Hands on: Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro review

There's a new affordable flagship in town

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro has great features for its price point, but the main hurdle for it is the OnePlus 6T which seems to beat it in a few areas. However, for those looking for an affordable flagship that's a little different to the norm, the Mi 8 Pro is worth keeping an eye on.

For

  • In-display fingerprint scanner
  • Cool transparent look

Against

  • Design not as premium as rivals
  • Camera isn't the strongest

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro is one of three smartphones from the Chinese firm to enter the UK market officially for the first time, touting high-end specs at an affordable price point.

Xiaomi is taking a similar approach to the mobile market as Honor and OnePlus, as it looks to undercut the established names, and the Mi 8 Pro is its flagship offering.

You get a 6.21-inch display, Snapdragon 845 chipset, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, 12MP + 12MP dual rear cameras, in-display fingerprint scanner and a 3,000mAh battery.

On paper then, at least, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro challenges not only the OnePlus 6T, but the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, Google Pixel 3 XL and Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro release date and price

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro release date is November 9, while the Mi 8 Pro price is set at £499.

That puts in on par with the OnePlus 6T, and comfortably below the new iPhones and the flagship handsets from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Sony, Google and co.

You'll be able to buy the Mi 8 Pro from Three, Amazon, Argos, John Lewis, Carphone Warehouse, Currys PC World, Very, gomobile, mobile phones direct, Katana and Mi.com. 

Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro

Design and display

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro is a large, solid phone with a metal frame providing a premium, cool feel in the hand.

The rear of the phone feels cheaper thanks to a plastic cover - a hint at its more affordable price point - but it is transparent, allowing you to see the internal circuitry of the Mi 8 Pro. While there are circuit boards and chips visible, they're actually all dummies, with the real internals hidden away out of sight.

On closer inspection, you'll notice slogans etched onto some of these dummy chips, such as "be the coolest company in the hearts of our users", "innovation for everyone", "always believe something wonderful is about to happen" and "sincerity passion". 

Cheesy, sure, but the overall look is pretty cool.

Round the front you get a huge 6.21-inch AMOLED display with a 18.7:9 aspect ratio which is bright and clear, but 'only' has a Full HD resolution - another corner cut to save on cost. 

There's a large notch at the top of the display, similar in size to the one found on the iPhone XS and co, and there's also a small chin bezel at the base of the device as well.

It means the overall look isn't quite as slick as the aforementioned iPhone or the more premium looking (and feeling) OnePlus 6T.

The big screen also means the phone itself is sizable, measuring 154.9 x 74.8 x 7.6mm and tipping the scales at 177g, ensuring its presence in the hand. It's not unwieldy, but those with smaller palms will need to employ both hands for comfortable usage.

The power/lock and volume keys are located on the right of the Mi 8 Pro and are easily reached. There's not headphone jack on the handset, with the base of the phone home to a USB-C port a grilles for the speaker and microphone.

A nice inclusion is the in-display fingerprint scanner which worked quickly during our hands on time with the phone. It did take a little while to setup though - there are slicker fingerprint scanner setups out there - but once our print was registered the accuracy and speed of unlock was impressive.

If you don't fancy using your fingerprint, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro also offers face unlock too.

Battery and camera

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro comes with a 3,000mAh battery, which is considerably smaller than the 3,700mAh power pack inside the OnePlus 6T. 

That makes us slightly wary about the battery life performance of the Mi 8 Pro, but you'll have to wait for our in-depth review to find out how it gets on.

Looking at the cameras, and on the rear of the Mi 8 Pro you'll find two. Both are 12MP offerings, with the main sensor made by Sony. The second is a Samsung sensor and is used to achieve a 2x zoom effect within the camera app, and also help out with portrait mode.

Performance of the camera did feel a little sluggish, there's noticeable lag jumping between the two zoom levels, and portrait mode struggles a little to cleanly blur the background without blurring some of the object you want in focus as well. It's also a little fussy about the distance between the phone and the object, making shooting portrait shots more time consuming.

Colors are true to life however, and detail is generally good, although we'll put it properly to the test during our in-depth review process.

There's also a front facing 20MP camera which has a rather aggressive beauty mode (which can be disabled), and generally takes suitably sharp selfies.

Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro

Performance and interface

There's plenty of power packed inside the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro, with Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 845 chipset alongside 8GB of RAM. It means the Mi 8 Pro will be able to run any app or game without too much effort.

You don't get the latest software on the Mi 8 Pro though, with Android 8.1 Oreo featuring, rather than the newer Android 9 Pie. However, Xiaomi has heavily customized Android with its own Mi UI overlay.

The overlay provides a much more colorful theme and removes the app drawer entirely - keeping all your apps on home screens. The colorful theme is a little childish in its look, which detracts a little from the overall experience of the handset.

It does provide additional customization options for those willing to dig around in settings, and a theme store also comes pre-loaded on the Mi 8 Pro allowing you to change the look of the interface.

Early verdict

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro is a phone with great features for its price point, but the main hurdle for it is the OnePlus 6T which has a more polished interface, a more premium design and potentially better battery life and camera.

However, for those looking for an affordable flagship that's a little different from the norm, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro is well worth keeping an eye on.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.