Xiaomi’s 12 Pro is the underdog you’re drawn to, compulsively. You want it to win. Why, you ask?
The reasoning is simple. The 12 Pro is a darn good flagship. But it’s also a bit tame. Almost everything about it, seems well calculated. This is possibly to keep the pricing low but it’s just not low enough like, say, the Motorola Edge 30 Pro (review) or Realme GT 2 Pro. It’s closer to the OnePlus 10 Pro (review), which despite the looming Oppo-fication, is superb value. Then there is the iQOO 9 Pro (review), a serious contender for one of the best Android phones of 2022, that undercuts both OnePlus and Xiaomi by doing everything in style, for less money. The Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus (review), or even the iPhone 13 (review), are much pricier but the brand recall means, you’re more likely to pick a Samsung or an Apple when you’re out to get a premium phone and budget is not a constraint.
The 12 Pro is somewhere in the middle of all this, trying to make it in this hyper-competitive industry doing its own thing, and quite well enough, too. So much so that despite its many quirks, you can’t help but vouch for it, hope it –Xiaomi— doesn’t stop trying.
DESIGN & DISPLAY
The back of this phone is made of curved glass. Xiaomi does not mention the type, but it’s extremely smooth and premium, if a little slippery, to the touch. We have the Opera Mauve version for review. It’s basically a shade of lavender. You can also get the 12 Pro in Couture Blue and Noir Black. The camera module, even though it sticks out quite a bit, is aesthetically pleasing. The frame is made of metal. It, too, is all-matte.
The 12 Pro is made of glass and metal. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
Very few phones are this tasteful and original-looking. The 12 Pro, clearly, is the work of expert craftsmanship. The top and bottom speaker grills are a good example. Not only is their alignment very well though-out –something that purists would really appreciate— their waveform-styling adds a bit of whimsy to an otherwise minimalistic setup. They sound pretty good, too. The 12 Pro would do well inside the boardroom as easily as it would on a coffee table. Not so much outdoors around the pool maybe, as there is no official IP rating.
Very few phones are this tasteful and original-looking.
Build quality is top-notch. At 205g and 8.16mm, it is neither too thick nor too thin or light. The weight distribution is fairly on point. Buttons are nice and tactile. Using this phone on a day-to-day basis is an absolute delight.
The screen supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision playback. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
An even bigger delight is the phone’s display. It is one of, if not the best in the market. It’s a 6.73-inch 2K (1440p) LTPO E5 AMOLED with up to 120Hz refresh rate (480Hz touch sampling) and 1500nits peak brightness. It supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision playback— both work as advertised. The bezels are slim and there is Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protection. The tiny hole punch cut-out at the centre stays out of the way, mostly, unless you’re looking for it. Biometrics are handled by an optical in-screen fingerprint reader which is fast and reliable.
CAMERAS & IMAGE QUALITY
The 12 Pro has three “high-quality” camera sensors on the back that sit behind what’s easily one of the most versatile lens systems available in the market, today. There’s a 50MP main Sony IMX 707 sensor behind a 24mm-equivalent f/1.9 aperture lens with OIS, paired with two other 50MP Samsung ISOCELL JN1 sensors one of which is behind an ultrawide-angle lens with f/2.2 aperture and 115-degree field-of-view and another behind a 48mm-equivalent f/1.9 aperture telephoto lens.
Xiaomi has made some surprising hardware choices which we would like to point out in the beginning itself before diving into the image quality. The telephoto, for one, can only pull up to 2x zoom optically which, for the lack of a better word, seems inadequate. It doesn’t have OIS, either. That said, it uses one of the brightest setups around for a telephoto, hinting Xiaomi probably wanted to push for low-light portraits rather than going all in on space zoom theatrics, like, say, the Mi 11 Ultra (review). It’s not a deal-breaker, so to say, but just another instance of the brand trying to do its own thing. Its use case is entirely subjective. The lack of autofocus on the ultrawide-angle could be something to be wary of, though, especially if you like taking crisp close-up shots. The 12 Pro – like the OnePlus 10 Pro— can’t do macros.
The 12 Pro has three cameras on the back. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
Whatever be the case, the 12 Pro is easily among the best camera phones available, today, even more so for still photography. There are two big takeaways—
— the 12 Pro cameras are very fast with virtually no shutter lag, regardless of the lighting
— all the three cameras shoot consistently good pictures with some of the best colour parity we’ve seen on any phone, to date
The Xiaomi 12 Pro is easily among the best camera phones available, today.
Those two alone make the 12 Pro a potentially stellar camera proposition. The output, also, is as stellar. Photos shot with the main camera come out nice and detailed with wide dynamic range and rich colours across scenarios both outdoors and under artificial lighting. We can tell Xiaomi’s processing has come a long way since the Mi 11 Ultra. The results are more balanced, pleasing, with a hint of pop, too. The main camera shines in low light, also, catching on good detail with barely any noticeable noise or metering. The ultrawide and telephoto are as good, if not better, which is to say, Xiaomi has hit it out of the ballpark. Portraits, especially, are one area where the 12 Pro does better than most phones in its class.
The camera module sticks out quite a bit. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
The phone is capable of up to 8K video recording (@24fps) but [email protected] is the sweet spot with good stabilisation and wide dynamic range though details could be better.
The front 32MP camera takes good-looking selfies and good portraits mostly in good light. Like the Mi 11 Ultra, the 12 Pro also can’t do 4K videos using the front camera – it tops out at [email protected] – which shouldn’t be the case in 2022.
PERFORMANCE & BATTERY LIFE
Running the show is Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip and, no beating around the bush, the show is too hot to handle. Xiaomi says it has equipped the phone with an elaborate vapour chamber liquid cooling setup but it’s evidently not up to the mark. It heats up, often alarmingly so when stressed and throttles heavily under sustained CPU load, something that’s indicative in benchmark apps like the CPU Throttling test. It didn’t complete the 20-minute 3DMark Wild Life stress test, once, in our review period. The phone did manage to achieve 9,65,446 in AnTuTu, a respectable score for an 8 Gen 1-powered phone like this (though still not beating the iQOO 9 Pro).
It is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
But you don’t buy a phone to run benchmarks. You buy it for its real-world performance. The 12 Pro performs well in the real world, mostly, be it basic tasks or high refresh rate gaming but know that it doesn’t handle stress very well. A software update could, maybe, fix this in future, we’re not sure. That is not to say that it is slow or that it lags or stutters, or that the overall experience is not good. Xiaomi, in fact, has tuned the software well. The phone is as fast as a flagship phone ought to be. Just that, it gets hot quickly.
The 12 Pro charges way faster than most phones.
The 4,600mAh battery inside the 12 Pro doesn’t give you a lot of confidence on paper to begin with. Battery life is generally not too good in the real world (scoring just 9 hours and 59 minutes in our video loop test), either, which sticks out more because every flagship phone that we can think of, today, has outstanding longevity. Xiaomi’s phone charges way faster, though, compared to most of them so that’s a silver lining. In addition to 120W fast wired charging, the 12 Pro also supports 50W wireless and 10W reverse wireless charging.
The phone has dual speakers. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
Say what you will about MIUI, but there’s no denying that it’s a whole different beast when put inside a high-end Xiaomi phone like the 12 Pro. It’s fast, it’s nimble, and it’s got great features. It’s true that it draws some inspiration from iOS, skips out on some of the basic Android look, feel and feature set from time to time, and has some bloatware (no pesky ads, though), but everything is put together in this nice and cohesive package that deserves a little more credit, than it’s given usually. Speaking of which, the 12 Pro runs Android 12-based MIUI 13 and is eligible to get 3 years of major OS and 4 years of security updates. Frequency of those updates could be slightly better though. Our review unit still runs the March 2022 patch at the time of writing, at a time when Samsung is well into May, even with some of its affordable midrangers.
XIAOMI 12 PRO | SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
The 12 Pro is a beautiful piece of hardware with easily one of the most breathtaking displays around. Its cameras, too, are basking with potential and excel at still photography with sheer consistency across the board, something that we really like and appreciate. The phone is fast in day to day use and charges faster than most phones we have in the market today. Its speakers – which are tuned by Harmon Kardon – can get nice and loud, and haptic feedback, is solid. There is support for as many as 14 5G bands as well, making it one of the most future-proof phones around.
Xiaomi 12 Pro price in India starts at Rs 62,999 for a version with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. A version with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage will set you back by Rs 66,999.
Very few phones are this tasteful and original-looking. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
The pricing is not too bad but that’s not to say that the 12 Pro is a home run. Far from it. Thermals are definitely an issue in this phone, so is battery life. Xiaomi’s track record with software isn’t particularly great either. Each of this is a deal-breaker, and yet, we’ve come out impressed with the 12 Pro because collectively, there’s nothing wrong with it, really. It’s a darn good flagship, is what it is, one that stands out despite so much competition. It’s the underdog, and much like any other underdog story out there, this too is a story of hope and courage.
Still, the purpose of a review, ultimately, is to compare and let you –the reader— make an informed decision, so here goes—
— The OnePlus 10 Pro offers better sustained performance, battery life and cleaner software, but Xiaomi gives you a better build, design, and cameras, a more premium display, and faster charging.
— The iQOO 9 Pro is perhaps a more apt comparison. It is first and foremost a gaming phone, though, and is built that way, be it in design or overall performance. It, too, supports 120W charging. Its camera system is also reliable mostly. We feel that’s a better buy. But again, its aesthetic and heft may not be to everyone’s liking. The 12 Pro would appeal to a much wider group of people.
PROSCONSBeautiful designNo IP ratingPremium buildHeats up/throttles under stressGorgeous displayBattery life not goodFantastic camerasGood hapticsLoud stereo speakersQuick charging