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Xiaomi 13 Ultra review: Pushing the boundaries of mobile photography

Published May 4th, 2023 7:27PM EDT
Xiaomi 13 Ultra Main
Christian de Looper for BGR

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13 Ultra

Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra offers an incredible camera experience that’s topped off with great performance and a stunning display.

Pros

  • Excellent cameras
  • Good performance
  • Great design
  • Stunning display
  • Fast charging

Cons

  • Expensive

The Xiaomi 13 and 13 Pro offered an excellent smartphone experience — but it turns out Xiaomi had one more trick up its sleeve. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra is aimed at stepping things up once again, specifically with an even better camera than the already-great camera found on the Xiaomi 13 Pro.

The step things up Xiaomi did indeed. The 13 Ultra not only adds an extra telephoto camera, but it also boasts a variable aperture on the main camera, a technology that hasn’t been nearly used enough in phones so far. But the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is also relatively expensive, and, of course, it’s not really available in much of the world just yet.

How does the Xiaomi 13 Ultra perform? Turns out, that investment in better camera tech is seriously paying off.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra design

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra sets itself apart from its siblings, the Xiaomi 13 Pro and 13, with a unique design and some eye-catching touches. Sure, it shares many of the same features as the Xiaomi 13 Pro, like the same screen size, but it’s still generally unique — and even more so compared to the Xiaomi 13.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra BackImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The back of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is where the real difference lies. It boasts a massive circular camera module that spans almost the entire width of the phone, a departure from the smaller square module on the 13 Pro and standard 13. This not only sets it apart visually but also highlights its powerful camera capabilities. On the bottom of the phone, you’ll find a USB-C port, while on the right side can be found the volume rocker and power buttons.

Another notable feature on the back of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is the textured material that gives the phone a more rugged feel. This tactile addition makes the device easier to hold, reducing the risk of accidental slips and providing a secure grip. It’s a practical yet stylish touch that enhances the overall user experience.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra USB-C PortImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The phone might be slightly heavier than its counterparts, but it feels incredibly premium in your hands. Crafted from high-end materials and sporting a luxurious design, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is sure to impress both in terms of looks and functionality.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra display

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra features a stunning 6.73-inch LTPO AMOLED display that offers a truly immersive visual experience. With slight curves on the sides, the screen adds a touch of movement to the phone’s design, though I generally do prefer the flat-display look these days. Boasting a 120Hz refresh rate and a 2600-nit peak brightness, this display ensures that every interaction is smooth and responsive, while the resolution of 1440 x 3200 ensures incredibly crisp images.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra ScreenImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

One can’t help but be impressed by the vibrant colors and the striking level of detail on this screen. Images pop, giving life to even the most mundane of visuals, and the overall brightness ensures that content remains vivid and easy to view in any lighting condition. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra’s provides a top-notch viewing experience that is sure to delight users.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra performance

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra doesn’t just impress with its design and display; it also packs a punch when it comes to performance. Under the hood, you’ll find the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, ensuring that the device stays ahead of the curve in 2023. Paired with either 12GB or 16GB of RAM, the phone has more than enough power to handle all your computing needs.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra SideImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Earning its place as one of the top-performing phones of the year, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is well-equipped to tackle everything you throw at it. From heavy multitasking to high-intensity mobile gaming, the phone manages to maintain its snappy and quick performance. Load times are minimal, and the device never feels bogged down by its basic performance — though software with our review model is a slightly different story. Here are the benchmarks we achieved with the Xiaomi 13 Ultra:

GeekBench 6: 1986 single-core, 5565 multi-core

3DMark Wild Life Extreme: 3585

These results are excellent, and better than any other Android phone we’ve tested, including other Snapdragon 8 Gen 2-equipped phones. As expected, the results didn’t quite reach the heights of the iPhone 14 Pro, though.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra battery and charging

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra comes equipped with a 5,000mAh battery, which is relatively large compared to many other devices on the market. This sizeable battery ensures that the phone can easily get through a full day of use, even for the most demanding users. Longevity is a crucial factor for modern smartphones, and the Xiaomi 13 Ultra does not disappoint.

While it may not be the single longest-lasting device available, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is on par with the other Xiaomi 13 devices in terms of battery life, which is a good thing.

When it comes to charging, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra has you covered with its fast-charging capabilities. The device supports 90W wired charging, which allowed me to charge it to full capacity in just over an hour. Additionally, it offers 50W wireless charging for added convenience and even 10W reverse wireless charging for your other accessories. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra provides an excellent battery and charging suite that caters to the needs of today’s tech-savvy users.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra camera

Xiaomi 13 Ultra Camera TopImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Of course, the real reason to buy this phone over the other devices in the Xiaomi 13 Ultra series is the selection of cameras. The device comes with a quad-camera setup that takes the camera suite on offer by the Xiaomi 13 Pro and builds on it.

Like the Xiaomi 13 Pro, you’ll get a 50.3-megapixel main camera, a 50-megapixel ultra wide with a 122-degree field-of-view, and a 50-megapixel telephoto camera with a 3.2x optical zoom. Unlike the Xiaomi 13 Pro, however, the 1-inch main camera actually has a variable aperture of either f/1.9 or f/4.0, and the phone has a periscope telephoto camera with a 5x optical zoom. Considering the fact that the Xiaomi 13 Pro already took stellar photos, I was excited to try out this device.

And, for the most part, it lived up to my expectations. The phone captured incredibly vibrant and detailed images, and thanks to all the cameras, the device is excellently versatile. There are tons of settings to go choose from too, or you can simply have the phone handle everything itself. That includes the variable aperture, which can automatically switch, or can be manually tweaked. For the uninitiated, the larger f/1.9 aperture will capture brighter images, while the narrower f/4.0 aperture will give you a deeper field-of-view.

In well-lit environments, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, as mentioned, captured vibrant and detailed images using any of the four cameras. I was unsurprised but impressed by the detail on offer by the periscope telephoto camera. If I had to nit-pick, the four cameras didn’t necessarily all offer the same “look,” but they were very close. It’s hard to know how much of the camera tuning is Leica versus Xiaomi, but regardless, the cameras looked great.

Images looked good in low light too. The phone was able to capture a solid amount of detail even in very poorly-lit environments, which is a given in 2023 for a flagship phone, but still nice to see.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra software

Xiaomi 13 Ultra Camera TopImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Software is a little hard to judge right now, given the fact that I currently have the Chinese variant, and not the global version that’s set to launch in some European markets in the near future. For now, safe to say the software was difficult to use as someone in the US, especially considering the lack of Google Play Store. Having used other global Xiaomi phones, I’ve found MIUI to be generally easy to navigate and well-designed, though certainly not as scaled-back as some versions of Android, and still with more-than-needed bloatware.

Conclusions

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra successfully builds on the already-excellent Xiaomi 13 series. It’s not cheap, and it’s certainly not for everyone. Most who are even in a position to be considering something in the Xiaomi 13 series should just go for the Xiaomi 13 Pro. But if you really want what seems to be the best in mobile photography at this particular point in time, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is the way to go. Don’t worry, though — at this rate, the phone is sure to be overtaken at some point soon.

The competition

Perhaps the biggest competition to the Xiaomi 13 Ultra comes in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Now, for many, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the only option of those two available to you — and you won’t be disappointed with that phone.

If you do happen to have access to both phones, it’s a hard decision. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has better software, and added bonuses like the stylus. However, I think that the Xiaomi 13 Ultra’s cameras are slightly better. Both perform about as well as each other.

Should I buy the Xiaomi 13 Ultra?

Yes. If you’re in the market for a top Android phone, and are willing to pay for it, it’s a great option.

Christian de Looper Senior Reviews Editor

Christian de Looper is based in sunny Santa Cruz, California. He has been expertly reviewing tech products for more than 8 years, and brings experience in deep technical analysis of consumer electronics devices to BGR's reviews channel.

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