Earlier this year, at MWC 2023 in Barcelona, Xiaomi launched the Xiaomi 13 series, its new line of flagship smartphones. While most reviewers focused on the Leica co-branded Xiaomi 13 and 13 Pro — and later the awesome Xiaomi 13 Ultra imaging powerhouse – the mid-range Xiaomi 13 Lite was often just mentioned in passing. So, what’s the deal?
Like previous “Lite” models from the company, the Xiaomi 13 Lite is an affordable ($360) premium mid-range handset that takes design and spec cues from its flagship siblings. So, how does it compare to Google’s Pixel 6a ($349), another flagship-inspired mid-range phone? I’ve been using the Xiaomi 13 Lite on and off for a few months, and here’s our review.
Hardware and design
The Xiaomi 13 Lite looks and feels super premium thanks to a tapered edge design, but Xiaomi made the frame with plastic instead of metal, which is a bummer. Still, at just 7.2mm thick, It’s pretty svelte. The back is glass and boasts a fancy two-tiered camera pod–home to a trio of shooters (50 / 8 / 2MP) and a dual-LED dual-color flash.
You’ll find the volume rocker and power / lock key on the right side. The speaker, USB Type-C port, primary mic, and SIM tray line the bottom edge. Moving along the left side reveals no controls or ports. The top edge is home to the IR transmitter and secondary mic. It’s all familiar and very Xiaomi-like.
In front, the Xiaomi 13 Lite packs a 6.55-inch AMOLED display with curved edges, minimal bezels, and a pill-shaped center punch hole for the dual 32 / 8 MP selfie cameras. This handset is rated IP53 dust and splash-resistant and is available in three colors – Black, Lite Blue, and Lite Pink (like our sexy review unit).
Xiaomi didn’t cut any corners with the Xiaomi 13 Lite’s display. It’s a beautiful 6.55-inch 20:9 FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels, 402ppi) AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ plus Dolby Vision support. This screen features curved edges, slim bezels, a pill-shaped center punch hole for the front shooters, and a capacitive in-display fingerprint sensor.
Colors are vibrant, blacks are inky, and viewing angles are acceptable. Plus, 1000 nits of peak brightness makes it easy to read in direct sunlight. In other words, this screen is definitely flagship-grade.
In terms of camera specs, the Xiaomi 13 Lite doesn’t live up to its Leica-branded siblings. You’ll find a 50MP f/1.8 1.0-micron PDAF main shooter (without OIS), 8MP f/2.2 1.12-micron 119-degree ultrawide lens, and 2MP f/2.4 macro (without AF).
In front, there’s a 32 MP f/2.4 0.8-micron selfie camera paired with an 8MP f/2.3 depth sensor.
Obviously, the pictures I shot with the Xiaomi 13 Lite aren’t quite as refined as those I captured with the Xiaomi 13 Pro. Still, the primary shooter takes lovely 12MP photos with plenty of detail. Colors and exposure are accurate, and low-light performance is reasonably good, considering the lack of OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). Pixel binning – which groups four nearby pixels into one – really helps.
As you’d expect from a camera system without a dedicated telephoto, zooming anywhere beyond 3-4x results in a noticeable loss of sharpness – especially without OIS. Likewise, the macro’s low resolution and lack of autofocus make it pretty useless. Instead of using the macro, just set the main shooter to 2x magnification and call it a day.
While Xiaomi’s camera app is intuitive and easy to use, the Xiaomi 13 Lite falls short on some critical features. HDR is disabled when taking portrait selfies, and video capture tops out at 1080p 60fps with the selfie camera, 1080p 30fps with the ultrawide, and 720p 30fps with the macro. At least you get stabilized video recordings with stereo audio.
Reception and audio
I mostly used the Xiaomi 13 Lite on T-Mobile and Telus’ sub-6GHz 5G and 4G LTE networks in San Francisco and Vancouver (Canada). I didn’t experience any issues with call quality or data speeds. Keep in mind that if you import this phone, it’s missing some 5G bands for the US, so you might be stuck on 4G LTE. It also doesn’t work on Verizon.
When it comes to audio, the Xiaomi 13 Lite disappoints. It only features one (mono) speaker, and while it’s okay for the occasional TikTok video, it doesn’t sound great. Plus, unlike some mid-range handsets, the Xiaomi 13 Lite doesn’t have a headphone jack. At least it supports LDAC and aptX HD for lossless audio over Bluetooth.
Performance and battery life
The Xiaomi 13 Lite is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7 Gen 1. While this mid-range chip won’t top any benchmarks, it gets the job done without fuss. As such, this handset feels snappy day-to-day, both at work and at play, and I didn’t notice any hiccups while running the usual collection of productivity and entertainment apps.
It also packs 8GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage, but there’s no microSD support. The remaining specs are familiar and include sub-6GHz 5G, CAT 20 LTE, dual-band WiFi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.2 (LE), NFC, and A-GPS / GLONASS / BDS / GALILEO positioning. A linear vibration motor provides quality haptics, and the optical in-display fingerprint sensor works quickly and reliably. So does face unlock.
While the Xiaomi 13 Lite generally lasts a full day on a single charge, it’s no battery life champ. That’s to be expected, considering the slim design means there’s only room for a smaller 4500mAh cell. On the plus side, this phone supports 67W fast charging — and includes a 67W brick in the box — but lacks wireless charging.
On the software front, the Xiaomi 13 Lite runs MIUI 14, which is based on Android 12. While Xiaomi’s skin is intuitive and easy to use, it deviates far from stock Android for our liking. That being said, it’s improved a lot in recent years. It’s gained Google’s Discover feed to the left of the home screen; you can finally dismiss notifications by swiping either left or right, and recent apps can be closed by swiping up.
Despite all this, MIUI still attempts to imitate iOS a little too much. For example, Xiaomi disables the app drawer by default, and notifications are only available by swiping down from the top left side of the display, while you can find the quick settings by swiping down from the top right side of the screen.
You can change this in the settings, but it’s unclear where to find these options in the heavily customized settings menu. Finally, Xiaomi’s policy for OS upgrades and security updates varies between devices, so you’ll want to look into the specifics for your region if you plan to use this handset for a couple of years or more.
In addition, the Xiaomi 13 Lite ships with a bunch of bloatware pre-installed — apps like AliExpress, Amazon Shopping, LinkedIn, Netflix, Spotify, TikTok, WPS Office, plus a few games. Thankfully, you can simply uninstall these.
Xiaomi 13 Lite review: Final thoughts
Considering its $360 price tag, the Xiaomi 13 Lite is quite affordable for a premium mid-range phone. It delivers a sleek design, a gorgeous display, a decent camera, and solid performance. Still, there’s room for improvement. The mono speaker and middling battery life are a little disappointing, and MIUI is very much an acquired taste. While I find it a bit too heavy-handed, you might really enjoy using it.
Keep in mind that if you plan to import the Xiaomi 13 Lite into the US, you’ll get limited access to sub-6GHz 5G and 4G LTE bands and no Verizon support. As a result, I suggest you check out Google’s excellent Pixel 6a, which currently sells for just $349. The specs are pretty similar, and while it’s missing that smooth 120Hz display, it offers better shooters, stereo speakers, and a more pleasant user experience.