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.
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.
Screen: 6.73in QHD+ OLED (522ppi) 120Hz
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM: 12GB of RAM
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
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.