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Laptops

Xiaomi's $750 laptop is like a MacBook Air with gaming hardware inside

The Chinese phone maker ventures into the laptop biz with two sleek new machines, the more powerful of which should be able to offer enough power for gaming.

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Sept 1, 2016 update: Xiaomi's Mi Notebook Air isn't quite as novel as the company's hoverboard or latest drone, but it does have one thing most other ultraportable laptops lack -- a discrete Nvidia GeForce 940MXa graphics card. Other specs include a 256GB solid-state drive and 8GB of RAM, and if you need more space there's an additional SATA slot available to boost storage by up to 256GB.

Given its graphics prowess, the 13.3-inch Mi Notebook Air has few rivals -- at least on paper. Similar ultraportables, such as the Razer Blade Stealth, rely on Intel's integrated graphics to do the legwork, which means their gaming potential is limited. Xiaomi says you can play games like Dota 2 at 85 frames per second at full-HD resolution on its Notebook Air.

Of course, it won't be long until Apple rolls out its new generation of Mac laptops. According to Bloomberg, the company is working on new versions of the iMac desktop, MacBook Air laptop, and a thinner MacBook Pro laptop. Though there's no official word, rumors suggest that the new Macs could appear sometime later this year -- perhaps even as soon as October.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

Editors' note: The original Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air write up, first published in July 2016, follows.

Xiaomi's Mi Notebook Air is one of the slimmest and lightest ultraportables on the market with a discrete graphics card. I tried out the notebook at the press event and came away impressed with the build quality. There are some things that could still be better, though, such as the flex of the notebook at the keyboard area. It just doesn't feel as solid as the Apple MacBook Air that it imitates.

I do, however, like the keyboard. It feels great to type on and the keys have just the right amount of clickiness. It's definitely a lot better than the Asus Zenbook 3, which I also tried out when it launched in June this year. While the audio doesn't feel hollow compared with other laptops, the sound is blasted through the bottom of the notebook, which makes the palm area vibrate. That can be a distracting sensation, so it's best to use a headset if you plan to game with the Mi Notebook Air.

Key specs

  • Intel Core i5-6200U, up to 2.7GHz
  • 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
  • 13.3-inch, full-HD (1,920x1,080-pixels)
  • 309 by 210.9 by 14.8 mm; 1.28 kg (2.82 pounds)
  • Type-C USB for charging, 2x USB 3.0, 1x HDMI, 3.5mm audio port
  • 40Wh battery, 9.5 hours

Xiaomi also announced a 12.5-inch version of the Mi Notebook Air that is slightly thinner and lighter at 12.9 mm and 1.07 kg (2.36 pounds). The 12.5-inch will lack discrete graphics, have only a 128GB SSD, 4GB RAM and use an Intel Core-M processor. That downgrading of specs comes with an upside, however -- a battery life of 11.5 hours, 2 hours longer than the 13.3-inch model.

If you're lusting for either one of these laptops, the bad news is that Xiaomi will only officially sell the Mi Notebook Air in China. They go on sale on August 2 and will retail for 4,999 yuan (this converts to about $750, £570 and AU$1,000) and 3,499 yuan (or about $525, £400 and AU$725) respectively.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

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