Xiaomi made its name by selling affordable mobiles that offer great value for money. But with growth slowing down in China and other markets, the manufacturer has decided to expand into a host of new categories, including home automation, smart lighting, air purifiers, home appliances, and even scooters.
Another area that Xiaomi turned its attention to is the notebook segment. Although sales in this category have been falling steadily over the last decade, Xiaomi felt that there was room for one more player, which is why it rolled out the Mi Air notebook last year. The notebook is available in 12.5-inch and 13.3-inch variants and several configuration options, and I’ll be taking a look at the beefier Mi Air 13, or as it is more commonly known, Xiaomi’s answer to the MacBook Pro.
Available for the equivalent of $700, the Mi Air 13 severely undercuts the MacBook Pro while offering similar hardware in a chassis that’s near-identical to its design. Here’s a look at what the Mi Air 13 can do.
- CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6200U, 3MB cache
- RAM: 8GB DDR4 2133Mhz
- SSD: Samsung NVMe SSD 256GB
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 940MX at 5Ghz, 1GB GDDR5
- Camera: 1280×720 pixels
- Sound: Realtek ALC255
- Speakers: Customised AKG 2x2W
- OS: Chinese Windows 10 Home Edition
- Type: IPS LCD
- Size: 13.3-inch
- Resolution: 1920×1080 pixels, 166 PPI
- Brightness: 300nits
- Contrast: 800:1
- WiFi: Intel dual-band 802.11ac (Intel 8260 modem)
- Bluetooth: v4.1
- Ports: USB Type-C, two USB 3.0, HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack
Keyboard and touchpad
- Full-size US layout
- 3 nits bright backlighting
- Multi-touch glass touchpad
- Capacity: 40W
- Density: 578Wh / L
- Fast charging via USB Type-C
- Size: 309.6 x 210.9 x 14.8 mm
- Weight: 1.28 kg
The design of the Mi Air 13 is an exercise in minimalism. There’s no branding on the cover of the notebook, and the only way you’ll realize this is a Xiaomi notebook is when you flip the lid and notice the Mi logo beneath the display. Xiaomi says that it was going after a clean look with unbroken lines at the front, and it certainly managed to achieve that.
As a result, only you will be able to see the logo, whereas onlookers will wonder how you’ve managed to get rid of the logo of a certain fruit manufacturer from the front. The notebook has an abundance of aluminum, and barring the touchpad and the glass-coated front panel, the rest of the Mi Air 13 is built on a unibody aluminum frame.
The design is uncannily similar to that of the MacBook Pro, and the Mi Air 13 manages to be lighter at 1.28kg as well as smaller, thinner, and not as wide. That’s an achievement in and of itself considering the notebook has the same panel size as the MacBook Pro.
The diminutive form factor is achieved by eliminating bezels from around the panel. Dell used it to great effect in the XPS 13 and XPS 15, and Xiaomi used a similar technique in the Mi Air 13. While the bezels aren’t as thin as that on the XPS 13 — there’s still a noticeable border around the panel — Xiaomi maximize the screen real estate.
Overall, the Mi Air 13 has excellent build quality, and the aluminum frame is durable. The material itself doesn’t feel as polished as what you get on the MacBook Pro, but that’s the only issue in an otherwise well-designed notebook.
Like most notebooks in this segment, the Mi Air 13 does not have a dedicated Ethernet port. What it does have is an Intel 8260 Wi-Fi ac network card, a 2×2 card that can hit a maximum throughput of 867Mbit.
Xiaomi continued its utilitarian stance even when it comes to the onboard ports, and as a result you get a single USB-C port, two USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI out along with a 3.5mm audio jack. The USB-C port is a welcome addition, and it is used to connect high-res monitors and charge the notebook. Given the increased bandwidth, you can do both with a single cable.
That said, the lack of a card reader is a noticeable omission considering the segment the Mi Air 13 is targeting.
The Mi Air 13 offers a 13.3-inch Full HD IPS panel sourced from Samsung. It isn’t an OLED display, but it comes close to one, as it has excellent contrast, color accuracy, and viewing angles. Xiaomi is known for offering great panels in its handsets, and the manufacturer is continuing that tradition with the Mi Air 13. While not an issue with the panel itself, the glossy coating on its surface means that reading text in outdoor conditions becomes a problem.
As for the hardware itself, the Mi Air 13 offers a Skylake Intel Core i5-6200U clocked at 2.30GHz, along with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. One notable addition is a discrete GPU in the form of an NVIDIA GeForce 940MX. It isn’t quite as powerful to run the latest AAA titles at maximum settings, but it is definitely better than the integrated Intel HD 520.
On the subject of gaming, the Mi Air 13 has two fans that barely bake any noise. You’ll only hear them come into play under intense workloads like gaming, and even then they do a great job of cooling the chassis. In regular use, the Mi Air 13 doesn’t heat up at all. The sound is delivered via speakers tuned by AKG, and they’re sufficiently loud and detailed.
The notebooks allows for two M.2 SSDs, and one of those slots is taken up by a 256GB SSD. While there’s an option to upgrade storage, you won’t be able to switch out the memory modules as they’re soldered onto the motherboard.
When it comes to real-world usage, the hardware on offer makes using the Mi Air 13 a delight. The Skylake 6200U unit along with 8GB of RAM and the Samsung-made SSD allow the notebook to breeze through most everyday tasks, and the GeForce 940MX is a welcome addition for those looking to play games on the machine.
Battery like and keyboard
The Mi Air 13 comes with a 40Wh battery, and while that is a long way from being the largest in this segment, Xiaomi offers fast charging, with the battery charging up to 75% of its full capacity in just 45 minutes.
Given the size of the battery, the Mi Air 13 has great battery life. The notebooks lasts around six hours on average that includes a mix of web browsing, multimedia playback, and writing. As is always the case, you’ll drain the battery much faster if you’re gaming.
The keyboard is easily one of the best I’ve used on a Windows notebook, and it is just as good as the one on my MacBook Pro. The keys are spaced out evenly, key travel is decent for a notebook that’s as sleek as the Mi Air 13, and the smooth texture makes it easy to use for extended durations of time.
The one drawback is the backlight. Although the keyboard is backlit, there’s no way to adjust the intensity of the backlight — you can either turn it off or on with a toggle.
Similarly, the touchpad is also one of the best in this segment. It is large and recognizes gestures really well, and has buttons integrated into the glass panel.
Overall, the Mi Air 13 is one of the best notebooks you can buy for $700. The fact that it is limited to China is an issue when it comes to warranty, but resellers that list the notebook offer their own 12-month warranty. You can also use code GAir on GearBest to get it for $689.
The notebook combines a minimalist design with great internal hardware, all backed by a vivid display and a keyboard that’s a delight to use. The Mi Air 13 comes with a Chinese version of Windows 10 by default, and you can install your own version should you have a key handy. If you want a notebook that delivers excellent value for money, get the Mi Air 13.