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The Xiaomi 11T Pro is let down by design

The verdict is in. Yes, the 11T Pro is the fastest charging smartphone available, but its design and camera are disappointing – two things that set semi-premium phones apart

The Xiaomi 11T Pro
The Xiaomi 11T Pro (Abhishek Baxi)

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Like OnePlus and now Samsung as well, Xiaomi is working on creating a portfolio of premium smartphones — right from mid-range phones to the ‘flagship killers’ to ones that land on the top tier. The new Xiaomi 11T Pro is the value-focused offering that sits under the Mi 11 and Mi 11 Ultra that were launched last year and got rave reviews.

Now, of course, the company has dropped the Mi brand name and switched to eponymous branding for its premium smartphones and other devices while continuing with the Redmi brand for its more value-oriented line-up.

Also read: How to build a smart home from scratch

And actually, the Xiaomi 11T Pro has all the ingredients for a standout value flagship. I took it for a spin for a few days to see if it’s a worthy option on the table in the segment for the new year. But before that, here are the details of the innards of the 11T Pro. 

Operating System: MIUI 12.5, powered by Android 11

  • Display: 6.67-inch (2400 x 1080) Full HD+ AMOLED | 120Hz refresh rate | Gorilla Glass Victus
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | Adreno 660 GPU
  • RAM: 8GB/12GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Rear Camera: 108MP ƒ/1.75 | 8MP ƒ/2.2 (wide-angle) | 5MP ƒ/2.4 (macro)
  • Front Camera: 16MP ƒ/2.4
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 | Bluetooth 5.2 | NFC
  • Battery:  5000mAh | Supports 120W fast charging
  • Dimensions: 164.1 x 76.9 x 8.8mm | Weight: 204g

Now let’s skip to the good part.

As soon as you power on the 11T Pro, the beautiful AMOLED panel that offers rich colours with excellent contrast levels and impressive brightness which makes it easy to use even under the brightest conditions.  

And, of course, it’s a 120Hz refresh rate display which is increasingly becoming standard fare in the segment, but a breezy experience if you’re upgrading to such a phone for the first time. I find it annoying though that it is set to 60Hz out of the box and requires the user to go into settings and switch to 120Hz.

The display is set to 60Hz out of the box and requires the user to go into settings and switch to 120Hz.

I understand Xiaomi wants to keep it at lower refresh rate to maximize the battery life, but many people might not get to experience the higher refresh rate if they are not aware of this. 

Along with the high refresh rate, there’s also a fast touch response rate of up to 480Hz which the gamers might appreciate but honestly, I didn’t find any perceptible difference in everyday use. 

Overall, watching videos or playing games on the crisp Full HD 6.67-inches expansive display is a delight. The Xiaomi 11T Pro undoubtedly offers one of the best displays in the segment. There’s also a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus for protection. 

Once you look past the display, there’s the top-of-the-line innards as well. The 11T Pro packs in the Snapdragon 888 chipset and combines it with 8GB or 12GB of RAM to offer near-flawless Android experience. It delivers outstanding performance, and I never faced any throttling or stuttering for most day-to-day tasks. Even playing high-end, graphic-intensive games was a breeze. The 128GB storage variant should be enough for most users, but if you are a media hoarder, there’s also a 256GB model. 

The Xiaomi 11T Pro offers 5G connectivity with a broad support for 13 5G bands, not skimping on those like some other devices in the market. But you’ll have to wait to test that out till there’s wide 5G network availability in the country or when the world opens up for frequent travel abroad. 

While it’s disappointing to unbox a smartphone in 2022 with Android 11 (Xiaomi 11T Pro is powered by the company’s proprietary skin, MIUI 12.5), Xiaomi is now replicating the guaranteed three Android platform updates as well as four years of security updates promise like Samsung and others. Xiaomi has a patchy record of updates, so this is a welcome move, but I also hope that it comes with timeliness of the updates which is as important. 

That’s not all. There are also a couple of other things that are nicely done. The haptic feedback is great, and Xiaomi’s efforts to make it better in the last year or so is quite evident. The speakers are tuned by Harman Kardon (there’s also a neat Harman Kardon logo on the top edge of the phone) and offer the right amount of punch whether you’re listening to music or a podcast. That gorgeous display and the excellent speakers make the Xiaomi 11T Pro a perfect smartphone for multimedia consumption. 

The design dilemma

But, and there is a big but. There are many things to admire in the Xiaomi 11T Pro but the design choices are baffling. The choice of materials is a fair trade-off to cut costs, but the brushed aluminium look is underwhelming and rather boring. The Meteorite Gray variant that I reviewed picked up fingerprints very quickly and soon resembled my four-year old’s finger-painting assignment. Despite the attempt with the fine-grained pattern, the glossy material didn’t impress me much and I think the eclectic Celestial Blue variant or the classy Moonlight White one would be better options to pick. 

It’s also slightly unwieldy to use with a width of 76.9mm (and a thickness of 8.8mm to add to it) even with the curved design at the back. It’s heavy too, but that’s expected of a phone with 5000mAh battery, and the weight is quite balanced. 

There's also no IP68 water resistance, and you get only IP53 ingress protection against splashes and such. That’s a bummer. Similarly, you miss out on an in-screen fingerprint sensor. 

That’s what I meant, there are misses everywhere you look. There’s also no wireless charging. 

And then there’s the camera department. Ummm… okay, it’s tricky. The Xiaomi 11T Pro is not a bad snapper by any measure, but it also doesn’t shine in any way. Within the segment, there are smartphones with better camera prowess. 

The Xiaomi 11T Pro offers a similar camera arrangement that we’ve seen in the Mi 11 series. The images have good details and accurate colour reproduction, and the dynamic range is pretty good. Photos taken in daylight come out very good and saturated, but there’s also too much processing going on that over-sharpens the images. 

One of the big misses is the lack of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) which is an issue while clicking lowlight images.

In low light conditions, the results are a mixed bag with soft focus and considerable noise creeping in. When the night mode kicks in, the results are better. One of the big misses is the lack of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) which is an issue while clicking lowlight images. Xiaomi makes up with Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), but barely. 

I’m not a fan of the usefulness of a macro lens. On the 11T Pro too, it’s hard to pull of an in-focus close-up shot that comes out really impressive, so it’s only best in the hands of those who know their stuff. The ultra-wide lens struggles with details and considerable noise and there’s noticeable stretching on the edges of most photos. On the front, the 16MP camera offers serviceable selfies with good focus and enough details. The portraits could be better but good enough for social media shares. 

To sum it up, you can use the Xiaomi 11T Pro to get pretty good shots in a variety of environments (sometimes on multiple attempts), but there’s nothing exceptional here this time around. 

What else are we here for?

Hypercharge hype

To repurpose the popular meme inspired by Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev in the movie 83, most people will consider buying Xiaomi 11T Pro or even reading this review because of Xiaomi’s Hypercharge pitch. 

Xiaomi’s 120W Hypercharge technology charges the phone from zero to 100% in less than 20 minutes using the charger and cable that comes in the box. At a pinch, plugging the phone for only 10 minutes will charge the phone over 70%. Insane, really. 

(A bit of an explainer. The bulk of the charging is done at 70W or 80W and 120W is only the peak that the charger hits. The distribution of how long the phone maintains the higher wattage is the magic behind how it charges that fast.)

The phone has a large 5000mAh battery with a dual-cell design that includes two 2500mAh cells that charge simultaneously. Charging speed aside, the battery life of the 11T Pro is pretty solid and even with heavy usage through the day, I had plenty of juice left when I went to bed. 

The 120W charger is big and bulky, but unlike Samsung or Apple, you get it in the box (it’s an expensive accessory, mind you). The phone doesn't get too hot while charging, but that could also be because I tested the charging in cold Delhi weather. In the hot summers, I expect some bit of warmth definitely. Of course, if you’re using the phone while charging, it falls to 24W to ensure it doesn't overheat. 

Xiaomi says even with 120W charging, there won't be any noticeable battery degradation up to 800 charge cycles, which is approximately two years of use. I’ll take their word for it. Also, a 20% degradation of battery by that time is a fair trade-off for this convenience. 

The final word

Xiaomi 11T Pro is a solid smartphone and has plenty going for it, yet the balancing act that is trademark of any middle of the road offering, is misplaced. 

It offers a gorgeous display and is a brilliant workhorse in terms of performance. And, of course, delivers an envious fast charging experience. Yet that staid chassis and sub-par cameras soften the punch that such phenomenal hardware could’ve delivered. While there’s enough competition in and around this price segment, the 11T Pro has a lot to worry about from its own Mi 11 stable as well. 

The Xiaomi 11T Pro starts at 38,999 and go up to 43,999 for the top variant. Things like assured Android updates and comprehensive 5G connectivity command a price premium, and all things considered, Xiaomi has priced the 11T Pro quite well. Despite this being a puzzling device, it might just end up selling in large numbers.

Also read: Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: Less jazz, a bit more K-pop 

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