With Huawei stepping back from the limelight, Xiaomi has been stepping it up, making some of the best value Android phones you can buy these days. The 11T Pro is one such example that you don’t have to pay through the nose for the privilege.
It represents an emerging trend in recent years: the budget flagship. From another perspective, you can think of it as a supercharged mid-range phone. On paper at least, this phone checks off all the boxes: a top-tier SoC, a quality display panel, super-fast charging, 5G capabilities and a camera with a party trick.
Like all phones with a budget element, the design of the 11T Pro is somewhat conservative but in my book, an understated design trumps a bold look that doesn’t quite work out. More importantly, by working with ‘safe’ materials and combinations, manufacturers are able to produce relatively affordable phones that look more expensive than they really are on first impression. And if you’ve already decided to encase the phone in some kind of protection 24/7, then it makes even less of a deal.
What you’re more likely to feel and notice, is its rather hefty proportions. But if you’re no stranger to large flagship phones, then this isn’t a detriment in any sense. If it helps, the fingerprint sensor isn’t embedded in the display and is integrated with the power button instead, so there’s no need to stretch a finger just to reach the bottom of the screen.
Understandably, Xiaomi made do with an FHD+ display, which is a prime example of a typical compromise – one of several – that separate the likes of 11T Pro from the true flagships. The upside is that you won’t miss them too much. Perhaps it’s Xiaomi; perhaps smartphone manufacturers understand what are the features and specifications that people genuinely care for. But in this instance, unless you’re switching over from a phone with a higher pixel density, it shouldn’t bother you at all. And that’s partly because the rest of the display is stellar.
The AMOLED display meets Dolby Vision requirements, but what’s great is it’s really bright as well, which contributes to its excellent contrast. That, and richness in colour, makes it excellent for bingeing Netflix on the can (disclaimer: I didn’t do that with this phone). Plus, it has the added bonus of holding up well in bright sunlight. For people who enjoy gaming, the panel has a 120 Hz refresh rate and 480 Hz polling rate. The latter is pretty nuts and I’m not enough of a professional gamer to comment on how much better 480 Hz is over 240 Hz or even 120 Hz, but it’s safe to say that for most people, the biggest benefit comes from the transition from 60 Hz to 90 Hz. Either way, the phone is pretty responsive in games that support these extended refresh rates (yes, that’s a necessity). And with the flagship-class processor (Snapdragon 888), you can pretty much game on this phone for a couple of years before needing a replacement.
The stellar visual experience is complemented perfectly by the speakers, which are even-sounding and sound crisp even when loud. For content consumption at least, we’re quite well covered.
At this point, the only other thing that you would need to round off the everyday experience would be a good camera by today’s standards. Well, in the 11T Pro, you’re getting a decent one. The camera module comprises a 108MP wide-angle unit, accompanied by an 8MP ultra-wide and a 5MP telemacro component. Much like what other manufacturers do for their own lineup, Xiaomi differentiates the Mi 11 from the Mi 11T Pro with different specs for the cameras.
The bread and butter of any smartphone camera system is the main wide-angle camera, and what we find on the 11T Pro here is no slouch at all. By default, the camera bins the pixels to create a small 12MP image, which I think is more than sufficient in most cases. Shooting in full 108MP is only really useful if you want full control over how the image is processed. The touchups on the 11T Pro can be a little aggressive at times so this mode is pretty useful if you are particular about it. Personally, I find that the camera sometimes makes the colours too cool or saturated but I think it’s not something that can’t be overcome with tweaking. But when it does get it right, the results are pretty good.
One issue with the camera is that it doesn’t have optical stabilisation, so you need a tripod if you want to maximise the use of that main camera. If you’re starting to feel worried, don’t worry, the night mode is still acceptable. I do like the phone’s macro capabilities and it was surprisingly enjoyable to use – I didn’t have to go in though, and I think it’s a far more useful feature to have on a phone.
Despite the lack of optical stabilisation, video recording can be relatively shake-free so long as you’re not trying to make it fail. If you’re walking and trying to keep your camera steady the shake is barely noticeable. In all, the software’s pretty decent. Unless you must have the absolute best, I think the image quality provided by the 11T Pro is quite good for most people.
However, I’m not a fan of the menu UI and the choice of where they place additional features. It starts to make sense once you take the time to acclimatise, so I guess it’s just me who’s just being grumpy for the sake of being grumpy. It’s worth exploring the menus because some of the camera’s coolest features aren’t always accessible at first glance, one of which is its One-Click AI Cinema. As much as I’m enamoured by how well they can turn out, it’s not exactly one-click-and-turn-off-your-brain; the learning curve is pretty steep as far as consumer devices go, so you need to put in the work. It sounds a little odd that I’m putting it across this way, but at the same time, I don’t want to give the wrong impression that it’s foolproof. It’s a great sleeper feature nonetheless. I particularly enjoy the __________
However, a feature that most, if not all, can enjoy, is that 120W charger. One coffee break is all you need for your phone to be completely refreshed – around 15 to 20 minutes, which is quite a feat. Though I manage my battery adequately enough that I’m never concerned about fast charging features, but this gets me genuinely excited because I do think this is actually useful in an actual emergency – a five-minute charge actually gives you enough juice so you can commute to your next port of call and continue charging. Added bonus: the phone doesn’t get too hot as well. While there’s understandably no wireless charging on this phone to keep the price down, I think it’s less of a downside. If you can charge it so quickly, wireless charging is somewhat redundant. But I understand that it’s nice to have options.
The battery life is a bit of a mixed bag because it depends on how you use it. If you game constantly or keep 120 Hz enabled with regular use throughout the day, you’d probably need to top up a little at the end of the day. If you spend more time working than constantly checking your phone you’ll be able to cross over to the next day. But I suppose the genius of this whole setup is that all it takes is just a few minutes to sort it out. The only issue, I guess, is that you probably need another charger for the office and an extra cable that can handle high amperage.
So is the Xiaomi 11T Pro a good buy? If you must have a Snapdragon 888, this phone represents incredible value, because the tradeoffs are fairly tolerable. I don’t really feel like I’m missing much in the day to day experience. The phone is speedy, the display is vibrant and animations are responsive. If you don’t need the Snapdragon processor, the 11T might actually provide better value. The long and the short of it is, if you are the sort who doesn’t mind buying a phone that isn’t top of the line, the 11T Pro might just be the ticket.
Xiaomi Mi 11T Pro
Features - 8/10
Value Proposition - 9/10
Performance - 8/10
Design & Build Quality - 7/10
Overall - 8/10
For the money, it's hard to go wrong. The 11T Pro does most things well enough that you won't miss a top-shelf phone most of the time.