Smartphone brands are obsessed with the term “flagship”. Head over to social media and there’s some smartphone brand announcing a new “flagship” phone at unbelievably lowly prices. A Snapdragon 865, a 90Hz refresh rate display, quad-cameras, fast charging – these are so common in 2020 that I end up yawning at spec sheets these days. But then, these phones fall back with a sub-par user experience. When Xiaomi announced the Mi 10T series for India, I assumed I would be yawning again. But, I was wrong.

The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro looks like another one of those feature-rich phones that barely cares about the end user experience. After all, it runs the same MIUI 12 you find on a Redmi Note 9 Pro, so the experience should take a hit, right? My perception changed as soon as I took it out of the box. The Mi 10T Pro feels like a flagship and when you check the price tag, you feel like a winner. However, it does not feel as special as the Mi 10 5G and is definitely not a successor.

But is it as good as the other T phone, i.e. OnePlus 8T? Since I reviewed the OnePlus phone a few weeks ago, I am in a good spot to answer that.

Design

Xiaomi makes some of the best-looking affordable smartphones in India. Hence, for its flagship offering, it is obvious to have high expectations. After all, a premium phone needs to look and feel good ahead of everything else. The Mi 10T Pro is an absolute stunner, with that psychedelic mirror finish at the back.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

There are people who like the new sophisticated matte finishes on new phones but I belong to the group that likes it blingy. Just look at the Mi 10T Pro from all the angles carefully – there’s no part left devoid of the shiny reflective surfaces. The metal frame, the front, and the rear add up to a impart a feeling that this thing is made out of a single block of mirror. I had the black one but it barely gave a dark tint to the rear.

Of course, this much gloss on a smartphone means smudges, and boy oh boy, the Mi 10T Pro loves smudges. I had to keep wiping it every 30 minutes to retain its “new phone” look. Xiaomi bundles a case with the phone and that should help decrease the wiping process by a huge margin. The Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the front, back and the camera hump is a nice assurance against scratches. I did not find any major nicks in my time, although it would take a few months to start seeing the ageing process.

Once you keep aside the blingy glossy aspect, you notice the big camera module. It is weird in every way yet it made me want to look at it more than ever. Xiaomi is highlighting the 108-megapixel camera here and it surely stands out. Don’t be fooled by the four extra circles below it – there’s only two more actual cameras. The last one is the flash while the other one is just a placeholder.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

The front looks fairly modern with its narrow-bezel edge-to-edge display, complete with a punch-hole cutout for the camera. Since this is an LCD display, the bezels are thicker than the Mi 10 5G. In fact, the chin has grown considerably to house the drivers and chips, all of which makes the Mi 10T Pro look less expensive from the front. Oh, the display is flat at the edges – no curved edges like the Mi 10. I think the Mi 10 5G in comparison looks stunning from the front.

On the whole, the Mi 10T Pro looks stunning with its shiny outfit but I still can’t get over the elegant design of the Mi 10 5G. That phone looks good in every way.

Display

Xiaomi has talked a great deal about the Mi 10T Pro’s display. It’s huge at 6.67-inches and has a resolution of 1080p. The refresh rate is capped to 144Hz, which is among the fastest displays in the smartphone market. Moreover, it is an IPS LCD panel, which is a stark deviation from the AMOLED screens on the Mi 10 and Redmi K20 Pro.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

Geeks and nerds may have reservations about the LCD display but the fact is that LCD displays are better at getting the natural color tones compared to AMOLEDs. On the Mi 10T Pro, you surely miss out on those “punchy’ colors and “deep blacks”. That said, I use an iPhone SE and that has a superbly tuned LCD display. The one on the Mi 10T Pro is almost as good as that, if not better.

 

Better in the sense that Xiaomi rates the panel with a JNCD rating of 0.39, which in layman’s English translates to great color accuracy. Whether I was getting through my office emails or watching the iPhone 12 reviews, I enjoyed it watching on the Mi 10T Pro. The display gets plenty bright indoors and the natural tuning of the colors meant I was confident of judging photo qualities directly on the phone’s display.

The 144Hz refresh rate mode makes for smoother scrolling as well as animations, and I figured out the instances when the 7-stage variable refresh rate thing worked. In Amazon Prime movies, I felt the refresh rate dropped to 24 during a movie and bumped up to 60 while watching a YouTube video. Most games are capped at 90 or 120Hz, and making out the difference between these numbers is tough to my naked eyes. All I know is that the display stayed buttery smooth throughout.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

One area where I felt the display lacked was outdoor brightness. At noon, I was barely able to see the display. The 650 nits of maximum brightness doesn’t allow for good outdoor eligibility. The OnePlus 8T rocks in comparison with its 1000+ nits of peak brightness. Although, at night, you can dial down the brightness to extremely low levels.

Performance

The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro uses the fairly new Snapdragon 865 chip paired to 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Technically, this is faster than the setup on the OnePlus 8T. In fact, it is faster for all the smartphone tasks you can throw at the phone right now. I tried a few sessions of Call of Duty Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends, both of which worked at the best. The phone was handling the games at the highest graphics quality without any bother.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

What matters the most is the software experience and how it handles the daily apps as well as tasks. Xiaomi is shipping the Mi 10T Pro with MIUI 12 based on Android 10, with a couple of Google apps replacing some stock MIUI apps. MIUI 12 is is a visual spectacle for a custom operating system and I enjoyed using it on the Mi 10T Pro. It is fast and is efficient at managing a bunch of apps at once. I did not notice lags or jitters while opening games or switching between resource-intensive apps.

The layout is similar to Apple’s iOS but all of Android’s core features are present in the right places. There’s an app drawer to shove the apps in, while the Google feed is a swipe away from the homescreen. The interface appears cleaner than MIUI 11 and most premium phone buyers could end up liking it a lot. There are hundreds of customization options you can delve in – right from changing fonts, to themes, to tweaking the status bar, to modifying the Control Center, and more. There’s so much to do with MIUI and that makes the user experience lively.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

MIUI means ads for many and on the Mi 10T Pro, Xiaomi is promising none. I did not see any ads within the system interface. My review unit ran on an early build and it came with the Zili app pre-installed. Xiaomi says the retail units won’t ship with that. I also found the Facebook, Amazon, WPS Office apps re-installed – all of which can be removed easily. There are some MIUI apps too but I find most of them useful on a daily basis.

 

On the whole, I like the MIUI 12 experience on the Mi 10T Pro. The cartoonish appeal of its UI design worked for me. That said, I missed the Super Wallpapers here – Xiaomi limits that to phones with AMOLED displays. Your personal preferences may vary.

Other minute things that caught my attention include the haptic feedback. The vibration motor is better and I got superb feedback while typing, or while navigating through the UI. It’s not as good as the iPhones’ haptics but it’s close enough – you will need to experience this in person to understand. The side-mounted fingerprint sensor is fast to unlock and easy to reach. Additionally, the hefty 218 grams of mass makes for a satisfying in-hand feel.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

What I missed was the awesome loudspeaker performance from the Mi 10. The one on the Mi 10T Pro doesn’t sound as good but it compensates for the quality with better loudness. Call quality was good via the earpiece and I did not notice any drop in network in challenging areas.

Cameras

Xiaomi has kept the basic camera setup similar to the one from the Mi 10 5G. Hence, you get the same 108-megapixel camera paired with a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 5-megapixel macro camera. The T series loses the depth camera from the Mi 10 series. The front camera remains the same too, with its 20-megapixel Samsung sensor. Basically, the camera hardware remains unchanged.

What’s changed, however, is the software tuning. While reviewing the Mi 10, I found its cameras to oversaturate the colors even with the AI mode switched off. The Mi 10T Pro’s cameras try to go for more natural tones in comparison, with AI mode turned off. I personally like the natural approach to photo tuning and I loved what the Mi 10T Pro had to offer. Colors are just right based on the scene while there’s an impressive balance between contrast, exposure, and white balance.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

With challenging lighting, the Mi 10T Pro adapts accordingly and it continues to give out good looking photos. The camera keeps the saturation under control but it enhances only when it is necessary. At night, the large 108-megapixel sensor is more than enough for handling tricky shots. I was surprised to see the details it retains. The Night Mode is just these if you want slightly sharper images with lesser noise. The 108MP mode in daylight allows for highly detailed shots and you can keep zooming in and still be impressed with the details the photo holds. I enjoyed using the Mi 10T Pro’s cameras a lot.

Sadly, some of the hardware limitations haven’t been fixed. The 108-megapixel sensor has a very narrow focal plane and that means your photos may often be out of focus. Edges of subjects in close-ups tend to blur as well.

The 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera does not match the main sensor in terms of details or sharpness. However, as long as you are not pixel peeping, you will get great looking photos in most conditions. The closer-to-natural color tuning of the wide-angle camera left me impressed and the skewing effect isn’t noticeable at the corners of the frame.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

The 5-megapixel macro camera is good in comparison with macro camera standards. It works well in broad daylight and you can get good looking close-ups easily. However, I preferred to take the same photo using the 108MP mode and crop it to get a better result. Portrait mode photos have excellent subject separation for most common objects and humans.

Video quality is great on the Mi 10T Pro. You can record up to 8K videos in decent quality. However, I found the performance way better in 4K and 1080p. The videos look closer to natural with tamed colors and nice stabilization. There are issues with focus hunting at times but I did not face major issues with that. I also liked the exposure management while shooting subjects with emitting varying light levels.

The 20-megapixel camera is equally good and I was impressed by the way it managed the color tones. The skin tones were still more reddish than I preferred but for most people, selfies will be more than good enough with this phone.

Battery

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

The Mi 10T Pro uses a 5000mAh battery to keep itself alive and as expected, the phone offers exceptional battery life. I put the Mi 10T Pro through my regular work routine, including frequent calls, video meetings, social media browsing, watching YouTube videos occasionally, and taking product shots. The Mi 10T lasted an entire day and then made it to the next afternoon. I left the phone in the 144Hz refresh rate mode always and kept the auto-brightness switched on. If you care for good battery life on a premium phone, the Mi 10T Pro is a good pick.

Xiaomi has upgraded the wired charging system. With the new dual-split charging system in place, the Mi 10T Pro charges in less than an hour with the supplied charger. Since Xiaomi did not send me the charger, I used the 27W fast charger from the Poco X2 and it filled up the battery in just under 1.5 hours. Sadly, Xiaomi skipped the fast wireless charging on the T phones. In fact, there’s no wireless charging at all on the Mi 10T Pro.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro: Should you buy it?

After spending close to two weeks with the Mi 10T Pro, I have arrived at this conclusion – the Mi 10T Pro isn’t the successor to the Mi 10 5G. Xiaomi may present it as an updated model but in essence, it is simply a watered-down version of the Mi 10 5G selling at lower prices. It loses the brilliant AMOLED display in favor of the 144Hz LCD, loses one camera, and loses the wireless charging. The Mi 10 5G is still the true flagship from Xiaomi in India and it is an enjoyable experience on the whole.

Does that mean the Mi 10T Pro is not good? If you have gone through my review, I have listed so many things the Mi 10T Pro does just right. It has one of the best LCD displays on a smartphone with a buttery-smooth 144Hz refresh rate. The camera tuning is superior to the Mi 10’s setup when it comes to image post-processing. The phone easily lasts an entire day even for smartphone addicts like me.  The MIUI 12 interface makes for a zingy user experience. And boy does it look good! An absolute eye candy, especially that mirror back. The Mi 10T Pro delivers a proper flagship experience, albeit just a notch below the Mi 10 5G.

At Rs 39,999, the Mi 10T Pro comes close to the OnePlus 8T and so far, I found both of these phones equally capable. Some may prefer the OnePlus approach to a premium smartphone, i.e. a slick software experience with super-fast charging, while others may like what Xiaomi has to offer. It is simply a matter of which experience you find favorable. I personally prefer the Mi 10T Pro for its great battery life and the amazing cameras. If you want to save some bucks, the regular Mi 10T with the 64-megapixel main camera is an even better deal.

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