Xiaomi may be known for launching a plethora of different phones as part of the same series, to the point where it gets quite confusing. But for those who only care about having the best all-round flagship experience, there's one model each year worth paying attention to: the numbered 'Pro'.
For 2023, the Xiaomi 13 Pro is taking up the mantle of 'flagship', promising the best of everything. From display through cameras and outright performance and speed, it's got it all. On paper at least. While imperfect, there's a lot to love here that makes it quite a special device.
Xiaomi 13 Pro
Xiaomi's latest flagship 'Pro' device offers a huge amount of performance for the money, delivering a best-in-class display, great build quality and stupidly fast charging speeds.
- Big, sharp display with 120Hz adaptive refresh
- Stupidly fast 120W wired charging (full charge in under 20 minutes)
- Bio-ceramic back and IP68 water/dust resistance
- Great cameras, particularly the primary sensor
- MIUI is often frustrating
- It's big and slippery
- 162.9 x 74.6 x 8.38mm - 229g
- Ceramic back - Gorilla Glass Victus front
- IP68 water/dust resistant - Ceramic Black or Ceramic White colours
Few materials are as time-consuming to work with on smartphones as ceramics (or bio-ceramic in this case). They also happen to be inherently more durable than the glass that coats the rear of most devices. Understandably then, it's seen very much as the ultimate high-end material to use in a smartphone. Which is exactly what Xiaomi has done with the 13 Pro.
The bio-ceramic back on the Xiaomi 13 Pro looks and feels almost indistinguishable from glass, but gives off a smoky chromed look. At least on our black review unit. The look on the Ceramic White version is quite different and might be the one to go for if you're particularly averse to fingerprint and palm grease smudges on your phone. It's almost as if you only have to think about touching it for a greasy smear to show up.
Despite that, it's got a luxurious finish, and one we've grown to love. The camera island ramps up seamlessly from the rear panel and - like previous models - it has minimal lines separating the three lenses. It's also got the subtle Leica branding on it as an indicator to confirm that Xiaomi worked with the iconic camera company on its optics. It's classy as heck.
It's not a small device by any means and has that heft we've become accustomed to seeing on premium flagship models. On first impressions, it's also quite a heavy device and is comfortably over the 200-gram mark. This fact alone may make the standard Xiaomi 13 a little more appealing for some.
Otherwise, everything is pretty standard from a flagship perspective. The front and back both curve towards the edges, to help give it a more comfortable feel in the hand than if it was a flat, right-angled device like the iPhone 14 series.
Adding to its durability credentials, Xiaomi has also seen fit to get it certified for water and dust resistance. It's IP68 rated, which is about as good as it gets for a smartphone and means it won't let dust in and can survive being submerged in shallow water for up to 30 minutes. So you can use it in the shower, or in the rain, and it'll be just fine.
- 6.73-inch AMOLED display - 3200 x 1440 WQHD+ - 551ppi
- 120Hz adaptive refresh - 240Hz touch response
- Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG support - 10-bit colour - 1200nits typical - 1900 nits peak brightness
- Dolby Atmos dual speakers
In recent years Xiaomi's 'Pro' models have featured some of the best displays on the market, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro is no different. Its 6.73-inch AMOLED display boasts high resolution, high dynamic range, high refresh rates, high peak brightness and high touch response. It's got everything.
The WQHD+ resolution ensures that details are pin-sharp, with a pixel density of 551 pixels per inch. It's worth noting - as seems to be the trend - that this isn't enabled by default. So if you want the crispiest details and text, you'll need to go into settings and enable it.
Being a modern flagship phone also means you get fast refresh rates, but more than that, adaptive refresh rates. The display can reach a peak of 120Hz refresh rate and drop as low as just 1Hz when required, helping the phone save on battery use when it doesn't need to refresh quickly. With 240Hz touch response onboard as well, the content on-screen reacts quickly to interaction.
Add to that the fact it's got 1200 nits typical brightness, peaks of up to 1900 nits, support for over a billion colours and support for all the popular HDR formats (Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and HLG), and you get one of the most dynamic, colour-rich and bright displays around. It's a very strong display, in every measurable way. It's a brilliant display.
Just to add to the media experience, the phone also has stereo speakers. One of those is built in just above the top of the display on the front, and the other is placed on the bottom edge of the phone near the USB-C port. Those are boosted by Dolby Atmos support, to offer dynamic audio.
As for software, that's MIUI 14, Xiaomi's latest skin built on top of Android 13. It's about as far removed from the Pixel software as you can imagine, featuring many design and function decisions we find frustrating at times. It takes a little wrestling to get it behaving in a way we'd like, but even then, it's not ideal.
It's not the first time we've mentioned our frustrations with MIUI, in fact, it crops up virtually every Xiaomi, Redmi or Poco phone review. Recent changes have moved it further into the realms of counter-intuitive and cumbersome function. Simple things like choosing a wallpaper or a ring/alert tone force you into Xiaomi's Theme Store app, so you can't just simply choose from a list or pre-selected group of options.
It's not our only bug bear either. The software constantly pesters you to try the Wallpaper Carousel feature until you either disable the notifications or enable the feature and even if you do, the lock screen - by default - has a shortcut to the feature in the bottom left corner. We often found we'd accidentally tap it when picking up the phone because it's so close to the edge on the curves of the display.
Other annoying elements include the fact that the 'Control Centre' and notifications are split between the right and left sides of the screen when the phone is first set up. That means a bit of an uncomfortable stretch to get to your notifications if you're right-handed. At least, until you manually go into settings and switch it back to the 'Old Mode' which drops the quick settings toggles and notifications together.
Add that to the fact that when it's first set up, it plasters the home screens with all of your apps, instead of hiding them away in the app drawer. It's a lot to try and wrestle with just to get it acting intuitively. It's almost like Xiaomi's design team purposefully ignored all the things that make Android 13 great - like the missing wallpaper colour theming - and added a bunch of its own features, which add nothing to the usability of the phone, then try to force you to use those features.
Hardware, battery and performance
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 - 12GB/256GB or 12GB/512GB - Wi-Fi 7
- 4820mAh battery - 120W HyperCharge (1-100 per cent in 19mins) - 50W wireless charging
Like the rest of the 13 Pro, the internals promise top-of-the-line performance - and deliver. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip has offered an excellent performance in every device we've tested it in so far, whether that's the OnePlus 11 or Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, and that's the same with the Xiaomi 13 Pro - especially paired with the latest LPDDR5X RAM and UFS 4.0 storage for really quick read/write speeds. It's even future-proofed as one of the first phones to launch with support for Wi-Fi 7.
Regardless of the task, Xiaomi's flagship was more than up to it. It launches apps quickly, and all the top hardware inside means the feeling is one of responsiveness. We were never left in lag-land and never experienced any noticeable stutter in the user interface, or while playing games that require quick reactions. It's smooth, quick, and powers through everything like a champion.
This focus on speed is seen in the battery charging technology too, with Xiaomi bundling a 120W HyperCharge adapter in with the Xiaomi 13 Pro. What that means - incredibly - is that you only need 19 minutes of charging to go from an empty battery to 100 per cent. It's pretty staggering, and has some real benefits in everyday usage, especially if you often forget to plug your phone in at night. Even wireless charging is fast. At 50W speeds, the wireless charger is about as fast as they come, but you will need to buy Xiaomi's bespoke charging stand to take advantage of those speeds.
It's quite a freeing experience never having to remember to plug the phone in at night time, and it was never needed in our testing. We'd simply wait until the phone hit under 20 percent, then plug it in for 10-15 minutes, take it off charge, and repeat the cycle. It was usually enough time to bring us back to a full battery again.
Because of that, battery life is never a concern. Not that it struggles to make it through a day. Even with our heavy testing the camera, gaming, and video watching we didn't manage to drain the battery in any 24-hour period. It's got excellent standby performance and copes even when you use the phone for typically battery-intensive tasks.
- 50MP f/1.9 Leica main camera - IMX989 1-inch sensor - HyperOIS
- 50MP f/2.0 floating telephoto camera - OIS
- 50MP f/2.2 115-degree ultrawide camera
- Dolby Vision 4K/60 video recording - Portrait Night Mode - 8K video
There's no doubt that the camera system is the main event on the 13 Pro, for a few reasons. First, it features a triple camera system made up entirely of 50-megapixel sensors. Second, the primary camera features a large 1-inch type sensor, first featured on the 12S Ultra launched in China in 2022. It's a larger sensor than what you'll find in most smartphones which - in turn - means that each pixel is larger than the typical, and that's great news for photography enthusiasts because it means better low-light performance and less noise in general.
Comparing all three lenses, it's clear this main camera is the best of the lot from looking at the overall image quality. Images have a really authentic quality to them; details and textures look clean, without any excessive over-sharpening that we've seen on a lot of smartphones recently. Pairing with Leica lenses and working with the iconic camera company has clearly helped Xiaomi here. In low light, the main camera does a great job of lifting light and delivering an image without excessive, distracting noise in the shadows.
It's not missing anything on the features front either, if you want close-up macro shots it uses the ultrawide lens to good effect, giving you the ability to get right up close to subjects and get a sharp image with lots of depth, detail and background blur.
As for colours and contrast, that depends on which default colour profile you use. Xiaomi offers both 'Leica Authentic' and 'Leica Vibrant' option and - as you'd suspect - the former produces images with slightly muted, realistic colours and less contrast, where the Vibrant option cranks it up slightly, making colours more saturated and contrast higher for more visual impact. Regardless of which one you choose you'll never get colours pushing too far into the realm of oversaturation. The detail and texture remain clear and clean.
For the most part, the colours and contrast are relatively consistent across all three lenses as well, which really helps and ensures you know what you're going to get regardless of the focal length you choose.
Our only real complaint with the Xiaomi photos is that - in general - the darker shadowed parts of images in some scenes can be a little too dark. It doesn't use HDR as effectively as you might like to liven up the colours and light in the darker areas sometimes. Still, if that's the compromise for having more realistic, clearer images with no noise, we're happy with that.
The primary camera is joined by what Xiaomi calls a 'floating telephoto camera', which enables you to zoom in just over 3x with 'optical zoom' and a focus range from as close as 10cm to infinity. In short, you can zoom in close, without losing detail, and be able to focus on objects even when they're fairly close to the camera. You can zoom up to 70x digitally, but obviously, the detail falls off considerably by the time you reach the upper limits, but even up to about 10x or (at a push) 20x zoom, the images are still more than usable.
Xiaomi's zoom and some smart computational processing have also enabled a couple of features we've been delighted with too: Portrait Effects and Supermoon mode. The former of those lets you switch between four different portrait settings, each with a different focal length, colour effect, contrast and bokeh style. We loved using the black-and-white mode, which delivers a contrast-rich, sharp image with a natural background blur. The second 'Swirly Bokey' mode adds a heavier blur and a soft (but not too soft) image, which is great for pet photos. In fact, we took some of our favourite pictures of our cat with this camera.
As for Supermoon, that's on another planet to so many other smartphones. Not literally, the moon's not a planet after all. Still, with the mode chosen from the list of camera options, you can take a photo of the moon from 5x zoom to 60x zoom, and it will deliver an image that lowers the exposure, and - even at the extreme zoom levels - evens out the inevitable handshake and movement. The result is an image with craters, shadows and detail on full display. The further you zoom, the bigger the moon gets (obviously), and there is something of a detail fall-off the more zoom you use - but it's impressive nonetheless. To be able to shoot it completely handheld, with no tripod and no pro settings tweaking, is other-worldly.
We mentioned that the primary camera is clearly the strongest camera of the three, but that's really only clearly visible when you move into extreme low-light situations. Night mode, for example, is a real struggle when you don't have a good amount of street/building lighting to work with. In the lowest light situations, the primary works really well, pulling in a lot of light from all parts of the image, whereas the primary and zoom lenses don't seem anywhere near as capable, sometimes leaving you with a shot that doesn't look like it's a night mode shot at all. On the plus side, you don't get lots of blur. The details you can see are generally sharp and in focus, with no motion blur.
As for video performance, you get lots of power here. The phone can film Dolby Vision content at 4K/60, giving you sharp, smooth content with deep contrast, wide colour support and bright peaks. If you're just after the highest resolution video, you can shoot at 8K, but you don't get Dolby Vision recording at that level.
Even the selfie camera performs well, although - as usual - not as strong as the rear cameras. It's always more convenient and easy to use your selfie cam to shoot yourself, but if you have a little time, it's well worth using the portrait lens effects to take photos of yourself or other people. There's a richness, detail and depth of field you just can't really get from the front camera, even in its portrait mode with the background blur. On that note, it's smart enough that it rarely misses on edge detection, so when you do use it, you're not left with unnatural-looking separation between the foreground subject and the background.
Xiaomi's latest Pro model is a fine device, combining fantastic performance with an exceptional camera, great battery life and a stunning display. In fact, we liked all of it so much we were happy to put up with our frustrations with the software in order to take advantage of its capabilities.
The price point isn't exactly cheap, and that's certainly something to consider with the Xiaomi 13 Pro. Our initial knee-jerk response was that it's too expensive, but when you look at the feature set, the hardware and the performance it offers, and realise it's going up against the Galaxy S23 Ultras and iPhone 14 Pro Max's of the world, you get a bit of a different perspective. Compared to Samsung and Apple's top dollar phones, it's not terribly priced at all.
For some, the MIUI hurdle will be too great, but if you're happy to sit and tame the phone, you're left with something of a diamond from Xiaomi which exceeded our expectations from the brand, and that sets the tone going forward. It's a truly wonderful device and one that delivers in buckets.