The Xiaomi 14 Ultra features a six-blade mechanical iris in the camera

Xiaomi's big Mobile World Congress launch is Xiaomi 14 Ultra. This is a first-class flagship naturally It's not coming to the US but is available in Europe for €1,499 ($1,624).

Let's get the specs out of the way: This has a 120Hz, 3200 x 1440 OLED display, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and a 5,000mAh battery. The 90-watt wired “HyperCharge” will take the phone's battery from 0 to 100 percent in 33 minutes, while the 80-watt wireless version will charge the phone in 46 minutes.

Xiaomi is very proud that all four sides of the screen are curved. The entire screen rises and bubbles come out of the aluminum body. Xiaomi says that the glass has “It curves deeply around all four sides and corners, creating a smoothly elegant curved shape.“You expect all your photos, videos, websites and apps to be displayed on a flat surface, so curved displays distort the image you're looking at, and fortunately some manufacturers are starting to drop the idea. Making the screen a big glass bubble also means you have Now four glass corners on the front of the phone, so don't drop it!

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Just like the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, the entire back design mimics a classic 35mm camera wrapped in leather, the camera is branded “Leica” after all. The back is made of “vegan leather,” aka specially treated plastic (hey, some of those old cameras used faux leather, too!) and the viewfinder is a giant circle that faintly evokes a regular camera lens.

The focus on photography sees the return of the “professional camera kit” that makes the phone look like a real camera. The set consists of two parts; The first is a case that adds a mounting ring around the camera bump, so you can attach a lens cap or camera filter to the camera bump. The other half of the kit is a camera grip attachment, which adds a 1,500 mAh battery and physical camera controls, such as a two-stage shutter button that can trigger autofocus, a record button, a two-way zoom lever, and a customizable dial. Just like last year, this makes the phone look Like a more serious camera, but it's just for looks – what makes a traditional camera good is the larger viewfinder, and this is still just a regular, very small lens for a smartphone camera.

Theatrical camera shows keep coming Six blade Variable aperture for the main camera. Just like a traditional camera, there's a tiny six-blade mechanical iris in the main lens that can be opened and closed to adjust the aperture of your image. Last year, Xiaomi had a similar system, but it only used two blades and could only snap between the 'open blades' f1.9 mode and the 'closed blades' f4.0 mode. With six blades, you get a “stepless variable aperture” that lets you choose any point in the phone's f-stop range.

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This is still a small phone camera lens, so the f-stop range is very small, only f1.63 to f4.0. On a DSLR, adjusting the f-stop changes the camera's depth of field, with a narrower aperture letting in less light in exchange for sharp focus. A wider aperture will provide brighter images with a smaller focal range, which you can use for soft background bokeh effects. This is all in a DSLR, with a normal f-stop range like F1.4 to F22. On a smartphone camera, especially when there's a lot of software processing involved, f1.6 to f4 won't change your images much. Any background blur is still a fake post-processing effect, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where you wouldn't just want as much light as possible for your small smartphone lens. Samsung tried all of this before on the Galaxy S9 and S10 and then dropped the feature because it didn't accomplish much. The six-blade aperture is probably a triumph of precision engineering, but in the real world it's just a marketing point.

Despite the fluff, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra still packs serious smartphone-level camera hardware. The main sensor is 1-inch, 50-megapixel Sony LYT-900, perhaps the biggest and best smartphone camera sensor ever. Smartphone images are so extensively processed that the software is just as much about the hardware (see: every Pixel phone), but Xiaomi's got the best hardware. As for the other three rear cameras, they are all 50-megapixel Sony IMX858 sensors, with lenses for wide-angle photography, 3.2x zoom, and 5x telephoto photography.

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Pre-orders are already open, and the phone will ship on March 15.

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