal use. The hottest spot is the area above the keyboard. In this spot, the Notebook has 36° with normal use and 44° with power use. Great values!
Windows 10 on Mi Notebook Pro
The Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro is delivered with pre-installed Windows 10 Home but in the Chinese version. The Chinese version differs from the ‘normal’ Windows version; with these instructions, you can install the normal Windows.
- Download and install the Media Creation tool here
- Connect a USB stick with minimum 8GB
- Create Windows Boot-Stick
- When turning on the Mi Notebook, press and hold “F2”, select the USB stick in “Boot” – “Boot Device Order”
- Install Windows
Unfortunately, we were not able to reactivate the Windows 10 license, which is provided on Mi Notebook Pro, on the new installed Windows. It looks like Microsoft created a lock-up for Chinese licenses. Therefore, you have to purchase a new license. Windows 10 or Professional are available for less than 10$.
In addition, you should download and install the latest Nvidia driver for the NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics chip.
Ports & output
Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro offers a good selection of the most important ports. On the right, you can find 2 USB Type-C ports and an SD-card slot. The upper USB Type-C port is also used for charging the notebook.
The HDMI 1 port can be used with all screens and delivers a full-HD image with 60FPS. Those possessing a 4K monitor have to use the USB Type-C port. Xiaomi provides a cheap adapter, which offers an HDMI 2 (4K, 60FPS), a charging port and an additional USB port. As an alternative, you can have a look at another adapter for monitors with display port.
On the left, you find 2 USB 3 ports and a headphone jack, which provides a great sound and plays music with spatial and differentiated sound.
Mi Notebook Pro also offers the new .ac-WiFi standard and Bluetooth 4.1. The strength of the WiFi module is really good. Even when there are 3 rooms between the router and the laptop the speed slows down only minimally and is still enough for downloads and streaming.
The notebook uses a Realtek ALC298 soundboard, which passes the sound on to two 2.5Watt Harman Kardon Infinity speakers that work with Dolby Atmos Sound. The result is great. Mi Notebook Pro’s sound is the most spatial sound I ever heard with a Notebook. Volume is high as well and there are no distortions even at full volume.
The webcam, on the other hand, is not convincing at all. It only has a 1MP resolution. The image has a constant grey tinge and is pixelated.
People often ignore the input devices’ (touchpad and keyboard) quality when buying a new laptop. But of what use is a powerful notebook if you can’t operate it properly and you always click on the wrong areas because of an inaccurate touchpad? Luckily, Xiaomi did a nice job here.
In terms of the keyboard, Xiaomi did a fine job as well. The keys have a good stroke, are firmly attached to the casing and do not rattle. The distance to one another is 3mm. The keys’ surface is slightly bent inside, which gives you a nice feeling when operating the keys. The keyboard has a white LED backlight. You can only turn it on and off, but you cannot regulate the brightness level.
If you don’t like the english keyboard, you can purchase a silicone cover with e.g. a german keyboard printed on it. We liked it very much, even though it almost completele kills the keyboard illumination.
Xiaomi Mi Notebook houses a 60Wh Lithium-Polymer battery. This is quite a big size for this more or less compact notebook. With normal use, (Office tasks, surfing, occasional videos, using Word) the notebook lasted for 8 hours at medium brightness. The Mi Notebook Pro lasted for 10 hours when playing a full-HD YouTube video with medium brightness. Therefore, you won’t have any problems getting through the day.
Mi notebook Pro is charged via the USB Type-C connection on the right side. The provided adapter has a Chinese power supply unit. Usually, online shops always provide a fitting EU adapter, but to be sure it is better buying an adapter from your country. Mi Notebook Pro is fully charged in only 1 hour and 15 minutes with the 65W power plug, which is a record!
Conclusion and alternative
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