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Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition review: as good as it gets

On: June 16, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown has resulted in increasing use cases for laptops. Whether its students who need a laptop for online classes, or professionals who need one to work from home, the laptop has become an all-purpose device for work, education, content creation and entertainment.

Also readXiaomi Mi Notebook 14 and Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition launched in India: price, specifications

Xiaomi has been launching its laptops in China for a while now, but made its laptop debut Indian market only last week with the launch of its Mi Notebook 14 and Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition series. I have been using the top-of-the-line Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition for a while now, and I think Xiaomi may just have a winner on its hands.

Design and display

The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition features a sleek, minimalist design and comes in a single grey colour. There’s no branding on the lid, which means you have plenty of room for stickers, if that’s your thing. The laptop is crafted from an aircraft-grade aluminium and magnesium alloy, with an anodised sandblasted coating for added durability. It’s also compact (a little over the size of an A4 sheet) and lightweight at 1.35kg. There’s no wobble in the lid, which also opens smoothly with one hand.

As for the elements, the laptop’s right edge is home to two USB 3.1 ports, one Type-C port (lets you charge other devices and transfer data), HDMI Out, and a charger input. There’s a tiny LED indicator beside the charging port, which turns green when the laptop is fully charged. There’s a large air vent, one USB 2.1 port, and a 3.5mm audio jack on the left edge.

The display features 3mm thin bezels on the top and two sides and offers an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 91 percent. While the edge-to-edge display looks sleek, it resulted in Xiaomi having to do away with an integrated webcam. To compensate, the company is including an HD webcam as part of the retail box. The webcam provided with the laptop is lightweight, connects via USB and offers good resolution.

Xiaomi says that it developed the Mi Notebook 14 series for India in 2019, when webcam usage was limited, and nowhere near as popular as it is now. I didn’t particularly miss the camera, but for those who are on video calls frequently for work or social purposes, this could be a major inconvenience.

The 14-inch 16:9 screen comes with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. Despite having a slightly larger display than my MacBook Air, the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition is significantly smaller than the Apple laptop thanks to its high screen to body ratio. The screen is vibrant, and bright enough to use outdoors. The anti-glare matte coating on it further helps the visibility in harsh indoor lighting.

Keyboard, trackpad and audio

I typed this review on the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, and have found the full-sized QWERTY keyboard to be a delight to work on. The ABS plastic keys are well spaced and feature a travel distance of 1.3mm. The scissor mechanism on individual keys produces enough resistance to make a satisfying click. However, if you are a fan of soft typing feedback like those offered by membrane style keyboards, you may not like this one.

One glaring omission from the keyboard of the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition is the backlight, and if you rely on sight to type, you might find it hard to do so in low light. Moreover, the arrow keys cluster is tightly grouped together. Apart from this, I couldn’t fault the keyboard on Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition much.

Xiaomi has equipped the laptop with a fairly large-sized capacitive touchpad. It supports Windows Precision Drivers, which brings support for multi-gestures including three-finger swipes between pages and more. Being a MacBook Air user, I felt right at home with this, however, if you are coming from an older laptop, there might be a bit of a learning curve here. The Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition has 10.5cm palm rests on each side of the trackpad. There’s also a palm rejection feature that ensures the trackpad doesn’t register accidental palm touches.

The speakers on the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Editon are 2W stereo units. They are placed on the underside of each palm rest. If you are worried about the sound getting muffled due to the bottom placement, you don’t need to worry. Xiaomi has strategically placed the speakers on the angular underside, and the audio bounces off the surface to amplify the sound further.

Performance and battery

Xiaomi is offering the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition in two configurations – 10th-gen Intel Core i5 and 10th-gen Intel Core i7. I received the latter, which is the top-end variant. The Comet Lake Core i7 (10510U) processor is backed by NVIDIA MX350 graphics, 8GB of RAM, 2GB VRAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD. While the RAM is soldered on, the SSD is upgradeable.

The laptop comes with Microsoft Windows 10 Home Edition and a complimentary Microsoft Office trial for a month. Xiaomi has added features like Mi Blaze and Mi Share in the software. The former locks and unlocks the laptop automatically by detecting your Mi Band (works with Mi Band 3 and Mi Band 4), and the latter functions like AirDrop for Windows and Android to allow wireless file transfers.

With its quad-core 14nm Comet Lake Core i7 chipset, the laptop managed a score of 3,138 points on PCMark 10 and 1,735 points on Cinebench, which are lower than expected and don’t do justice to the hardware. It’s possible that there are some optimisation issues, and Xiaomi could fix them via a software update in the future.

The numbers don’t reflect on real-life performance though, as the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition has a very fast bootup time and multitasks like a champ. During my testing, I had around 25 tabs open in Chrome, along with WhatsApp Web, Telegram, TweetDeck, Slack and more simultaneously. Despite switching back and forth between several tabs and applications, there were no lags or freezes during my usage.

Coming to the graphics performance, the laptop comes with the NVIDIA GeForce MX350 GPU backed by 2GB of dedicated video RAM. The GeForce MX350 is a whole tier below the GTX 1660 Ti and other full-fledged GTX cards, and is suitable only for casual gaming.

Xiaomi claims that the 46Wh battery on the Mi Notebook Horizon Edition can last up to 10 hours on standard usage. The laptop scored 2 hours and 30 minutes in the standard battery benchmark, which is decent. During my testing period, I would start my workday with a 100 percent charge, and usually ran out of power around 5pm, which is 6-7 hours of usage on a single charge. The 65W fast charger provided with the laptop charged the device from zero to 100 percent in around 1 hour and 20 minutes.

The laptop also returned impressive sequential read and write speeds of 3,303.36MB/s and 2,947.89MB/s respectively, thanks to the NVMe SSD. Notably, the standard Mi Notebook 14 series feature SATA SSDs. which are comparatively slower.

Bottomline

After using the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition extensively over the last week, I can safely say that this is a solid debut from the brand, despite its flaws. The conscious decision to opt for performance-oriented Comet Lake Intel processors and fast SSD storage has worked out in favour of the brand. At Rs 59,999, the laptop offers a 10th-gen Core-i7 processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM, NVIDIA GeForce MX350 graphics and a full metal construct. At its asking price, it doesn’t get any better than this if you are looking for a powerful workhorse.

Pricebaba’s rating: 9 / 10

What works:

  • Minimalist, lightweight design
  • Fast charging
  • Smooth performance
  • Good display

What doesn’t:

  • Keyboard isn’t backlit
  • No integrated webcam
  • Battery life not as good as claimed
  • RAM isn’t upgradeable
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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman is obsessed with all things tech. His hobbies include reading on his Kindle and clicking random pictures on his phone. His secret superpowers happen to be mixing great cocktails and lip reading. In his spare time, you are likely to find him cleaning his aquascape, researching new species of aquatic fishes and planning which aquatic plants to buy next.