REVIEWS

Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Iterative improvements add up

The theme of phones so far this year has been iteration. Most phone manufacturers takes what worked last year and improved upon it with the latest parts and specs. That is exactly what Xiaomi did with the Xiaomi 12 Pro, a phone which is an iterative but still meaningful upgrade over the Mi 11, which the company launched as part of the Xiaomi 12 series on March 15.

The Xiaomi 12 Pro is the definition of a solid phone. It has a sharp display, best-in-class speakers, and a great camera setup. However, it’s big, doesn’t work in the US, and MIUI will be a big adjustment coming from any other Android phone.


Specifications

  • Brand: Xiaomi
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
  • Memory: 8GB/12GB
  • Operating System: MIUI 13 based on Android 12
  • Battery: 4,600 mAh
  • Ports: USB-C
  • Display (Size, Resolution): 6.73-inch 3200x1440p LTPO OLED, 120hz
  • Camera (Front): 32MP
  • Cameras (Rear): 50MP wide, 50MP telephoto, 50MP ultra wide
  • Price: $999
  • Connectivity: 5G, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6/6E
  • Dimensions: 163.60mm x 74.60mm x 8.16mm
  • Colors: Pink, Gray, Blue
  • Weight: 206g

Pros

  • Fantastic feel in the hand, best matte finished glass on any phone
  • 120W charging is incredibly fast
  • Some of the sharpest night mode on any phone
  • Beautiful Samsung-made OLED screen

Cons

  • It’s an enormous phone that discourages one-handed use
  • Doesn’t work in the US
  • 2x zoom is not adequate in a flagship anymore
  • MIUI won’t be to everyone’s taste

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The Xiaomi 12 Pro is remarkably similar to most flagship phones on the market right now. It has a curved, bezel-less, punch hole display with a huge camera module and in-display fingerprint scanner. There’s really nothing special here, except for the back glass. I’m not sure what Xiaomi did differently here, but the matte texture on the glass is fantastic. It feels soft and adds a little grip without showing scuffs.

The display on the 12 Pro is a 6.73-inch 1440p Samsung OLED display. This year Xiaomi has chosen to use an LTPO panel, meaning it has a dynamic refresh rate being able to go as low as 10hz and as high as 120hz. The display also supports Dolby Vision, which isn’t very common on Android devices. Dolby Vision is the most advanced HDR standard, but most apps on Android don’t support it, choosing to support the more widely accepted and used HDR10 standard. In apps like Netflix, though, Dolby Vision movies and TV shows will look better on the Xiaomi 12 Pro than almost any other Android phone, including the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Xiaomi has also included a quad speaker system with two sets of identical setups. At the top and bottom, there is a woofer and tweeter, with the same speakers in both parts. This system creates fantastic sound quality and is very loud. These are the best sounding speakers I’ve heard on a smartphone, much better than the former champ, the Galaxy Z Fold3.

In the box Xiaomi includes a charger, case, USB-A to USB-C cable, and the usual manuals and such. The charger does support for the 120W fast charging of the Xiaomi 12 Pro. The included case isn’t super high quality, just a cheap TPU case to throw on there until you can get something a little better.

Software, performance, battery

The Xiaomi 12 Pro ships with MIUI 13 based on Android 12. If you’ve used MIUI in the past two or three years, you really won’t notice anything different. It’s the same interface with the same features, just based on Android 12, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s still smooth, fast, and highly customizable.

If you’re used to most Android phones that have a similar UI to stock Android with minor color and design tweaks, this might be off-putting. Xiaomi is very heavy-handed with the changes they make to Android. It can feel more like iOS than Android to some, but at it’s core, it’s the Android you know and love. All the default apps are Google ones and everything works the same, but a lot of system elements might be a bit off-putting.

One of the unfortunate parts of it is the lack of Material You support. It’s supposed to be required on devices with Android 12 soon, but at the time of review, it’s missing. It’s not a big deal, but most other major Android devices running Android 12 already embrace it.

Update support has never mattered more and Xiaomi isn’t the fastest to roll them out. This time next year, the Xiaomi 12 Pro will likely just be getting Android 13. Xiaomi is promising 3 Android OS updates and 4 years of security updates, which is better than nothing even if they’re slow. It’s just shy of Samsung’s 4 Android OS updates and matches Google’s 3 OS updates.

Performance on the Xiaomi 12 Pro is very good. It runs the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, so you know it’s going to be both fast and hot. The phone gets toasty while running through performance intensive tasks like gaming, but generally stays cool. If you’re worried about a Samsung or OnePlus style app throttling, don’t. I’ve done some testing, and nothing like that seems to be happening. There are a few different performance modes though, and you are able to swap between them depending on what you’re doing with the phone. I kept my phone in the balanced mode, because I didn’t really notice a difference in any apps.

As for battery, the 4,600 mAh battery powers the phone through the day with no issues. I was easily getting a full day of use, but not much more. I was getting between four and six hours of screen-on-time. The standby on the phone is also very good, draining barely 5% overnight. That’s better than most Android phones I’ve used recently.

Camera

Cameras have always been a focus of Xiaomi phones, and the Xiaomi 12 Pro is no exception. The rear camera setup includes a 50MP Sony IMX 707 main sensor, a 50MP Samsung JN1 ultrawide, and 50MP 2x telephoto Samsung JN1 sensor. The selfie camera is a 32MP sensor. There are no fancy games going on here with super zoom or anything like that; it’s just a tried and true camera setup with some high megapixel cameras.

The main sensor is one of the largest sensors in a 2022 flagship so far. It’s physically larger than the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s ISOCELL HM3 and the 50MP sensor in the Galaxy S22. The result of this size? Really crisp photos with lots of detail, day or night. I’ve gotten some of the best and most detailed night mode pics I’ve ever seen from the Xiaomi 12 Pro. It offers pretty true to life colors, although sometimes white balance does have a problem. It’s not major, but some photos will end up with a funky hue.

The telephoto and ultrawide cameras are both good, there’s really not much to report here. I have no real complaints or comments, but also no compliments. The sensors themselves are pretty small, at 1/2.76″. I think a phone in this price range needs more than 2x zoom on the telephoto lens. The sensors on the Galaxy S22 and S22+ are better than these.

The selfie camera is better, but still not as good as the S22+. In apps like Snapchat or TikTok, where the selfie camera is important, it’s fine. Photos seem to process with HDR and offer good detail, but photos also seem to get blurred from any slight movement. Video seems to be about 15fps in good lighting and to really overexpose while recording video in apps like TikTok, which is par for the course on Android phones, even the S22s and Pixel do this.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you’re outside the US. The phone retails for $999 USD, but this price will vary by region. That puts it in the same category as the Galaxy S22+, and between the two, I would rather have the Xiaomi 12 Pro. It has a top-tier camera, super-fast 120W charging, a crisp display, fantastic speakers, and decent software (really, you’ll get used to it). The build quality is fantastic and it’s hard to think of anything that’s necessarily wrong with the phone.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to if you like Xiaomi’s software. MIUI stands out compared to the competition. It’s smooth, fast, efficient, and looks good, but lacks some of the third-party support that skins like Pixel UI and One UI have. Whether this phone is for you really comes down to how much you value a more generic Android experience and how much you use social media apps that demand good selfies.

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