Xiaomi 13 Ultra launch threatens Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera crown

Xiaomi 13 Ultra 16:9 press image against wall
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Xiaomi's new uber-flagship – the Xiaomi 13 Ultra – just made its debut in China, and while the verdict is still out on whether we'll see it release internationally, it packs a photographic punch that looks purpose-built to give the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra a run for its money.

There have long been rumblings about an 'Ultra' entry to join the Xiaomi 13, Xiaomi 13 Pro and Xiaomi 13 Lite – which the Chinese phone maker brought to the international market earlier this year – but following a livestream which kicked off at 12pm BST on April 18, we now know all the juicy details surrounding the phone, including its price.

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra looks like a direct evolution of the design enjoyed by the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, while building on the impressive camera hardware found on both the 12S Ultra and 13 Pro. The same 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor we've seen across these previous devices appears on the 13 Ultra too, however, this time it comes equipped with a new variable aperture (able to switch between f/1.9 and f/4.0); reminiscent of phones like the Huawei Mate 50 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S9 long before that.

That's just one piece of this phone's photographic puzzle, however, with a quad camera setup on the back consisting of not one, but four 50MP sensors (that IMX989 and three IMX858s), with one of those secondary sensors set as an ultrawide, while the other two offer 3.3x and 5.2x optical zoom, respectively. Sensor cropping also grants the 13 Ultra two additional optically-zoomed focal lengths (46mm or 2x and 240mm or 10.42x zoom) without the need for a further two sensors (a trick we've seen on both the Google Pixel 7 series and iPhone 14 Pro line).

Rewatch the Xiaomi 13 Ultra's reveal above (English dub)

The phone's design is reportedly inspired by Leica M cameras, with an 'anti-bacterial nanotech silicon leather back' that certainly looks the part, concealing the thickness around the raised camera module that gives the phone its notable 9.06mm profile. This has, however, allowed Xiaomi to squeeze that 5.2x optical 'super-telephoto' zoom lens in without the need for the folded optics of comparable telephoto sensors found in phones like the Google Pixel 7 Pro (5x zoom) and the Galaxy S23 Ultra (10x zoom).

If the camera experience didn't seem Pro enough, Xiaomi also showcased a full set of add-ons, including a wireless camera grip with a physical shutter button and a detachable 67mm filter adapter ring; for those who really want to narrow the gap between phone and camera. The accessory pack is priced at CNY¥999 (approximately $145 / £120 / AU$215), with Xiaomi stating limited availability at launch.

While there's a lot more that could be said about the Xiaomi 13 Ultra's powerful-looking camera system – including its 'custom photographic styles' and Leica filters, let's take a look at the rest of the phone's feature set.

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Xiaomi 13 Ultra specs
Header Cell - Column 1
Dimensions:163.18 x 74.64 x 9.06mm
Weight:227 grams
Display:6.73-inch 20:9 WQHD+ 120Hz LTPO C7 AMOLED, protected by Gorilla Glass Victus
Chipset:Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Storage:256GB / 512GB / 1TB (UFS 4.0)
OS:Android 13 w/ MIUI 14
Primary camera:50MP (Sony IMX989), f/1.9 & f/4.0, 23mm 1-inch sensor w/ OIS + variable aperture
Ultrawide camera:50MP (Sony IMX858), f/1.8, 120° FoV
Telephoto camera:50MP (Sony IMX858), f/1.8, 75mm, 3.3x optical zoom w/ OIS
Super-telephoto camera:50MP (Sony IMX858), f/3.0, 120mm, 5.2x optical zoom w/ OIS
Front camera:32MP, f/2.0
Charging:90W (wired), 50W (wireless), reverse wireless charging
Colors:Black, white, Olive Green

Like the Xiaomi 13 and 13 Pro, the Ultra runs on Qualcomm's latest and greatest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, paired with the fastest and most power-efficient LPDDR5X RAM and UFS 4.0 storage currently available in the mobile market; up to 16GB and 1TB, respectively.

The user experience, meanwhile, should be familiar to those who've used any recent Xiaomi phone, powered by the brand's latest MIUI 14 experience (atop Android 13).

Other highlights include an astoundingly bright (2,600nit peak) WQHD+ C7 AMOLED display, improved cooling over previous entries, a sizeable 5,000mAh battery with 90W fast wired charging (as well as 50W wireless charging) and faster USB 3.2 support; ideal for transferring sizeable 8K and 10-bit log videos, along with 14-bit raw photos, all of which the 13 Ultra supports.

In China, Xiaomi has priced the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, as follows:

  • 12GB RAM / 256GB = CNY¥5,999 (approximately $875 / £700 / AU$1,300)
  • 16GB RAM / 512GB = CNY¥6,499 (approximately $945 / £760 / AU$1,400)
  • 16GB RAM / 1TB = CNY¥7,299 (approximately $1,060 / £855 / AU$1,575)

While availability remains up in the air internationally, there's a slim chance that – unlike the 12S Ultra – this new uber-flagship will make it beyond Chinese borders; not least because of Xiaomi's willingness to host an English-language live stream on YouTube, alongside its native Chinese live stream on Weibo. The phone is also detailed on the company's regional websites, including Xiaomi UK, which could also be seen as a hint towards an intended global rollout.

We're left crossing our fingers, and if it does go international, this new Ultra would undoubtedly find a place on our rundown of the best Xiaomi phones and best camera phones, and that's just for starters.

Alex Walker-Todd
Senior Phones Editor

Alex joined as TechRadar's Senior Phones Editor in June 2022, but brings over a decade's worth of experience to the role, with an expertise in smartphones, tablets and wearables. He's covered keynotes hosted by the biggest brands and attended the launches for some of the most influential mobile products of the last few years. His experience was amassed at some of the most reputable consumer technology publications out there, including GSMArena, TechAdvisor and Trusted Reviews.