What happens when you take one of the most talked-about smartphones of the year and improve upon it in significant ways while somehow making it cheaper than the competition? You get the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro — a phone that punches well above its weight.
2020 is a big year for Xiaomi. It finally re-entered the premium smartphone space of India as well as expanded into many more countries. Historically, all of its gains were fueled by affordable devices, making it a household name in many markets. After having planted one foot securely, it was now time to tango with the big boys.
The Mi 10T Pro is not really a successor to the Mi 10 series from March, but more of an alternate proposition destined for a different price segment. It achieves a lower price tag without cutting too many corners, while also managing to upgrade certain aspects. The most controversial change is the move to a 144Hz LCD panel from a 90Hz OLED display. It may seem like a step backwards but it really isn’t. Features such as a 108MP camera, the Snapdragon 865 chipset and a pair of stereo speakers are also retained.
The bigger 5,000mAh battery puts the Mi 10T Pro in a space where few recent flagships have reached, providing very reliable battery life. The 33W charging is no slouch either. The only downside to all of these upgrades is that the phone gets a little too big and bulky.
But, at a price of Rs 39,999 in India, it doesn’t really get any better than the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro. In just six months, Xiaomi has been able to do a strong perception turnaround, which was the last piece of the puzzle before it strikes gold in one more segment. Commitment to localize its assembly in the foreseeable future is another big indication of how serious the brand is for its future in India — across all segments.
Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro price in India and availability
Launched in India on October 15, The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is priced at Rs 39,999 and is available in a single configuration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of RAM on Flipkart. Colour options include Cosmic Black in a glossy ceramic finish and Lunar Silver with a bright antiglare look.
If you want something a little cheaper, the Xiaomi Mi 10T starts at Rs 35,999 (6GB + 128GB). It should offer much the same experience as the only difference is the 64MP primary camera instead of the 108MP one on the Pro variant.
The premium segment is not very familiar territory for Xiaomi. As it tries to carve a name for itself, it’s also increasingly clear that it is yet to finalize the direction of its flagships. Nothing particularly wrong with that, just that it makes the individual products lack continuum.
Once again, we have a brand new design language on the Mi 10T Pro. Gone are the long camera setup and the petite design in lieu of a pretty imposing form factor and an intimidating camera island. The giant bump will definitely cause the phone to rock when used on a table. The back is still made of a curved glass but is noticeably larger, and thus, unwieldy. Add the 218 grams of weight to the mix, and it truly becomes a difficult phone to use with one hand. Gorilla Glass 5 protection offers some solace.
Our unit had the Cosmic Black finish which has a very glossy feel and a ceramic look, making it prone to fingerprints. The Lunar Silver colourway looks prettier and unique along with offering better grip. The frame is also made of metal and has a flat top and bottom, allowing it to stand upright on its own.
Simply put, the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is a big phone that will take some getting used to. The curved back and narrow sides do help with the handling by a bit though. It isn’t head-turning as some of the other phones that launched recently. Similarly, the buttons and ports are also in their usual spots: power and volume on the right, USB Type-C and speaker on the bottom along with the second speaker on the top.
A fair bit of Xiaomi’s communication revolved around justifying the choice of opting for an LCD panel at this price. Apparently, OLED displays vibe better with Indians. This was particularly a sore point as the Mi 10 did have a great AMOLED screen, but not here.
On the Mi 10T Pro, we get a 6.67-inch IPS LCD panel with a Full HD+ resolution (2400 x 1080) along with a whopping 144Hz refresh rate. Xiaomi calls it “the most intelligent display ever put on a smartphone”, and with extended use, we understand why. A new AdaptiveSync technology helps the display smartly vary its refresh rate between 30, 48, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 144Hz based on the content being viewed. For instance, games will be able to take advantage of the buttery 144Hz, static pages will be at the lowest one, whereas videos will be in the 30-60Hz range, and so on. As per our knowledge, no other phone offers seven steps of variable refresh rate.
While this inherently allows for better battery life, it works very seamlessly — never did it seem like the phone was lagging or not smooth enough for the content being displayed. It’s executed perfectly, but can not be switched off. The max refresh rate, however, can be varied between 60Hz, 90Hz and 144Hz.
As far as the screen technology is concerned, this is probably the best LCD panel ever put on a phone. It balances vibrancy and colour accuracy beautifully while also offering a fair bit of contrast and brightness (over 600 nits). Even the black levels were surprisingly close to being perfect. You might be reminded of it only during watching content that is primarily black in colour. The only other giveaway is the slightly thicker bezels and chins, but that’s really just nitpicking. Naturally, the fingerprint scanner is no longer embedded under the display.
Sticking to LCDs also comes with another advantage. Higher refresh rate OLED panels are very difficult to calibrate and keep accurate across the board. A good LCD panel gives most of the goodness of an OLED while being able to touch market-leading refresh rates without any unnecessary byproducts. Similarly, LCDs can reach lower brightness levels without issue such as prematurely crushing blacks.
Auto-brightness on the Mi 10T Pro was also better than most phones. Over 4,000 stages of brightness paired with three ambient light sensors on the front, top and back (the last one resides in the camera module) allow it to always have the right level of brightness without ever noticing the transition.
The aforementioned difficulties in handling the device are also in part due to moving back to a flat display, making the width of the phone higher. I still stand with curved displays, but for the price, it’s not really an issue. For what it’s worth, there were no palm-rejection issues. Gorilla Glass 5 protection makes the cut, too.
The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro has a proper dual speaker setup with the primary loudspeaker on the bottom and a smaller secondary unit on the top. The positioning provides great channel separation, making content consumption or gaming more immersive. It gets plenty loud too, but that does bring in some distortion.
There’s no headphone jack but audio over USB is supported. Music output over Bluetooth was great too. For calls, there’s a tiny earpiece within the top edge of the phone. It can take some adjusting to find the exact spot against your ear. The proximity sensor was inconsistent though - quite often did the display get turned on while I was on a call, toggling quick settings or opening apps.
Performance and gaming
Here’s where Xiaomi didn’t go unnecessarily overboard. The Mi 10T Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 865 SoC, the same chipset that powered most flagships this year. Some expected to see the Snapdragon 865 Plus over here but that wouldn’t have been a wise choice for an affordable flagship. There’s also 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage - all best in class.
As expected, the phone chomps through everything thrown at it, be it a bunch of light tasks at the same time or heavy gaming. Memory management was excellent too, keeping apps in memory for long after they were opened. It’s as fast as Android flagships get, especially with the 144Hz display.
The powerful performance translates into great gaming performance as well with consistent framerates, extreme responsiveness and powerful haptics. The big display and stereo speakers add to the immersion. The thick profile also makes the phone very comfortable to hold while gaming. There was no overheating either. The gaming mode overlay also adds useful quick shortcuts for messaging apps, current stats as well as screen recording options.
On the connectivity front, it supports 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.
As with all recent Xiaomi phones, the Mi 10T Pro runs on MIUI 12 over Android 10. It’s disappointing, but not surprising, to see it not run on Android 11 out-of-the-box. There’s no word on when the next update will come, so we guess it wouldn’t be too soon.
This skin of MIUI 12 isn’t really different from anything we’ve seen on other Xiaomi devices. Some housekeeping before we get to the interesting stuff: there are no ads in the interface, but some services will send unnecessary notifications every now and then. They can be turned off easily. Quite a few additional apps were pre-installed on our device but most were removable. The new privacy dashboard shows which apps have access to which permissions at a glance.
The notification shade has been replaced with a new control centre which takes a few cues from iOS, bringing all the quick toggles together and occupying the entire screen. A swipe down from the right half of the status bar brings the control centre while the left side will bring the usual notifications. This change has a steep learning curve without adding much utility. Moreover, reaching the notification side is very difficult while using the phone with the right hand. Thankfully, it can be easily switched back to the older interface.
MIUI 12’s popular Super Wallpapers aren’t available currently. Navigation gestures, knuckle triggers, an app drawer, focus mode and improved notifications are the other key features this time.
It feels like a much more mature skin now, no longer being the Achilles heel of the phone. It strikes the right balance between having character without seeming overwhelming.
Owing to the LCD construction of the display, the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro moves to a side-mounted fingerprint scanner that is embedded within the power button. It resides exactly where the right thumb rests naturally, making it quick and easy to unlock. However, this is a passive scanner, which means that the display will have to be on for the scanner to respond — Just resting a finger on it while the phone is sleeping doesn’t work.
Then there’s face unlock which uses only the front camera to recognize the face. It works perfectly, even at less than ideal angles or lighting.
The aspect that surprised me the most was the Mi 10T Pro’s battery life. Yes, it has a large 5,000mAh cell, but I expected the 144Hz LCD panel to chug through the battery. I am glad to report that my expectations were very wrong. The phone provides one of the best battery lives of any high-end smartphone this season in India. It would almost always last me to the second day on a single charge, clocking 6-7 hours of screen-on time. On some occasions, I was even able to cross the 9-hour mark.
A new 33W Dual Split Fast Charging technology is present here, taking the phone from 0 to full in under 70 minutes - not bad considering the size of the battery. It does slow down significantly if the phone is being used at the same time though. It implements Middle Middle Tab architecture where the centre of the battery receives the current (instead of the bottom) and simultaneously spreads it across the top and bottom. A similar implementation was seen on the Poco X3.
The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro is the cheapest smartphone in India with a 108MP camera. The company says that a telephoto lens could not be added due to space constraints and limited usage. The cropping enabled by the higher resolution primary camera is said to take care of that too. Unlike the Samsung flagships, this one is paired with the superior ISP that is a part of the Snapdragon 865 platform.
The primary lens is a large 1/1.33-inch 108MP f/1.7 sensor (Samsung ISOCELL HM1) with OIS. Natively, it produces 27MP images with pixel-binning, bringing a lot of dynamic range and detail even while cropping. It does suffer from a very shallow depth of field at close distances, as all cameras with a large sensor do, but the chromatic aberration seems to have been reduced. Low light performance was great too.
It is joined by a 13MP ultra-wide shooter which does a decent job in most scenarios. The dynamic range wasn’t too bad either, though, the colour temperature can vary when compared with the other cameras.
Lastly, there’s a 5MP macro lens with autofocus. Apart from strong hardware, Xiaomi also offers a ton of fun shooting modes with Pro photo and video, filters, night mode, long exposure, documents, clones, tilt-shift, etc. All of them are easy to locate and well-explained.
Overall, it is one of the best camera experiences for the price, beating the likes of OnePlus by a bit.
The Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro offers a better experience than the competition in many aspects at a very competitive price. While the Mi 10 was a good first step, in just about six months, Xiaomi is already disrupting the premium segment, just like it did with budget smartphones a few years ago. There’s still a long way to go but Mi seems is on the right track.
Buy it if…
You want consistently reliable battery life
The Mi 10T Pro offers excellent battery life with reasonably fast charging, offering a great battery experience for all kinds of use. Good to see the phone’s big size put to good use.
Media consumption is a priority
The beautiful big display, dual stereo speakers and great battery life make the phone very enjoyable to use for work as well as play. Watching videos and playing games is a lot of fun.
You’re looking for a great camera
There aren’t many great camera phones in this segment, and even fewer that democratize 108MP sensors like the Mi 10T Pro. Paired with the barrage of shooting options make it a reliable carry-along.
Don’t buy it if…
You prefer smaller phones
There’s no getting around this: the Mi 10T Pro is a big and heavy phone. It will take some getting used to, but people with smaller hands or pockets will have a tough time.
You absolutely need an AMOLED display
While the phone has a great display, it is not an AMOLED panel. Some users have strict preferences when it comes to premium phones. For them, the Mi 10 is a great alternative.
MIUI is not your cup of tea
Xiaomi’s MIUI is still a pretty heavy skin, and one that takes some getting used to. If the system doesn’t match your choices and you’re unwilling to adapt, check out the OnePlus 8T and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.