Over the past two years, there have been many smartphone brands pushing for the top spot for the mid-range category. There are many reasons for this push into the South African market, with one such brand being Xiaomi. While the brand has been operating for years already in the local market, this was predominantly for the entry-level and mid-range categories. A few weeks back, the brand launched its new smartphone to the market, the Xiaomi 11T Pro.
While the device is still, technically, a mid-range smartphone, it does feature on the upper tiers of this category. The brand has made major in-roads in-country, with the 11T Pro featuring heavily. The smartphone brings with it flagship-level hardware with the latest Android software. The only question that remains is how it holds up in the real world and not just on paper, and how does it compare to other flagship smartphones on the market today.
Xiaomi 11T Pro Build and Design
There’s no getting around it, the Xiaomi 11T Pro is a large device. In fact, its dimensions are almost in-line with that of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. To be more specific, it measures 164.1×76.9×8.8mm. It also has a bit of heft in terms of overall weight at 204g. However, that’s some 20g lighter than the S21 Ultra, although there’s good reason for that.
But, if I’m to do a fairer comparison, it would be best to use the S21 Plus as an example, instead. The Xiaomi 11T Pro is slightly heavier in this aspect, by some 4g, with the S21 Plus having a smaller overall frame even with a similarly-sized screen.
The 11T Pro was manufactured with quite a mix of materials. The aluminium frame makes for great rigidity, while the polycarbonate rear saves on weight while also keeping costs down somewhat.
While the mix, in general, is not an issue, it’s how it has been packaged that leaves a lot of room for improvement. The unit has a rounded finish across all the edges, as well as a glossy coating atop the plastic cover. The cover itself has a very good-looking, gunmetal finish, but is hindered by the fingerprint magnet on the surrounding layer. It doesn’t help that Xiaomi has gone overboard with the gloss, as the unit is quite slippery, sliding off almost any surface.
The camera island is positioned on the top left of the rear. This is fairly basic and aligns with many other mid-range smartphone configs. That’s not to say it’s bad-looking, it just doesn’t stand out as much.
There are some design elements I liked about the unit, like the flat approach on the top of the design with some branding. It’s surrounded by the aluminium frame, but still has the gunmetal look of the rear, which is great. However, the design is inconstant, as at the bottom it’s much more rounded and doesn’t have the same finish either.
The unit features an IP53 rating for water and dust resistance. This is decent for most users as you’ll have some level of protection when you’re out and about. That said, it would’ve been great if it had the flagship standard of IP68, especially if it’s going to break the mould of simply being a mid-range unit.
There are three colour variants available. The unit I received is the Meteorite Grey, with the other two being the Celestial Blue and Moonlight White variants. On paper, the grey looked the better option, but I’d have to see how the other two disguises those fingerprints, which I’m assuming it would be better at doing before I pass judgement.
As with many other mid-range units, the power button doubles as a fingerprint reader. Unlike those units, however, it’s not a concave cut-out but looks more like a regular button. I liked this touch because we don’t need to know that the button is a fingerprint reader, while also looking like two different device buttons when sitting right next to the volume rocker. That’s not the case with this unit, which is a great change-up.
Overall, if you minus the fingerprint smudges, the design is good with an even more impressive build quality.
Xiaomi 11T Pro Screen and Display
The Xiaomi 11T Pro has a 6.67” AMOLED screen. That’s plenty of real estate to enjoy for most users and you shouldn’t be found wanting in that department. The panel has a flat design, unlike the rounded or tapered edges for many other smartphones. This means that the unit doesn’t lend itself to Android’s gesture-based usage when hiding the navigation buttons.
The screen has an 85.1% screen-to-body ratio, which is adequate. Anything around the 90% margin would be great, so this is only slightly below that mark.
The panel has a resolution of 2,400x1080px with a 395ppi pixel density. Additionally, it also has a 120Hz refresh rate with HDR10+ support. Finally, it is protected using the leading Corning Gorilla Glass Victus technology, which most of the leading flagships also utilise.
When it comes to colour reproduction, it scores colour accuracy of 99.8% sRGB, 85.5% Adobe RGB and 97.4% DCI P3. These are very good results and is reflected visually as well. It looks crisp and vibrant. Its blacks are also very dark thanks to the AMOLED panel. It looks great.
All the boxes ticked then. Even when compared to the S21 Plus, it holds up quite well. However, my little gripe here is that it could be better. This isn’t judged in comparison to other flagships, but Xiaomi’s own Mi 11 range. The unit has a 6.8” AMOLED panel, 3,200×1,440 resolution and 144Hz refresh rate. It’s not going to make a huge difference, but the fact that it exists in another mid-range smartphone from the same brand makes me want to need it.
Taking away all the subjective tests in the forms of looks and perceived quality, there’s one aspect that cannot be disputed. And that’s the specification. Although it still needs to work well with the software, if it’s good on paper, chances are it’ll hold up well and also great to know that the brand hasn’t taken shortcuts, as all software can be fine-tuned over time, but hardware cannot change until you buy a completely new unit. Thankfully, Xiaomi has added some of the latest hardware to the internals of the 11T Pro.
The unit sports the 2021 flagship standard SoC from Qualcomm. This is the Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5nm) chipset. It has an Octa-core processor with x1 2.84GHz Kryo 680, x3 2.42GHz Kryo 680 and x41.80 GHz Kryo 680). This includes the Adreno 660 GPU.
There are three variants of the device, including the 128GB with 8GB RAM, 256GB with 8GB RAM and 256GB with 12GB RAM models. The unit I received was 256GB with 8GB RAM.
The unit comes installed with Android 11 OS with the MIUI 12.5 firmware on top of that. For the most part, the MIUI 12.5 experience is great. However, there are quite a few annoyances to note. Firstly, there’s the overly complicated drop-down menu. Instead of streamlining to just one drop-down, it’s split into two, one for notifications and the second for buttons and shortcuts. The second is activated by sliding left on the drop-down, which means that when you attempt to swipe away from right to left on your notifications, it won’t remove said notification nor swipe to the button menu.
Another aspect I don’t much care for is the amount of Mi apps, which is nothing more than bloatware. I’m happy to use the Google suite for most default applications, so I could do without a second browser, message app and the likes. There’s also a pop-up page whenever you’re done installing third-party apps for some reason.
That said, the overall experience with MIUI 12.5 is great. It’s fast and fluid, and especially bouncy thanks to its animations. It feels extremely lightweight and also easy to multitask. Even with the above-mentioned annoyances, it’s easy to choose this firmware over many others thanks to its overall responsiveness.
The unit also features a Harman/Kardon audio configuration, with speaker grilles on the top and bottom of the unit for that stereo effect. And it’s fairly loud, too.
Performance and Battery
When it comes to the performances, it delivers on both paper and real-world tests. On paper, the benchmark scores are impressive. It scores higher than the Exynos variant of the S21 range, while similar to the Qualcomm variant. It does, however, lag behind the Xiaomi Mi 11 range with the same chipset by 200 points, or 6% overall.
In real-world testing, the unit performed extremely well. The lightweight firmware meant that there was more than sufficient RAM available for tasks, even when you’re multitasking. It’s a breeze to use and great fun as well.
One of the key selling points of the Xiaomi 11T Pro is its battery. It packs a 5,000mAh battery under the hood. Given its 6.67” screen, 120Hz refresh rate, powerful processor and 5G support, it wouldn’t be unexpected to have the unit struggle to last the day. But it does. It can comfortably last you into the early hours of the next morning before you need to charge. Even as a superuser, you can expect to at least make it through a busy day out of the house before you get back home to charge.
And the real showstopper is its charging module. The unit includes an impressive 120W support. And there’s a bulky charger in the contents of the box to fully utilise this capability as well. This type of charging system isn’t even available in most flagship smartphones but has been added to the device.
To put things into perspective, the charging has the capability to charge from 0% to 40% in just 10 minutes and to full charge in just 40 minutes. Compared to conventional charges which will take around 100 minutes to charge a 5,000mAh battery, that more than halves the overall time to be out the house.
When it comes to the camera, it offers a triple-lens setup. This includes:
108 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.52″, 0.7µm, PDAF
8 MP, f/2.2, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1/4″, 1.12µm
5 MP, f/2.4, 50mm (telephoto macro), 1/5.0″, 1.12µm, AF
Additionally, the configuration also has a dual-LED dual-tone flash, HDR10+ support and panorama options. However, it’s the real-world tests that matter most.
Without too many technical details, the unit shoots great quality images in well-lit environments. The colours are bold and bright with plenty of detail. It looks crisp as well and by default create a 27MP image for editing. Switching to not so well-lit situations and the detail starts to fade behind some rough editing.
Now for the more technical bits. After some research, I found that the camera uses a technique called “pixel binning”. Effectively, the editing software combines pixels into larger ones to soften the edges and provide a better colour balance. However, quite a bit of detail is lost using this method. The camera software does allow you to switch it to the high-resolution 108MP option, with much larger images and a lot finer details available in the short.
Using the high-resolution option in night-mode, however, means that you’re going to be picking up quite a bit of noise, so you’ll want to revert back to the default settings with pixel binning to assist in smoothening out the image.
The camera also offers a 120° field-of-view from its ultra-wide lens. In good lighting conditions, the images will look great again. However, it has a fairly low-resolution lens, which means you won’t get nearly as good results in slightly less well-lit areas.
The macro lens, on the other hand, provided a lot more fun. It was quick to focus and keep the quality stable as you move closer to the image. It’s not the greatest I’ve seen, but still well worth it overall.
The triple-lens camera, then, delivers very good performances in areas with plenty of light but quickly deteriorates as the lighting fades. That’s not good for those nights out with friends, so you may want to stick to picnics and the likes.
There’s quite a lot packed into the Xiaomi 11T Pro. It’s a mid-range smartphone only really in price, while packed with quite a few flagship features. It may not strike the best pose in terms of design, but there’s more than enough under the hood to make up for that fact, while also keeping you on the go for longer and getting you back on the road thanks to its impressive 120W super-charging capabilities and 5,000mAh battery.
The smartphone is available at a really great price at R13,999. It’s currently available countrywide at multiple stores, which includes Vodacom, TFG (Foschini Group), as well as online at Takealot. At the time of launch, the S21 Plus had an RRP of R21,499.
With a very similar offering and at nearly R8,000 more affordable, the Xiaomi 11T Pro is a very good sell.
Xiaomi 11T Pro
The Xiaomi 11T Pro is a great mid-range smartphone with flagship hardware. Its 120W super-charging battery support is immense. Coupled with the powerful processor and 120Hz screen and you’re hitting all the right notes. All that and it’s 2/3 the price of the most affordable flagship smartphones.