Xiaomi 12 Pro review: ultra-fast-charging Android phone | Xiaomi

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Xiaomi’s new top phone for the start of 2022 is the 12 Pro featuring high-end specs, svelte design and triple 50-megapixel cameras but at a decidedly premium price.

“China’s Apple” as Xiaomi was once called, is more frequently known for top-spec phones that undercut the competition on price. But the 12 Pro is different – a direct challenger to Apple and Samsung costing £1,049, which is as much if not more than rivals.

The back of the Xiaomi 12 Pro sparkling in sunlight.
The frosted grey back repels messy fingerprints and has a subtle sparkle that shines in direct sunlight. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It certainly looks the part. The 6.73in OLED screen is super bright, vibrant and pin-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 lump in the top left corner. The 12 Pro a large phone but feels great, is slightly lighter than some rivals and comparatively easy to grip.

There’s a set of four speakers in the top and bottom of the phone, which are surprisingly good for a smartphone and not as easy to block with your hand when holding as some rivals.

Specifications

  • Screen: 6.73in QHD+ OLED (522ppi) 120Hz

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

  • RAM: 12GB of RAM

  • Storage: 256GB

  • Operating system: Miui 13 based on Android 12

  • Camera: Triple 50MP rear camera: wide, ultra-wide, 2x telephoto; 32MP selfie camera

  • Connectivity: 5G, USB-C, wifi 6E, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2 and location

  • Water resistance: none

  • Dimensions: 163.6 x 74.6 x 8.2mm

  • Weight: 205g

Exceptionally fast charging but short battery life

The USB-C port in the bottom of the Xiaomi 12 Pro.
The phone fully charges in a little over 20 minutes with its 120W power adaptor and special ‘boost mode’, but gets very hot doing so. Its regular fast charge mode takes about 30 minutes, which is still rapid. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 12 Pro has the same top Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip as the Oppo Find X5 Pro, OnePlus 10 Pro and most high-end Android phones launched in 2022 and performs similarly, capable of handling demanding tasks and games with aplomb.

The battery life is a bit short compared with rivals. The 12 Pro lasted only 30 hours between charges, while most phones last at least 35 hours. That included about two hours on 5G and having actively using the screen for about four hours for mostly light tasks such as messaging, browsing, music and taking a couple of photos.

Sustainability

The in-display fingerprint scanner of the Xiaomi 12 Pro.
The in-display fingerprint scanner is good but not quite the fastest available on a smartphone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Xiaomi rates the battery for at least 800 full-charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% of its original capacity and can be replaced for about £12 plus labour.

The phone is generally repairable, with screen fixes costing about £180 plus labour. Its predecessor scored only four out of 10 on iFixit’s repairability ranking.

Xiaomi does not publish environmental impact assessments or offer trade-in or recycling schemes in the UK. The phone is not made of recycled materials.

Miui 13

The sidebar feature of Miui 13 on the Xiaomi 12 Pro.
Miui 13 has many features and little additions such as the app sidebar that can be enabled, disabled or customised to your liking. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Miui 13 is Xiaomi’s customised version of Android 12. It is still a work in progress for western markets, full of little differences and oddities compared with Samsung, Google and other common brands, and certainly not the best version of Android available.

It is highly customisable with options to change the way it looks and operates beyond what most rivals offer, from making it look and work like an iPhone to the more traditional Android way. But it took some digging through menus and tweaking settings to get it to work to my liking, after which it was fairly fast and attractive.

Xiaomi will support the 12 Pro, with software updates including three big Android version upgrades and a total four years of security updates from the phone’s release. That is a year longer than last year’s model but behind Samsung’s five and Apple’s six-plus years of support.

Camera

The camera app of the Xiaomi 12 Pro
The Xiaomi camera app is fairly simple to use with plenty of automatic, creative or manual modes preloaded and more available as downloads. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The phone has three 50-megapixel cameras on the back and a very capable 32MP selfie camera, which produces detailed photos but defaults to 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 colour balance and exposure, even in high-contrast scenes. Low-light performance is strong and video is excellent too. But the ultra-wide and 2x telephoto cameras are also good with consistent colour and exposure as you switch between the three cameras. The 2x zoom is weak compared with rivals, however, which often have 3, 5 or even 10x optical zooms. Extending beyond 2x with digital zoom quickly becomes full of artefacts.

Overall, the 12 Pro’s camera is generally very good but let down by the limited optical zoom.

Price

The Xiaomi 12 Pro costs £1,049.

For 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.

Verdict

The 12 Pro is Xiaomi’s latest attempt to take on the best of Samsung and Apple at the top of the premium market, which delivers in some areas while falling short in others.

It certainly looks the part, feels great, performs well and has the fastest charging currently available. The camera is pretty good too but lacks extended optical zoom, limited only to 2x magnification where others offer 3x or 4x for the same price.

Xiaomi’s Miui software is improving but still feels geared towards enthusiasts. The biggest problems for the 12 Pro are relatively weak battery life and high cost. The buyer is simply getting less with the Xiaomi than with similar phones from OnePlus, Google, Samsung or Apple.

Pros: good screen, top performance, super-fast charging, nice design, good camera, good speakers, decent in-screen fingerprint scanner.

Cons: expensive, relatively short battery life, lack of extended optical zoom for the camera, only four years of software support guaranteed, no official water resistance rating.

The camera lump on the back of the Xiaomi 12 Pro
The camera lump protrudes slightly from the back but makes for a fairly interesting feature in an otherwise smooth design. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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