Xiaomi has long been called by many the Apple of Asia but when it comes to phones? It’s an entirely different matter – or at least it was, until the Xiaomi 13 series.
I myself have long been an advocate for the brand, which usually ropes me in with great price tags or great design or sometimes both at the same time. At least when it comes to smart home devices, when guests ask about a new gadget, I’ve been known to explain them with something along the lines “It’s like Apple made an air fryer / rice cooker / vacuum / hair dryer”. As for phones, it was usually a brand which offered great specs at reasonable prices but in this case, I’m not sure I could pitch the Xiaomi 13 or the Xiaomi 13 Pro the same way.
Xiaomi has had a great reputation for offering almost-flagship phones but a few hundred dollars cheaper. If I were to sum it up in a formula, a new Xiaomi phone usually brought about 80% of flagship specs for 60% of the price. Great for consumers, right? Yes, but not with the Xiaomi 13 line-up.
2023 marks a significant change for the brand, which now wants to offer flagship phones at flagship princes. And “flagship prices” equals “eye-wateringly expensive”, even in this inflation-rife landscape.
The Xiaomi 13 you’re looking at right now starts at 999 euros (around $1,050) and the Xiaomi 13 Pro starts at 1,299 euros ($1,380). You read that right.
When I received the Xiaomi 13 for review I was very impressed with the design of the phone. It just looks spectacular, as you’ll see later on. When I also read the accompanying press release for pricing info, I exclaimed out loud “What In God’s Green Earth?”.
Did Xiaomi fly too close to the sun here? Is Xiaomi no longer the Chinese Apple but Apple-Apple type of stuff and going for their throne?
Based on both design and prices, I’d say the answer is yes.
And that’s about it for an honest first impression. Since price is a subjective matter, let’s put that aside for now and let’s see what the Xiaomi 13 does have to offer.
Xiaomi 13 pros:
- Looks and feels premium, with gorgeous back and straight metallic edges
- Superb display and sound
- Great camera
- Has IR blaster
Xiaomi 13 cons:
- Expensive, with a higher price tag than what Xiaomi usually offers
- Has the regular amount of pre-installed apps and bloatware
- It still uses USB 2.0
Xiaomi 13 Design
Right from the box, this is one phone you’ll regret putting a case on. I’ve loved square metallic edges ever since a friend lent me his iPhone 4 and they always felt more premium than all-glass bodies, and Xiaomi 13 is no exception.
Yes, this phone looks almost identical to the new iPhones from the front and sides. The only thing giving it away on the front is the round camera hole instead of a notch. On the back there could be no case of mistaken identity, since the camera island is totally different from Apple’s gas burner design.
The back finish is impressively glossy and surprisingly finger-print free. Even after using some lotion, the back of the Xiaomi 13 remained shiny and blemish free. It really is a shame that you have to use a case, since the design is beautiful and expensive-looking, but the phone does feel slippery.
It also feels like plastic all through, rather than glass with aluminum frames. While some might take issue with that, it’s something I appreciate as a phone abuser rather than regular user, because it feels a lot more sturdy.
Xiaomi 13 Display and sound
The display is simply fantastic – no way to put it otherwise
The Xiaomi 13 has a 6.36-inches AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and all the goodies. It has a 1200 nits brightness and can hit a peak of 1900 nits. In comparison, the latest iPhone offers 2000 nits, so the Xiaomi 13 is very competitive. The in-display fingerprint reader is snappy and has not thrown an error yet.
Lately the weather here has been very Edgar Allan Poe, so I couldn’t exactly test those 1,900 nits, but everything looks superb, from regular scrolling to watching movies (even terribly dark ones).
Even though it’s a much smaller display than my own phone, I’d swap to the Xiaomi 13 in a heartbeat for watching movies or scrolling on the beach. This is one phone whose speakers sound fantastic and really pull you in whatever video you’re watching. Whether streaming on HBO or playing stuff on Spotify, it never sounded fuzzy or tinny.
Xiaomi 13 Specs
In terms of specs, you’ll be hard pressed to find fault with this one.
Xiaomi used the most powerful processor available right now, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, with an Adreno 740 GPU.
Xiaomi 13 is available in 8GB RAM + 128GB or 256GB storage, or 12GB RAM + 256GB RAM and 512GB storage. The 4,500 mAh battery doesn’t charge at the fastest speed out there but it’s incredibly fast nonetheless: 67W wired, 50W wireless, plus 10W reverse wireless.
The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 and the phone has an IP68 water resistance rating, which means it can survive a dunk of 1.5 meters depth for up to 30 minutes.
Another notable feature is the IR blaster, a Xiaomi signature at this point and one that I previously applauded and will continue to do so.
Xiaomi 13 Software: MIUI 14
As with all Xiaomi or Redmi phones, you have an Android 13 system with MIUI on top.
MIUI 14 doesn’t feel all that different from previous ones I tried though I confess I’m not a fan, primarily because of too many apps. The phone comes with both its Xiaomi photos, files, notes etc apps and Google ones – an expected clutter with most phones. It also comes with some amount of bloatware, including Genshin Impact pre-installed, but c’est la vie.
A MIUI 14 update took about 20 minutes but the patch was just for “optimized system performance” and “improved system security and stability”. Based on previous experiences with MIUI, updates do tend to take longer but fortunately you can schedule them overnight to minimize disruption.
Xiaomi committed to 3 major Android updates and five years of security updates. For 1000 euros or more, the support still isn’t Apple-levels of support but it’s one of the best you can get in the Android landscape.
Xiaomi 13 Camera
Now for the camera, since that’s where it’s make or break for most users. Xiaomi 13 vs iPhone is a question that will be raised by many, since it’s such an expensive phone and more than Xiaomi fans are used to spending, so here’s what to expect.
Xiaomi 13 selfie camera
The Xiaomi 13 selfie camera isn’t really anything to write home about – I’d say it’s serviceable.
It has a 32MP sensor that performs great. While it smooths some flaws, it won’t really turn you into a plastic doll like most phones nowadays – and for that I’d give it top points.
Of course, you do have the option to fine tune any facial feature if you tap the beautify button but I did appreciate the camera not deciding to airbrush me directly.
Xiaomi 13 main camera
On the back, the Xiaomi 13 has a square island branded with Leica, who was a software partner for the creation of this main camera.
As for the numbers, you get a primary 50 MP, f/1.8, 23mm wide Sony IMX800 sensor, a 10 MP, f/2.0, 75mm telephoto lens and a 12 MP, f/2.2, 15mm, 120 degrees ultrawide lens. No, there’s no 200MP craziness here but the camera does pack a punch.
Leica is heavily present here with two color modes, Leica Vibrant and Leica Authentic. Generally, Leica Vibrant does what you’d expect it to: offer more saturated colors for photos ready to share on social.
Leica Authentic keeps photos more grounded, with a more true-to-life color profile. Photos have very subtle differences though and personally I haven’t noticed a huge difference between those two profiles. When doing what I usually do with a phone, aka cat pictures, I did notice that neither profile was capable of depicting the blue of this chubby boy’s eyes – both were significantly darker than real life.
In other scenarios, like out and about in the city or documenting dinner, I prefer Leica Vibrant for food shots and Leica Authentic for scenery.
While I’m no photographer, I did think that most of the photos taken by Xiaomi 13 are just as fantastic as the ones on an iPhone. Since I usually test an Android phone per month, this is no small feat, since most of the time I end up frustrated that my partner’s iPhone photos still look much better, even though “the specs” are better on the Android.
Overall, I’d say Xiaomi 13’s primary camera is just as good as iPhone’s, at least for a vanilla user.
You also have a Pro mode to tweak most camera settings, with all the options a professional photographer might want, as well as ready-for-social things like “Clone”, which lets you duplicate yourself, or “Vlog”, which lets you overshare.
You can see all the Xiaomi 13 camera samples we took and all the settings used in this Google Drive folder, including video samples.
Xiaomi 13 Benchmarks and battery life
Since match-3 games don’t really stress a phone so, to put its capabilities to the test, I ran a few free benchmarks to see how it performs (you can find all the benchmarks here).
With 20% battery left on the phone, I ran a 20-minute Wild Rift Extreme Stress 3D Mark test on Xiaomi 13.
The phone was warm to the touch but not like “forgot it on a black table in full July sun”.
At just 7% battery life, I also ran the 3DMark Slingshot extreme on the Xiaomi 13 and I was surprised the phone completed it, since usually Androids tend to actually just have slivers of power left once battery drops under 20%.
This time, the phone didn’t heat up as much and, after the test, it still had 3% battery left. I decided to run a 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme test on it to fully deplete it (don’t do this at home, though), so I could then time how long it took for the phone to charge at 100%.
The test told me the phone ran better than 77% of other devices, including the popular iPhone 12 Pro Max. It ate another 1% battery life, bringing what was left at a measly 2%.
Time to charge, then!
Xiaomi 13 charging speed
The phone comes in the box with a 67W Xiaomi fast charger and here’s the times we got:
- Xiaomi 13 went from 1% battery to 20% battery in 7 minutes
- It went from 20% battery to 40% battery in 15 minutes and 50 seconds
- It went from 40% to 60% in 25 minutes
- From 60% battery to full charge in 48 minutes and 45 seconds
Xiaomi advertises a full charge in 47 minutes and we came pretty close.
I didn’t have a 50W fast charger to test that as well but I expect the advertised charging time to be true as well.
For regular use, Xiaomi 13 can handle a full busy day with no issues. For regular scrolling and a bit of video watching, I’d say it can handle a day and a half with no issues.
It’s also worth noting that Xiaomi 13 supports 50W wireless charging and also offers 10W reverse charging so you can top-up your earbuds.
If you really want speed, the Xiaomi 13 Pro is your best bet, since it offers 120W charging and a full charge in just 19 minutes.
All in all, I found the Xiaomi 13 a very impressive handset. It is truly a premium device, and, along with its bigger brother Xiaomi 13 Pro, a proof Xiaomi has matured as a brand and is ready to take on Samsung, and even Apple flagships.
My expectations skyrocketed when confronted with that price tag and it did meet them somewhat. If it were available at around $800, like the excellent Mi 12T, it would be a much better sell for me.
I just wish it didn’t come with so many duplicate apps and unneeded apps, which made the experience feel somewhat cheaper.
Xiaomi can offer flagship phones and did so with the Xiaomi 13 series, though they probably need a bit more time to refine the experience. And to convince mainstream users that there are other premium choices out there other than Samsung and Apple.