Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air VS Apple MacBook Air VS Apple MacBook

It's easy to dismiss the new Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air as an Apple clone, but can it stand toe-to-toe with a legend?

Best known for its budget-friendly smartphones, Xiaomi made the rumours official by announcing its first laptop. The Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air takes obvious design cues from Apple, which is no surprise considering Xiaomi has shamelessly taken inspiration from Tim Cook’s company for its line of smartphones too. This ultra-thin offering comes in two varieties: a 13.3-inch model and a lighter 12.5-inch version.

We thought that it would be interesting to find out if this Windows 10 laptop can compete against its similar-looking Apple MacBook Air and Apple MacBook. So we’ve compared them to see how they match up. 

Design

The new Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air looks like a cross between an Apple MacBook Air and a Microsoft Surface Book, featuring a modern all-metal construction and a clean look without any branding on the exterior. 

The 13.3in Notebook Air measures 14.8mm thick and weighs 1.28kg, much thinner and lighter than the 13.3in MacBook Air’s 17mm thickness and 1.35kg weight. On the other hand, the 12in MacBook's 13.1mm thickness and weight of 0.92kg are similar to the 12.5in Mi Notebook Air's specs of 12.9mm and 1.07kg.

One noticeable design difference is the placement of the vents. MacBooks cleverly hide its vents at the screen hinges, but the Mi Notebook Air goes the traditional route with vents placed at the bottom of its body. The 12-inch MacBook ditches a fan altogether thanks to the use of the fanless Intel Core M processor.

Both Xiaomi and Apple’s devices have backlit keyboards, but the Mi Notebook Air has an HDMI port, unlike the MacBook models which need an adapter to utilise HDMI. But the MacBook Air does have a high-speed I/O Thunderbolt connection that the Xiaomi Mi Notebooks lack.

As for USB ports, the 13.3-inch Mi Notebook Air has two USB 3.0 ports, but only one on the 12.5-inch variant. The MacBook Air variants have two USB 3.0 ports on all models, but the latest Apple MacBook only has one disappointing USB-C port. Tough, but we’ll call this even.

Winner: Draw

Display

The Mi Notebook screens feature full HD resolution at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. The older 13.3-inch MacBook Air’s 1,440 x 900 pixels and the 11.6-inch variant’s 1,366 x 768 pixels just cannot compare, especially in a world where 4K resolution is slowly becoming the norm and full HD resolution is expected on new devices.

However, the same can’t be said for the 12-inch Apple MacBook. It blows the competition away with its 2,304 x 1,440 pixels resolution resolving richer details and giving better viewing angles.

Winner: Apple MacBook

Hardware

It might be surprising, but under the hood, you’ll find similar specs in both the Mi Notebook and Apple’s MacBook Air. The 13.3in Mi Notebook Air has a 256GB PCIe SSD drive, a 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM and one free SATA slot for expansion. The 12.5in model has a 128GB PCIe SSD drive, a not-so-stellar Intel Core M3 processor, 4GB DDR4 RAM and a free PCIe slot.

In the other corner, both the 13.3in and 11.6in MacBook Air come with 128GB or 256GB PCIe flash storage (upgradeable to 512GB) and a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (upgradable to 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7). The 13.3in model has 8GB of RAM, while the 11.6in model has only 4GB of RAM.

The 12in MacBook houses 256GB or 512GB PCIe flash storage, a 1.1GHz Intel Core m3 or 1.2GHz Intel Core m5 processor (upgradable to 1.3GHz Intel Core m7) and 8GB of RAM.

The 13.3-inch Mi Notebook Air also has an advantage in the graphics department, packing an Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics card with 1GB DDR5 RAM, unlike the Intel integrated graphics chip in Apple’s Macbooks. It’s no monster, but the Mi Notebook Air is more than capable of some gaming.

To sum it up, the 13.3-inch Mi Notebook Air definitely outperforms its similar-sized Apple opponents on paper, while the smaller 12.5-inch Mi comes up short against the 11.6-inch MacBook Air and 12-inch MacBook.

Winner: Draw

Battery

Xiaomi claims the 40Wh battery in the 13.3-inch Mi Notebook Air will last 9.5 hours on a single charge, and can be charged to 50% capacity in 30 minutes with the supplied USB-C charger. The smaller model is claimed to last a whopping 11.5 hours, which are impressive numbers for such a small computer.

On the other hand, Apple’s 13.3-inch MacBook Air clocks a 12-hour battery lifespan and the 12-inch MacBook can last for 10 hours, both longer than the similarly sized Mi Notebook. This could be due to the Mi Notebook needing extra power for its dedicated Nvidia graphics card. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air has a nine-hour battery life, which can’t match the 12.5-inch Mi Notebook Air.

Winner: Apple MacBook Air

Price

You know you’ll be getting your money’s worth when you choose a Xiaomi device. The powerful 13.3in Mi Notebook Air retails for 4,999 Yuan (about RM3,055) while its compact 12.5in variant is going for 3,499 Yuan (about RM2,140). Compare that to the 13in Macbook Air (RM4,199 for 128GB, RM4,999 for 256GB) along with the 12in Macbook (RM5,499 for 256GB, RM6,699 for 512GB) and the Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air looks like a really tempting offer.

Winner: Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air

Verdict

It does look like Xiaomi is giving consumers the best bang for our buck, with many positives under the hood giving not only Apple but other ultra-thin laptop manufacturers some serious competition. This also shows Apple’s MacBook Air line is due for a much-needed upgrade.

Sadly for us, Xiaomi has confirmed that the Mi Notebook Air will only be released in China on 2 August 2016. But with the Chinese tech giant making waves in the Asian market, we’re hoping the company will bring its impressive Notebook Air to our shores next.