Xiaomi introduces its 1st Premium Flagship Mi 10 Pro

Beijing-headquartered company Xiaomi introduces its 1st Premium Flagship Mi 10 Pro. Its first real attempt to go the full 100%: there isn’t a single notable component or feature missing in this package. But this also has bumped up the price to territories Xiaomi has never ventured before.

Xiaomi introduces its 1st Premium Flagship Mi 10 Pro

Xiaomi had a clear business strategy over the past few years: offer phones that were on paper as powerful and feature-packed as the best from Apple, Samsung or Huawei, but at about half the price.

That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing—a phone that was something around 90-95% as good at 50-60% of the price is a good compromise for most consumers other than the diehards. Over the years, when friends or family ask me for a phone recommendation, I told them either OnePlus or Xiaomi

Mi 10 Pro look like glass sandwich design with a curved front and back glass that blend seamlessly into an aluminum chassis is not unique in 2020, but it is still quite stunning to look at. And Xiaomi’s is one of the best constructed ones.

I love the matte glass back that does not attract fingerprints, and the coating on my white unit gives off this subtle pink flourish when light hits it at certain angles. The lack of a bulky rectangle camera bump is preferable to my eyes too, since that’s what Samsung, Huawei and many others will give us this year.

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I must say, however, in terms of in-hand comfort, the Mi 10 Pro falls short of the Huawei P40 Pro (which has, in my opinion, the most comfortable in-hand feel of any phone in recent memory), because the Mi 10 Pro’s curves on the sides result in a slightly pointy and thin sides, whereas Huawei’s more drastic curves helps even the sides.

The 6.6-inch display panel has a resolution north of 1080p and refreshes at 90Hz. Technically speaking, it falls short of the 120Hz panel of Samsung’s and Oppo’s latest, but it’s very hard to see the difference. Under the hood is a Snapdragon 865, with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage.

There are two areas of major improvements: the Mi 10 Pro has a much-improved haptics vibration engine. Typing on this phone is a joy, as each tap of a key provides a tactile feedback on the screen, and Xiaomi’s software has added little touches to show off the new motors too: whenever an app is uninstalled, it explodes into bits, with a gentle rumble of the phone coinciding with the blast. These are little touches I appreciate.

The stereo speakers set-up at the top and bottom of the phone. The other big bump is audio: the Mi 10 Pro has stereo speakers, but not just with one end coming out of a tiny earpiece like other phones; instead the Mi 10 pro has real speaker grilles on both the top and bottom of the phone (or left and right sides when held sideways). This is a balanced audio set-up we usually only see in gaming phones. Needless to say, audio output is the best of all recent releases.

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Why you may want the Mi 10 Pro over the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: the Mi 10 Pro has better battery life due to less power-hungry screen; and its 108-megapixel camera does not suffer from the auto-focus issues that have plagued Samsung’s release. Ironically, Xiaomi’s camera is sourced from Samsung, but it would appear Xiaomi has done a better job of fine-tuning.

The Mi 10 Pro has a quad camera system like many phones, but it differs in approach from Samsung/Oppo/Huawei when it comes to zooming. Instead of using a Periscope zoom lens for enhanced zoom performance, the Mi 10 Pro uses two telephoto lens: a 12-megapixel short tele lens that has a focal length equivalent to 50mm, and an 8-megapixel long tele shooter that uses various data to produce a near-lossless 10X zoom.

This short and long telephoto approach allows the phone to keep an optical zoom (or something similar to it) throughout various degrees of zooms between 2X and 10X. Other phones tend to struggle in the “in between spots.” For example, the Galaxy S20 Ultra lens shoot 5X lossless using the Periscope lens, but if you drop the zoom to 3X, it actually uses a digital crop (a.k.a. digital zoom), making for a technically inferior photo than the 5X.

The Mi 10 Pro’s two lenses covers the full spectrum of focal length from 1X all the way to 10X. At 2X, it uses the “Portrait” lens. Any higher, it uses a combination of the hybrid tele along with data from the main sensor.

Speaking of the main camera, it is the same 108-megapixel lens Xiaomi first used in last year’s Mi Note 10 Pro. But while hardware remains unchanged, I find performance to have improved drastically, likely due to superior software algorithms.

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By default the 108-megapixel camera shoot pixel-binned 27-megapixel photos, but there is an option to shoot in full 108-megapixel, but I’d say the benefits are minimal. Stick with the standard mode and let Xiaomi’s improved computational photography do the trick.

The Mi 10 Pro supports 8K video recording, but shoot at 1080p for the best stabilization. I’m also a fan of the vlog mode which lets users shoot a series of clips, and then the phone’s software will automatically edit them together into one stylish vlog. For more in-depth camera analysis, watch the video below.

Running on top of Android 10, Xiaomi’s MIUI 11 is a vibrant and playful software. As mentioned earlier, there are little animation flourishes such as an app “exploding” into bits during uninstallation (as seen in the far right image above) make the overall experience a bit more fun than vanilla stock Android.

Overall performance is excellent as to be expected from a phone running the newest Qualcomm chip. And battery endurance is good too, although not as beastly as Huawei’s devices. In general, the Mi 10 Pro will last an entire day for me, but on some heavy-use days, it did veer towards the dangerous sub-10% mark before my night ended.

But the phone can be topped up very fast—50W, to be exact. This can pump about 2-3% of battery into the phone per minute. Plug the Mi 10 Pro in a socket for 15 minutes in the late afternoon and the phone is all but guaranteed to last until the next morning even for all-nighters.

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