Chinese tech giant Xiaomi is finally ready to push into the UK market, making a statement with its star launch device, the Mi 8 Pro. Trusted Reviews has had some hands-on time with the phone to see how, on first impressions, it stacks up against the rest of the market’s best.
Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro first look – Price and release date
Xiaomi is bringing a volley of devices to the UK, with its Mi 8 flagship and the Mi 8 Pro among them. UK tech-lovers can also expect the company’s Mi Electric Scooter and Xiaomi Band 3 fitness tracker to touch down in the coming weeks, with exclusive discounts for the first round of customers to pick one up. Westfield shopping centre in White City will also serve as the location for the company’s first UK-based retail store.
With regards to the Mi 8 Pro, the phone will sell for an impressively competitive £499.99, placing it directly in line with the recently launched OnePlus 6T. The phone will be available in the UK from November 9.
Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro first look – What hardware and software does it offer?
The Mi 8 and Mi 8 Pro share almost everything, save for the Pro’s arresting looks. You’ll find a 6.21-inch extended Full HD AMOLED screen on the front, protected by 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5 and surrounded by a polished frame of 7-Series aluminium. The back offers yet more Gorilla Glass 5, this time curved in four directions (through processes that Xiaomi explained are particularly challenging to achieve at scale).
So far, so Mi 8. Things only really get interesting when you lay eyes on the Pro model. The rear of the phone actually features a ‘titanium smoked’ transparent finish, letting you peek inside – sort of.
Xiaomi has pulled the same trick that it first managed with the Mi 8 Explorer Edition, although this time the unique design has been refined somewhat. You can actually see what look like components and circuitry under the phone’s rear glass, with a Qualcomm-branded ‘chip’ sitting front and centre, along with a wealth of text that Xiaomi has hinted is littered with easter eggs.
It’s a rather characterful design choice and surprisingly frivolous in an industry where every millimetre counts. The visible components are simply ornamental but to achieve this see-through finish is still a nice touch by Xiaomi’s design team. Elements like the camera, power button and USB-C all feature touches of red too, which again add to the premium and interesting finish of this phone.
Look beyond the faux processor and inside the phone lies a legitimate Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, backed up by a respectable 8GB of RAM, 128GB of (non-expandable) storage and a well-proportioned 3300mAh battery. Xiaomi even made mention of the fact that it supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+, a truth it shares with almost every other phone rocking an 845 chipset but a feature that nobody has yet actually implemented. If Xiaomi actually includes a Quick Charge 4+ fast charger in-box or at least sells one for the Mi 8 Pro, it could land an industry-first.
The phone’s dual 12-megapixel rear cameras offer great promise, with 4-axis OIS (optical image stabilisation), lossless 2x optical zoom and AI smarts equipped to identify 206 discreet scenes set into 25 different categories. The front-facing 20-megapixel snapper, meanwhile, uses pixel binning (grouping individual pixels to form larger ‘super pixels’) to take in as much light as possible to ensure great low-light performance. A technology called Semantic Segmentation can also discern a foreground subject and essentially lift it from the background to ensure greater edge detection and more accurate background blur or bokeh.
To round out the experience, the phone runs on the company’s latest MIUI 10 software experience, built atop Android. It’s a heavy-handed skin that features some quirks that Western users may not be familiar with, but it also delivers some unique functionality all its own.
Xiaomi confirmed an OTA (over-the-air) update that promises to add face unlock support (which works in tandem with the phone’s front-facing IR (infrared) camera array, as well as more advanced selfie features too. In the meantime, there’s a pressure sensitive in-display fingerprint sensor for security.
Xiaomi has made an aggressive play for its UK debut with a sub-£500 a phone as powerful and as capable as devices twice its price. The biggest question is whether consumers will embrace the brand wholeheartedly or whether Xiaomi will have to fight the likes of OnePlus, Huawei, Samsung and Apple.