Xiaomi enters laptop market with Mi Notebook Air

It looks like an Apple notebook, and it's named like one, though the Mi runs Windows and will be cheaper, starting at roughly $525. Two configurations will begin shipping later this month in China -- but will they ever be available elsewhere?
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

The Mi Notebook Air is Xiaomi's first laptop.

A quick Google search for "Xiaomi" and "Apple" gives a hint at how the Chinese manufacturer is perceived compared to the U.S. tech giant: "Xiaomi Apple clone," "Xiaomi Apple copycat," and "Xiaomi Apple ripoff" are related searches that are suggested for users seeking further information. With its first laptop, Xiaomi isn't likely to shed those associations anytime soon.

The company has just announced the long-rumored system, which it has not-so-coyly named the Mi Notebook Air. If that sounds a bit like Apple's MacBook Air, then a quick look at the laptop will leave little doubt from where Xiaomi has gathered inspiration for the Mi (which carries on the company's Mi brand from its Apple iPhone 6 Plus competitor, the Mi Note). While it offers a 12.5-inch version instead of an 11-inch model, both that configuration and the 13.3-inch edition are clearly indebted to the MacBook thin-and-light aesthetic, weighing under 3 pounds and measuring less than 0.6 inches thick.

Of course, as with its smartphones, Xiaomi can "borrow" the looks from Apple devices, but can't put its software on them. The Mi Notebook Air thus ships with Windows 10, and has decent specs to run it. The smaller Mi uses an Intel Core m3 processor, 4 gigs of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive, while its 13.3-inch sibling features a Core i5-6200U CPU, double the RAM and storage, and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics. The 12.5-inch Mi eeks out more battery life, however: 11.5 hours compared to 9.5 hours for the 13.3-inch Mi.

The one major difference between Xiaomi and Apple's products is price. Thanks to its budget friendly offerings, Xiaomi is a leader in the Chinese phone market, and arguably helped to force Apple to create the budget iPhone 5c. Likewise, the Mi Notebook Air models undercut MacBook prices, with the 12.5-inch version coming in at roughly $525 and the 13.3-inch flavor starting at $750. Note that these are approximations, as the company will be releasing these new laptops only in China beginning on August 2.

While it's not out of the question that Xiaomi could bring the Mi Notebook to other markets, there are no plans to sell it in areas beyond China. The company does sell some products in the U.S., like headphones and set-top boxes, but not its phones. Cautious of lawsuits in countries that are less tolerant of patent infringement, Xiaomi could make the same decision with its laptops, though there will probably be ways to export them from Asia. Check out our sister site CNET's hands-on experience with the Mi Notebook Air if you want to see what might be missing from our shores.

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