Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite review: 120Hz hero?

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(Cybertech) – Xiaomi hit a change of pace with its Mi series, shifting the Mi 10 from an OLED display – best known for super rich blacks and punchy colours – to a LCD one for the Mi 10T – because it embodied a higher refresh rate for smoother visual experience.

The more affordable Mi 10T Lite, reviewed here, follows the same shift: it does away with the OLED of its Mi 10 Lite predecessor, embodying the fast-refresh LCD that’s part and parcel of 2020’s ‘T’ series. And with a 120Hz refresh panel and decent specs at this price point, it really represents a total bargain.

Having such a screen does mean some compromises though. The fingerprint scanner is on the side, as it can’t exist under such a screen type. And given higher cost price of such a component panel, other features, such as the cameras, don’t get the love they deserve. Even so, the Mi 10T Lite feels anything but ‘lightweight’ in its delivery. Indeed, this is a super and affordable 5G phone.

Design & Display

  • 6.67-inch 120Hz LCD display, 1080 x 2400 resolution
  • Finishes: Atlantic Blue, Pearl Grey, Rose Gold Beach
  • Dimensions: 165.4 x 76.8 x 9mm / Weight: 215g
  • Side-positioned fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

So we’ve established the Mi 10T Lite is all about that screen. It’s large, at 6.67-inches on the diagonal, and much the same as you’ll find in the Mi 10T Pro model – only the Lite tops out at 120Hz, i.e. 120 frames per second refresh, compared to 144Hz in the Pro. Can you tell the difference in smoothness between the two? We’d bet a tenner that you wouldn’t be able to see anything different at all.

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Higher refresh rate seems to have become 2020’s must-have feature in phones. So while 120Hz is a nice to have, where in the right circumstances you’ll notice its added degree of smoothness – such as when scrolling through social media – it isn’t an instant advance in everything, so you may often cease to notice it.

Some people’s thinking is also that an OLED panel with lower refresh rate would be preferable to LCD with higher refresh rate. Having lived with this device for many weeks, however, we really don’t think many people will turn their noses up at it. The screen is sharp, bright, colourful (without overdoing things), and it’s a flat panel too – meaning no accidental touches and no contrast drop-off towards the edges, as you might find on a curved screen.

In terms of other features, the Lite maintains its 3.5mm headphone jack towards the bottom, while the side-positioned fingerprint scanner works ok – we would much prefer an under-screen one, but that’s not possible due to the choice of LCD tech.

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As for the 10T Lite’s size, avid Xiaomi fans might notice it’s a bit of a bigger beast than its predecessor. At 9mm thick it’s on the upper levels of hefty for such a device – but that’s because the battery capacity has been considerably increased over its predecessor, and all that cell capacity has to go somewhere. More battery is a sensible way to counteract the battery demands of high refresh rates too.

That chunkiness is all the more noticeable to the rear, where the circular camera unit protrudes. The Rose Gold Beach finish might help distract your eyes from it to some degree, though, with that unusual blue-to-rose gradated fade being a standout point of difference. Other (less eye-catching) colours are available too.

Performance & Battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, 4GB/8GB RAM options
  • 4,820mAh battery, 33W fast-charging
  • Android 10 OS, MIUI 12 software
  • 5G connectivity

Just as we said of its predecessor: the word ‘Lite’ being in this phone’s name has been niggling at the back of our minds. Simply because the Mi 10T Lite doesn’t feel ‘lightweight’ by any degree.

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Here there’s Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 750G processor – the first time this platform has appeared in any phone – which sets a pretty high standard. It’s 5G capable for speedy connectivity, and while it could be seen as a step ‘below’ the SD765 of its predecessor, this SD750G is actually newer and roughly on par with that one. So no losses there.

If anything, really, it overdelivers. Because this so-called ‘Lite’ phone doesn’t hit any major hurdles. Gaming is no problems. Wi-Fi isn’t slow. Multi-tasking doesn’t affect functionality. You’re not left hanging due to the software either – although the setup here does have its downsides.

This is Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 over the top of Google’s Android 10 operating system. There’s full access to Google Play Services and the Play Store for apps, but Xiaomi does also have its own store for its own apps. And it has rather a few of its own apps take precedence, plus there’s the sometimes conflict of two stores trying to update.

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As we’ve said before: this can be an issue with some simple things, such as the Google Clock not being allowed to sound an audible alarm to override DND or Silent mode – only the Xiaomi Clock app can do that. The variety of noise/vibration/haptic alerts/feedback and what happens when can be very perplexing in the menu setups too, and will take a lot of tweaking to get how you want it to be – by default ‘Silent’ will buzz and vibrate at just about anything.

Such small issues add up to a more irksome whole. It’s less refined than it ought to be – especially when MIUI looks neat and tidy and allows for a lot of control over your layout, settings, apps, themes and so forth. Spend time with it and it can be crafted into the form you’ll want, but there are hurdles to get there.

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Anyway, this mixture of hardware and software brings balanced battery life. The 4,820mAh cell at its core – part of the reason the phone is leaning towards the chunky side – lasts and lasts. Even when we’ve been going heavy on Google Maps, while Wi-Fi hotspotting, then throwing in an evening of gaming sessions, the Mi 10T Lite will still have some battery left by bedtime. Go light on it and you’ll probably get two days of life. Plus there’s a 33W fast-charger in the box for quick top-ups.

Cameras

  • ‘Quad’ rear camera setup
    • Main: 64-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, 0.8µm pixel size
    • Wide (120˚/ 15mm): 8MP, f/2.2, 1.12µm
    • Macro: 2MP, f/2.4
    • Depth: 2MP, f/2.4
  •  Front-facing notch camera: 16MP, f/2.5, 1.0µm

On the cameras front there seems to be the “more is better approach”. When, well, that’s not the case. Of the four lenses on the rear of the Mi 10T Lite it’s only the main 64-megapixel one that’s any good. The wide-angle produces grainy results, while the close-up macro and depth detection lenses aren’t really of any use at all.

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That 64MP main outputs four-in-one 16MP shots by default, so you needn’t take its headline figure as what you’ll get in terms of resolution. Pushing so many pixels in a single image does cause some delay with processing too, while shooting presents fairly considerable shutter lag – there’s a noticeable pause between firing the shutter and seeing the screen wink as the shot is actually captured. This can result in blurring and poor framing.

However, give this sensor good light and the results can be rather decent. The level of detail to the centre of the shot is rather sweet – just like the shot of donuts that we snapped in central London. Low-light is less kind, however, with dark areas showing some grain – and the chance of blur is increased given the lack of any optical stabilisation.

Really, Xiaomi should simplify things. Ditch the superfluous lenses. Stick with a main lens that’s not all about resolution. And where’s the zoom lens? Despite the app offering up a ‘2x’ symbol, that’s digital zoom only – and its results aren’t that great.

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Overall, then, while the macro and depth sensors aren’t necessary and make the ‘quad camera’ a total oversell, the main lens delivers the goods, and while the wide-angle isn’t nearly up to the same sort of quality – edge softness and more pronounced image noise, as is typical from such a setup – it’s great to be able to pinch outwards on the screen in order to expand the horizon of how much can squeeze into the frame.

Verdict

Considering its affordable asking price, the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite easily delivers above and beyond. So if you’re after a physically large and fast refresh-rate screen, decent battery innings, 5G connectivity, and solid performance, then it’s a savvy option. Despite ‘Lite’ being in the name, it’s anything but in its performance.

However, as we said of its predecessor: it oversells its rear camera setup, which has poor shutter lag. Plus there’s a lack of under-screen fingerprint scanner for the sake of a fast-refresh LCD panel. And the software has its share of irks too.

On balance, the Mi 10 Lite delivers often class-leading specification in a well-priced and tempting package. There’s an increasing amount of competition, though, which sees those downsides outlined above seem more prominent.

Also consider

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Moto G 5G Plus

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If you want a cleaner software experience at a similar price point than Motorola has just the ticket.

Writing by Mike Lowe.



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