Producing a good value smartphone these days is a balancing act. With new 5G chips raising overall prices, it’s impossible to throw every feature into a smartphone and offer it at half the price of, say, a new flagship iPhone.
Xiaomi used to do that — add every feature in and undercut the price — but with its new smartphone, the Mi 10T Pro, it strikes a careful balance between adding highly-coveted and just plain cool features, and removing some of the not-that-important stuff to keep the price down.
⚡ Mashable Score
Let’s start with the good stuff. The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is a 5G smartphone, with a large, 6.67-inch LCD display with a silky-smooth 144Hz refresh rate. It’s got the top Qualcomm CPU right now, the Snapdragon 865, a massive, 5,000mAh battery, 8GB of RAM, and 128 or 256GB of storage. The rear camera is a triple setup with a 108-megapixel, f/1.7 sensor, a 13-megapixel ultra-wide, f/2.4 sensor, and a 5-megapixel sensor, and the selfie camera is a 20-megapixel, f/2.2 sensor.
The shortened spec sheet above should tell you that this phone is powerful enough to hold its own against, say, a Samsung Galaxy S20+ device. However, there are numerous (small) cost-saving decisions that Xiaomi had to make to keep the Mi 10T Pro at its €599 ($710) starting price: The display is an LCD, not an OLED; there’s no wireless charging or telephoto (zoom) sensor; and there’s no waterproof resistance (at least not an official one). So if you’re the type that simply must have all the new bells and whistles, the Mi 10T Pro might not cut it. If you’re looking for a good phone that’ll last a couple of years and has all the basic traits of a modern flagship, read on.
The Mi 10T Pro looks great. It has a massive, rectangular camera bump on the back, with an imposing 108-megapixel main sensor that’ll make you feel like a pro photographer (well, maybe a pro smartphone photographer). The back itself is a shiny, silver color that looks great, but it will get smudgy in about a second of use. On the front, the LCD display is uninterrupted save for the punch-hole selfie camera in the upper left corner. That means it looks like basically every other Android phone right now, but turn it on and start using the phone, and the 144Hz refresh rate will be noticeable, making everything appear just…smooth.
The powerful Snapdragon 865 processor helps here, as does the relative polish of Xiaomi’s MiUI Android skin. Everything runs very fast and without hiccups.
Of course, the display is not OLED; don’t expect blacks as black and contrast as high as you’d get on an OLED smartphone. I didn’t really notice it much during daily use, but switch to an OLED phone, and you’ll see a small difference.
Easily my favorite hardware feature of the Mi 10T Pro is the fingerprint scanner, which is built into the power button. I prefer face recognition (the Mi 10T Pro supports that, too, but it’s not as reliable as on the iPhone), but when wearing a mask, which is often these days, face recognition is a nightmare. Being able to easily navigate my thumb to the power button and have the phone instantly unlock was a blast.
I’d like to be able to say more about battery life, but it’s just harder to test when you’re at home most of the time. I also wasn’t able to test the phone’s 5G capabilities as no 5G is present where I live. My impression is that it’ll last you a full day, and maybe a little more, but it’s not as impressive as the battery life on some of Xiaomi’s earlier models. It’s worth noting that you can reduce the display refresh rate in the settings, which should improve battery life by quite a bit.
Powerful cameras, if not the most versatile
When I reviewed the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, I was surprised at how capable the cameras were; beating even the iPhone 11 Pro Max in several regards. The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is also pretty good, but it’s not as versatile, as it lacks a dedicated telephoto camera on the back. It still takes amazingly sharp and detailed photos in daylight, thanks to the 108-megapixel sensor.
Night photos are alright, though a tad worse than on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Indoors, things fall apart a bit, but the results can still be solid. As a rule, the less light you have, the more pastel-like the photo will look like.
You can turn on Night mode to get a better night photo, and it helps, but you will have to wait quite a while for the photo to get done, especially in very dark conditions.
Oddly, during my testing, I had a feeling that the Mi 10T Pro’s camera is a little worse than the one in last year’s Mi Note 10. And given that it also comes without a telephoto lens, it feels like a slightly odd step backwards. By the way, you do get 2x zoom on the Mi 10T Pro; it’s done by cropping a part of the photo taken by the 108-megapixel main sensor.
The selfie camera is a 20-megapixel one that does its job pretty well, unless you turn on portrait mode, in which case it’s hit or miss. Only Apple does portrait mode really well; most Android makers seem to be adding it just for the sake of having another item crossed off the camera specs checklist.
Other things to consider
I’ll never stop saying this: The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro doesn’t have a headphone jack. Yeah, I know most phones these days don’t have one, but at least they have water resistance to show for it. On the flip side, the Mi 10T Pro supports aptX HD Bluetooth, meaning you’ll be able to deliver very high quality audio to your headphones or speakers. Finally, the phone has stereo speakers which are pretty loud and sound decent, though they’re not the best I’ve heard.
And yes, it’s 2020 and the iPhone 12 just launched without a charger, so I have to tell you that the Mi 10T Pro comes with a 33W charger in the box. You also get a silicone case which has a massive Xiaomi logo and makes the phone look about ten times worse, but hey, it does the job of protecting it.
Oh, and that camera bump? It’s massive, and when you place the phone on the table face up, it wobbles because of it. It makes a case (maybe not the case you get with the phone but another case) a must-have.
Competitive, but not the bargain Xiaomi phones used to be
The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is a good phone that offers a lot for a decent price: You get the most powerful Snapdragon processor, 5G, a great camera system, a big battery and a smooth display.
Unfortunately for Xiaomi, the pricy 5G chip raised the cost of production, forcing the company to make several cost-saving decisions, including using an LCD screen instead of an OLED one, and not including a telephoto camera lens on the back.
At its starting price of about $710, the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is still good value. But you do have to consider something like the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, which does have an OLED display and a telephoto lens, as well as a 5G chip, and it costs $699 or less with trade-in options. And there are 5G iPhones with OLED displays available at that price point now as well.
Xiaomi’s phones used to be so much cheaper than other flagships that it made them very easy to recommend. But the new Mi 10T Pro, while a capable device, doesn’t win on price. There are still plenty of reasons to buy this phone, but be aware that there are other options that offer just as much, or even more, for the same price.