Xiaomi Notebook Air 13  review – wait, that’s not a Macbook?!
Arnas Park
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Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 review – wait, that’s not a Macbook?!

Let’s face it – Xiaomi is a company that relies on borrowing design and features from other manufacturers. While this action is usually condemned by many people, it is not definitely a bad thing. If you have ever heard of the model we are testing today – the Notebook Air 13 you must probably know that it is very reminiscent of some MacBooks. Designwise, we would say that it is like a brother from another mother to the 2017 MacBook Pro 13. However, while it seems like copying the neighbor’s lawn style so as to not let them do better than you, the case is not quite the same here. And this is because Xiaomi has a totally different target group of buyers. People looking for a good quality product at a fraction of the price.

More interestingly, when digging deeper inside this product we noticed something very nice about it. This thing is no joke. Today we are going to show you what we think of the Xiaomi Notebook Air 13. It is interesting how it fares against the competition which is pretty vast in the sub $1000 category.Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 technical specifications table












Display



13.3”, Full HD (1920 x 1080), IPS







HDD/SSD



256GB M.2 NVMe SSD












Dimensions


310 x 211 x 14.8 mm (12.20" x 8.31" x 0.58")











Ports and connectivity



  • 1x USB Type-C 3.0 (3.1 Gen 1)
  • 2x USB Type-A 3.0 (3.1 Gen 1)
  • HDMI 4K@30Hz

  • Ethernet lan

  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac

  • Bluetooth 4.1

  • Audio jack combo audio / microphone jack




Features



  • Fingerprint reader

  • Web camera

  • Backlit keyboard

  • Microphone

  • Speakers

  • Optical drive









What’s in the box?


The packaging of the Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 includes… a Xiaomi
Notebook Air 13 (obviously), a couple of manuals and a 65W charging unit
which is somehow very reminiscent of a MacBook charger.




Design and construction


If we put the Apple MacBook similarities aside for a second, we could
see that the Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 is actually a very well built
computer. The Chinese manufacturer has used aluminum for the whole body
of the device. In addition to that, the design itself is super
simplistic with no logo on the outside. Color-wise, we have the “Deep
Gray” model which is to no surprise… gray.



Opening the notebook we see a glass panel placed on the display,
which is a good touch. Upon further inspection we can see that the
simplistic design from the outside is to be found here as well – a
single “Mi” logo underneath the screen is all of the brandings you can
see here. The screen itself bends a little bit under pressure, but we
are satisfied with the build quality.



Taking a look at the keyboard, we can see that it is scaled down.
This is something seen on many compact devices and it is directed at
keeping a slim profile, while not losing key travel. Speaking of that,
the key travel is not very short, but the feedback is relatively slow.
This adds for a feel of shallowness and unresponsiveness. Probably you
can get used to that, but for the short time we got the Notebook Air 13
in our hands – we couldn’t.



Further below is located the touch bar. What we like is that it is
completely centered because – come on – beauty is in the proportions.
However, when it comes to the actual functionality, the device falls
short of most of its competitors (it is not even close to it’s Apple
counterpart). We noticed some input lag – a very minor but still
noticeable. Probably the best thing about this touchpad is the
fingerprint reader that it is housing. While being pretty small, it is
blazing fast and very accurate – 10 out of 10 in our test.



On the bottom of the laptop, you can see the speaker grills on the
front left and right side of the panel. In addition to that, there is a
long but narrow cooling vent exactly below where the motherboard is
supposed to be.



























WidthLengthHeightWeight
Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 310 mm (12.20″)211 mm (8.31″)14.8 mm (0.58″)1.30 kg (2.9 lbs)
Apple MacBook Air 304 mm (11.97″)212 mm (8.35″)15.6 mm (0.61″) (+5%)1.25 kg (2.8 lbs) (-4%)

Ports


Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 (2018) is equipped with the bare essentials – a
single HMDI 1.4 connector, a USB Type-A 3.1 and a 3.5 mm combo jack on
the left. Furthermore, on the right, there is another USB Type-A 3.1
port accompanied by USB Type-C connector. It supports 4K video output,
but it doesn’t support Thunderbolt connection.


Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance


Despite the lack of a service lid, getting inside the Xiaomi Notebook
Air 13 is not difficult at all. The only thing you need to do is to
unscrew all eight Torx head screws (size T5). Keep in mind that one of
them is hidden beneath the middle back leg of the device, so a pair of
tweezers will come in handy. After that just pry open the bottom with a
flat plastic tool and voila! You are inside the Notebook Air 13.



The first thing we notice after opening the device is the use of two
fans in its cooling system. While the number of fans is definitely of
some importance, what is more important here is their location. Placing
both of them right next to each other hurts the efficiency since the fan
that is furthest from the CPU will blow away less heat. For more
information about the efficiency of Xiaomi Notebook Air 13’s thermals,
check the “Temperatures and Comfort” of this review.



Taking a look at the memory and storage options of this laptop, we
are sort of left with mixed feelings. Sadly, Xiaomi has soldered the
memory chips onto the motherboard but we suppose they had no choice,
giving the slim profile of the device. On the other side, the
manufacturer has given the opportunity of installing two M.2 drives –
Wooo-Hoo! Speaking of which, the one in our configuration happened to be
the Samsung PM981 which (spoiler alert) is absurdly quick.



Finally, we have the battery unit with a capacity of 40Wh, which on
paper doesn’t sound like a lot. But in real life, it boasts quite the
performance.



Display quality


Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 has a Full HD IPS panel, model number BOE
NV133FHM-N52 (BOE06B7) – the panel is very similar to BOE06FA (the one
used in Lenovo Yoga 730). Its diagonal is 13.3-inch (33.78 cm), and the
resolution – 1920 х 1080p. Additionally, the screen ratio is 16:9, the
pixel density – 166 ppi, their pitch – 0.153 х 0.153 mm. The screen can
be considered Retina when viewed from at least 53 cm (from this
distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).



Viewing angles are good. We offer images at different angles to evaluate the quality.



The maximum measured brightness is 328 nits (cd/m2) in the middle of
the screen and 317 nits (cd/m2) average across the surface with a
maximum deviation of 11% in the bottom right corner. The Correlated
Color Temperature on a white screen and at maximum brightness is 7000K
(average) – just a little cooler than the optimal 6500K temperature for
sRGB. The average color temperature through the grey scale before
profiling is 6850K.

In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from
uniformity perspective. The illustration below shows how matters are for
operational brightness levels (approximately 140 nits) – in this
particular case at 34% Brightness (White level = 141 cd/m2, Black level =
0.13 cd/m2).

Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of
the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color
sensitive work (a maximum tolerance of 2.0 ). The contrast ratio is good
– 1070:1 (900:1 after profiling).



To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a
little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start,
there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the
visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better
perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.


Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut
(sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web.
As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors etc
for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by
everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color
accuracy of a mainstream notebook.


Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3
standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020
standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s
difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included
the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which
represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.


The yellow dotted line shows Xiaomi Notebook Air 13’s color gamut coverage.


Its display covers 91% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.



Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.


We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors
like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You
can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the
“Design and Gaming” profile.


Below you can compare the scores of Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 with the
default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile
(right).




The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce
really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies
or playing games in low ambient light.


The left side of the image represents the display with stock
settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design”
profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale
and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two
graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles
the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the
settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle,
and the surrounding light conditions.



Response time (Gaming capabilities)


We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual
“black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice
versa.


We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 31 ms.



Conclusions


Xiaomi Notebook Air is equipped with a Full HD panel with good
contrast levels, wide viewing angles and can display most of the colors
found on the Internet. However, it uses PWM and is a little slow in
going from white to black and vice versa.


Health impact – PWM/Blue light emissions


PWM (Screen flickering)


Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.




Blue light emissions


Installing Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SPD) graph.


Sound


The sound coming from Xiaomi Notebook Air 13’s speakers is reasonably
loud but there are some deviations in the low and mid frequency range.
However, highs are on point.


Drivers


As of the moment of writing this review, we weren’t able to find out
an official download link to drivers and utilities in case you reinstall
or miss anything from the package.


Battery


Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting
turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits and all other
programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with.


Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 is equipped with a 40W battery pack. It’s a
U-series processor and manufacturer optimizations provide very low power
draw in low-load tasks. This results in a very good battery performance
which in this case got us 9 hours and 40 minutes of web browsing time.
Video playback times were significantly lower – at 5 hours and 30
minutes. However, this is still a reasonable result. Obviously, gaming
on a battery is not a good idea, giving no more than an hour and a half.









In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.







53.9 Wh, 4670 mAh, 6-cell









For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.







53.9 Wh, 4670 mAh, 6-cell









We use F1 2017’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.







53.9 Wh, 4670 mAh, 6-cell











CPU options



The Core i5-8250U (there is also a Core i7-8550U option), is one of the
first (along with the Core i7-8550U from the same generation) ULV
(ultra-low voltage) processors from Intel to feature not two but four
cores. It’s part of the 8th Generation (Kaby Lake Refresh) and on
contrary to the previous generations, the Turbo Boost range is pretty
wide now.


The base frequency is 1.6 GHz and can go up to 3.4 GHz for a short
period of time before stabilizing somewhere in between during continues
loads. This also means that the single-core performance is really good.
The rest of the features and specs, however, remain mostly the same with
support for dual-channel DDR4-2400/LPDDR3-2133 memory, 14nm FinFET
manufacturing process and the same integrated graphics chip, although
re-branded now as Intel UHD Graphics 620.


The whole SoC along with the dual-channel memory is rated at 15W TDP
but depending on the usage scenario, cooling capabilities and the
configured TDP from the OEM, the TDP can vary from 7.5W up to 25W.

















GPU options



Notebook Air’s 13-inch variant comes with a single choice of a GPU as
well – the NVIDIA GeForce MX150. It is an entry-level mobile card that
is part of the latest NVIDIA Pascal lineup of GPUs, based on the GP108
chip paired with 2GB of GDDR5 memory via a 64-bit interface. The GPU is
the successor of GeForce 940MX and it was announced in Q2 of 2017.


The GeForce MX150 operates at a relatively high base frequency of
1469 MHz, while the Boost frequencies can go up to 1532 MHz. The GPU
incorporates 384 shader (CUDA) cores while the memory is clocked at
6008MHz (effective). These specs ensure a significant performance boost
over the previous generation of Maxwell GPUs. The TDP of the GPU is
lower than the last generation GTX 950M and even the GTX 1050 – 25W
compared to 40W for the two models above. Performance-wise, the GeForce
MX150 should be similar to the desktop GeForce GT 1030.


Along with all the power consumption and performance improvements,
the GPU now supports essential features like Multi-Projection, VR Ready,
G-SYNC, Vulkan and Multi-Monitor.



Gaming tests


Xiaomi Notebook Air 13’s GPU is meant more for content creation, than
gaming. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some light to medium
gaming. As you can see from the tables below, GeForce MX150 has no
problem running not so demanding games like CS:GO and DOTA2 on max
details even at 1080p. Moving up the scale, you have to give up some
pixels in exchange for adequate framerates.

Max CPU loadTemperatures and comfort



In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their
frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s
reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a
serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good
indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video
rendering.



Average core frequency (Base freq. + X); CPU Temp.























Intel Core i5-8250U (15W TDP):0:02 – 0:10 sec0:15 – 0:30 sec10:00 – 15:00 min
Xiaomi Notebook Air 132.84 GHz (B+78%) @ 80°C2.16 GHz (B+35%) @ 71°C2.03 GHz (B+28%) @ 76°C
Lenovo Yoga C9302.91GHz (B+82%)@ 91°C2.72 GHz (B+70%)@ 95°C2.42 GHz (B+51%)@ 85°C

Looking at the table you can notice an interesting behavior of the
cooling solution. With short loads, it achieves a fairly high frequency
at a not very high temperature. However, it shortly gives up and settles
around 2.16 GHz which is still well above the base clock speeds but a
tad lower than some of the competition. The reason of this headroom may
be found in two possible scenarios. One of them is giving some space for
when the MX150 is used since they share the same heat pipe. The next
one is the longevity of the device and noise reduction. No matter of the
reason we didn’t find any issues since the Notebook Air 13 felt super
responsive at all times.


Real gameplay















GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min)GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min)
Xiaomi Notebook Air 131264 MHz @ 65°C1236 MHz @ 73°C

In a real-world scenario of playing video games, the GeForce MX150 on
this device maintained fairly adequate temperatures. However, in order
to achieve that, the system lowered its clock speed to around 1250 MHz,
which is 250 MHz less than the Base frequency. Keeping in mind that
Notebook Air 13 is not a gaming device, we can forgive this minor
imperfection.


Gaming comfort


In extended periods of gaming Xiaomi Notebook Air 13 gets a little
hot on the outside especially in the middle of the keyboard. This can
give quite an unpleasant feel to your fingers.



Verdict


 Let’s conclude our review by saying that this is definitely not a cheap device. At $800 it is more expensive than some of the more common visitors to our office. The Notebook Air 13 is easily comparable to the Asus ZenBook UX430. First of all, let’s say that Xiaomi didn’t borrow only the exterior design from Apple. What we found very similar to the MacBook was the hinge design. The feel of opening the lid and the ease of doing so was basically the same.

Performance-wise, we got pretty average results for the available
Core i5-8250U CPU. This is definitely not a bad thing, especially given
the low temperatures that we got in our stress test (plus, it has an
absurdly fast NVMe SSD). Things, however, worsen when you add a graphics
load. Despite keeping internal temperatures relatively low, we noticed
high external ones, with the hottest point of the keyboard area
measuring around 57°C. This results in quite an uncomfortable
experience.


Speaking of keyboard experience, we can’t help but say that this is
one of the worst keyboards we’ve ever used. It neither has decent
travel, nor feedback. The touchpad on the other side is pretty accurate
if we don’t take into account the input lag. Obviously, you have to give
up something in order to keep the price down but compromising the input
devices is not the right way. Xiaomi, you can do better than that!

So let’s put things that way – if you are a fan of Xiaomi devices,
the chances are high that you are going to love this product. On the
contrary, if you are looking for the best laptop for the cheapest price,
we wouldn’t exactly recommend this computer. Obviously, we are biased,
since keyboards are quite important to us, but the Xiaomi Notebook Air
13 is more or less a device for content absorption, rather than content
creation.




Pros



  • Fast and responsive performance

  • The picture quality is vibrant and contrasty

  • Relatively good thermal management

  • Rigid build quality

  • Battery life above expectations

  • Fast and accurate fingerprint reader



Cons



  • Input devices are far from the best and tough to get used to








Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air13.3 inch Mi Laptop Fingerprint Recognition i5-8250U Intel Core 8GB DDR4 256GB


$1069.99


$855.99


















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