Test of MIUI 13, Xiaomi’s Android 12 overlay “between tradition and modernity”

The rollout of MIUI 13 continues on more and more Xiaomi, Redmi and Poco smartphones. I have been able to use this Android overlay, based on Android 12, on many different models such as the Xiaomi 12X, the Poco F4 GT or the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G. MIUI 13 may be a very busy interface that Android 12 lacked a bit, but I appreciate it for its many customization options and variety of features. And this, despite its very notable flaws.

For this full test of MIUI 13, I will discuss the overall design of the interface, its range of functions, fluidity and stability, as well as Xiaomi’s update policy.

Overview:

Design

MIUI has always been a busy interface and far removed from the original Android design. MIUI 13 is no exception. We have animations everywhere, a very distinct visual identity, in short, MIUI is flashy.

Sometimes I think it’s a very good thing, like with the Xiaomi Super Wallpapers, these very successful animated wallpapers. Or the MIUI Control Center, this shortcut menu with its large, easy-to-read and airy tiles. Despite what the haters are saying, MIUI 13 clearly has an iOS side to its design and that’s a good thing in my opinion.

The Xiaomi 12X runs on MIUI 13 but based on Android 11 and not on Android 12 / © NextPit

Other times, on the other hand, I find that the design of MIUI 13 lacks refinement, or rather finish. The notifications or quick access menu items are frankly less appealing than their Android 12 equivalents, which are much more austere and minimalist. In addition, I really regret that Xiaomi has not bothered to implement Android 12’s dynamic themes, which adapt the color of the interface to the dominant color of your wallpaper.

Some native applications, such as Security, Cleaner or the battery utility, have very nice animations and ergonomic structure. But others, like the browser, are frankly overloaded and seriously lacking in care.

Full review of Xiaomi's MIUI 13

The interface of MIUI 13 is full of animations / © NextPit

The widgets of MIUI 13 are also very cool and visually successful. Finally that is if you have a Xiaomi smartphone under Chinese ROM. Yes, because the famous widgets that Xiaomi has given us as a carrot are, well, a carrot. They are not available in the global and European version of MIUI 13.

Full review of Xiaomi's MIUI 13

The global version of MIUI 13 is missing Xiaomi’s new widgets / © NextPit

Functions

MIUI 13 is a very versatile Android overlay. I think you will have noticed by seeing my many dedicated tutorials if you follow NextPit a bit.

I could call pell-mell the Back Tap function that allows you to tap on the back of the Xiaomi smartphone to perform certain actions, such as an extra hotkey. Or the Quick Ball menu, which provides access to a series of shortcuts via a floating bubble from your home screen.

Xiaomi MIUI 13 Quick Ball Menu

Here’s how to activate the Quick Ball menu on your Xiaomi smartphone / © NextPit

Some options are more unusual, such as the function to clean the speakers of your Xiaomi smartphone yourself, for example. But you can really have fun digging into the settings and experimenting with lots of features. I really like that Xiaomi offers so many possibilities to its users.

MIUI mandatory, there is also a whole range of native applications to clear the cache, clean the storage and free up RAM, such as the security and cleaning applications. And I remain convinced that Xiaomi should just integrate them into the settings instead of making them separate applications.

MIUI 13 also offers many multitasking features, such as floating windows, which are very intuitive, or the sidebar that allows you to access your favorite applications through a contextual menu by swiping the edge of your home screen.

Full review of Xiaomi's MIUI 13

MIUI 13’s floating windows are intuitive but do not work with all applications (eg Google Chrome) / © NextPit

The screen settings are also very complete and allow you to adjust the colorimetry in a much more advanced way than with other manufacturers. And — it’s my indulgence — MIUI 13’s battery utility is one of the best Android superchargers out there. We have a real history, with an interactive graph, a nice animation to indicate the charge level and an ergonomic switch to switch from one battery saving mode to another. Samsung and Oppo should take notes.

Full review of Xiaomi's MIUI 13

Screen colorimetry is highly customizable in MIUI 13 / © NextPit

Privacy

Finally, MIUI 13 also logically emphasizes privacy. We find the Privacy Dashboard of Android 12 to manage all its authorizations well.

Xiaomi also offers some additional options which I find very clever. For example, we can mention the possibility to put a “watermark” or a signature on the images you want to share. This allows them to be traced if someone ever decides to hijack one of your selfies to create a meme (as well as for more serious situations like plagiarism or even harassment).

Full review of Xiaomi's MIUI 13

You can digitally sign your images before sharing / © NextPit

But the privacy settings are seriously amputated compared to MIUI 12.5, I think. We no longer have the ability to create a virtual ID to provide, for example, a generic advertising ID when you browse the web.

And time and again we find ads in MIUI 13. This is certainly the biggest flaw of this overlay and it affects all price ranges, even high-end smartphones.

So, of course, you can easily disable ads in MIUI, but it’s still a big turn-off for users. And this clearly erodes confidence in the manufacturer.

Ergonomics, fluidity and stability

If MIUI 13 can boast of high quality compared to other Android interfaces, it is its fluidity. Animations, transitions between two applications, scrolling menus or news feeds when navigating the interface, etc. Everything works fine.

Although I have used MIUI 13 on high-end smartphones for 1000 euros and mid-range smartphones for 200 euros, Xiaomi has mastered the optimization of the overlay very well. And it is above all the continuity of this fluidity that delivers the user experience (yes, I know, that means nothing). What I mean by this is that once you lock, you are immersed in a series of animations that follow each other well.

On the other hand, I think Xiaomi can make a lot of progress in terms of ergonomics of its interface. Having to swipe left to get the notification drawer and right to get the MIUI Control Center is frankly counterintuitive. Fortunately, we can go back to the old system where everything is grouped together.

Xiaomi MIUI 13 Control Center

Left and in the middle the new version with Control Center and separate notification panel. On the right the old version. / © NextPit

Having 15 different privacy settings menus is also a big mistake in my opinion. We have a dedicated security application, a Privacy Dashboard section, a Passwords & Security section, and a Confidentiality (Google Data) section. It’s a real gasworks and we have to juggle all these menus to make sure we’ve activated and deactivated what is needed.

Full review of Xiaomi's MIUI 13

MIUI 13 does not bring many new privacy features / © NextPit

A final word on the file manager. Xiaomi wanted it far too exhaustive, close to what is done on a Windows PC. There are way too many files and it’s easy to get lost.

Full review of Xiaomi's MIUI 13

Xiaomi overdoes it with MIUI 13 file manager / © NextPit

Updates and Compatibility

One of the other advantages of MIUI is its very high compatibility. For each of Xiaomi’s ranges and sub-brands, there are several dozen models that have already received or will receive the update to MIUI 13.

Just a small problem, not all versions of MIUI 13 are based on Android 12, especially on the most affordable smartphones of the brand. We sometimes get stuck on Android 11.

We should also take into account Xiaomi’s lack of transparency regarding its update policy. I would like to acknowledge that lately the manufacturer has made efforts to clarify the software maintenance of certain models, especially flagships. But unlike Samsung, in the vast majority of cases, Xiaomi is satisfied with the union minimum with two versions of Android and three years of security updates.

In any case, Xiaomi never indicates how often the security patches will be (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually?) and it is difficult to know how long your Xiaomi, Redmi or Poco smartphone will stay up to date. We can console ourselves by saying that we will take advantage of many MIUI updates in order not to be dropped too much by Android and Google in terms of functionality over time.

Conclusion

With MIUI 13, Xiaomi has not fundamentally changed the MIUI 12.5 recipe. The Android interface is still as fluid, customizable and feature-rich as ever. However, it has missed Android 12 in terms of design, which is frankly a shame. And I also think the global and European (EEA) versions are left out too much in terms of what’s new.

In addition to fluidity, which remains the main strength of MIUI 13, it is also and above all the choice that Xiaomi leaves to its users. We really have a complete software solution to tailor your user experience to your needs and preferences. Even the less relevant features, such as heart rate monitoring via the fingerprint reader, are a perk that is always handy to have.

But the repercussion of this variety of functions and customization options is sometimes – not always – the impression of being confronted with a real gas factory. Xiaomi should also double down on confidentiality and offer clearer, more centralized settings. I also think that ads have nothing to do with high-end smartphones.

And you, what do you think of MIUI 13? Do you use the Android overlay on a daily basis? What is your feedback?

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