Xiaomi debuted in the Indian laptop market with two variants – the premium Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition and the more affordable of the two, Mi Notebook 14. The remote working scenario and online classrooms necessitated by the pandemic have breathed a new life in the laptop market, but the economic crisis also implies stressed budgets.

The Mi Notebook 14 aims to fit right into this need. While the company obviously hyped up the Horizon Edition as the showstopper even though it missed out on a lot of things compared to the competition in that segment, the base variant of Mi Notebook 14 is actually the value-for-money offering that would make sense for a lot of students and everyday office workers.

I spent a couple of weeks with the Mi Notebook 14, and here’s my review of the same.

Mi Notebook 14 Specifications

Operating System Windows 10 Home Edition 64-bit
Display 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) | 16:9 aspect ratio | 178° wide viewing angle | 250 nits brightness
Processor 10th Generation Intel Core i5-10210U | 1.6GHz quad-core with boost clock (up to 4.2GHz)
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 620 or NVIDIA GeForce MX250 (2GB GDDR5 VRAM)
RAM 8G DDR4 2666MHz
Storage 256GB/512GB M.2 SATA 3 SSD
Connectivity WiFi 802.11ac 2×2 (2.4GHz and 5GHz) | Bluetooth 5.0
Ports 2 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen 1 | 1 x USB 2.0 | 1 x HDMI | 3.5mm headphone / microphone jack
Battery 46Wh battery | 65W adapter with fast charging
Dimensions 17.95mm x 323mm x 228mm | 1.5kg
Price Starts at ₹43,999

Design

At first glance, the Mi Notebook 14 looks quite boring. The attempted minimalism in aesthetics is uninspiring. The lid is clean with no design highlights or any branding. However, once you pick it up, the unibody metal design is assuring and the anodized sandblasted coating gives it a smooth feel.

The laptop doesn’t pass my usual one hand test. You need both hands to open the laptop, and even though the flex on the base is minimal, the laptop lid does have a bit of flex. Nothing to worry about though. The laptop sports a pair of 2W bottom-firing speakers that offer a respectable audio quality. They are placed towards the sides to avoid muffling of the sound but still don’t manage to completely avoid it.

Available only in silver color, the Mi Notebook 14 is slightly bigger and heavier than its Horizon Edition sibling, however, at 1.5kgs, it still is a light laptop in its price segment.

Mi Notebook 14

The keyboard is where the Mi Notebook 14 disappoints. First up, it is not backlit. It’s a compromise that one might be okay on an entry-level laptop but hard to ignore if you are buying the top variant of the Mi Notebook 14 or the Horizon Edition. And then, the keys too are pretty basic stuff. They’re kind of mushy with poor tactile feedback. The keyboard has nothing to write home about, but it works if you aren’t too particular about these things.

The large touchpad though is solid. It works well, and there’s ample space on either side to rest your palms on comfortably. The touchpad is slightly off-center towards the left, mind you. I usually hate such layouts but, in this case, it's only a tad disoriented and didn’t really trigger me.

Display

Mi Notebook 14

All variants of the Mi Notebook 14 offer the same 14-inch full HD display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. It’s an anti-glare matte display which makes it easy to use in different light conditions. Like all matte displays, the vibrancy is compromised but the color fidelity is good, and it offers ample brightness. It’s still a struggle to view in harsh sunlight though. The viewing angles are great though.

The only difference between the displays on this one and the Horizon Edition is the screen-to-body ratio owing to the thinner bezels on the latter. You get what you pay for.

The display on the Mi Notebook 14 is good enough for a laptop in this price segment. There’s nothing special, but there are also no misses. Except, it's not a touchscreen.

Camera

There isn’t one!

To achieve the thin bezels, Xiaomi made the baffling decision to ditch the webcam. Amidst a surge in video conferencing necessitated by remote working, lack of webcam is awkward. Although granted Xiaomi may have frozen on the design and specifications many months ago not anticipating this new normal.

If frequent video calls are not your thing, you should be fine. Xiaomi offers the Mi HD Webcam bundled with the laptop which is good enough. However, it might be an inconvenience if you indulge in video conferencing often. While it's all good for long hours on the desk, that random call while you’re casually surfing the web on your couch can’t happen unless you go and look for that camera. It’s also not like a keyboard/mouse dongle that you can leave plugged in for the most part of the day. Because the camera mounts on top of the lid, you can’t close the lid unless the camera is removed.

Performance

One of the highlights of the Mi Notebook 14 is what’s under the hood. For an affordable laptop, Xiaomi has managed to create a pretty well-rounded package. The Mi Notebook 14 is powered by the 10th Generation Intel Core i5 -10210U Comet Lake processor with 8GB of RAM. Note that the RAM is soldered on, so you won’t be able to upgrade it later.

Xiaomi has opted to offer SSD storage across all SKUs which is commendable. While most people check the processor and the amount of RAM on the specifications sheet, a solid-state drive makes a world of difference in booting up as well as in everyday usage as compared to a hard drive. The SATA SSDs sure aren’t as fast as the m.2 NVMe ones offered in the Horizon Edition variants but is still far better than an HDD.

The everyday performance on the Mi Notebook 14 is pretty good. With multiple tabs in Microsoft Edge, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Word, and Outlook running all through the time, there’s no observable lag or sluggishness. Photo-editing on Polarr, audio-editing on Hindenburg, or casual video-editing on the built-in Video Editor app doesn’t stretch the laptop, which is quite impressive for a laptop in this price segment.

While casual gaming is a breeze, some graphics-intensive titles will obviously stutter or not run on their best settings. Xiaomi does offer a variant with a dedicated GPU (the one I reviewed) - NVIDIA GeForce MX250 - which helps with the graphics performance and improving its gaming credentials. It's not a gaming laptop, mind you, but you knew that already.

Here are benchmark reports from PCMark 10, Cinebench, and Geekbench for our more informed readers. If benchmarks are not your thing, suffice to say, that the Mi Notebook 14 is a middle-of-the-road laptop when it comes to performance, but within its price segment, it competes with the best.

Geekbench - CPU Benchmark

The laptop has a decent selection of ports but skips a USB Type-C port. It’s a missed opportunity to be with the times but again, not something that will be a showstopper. There’s no card reader which will disappoint photographers and creative students and professionals.

Overall, the Mi Notebook 14 offers a stellar price-to-performance ratio that makes it a better value offering that the Horizon Edition, and many options available in the market.

Battery Life

Mi Notebook 14

Xiaomi claims that the Mi Notebook 14 offers 10 hours of battery life. In my typical usage without stretching it, I would get around 8 hours which is quite good. I assume the battery life on this one is marginally better than the Horizon Edition because while both have the same 46Wh battery, the Intel Core i5 processor is less power-hungry than the Core i7.

The Mi Notebook 14 offers fast charging with a bundled 65W charger. It is very handy and charges the laptop from 0 to 50% in just over half an hour. Charging the laptop to 100% takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Xiaomi has done quite well to bundle a good battery life with support for fast charging in an affordable laptop.

Software

The Mi Notebook 14 runs Windows 10 Home and comes with some nifty first-party software additions from Xiaomi.

There’s Mi Smart Share that allows you to easily share files between your Xiaomi smartphone and the laptop as well as Mi Blaze Unlock that helps your Mi Band unlock the laptop in less than a couple of seconds. These additional features will help Xiaomi pitch its ecosystem play to laptop buyers.

Summary

The Mi Notebook 14 is a pretty good debut by Xiaomi in the mainstream laptop market. It’s not perfect and there’s a long way to go, but all steps are in the right direction. As with other Xiaomi products, there’s a clear attempt at offering the maximum bang for the buck. However, unlike smartphones or smart TVs in the past, the Mi Notebook 14 won't disrupt the category.

The base model of the Mi Notebook 14 costs ₹43,999 ($600). At that price, the value proposition offered by Xiaomi is hard to beat. The Mi Notebook 14 is a well-built laptop with snappy performance and great battery life.

However, once you move up to other variants going up to ₹49,999 ($685) or stretch your budget to ₹54,999 ($753) where the Horizon Edition pricing starts, the many misses on the Mi Notebook 14 start to prick – and there are quite a few competitive options in the market in that segment. You’ll have to decide if you’re okay with an uninspiring design or the basic keyboard, and if you can survive the new normal without a built-in webcam.

 

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