Xiaomi did a cannonball dive into the India laptop market and this time the wallet-friendly brand is making strides towards disrupting it with its aggressive pricing.
Budget or not, the laptop segment needed a bit of shaking, especially in the ₹40-50k segment. The Mi NoteBook 14 Horizon Edition we have for review is the best offering from Xiaomi’s laptop range. It isn’t much of a range to brag about, albeit enough to shake the socks off other laptops in this price range.
For ₹60 grand, you get high-quality innards and practically everything else in place to get started with your work from home journey. This isn’t the best thin-and-light laptop in the market but it’s definitely trading the right amount of performance and style for the cash you’re putting down.
Body and design
It’s modern, it’s beautiful and it wants to blend in. Those are some of the thoughts we got when we saw the Mi NoteBook 14 Horizon Edition. You can even call it a MacBook clone when describing its design. Xiaomi’s kept the design as clean as possible. There’s no logo on the lid, something that Xiaomi says was a conscious effort to not ‘stand out’. We think it's a budget constraint, but who cares as long as the product looks beautiful, right? And this looks very beautiful.
The sandblasted aluminium and magnesium alloy body is smooth and loves your skin as much as you love Keanu Reeves. Typing for hours on end is comfortable on this machine.
We do have some minor complaints about its structural strength. There’s no flex in the metal but the metal somehow feels a bit thin. Nothing too alarming but you’ll know where Xiaomi has cut cost compared to the Dells, MacBooks and the Surface Laptops.
The hard plastic around the screen bezels and the hinge is sturdy too.
Most of the ports are on the right side of the laptop, which can be a bit intrusive if you’re using a mouse with your right hand. On the bright side, you won’t need dongles to get through life. There are three USB Type-A, one USB Type-C, one HDMI and a headphone jack. Quite sufficient for anyone.
Performance and battery life
The reason you would want to pay extra for this Horizon Edition is mostly because it will manage so shave-off load times from your life. The 512GB of NVMe SSD is rapid and the 8GB of RAM is also clocked at higher speeds than the cheaper models. Not to mention the battery-friendly 10th Gen Intel i7-10510U processor is enough for almost every office problem your boss will throw at you.
InDesign and Photoshop work just fine without any hiccups. The load times are what you would expect from a machine like this, which is to say it is fairly decent. The 8GB of RAM chokes up quickly when using such applications and Xiaomi said there’s no option to upgrade here. The RAM is soldered in… bummer.
Even then, we had no problems getting on with our work smoothly which is remarkable for this dinky machine. Photoshop, InDesign and Premiere Pro ran simultaneously without any effort and the machine did not even heat up as much. 4K video edits will start lagging on Premiere Pro so we advise not to venture there by any means.
Our daily routine consisted of Google Chrome, WhatsApp and iTunes running together and working on this machine is as seamless as any other premium laptop out there. The fans also kick in only when you try to squeeze pro work or light gaming.
Taking a break from working and switching to My Friend Pedro or Zoo Tycoon was a great relief on this machine. There are no problems playing indie or graphic light games like Valorant and CS GO.
Xiaomi has made the battery adapter quite small and easily portable which juices up the laptop in around 2 hours from scratch. That two hours of juicing up will run this laptop for a good 6 hours. Maybe more, depending on your workload. Our daily Google Chrome and WhatsApp usage lasted us almost a good full day.
Display and features
This 14in display is stretched to every side possible. Kicking bezels away and giving the Horizon Edition its premium look.
The FullHD matte finish display is quite decent but not the best for professional content creators, albeit passable in the grand scheme of things - price.
The 60Hz panel does have really nice viewing angles and a decent enough brightness of up to 250nits. You can work next to your window effortlessly but you’ll be adjusting the brightness manually because there isn’t any ambient light sensor to do it for you.
That bezel-bashing also comes at a price, there’s no built-in camera. Instead, you get a USB camera bundled in which is of good quality too. Our only gripe is that if this is aimed at working professionals, lugging around a USB camera can be bothersome. For students though, it doesn’t get better than this. I personally never used a webcam and the alternative to it could be using your smartphone for getting your face on a boring conference call.
Speakers are better ignored. They sound thin and lack clarity. Let’s just say you have a headphone jack here so that’s going to be better for your audio needs, or BT if you’re a wireless tech wizard.
Keyboard, trackpad and Xiaomi features
The chiclet keyboard doesn’t have any feedback or resistance. It’s as basic and has a grainy plastic finish. There’s no backlighting as well.
You’re also left without a fancy way to unlock the device. If your camera is connected 24/7 then Windows Hello might be your calling but other than that you’ll have to manually type in your passcode to unlock. Funnily enough, if you keep a long passcode, you might just end up taking more time to unlock it than to boot it up. Which would be, in the immortal words of DJ Khaled, suffering from success.
If you have a Mi fitness band then you can use Mi Blaze Unlock to quickly get into your system. Similarly, if you have a Xiaomi smartphone then Mi Quickshare will let you send files to your laptop just like Apple’s Airdrop. We couldn’t find the Mi Quickshare app on our Samsung and OnePlus Google Play Store so we believe it’s only a Xiaomi-to-Xiaomi feature and not Android in general. It worked with our Xiaomi devices perfectly without having to download any app. Quite close to how Airdrop works.
The trackpad needs a bit of work here. It’s wonky and only the bottom 50% of it can be pressed inside. Again these things are passable as long as you don’t use the touchpad constantly. You will definitely need a mouse for working on photoshop or InDesign, or any professional app for that matter. Typing, browsing and scrolling are just fine.
Xiaomi has cut the right corners for delivering a very good laptop and at a very good price. It has taken the liberty of shaving away features like an ambient light sensor, a webcam, backlighting and resistance from the keyboard and put a so-so trackpad. We won’t even ask for a better speaker here because even the slightly expensive laptops struggle with good audio.
These are all the compromises you make for getting the price down but in return, you get a blazing fast laptop that offers quick performance for daily tasks with boot-up time is as good as a MacBook or any of the top tier laptops. Although it has a slightly questionable build quality, the Mi NoteBook 14 Horizon Edition is good enough for a thin and lightweight laptop. Oh, and it looks gorgeous.
The battery life is amazing and the laptop barely heats up even when running heavy-duty apps like Photoshop. On a lazy Sunday, the laptop works silently and effortlessly.
The budget laptop segment is clogged with plenty of brands but Xiaomi is keeping its head above water by offering a stunning laptop for a great price.