Xiaomi 13 Pro review: top hardware, limited software. VIDEO

Xiaomi 13 Pro is here! The Chinese brand’s new flagship has officially launched in Europe, and this model is clearly positioned in the market as a camera-focused model. Sure, it’s equipped with one of the most powerful screens on the market, along with the most powerful chipset from Qualcomm, but the most important aspect Xiaomi is putting forward is the camera. This is the first model with a 1″ camera sensor to launch in Europe. Of course, like Xiaomi’s previous flagships, the 13 Pro is also “co-developed” in partnership with Leica, but this time around, we’re seeing perhaps the closest collaboration between a phone brand and a camera brand.

The Xiaomi 13 Pro takes even “premium” models up a notch in build quality

When Xiaomi made the 13 Pro plans, the camera certainly raised quite a few issues. First, because the 1″ sensor needs a significantly larger lens than those on traditional phone cameras. Thus, Xiaomi had to think up a much larger camera island that covers more than half the width of the device. All three cameras are integrated here, along with a flash, which probably won’t be used much.

Xiaomi 13 Pro camera 3

The module sticks out quite a bit, about another half the thickness of the whole phone. And it feels heavy, too. The phone is clearly heavier at the top than at the bottom because of this, so it takes a bit of adjustment to balance this phone in your hand without risking dropping it inadvertently.

The phone’s construction is premium and perhaps even a notch above that, that’s because in addition to the glossy aluminum on the edges and Victus Gorilla Glass on the screen, the back is made of bioceramic material. This is mainly used in the medical field to repair broken bones, but it seems to be quite suitable for protecting the back of a phone as well. The back is extremely glossy, and on black it immediately attracts dust particles and fingerprints. Such a cover will be harder to scratch than a glass one, however, but it might chip in the event of an impact with the ground. Fortunately, the Xiaomi 13 Pro comes with protective measures in the package.

Xiaomi 13 Pro 120W charger

We’ve gotten used to not seeing accessories in flagship boxes, but Xiaomi hasn’t yet gotten the “message” that Samsung and Apple keep spreading. So, the Xiaomi 13 Pro comes with both an on-screen wrap and a silicone pouch in the package. The protection is minimal, but it’s enough to keep your phone protected for a few days until you find “healthier” solutions in stores. And also in the pack is the fast charger, but that remains at 120W, the same as last year. Not that I’m complaining. Anyway from 50-60W upwards, the charging speed is very fast, and at 120W, you can charge your phone almost immediately.

The screen is probably the best on the market

Xiaomi 13 Pro screen

One of the first things that proves Xiaomi isn’t messing around when it says the 13 Pro is a genuine flagship is the screen. If there’s any feature for smartphone screens, this one integrates them. We have a large 6.73″ OLED panel with QHD+ resolution, refresh rate variable between 1 and 120 Hz, and near-record brightness: a maximum of 1,900 nits, with 1,200 across the entire screen. You certainly won’t have problems in bright light with this model, as it includes a so-called Sunlight Mode. Of course, the phone recognises all HDR standards, such as Dolby Vision, HDR10 and 10+ or HLG.

Even so, I can’t help but complain that it’s curved at the edges, and that Xiaomi doesn’t deliver the phone in full resolution or natural color profile either. It’s hard to understand why companies decide for you that you don’t need the full resolution or natural colors it offers. Especially since that’s precisely why you buy a top phone, because you want everything to be at the highest level. If, on the other hand, the problem is battery consumption, perhaps Xiaomi and other companies that apply such limitations from the factory should either work on efficiency or stop integrating such resolutions on mobile screens. In my experience, the difference between Full HD+ and QHD+ on phone screens is insurmountable.

Xiaomi 13 Pro resolution

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip performance is limited by software

Being equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, we already have an idea of the level of performance the Xiaomi 13 Pro has to offer. We tested last weeks Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with a special version of the processor and the new OnePlus 11 with a standard chipset. Both previously tested models confirmed that we’re dealing with the most powerful chipset on Android, but also one of the “hottest” on the market. It seems that Xiaomi also came to a similar conclusion with OnePlus and decided to limit the phone’s performance from the factory.

Initially, we ran a few tests and noticed that the scores were too low. I dug a little through the MIUI settings and noticed that in the Battery menu, the phone was set to a balanced performance profile by default. Switching to performance mode unlocked the true capabilities of the processor, but also revealed why Xiaomi resorted to such practices: the company’s built-in cooling system can’t handle the tests.

Xiaomi 13 Pro performance

For short tests, it achieves scores comparable to the OnePlus 11 and Galaxy S23 Ultra, but unlike those models, the Xiaomi 13 Pro doesn’t even manage to finish the “Extreme” stress test in 3DMark. The phone gets so hot that it closes the app before the test reaches the end, and is downright hot to the touch after this test attempt.

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On the other hand, even though this seems like a big drawback, it’s really not. Yes, it’s pretty disappointing to buy a high-performance device and not be able to push the limits of hardware performance, but at the same time there are few real cases that put that much strain on a mobile chip. In most cases, the performance on the balanced profile is more than enough, and in the “non-Extreme” stress test, one that’s gentler on the processor, the performance level remains around 99% after half an hour. That’s not to say Xiaomi will get any praise, as other models have completed the test even while limiting performance. We just have to understand that this model is specifically “tuned” to run on the phone’s default settings, and performance-level customizations won’t deliver optimal results.

Xiaomi 13 Pro logo

Benchmarks

  • AnTuTu – 1.294.039
  • GeekBench 6 – Single-Core: 1,941 / Multi-Core: 5,377
  • 3DMark Wild Life Extreme – 3.724
  • 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test – N/A
  • 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test Balanced – Best Loop: 2.916 / Lowest Loop: 2.900 / Stability: 99.5%
  • PCMark – 15.667

Xiaomi 13 Pro’s battery life not a problem with charging at 120W

Xiaomi 13 Pro charging

With 120W charging, which provides full power from 0 to 100% in just 20 minutes, battery life is not a big problem for the Xiaomi 13 Pro. However, if you don’t want to carry the power “brick” around with you, it’s best not to fiddle with the settings we talked about earlier. Full HD with the balanced profile should be enough for an average of two days of use with the 4,820 mAh battery. As soon as you switch to High Performance though, the battery seems to melt, even in standby. Use that option at your own risk.

But Xiaomi also has wireless charging, something that doesn’t exactly seem useful anymore, given the power of many such chargers, which stops at around 15W. Xiaomi offers wireless charging at 50W, but only with its proprietary charger, which ensures that almost no one will benefit from this capability, as it’s not standardized. The only real advantage of wireless charging on this model is reverse charging at 10W, enough to power a watch or a pair of headphones, or another phone in an emergency.

Xiaomi 13 Pro wireless

MIUI 14 is probably the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s biggest drawback

Despite the sleek design and high performance, one element that might keep some potential customers away from this phone is MIUI 14. Xiaomi’s interface has been criticized by many users for a few years now, and rightly so. Interface-wise, we’re dealing with an iOS “clone”. Even Apple’s Control Center menu has been reproduced on Xiaomi phones for a few years now, with a similar interface. So Android users from other companies or Google have to adapt to a new way of using it, with two menus at the top: one strictly for notifications, central, and one for quick settings on the right. There’s a fair degree of customization, but most people who buy a phone want one that works as they expect it to on the first try and then tweak little things if they need to.

Xiaomi 13 Pro iphone

At least in terms of software support we know Xiaomi ships three years of system updates and four years of security. However, sometimes system updates come in the form of MIUI updates, not Android updates, so it’s more after luck. There are phones with MIUI 14 that still use Android 12, for example, even though others have the same interface on Android 13. Perhaps it’s time for Xiaomi to fall in line with industry leaders if it wants to make its mark among them, with at least four years of Android updates and five years of security.

The fingerprint sensor needs improvement, but the Xiaomi 13 Pro is among the few phones with an infrared sensor

Xiaomi makes a habit of integrating new technologies, but doesn’t seem to refine them too often. The fingerprint sensor is one of them. We’re dealing with an in-display optical sensor that works well in many situations, but not all. Although the sensor is permanently active even when the screen is off and in most cases responds perfectly to touches, I had problems especially at night when I was out taking pictures. It’s not clear if the problem arises from cold or lack of light, but the fingerprint sensor at night outside didn’t respond to commands until after several attempts. As soon as I got back in the house, it was working properly. Maybe the problem can be fixed in software, though. It’s important to note that we had a pre-release model to test, which may not include the final software, so the final units may not be affected.

Xiaomi 13 Pro fingerprint

Xiaomi, however, remains one of the brands that still offers an infrared port for remote control functions. So without having a smart home system, you can control your TV or air conditioner directly from the Xiaomi 13 Pro, I’d love to see such sensors on more phones.

The stereo audio system, however, is just OK, close to those of other flagships, but not as good. And that’s only because it’s aided by Dolby Atmos processing, which makes the sound a bit more balanced and offers multiple listening profiles. I recommend the Music profile, as opposed to the standard Dynamic one, which seems to push the highs too high. Without Dolby Atmos, the sound is very poor, so this option will have to stay on. Fortunately, it comes enabled from the factory.

Cameras have extremely good hardware, but software processing holds them back from other flagship models

On the camera front, the Xiaomi 13 Pro sets a high bar for expectations, primarily thanks to the hardware specs list, which puts that 1″ Sony IMX989 sensor and partnership with Leica at the top of the list. All three cameras on this phone have 50-megapixel resolution, each promising their own advantages.

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Xiaomi 13 Pro camera detail

For example, the main camera boasts HyperOIS optical stabilization, wide-open f/1.9 aperture and multiple software features to capture the best photos and videos. The ultra-wide camera has a very wide 115-degree aperture, while the 3.2x optical zoom benefits from a so-called floating lens with stabilisation. All benefit from two Leica photographic styles though, one called Leica Authentic and one called Leica Vibrant, it’s pretty clear what each of the names do: one tries to capture reality as it is, natural, while the other adds a splash of colour to the images.

I have to admit that while I had high expectations, and the shooting hardware present on this phone is certainly some of the best on the market, it’s the software that seems to be holding this phone back from other brands in the photo and video capture department.

By day, in the flagship area, it’s hard not to come up with top performance. The ultrawide camera manages to capture very good detail, although the dark areas seem too dark at times. I noticed the same is true on the main camera, and on closer investigation, I concluded that it’s the Leica Authentic style, which prefers images with strong contrast, and brings out certain details. Here, I think it’s up to the user to decide if they would like more HDR-style images, where the shadows are raised to retain more detail, or if the darker shadow style is more suited to their preference. Unfortunately, Vibrant mode doesn’t “solve” this problem either. I also sometimes noticed situations where the exposure wasn’t calculated correctly, with the phone tending to overexpose in situations with a lot of shadow.

When it comes to zoom, the Xiaomi 13 Pro has two options. A crop on the main sensor with 2x zoom, which yields unexpectedly good results, sometimes looking like the details are even better than on the wide 1x mode. An intermediate zoom of this kind is more useful from time to time than in everyday use, but it’s good that it exists. Incidentally, the 3.2x optical zoom is one of the best on the market, mainly due to the large aperture f/2.0 aperture, which allows more light to reach the sensor.

There are a few things about the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s cameras that aren’t the same as on other models, though. Portrait mode uses a software system called the Master Lens System, which mimics three lenses on Leica cameras. We have a 35mm black and white mode, a 50mm mode called Swirly bokeh, which makes the highlights in the background stand out more, the 75mm camera with 3.2x zoom, and a 90mm mode called soft focus, which gives a certain artistic tint, but which I personally didn’t like.

Photo Day

Xiaomi boasts good separation of the subject from the blurred background, and indeed, it achieves this both day and night. However, the quality of night-time portraits is poor, with these often not focusing correctly, or with high image noise. Focusing at night seems to be an issue for the entire camera system on the Xiaomi 13 Pro, even if it’s very fast in good light. Incidentally, the macro mode is among the best on the market, but there are few instances where you’ll use it.

Night photography is another topic where the Xiaomi 13 Pro tries to do something different, but it seems to fail to impress. The company says that its camera system offers reduced image noise at night, and it does, but the level of visible detail also drops. That’s because Xiaomi prefers to preserve the original atmosphere of the frames, without increasing the brightness of the processing too much.

Night Photo

On this one I think it’s more about taste. For some it might be that these frames are preferable to the night-to-day ones on Samsung, for example. A “pro” point for Xiaomi’s night mode is that the camera system actually uses the cameras on night mode and doesn’t crop on the sensor when zooming. One downside would be that the white balance is different on each camera. So shots taken in the same place can look completely different depending on the camera used.

I do hope that at least some of these issues will be fixed in software, as when everything works fine, the images on the Xiaomi 13 Pro are very good.

I wasn’t exactly impressed with the footage on the Xiaomi 13 Pro either. At night it produces above-average results, but I expected more from a high-end phone. Also, at night you can see reflections of lights in the camera lenses, something that could be annoying for many users. By day, the level of detail in 4K shooting seems low to me, compared to Samsung or Apple, leaders in this segment. Interestingly, Xiaomi also offers Log shooting for high dynamic range and advanced colorization directly in the camera’s pro mode. I would like such features from other big manufacturers as well. Stabilization is good, but not at Samsung’s level, and the dedicated electronic stabilization shooting mode is only limited to Full HD in 30 frames per second, when others have gone beyond 2.5K and 60 frames. Thus, the Xiaomi 13 Pro remains an OK phone for photography, but it’s not as good for shooting.

Conclusions

The Xiaomi 13 Pro attempts to compete with industry giants like the Galaxy S23 Ultra or iPhone 14 Pro Max, and in terms of hardware, build, and specs, it manages to catch up with them and, at times, even surpass them. However, it does show some clumsiness that shouldn’t exist on premium phones over €1,000. We’re talking about software that’s still not quite right, inconsistent cameras despite large sensors, and cooling and performance issues we haven’t seen on other models with similar configurations.

Xiaomi 13 Pro main2 copy

The phone may be a good choice for those who are already Xiaomi fans and want the best this brand has to offer, or for those who want something different from the more “mainstream” alternatives on the sales charts. I admit I was expecting better results on the photo side from a 1″ sensor on a phone, incidentally the first one I’ve had the opportunity to test. Here it becomes clear that top hardware is not enough without equally well put together software to take advantage of all it has to offer. I just hope Xiaomi can fix the shortcomings along the way in the software.

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