A sign of the complicated times. There are Android flagship phones. There are the Plus and the Pro monikers attached. Then some claim to be super phones, often with the “ultra” naming scheme. Sky is the limit, and I suspect, beyond too. What you need to decide is what sort of specifications and features work best for you. That’ll dictate whether you derive value from the phone you buy and for the duration you keep it. Or you’ll overpay from the outset and struggle to justify it for times to come. I suspect Xiaomi’s latest flagship, the Xiaomi 13 Pro, sits firmly in the bucket of sensibility.
There is no complication with combinations. The phone is available in a singular 12GB RAM and 256GB storage spec and you can choose between the ceramic black and ceramic white colour. The sticker price is ₹79,999 though if you play the credit cards right, this can slip to ₹69,999. At either point, you’ll likely also consider the Google Pixel 7 Pro (around ₹84,999) and the OnePlus 11 ( ₹56,999 onwards). Even more so, because of the camera prowess that is a common theme for all three phones mentioned here.
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That’s the theme we will stick with for the moment. The Xiaomi 13 Pro gets you a troika of 50-megapixel cameras – wide, ultrawide and telephoto. The primary is a Sony IMX989, which is a 1-inch sensor, the largest sensor in smartphone cameras. More than anything else, it is the promise of extra light coming through, which will hold it in good stead across photography scenarios.
The 75mm telephoto lens has focal shift– as close as 10 cm for macro photos and up to 70x hybrid zoom– and the lenses physically move while focusing, which widens the range. These floating lenses move backwards for macro photos and forwards for distant focus.
Beyond the sensors, at play, it is the image processing and photography options from photography giant Leica which give this the sort of smarts to compete with Google’s artificial intelligence magic in the Pixel 7 Pro and what Hasselblad’s tuning brings to the OnePlus 11’s camera.
Neither does it take long to realise Leica’s influence on the camera app. On the first run, you’ll have to choose between two Leica-optimised processing modes– Leica Vibrant and Leica Authentic. I chose the latter, purely for a lighter layer of tweaks on the colours. You can keep switching between these within the camera app, though there is no way to take photographs without either being activated.
There’s the customary “AI” option too. Turn that off because this camera setup doesn’t need that additional contrast boost.
In the photography performance tests, we started with Leica Authentic but soon felt the need to toggle to Leica Vibrant. The slight boost to colours is worth it, adding a sense of liveliness to the overall picture. That said, there may be photos and moods which fit the Authentic filter better. You have the quick toggles for that.
By default, photos are pixel binned (data from multiple pixels joined together into one) to save at 12.5-megapixel resolution. You do have the option to shoot full 50-megapixel photos from all three cameras.
In either setting, whites look pristine, and the dynamic range is just about ideal – neither is overdone and doesn’t spoil the contrast. What stands out in daytime and low-light photos is the lack of aggressive processing which a lot of cameras struggle with. This means there’s a lot of detailing as you zoom in (even more in 50-megapixel photos, which don’t have soft frames, something many phones struggle with).
Is it just me, or do we feel there is a steady shift towards realism for smartphone cameras– a steady change from the days when oversaturated photos were the order of the day?
We’d recommend you leave the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s camera in auto mode for the night mode to be enabled when necessary. There is some inconsistency with how long you need to wait for images to process (some are quicker than others), but the results are impressive. The balanced exposure stands out, with good colours coming through. In some photos, noise reduction does seem more aggressive, but overall, there isn’t perceptible detailing that’s lost.
While the Leica branding is clear on the massive camera module at the back, am I the only one who would have preferred this in Leica’s red circle? That would have looked gorgeous on an otherwise very understated design. The perfect contrast.
For an Android flagship phone, the Xiaomi 13 Pro isn’t cutting any corners at all with the specs. It all starts with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, 12GB RAM (you can allocate more from the storage; that’s a new MIUI 14 feature) and the fast UFS 4.0 storage. This, as you’ll use it, feels very worthy of the flagship positioning and of course, the money you’ll pay for it. How the Xiaomi 13 Pro handles the thermals also dictate how performance is held for longer, and the benefits of large vapour chambers to keep the innards cool are evident.
Xiaomi 13 Pro also has one of the best smartphone displays for now. This is a 6.73-inch OLED screen ticking off the 120Hz refresh rate, 1900-nits peak rated brightness and complete HDR format support. By default, three AI enhancement features are off, and you’ll have to toggle them on – Super Resolution, AI Image Enhancement and AI HDR Enhancement. You’ll appreciate how the brightness is balanced with vividness, and sharpness is just about right for reading text.
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It must not be ignored that Xiaomi has done a lot of work with MIUI 14. At first glance, you may not find it much different to anything you’ve seen on the previous generation Xiaomi phones, but it is the subtle changes that make the difference. You’ll find a lesser number of preloaded apps, better memory optimisation for apps you use the most, a smaller footprint of MIUI itself (that frees up some storage space) and subtle tweaks to the interface to improve visibility or usability.
To get this 4820 mAh (slightly lower than the typical 5000 mAh batteries flagships have) juiced up, the wired route peaks at 120-watt (the charger is bundled that’s a lot of value) while the wireless charging option gets you up to 50-watt. Xiaomi’s developed its own battery management chipset to keep tabs on charging speed, thermals, and wear. That’s important for batteries that can charge so quickly.
In comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S23+ ( ₹94,999 onwards), the Xiaomi 13 Pro has a slightly bigger and much brighter (theoretically, when the demand is there) display, more storage and memory in the base spec, a more capable camera setup (including a better selfie camera) and a bigger (as well as faster charging) battery.
If we are to compare this with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra ( ₹1,24,999 onwards), the Xiaomi 13 Pro retains most advantages, added to the fact that it is much lighter too– except the Galaxy S23 Ultra calls out to you with its 200-megapixel camera (by default, you’ll take pixel binned photos) and hope the S-Pen stylus is of some utility too.
The reality is the Xiaomi 13 Pro is making the two Samsung Galaxy S23 phones (for all their persona and legacy) seem out of place with much higher price tags. Your choice is between this and the Google Pixel 7 Pro (the charms of Google’s original Android and photo smarts) and the OnePlus 11 (slightly less expensive with a few features missing, but Hasselblad tuning is quite good).
The Xiaomi 13 Pro is exactly what you need from an Android flagship phone. It isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t need to be either. Performance, design, improved software, and excellent cameras make this a fairly easy recommendation. To be fair, it doesn’t happen often with smartphones these days.
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