Jan 12, 2024

Xiaomi 14 Pro Overall Experience

The past few years have been a relatively low period for the smartphone industry, and even the entire mobile device industry. Various manufacturing processes and external supply chain issues have led to limited improvements in the energy efficiency of smartphone processors from various companies compared to previous generations, and there have even been cases of “toothpaste regression” (for example, the A15 performs better than the A16). This has also become one of the factors contributing to the decline in consumers’ desire to purchase smartphones.

It was not until the appearance of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, represented by TSMC’s 4nm process chips, that the situation improved significantly. The energy efficiency that “crushes toothpaste” has given birth to many “god machines” this year —— such as the Samsung S23 series, which becomes more and more fragrant as it drops in price, and the Xiaomi 13, which is expected to become a new generation of “nail households.” Especially in the second half of the year, the mobile processor chip industry has also begun to flourish, with each processor offering unique features in terms of performance, energy efficiency, and self-developed technologies, which is a great thing for consumers.

For our Uncle Lei, the improvement of processors this year is even more delightful. Originally, the Xiaomi 13 already had a trend of “Mi impacting high-end,” and with the added support of the more powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, the Xiaomi 14 series has become even more appealing. During the Double 11 shopping festival, it achieved a 35% higher sales volume than last year, making the Xiaomi 14 series the best-selling flagship Android phone. Even someone like me, who hasn’t used a Xiaomi flagship in a long time, is tempted.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to experience the Xiaomi 14 Pro. Today, I will share with you my comprehensive experience with this Xiaomi flagship, how the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 allows the phone to be “extra fragrant,” and whether “Xiaomi impacting high-end” can take another step forward this year.

Delicate screen and oversized camera module

The reason why flagship phones are flagship is not only due to their performance but also because of their “quality” —— a seemingly abstract but actually very important aspect. However, starting from the Xiaomi 13, Xiaomi has undergone a transformation, with a significant straight-line improvement in the workmanship and delicacy of the digital series. In my opinion, as long as you don’t look at the back, this year’s Xiaomi 14 is not inferior to any flagship phone.

That’s right, apart from the subjective preferences for the back design, my friends and I have a very consistent opinion on the appearance of this phone: both square and round. The relatively square body, combined with rounded corners on the straight edges, the curved screen, and the glass back cover, neutralize the sharp feeling, giving it a considerable texture.

At the same time, the Xiaomi 14 series has finally removed the “screen ears” (the screen black edges and the frame’s rounded corners are not parallel) that were present on previous Xiaomi flagships. The equal-width black edges on all sides, combined with the curved screen display, give a floating sensation, further enhancing the texture. Xiaomi’s traditional three-section side design still exists, but the more refined craftsmanship, such as the rounded corners of the straight edges and the more detailed work, prevents the 14 Pro from having a rough feel. Although you can still clearly feel the three sections when holding it, it won’t press a straight line into your hand like the iPhone 15 would after a long hold.

Overall, the Xiaomi 14 Pro maintains the same level of delicacy as “Huaxing Fruit” in terms of appearance and grip. Now, let’s flip the phone over.

I knew the Xiaomi Mi 14 Pro camera module was huge before I took it out of the box, but I didn’t expect it to be that big, and that big is 3D-surround big. Although I think this year’s flagships all have a big circle at the back is a bit of aesthetic fatigue and boredom, but the horizontal width of the square has reached 70% of the width of the phone is still a bit too ‘ahead of its time’ – the problem is not the square, but the size, the aesthetic is subjective, but the visual effect is objective.

The Xiaomi 13 is also square but does not exceed the midpoint of the back cover, so it doesn’t look as outrageous. Of course, the larger camera module of the 14 series brings evolved imaging capabilities, which is a gain. No matter the shape, if the width exceeds the midpoint of the back and is centered, it will make the back of the phone appear “discordant” and “unbalanced.” The larger the imbalance, the more pronounced this feeling becomes, and it also makes the phone’s appearance seem very “noisy,” not only distracting to the eyes but also very noticeable when playing games:

Additionally, the entire camera module of the Xiaomi 14 Pro has two layers of protrusions, which makes the module look less thick, but when placed on a table, the phone already provides a noticeable angle to “help” you see the screen content better. However, the ultra-wide camera module makes the phone less likely to become a seesaw, which plays a special role.

Here, I must give credit to Lei Jun, who really listened to the voices of Mi fans and switched the transparent clear case to a grey silicone case that resembles skin. The material used is quite solid, with a texture superior to many cheap silicone phone cases. It’s basically the same as the phone case previously sold in the official store. When the case is on, the camera still protrudes, but it’s much “smoother” compared to the bare phone. Moreover, the included screen protector is of good quality and even comes with an oil-resistant layer, basically allowing for immediate use out of the box without the need to purchase any additional accessories, which is highly praised.

The screen this time is also a significant upgrade. This 6.73-inch screen pretty much maxes out all the possible specifications, such as a 3200 x 1440 Huaxing Optoelectronics C8 2K resolution, 522 PPI, and 12-bit color depth. The official claims of peak brightness reach an incredible 3000 nits (of course, the full-screen brightness is not that high, but it’s over 1000+ in sunlight), 2160Hz instantaneous touch sampling rate, LTPO 1-120Hz adaptive refresh rate, DC dimming, P3 wide color gamut, TÜV Rheinland certification, supports ambient color temperature sensing, ultra-dynamic display, AI automatic brightness. It’s basically a keyword collector, so everything that could be included is there.

In terms of actual viewing experience, even someone like me, who has been “trained” by Samsung’s overly vivid screens, wouldn’t find Xiaomi’s screen colors pale or flat. The default color mode is professional true color, and the color accuracy is very precise, but I personally find the vivid mode more appealing. Anyway, with color management in place, Xiaomi has really “fine-tuned before releasing” this time. Overall, I feel the quality is better than most flagships.

Another very important point is that the 14 Pro’s four-curved screen is not like the 14’s straight screen; never tear off the original screen protector, or you’ll have a hard time finding a film that fits so perfectly (even with the monthly free screen replacement service). However, as I’ve mentioned in my experience with other phones, today’s screens are not very prone to scratches. I’ve used phones for years without a screen protector and basically been fine, except for the loss of the oil-resistant layer. Plus, Xiaomi’s Dragon Crystal glass is quite resistant to drops, and I personally believe that the Xiaomi 14 Pro can be used without a case.

The experience of using the Xiaomi HyperOS

When it comes to the most important part of a Xiaomi phone, it has to be MIUI. This time, Xiaomi directly did a “brand upgrade,” directly overthrowing MIUI and launching the Xiaomi HyperOS. Since HyperOS is based on Android, the experience is indeed familiar in various senses.

Firstly, of course, is the appearance. At first glance, users actually find it difficult to distinguish between the HyperOS and MIUI interfaces, and even most of the themes in the theme store can be used directly. The advantage of this approach is the ability to reuse previous materials and code, reducing development costs, and also reducing the learning curve for users to get familiar with the new system. Basically, most users wouldn’t even realize that they have switched to a new system when they first get their hands on it. However, as you continue to use it, you’ll find that everything feels a bit more “comfortable” than MIUI.

Familiar MIUI, but more refined
As Xiaomi’s self-developed new system, there are naturally some underlying changes, such as the more obvious improvements in the new interruption animations in HyperOS. Old MIUI users who get started with the new system will also notice that the probability of small stutters is reduced. Moreover, if the performance consumption is too high or can’t be handled, it will slow down like an iPhone instead of freezing directly. To me, this is more noticeable than the interruption animations.

Next are more optimizations on the system interface, making the entire system more unified in style, with more animations. For example, the drop-down search and the negative one screen have become more cohesive, and a brand new global Gaussian blur engine has been used. As a result, there are now more places with a frosted glass effect that enhances the interface texture, as well as more vibration feedback and more refined vibration tuning, and other small details. You’ll need to have a lot of Mi Home devices to feel the integrated center, such as being able to directly display categories of devices for quick control in the status bar drop-down (although I still prefer the old version).

Otherwise, it’s still the familiar feature-rich MIUI experience. Basically, any function you can find on other phones is available on MIUI and HyperOS, and even some that you can’t find elsewhere. At the same time, MIUI is one of the best systems in terms of privacy and security for users, with basically all users being able to adjust to their most comfortable state on this system.

Overall, HyperOS is indeed much more stable than MIUI, with significantly fewer bugs. Especially with Xiaomi’s fast update speed, I even encountered two system updates in one day after receiving the phone, and many bugs have indeed been fixed, which deserves praise.

Regarding the smart forehead of HyperOS, I personally think it could be more straightforward to directly implement the island feature, as each system is learning from each other, and every system has functions that are inspired by other systems. This feature is probably for uploading the installation package name and device ID to the server in the background (you can see the request in a packet capture), but the request can also be sent in a WiFi environment, so requiring a SIM card is unnecessary. Additionally, whether using the built-in file manager or a third-party file manager, copying files via cable only reaches about 30MB, which is clearly abnormal. The same USB drive can reach 400MB/s on other phones. However, this software issue should be fixed with a few updates, so there’s no need to worry too much about it.

Familiar usage, recommended settings for chatting
If you only watch videos online, many friends’ impression of MIUI should be “ads can be turned off.” However, in reality, the Xiaomi 14 Pro, as a flagship device, comes with all advertisement recommendation switches turned off by default in the system, making the overall experience quite clean. Nevertheless, there are still some settings that you will need to manually enable later on (manually turning off ads can be done in Settings -> Xiaomi Account -> About Xiaomi Account -> System Ads to turn them off with one click).

Firstly, since we’re talking about resolution, the system default is set to 1080P. Friends who have just received the phone should remember to go to Settings -> Display and adjust the FHD+ resolution from 2400*1080 to the full resolution of 3200*1440. Otherwise, you’d be wasting such a good screen. Based on my years of experience, there isn’t a significant difference in power consumption between these two resolutions that’s worth sacrificing resolution for, and they’re barely noticeable. You can safely turn on 2K.

Then, the Xiaomi 14 Pro supports up to 120W wired charging, and it comes with a 120W GaN charger. However, the system’s default fast charging acceleration is turned off. You need to go into the battery settings to enable fast charging acceleration by default to fully utilize the power of the included charger.

Holding your own with impressive performance and efficiency

Moving on to the experience of phone performance and efficiency, I’ll start with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. Last year, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 was like a shot in the arm for the smartphone market, offering a substantial performance boost, especially in the GPU department, which was like alien technology. The 8 Gen 3 needs to achieve a significant improvement over this generation’s powerful U, which is quite challenging.

However, with advancements in process technology, especially the return of TSMC’s craftsmanship, processors from various manufacturers now have the capital to take risks, and this year, they have all started to move towards the trend of “reducing small cores and increasing large cores.” The 8 Gen 3 follows this trend. Compared to the previous generation’s 8 Gen 2 architecture of 1+4+3 (1 super large core + 4 large cores + 3 small cores), this year’s 8 Gen 3 eliminates one small core and converts it to a large core, becoming a 1+5+2 architecture. Moreover, this generation’s large cores use new instruction sets, and all cores have higher frequencies than the previous generation’s processors, so there’s definitely a performance boost. But I think since the next generation will be self-developed, it might as well go with 2+6+0 or 1+7+0, using two medium cores and further reducing the frequency, which could outperform the small cores in terms of energy efficiency.

As for the actual performance improvement, it can be seen from the benchmark scores. The Xiaomi 14 Pro is equipped with the top-notch combination of LPDDR5X memory and UFS4.0 solid-state storage. Although the 16GB LPDDR5X memory doesn’t run at the highest 9300MHz due to power optimization, it doesn’t significantly affect performance tests. Next comes the actual performance testing, starting with AnTuTu, and the GB5/6 benchmark suite.

You can see that the 8 Gen 3 scored over 200W in AnTuTu, reaching a new million-point ceiling. Compared to the 8 Gen 2’s score of around 130W, the 8 Gen 3’s performance does show a significant improvement over the already high base of the 8 Gen 2. However, when compared to the 8 Gen 2’s average single-core score of around 1500 and multi-core score of around 5000 in GeekBench5, the improvement looks more realistic. But even then, the 8 Gen 3’s CPU shows a comprehensive performance improvement of around 15-20% over the already powerful 8 Gen 2, which is quite impressive.

As for the GPU, the 3DMark WildLife Extreme score of 8 Gen 3 reached an astonishing 4600, compared to the 8 Gen 2’s average score of around 3800. Remember, the 8 Gen 2 was hailed as “alien technology” precisely because its GPU was so strong that it even surpassed Apple’s A-series processors. The 8 Gen 3 has improved by over 20% on top of that, which means other manufacturers don’t need to catch up anymore. It’s undoubtedly cutting-edge technology, and with Xiaomi’s consistent commitment to full-scale thermal management, a stability of 80% is enough to ensure that this performance can be sustained. Not to mention that this time the 8 Gen 3 also supports hardware ray tracing and the ray tracing features of Unreal Engine 5. Although there are currently few mobile games that support ray tracing, in terms of “battling for the future,” the 8 Gen 3 also has a guarantee.

Worry-free Charging and Battery Life
Xiaomi was one of the first manufacturers to introduce fast charging and was also one of the most aggressive in fast charging technology. Although it has now adopted a more conservative approach of “steadying development,” it goes without saying that Xiaomi is firmly in the first tier when it comes to charging.

The Xiaomi 14 Pro, as a flagship device, naturally comes with 120W fast charging and includes a charger (which outperforms certain manufacturers that don’t even include a cable). The charging speed test showed that it took a total of 30 minutes to charge from 10% to displaying 100%. It may seem like it’s not reaching the speeds of 120W, but in reality, the Xiaomi 14 Pro reached 95% in just 20 minutes. The last 5% was very slow, taking almost a minute to charge 1%, and it got stuck at 99% for about 5 minutes.

This is mainly due to Xiaomi’s strategy, which prioritizes the health of the phone’s battery. The last 5% also serves as a cooling process for the phone, as during charging, the phone can reach a high of 41 degrees, which is about the same temperature as when playing Genshin Impact, or even the same as the charger’s temperature. The slowdown process at the end helps reduce the phone’s temperature to 35 to 36 degrees.

In real life, if you have half the battery, you can usually get a full charge in just ten minutes. Personally, I think this charging curve is more suitable for most users than a full-speed charge. In terms of battery consumption, the HyperOS’s battery UI displays an optimized curve that shows 99% for a long time, and you can easily get over 6 hours of screen-on time for mixed use including gaming. To see the improvement in daily power consumption of the 8 Gen 3 compared to its predecessor, it’s more intuitive to look at the current during daily operations with the screen on, which I’ve noticed after using the latest few generations of processors.

Previously, I also thought that processor power consumption didn’t have a significant impact on battery life, as everyone’s daily low-frequency use results in low power consumption. It was only after I started using the Samsung Fold5 and noticed that, under the same usage habits, it only had 4.5 hours of screen-on time compared to the Fold4’s previous generation, that I realized processor power optimization can even double the battery life of a phone. This screen-on time corresponds directly to the daily current. The Snapdragon 8+ powered Fold4 always had a current of over 400mA when the screen was on and static, and it would jump to 1000mA when scrolling, while the 8Gen2 powered Fold5 could maintain below 400mA in daily use, and only 5-600mA when scrolling, which corresponds directly to the screen-on time. With Pegasus OS, like previous versions of MIUI, there are many background services, yet it still manages to keep the static current below 300mA and 5-600mA when scrolling. With the same battery capacity, the overall battery life is bound to be better than that of an 8Gen2 phone.

Actually, battery life is also greatly related to the purity of the system. My previous main device had a very clean system with no unnecessary background services or network requests, achieving a static current of 100mA. Even with a folding screen and a 4500mAh battery, it could easily achieve 9 hours of screen-on time.

The New Experience of the AI Era
If you follow the tech sector, you’ll undoubtedly agree that the keyword in tech this year is artificial intelligence. 2023 is undoubtedly the inaugural year of AI, with the emergence of ChatGPT, AI drawing, and other fields iterating through several generations before the year is out, to the point where companies are becoming obsolete just five minutes after they’re created. As the most commonly used digital device for the vast majority of people, AI features on smartphones are also set to usher in a new wave of development.

The application of AI on smartphones is much earlier and more extensive than we imagine. Beyond the computation photography, scene recognition, or AI filters that you might be familiar with, everything from smart app recommendations on phones to album searches, text suggestions, and even the phone’s own battery management has long been entrusted to specially trained AI models. Hence, the importance of the NPU, the processor’s dedicated AI processing unit, is increasing, with each year’s performance boost offering more noticeable improvements to the smartphone experience.

Before these functions appeared, Qualcomm was already “preparing for the future,” introducing dedicated AI processing units in its Snapdragon 845 and Snapdragon 660 processors, giving it a deep bench and more optimization methods in the NPU field, which is Snapdragon’s biggest advantage over other processors in terms of AI. This year, the NPU processing speed of the 8 Gen 3 has seen an exaggerated performance improvement over its predecessor. For example, the Snapdragon Tech Summit showcased the ability to quickly draw images with Stable Diffusion on an offline phone and run a large language model with an absurd 10 billion parameters, suggesting that such powerful AI capabilities will inspire more AI applications to be ported to smartphones.

The Xiaomi 14 Pro, equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, also offers a significant upgrade in AI experience.

In terms of smart imaging, issues previously criticized with Xiaomi’s camera, such as the frame rate of the camera viewfinder not being high enough, have been completely resolved in the latest generations. The time it takes to add filters and process portrait mode is now almost instantaneous.

Based on my experience, common AI functions on the Xiaomi 14 Pro, such as object recognition, text recognition, image cutout, and album image keyword search, which used to require some loading time on previous generations of phones, now run instantly.

Pegasus OS has also added powerful AI applications such as real-time subtitles, XiaoAi input assistant, AI portraits, AI drawings, AI image search, and XiaoAi automation, bringing a more powerful and enriched intelligent user experience.

Even in places you can’t see, at a more fundamental level, AI is silently improving your smartphone experience. For example, in terms of sound, Qualcomm’s hardware supports calling noise reduction and improving the sound quality of music files by invoking AI models integrated into the drivers through the NPU, and can even use AI to optimize channels and intelligently switch base stations and manage beams to improve your phone’s signal and reduce standby power consumption.

As more AI applications and demands are met on smartphones, the future is undoubtedly one led by AI-powered smartphones. Most importantly, as AI performance becomes more powerful, more artificial intelligence operations will be executed locally, ensuring privacy and security, bringing us more convenience. Moreover, local execution by dedicated NPUs not only significantly speeds up processing but also exponentially reduces power consumption compared to cloud processing.

Photography and Other Aspects
A brief summary of photography and other aspects: The photography of the Xiaomi digital series, in my opinion, is very much in line with the status of flagships that don’t focus on imaging. Especially with the new sensor used in this generation, whether it’s the main camera, telephoto, or ultra-wide-angle, all are 50 megapixels, plus optimizations like the Night Owl algorithm ensure that the Xiaomi 14 Pro’s photography is at least on par with other flagships, with differences in photos being more about stylistic choices. Here are some sample shots from the Xiaomi 14 Pro and Samsung Fold5 for common scenarios (from left to right: ultra-wide-angle, main lens, portrait mode, telephoto lens, maximum zoom, night scene).

Personally, I’m not a fan of overly stylized tuning, so I find it a bit uncomfortable that the camera only offers “Leica Vivid” and “Leica Natural” options and I can’t choose neither. Additionally, if you’re looking for superior lens quality and tuning, the Xiaomi Ultra series is also worth looking forward to.

Other can not be on the picture but I want to comment on the place: Xiaomi 14 Pro vibration motor praise, not only solid and the system can call the vibration of a lot of places, especially when the screen on and off vibration is strong and elastic, very comfortable; speakers personally feel that compared to its predecessor is a slight regression, whether it is the hardware or the tuning, Dolby went to the wide soundstage to highlight the style of the vocals (in short, in addition to the background of the human voice), the sound is like a prairie, the vocals seem to be against the microphone, the volume will be slightly popped. Sound like in the prairie, vocals like against the microphone), the volume will be slightly burst.

In my experience, the Xiaomi 14 series smells good for a reason, and the increase in sales proves that the eyes of the masses are still very bright. Xiaomi 14 Pro has done all aspects of the improvement, especially the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 support to make the price-performance ratio to the next level, and the new Surge OS has not dragged the leg of the hardware, unlike in previous years as a “minus” in my eyes, retaining the rich functionality of the MIUI, but the smooth and smooth HyperOS can really become a lot of people in the heart of the “perfect system”.

In addition to the Xiaomi 14 series, this year also came out a lot of cost-effective and good evaluation of the phone, which is largely attributed to the Snapdragon 8 Gen2 and 8 Gen 3 powerful enhancement, in addition to the current flagship phone bloom, want to change the phone friends “good times have come”. Many people are also confused about which Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and other processors to choose, my assessment is that they are all very good, but Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 has a more comprehensive tuning, and more mature driver, and the manufacturer’s years of optimization accumulation, coupled with the fact that the 8 Gen 3 is a processor optimized for AI, and in the future more and more AI functions in the trend is more and more advantageous. Basically, if you’re using an 8Gen2 or equivalent processor, then it’s a good choice to be a “wait-and-see” party, while if you’re using an earlier or lower-end processor, or often use AI-related features, then it’s a good time to get a new one, and both the Xiaomi Mi 14 Pro and the other Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 phones can give you a significantly better experience.

Published by YooCare Editor & last updated on April 10, 2024 12:27 pm

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