Xiaomi recently sent us its Mi 10 Pro flagship for review and this is one 5G-enabled handset that's well-deserving of a closer look. To begin with, it's a nearly perfect smartphone by today's standards. It delivers the latest octa-core processor, backed by a reasonable amount of memory and storage, with great battery life and some of the fastest charging available.
The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro also features the latest in connectivity, provided to buyers via a stunning display and augmenting Android 10-based MIUI. The audio here is, summarily, in a class all its own too. In fact, the quality on that front approaches some of the best small-form-factor portable speakers that can be bought.
All of that is packed into a modern frame with great cameras, available in two stunning colors for a relatively great aesthetic.
But this also isn't perfect across the board, despite what advertising might suggest. Despite being priced at a comparable level to top Samsung flagships, there are a few caveats that need to be discussed. Those exist at every level for every OEM.
For starters, this smartphone doesn't feature any IP-rating for waterproofing — instead only touting water "resistance."
Only a single SIM slot is available as well, limiting use by more productivity and travel-focused users. Simultaneously, this phone does work in the US with at least some GSM carriers. So the global variant of this will be one of the few top-tier Chinese handsets that can be purchased for use in that region.
Xiaomi appears to have built the Mi 10 Pro with a singular purpose. To compete at the highest reaches of the Android market. To a large extent, this is a flagship that most certainly does just that. But with one or two caveats that must be considered with a closer look. The shortcuts that were taken to keep pricing lower than it might otherwise be could be deal-breakers at this price point, for some potential buyers.
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro takes hardware refinement to a new level
Xiaomi made its Mi 10 Pro available in both Solstice Grey and Alpine White and sent the latter variant for review. The handset is definitely white but it leans heavily toward the pearlescent side of things. That means that it shows through as a matte white to gray tone when at the right angle and in the right lighting. But under direct light that color comes through in a creamy color with pink and orange highlights.
Offset by the crisp silver edging and linework around the black-tinted camera lenses, the design looks great. As with the back panel, however, that edging takes on a different shade depending on the viewing angle. At some angles, hints of rose gold shine through. The effect is not well-represented in photos but it's stunning.
That is, of course, dimmed down a bit once the included transparent case is installed. But Xiaomi did a good job of keeping things a bit showier even then — as shown in the gallery below. That case also does a good job of protecting the hardware and cameras, adding grip while rising just above the camera housing and display panel.
Around the front of the device, the company opted for a punch-hole camera at the top-left-hand side. It also used a slightly curved glass for the screen, matching the curve of the soft-touch glass rear panel. Summarily, the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro is an extremely good-looking device. It's going to turn heads, despite its understated color configurations.
That design translates well in terms of quality too. Not only does this phone look great. It also feels great in-hand. The back panel, for starters, isn't as slippery as the materials used might suggest. The speaker grilles rest neatly at the top-side of the left and right edge when held in landscape mode. So they're less likely to be blocked by the hand.
They're also smoothly curved in the cutouts, as is the USB-C port. So there are no sharp edges to speak of and while this phone isn't likely to slip out-of-hand, it does sleep easily into a pocket despite its size.
The only caveat to that is the cameras, which protrude prominently. That makes the device awkward to put down face-up, albeit not uncomfortable to hold. The ports here are, otherwise, snug-fitting with no wiggle, and the cameras are coated in glass. So they aren't likely to be damaged in-pocket.
The final caveat is in the under-display fingerprint scanner. The technology in use here is no longer necessarily new. It's also accurate and doesn't often miss reading registered prints. But that performs noticeably slower here than would be expected in a flagship. Entering a PIN was always the faster option.
The display here is great but not the best around
The display chosen by Xiaomi is here is great. Throughout my review of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, touch responsiveness was snappy and no latency was noticed. On that front, this screen is top-notch. It's also TUV Rheinland low blue-light certified and, at 6.67-inches, among the larger AMOLED displays available. But this isn't perfect.
Now, that's not to say that colors and contrast were less than expected. With a contrast of 5000000:1 and coverage of the entire DCI-P3, sRGB, and NTSC gamut. Color representation was brilliant. Blacks are deep and vibrancy is great.
In settings, Dark Mode, refresh rate adjustments, anti-flicker mode, color saturation, and temperature adjustments are present and accounted for. So are extra features to hide the punch-hole via darkening of the notification bar, as well as adjustments to how blur and flicker reductions work in VR. So the features here are on point too.
Up to an 800-nits brightness-rating means that the screen is perfectly visible under direct strong sunlight.
But things aren't the best when it comes to the display coating — Gorilla Glass 5 — or the refresh rate — 90Hz or 60Hz. That's as compared to Gorilla Glass 6 in several competitors at a similar price point. Or the 120Hz refresh rate utilized on some competing devices.
The resolution, similarly, is set at FHD+. That's 2340 x 1080 pixels, as compared to the 4K found in some other flagships. Even Samsung's S20 series utilizes a screen resolution of up to 3200 x 1400 — adjustable in settings. So, by comparison, this phone just doesn't have as high a pixel density.
Those caveats are going to matter for some users with more sensitive eyes for those kinds of details. For the average user, it just feels like an unnecessary trade-off — even if it'll go mostly unnoticed.
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro is great on charging and battery life
Battery life is, at best, a subjective metric to measure — depending entirely on usage and other conditions. So the best way to review that for the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, or any device, is just to track battery drain during use.
Here, the battery life wasn't spectacular but also didn't dip below what should be expected from a modern flagship. In total, the screen remained on for a total of 7 hours and 20 minutes on a single charge. That was split a number of ways, including one hour and twenty minutes of fairly intensive gaming with Game Turbo active and working.
The LED flashlight was utilized for a half-hour. 45 minutes were spent in the camera app shooting video and snapping shots during my battery test. Web browsing via Chrome fell in at just five minutes over an hour and a half. I streamed videos for two hours and ten minutes and put in around an hour in terms of calls and messaging.
Some of my daily activities also happened with the screen off. I listened to streaming music services for around an hour, draining the battery more quickly than standard standby. In total, 20 hours were spent in a more 'pure' standby, although there was plenty of activity dotted throughout. The screen was off for 21 hours.
Six hours of standby, without touching the device for use to simulate overnight sleep mode, drained two percent from the battery.
I kept the screen at 100-percent brightness for the battery test. So it may be possible to squeeze more life out of this phone with regard to screen-on time. That would undoubtedly also be helped if I had used any of the power-saving modes or features. Those were kept off, as is the default out-of-the-box.
Battery charging is far more impressive with the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro. That's down to a 65W charger packed in. But it isn't as impressive as some other devices with the same charging rate.
Where some gadgets take under 40-minutes to fuel up, the Mi 10 Pro here took right around 48 minutes. Ten minutes of charging does take that all the way to 36-percent and 30 minutes does bump that to 82-percent. But it feels like the process could have been faster.
Reverse wireless charging and power-sharing over USB-C is part of this package too. So this handset can be used to provide power to wirelessly- or wired-charging accessories or other phones.
For wireless charging, Xiaomi indicates this phone is compatible with up to 30W wireless fast charging.
This phone was made for gaming
Xiaomi opted to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 chipset for this smartphone. That's the latest of that company's SoCs and meant exclusively for flagships. And it's stacked atop 8GB LPDDR5 memory and 256GB of UFS3.0 flash storage. So it should come as no shock that I didn't experience any hiccups during my review of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro.
The performance here will match or come close to matching any other flagship on the market, whether that's the latest smartphone from Samsung or any other brand. That'll hold true for just about any application that can be thrown at this phone. And in my review, it held true for everything from intensive photo and video editing to games. But where it steps away is in terms of mobile gaming.
Thanks to specialty software and optimizations found in Xiaomi's MIUI Android 10 overlay, that's not the end of the story either. One feature, in particular — dubbed Game Turbo — takes things to the next level. Now, Game Turbo is found in the Settings menu under the "Special features" heading. It's not an app like these types of features often are. So there's not a lot of navigating the maze of features for less tech-savvy users.
Those who want to get more out of their games can add those to Game Turbo for extra features. That includes general improvements, screen orientation locking, navigation button locking, high-performance mode, memory management, and in-game Do Not Disturb settings. But it also includes adaptations to touch responsiveness, touch zones, and in-game visual enhancements. Better still, all of that can be tweaked on a game-by-game basis.
In short, this phone already delivers some of the best available specifications found in any smartphone. It then backs those up with easy-to-navigate software features better suited for a gaming PC.
Advanced hardware and software equate to a brilliant camera experience
My review of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro cameras covered a number of lighting scenarios and environments. As might be expected with a 108-megapixel primary snapper, that experience was great. But even without considering the 8-megapixel 10x hybrid zoom, 12-megapixel 2x optical zoom Portrait, or 20-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lenses, that's not surprising. Xiaomi has been putting together top-rated cameras for years.
That's something that's definitely shown through with this latest handset too. Starting with the primary cameras, not only do the camera's pack in great detail — balancing noise with texturing well in good lighting and adequately in night shots. Not only do exposure and white balance remain consistent across shooting modes while bokeh is almost flawless across the board. Those details stay in sharp focus with middle and long-range zoom up to 10-times zoom, as shown in our sample gallery via Flickr.
50x digital zooming is another matter, but details aren't entirely lost there. And high-contrast shooting more often than not doesn't result in the same lens-blooms or over-exposed regions either. Night Mode works slightly less well for a device at this price point but not so poorly as to be a deal-breaker. It still beats the overwhelming majority of its competitors.
Color accuracy, conversely, is also higher than average.
All of the photo- and video-specific features that have grown to be expected in a smartphone are present, driven by onboard AI. Many of those make their way to the front-facing 20-megapixel camera as well. All of those work as expected too.
On the video side of things, the cameras are stable. More succinctly, performance rises to what is expected based solely on how the photo modes perform. Shorter video captures possible up to 960 frames per second while longer shooting is possible via 120 and 240 frames per second options. All three slow-mo modes shoot in either 720 or 1080p. But 8K video is also possible at 30 frames per second.
In particular, one great thing about the cameras here is video stabilization and autofocus. The latter is much more seamless than most other smartphones and video stabilization is fantastic.
Summarily, there are only a very small handful of smartphone cameras that will outperform this handset. And where those do, the difference is going to be minuscule. The photos mentioned above speak for themselves.
Bleeding-Edge networking, including 5G support and US networks
Connectivity with this phone is wide-reaching. That showed through during my review of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro in the fact that I was actually able to use the global variant of the device on Google Fi. That network utilizes Sprint, US Cellular, and T-Mobile bands — with the latter company's bands specifically being used for this phone.
Of course, I wasn't able to test 5G connections in my area either. But the solidity of the 4G LTE network, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth goes a long way to inspire confidence in the performance of those networks with this phone.
Aside from the Bluetooth 5.1 support, we'll cover that momentarily, this phone supports the latest internet protocols. Specifically, it supports protocols 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax on both 2.4G and 5G bands. It also sports 2 x 2 MIMO, 8 x 8 MU-MIMO, Wifi Direct, Wifi Display, and WPA3. It supports 4×4 MIMO on the mobile data side.
VoLTE HD calling is part of that package as well.
That doesn't mean everything here is perfect though. In fact, surprisingly enough, this phone only sports a single SIM slot. That's a fairly big drawback for a modern flagship. And it may actually be a dealbreaker where more than one is really a requirement.
Looking past that somewhat unexpected caveat, the connections I was able to test were solid. That includes both WiFi and mobile data. In fact, this handset was easily the fastest I've used to date on that front.
The new MIUI is well-optimized but accented with a ton of bloatware
Unfortunately, while the underlying MIUI 11 build here is based on Android 10 and very intuitive to use, it's also quite bloated. That doesn't impact the performance at all, as noted above. But it is very annoying how many extra apps are installed here out-of-the-box.
To begin with, there's effectively every utility imaginable, from a QR code and document scanner to screen recorder, voice recorder, device mover, and an easy file and app sharing tool. Clock, calculator, voice recorder, and compass, as well as music, file management, security, note-taking, video, Mi Community, Xiaomi AOSP browser, theming, weather, and cleaner apps, are part of the package too.
That's already quite a lot of software. Xiaomi stacked that atop Google's app package, so buyers don't need to worry about those being excluded. But it doesn't stop there. There's also an IR blaster remote tool for controlling everything from TVs to AC units, DVD Players, Projectors, and Chinese Satellite television. LinkedIn is pre-installed. So are WPS Office and Netflix. Of course, Facebook makes an appearance as well.
Finally, Xiaomi pre-loads no fewer than five decent but not brilliant mobile games.
The overwhelming majority of that bloat can be uninstalled. But it's a real hassle logging into a brand new phone and uninstalling so many potentially unwanted applications.
The operating system is otherwise extremely well-optimized. So there isn't a lot to complain about aside from the bloat. Adjusting settings is intuitive since Xiaomi has minimalized the number of taps it takes to get to any individual setting. Similarly, it's optimized the layout to make navigating them easy. Dark Mode and Digital Wellbeing, as well as other Android 10 inclusions, are present and work as expected.
If there's one thing this review has proven, it's that Xiaomi is headed in the right direction with the Mi 10 Pro — aside from the bloatware.
That's with one noteworthy exception when it comes to navigation. Xiaomi has opted to go with the standard three-button layout here instead of the gesture-based navigation that's grown popular with Android 10. There's also no app drawer to speak of. That's going to be a problem for some users but it's easy enough to organize everything into folders if needed.
The audio from Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro is astonishingly good
Surprisingly, the audio experienced during my review of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro was much better than expected. That's not to say that bass tones are as well-represented as might be hoped from a larger dedicated speaker. This is still a smartphone with relatively small speakers. And that should reduce the quality significantly despite two stereo speakers being used — on the left- and right-hand edge when held in landscape mode.
But it doesn't. And bass tones are better represented here than in the overwhelming majority of smartphones on the market.
Instead, what I found was exactly what might be expected from reading the specs sheet. The speakers used here are of a seven-magnet design with customizations, fine-tuning for scenarios-based listening, and a 1.2cc-equivalent speaker chamber. There are 15-volume levels and audio tuning in the 'Sound effects' segment of the Sound subheading in the Settings menu. There's even a setting for adjusting and customizing what earphone based hardware controls actually do.
But the kicker here is those speakers. The audio those put out is, in a word, deep. There's absolutely no hint of any tin across the range of frequencies and regardless of the genre of music or movie being watched. Instead, what greets the ear is a balanced mix of sound that can deliver both finesse and power in output.
That audio holds in speakerphone calls as well, while the earpiece speaker and mics each work as well as can be expected.
The sole caveat to audio from this device is that there's no 3.5mm audio jack. That's going to be a serious drawback for some but a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter is included in the box. Out-of-the-box, Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro also packs in Bluetooth 5.1, with support for Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus. The experience is, needless to say, far better over headphones with this handset. But it's equally easy to just let the audio play via the speakers.
Pricing is really the only thing holding this phone back
With consideration for all of the benefits this smartphone delivers and the few small caveats, there's really only one issue. But that's a fairly big one though. Namely, it's the price. The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro starts out at €999 — over $1,095 at the time of this writing.
That cost is despite a lesser screen in some regards such as refresh rate and resolution. It's also in spite of a slightly slower fingerprint scanner than many competitors. Plus, there's a lack of hardware features such as a 3.5mm headphone jack, while the software side is more than just a little bloated.
All of those drawbacks should equate to a somewhat more affordable handset than competitors too. But that's simply not the case here. Xiaomi priced this flagship at just about the same cost anyway. So, based on a thorough review of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, it is going to feel like buyers are getting just a little bit less for the same money in some cases.
With that said, this is certainly a top-tier product. Not only is it fast, but it's also designed to make mobile gaming less of a hassle. That's atop plenty of system-level optimizations and adjustments that can be made to switch between battery savings and performance. And it stacks atop a truly great display panel that's only a little less well-specced than top competitors.
If none of the caveats here appear too over-the-top or to be dealbreakers, Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro is an easy device to recommend for the 5G era.