Xiaomi 14 CIVI is a pure value flagship that’s all in on the Leica proposition - Hindustan Times

Xiaomi 14 CIVI is a pure value flagship that’s all in on the Leica proposition

Jun 19, 2024 11:32 AM IST

This is the first time Leica’s professional camera system figures in a phone costing lesser than ₹50,000

This year has been good for Xiaomi’s premiumisation plans. Both phones in the flagship series, have delivered on experience and refinement, the way they were supposed. And tackled two different preference demographics too – the Xiaomi 14 a rare uncompromising experience with a fantastic Leica camera for those who prefer a compact phone, and the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, a true big screen flagship with Leica’s smarts defining photography. It is no surprise then, that Xiaomi wants to leverage the momentum in India, by expanding the series to make it a troika. The Xiaomi 14 CIVI, where the CIVI apparently stands for “cinematic vision”, isn’t a forced fit.

The phone comes with a starting price of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>39,999. (Vishal Mathur | HT Photo)
The phone comes with a starting price of 39,999. (Vishal Mathur | HT Photo)

The common thread between the 14 and the 14 Ultra, the Leica expertise optimising camera performance, figures prominently with the 14 CIVI too. I’ve still not got to the point that defines value. Here it is – with a starting price of 39,999, this becomes the first phone below the 50,000 price point to have Leica’s professional camera system. There are subtle changes across the board to distinguish this from its elder sibling, the Xiaomi 14 (mind you, this is priced 69,999 onwards). Some of them, to keep costs in check. One of those examples is the 50-megapixel ultrawide in the 14 being replaced by a 12-megapixel ultrawide in the 14 CIVI.

But largely, it’s a similar proposition as far as the experience goes. In a way, I do believe Xiaomi 14 CIVI, 14 and 14 Ultra are a troika that’s more capable across the board, than Samsung’s Galaxy 24 when weighed against the Galaxy S24+, which in turn has little parity with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Except perhaps One UI. In my review of the Xiaomi 14, I had noted that despite the 6.36-inch screen being significantly smaller than the 6.7-inch screen I was switching from, the transition was smoother than expected. In case of the 14 CIVI, it was a notch simpler still, to a 6.55-inch screen.

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HyperOS and its layout deserves a lot of credit for that. Resolution remains the same, and spacing differences aren’t noticeable since sharpness remains similar. Xiaomi’s retained a similar mix of the Gorilla Glass Victus and aluminum frame, though the back panel finish will depend on the colour option you choose — Green gets a vegan leather one, for instance.

It must be said that Xiaomi’s differentiation between the 14 and the 14 CIVI, has a hint of subtleness. The former utilised the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen3 chip, the latter despite its lower price tag is still staying in the same ballpark with the Snapdragon 8s Gen3. Alongside, UFS 4.0 storage standard continues, as do the memory options. The 14 CIVI only occasionally feels tepid on the back, that’s when the camera has been in use for a while, capturing one beautiful photo after another. Even then, it doesn’t stutter, feel sluggish or hamper switching between apps. It is this intense summer, more than the last few years, we’ve discovered convincingly how few phones can achieve that level of calmness.

With the Leica branding on a phone that’s the most affordable one to get this treatment as yet, you’d expect nothing less than 14-esque levels of photography performance from the Xiaomi 14 CIVI. It resoundingly does for the most part, except the use of the ultrawide camera, which in this case is a wider but slightly lower megapixel count sensor. Except for that observation, it must be said that with the Leica Authentic and Leica Vibrant options, as well as lots of shooting modes, you’ll more often than not get a better photo than you feel you’re capable of. I’d not recommend complementing yourself too much – it’s Xiaomi’s Leica optimised camera which is remains astonishingly good.

It wouldn’t be too much to say that Leica’s tuned Authentic and Vibrant photo modes are akin to having two very different cameras in one. If possible, I’d recommend capturing the same shot in both modes – you may just realise the other one may be a better bet for sharing on social media. Whether in sunlight or an overcast outdoors with dark cloud, the dynamic range that returns in photos is worth appreciating. A slight reduction from 3.2x optical zoom to 2x optical zoom, but there’s little to worry since the image processing more than makes up for any potential loss of detailing.

It must be noted that Xiaomi and Leica’s camera optimisations are more reliant on the old school efforts of hardware and image processing together at work, and not the easy way out with artificial intelligence (AI) doing its own inconsistent efforts.

Whilst this phone completes the Xiaomi 14 series troika, it isn’t compromising on the core functionality that links it to the flagship roots. It is, after all, serious business since Leica’s reputation is at stake, as is the positioning for the Xiaomi 14 Ultra and the Xiaomi 14 in terms of perception. The camera proposition is very much on point, and a software update further refined the very fine imperfections with portraits for instance. You could always complain that video recording tops out at 4K resolution, and not 8K, but that’s just about it. The most affordable among three-strong flagship portfolio, it still plays to the strengths as you’d expect. The same cannot be said for its closest rivals, which lends more credence to Xiaomi’s efforts.

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