Categories Hardware Review

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018), the laptop with the ambition of being the most successful clone of Apple’s MacBook

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)
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The vocation of this laptop is obvious: it wants to be the queen of a party to which Apple’s MacBook has also been invited. And, in addition, it does not have the slightest intention of disguising it, like the model of last year. Almost everything in it, including packaging design and a priori secondary features such as the notch under the touchpad that allows us to display the screen or the main cooling slot, copies to the Cupertino laptops. Even its power transformer is very similar to that used by MacBooks.

The funny thing is that, despite the impudence with which Xiaomi has copied Apple, the Chinese brand also seems to have strived to have small glimpses of its own personality. The location of the fingerprint reader, which is housed in the upper right corner of the touchpad, and the speakers of the Austrian brand AKG that has, among other peculiarities, betray that this team aspires not to be a clone anymore. Let’s see what he proposes to us.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air: Technical specifications

Just take a look at the features of this laptop to intuit quite clearly what we propose. It is a team to work and study, at home and away from home, where portability prevails (it only weighs 1.3 kg) and should perform well in the office and multimedia scenarios, but you will not feel comfortable with the games of last baking and with those applications that require an important calculation effort, such as video editing or creation in 3D. A little later, in the section that we will dedicate to our test bench, we will check if our initial intuition is confirmed.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)

I find it interesting to put in context before what kind of laptop we are to assess their specifications with rigor. We start by the CPU, an Intel Core i5 eighth generation with four cores and capable of simultaneously processing 8 threads (threads) operating at a base frequency of 1.6 GHz clock. Failing we see how yields seems an appropriate option for a team in which portability prevails, and that should offer us an attractive autonomy.

The TDP (Thermal Design Power) of this Intel chip is 15 watts, a moderate value that can be increased to 25 watts if the calculation effort requires it, and can be reduced to 10 watts when the workload is slight (The TDP reflects the average power measured in watts that dissipates the processor when all the active cores are active and work at the base clock frequency).

The CPU is backed by 8 GB of DDR4 RAM at 2,400 MHz, in principle an appropriate amount for the use scenarios in which this laptop is going to be moved. It seems to me a success of Xiaomi that has opted for memory chips DDR4 and not LPDDR3, a type of memory that is also supported by this microprocessor and that some manufacturers mounted on their ultralights and tablets to increase their autonomy thanks to its lower voltage, even at the cost of sacrificing power.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)

Another important component in which it is worthwhile to stop is the screen of this team, which opts for a panel Full HD of 13.3 inches and IPS type with remarkable specifications, but not outstanding (it has a brightness of 300 nits and a contrast ratio of 800:1). To feed it is responsible, in addition to the graphics logic Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated into the CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics processor that offers us more power than integrated graphics, but less than any chip in the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10 family.

Secondary storage is handled by a 256 GB SSD drive manufactured by Samsung with NVMe interface. Later, in the section that we dedicate to our test bench, we will see how it performs in CrystalDiskMark. And, finally, the connectivity of this team contemplates the essential, but it is not generous. We will deepen in it later.

XIAOMI MI LAPTOP AIR 13.3″
SCREEN 13.3-inch Full HD IPS, 166 dpi, 170 degree viewing angle, 300 nits brightness, 16:9 aspect ratio and native 800: 1 contrast ratio
RESOLUTION 1920 x 1080 points
PROCESSOR Intel Core i5-8250U (4 cores, 8 threads, base clock frequency of 1.6 GHz, maximum frequency of 3.4 GHz, lithography of 14 nm and L3 cache of 6 MB)
GRAPHICS NVIDIA GeForce MX150 (2 GB GDDR5)
RAM 8 GB DDR4 2400 MHz
SSD Samsung 256 GB NVMe
SOUND Two speakers AKG / Dolby Audio Premium Edition / Audio Chip Realtek ALC255
SO VERSION Windows 10 Home
CONNECTIVITY WiFi 802.11ac Dual Band / Bluetooth 4.1
1 x USB-C (laptop charging, video output and data transfer up to 5 GB / s)
2 x USB 3.0 / 1 x HDMI 1.4 / 1 x 3.5 mm headphone jack
DIMENSIONS 309.6 x 210.9 x 14.8 mm
WEIGHT 1.3 Kg
DRUMS Lithium-ion polymer with 4 cells / 40 Wh / Fast charge
PRICE 899 dollars

First sensations: Well-built and with a super keyboard

I am writing this analysis with my usual laptop: a MacBook Pro from the end of 2013. And yes, the design and construction of the Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air remind me a lot of the team with which I have shared so many hours of work during the last five years. Its chassis is entirely made of aluminum and its machining has a very good level. I have nothing to reproach in this field. In fact, the chassis is machined from a single piece of aluminum, like the MacBook, so the only screws that we will see are those that allow the lid to be removed from the base that allows access to its interior.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)

On the other hand, the hinge that allows us to fold and unfold the screen is solid and offers the resistance to the appropriate opening to allow us to open the equipment with one hand. I cannot put any hits either. The good taste in our mouth that the design and construction of the Mi Notebook Air that Xiaomi launched in 2016 and 2017, and which we thoroughly analyzed at the time, is repeated in this new Mi Laptop Air.

We are now going with another very important component because it clearly conditions our experience when we use a laptop: the keyboard. The one on the Mi Laptop Air is backlit and incorporates keys with a rather generous size. Unlike the model we tested last year, this keyboard incorporates the letter “ñ” of the Spanish alphabet, which shows that the Spanish-speaking market is increasingly important for the Chinese company.

The distance of the keys, of 1.3 mm, seems right to me. And, in addition, the keys lack transverse oscillation, so it is possible to use the keyboard for several hours without rest and without appearing discomfort in our wrists. Of course, as long as our body posture is correct. The only “but” I can put on the keyboard, although, in my opinion, it is not anything dramatic, is that the size of the Enter key is lower than usual, and this at first caused me to make writing errors that disappeared after a few hours, when I got used to the dimensions of this key.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)

The quality of the touchpad of this laptop is comparable to that of the keyboard. It is large and responds with precision both to the touch and to the drag in any area of ​​its surface, which is why it offers us a satisfactory experience. The only thing that does not convince me is the location of the fingerprint reader, which is housed in the upper right corner of the touchpad. It seems to me a good idea that Xiaomi has included it in this team, but there are other less intrusive locations, such as, for example, next to the lower right corner of the keyboard.

Its screen convinces, but its connectivity falls short

To test the quality of the panel that Xiaomi has chosen for this laptop, I used, as I usually do, the White Screen Page utility and some of the DisplayMate patterns. Its blacks have the depth that you would expect from a good IPS panel, and its level of detail in dark areas is quite high (we can appreciate it clearly with video games and film content). Xiaomi does not offer us information about the coverage of this panel of the main color spaces, but its tonal reproduction is reliable and wide, so it is up to what we can demand from a high-end laptop.

Another important feature of the panel that I cannot ignore is its brightness. Its intensity is homogeneous throughout its surface, and, in addition, it is covered by a third generation Gorilla glass sheet manufactured by Corning, the same brand that we are so used to seeing on mobile phones. This laminated panel makes it very resistant to scratches, but causes that in very illuminated environments appear reflections that can get to bother. On bright exteriors I also miss a slightly higher level of brightness, although it is not at all dramatic.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)

Come now with connectivity. On the right side of the computer we have one of the two USB 3.0 ports and the USB port type C. To this last connector we will use, in addition to, for example, to transfer data, to charge the laptop’s battery. And this poses a problem: when we run out of battery we will not be able to use this USB port for anything other than charging. It would have been a good idea if Xiaomi had added a second type C USB port to solve this limitation.

On the left side of the laptop we have an additional USB 3.0 port, the 3.5 mm minijack that we can use to connect our headphones and the HDMI output. The latter is type 1.4, so we can use it to carry 1080p signals with a 60 Hz rate, or 4K UHD video signals with a maximum refresh rate of 30 Hz. By the way, it’s a shame, but it lacks a slot for read SD cards.

So it has gone on our test bench

The Intel microprocessor that incorporates this laptop has come out well of Cinebench R15, a tool that, despite its age, is still very valid to reveal the performance of the CPU in a multi-threaded execution scenario. In the capture you have below these lines you can see that the Core i5-8250U chip of this team is hovering from you to you with several Intel Core i7 third generation microprocessors that have the same number of cores and threads, but that work at a significantly higher clock frequency. And this, logically, leaves the CPU of this laptop in good place.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)

In PCMark 10 Xiaomi team has yielded a performance very similar to the Yoga 920 of Lenovo that we analyzed several weeks ago, something, on the other hand, understandable if we consider that the specifications of these teams are similar. In fact, they incorporate the same CPU. In any case, the more than 3,000 points that this notebook has obtained in this test reflect a balanced performance in the scenarios of office use, multimedia and content creation, which are, on the other hand, those in which due to its focus it must offer us a good experience.

We are now going with the Home Conventional 3.0 scenario of PCMark 8. Interestingly, the Mi Laptop Air has been even better in this test than in PCMark 10. In fact, it has outstripped with certain clarity not only the Yoga 920 of Lenovo, but also the GX97 of Thunderobot, which is equipped with a CPU 7th generation Core i7. This test, again, reflects the interesting performance of this team in the office and multimedia scenarios.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)

In the PCMark 8 Creative Conventional 3.0 test, the Xiaomi team has not shone as much as in the previous test. Even so, the more than 3,000 points it has shown reflect that it offers us enough performance in the medium content creation scenario, despite not being its “strong”.

Its performance in 3DMark’s Fire Strike v1.1 test is exactly what you’d expect. As you can see in the graph that you have below these lines, the GeForce MX150 GPU that incorporates this laptop is located halfway between the integrated graphic logic HD Graphics 620 of Intel and the GPU GeForce GTX 1050 of the own NVIDIA. And this means? Quite simply, we can use this Xiaomi equipment to play, but only to titles that are not too demanding. It is not a laptop designed for gaming, and its 1080p performance to most of the titles of last batch will not be much less optimal.

The capture you have below this paragraph leaves no doubt about the performance offered by the Samsung SSD that incorporates this laptop. Its sequential reading speed amounts to just over 3400 MB / s, which is a great value. The speed of writing that has thrown in CrystalDiskMark is also very good, although not as spectacular as the reading, something that, on the other hand, is frequent. In any case, this SSD unit with NVMe interface offers us a very good overall performance.

Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air (2018)

We now have a crucial section in a laptop that aspires so clearly, as reflected by its 1.3 kg of weight, to feel comfortable in an eminently mobile use scenario: its autonomy. During my tests I was able to use it between 6 and 6.5 hours in a scenario of intense use that combines office tools, Internet browsing and content playback. Not bad, but neither is it a spectacular autonomy. The pity is that with a moderately intense use does not give for a full working day. Of course, this team has a fast charge, which allows you to recover almost 50% of the battery in 30 minutes. Usually with an additional load of between 20 and 30 minutes we can stretch your autonomy to a full working day.

Another important fact: does it heat up a lot? Fortunately, not too much. Under a load of work superior to 90% the CPU reached a maximum temperature of 81 degrees Celsius, that is clearly inferior to its threshold, and the GPU touched the 61 degrees Celsius. Nothing exaggerated. Furthermore, in these circumstances the maximum noise level emitted by the equipment, measured with my usual Velleman DVM805 sound level meter, did not exceed 43.5 dB, which is a very reasonable value, so I have nothing to object to in this field.

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