Head to head: Lumia 950 XL vs Xiaomi Mi 11 5G

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Another year, another Xiaomi flagship, good value for money compared to the Samsungs and OnePlus of this world. Except that there are several variants, two of which have yet to be announced (next week should see the 'Pro' and 'Ultimate'). Regardless, I have the standard Xiaomi Mi 11 5G in hand and here I do a head-to-head against my standard benchmark device (for AAWP), the Lumia 950 XL. Imaging is next, don't worry.

Lumia 950 XL and Xiaomi Mi 11 5G

Lumia 950 XL and Xiaomi Mi 11 5G

As usual, just for fun and curiosity, I've shaded in green an obvious 'win' for either device. Any row where a winner would be totally subjective is left uncoloured. Or, where all devices are utterly excellent but in different ways, I've given each a 'green'(!)

[By the way, if you're viewing this feature on a phone then the table may well cause you problems. Try viewing in landscape mode? Failing that, go view this on a laptop or tablet!]

  Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Xiaomi Mi 11 5G
Date first available November 2015 January 2021 
Current price, availability No longer officially for sale, though it's often on clearance prices if you're lucky and at outrageous profiteering prices due to rarity (if you're not!) £650 on Amazon UK for basic spec, inc VAT
Dimensions, form factor, weight 152 x 78 x 8mm, plastic chassis and replaceable backs (plastic/leather/wood etc, from Mozo, as modelled here, though you'll have to look on the clearance market and eBay at this stage), 165g, bezels are comparatively small. It's not often the 950 XL looks small compared to another phone, but...! 164 x 75 x 8 mm, 196g, quite a bit taller and significantly heavier
Durability No specific durability metrics, though the fact that the back comes off will help enormously for water damage, i.e. taking out battery and cards immediately, drying out the internals, even unscrewing the motherboard from the guts of the phone. I'm old-school here! All damage to the back or corners is trivial through replacement of the rear, but the screen's exposed, of course. The plastics used should absorb shock and, anecdotally, I've never bothered putting a case on any Lumia. Just saying. I think that fact is significant. No IP rating, curiously, for a modern flagship, though there are gaskets and seals and tests have shown basic water and dust protection (e.g. short dunks in water by accident). There's Gorilla Glass 'Victus' on the front and standard GG on the back. But a serious drop onto concrete will result in an expensive glass replacement. Mind you, the Lumia's parts (or even Mozo replacement backs) aren't always available anymore, which also has to be taken into consideration. 
Operating system, interface Windows 10 Mobile, (dismissable) virtual controls, as needed, now officially updated to W10 Fall Creators Update (Redstone 3, Autumn 2017) with security to 'January 2020'.

Android 11, Mi UI 12, February 2021 security, gesture controls available or navigation buttons on-screen.

Display  5.7" AMOLED (1440p at 16:9 aspect ratio, matching most video media), Gorilla Glass 4, ClearBlack Display polarisers help with outdoor contrast, excellent viewing angles. Screen area is approximately 88 cm2

Glance screen available (in various colours) for always-on time, day and notification icons, plus some detailed info from a specified app.

6.8" 1440p 120Hz AMOLED HDR10 display, 20:9 ratio, Gorilla Glass Victus, screen area is roughly 112cm2

Excellent colours and contrast, better than the Lumia's, easily gets the win here for the high refresh rate - I can't see the difference in day to day use but then I'm relatively old(!) Young eyes will immediately see smoother scrolling. I still don't think that high refresh rate displays are a reason to choose a specific smartphone, but hey, they're a nice to have and gradually all phones will just 'come' with them.

There's an 'Always on' 'Glance' display with highly customisable time, date and battery status, though turned off by default to save power.

Connectivity LTE, NFC (all uses), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 4.2 (all uses).

Continuum connectivity, wired or wireless, to use a wide range of first and third party UWP apps on external displays as secondary screen, independent of the phone display. Includes the NexDock 2, transforming the Lumia into a Windows 10 S laptop, effectively. Though a workaround is needed for the newer NexDock Touch!

LTE, 5G, NFC (all uses), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac/6e, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 5.2 (all uses). 
Processor, performance Snapdragon 810 chipset, 3GB RAM, faster than it's ever been now on the Fall Creators Update though still slower for almost everything than on the Android phone. Multi tasking and app resumption is excellent though, at least with all the modern UWP apps
Snapdragon 888, 8/12GB RAM (depending on variant), lightning fast at everything
Capacity 32GB internal storage, expandable via (cheap) microSD to extra 256GB 128/256 GB internal storage (depending on variant), no card expansion, but these sizes are large enough that microSD shouldn't be missed too much. Still, if you buy the 128GB and then run out of space, you're in trouble...
Imaging (stills) 20MP PureView f/1.9 1/2.4" sensor. Phase Detection auto-focus, dedicated camera shutter button and launch key, 1.5x lossless digital zoom (in 8MP oversampled mode, and lossy digital after that), OIS. 'Rich Capture' produces customisable HDR shots and 'dynamic flash', with triple LED illumination. Outstanding shots in most light conditions, with just focussing issues in low light as an Achilles heel.

108 MP, f/1.9, 1/1.33", PDAF, OIS (Quad Bayer set-up, outputting 27MP images at 4:3)
13 MP, f/2.4, 123˚ (ultrawide) 1/3.06"
5 MP, f/2.4 (macro) 1/5.0"

An imaging shootout is coming up in a few days. Please check back. For now, I'd say that Xiaomi's image processing is top notch, so I'm expecting a lot from this (zoom excepted).

5MP front camera 20 MP, f/2.2, 1/3.4" fixed focus front camera, way better than the Lumia's.
Imaging (video) Up to 4K, optically (and optionally digitally) stabilised, with 'Best photo' 8MP grabbing built-in, plus Rich Recording and HAAC microphones for high quality, gig-level stereo capture. Up to 8K/30fps stabilised video capture and high quality stereo audio capture. 
Music and Multimedia
A tinny mono speaker by modern standards, though as ever you can trade volume for fidelity in a simple tweak on Lumias. Average stereo speakers, imbalanced physically, since the earpiece isn't capable of much, but tuned pretty well. Just don't expect much bass or top end. (Still miles better than the Lumia 950 XL here, though!)
3.5mm headphone jack, A2DP+AptX, plus a decent internal DAC, so great wired and wireless headphone audio too.  A2DP, AptX HD via Bluetooth or plug in a Type C DAC for best results. I do miss the 3.5mm jack on modern hardware though, and for that reason this loses to the Lumia.
Navigation  Windows 10 Maps is now pretty mature and impressive, especially once you've learned the live traffic routine trick! Offline maps save a lot of data bandwidth for those on tight contracts or anyone in a low signal (data) area. But it's all looking a little neglected in 2020 compared to the bells and whistles in Google Maps. And even live traffic is now becoming erratic.
Google Maps is now the gold standard in phone navigation, tied in with many other Google services and offering true real time navigation around traffic issues, even at local level, along with offline maps that auto-update.
Cortana/Voice Cortana was in theory now mature and well integrated, though functionality has been falling away and most attempts to rouse her end in failure in 2020. Google Assistant is available via voice or swipe, and works well, far superior to the dying Cortana in 2020, due to the investment that Google has put in over the last few years. 
Battery, life  Removable 3000mAh battery, and the ability to change cells are a positive here (and you CAN still buy decent spare batteries), plus USB Type C Power Delivery (up to 3A, so 15W) and 1A Qi wireless charging built-in also helps. However, a Lumia running Windows 10 Mobile will now discharge in 24 hours even if you don't use it much, so it's a win here with caveats!
Sealed 4600mAh battery, gets easily through a day, with charge to spare. Type C port supports very fast 55W wired charging via Power Delivery standard and/or Quick Charge 4+. Plus (again very fast) 50W Qi charging and 10W reverse wireless charging (for accessories). So a sealed battery, but... everything else is top notch on this front and I'm awarding a draw overall.
Cloud aids Windows Photos syncs at full resolution and quality across all signed-in devices, subject to your OneDrive tariff (stingy, unless you have Office 365 - most of us do, hence the 'win' here), should you have thousands of images in the system. Plus Windows 10 backs all your media, application data and settings to a separate backup folder system, tariff-free on OneDrive, for easy restoration on a new or factory reset phone. See my feature on media cloud storage. Google Photos does a great job of organising photos and syncing them across all signed-in phones and tablets, albeit at 'reduced' quality (re-compression server-side). Plus there's a local Gallery application with its own editing facilities.
File compatibility As with all Windows phones, plugging into a Windows PC gives full drag and drop to the phone's user file system. Plugging into a Mac is more problematic, though seems to work under Catalina. Plugging into any PC gives immediate MTP file access, plus this works on a Mac on all OS versions, with Google's Android File Transfer utility, for drag and drop of all user files. Seamless and lightning fast.
Biometrics  Iris recognition ('Windows Hello') works well unless you wear varifocals(!), but takes a couple of seconds (including an animation!) in real world use. There's also no official way of paying in shops using this. The optical fingerprint sensor only works 20% of the time for me - I've tried re-registering and all the usual tricks, but after a few hours recognition just... stops. Hopefully software updates can improve this, unlocking and working to authenticate transactions too, as you'd expect, with Google Pay or in the Play Store. No winner here, as both systems are horribly flawed.
Applications and ecosystem  Windows 10 Mobile had most (though not all) mainstream apps and services covered, though some are dropping away now - see my guide! Often third party clients are involved, mind you, there are companies who hate Microsoft so much that they simply refuse to write for Windows, it seems. And 'long tail' niche/boutique apps are hard to find for real world companies and shops. The might of Google and Android's app ecosystem - everything is available and almost always in first party form. 


Upgrades and future Windows 10 Mobile is now effectively out of support. From now on, it will be useable but with more and more service caveats applying. Still, 'January 2020' was well over four years since the Lumia 950 XL was launched, so it's hard to complain in terms of longevity. Xiaomi has a pretty good track record at supporting its phones, so let's assume that this will get good support through to 2024.

Lumia 950 XL and Xiaomi Mi 11 5G


Adding up the green 'wins' (for fun?!) gives a whopping 13-6 win to the much newer device, which is expected, with the Mi 11 5G's highlights being a super screen, blazing fast processor, and very decent main camera. I've shot test photos on each and an imaging shootout is next, don't worry!

Lumia 950 XL and Xiaomi Mi 11 5G