Xiaomi 12 Pro Review: A Phone with a License to Entertain!
More of a Show-maker than a showstopper!
- The Xiaomi 12 Pro is Xiaomi’s latest premium flagship to be launched in India and follows in the footsteps of the Mi 10 (2020) and the Mi 11 Ultra (2021).
- Xiaomi has been highlighting the phone’s design and cameras to justify its “Showstopper” tag, but we think there is more to the phone than that. Much more.
- At its starting price of Rs 62,999, the Xiaomi 12 Pro goes up against the likes of the OnePlus 10 Pro, the iQOO 9 pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22. Does it do enough to hold its own against them?
Hyping up certain features of a device can be a bit of a two-edged sword, as we have mentioned so often in the past. Doing so does enable a brand to get attention towards certain features, but a number of other features tend to get overshadowed in the process. We suspect that is what has happened with the Xiaomi 12 Pro. The phone has been hyped on two fronts – its design (“the showstopper” Xiaomi termed it) and its triple 50-megapixel (“50+50+50”) camera setup. Both these features are indeed attention-worthy, but there’s far more to the Xiaomi 12 Pro than just an elegant design and three half-century megapixel cameras. Much more, in fact.
In fact, it reminds us of the Nokia N95, which was initially promoted for its (then) amazing 5.0-megapixel camera and its two-way sliding design before the brand rejigged its messaging superbly to switch it to “this is what computers will become,” highlighting a number of other aspects of the device.
Showstopper? Well, it is more Bond than Batman
That does not mean that the Xiaomi 12 Pro is not good-looking. It is very good looking indeed. A show stopper? The house is a little divided on that. The Xiaomi 12 Pro is more Bond than Batman in appearance. There is nothing extravagant in its design. The phone is like a well-crafted tuxedo rather than a superhero costume replete with capes, belts, and other trimmings. You will not spot it straight away in a crowd, but you will not look away too easily when you do spot it.
The reason why it won’t grab eyeballs right away is that unlike the very unusual Mi 11 Ultra, the Xiaomi 12 Pro sticks to conventional Android flagship looks, with a curved display, curved sides, and back. The front is a standard Android flagship fare with its bright, colorful tall display with minimal bezels and a tiny notch in the top central part. The back, too, does not scream for attention but comes with some neat design touches.
We got what Xiaomi calls the Opera Mauve shade. The shade itself is a little too understated and almost seems plain from a distance, but a closer look reveals some gentle glitter. Remarkably the texture of the back itself is very smooth – what Xiaomi calls a Velvet Matte Finish. The camera unit is a rectangular one with one massive camera lens and two smaller ones below it. All these are on a metal unit that protrudes from the back and has not only a
smoother, glitter-free texture but also lines etched on it, dividing the camera unit into four enclosures – three that contain one camera each and another that contains the flash. It is perhaps the most distinctive design element of the phone.
There are subtle design elements on the sides, too – the speaker grilles on the top and at the base of the phone are elliptical in shape. And right on top of the phone is the Harman Kardon branding, showing the name behind the audio on the device. The right side houses the volume rocker and power/display buttons; the top has the speaker grille and an infrared port, the base has a USB Type C port, the SIM card tray, a second speaker grille, and the left side is totally plain.
All of which combine to make the Xiaomi 12 Pro a very elegant-looking device. It has glass on the back and front and a metal frame and has been very cleanly crafted, with no rough edges. At 163.6 mm, it cannot be called small, and it is not exactly light either at 205 grams, but it is impressively slim at 8.19 mm, and somehow appears more compact than the OnePlus 10 Pro despite actually being larger than it. It will not stop any shows with its appearance, but it will distract a fair bit once spotted. We are a little surprised at there being no dust and water resistance, though.
50 MP + 50 MP + 50 MP = Some very good photography
This brings us to the other hype point of the Xiaomi 12 Pro – those three 50-megapixel cameras on the back. These comprise the main sensor (a Sony IMX 707), an ultrawide, and telephoto, with the main sensor getting OIS as well. In addition, In addition, Xiaomi has added a truckload of shooting options to the cameras, most notably its ProFocus AI tracking system, which includes motion tracking focus, eye tracking focus, and motion capture. Low light and portrait photography have also been given a boost.
The result is a camera setup that can deliver very good results indeed. We got some brilliant shots in good light conditions and even when the lights dimmed. The low light performance of the sensors needs to be especially stressed as this was one of the first phones in the price segment where we were comfortable using any of the three cameras even at night. Xiaomi has claimed that the three cameras deliver consistent results so that you get great shots no matter which camera you choose. Now, that is not altogether right or even possible, given that the three sensors are of different types, have different apertures, and so on, but this is the closest we have seen a phone deliver reliable performance across all its sensors, this side of the iPhone 13 and the Galaxy S22 series, both of which come with considerably heftier price tags. We actually were able to take very good portrait snaps even at night.
[Click here for full resolution images + additional samples]
All in all, you are likely to get very good snaps with the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s triple 50-megapixel set-up. Colors might seem a little too bright to those who love realism, but most users are going to be just delighted with the results. The video is very impressive as well (there is support for 8K video), although a notch below what we have seen on the iPhone, especially in terms of audio.
The 32-megapixel selfie camera takes some good selfies with a little digital touch-up.
It is not all photographic roses, though. There is no autofocus on the ultrawide sensor, which is a bit of a surprise, though not a dealbreaker. We were also disappointed at seeing just 2X optical zoom (and no OIS) on the telephoto sensor, especially when other brands are getting closer to the 5X mark and a few are venturing beyond it. You can digitally zoom up to 20X, and there’s also a special mode to take snaps of the moon, but there is often a significant loss of detail. That said, the f/1.9 aperture for the telephoto sensor is one of the largest we have seen and might account for the excellent low-light portrait shots we got. There are also plenty of editing options right on the phone itself, and thanks to the hefty hardware onboard, things work very smoothly and swiftly indeed.
Just like its design, the cameras of the Xiaomi 12 Pro give a feeling of being reassuringly superb rather than show-stoppingly spectacular. You do not get struck by them the way you were by, say, the cameras of the Galaxy S22 Ultra or even Xiaomi’s own Mi 11 Ultra. There’s no crazy “wow” moment, but just as importantly, you just know that you are very likely to get a good shot every time you point and shoot, which is what really matters.
Ticking flagship boxes, rocking the sound, and super-fast charging that battery!
Praiseworthy though the design and cameras of the Xiaomi 12 Pro are, what accompanies them is more so. We have seen our share of flagships that look good and have great cameras. And yes, like almost all Android flagships, the Xiaomi 12 Pro comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, with 8 GB and 12 GB RAM variants and impressive storage of 256 GB. On the display front, you also get a brilliant 6.73-inch 2k+ AMOLED display with a 120 Hz refresh rate, which can adjust the refresh rate from 1 Hz to 120 Hz depending on the content being shown. And yes, there is Android 12 with Xiaomi’s MIUI 13 above it, with much less clutter than before. All of which is wonderful but not really exceptional. And, of course, it comes with support for 5G!
Where the Xiaomi 12 Pro breaks away from the standard premium flagship template is in a zone for which phones had been originally invented: sound. The Xiaomi 12 Pro is the first phone in the Indian market to come with quad speakers (two woofers and two tweeters), tuned by Harman Kardon. These deliver what we think is the best sound we have heard from a smartphone’s speakers in terms of quality. Be it in a game or in a series, or in a film; you feel enveloped by the sound from the Xiaomi 12 Pro. Of course, these are not the loudest speakers we have heard, but they definitely are among the first that make us try to play audio out loud rather than on earphones or TWS. As a result, this is a phone you will love listening to.
There is also support for Dolby Atmos, making this perhaps the ultimate phone when it comes to content consumption – the combination of that display (which incidentally supports Dolby Vision) and those speakers is, to use Xiaomi’s own terminology, a Showstopper! Our only complaint is about the location of the speaker grilles on the top and base of the phone, as at least one of them inevitably ends up getting covered when you hold the phone in landscape mode. Our solution was to hold the phone by the corners, but this was not a solution that could be employed beyond a few minutes, as this is not exactly a very light phone. So a stand for extending viewing sessions is the best option!
Then there is the battery and charging speed. While we are used to quick charging speeds these days, Xiaomi has brought its 120W HyperCharge technology to the Xiaomi 12 Pro, which takes things to another level. As a result, while the 4600 mAh battery will see off a day of use with the display’s resolution maxed out (it is set to full HD+ by default), the 120W charger in the box will get the phone from nix to full in about twenty minutes when in Boost mode. We have seen only the iQOO 9 Pro come close to matching this. Yes, the phone can heat up a little while charging, but it never reaches alarming levels. There is also 50W wireless charging, which is again impressive. We would have liked the battery to last longer, but the speed of charging it more than compensates for this.
All of which makes the Xiaomi 12 Pro that rare phone that seems to do everything that you expect from a flagship – gaming, video editing, watching content, photography, videos…it does them all with no lags. Mind you; we still think fingerprint scanners on the side work faster than the in-display ones, although the one on the Xiaomi 12 Pro is speedy enough. This is a phone that does a lot and does all of it well.
Is this what smartphones will become? We SO wish
At Rs 62,999 for its 8 GB/ 256 GB variant and Rs 66,999 for its 12 GB/ 126 GB variant, the Xiaomi 12 Pro has a lower starting base price tag than both the OnePlus 10 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S22 and the iQOO 9 Pro. What’s more, it can claim to do far more than each of those worthies, with its mix of design, camera, audio, and charging excellence. Frankly, at the time of writing, it is the only device in the sub-Rs 70,000 segment that pretty much ticks all boxes. The hype might make you look for a terrific design and great cameras. Hey, they exist, but we think the real reason for going for the Xiaomi 12 Pro is the fact that it is perhaps one of those rare devices that are as good at content creation as at content consumption.
You get a magnificent display and quad speakers to watch shows and videos, enough processing power and a very good array of cameras to create your own shows right on the phone itself, and a battery that charges in around twenty minutes. Sure, it looks good, but it is more than a pretty face and pretty good cameras, you know. It is actually more of a maker of shows than a stopper of them. It reminds us so much of the Nokia N95, which simply did everything well. We do hope this is what smartphones at this price will become.
- Superb camera performance
- Great hardware
- Smooth performance
- Super fast charging
- Quad speakers
- Just 2x telephoto zoom
- No dust and water resistance
|Build & Design||
At its starting price of Rs 62,999, the Xiaomi 12 Pro goes up against the likes of the OnePlus 10 Pro, the iQOO 9 pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22. Does it do enough to hold its own against them? Here's our review.