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Xiaomi’s Mi 9T Pro is one of this year’s best phone bargains

Xiaomi’s Mi 9T Pro is one of this year’s best phone bargains


Also known as the Redmi K20 Pro

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With the barely believable Mi Mix Alpha and its wraparound display dominating attention last week, you could have been forgiven for not noticing the other phone Xiaomi announced at its event, the Mi 9 Pro 5G. Xiaomi has released a lot of phones that look and feel very similar this year, and frankly it’s getting hard to keep up.

Another Xiaomi phone that I’ve been using in recent weeks, the Mi 9T Pro, very much falls into that category. Nothing about its spec sheet particularly stands out even within Xiaomi’s lineup, let alone the Chinese smartphone landscape at large. That I’m only getting around to writing about it this week is down to quirks of Xiaomi’s convoluted naming schemes and global release schedules. But I still think it’s one of the most notable phones of the year.

To put the Mi 9T Pro into context, allow me to briefly explain the Mi 9 line. First off, the flagship Mi 9 and mid-range Mi 9 SE were announced in February. As is typical for Xiaomi, the Mi 9 paired high-end specs (Snapdragon 855, etc) with an affordable price (£499 / €449). I reviewed the Mi 9 when it came to Europe in April; it was good. Then in June, a cheaper €329 variant called the Mi 9T was also released in mainland Europe.

The Mi 9T, however, was a completely different phone. It had a slower Snapdragon 730 processor, a notchless display, a pop-up selfie camera, and an all-new design. All-new, that is, if you hadn’t been paying attention to Indian phone launches the previous month, when the Redmi K20 and K20 Pro were announced. The Mi 9T is just a rebranded Redmi K20.

Now here we are in the fall with the £399 Mi 9T Pro, which is a rebranded Redmi K20 Pro. Why Xiaomi didn’t put this phone out earlier in the year is beyond me, but Europeans shouldn’t sleep on it. It’s even more flagship-like than the Mi 9, at an even lower price.

A true $399 flagship

The Mi 9T Pro’s spec sheet looks pretty standard if you’re used to following Chinese phones, but drop this thing into an AT&T store and it’d be as high-end as anything else. You’ve got a Snapdragon 855 processor, notchless 6.4-inch OLED screen, in-display fingerprint sensor, pop-up selfie camera, 4,000mAh battery, and triple-rear cameras including a 48-megapixel primary unit alongside telephoto and ultrawide lenses. It’s basically a OnePlus 7 Pro without the high refresh rate screen, except it starts at £399 instead of £699. (Conversions being what they are, US residents should think of this as a $399 phone.)

What makes the Mi 9T Pro different to Xiaomi’s other high-spec-low-cost endeavors — take last year’s sub-$300 Pocophone F1, which crammed the fastest parts available into the cheapest body possible — is that it doesn’t compromise on design. There are lots of neat flourishes here, from the tiny circle in the pop-up camera module that lights up when the phone is charging to the way the holographic rear panel shimmers in response to its surroundings. 

The phone’s price sparked some controversy in India

Now, the Mi 9 remains a sleeker device in a few ways. It has a few flagship-esque touches, like wireless charging and a better haptic engine. It’s also noticeably thinner, although it does have a smaller battery and omits the headphone jack. The design is certainly more understated, if that’s your thing. Overall, though, the 9T Pro feels like a more balanced, capable phone for most people — not to mention a cheaper one.

The phone’s price, however, actually sparked some controversy in India when it was released as the K20 Pro. Many Indian tech followers, who are often both very knowledgeable about phone specs and keen to get the best value possible, were disappointed in the K20 Pro’s 27,999-rupee ($395) price point after expecting something more in line with the Pocophone F1. (The $7,000 gold version didn’t help.)

Xiaomi found itself having to justify the price in an open letter to Indian fans, pointing out that its features don’t come cheap. But given the Pocophone precedent, those who prioritize price-performance over everything else won’t have been satisfied.

In Europe, though, this is arguably the best-value flagship-class phone around — and I do call this a flagship-class phone. It’d probably be a big deal in the less competitive US market, too, if Xiaomi had ever figured out how to sell phones there. If you’re looking to buy a phone at around this price point, I can’t think of a better option.

Xiaomi releases phones at such an intense pace and in such seemingly random locales that it’s easy to ignore individual models and just think of the lineup as a collective hive mind devoted to being pretty good for whatever the price is. Sometimes, though, the company transcends the sweet spot and delivers something of really incredible value. The Mi 9T Pro, or K20 Pro, is one of those times.