For the last couple years, Xiaomi’s been releasing its flagships lineup on a tic-toc cycle, with a volley early in the year, and another round — the T models — later that same year. For example, the Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro landed in February 2020, followed by the Mi 10T and Mi 10T Pro in September 2020. So far this year, we got the Mi 11 in January, with a rumored Mi 11 Ultra coming soon. And that’s not including the “Lite” models.

See, Xiaomi’s well known for mixing and matching designs and parts across its multiple brands. And sure enough, shortly after launching the excellent $225 4G-only Poco X3 NFC last year, Xiaomi announced the $320 Mi 10T Lite 5G — basically a Poco X3 NFC with 5G. Other than swapping the Snapdragon 732G with a Snapdragon 750G 5G SoC, the Mi 10T Lite is cosmetically and spec-wise almost identical.

What’s more telling, though, is that almost one year into a pandemic that’s left many struggling financially, there still aren’t that many affordable 5G smartphones. Here in the US we have the the $400 Moto One 5G Ace ($280 from Google Fi), $450 Moto One 5G on Verizon and AT&T ($300 on sale), $384 ZTE Blade X1 5G on Visible, $400 TCL 10 5G UW on Verizon, and $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G on T-Mobile.

In Europe, there’s the €300 Moto G 5G, €370 Moto G 5G Plus, €280 Realme 7 5G, €300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G, €230 Redmi Note 9T, and today's €270 Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite 5G — to name a few. And while I’ve been using my Mi 10T Lite review unit on and off since late last year, here we are in early March, and it’s still one of the best Qualcomm-powered 5G handset values in most markets outside the US.

So, assuming 5G even matters to you right now — and you’re willing to spend the $100 premium — here’s how the Mi 10T Lite differs from the 4G-only Poco X3 NFC. Mainly, you get a faster, more efficient chip (Snapdragon 750G vs. 732G) with 5G support. In addition, the battery is marginally smaller (4820 vs. 5160mAh), and the ultrawide and selfie cameras are slightly detuned (8 and 16MP vs. 13 and 20MP, respectively).

Memory configurations are the same, with 6GB RAM and either 64 or 128GB of RAM — plus microSD support. The 6.67-inch 1080p IPS displays are also identical, complete with that delightfully smooth 120Hz refresh rate, and the stereo speakers and headphone jack carry over as well. Aesthetically, these phones are twins, but the Mi 10T Lite swaps the Poco X3 NFC’s metal frame and plastic back for a plastic frame and glass back.

On the software front, the Mi 10T Lite runs MIUI 12 on top of Android 10 just like the Poco X3 NFC (with Android 11 starting to roll out for both), but it lacks Poco’s bespoke launcher. Then again, Xiaomi’s launcher now includes Google Discover, so there’s almost no difference in terms of performance or user experience. And while MIUI keeps getting better, it’s still a bit too far from stock for my taste. Your mileage may vary.

When you add it all up, though, the Mi 10T Lite is a solid 5G handset with fantastic battery life, snappy performance, a quality main shooter, and a beautiful 120Hz screen. And four months after launch, it’s still one of the most affordable Snapdragon 7-series powered 5G phones on the market. If you don’t expect the best cameras, don’t require 5G in the US, and don’t mind skinned Android, the Mi 10T Lite simply hits the spot.

Specs

SoC Snapdragon 750G
RAM 6GB
Storage 64/128GB (UFS 2.1/2.2)
Display 6.67-inch 1080 x 2400 IPS, 120Hz, 20:9, HDR10
Battery 4820mAh
Camera 64 MP, f/1.9, PDAF, no OIS (wide); 8 MP, f/2.2, 120˚ (ultrawide); 2 MP, f/2.4 (macro); 2 MP, f/2.4 (depth); 16MP f/2.5 (selfie)
Software MIUI 12 on Android 10
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1, LTE, 5G
Measurements 165.4 x 76.8 x 9.0 mm, 214.5 g
Price approx $320 / €270 / £230

The Good

Battery life Why settle for hours between charges when you can enjoy your phone for days?
Performance Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 750G is pleasantly quick — almost 765G quick.
Value A well rounded phone with great specs at a great price — now with 5G.
Cameras This setup delivers solid imaging performance, especially with the main shooter.
Display Refresh rate matters. That 120Hz screen is smoother than butter.
Speakers Stereo speakers and a headphone jack help bring your groove back.

The Not So Good

Cameras, again Useless macro lenses and silly depth sensors need to die. No OIS.
Display, again It’s a beautiful IPS panel, but it’s no OLED. The weird auto-brightness is a pain.
No US 5G Also no Verizon support, and some missing LTE bands for AT&T and T-Mobile.
MIUI 12 Xiaomi’s skin is more palatable than ever before, but deviates too far from stock.

Design, hardware, what's in the box

Put the Mi 10T Lite and the Poco X3 NFC side-by-side and they look like twins. The two designs are almost identical, from the 6.67-inch display to the cut-off round black quad-camera bump. Weight and dimensions are similar, too. At 165.4 x 76.8 x 9.0mm and 214.5g the Mi 10T Lite is a big handset — Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra big. It’s deceiving, though, because its proportions make it appear smaller than it is.

The Pearl Gray review unit Xiaomi sent me is a glossy fingerprint magnet. Atlantic Blue and Rose Gold Beach are the other two color options, which frankly look more appealing. No matter which Mi 10T Lite hue you prefer, the aforementioned camera pod is rather unique. It’s more of a shelf, really. And while it’s also a circle that’s been truncated top and bottom, it’s more subtle than on the Poco X3 NFC.

Here the four shooters (64MP main, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro, and 2MP depth) are arranged in a square layout, with the LED flash mounted left of the pod. The 16MP selfie camera is located in a hole punch in the top middle of the display, just like on the Poco X3 NFC. Instead of using a metal frame and plastic back like its sibling, the Mi 10T Lite is built with a plastic frame and glass back. And honestly, both are compromises.

While the Poco X3 NFC is IP53-rated, the Mi 10T Lite doesn’t boast any official water or dust resistance. But there’s a gasket around the SIM tray, so interpret that as you may. For a touch of retro flair, the Mi 10T Lite features a notification LED inside the earpiece, and an IR emitter on the top edge — just like the Poco X3 NFC. And by the way, those stereo speakers sound a lot better than I expected.

The Mi 10T Lite and Poco X3 NFC share the same lovely 120Hz screen. It’s a 6.67-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels, 395ppi, 20:9 aspect ratio) IPS display that’s HDR10 capable. While the bezels are reasonably small, there’s a slight chin along the bottom. Obviously, you’re not going to mistake it for an OLED panel, but colors are punchy, viewing angles are decent, and contrast is high. It’s also bright enough to handle the California sun.

And while this is a quality screen, there’s room for improvement. First, the auto-brightness is a bit weird. It often dims the display too much, especially when transitioning between indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. Second, there’s noticeable visual jitter when scrolling text at 120Hz. While the Poco X3 NFC also exhibited this flaw, it’s less obvious at 60Hz. Then again, I’ve never experienced this on any 120Hz OLED panels.

When it comes to haptics, the Mi 10T Lite follows in its sibling’s footsteps. The vibration motor isn’t spectacular, feeling rather hollow and weak. On the other hand, the edge-mounted capacitive fingerprint reader is fast and reliable (and so is face unlock). You’ll find it embedded in the power/lock key, next to the volume rocker on the right side. A combination dual SIM/microSD card tray is located on the left.

The aforementioned IR blaster and secondary mic live along the top edge, and there’s a headphone jack, USB Type-C port, primary mic, and speaker on the bottom. Besides the phone itself, the box includes a 33W fast charger, a USB Type-A to C cable, and a translucent TPU case. The Mi 10T Lite uses Xiaomi’s proprietary 33W fast charging protocol and handles USB PD (up to 18W), but lacks wireless charging.

Software, performance, and battery

As I previously mentioned, the Mi 10T Lite runs MIUI 12 on top of Android 10, just like the Poco X3 NFC. Check out my Poco F2 Pro review for a closer look at this Android 10 skin. Basically, Xiaomi, like other Chinese handset manufacturers, is now delivering a user experience that’s more friendly to global markets. But while MIUI 12 is much improved, it’s still too heavy-handed for my liking. Obviously, this is a matter of preference.

The good news is that MIUI 12 is more streamlined than previous versions, and Xiaomi’s launcher now finally includes Google Discover as an option. After reviewing the Mi 10T Lite, Poco X3 NFC, and Poco F2 Pro within the span of a few months, it’s clear that Xiaomi’s been busy making its phones feel consistent, regardless of specs. MIUI 12’s performance tweaks are paying off across a wide range of devices.

What also helps the Mi 10T Lite is Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 750G. It’s pretty fast — almost matching the Snapdragon 765G in most tasks. I ran some benchmarks to confirm this, and sure enough, these processors are very close in terms of performance. Then again, while both these 7-series chips incorporate some of Qualcomm’s Elite Gaming features (like HDR), Snapdragon 8-series flagships are still in a different league.

Ultimately, I’m impressed. Between the speedy SoC and the 120Hz screen, the Mi 10T Lite feels wonderfully smooth. It didn’t break a sweat running any of my day-to-day apps, and even handled games like PUBG just fine. As such, most users — including some gamers — will be completely satisfied with the Mi 10T Lite’s performance. For the rest of you, there’s always affordable flagships like that Poco F2 Pro.

That Snapdragon 750G is paired with 6GB RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage (UFS 2.1 and UFS 2.2, respectively) — I reviewed the 6/128GB version. Battery life is where the Mi 10T Lite really shines, thanks to an efficient processor and generous 4820mAh cell. Screen-on time consistently hovered around the 13h mark in my tests. And when the time comes, a full refill takes just over an hour thanks to 33W fast charging.

Obviously, the Mi 10T Lite lacks US 5G support, but will generally work fine on T-Mobile and AT&T’s LTE networks. Just be aware that it’s missing some key LTE bands in the US (bands 12, 13, 17, 66, and 71), which may limit compatibility in some areas. This also means there’s no Verizon support. I used the Mi 10T Lite primarily on AT&T’s LTE network in San Francisco and Palm Springs, CA, and didn’t have any problems.

Cameras

The Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite and the Poco X3 NFC also have a lot in common when it comes to camera systems and imaging performance. In back, the Mi 10T Lite uses the same 64MP f/1.9 0.8-micron Sony IMX 682 main shooter without OIS, an 8MP f/2.2 1.12-micron 120-degree ultrawide, a 2MP f/2.4 1.75-micron macro, and a 2MP f/2.4 1.75-micron depth sensor. Selfies are handled by a 16MP f/2.5 1.0-micron lens.

Let’s dive into what’s changed. The Mi 10T Lite uses a different ultrawide setup (8MP, f/2.2, 1.12 microns, and 120 degrees vs. 13MP, f/2.2, 1.0 microns, and 119 degrees), and a simpler front-facing camera (16MP, f/2.5, and 1.0-micron vs. 20MP, f/2.2, and 0.8-micron). Obviously, that front shooter is a downgrade, but the main camera and the ultrawide produce similar quality results to the Poco X3 NFC.

I’m probably not alone, but I’m pretty tired of manufacturers adding crappy 2MP macro, depth, and monochrome sensors to almost every phone for the sake of lens count bragging rights. How about pasting some camera stickers instead? Without AF and more resolution, the Mi 10T Lite’s 2MP fixed-focus macro is almost completely useless. And it’s not just Xiaomi. Other companies are just as guilty (hello, OnePlus).

What matters most here is Sony’s IMX 682. It’s a 64MP Quad-Bayer sensor that “bins” (combines) groups of four 0.8-micron pixels into 1.6-micron “superpixels”. This improves low-light performance, and results in 16MP images. Like the Poco X3 NFC, the Mi 10T Lite lacks OIS. While that’s pretty normal in this category, it’s still a bummer. For just $30 more, Google’s Pixel 4a includes OIS.

Xiaomi’s camera app is nothing special, but it’s reasonably intuitive. The Mi 10T Lite features the following modes for stills: 64MP, portrait, pro (manual), night, and panorama. Obviously, the pro mode only applies to the main shooter, but night mode is also available on the ultrawide, unlike the Poco X3 NFC. Strangely (or purposely?), the macro setting is separate from the other modes, nested in a menu, making it easier to avoid.

While Mi 10T Lite captures video up to 4k 30fps / 1080p 60fps with the main sensor, it only maxes out at 1080p 30fps on the ultrawide lens — unlike the Poco X3 NFC. Video is stabilized, and audio is recorded in stereo. The selfie camera handles up to 1080p 30fps and the macro 720p 30fps. Other video modes include slow motion (up to 1080p 960fps) and time lapse (up to 4k 30fps), but the Poco X3 NFC’s super steady mode is gone.

The Mi 10T Lite and Poco X3 NFC produce very similar photos and videos — with good results. Obviously, that’s not really surprising since the cameras are almost identical. Night mode pictures are excellent, and low-light performance is generally decent across the board. When using the digital zoom, images are usable up to 3-4x, but anything beyond that starts losing significant detail. Selfies are pretty nice as well.

While the Mi 10T Lite is fun to shoot with, it’s not quite as impressive for $320 as the Poco X3 NFC is for $225. This is a solid camera system, but Google’s $349 Pixel 4a is a better shooter, even without an ultrawide. Here in the US, the Mi 10T Lite is pretty competitive when it comes to imaging, but if you live abroad, there are a lot more Chinese phones with great cameras to pick from at this price point.

[Some of our sample photos were taken while traveling. While we realize this isn’t ideal right now, it was unavoidable. Know that we always take precautions like wearing a mask and doing social distancing when testing phones - Ed.]

Should you buy it?

Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite 5G
8/10

Yes, especially for folks abroad. If you don’t need US 5G support, I think the $320 Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite is a better purchase than the $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G. Both phones offer amazing value, but the Mi 10T Lite delivers a faster processor and better shooters. Otherwise, its real competition comes from a growing number of MediaTek-powered 5G handsets like Xiaomi’s own Redmi Note 9T, and the excellent Realme 7 5G.

Ultimately, I like this phone’s sleek design, smooth 120Hz screen, strong performance, superb battery life, and solid cameras. The Mi 10T Lite is absolutely worth considering if you need 5G on a budget — at least outside the US. As for MIUI 12, it doesn’t float my boat, but I can live with it, and I think most people will be happy with it. Xiaomi, if you’re listening, can your future handsets please offer 5G support for the US?

More $300-ish 5G smartphones are on the way, but for now, when it comes to affordable Qualcomm-powered 5G phones, the Mi 10T Lite stands out. If you can handle a slower SoC and lesser cameras, the $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G is a decent alternative. Otherwise, the 4G-only Poco X3 NFC is almost identical to the Mi 10T Lite, and only costs $225. And when in doubt, there’s always Google’s amazing $349 Pixel 4a.

Buy it if...

  • You value an affordable, well rounded 5G phone
  • You need a high refresh-rate screen
  • You want decent bang for your buck

Don’t buy it if...

  • You want one of Qualcomm’s faster processors
  • You play a lot of hardcore games
  • You need 5G support in the US