Xiaomi 13 Pro: The shooting star | Hands-on and first impressions

Good things take time.

Xiaomi 13 Pro first impressions
The 13 Pro is the first Xiaomi phone with Leica optics to launch globally. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Xiaomi 13 Pro is proof that good things take time. Patience is a virtue and if you wait long enough, sometimes, it is worth both your time and effort. Tech enthusiasts are, generally, an impatient lot. They’d much rather have Xiaomi— or for that matter, any other brand— launch anything and everything in the country without rhyme or reason. Some might do it, also, while others— especially Xiaomi— take decisions a bit more smartly.

Xiaomi did not launch its first phone with Leica optics, aka Xiaomi 12S Ultra, internationally simply because it wanted to test the waters first –in its home market— before venturing into global territory. The company’s founder and CEO Lei Jun was publicly vocal about it, too. Even though we can attest that Xiaomi did not have much to worry about as the 12S Ultra was pretty phenomenal, at least as a camera phone. You can read more about it in our detailed impressions coverage here.

The body of the 13 Pro is made of ceramic. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

While the 12S Ultra did not launch globally, Xiaomi –had— promised its next “Leica” flagship would have a much wider release and today, the company has delivered on that promise. The phone is launching in India, too, at the same time. The 13 Pro is not a direct successor to the 12S Ultra, but it would seem like that only in name. Everything about this phone screams “ultra” whether it be design, specs, feature set, you name it. The camera system is easily the biggest draw, to no one’s surprise.

The phone has a trio of sensors on the back including a 50MP main sensor (the same “true 1-inch-type” Sony IMX989 as the Xiaomi 12S Ultra) behind an f/1.9 aperture lens with optical stabilisation, a 50MP ultrawide-angle with 115-degree field-of-view (there is autofocus so it can double as macro), and another 50MP telephoto sensor behind an f/2.0 floating lens for 3x optical zoom.

The display supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision playback. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Leica craftsmanship extends from the lens(es) involved to the phone’s processing algorithm. You can choose between two photographic styles including Leica Authentic and Leica Vibrant and while the differences wouldn’t seem that big a deal initially, over time, you learn to appreciate the subtle change of hue and contrast and there’s a good chance you’ll learn to pick your favourite, too. In addition, the phone gives you a choice of custom portrait lens effects from 35mm to 90mm. We’ve seen some of this in the 12S Ultra but the 13 Pro clearly takes things up a notch, especially in terms of ease of use and polish.

The same level of refinement has gone into the design of the phone. Xiaomi continues to be among the very few brands using ceramic as build material, and while it does add to heft, you can’t deny the effect it has on premium quotient of the device. The in-hand feel and ergonomics have been improved –relative to the 12S Ultra— and though the phone can be a bit slippery at times, it feels very, very nice to hold, almost like a luxury. The frame is made of metal.

The 13 Pro has triple rear cameras. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The rest of the Xiaomi 13 Pro is top-shelf, too. You get a 6.73-inch curved 2K or 1440p LTPO AMOLED display with up to 120Hz refresh rate and 1900nits of peak brightness (in HDR). It supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision playback natively. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus and has a hole punch cutout at the centre. The phone is backed by a 4,820mAh battery with 120W fast wired and 50W wireless charging. There is support for 10W reverse wireless charging as well.

Under the hood, you get Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and while the 13 Pro does tend to get warm when stressed, we haven’t observed any major throttling issues in our brief testing. In India, Xiaomi is only bringing the 12GB/256GB version. There is a disclaimer though. Like the Mi 11 Ultra, the 13 Pro will also have a limited run in India which is to say don’t expect availability at scale. When probed, the company told FE that the Xiaomi 13 Pro is quite expensive to make – all units sold in India will be made in India— and its high-end camera tech may not necessarily appeal to everybody. The Mi 11 Ultra became such a hit that Xiaomi actually had to bring more units— on customer feedback— even after it had discontinued the product in the country.

The phone is launching with Android 13. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Looking at the 13 Pro, we expect no less which is to say it would be interesting to see how things pan out for this one in the days to come. There’s no denying the 13 Pro’s potential. The only niggle perhaps is the software where Xiaomi still seems to be playing catch up with peers. The phone is launching with Android 13— based MIUI 14— which is nice but it will only get 3 major OS updates (and 5 years of security updates) which falls short of what brands like Samsung and even OnePlus are offering in their premium devices. But as far as pure hardware is concerned, both Xiaomi and the 13 Pro are shooting for the moon. Watch this space for our full review of the Xiaomi 13 Pro coming soon.

Also Read | MWC 2023 sneak peek: OnePlus 11 Concept to Xiaomi 13 series, Realme GT 3 240W and more

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First published on: 26-02-2023 at 22:09 IST
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