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Flagship at a fraction of the price?

Flagship at a fraction of the price?

The mid to high-end market for smartphones is extremely fierce. And over the last two years, the competition has skyrocketed. To carry forward its success from last year’s Mi 10T series, this year, Xiaomi has launched the 11T Pro. Its new naming scheme aside, there are quite a few upgrades it brings to the table.

The mid to high-end market for smartphones is extremely fierce. And over the last two years, the competition has skyrocketed. To carry forward its success from last year’s Mi 10T series, this year, Xiaomi has launched the 11T Pro. Its new naming scheme aside, there are quite a few upgrades it brings to the table.

Design and build quality

Xiaomi’s 11T Pro is far from a compact smartphone. At 8.8mm and 204g, it is quite the unit. But at least it is reinforced by some premium hardware. You find an aluminum frame around the device sandwiched between a glass back and a Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protected front. At the top, the edge of the smartphone is also chiseled which the bottom is not. While we did not have any issue with this difference, some users may find this contrast to be slightly annoying.

We wish the back was matte instead of glossy though because the latter makes for a slightly cheap feel in the hand. Moreover, it also attracts unnecessary dust and smudges which ultimately dilutes the overall look of the smartphone. Perhaps in its blue or white finish, the smartphone may look different but our grey variant certainly did not have anything stand-out about it.

You can adapt to the slightly larger form factor of the device over time

That being said, we appreciate that the 11T Pro comes with basic IP53 certification. For this price, full IP67 or IP68 is a stretch but this middle ground is a great choice by Xiaomi. Moreover, despite the smartphone’s large size, its handling is pretty well done. The power and volume buttons are comfortably reachable with the former also doubling as a fingerprint scanner. This is fast and responsive, although we do have something interesting to talk about with regards to it in a later section.

Rounding up on the design, you find an IR blaster and one part of the Harman Kardon stereo speaker experience on the top edge. The bottom houses a dual nano-SIM tray with no expandable memory support, the primary microphone, a Type-C USB port and the second part of the stereo speaker setup.

Display performance

Last year, the Xiaomi Mi 10T came with a 144Hz IPS LCD display. So naturally, seeing a 120Hz panel on the 11T Pro might seem like a downgrade. However, this year, you find a 2,400 x 1080 resolution AMOLED panel. It is 6.67-inches in size with support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+. To be honest, this is good for multimedia consumption with rich colors and deep blacks. The uniform and small bezels around the panel also help in providing an immersive experience, backed up by some good quality speakers.

We would have liked to see a higher quality display on the 11T Pro

But the panel’s brightness leaves a lot to be desired. Especially when using it outdoors, it feels poor. Its 800 nit typical brightness and 1,000 nit peak brightness seems to have difficulty translating to convenient real world use. With other smartphones that have similar panels, we could use them outdoors at 60 per-cent brightness. But in this case, we had to crank the display up all the way to 100 per-cent to be able to use it comfortably under the sun.

Hardware and performance

Even when priced at a fraction of what typical flagship smartphones are priced at, the Xiaomi 11T Pro comes with one of the highest-end processors available on a smartphone. You find the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chip with our variant coming with 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage and 8GB of RAM.

Unsurprisingly, general performance on the smartphone has been smooth. But there is a slight caveat. The smartphone is only smooth when the display functions at 120Hz. As soon as you drop this to 60Hz, performance is noticeably choppy, almost making the 11T Pro feel mid-range. This discrepancy is not something you usually see from smartphones equipped with a flagship processor.

Often times, we also found 8GB of RAM to be a bit restrictive. If you tried switching between 6-7 applications at once, the smartphone would have to reload at least one. Of course, this is easily fixed with more RAM however, we feel Xiaomi should also look to optimize its software. There are still scaling bugs on its operating system and many of its elements are not aligned with what a stock Android experience would feel like. Having used and adapted to so many operating systems, this is not a huge deal. But if you are someone coming from stock Android or even Samsung’s One UI skin, adapting will take some time.

The flagship processor on-board makes performance snappy

Another surprising aspect about using the 11T Pro is being triggered in your pocket. We suspect that given its fingerprint scanner’s sensitivity, when accidentally unlocked in your pocket, it can lead to some surprising things. In our case, the smartphone posted a tweet, an Instagram story and sent someone a message on WhatsApp without notice. This initially felt quite concerning, with us thinking we were hacked. But soon, we discovered that this was not the case. And upon further digging, we found a way to avoid this. Buried in the settings, we changed the functionality of the fingerprint scanner to only work when pressed and from then on, we have been able to avoid this problem.

Going back to the smartphone’s skin, it is running MIUI 12.5 on top of Android 11 which we feel has fixed a lot of problems that were prevalent in its last version. However, some still remain. For example, incoming notifications can sometimes be delayed and animations drop frames, which is not something that we should be seeing with such a high-end processor. Moreover, we have also not seen any software updates on the smartphone. Despite being a new smartphone, it is still stuck on the September 2021 security patch with October 2021 almost about to end. More often than not, this tends to be overlooked in mid-range smartphones but we think it should be addressed more by companies.

Camera performance

On top of the smartphone’s internals, the camera on the device too raises a few eyebrows. The 11T Pro is equipped with a triple-camera setup made up of a 108MP primary sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide snapper and a 5MP telephoto macro camera. Like many smartphones in this lineup, the primary snapper is good. It shows a good level of detail no matter the lighting situation. But when it comes to consistency and reliability, the camera setup is not well versed. For example, the color sways and detail changes between the primary and ultra-wide camera are huge. And likewise, using the telephoto macro camera for long distance zoom is only decent for up to 2x. Anything beyond this results in some big loss in detail.

But focusing on the primary sensor, there are some things that are impressive. For example, its dynamic range is good and moreover, the way night mode has been implemented is fantastic. Unless you compare directly with a flagship smartphone, the results are quite impressive. There is however some lag when launching the camera application and also when taking a picture. And adding to this, sharing pictures on social media seems to have a problem. On Snapchat or Instagram, the quality of pictures that the phone shares after compression is appalling and unfortunately, this translates to video as well.

There are a lot of features for video baked into the Xiaomi 11T Pro. And while these are great to mimic a cinematic look, they are not useful for everyday video. At the core, the 11T Pro can record up to 8K 30fps video. But it comes with a few limitations. It can only record up to 4K 30fps with HDR enabled. At 4K 60fps and 8K 30fps, you will need to turn off HDR which is not a justified sacrifice especially given the smartphone is marketed to be a video companion. Likewise, the lack of optical image stabilization on the camera setup camera is a surprise given electronic image stabilization (EIS) does not cut it.

But while these are things that you can live with, there is one big issue which we think stems with optimization. Any video you try to send to others on WhatsApp is severely choppy and degraded. This could be a make of break feature for many and unfortunately, the only workaround to this is to film at 60fps. Given the limitations of HDR as well as quality in low light at this frame rate, you are making a big sacrifice just to be able to send smooth videos, something that should be a staple feature of any smartphone.

We wish the other cameras accompanying the primary sensor were a bit more consistent in quality

Rounding up, we have got a single 16MP for selfies. Regardless of lighting, the front camera should be able to do a good job. We like how it is able to maintain a good amount of detail and relatively natural tones. However, you may see a downgrade when using portrait mode. It is not that the downgrade comes with edge detection or detail, but rather with dynamic range. Often times, we try to take portraits with in a moody environment with perhaps the sun shining in the background and if you try to do that in this case, the background will be completely blown out.

Battery life

Perhaps one feature that you cannot dispute on the Xiaomi 11T Pro is its battery. It sports a huge 5,000mAh battery that is incredibly reliable. Even with a flagship processor and at 120Hz, the smartphone provides a solid backup with 8-10 hours of screen-on time. On a typical day beginning at 7:30AM with constant usage, you will only need to plug in the smartphone around 10PM which is insane. With light to moderate usage, you should easily be able to get even up to two days of battery life.

The incredible aspect of the smartphone is that even when you have to recharge it, it is insanely quick. It supports 120W wired charging that can take it from 2-100 per-cent in under 30 minutes. Even though Xiaomi claims that the smartphone can charge in 17 minutes, we found it took a bit longer. But we are not complaining with these speeds. On average, a 10 minute charge yielded close to 55 per-cent of juice.

Conclusion

The Xiaomi 11T Pro is a stand-out value for money smartphone. Its performance is good and so are its internals. But the underlying issue with it is optimization. Whether you look at its user interface, its glitches with pocked dialing or its camera performance, the lack of optimization leaves a lot to be desired. If Xiaomi can address these issues and stay on top of them, the 11T Pro presents an extremely attractive package. But if Xiaomi does not do this, smartphones like the Motorola Edge 20 Pro can capitalize.

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