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Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro Review – Snapdragon 845-Powered Flagship Still A Charm In 2019?

Oh boy did Xiaomi begin 2019 with a bang. Earlier this week, Xiaomi not only introduced the Xiaomi Mi 9, but also the Mi 9 Pro and Mi 9 SE. However, with Xiaomi’s new generation of flagships barely starting to make their way to stores internationally, is it worth having a look at the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro? Well… Let’s find out.

01| Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro – Introduction

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So, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro we have here today is the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro Transparent Edition. Being the reincarnation of the Mi 8 Explorer Edition for the global market, it features the same transparent back and virtually indistinguishable internal hardware to go along with it.

Since we just recieve the Mi 8 Pro and the fact that the Mi 8 has seen a decent reduction in its price, the question arises, is it worth going for the Mi 8 Pro? After all, we did compare the Mi 8 Pro to the Poco F1 we have here in our Mi 8 Pro first impressions article a while ago.

As mentioned earlier, the unit we have is the Mi 8 Pro Transparent Edition. It features last year’s Snapdragon 845 SoC, 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage. Furthermore, it shares the 6.21-inch display, cameras and other hardware with the rest of the Mi 8 lineup to keep Xiaomi’s inventory running.

02 | Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro – Design & Build Quality

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The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro Transparent Edition is definitely not your average looking smartphone. Featuring a transparent back, as well as a sporty design, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro is definitely a showstopper. Featuring a transparent back, revealing what seems to be the internals of the phone, at first sight, would catch anyone’s attention.

Apart from the Transparent Edition model that we have here, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro actually comes in a decent set of colors, that is, colors that feature beautiful gradients at their backs. The Mi 8 Pro comes in three colors, Sunset Gold, Black and the skin we have here.

Carrying over a ton of details from the Mi 8, Xiaomi made sure that the Mi 8 Pro remains as enticing to enthusiasts as they could. Soon after the Mi 8 & Mi 8 Explorer Edition were announced, many users were quick to doubt the legitimacy of the back on the Mi 8 Explorer Edition. Enthusiasts had noted the fact that the components displayed on the back of the device do not line up with the usual orientation of the modules. That claim was later confirmed, assuring users that the back of the Mi 8 Explorer Edition was just a prop, covering the actual internals of the device.

Starting with the front of the device, we were excited to be reminded of how good AMOLED panels are. Coming from the Poco F1 (review), the display on the Mi 8 Explorer Edition simply gave us a whole new perspective on media consumption. Up front, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro features a 6.21-inch Full HD AMOLED display, featuring rounded corners on all four sides of the device. Furthermore, the device featured minimal, yet symmetrical bezels across the device, unlike the Poco F1 we have here, a notch, and decent chin at the bottom.

Detailing the notch a bit reveals the dual camera setup, hosting a single selfie camera as well as an IR camera for those who care about the whole Face ID scheme Apple has introduced with the iPhone X. Furthermore, the device also features an earpiece on top as well as the usual sensors for the smartphone such as the proximity sensor and others.

The front and back of the device feature some smooth edges as well the inclusion of the usually curved sides. However, the curved sides seem to be aggressively curved to the point where the device has become slippery and too smooth to hold.

Around the device, Xiaomi has added a few hints of red across the device. The power button, the Type-C charging port, camera trims, as well as the back panel add a bit of taste to the otherwise bland black and white theme of the device.

The volume rocker and power button could be found on the right side of the device while the left side of the device hosts the dual SIM card tray. Taking a look at the bottom, you’ll find the Type-C USB port as well as a single speaker set at the bottom of the device. Sorry, headphone jack activists.

Overall, the device feels a bit hefty, solid and incredible in the hand. The device has a unique look to it and is definitely a showstopper for anyone who cares about technology and cares about experiencing the best of 2018.

03 | Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro – Display & Audio

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The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro features a Full HD+ AMOLED display. The resolution count tops off at 2248 x 1080 and features support for HDR being a device from 2018. Adding to the details, the device does feature large notch up front, leaving a bit of room on both sides of the device as well as a decent chin the bottom of the device to keep the cell reception going. Furthermore, the device features a single bottom-firing speaker at the bottom next to the Type-C port.

The display on the Mi8 Pro is definitely great. Being an AMOLED panel, the Mi8 Pro ticks all of its boxes with ease in the display department. From color reproduction to clarity, from contrast to HDR, it’s incredible. However, during our usage, we did find the 600 nits of brightness on the Mi 8 Pro a bit underwhelming outdoors.

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However, being a device powered by Xiaomi’s in-house MIUI ROM, we found the display settings to be a bit underwhelming. Aside from the inclusion of the general display options, Xiaomi’s color-toning options seem to be a bit bland for our taste. In the color options, the only three options you have are contrast-based, with “Automatic Contrast”, being the one set as default by the folks over at Xiaomi. This is one area where Asus reigns king with their Splendid settings and we personally hope Xiaomi could pick up a few ideas from there. Not only would we love to see much more flexible options in the MIUI app that enables us to control hues, saturation, contrast and more.

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Regarding sound quality, you might be disappointed to hear the fact that the device pushes its sound out with a single driver at the bottom of the device. While manufacturers have caught onto the idea of using the earpiece as a second speaker to enable stereo audio, that isn’t the case here.

During our testing, we found the sound outputted by the drivers were decent. Not the loudest and not the best either. However, at times they did sound tiny, making it frustrating. Adding salt to the wound, being a single driver, is blocked by our finger, sometimes forcing us to cup our hands instead.

04 | Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro – Performance & UI

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Despite featuring the now last-gen SoC, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro remains to be a powerhouse, at least for now. Featuring last year’s Snapdragon 845 SoC, 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage, the Xiaomi Mi8 Pro does not disappoint in the performance department.

ModelXiaomi Mi 8 Pro Transparent Edition
Size6.21″-inch
Display6.21“-inch 18.5:9 (2248×1080) AMOLED
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAMLPDDR4X 8GB RAM
StorageUFS 2.1, 128GB
CamerasRear | 12MP + 8MP (120° wide-angle), Selfie | 8MP
Charging TechQualcomm Quick Charge 4
Battery3,000mAh

In our benchmark runs, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro scored 293K on Antutu’s benchmark. Stressing the device with three more runs did show some impractical degradation in performance. Although it may be impractical, it did show a degradation in performance due to the amount of heat that was being produced. By the second test, the device’s score dropped to… 293K. Yes, you read that right. By the second test, we were shocked to see the score unscathed despite all the heat. The trend continued in the third test as well. However, it’s only after that when the phone really got hot and dropped its scored 281K by the fifth run.

Being a last-gen flagship now, the Mi 8 Pro performs amazingly well. It flies through apps and zips through any game with ease. During our usage, the device managed to keep the most recent apps in memory while excluding the larger apps over time. Pretty typical for a smartphone.

Gaming was amazing though. Most demanding games ran well. And if you’re the PUBG Mobile player that wants the best out of their device, the device performs exceptionally well with “Extreme” frame rate selected. The game ran exceptionally well and made it even better given that the device was running it at 60 FPS most of the time. However, if games like Asphalt 9 and Real Racing 3 are your thing, they’re just as good too.

MIUI, being one of the more Android-like hybrid of iOS features a ton in common with Apple’s iOS UI. From rounded icons to the absence of an app drawer, it’s all here. However, unlike Apple’s eco-system, MIUI allows you to take customization to the next level thanks to the large ecosystem of icon packs, launchers, and even themes. The one we have installed is called “Simple Black” that unofficially enables a dark theme for the device.

MIUI ran amazing well though. However, over the years, Xiaomi’s MIUI hasn’t kept me an enthusiastic supporter anymore as it was back in 2014. There’s certainly a lot of room to improve. Recent additions such as the Dark Mode are definitely great to see. However, as of yet, the update hasn’t landed. There’s a lot Xiaomi could add to the MIUI to make it even better.

What we absolutely hated is the fact that Xiaomi is actually delivering ads on the Mi 8 Pro, that too, on the device I have which is the highest-end variant of the Mi 8 Pro lineup. While the Poco F1 has been an exception to the rule, Xiaomi’s claim of delivering ads to their lower-tier devices seemed about fine. What made it worse was the fact that these ads didn’t appear in one area. They’re everywhere. From the app folders on your home screen to the native MIUI apps. It’s horrid!

Xiaomi used to be well-known for their software experience… that is until they begun their huge climb in 2018. Disappointed to see Xiaomi heading in the wrong direction. You could do better Xiaomi.

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Being among the first batch of devices to feature an under-display fingerprint sensor, we got over the whole under display fingerprint sensor pretty quickly. While it’s cool and all, it’s nowhere near as fast as a physical fingerprint scanner. Not only did we learn the fact that we had to push harder on the display, but at times, we found ourselves confused when the display failed to recognize several fingerprints.

For those who care about it, NFC, Dual 4G SIM cards slots, Bluetooth 5.0 and others are all present here. But since we are not a huge fan or user of either of these features, we never paid attention to any of the features mentioned above. At least it has them, with the more notable addition being the inclusion of NFC that supports Android Pay.

05 | Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro – Camera

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The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro features a dual rear camera setup consisting of a 12MP and 12MP duo. Up front, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro features a 20MP shooter. However, only one camera out of the two rear cameras features 4-axis image stabilization.

Regarding the more general specs of the cameras and capabilities, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro is capable of recording 4K video at 30FPS and 1080p video at 60FPS. Furthermore, modes such as slo-motion at 960FPS and scene optimizers could be found beside the AI toggles on top of the device.

Regarding image quality, it was a huge step up from the Poco F1’s, that is, when the playing field is limited to the default MIUI camera app. You could have a look at our camera tests comparing the Poco F1 and Note 9 side by side to get a better idea of how Xiaomi was suppressing the camera performance on the Poco F1 to keep the Mi 8 as appealing they could.

Being one of Xiaomi’s higher-end devices, Xiaomi has made sure that the camera on the Mi 8 Pro performs like a flagship. Images taken with the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro look sharp and well expose for most of the part. However, with the whole AI buzz going around, Xiaomi has made enabling the AI a compulsory toggle at all times. Sure, disabling it is certainly a possibility. However, we found that when the AI toggle was disabled, images often came out washed out, whether the device has HDR enabled or disabled.

The color science definitely tended to favor the warmer palette of the color spectrum. Detail was well preserved in indoor and outdoor shots. However, shots took a huge hit when in low-light conditions.

4K/60FPS is absent over here so 4K recording is the only test we could showcase here. While the Mi 8, Poco F1 and MiX 3 had their 4K/60FPS feature enabled via an OTA update, it seems like Xiaomi has forgotten about the Mi 8 Pro in the process.

Here’s a super-slo-mo video test recorded with the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro

Given the video tests above, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro performed well enough. While they’re nowhere near Galaxy S10 / iPhone X level quality, footage recorded by the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro is definitely more than usable.

Furthermore, as revealed in the 4k video test above, it seems like the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro did have issues focusing on objects. In our tests, in broad daylight, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro took a while to focus on object even though we tried to use touch to focus on the device. Probably an update would be able to fix it.

06 | Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro – Battery Life

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The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro features a 3000mAh battery under its shell. Charging via a Type-C cable and the fact that it features the Snapdragon 845 enable the device to support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4 technology.

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro features a ton of goodies under its hood. And the fact that Xiaomi included a Quick Charge 3.0 charger out of the box was nice to see. With Quick Charge 3.0, the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro gets about 18W worth of juice to fill up its battery. During our time with the device, we found the device filling its tanks within an hour given the small battery it packs.

Coming from the Poco F1’s 4000mAh battery, I was disappointed to see the Mi 8 Pro’s juice emptying after 4-5 hours of web surfing. However, if you do plan to use the phone for much more intensive tasks such as gaming, expect the device to last you 2-3 hours at the time between charges.

It could have been better, but given that the Galaxy Note 9 and Poco F1 came out guns blazing with their larger batteries, eerily gravitates us towards preferring a larger, thicker battery any day of the week.

07 | Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro Pricing, Availability & Conclusion

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The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro is definitely an enticing device. With the launch of the Mi 9 Transparent Edition last month, the Mi 8 Pro Transparent Edition can now officially be called a “last-gen” flagship.

However, the Mi 8 Pro shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s a premium device for the enthusiastic racer who cares about performance. It features a good set of cameras, incredible performance, NFC, a good display and more.

There’s definitely room for improvements too. From the slow fingerprint sensor to the ads Xiaomi has plagued MIUI with. There’s a few points Xiaomi could improve on, especially when it comes to battery life on the Mi 8 Pro. Surely the larger 3300mAh battery may help, but it’s not a whole lot to topple the game. Definitely looking forward to Xiaomi’s plans later this year.

With the device now going for about CNY 2499 (US $372) in China, the Xiaomi Mi8 Pro is more than an enticing device for that price given that the Mi 9 Transparent Edition would most likely hit the $599 price tag. However, it seems like the price cut seems to be limited to the Chinese market for now and there’s no word that the Malaysian market would get the same treatment. So unless you could get the Mi 8 Pro for $370, we’d say that it is longer worth it given that the Mi 9 would set you back $449.

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Usman Abdul Jabbar

19, Tech Enthusiast, Founder/Managing Editor at GeeksULTD and a Competitive Counter Strike Global Offensive player with aims of learning about web servers, web designing and computer hardware. Believes console exclusives are incredible and is still a strong follower of the PC Master Race. To contact me, follow me, or even constructively criticize me, contact me however you feel is right!
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