How do you stand out in a segment where every phone is virtually flawless? Xiaomi has turned to the camera as the differentiator in recent years — the Mi 10 Pro introduced a 108MP camera, the Mi 11 Ultra had a large 1/1.12-inch sensor and took outstanding photos, and last year's Xiaomi 12S Ultra was the first with a 1-inch sensor.
Xiaomi had a relatively quiet 2022, with its best devices — the MIX Fold 2 and 12S Ultra — limited to its home market. While that's not changing, Xiaomi is brining that massive 1-inch sensor to global markets with the introduction of the Xiaomi 13 Pro. The phone features the same Sony IMX989 module at the back and retains the Leica tuning, and Xiaomi is intent on going after Samsung and Google with its latest flagship.
Xiaomi did a great job cramming a larger battery than last year in a chassis that's roughly the same size, and you get 120W wired and 50W wireless charging. The Xiaomi 12 Pro missed out on IP68 ingress protection, and the 13 Pro rectifies that as well. Clearly, Xiaomi hasn't put a foot wrong here, so let's take a look at what you're getting with the Xiaomi 13 Pro, and whether it can take on the likes of the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Vivo X90 Pro.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Pricing and availability
The Xiaomi 13 series was unveiled in China at the end of December, and it is getting a global release at MWC. Xiaomi will kick off sales in India, U.K., France, and other global markets in the coming weeks.
In China, the Xiaomi 13 Pro starts off at 4,999 RMB ($718) for the version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, 5,399 RMB ($776) for the 8GB/256GB model, 5,799 RMB ($833) for the 12GB/256GB edition, and 6,299 RMB ($905) for the 12GB/512GB model.
Of course, the device isn't quite as affordable outside Xiaomi's home market. The Xiaomi 13 Pro kicks off at €1,299 ($1,373) in European countries for the 12GB/256GB version, with the standard Xiaomi 13 available for €999 ($1,056). That is considerably more than the €1,149 ($1,214) Xiaomi charged for the 12 Pro last year, but still less than the Galaxy S23 Ultra's €1,399 ($1,480) starting figure in the region.
The phone will make its debut in India in the coming weeks, but Xiaomi hasn't divulged what it will cost in the region just yet — I'll update the post once I know more.
Like Samsung and other manufacturers, Xiaomi is using the older UFS 3.1 storage for the 128GB storage variants, and offering the latest UFS 4.0 for the 256GB and 512GB models. Thankfully, the brand isn't bringing the 128GB model outside China, but if you're eyeing the standard Xiaomi 13, I'd suggest getting the 256GB version.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Design
Samsung and OnePlus like to maintain visual consistency across generations, but that isn't the case with Xiaomi. The Chinese manufacturer goes out of its way to make sure its latest devices have an all-new aesthetic, and that's the case with the Xiaomi 13 series as well. If anything, Xiaomi is taking things to another extreme this year, with the Xiaomi 13 Pro not sharing much resemblance with the standard Xiaomi 13 either. The standard model has flat sides and a glass back, and the in-hand feel is very different between the two.
With the Xiaomi 13 Pro, Xiaomi switched back to a ceramic back and a large camera island. It is very different to the Xiaomi 12 Pro and Xiaomi 12S Ultra, and the design is in fact more in line with the Mi 11 Ultra — albeit narrower. The Mi 11 Ultra is still one of my favorite Xiaomi phones of all time, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro feels just as good to hold, and the fact that it is 1.4mm narrower means it isn't as unwieldy.
The phone has symmetrical curves at the front and back, and there's enough width on the mid-frame to hold it without any issues. As the camera housing extends a considerably way across the back, the phone doesn't wobble as much as its predecessor when using on a flat surface. You'll find the power and volume buttons on the right, there's an IR blaster at the top, and USB-C charging port along with the dual-SIM card tray at the bottom.
Xiaomi has three color options this time, and all include the ceramic finish: white, black, and green. While I like the ceramic finish more than glass, it smudges very easily, and the white version does a better job hiding these than the black model I'm using.
Another area where the Xiaomi 13 Pro resembles the Mi 11 Ultra is ingress protection — you get IP68 dust and water resistance as standard. Xiaomi was the only mainstream brand to not offer this feature on its high-end phones last year, so I'm glad to see the Chinese manufacturer rectify the situation this time around.
Overall, this is a very polished design, and Xiaomi nailed the heft and size; the Xiaomi 13 Pro feels wonderful in daily use.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Display
Xiaomi didn't change the screen this year, with the 13 Pro featuring the same 6.73-inch QHD+ (3200 x 1440) AMOLED panel as its predecessor. You get the same 120Hz refresh rate and the ability to stream Dolby Vision and HDR10+ content, and there's Widevine L1 out of the box. While the panel itself is unchanged, Xiaomi is delivering higher brightness figures this time, with the 13 Pro able to go up to 1,200 nits in regular use and 1,900 nits for HDR content — more than the S23 Ultra and any other Android device.
Like last year, the screen is able to go down to 1Hz for static content, allowing the device to conserve battery life when reading long-form content. It automatically switches back to 120Hz as soon as you interact with the panel, and down to 30Hz when streaming videos. Xiaomi does a great job calibrating its phones, and it's no different with the 13 Pro — the phone has incredible color vibrancy and contrast levels, and is among the best you'll find today.
There's no shortage of customization either, and you get a decent selection of always-on modes. You'll also find the usual tweaks for adjusting the color balance to your tastes, and thanks to an ambient color sensor, the phone can automatically adjust colors based on ambient light. Like all Xiaomi devices, the screen is set to FHD+ and 60Hz out of the box, so you will need to go into the settings to switch to QHD+ mode and toggle 120Hz.
I didn't run into any issues when playing games or streaming content on the Xiaomi 13 Pro, and the screen is a delight to use. One area where Xiaomi is changing things is the onboard audio — the phone doesn't have identical stereo channels, with the secondary speaker tucked into the earpiece.
That said, there is an outlet for the speaker at the top, and while the device doesn't get quite as detailed as last year, it is still among the best in this area.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Performance
I used phones powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for just over two months now, and I can say without hesitation that Qualcomm did a terrific job this year. On all the devices I used thus far, I didn't see any throttling after extended use, any issues with battery life, or any sort of overheating.
Having switched to the Xiaomi 13 Pro from the Galaxy S23 Ultra, I didn't see any shortcomings whatsoever. The phone is outstanding in daily use, and there's more than enough power to blaze through demanding games. Like other brands, Xiaomi is using a large cooling system on the 13 Pro, and that ensures the device doesn't overheat even after extended gaming sessions.
Like Samsung, Xiaomi is using two different storage modules, with the 128GB model getting the older UFS 3.1 storage and the 256GB/512GB variants featuring the latest UFS 4.0. Given that UFS 4.0 is nearly twice as fast for 4K workloads, you're better off avoiding the base model. There isn't a noticeable difference at the moment, but if you're paying north of $1,000 for a phone, you may as well get a model that has the latest hardware.
Xiaomi is offering the device in 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM, and the 8GB model by itself is more than adequate for anything Android has to offer. For reference, I'm using the 12GB/512GB model.
For synthetic workloads, I'm pitting the Xiaomi 13 Pro against the Galaxy S23 Ultra and last year's Xiaomi 12 Pro. Right off the bat, we can see that the Xiaomi 13 Pro has a decent 15% increase in Geekbench 5.1 single-core workloads over its predecessor, with that figure going up to 35% for multi-core tests.
This is in line with daily use, with the 13 Pro delivering significantly better performance before hitting its thermal limit. In fact, I didn't run into any instances of the device being throttled even after extended use, and that's down to the tweaks Qualcomm made with this generation.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra is able to post higher scores as it has an overclocked version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, but in workloads that simulate real-world scenarios, the overall scores are on par with the 13 Pro.
The biggest change this year has to be gaming performance; like the rest of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2-powered devices, the Xiaomi 13 Pro delivers outstanding figures in this area, and there's clearly more than enough headroom for the future.
Rounding out the hardware, the Xiaomi 13 Pro has Wi-Fi 6e connectivity, and while there is a Wi-Fi 7 modem as well, that isn't enabled at the moment. You'll find Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, dual-band GPS, and the aforementioned IR blaster. The device misses out on mmWave connectivity, but it has a decent set of Sub-6 5G bands for global coverage.
The in-screen optical fingerprint sensor is fast to authenticate and is ideally positioned on the screen for your thumb if you're using the device one-handed. There's face unlock as well, but that's based on software, and therefore not as secure as a PIN.
Xiaomi did a brilliant job with the haptic motor, and it delivers granular feedback that makes using the 13 Pro that much more engaging. What I particularly like is the level of customization for the vibration engine. Overall, there isn't anything missing on the 13 Pro, and it is on par with the best Android phones.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Battery life
The Xiaomi 13 Pro has a slightly larger 4820mAh battery, and it uses the brand's custom S1 Surge controller to ensure the phone charges safely at 120W. There's no battery anxiety whatsoever here, and in the week I used the Xiaomi 13 Pro, I got to the end of the day with at least 25% left over. That's with heavy use that included 6.5 hours of screen-on-time spread over the course of 18 hours, and as is the case with other 2023 flagships, the Xiaomi 13 Pro will easily last over a day without any issues.
Like other Xiaomi phones that use 120W charging tech, you'll need to go into the settings to enable Boost charging to unlock the full potential of the charging tech. Xiaomi disables this feature out of the box as it could lead to overheating, but the few times I charged with Boost mode enabled, the battery didn't get noticeably hot.
Even with the feature disabled, you'll be able to fully charge the battery in just 28 minutes, an achievement in and of itself. Switching on Boost mode reduces that figure to just 24 minutes, so if you're after bragging rights, you may want to go this route.
While the ridiculously-fast times from zero to 100% are great, what you'll like more is the fact that it takes just over ten minutes for the battery to go up to 50% — that makes a sizeable difference in daily use. Thankfully, Xiaomi continues to bundle a 120W charger in the box, and it is rather bulky — it goes up to 120W, after all.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Cameras
Like last year, the Xiaomi 13 Pro is rocking a trio of 50MP cameras at the back. However, there are considerable upgrades under the hood, with the main 50MP camera now powered by Sony's 1-inch f/1.9 IMX989 module with OIS. The 50MP telephoto lens is also new, offering 3x optical zoom with OIS.
The tele lens also gets the ability to take shots at a distance of just 10cm, and as such Xiaomi uses this lens for taking macro photos instead of the wide-angle lens from last year. The new modules along with Leica optics give the Xiaomi 13 Pro a huge edge over its predecessor. The 50MP wide-angle lens is identical to last year, with Xiaomi using the same f/2.2 module with a 115-degree field of view.
The camera interface itself is unchanged, but you will find red accents in a nod to the Leica collaboration, similar to what OnePlus does with Hasselblad. The Leica partnership adds an interesting dimension to the 13 Pro as it is the first Xiaomi phone launching globally to use the German camera brand's tuning.
A big part of that collaboration is the inclusion of two styles — Leica Authentic and Leica Vibrant. You'll need to pick one while launching the camera for the first time, but can change between the two from within the viewfinder. Leica Authentic produces true-to-life photos, with Leica Vibrant delivering saturated shots with vibrant colors that look great — I went with the latter.
The Xiaomi 13 Pro uses four-to-one pixel binning to produce 12.5MP shots, and as you'd imagine for a phone of this caliber, daylight shots are incredible. You get excellent dynamic range and good color vibrancy, and although the shots tend to be a bit oversaturated at times, they look great. The camera does a great job with foliage, and it doesn't smooth out finer details.
The wide-angle lens does a great job in daylight situations as well, producing shots with a similar color balance as the primary lens. But what stands out this year is the telephoto lens; it takes stellar photos at up to 3.2x zoom, and it does a magnificent job as a macro shooter. Sure, it would have been nice to see 10x optical zoom, and while the lens goes up to 70x via digital zoom, it doesn't hold a candle to the S23 Ultra and Pixel 7 Pro at 5x and 10x zoom, much less 70x.
There's plenty to like in low-light shots as well, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro holds its own against the likes of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Pixel 7 Pro, and the Vivo X90 Pro. There's excellent detail rendition in challenging situations, and the camera does a brilliant job managing highlights and minimizing noise levels. The wide-angle and telephotos lenses also do a stellar job at night, producing shots with good dynamic range and minimal noise.
The phone does a much better job with portrait shots as well, delivering good bokeh and segmentation. I just use a Pixel 7 Pro for taking portrait shots of inanimate objects as other devices don't do as good a job with segmentation, but the Xiaomi 13 Pro came very close.
Overall, Xiaomi is onto a winner here. The 13 Pro has the best overall camera package of any Xiaomi phone I used thus far, and it goes toe-to-toe with the best that Samsung and Google have to offer.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Software
The Xiaomi 13 Pro runs MIUI 14 based on Android 13 out of the box. Xiaomi didn't introduce too many new features in MIUI 14, with most of the tweaks focused on under-the-hood optimization. As such, the interface itself is largely identical to MIUI 13, so if you're switching to the 13 Pro from an older Xiaomi device, you'll feel right at home here.
Although the UI hasn't changed, daily interactions feel much more fluid, and it finally feels like the software is optimized to take full advantage of the hardware. There's less bloatware than before, and while I got a few push notifications to try out the various Xiaomi services bundled out of the box, it was easy enough to sort that out.
Xiaomi now uses an iOS-style Control Center as standard, so you get the toggles on one side and the notifications in a dedicated pane. Thankfully, you can go into the settings and switch back to a unified notification pane. But with the brand focusing its attention on the Control Center layout, the unified pane looks a bit dated, and unlike other interfaces, you won't find any Material You flourishes here.
While One UI 5 and ColorOS 13 have embraced some parts of Google's Material You aesthetic — like the dynamic color picker — Xiaomi has largely ignored the design language, and the result is that MIUI 14 doesn't feel as vibrant. One of my favorite things to do on Android 13 is to switch out the accent colors on a regular basis, and that isn't possible here.
The crux of the issue is that while other brands are making positive strides in altering the look of their interfaces to suit a global audience — ColorOS has come a last way in the last two years — MIUI still feels like it was built for a Chinese audience, with a few additional extras for global markets. Xiaomi needs to make wholesale changes to the UI to bring it to parity with its Chinese rivals.
Elsewhere, the app drawer is unchanged in two years and is identical to MIUI 12, and Xiaomi doesn't let you disable Google services like Gmail. I use Newton Mail on all my devices, so I tend to disable Gmail as I have no need of the service, but that isn't feasible here, so I have to mute notifications instead.
You still get a vertically-scrolling overview menu, but you can switch to a standard card-style layout in the settings.
I like the fact that Xiaomi made the interface more fluid, but MIUI is in need of a redesign. On that note, another area where Xiaomi is found lacking is software updates. The Xiaomi 13 Pro will get three guaranteed Android updates along with five years of security patches, and while that's good, it's not up to scratch in 2023.
Samsung, OnePlus, and OPPO now guarantee four Android OS updates, so if you pick up the Xiaomi 13 Pro, you'll get one less platform update. Xiaomi needs to match its rivals in this regard, and while it's at it, the brand needs to do a better job rolling out software updates on time. My Xiaomi 12 Pro made the switch to Android 13 nearly two months after the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Find X5 Pro, and I don't see that changing with the 13 Pro.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: The competition
The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the yardstick for flagship phones in 2023, with Samsung offering the most feature-rich package on Android. The phone has a sublime AMOLED panel, the latest Qualcomm hardware, excellent battery life, and amazing cameras. It doesn't miss out on much, but it is unwieldy to use due to its size. It is considerably costlier than the Xiaomi 13 Pro in global markets, but the upside is that it will pick up more software updates.
Vivo is doing a lot of interesting things in this area, and the X90 Pro is a good alternative to the Xiaomi 13 Pro. It doesn't have a QHD+ screen, but it has powerful hardware and takes fabulous photos. A similar set of software issues plague Vivo, and the device won't get updates on time.
If you need the best value in this category, the OnePlus 11 is a solid choice. The device has the latest Qualcomm silicon and an interesting design, and while the cameras aren't quite as good as what Xiaomi is offering, it is considerably more affordable.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if:
- You want a flagship that takes outstanding photos and videos
- You need a device that’s easier to hold and use than the S23 Ultra
- You’re looking for all-day battery life and ultra-fast charging
- You need all the extras
You shouldn't buy this if:
- You want timely software updates
Barring a few outliers, I used all the phones Xiaomi released in the last nine years, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro is the brand's best offering yet. Sure, it isn't as groundbreaking as the first-gen Mi MIX and won't sell anywhere as much as the Redmi Note 5, but it is a pivotal device in the context of Xiaomi's ambitions in the high-end segment.
While an overwhelming majority of Xiaomi's sales still come from the budget category, the brand has increasingly focused on the premium segment as a revenue driver, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro is a legitimate alternative to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Vivo X90 Pro, and the Pixel 7 Pro. Xiaomi nailed the design brief, and the phone doesn't miss out on any table stakes features. The hardware is on par with the best Android phones, the screen is a joy to use, and you get ultra-fast wired and wireless charging tech.
The cameras are among the best you'll find on any phone today, and while the software doesn't feel quite as modern as its immediate rivals, it doesn't have any major drawbacks. If Xiaomi plays its cards right in key markets like India, it has the potential to finally make decent inroads in the flagship category.