Xiaomi’s new top phone for the start of 2022 is the 12 Pro with advanced specifications, sleek design and triple 50-megapixel cameras, but at an absolutely premium price.
“China’s apple”, as Xiaomi was once called, is more often known for top-spec phones that undercut the competition on price. But the 12 Pro is different – a direct challenger to Apple and Samsung, which costs £ 1,049, which is just as much, if not more, than the competition.
It certainly looks that part. The 6.73 inch OLED screen is super bright, vibrant and razor sharp with a 120Hz refresh rate to keep everything smooth. The sides curve to a metal frame and a smooth frosted glass back with a protruding camera clump in the upper left corner. The 12 Pro is a great phone, but feels great, is a little lighter than some competitors and relatively easy to grab.
There is a set of four speakers at the top and bottom of the phone, which are surprisingly good for a smartphone and not so easy to block with the hand when holding like some rivals.
Screen: 6.73 inch QHD + OLED (522ppi) 120Hz
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM: 12 GB RAM
Storage: 256 GB
Operating system: Miui 13 based on Android 12
Camera: Triple 50 MP rear camera: wide, ultra-wide, 2x telephoto; 32 MP selfie camera
Connection: 5G, USB-C, wifi 6E, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2 and location
Water repellent: none
Dimensions: 163.6 x 74.6 x 8.2 mm
Weight: 205 g
Exceptionally fast charging but short battery life
The 12 Pro has the same top Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip as the Oppo Find X5 Pro, OnePlus 10 Pro and most advanced Android phones, launched in 2022, and performs similarly, and is capable of handling demanding tasks and games with confidence.
Battery life is a bit short compared to the competition. The 12 Pro lasted only 30 hours between charges, while most phones lasted at least 35 hours. It included about two hours on 5G and active use of the screen for about four hours for mostly light tasks such as messaging, browsing, music and taking a few pictures.
Xiaomi estimates the battery to be at least 800 full-charge cycles, while retaining at least 80% of its original capacity and can be replaced for around £ 12 plus labor.
The phone can generally be repaired and screen fixes cost around £ 180 plus labor. Its predecessor scored only four out of 10 on iFixit’s repair ranking.
Xiaomi does not publish environmental impact assessments or offer exchange or recycling schemes in the UK. The phone is not made from recycled materials.
Miui 13 is Xiaomi’s customized version of Android 12. It’s still a work in progress for western markets, full of small differences and quirks compared to Samsung, Google and other common brands, and certainly not the best version of Android available.
It is highly customizable with options to change the way it looks and works beyond what most competitors offer, from making it look and function like an iPhone to the more traditional Android way. But it took a bit of digging through menus and adjusting settings to make it work to my liking, after which it was pretty quick and attractive.
Xiaomi will support 12 Pro with software updates, including three major Android version upgrades and a total of four years of security updates from the phone’s release. It’s a year longer than last year’s model, but after Samsung’s five and Apple’s plus six years of support.
The phone has three 50-megapixel cameras on the back and a very capable 32MP selfie camera, which produces detailed images but by default has some degree of artificial skin smoothing unless you turn it off manually.
The main camera is the best of the bunch, producing sharp, well-detailed images with excellent color balance and exposure, even in high-contrast scenes. Performance in low light is strong and video is also excellent. But the ultra-wide and 2x telephoto cameras are also good with consistent color and exposure when switching between the three cameras. The 2x zoom is weak compared to the competitors, which often have 3, 5 or even 10x optical zoom. Expansion beyond 2x with digital zoom quickly becomes full of artifacts.
Overall, the 12 Pro’s camera is generally very good, but let down by the limited optical zoom.
Xiaomi 12 Pro costs £ 1,049.
By comparison, the Google Pixel 6 Pro costs £ 849, the OnePlus 10 Pro costs £ 799, the Samsung Galaxy S21 + costs £ 949, the Oppo Find X5 Pro costs £ 1,049, the Galaxy S21 Ultra costs £ 1,149 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max costs £ 1,049.
12 Pro is Xiaomi’s latest attempt to take the best from Samsung and Apple at the top of the premium market, delivering in some areas while falling short in others.
It certainly looks, feels great, performs well and has the fastest charge currently available. The camera is also pretty good, but lacks extended optical zoom, limited only to 2x magnification, while others offer 3x or 4x for the same price.
Xiaomi’s Miui software is improving, but still feels aimed at enthusiasts. The biggest problems for the 12 Pro are relatively weak battery life and high cost. The buyer simply gets less with Xiaomi than with similar phones from OnePlus, Google, Samsung or Apple.
Advantage: good screen, top performance, super fast charging, nice design, good camera, good speakers, decent fingerprint scanner on the screen.
Disadvantages: expensive, relatively short battery life, lack of extended optical zoom for the camera, only four years of software support guaranteed, no official waterproof assessment.