Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is a case study on how to make an affordable flagship. About how to make the right choices and the right compromises.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro 5G review: Out to eat OnePlus’s lunch

By: |
November 25, 2020 5:17 PM

T marks the spot.

Mi 10T Pro price in India is Rs 39,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Xiaomi had one job with the Mi 10T Pro, to not mess up a good thing. The good thing being the Mi 10 that the phone is loosely based on. The Mi 10 is a beautiful piece of hardware. With the Mi 10T Pro, Xiaomi is making that beautiful hardware even more accessible. There is also a vanilla Mi 10T that is virtually the same phone with a watered-down camera available at an even more affordable price.

The Mi 10T Pro price in India is Rs 39,999. This is for the model with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The Mi 10T comes in at a starting price of Rs 35,999 for the base model with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage and Rs 37,999 for 8GB/128GB.

I don’t know about you but surely, Xiaomi is giving me some serious OnePlus vibes here. It is out to eat its lunch. Whether or not it is able to do it will ultimately depend on whether it has done its job well, that is, to not mess up a good thing. Let us quickly get into it and find out who beat whom in this race to the mid-range “value flagship” throne.

Design and build quality

Mi 10T Pro comes in two colourways. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Xiaomi has used copious amounts of glass and metal in the Mi 10T Pro. The glass is Corning Gorilla Glass 5. It is there on the front, on the back, as well on top of the phone’s “massive” camera module. The outer frame is made of aluminum. On paper, the Mi 10T Pro appears thicker and chunkier than the Mi 10 but somehow it does not feel that way. Xiaomi has done a good job when it comes to weight distribution. The phone is very well balanced. The all-round design also adds to the ergonomics. The only thing stopping me from giving it a 10/10 is that camera module — it is, as I said, massive.

The Mi 10T Pro comes in two colourways, a glossy mirror-like cosmic black that is literally a haven for fingerprints and smudge, and a matte-y lunar silver. There are no fancy over-the-top gradients or unique tones on offer here. The Mi 10T Pro is a rather plain and simple looking phone, but one that stands out on its own with its simplicity. I really like that it looks nothing like the Mi 10 and even though it is technically a step below it in hierarchy, it has been given the same treatment when it comes to attention to detail. It is as premium, if not more. It exudes the same luxury, if not more.

The top and bottom ends are flat. The sides are curvy, but barely so. There is a side-mounted fingerprint scanner on the right that is fast and reliable — and easy to reach. The volume rocker that sits above it is also positioned right and offers excellent tactile feedback. The phone packs stereo speakers (no headphone jack), USB Type-C charging and an IR blaster, a popular Xiaomi staple. There is no official IP rating on this phone though, something that the OnePlus 8T has, so that is something you should keep in mind.

Display

The Mi 10T Pro uses IPS LCD. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Mi 10T Pro has a 6.67-inch 1080p+ display with a punch hole cut-out like the Mi 10 but that’s all that is common between the two phones.

The biggest difference comes by way of the panel. The Mi 10T Pro uses IPS LCD — while the Mi 10 uses Super AMOLED. LCD gets a lot of bad rap and is often seen as inferior to OLED but that is largely because brands have somewhere down the line accepted this unspoken rule and by extension, so have many smartphone users. It is probably easier to slap on an OLED display to fill spec-sheets rather than working on LCD to make it better. The result is even bad OLED passes off as a “pro” these days while having an LCD is almost always considered a “con.” Unless of course Apple does it, then it is all good — to be fair, Apple LCDs are really good. The Mi 10T Pro LCD is in the same league and that is saying a lot about what Xiaomi has been able to pull off here.

The display here gets very bright and shows true-to-life colours that look pleasing to the eyes. Viewing angles are also excellent. Aside from the lack of OLED-hallmark “inky” blacks and presence of a few backlight halos around the cut-out and chin, both of which you’d likely notice only and only when you’re pixel-peeping, the Mi 10T Pro’s LCD display can give much more expensive counterparts a run for their money.

There is 144Hz refresh rate. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

As a bonus, the Mi 10T Pro’s impressive LCD display is accompanied by a class-leading 144Hz refresh rate that is also adaptive — in the Mi 10, this is capped at 90Hz. This means the Mi 10T Pro display can automatically adjust to the content on the screen as a measure to save battery life, sort of like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — Xiaomi claims this ensures 8-10 hours of extra battery life over competing devices.

The technology that Xiaomi is using here seems to be levels higher than what spin-off brand Poco featured in the Poco X3. Not only can it theoretically switch between more stops (30Hz/48Hz/50Hz/60Hz/90Hz/120Hz/144Hz), it is also well implemented as unlike on the Poco X3, there are no noticeable stutters (ghosting) here while browsing through a page that involves different elements like text, images/GIFs, or videos.

If I was to nit-pick, MEMC or Motion Estimation, Motion Compensation is always on by default in the Mi 10T Pro. Also, it could have done with lesser bezels.

Performance and battery life

Mi 10T Pro is a flagship through and through. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Mi 10T Pro packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor, same as the Mi 10. This is paired with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage — this is non-expandable. There is 5G support. Software inside the phone is Android 10-based MIUI 12. Rounding off the package is a sizeable 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging support (this is 4,780mAh and 30W in the Mi 10).

Clearly, the Mi 10T Pro is a flagship through and through and it also performs like one. It is fast, it is fluid, and it does not get toasty during peak workloads. Battery life is outstanding too. This phone will easily get through one to even one and a half days on mixed usage without breaking a sweat. Xiaomi has optimized all the available resources well, so no complaints whatsoever.

At this point, it is important to talk about software, since it is both a good and bad thing — to the extent of being controversial — about Xiaomi phones. Let us start with the concerns, or the lack thereof. The Mi 10T Pro, being a Mi-branded phone does not show any ads. Post the government’s directive, all new Xiaomi phones including the Mi 10T Pro, ship without apps like TikTok — those that are banned in India. There is a lot of pre-installed bloatware though, some of which you cannot uninstall. Additionally, the Mi 10T Pro comes with Google dialler and SMS apps — and not Xiaomi’s own default versions. MIUI 12 also has many privacy-focused features baked in.

All this works very cohesively inside a phone like the Mi 10T Pro and even though keeping a check on privacy is not just a one-person job, it is nice to see Xiaomi taking constructive steps in this direction.

Everything else about Xiaomi software is up to the mark. It looks neat and is full of interesting features. Whether it is the universal dark mode, control centre view of quick settings, ultra-battery power saver and floating windows, or the app drawer and Google feed on the minus one screen, there is a lot to explore but again, it is not a chaotic mess or cornucopia of mindless features and settings you’d loath.

Camera

I would call my experience with the Mi 10T Pro cameras good but inconsistent. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Mi 10T Pro has the same 108MP wide and 13MP ultra wide-angle cameras as the Mi 10, paired with a 5MP macro camera. The primary camera has OIS and the macro, autofocus. There is a lot to like here and the Mi 10T Pro cameras do not disappoint either, at least most of the time.

I would call my experience with the Mi 10T Pro cameras good but inconsistent. On any given day, the Mi 10T Pro’s wide (that shoots 25MP photos by default) and ultra wide-angle cameras can capture pleasing photos with lots of detail and fairly wide dynamic range in ideal, even tricky light, but every now and then, these photos will have some softness. Colour science is consistent, though the ultra wide-angle does capture slightly more saturated photos.

Low light photos are nice and detailed, and you can surely get slightly more detail by using the night mode but there is room for improvement.

The macro camera is a handy addition that shoots crisp close-ups across varying light scenarios.

If I was to compare this thing with the OnePlus 8T though, Xiaomi’s phone comes out winning with flying colours. This is true about value enhancements as well. Xiaomi’s phone also does well — better — at videos with the 108MP primary sensor also allowing 8K video recording on this one. It is a gimmick, but it is a nice thing to brag about at such a low price.

The 20MP front camera takes detailed selfies in good light provided you have beautification set to off. Low light selfies could be better.

Should you buy it?

Mi 10T Pro is terrific value for money. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Having extensively used the Mi 10T Pro now, I have only good things to say about it. It is also a phone that has changed my opinion about a lot of things when it comes to flagship phones — how much phone is too much phone?

The Mi 10T Pro is a case study on how to make an affordable flagship. About how to make the right choices and the right compromises.

OnePlus is often given the credit for this. But if there is one brand out there that can stand toe to toe with it, up for the challenge, it is Xiaomi and with the Mi 10T Pro, it has beaten OnePlus at its own game. Aside from a few niggles here and there, mostly to do with the cameras, the Mi 10T Pro strikes the right balance of form and features, at a price that puts the supposedly more premium Mi 10 to shame.

Pros:

  • Premium build and design
  • Class-leading 144Hz display
  • Fast performance
  • Loud stereo speakers, great haptics
  • Outstanding battery life

Cons:

  • Inconsistent cameras

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