Xiaomi made a name for itself by selling affordable phones that match far more expensive flagships on key features. Now, having solidified its place as the third largest smartphone maker in the world, the company is in a different position: its flagships have gotten pricy, and are expected to compete with top phones from the likes of Samsung and Apple.
Xiaomi’s latest flagship phone, the Xiaomi 12 Pro (the company recently dropped the “Mi” moniker from its smartphone names), matches the Samsung Galaxy S22+ on features. But it lags in certain departments, and it just isn’t sexy enough to recommend over Samsung’s best.
Look and feel
I’ve had the Xiaomi 12 Pro for about a week, and my first impressions weren’t great. The phone has an industrial design that looks generic to me. Sure, the massive main camera sensor on the back will tell you that this thing packs some power, but other than that, it’s all shades of grey with very little to make the phone stand out. Perhaps the other available colors (you can also get it in purple and blue) are better.
Xiaomi included a clear case with the phone, which was handy for keeping it intact, but didn’t do much to help the phone’s looks. In fact, it made it look even more generic; something more colorful would’ve suited the Xiaomi 12 Pro better.
The grey version of Xiaomi 12 Pro just doesn’t do it for me. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
Then, right after setting up the Xiaomi 12 Pro, I realized that the under-display fingerprint sensor is pretty bad. I had to resort to punching in my PIN to unlock the phone most of the time, until I remembered that there’s also a face unlock option, which worked a lot better. But face unlock isn’t as secure as the fingerprint scanner, so if security is important, the 12 Pro probably isn’t the best option. Side note: Fingerprint scanners built into buttons, such as the side buttons on Xiaomi’s own Redmi Note 11 phones, work great, and, for the sake of users, all manufacturers should just revert to that.
It’s fast. Very fast.
Once I’d gotten over those bumps, I was impressed with the phone’s gorgeous, 6.73-inch AMOLED display and the stellar performance, courtesy of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip and 12GB of RAM. The display is crisp and bright, with punchy, vivid (perhaps a bit oversaturated) colors. Note that the highest, 3,200×1,440 pixel resolution is turned off by default, so you have to turn it on manually if you want the best results. The phone has an automatically adjusted refresh rate, going up to 120Hz; you can set it to always stay at that rate, but it will drain the battery faster.
The 4,600mAh battery isn’t the best in terms of sheer capacity; for example, even Xiaomi’s budget Redmi Note 11 phones have a bigger cell, with a 5,000mAh capacity. In real life use, it’s more than adequate, and will easily last you a day and a half. It charges extremely fast, with Xiaomi’s 120W HyperCharge tech over the wire, or with 50W wireless charging (the phone also supports 10W reverse wireless charging).
The Xiaomi 12 Pro has quad speakers, which is uncommon even on flagship phones. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
The Xiaomi 12 Pro is one of the fastest phones I’ve used. Geekbench 5 gave it a single-core CPU score of 1,233, and a multi-core CPU score of 3,487; way behind Apple’s A15 Bionic, but still respectable. Xiaomi has also done a good job at cooling this phone; after an hour-long PUBG session on highest possible graphics settings, the phone was barely warm.
As for Xiaomi’s MIUI 13 skin over Android 12, my experience from the last time I used a Xiaomi phone hasn’t changed. It’s alright, but sometimes it would take me way too long to find a setting. Thankfully, Xiaomi didn’t pre-install too much crapware on this device, but there were still a couple of third-party apps on there that I didn’t need.
SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review: A smartphone attached to a camera
Xiaomi 12 Pro has one cool feature that isn’t very common on phones: quad speakers, with the sound tuned by Harman Kardon. Unfortunately for the Xiaomi, I had an iPhone 13 Pro to test it against, and even though it only has two speakers, the iPhone had a louder, deeper, punchier sound. This doesn’t mean that Xiaomi’s sound was bad, but (again) it’s just not the best.
It’s easy to gloss over camera specs on today’s phones — one can only care about megapixel counts for so long. But the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s camera specs are important to list, because few other phones out there today match them.
The camera is powerful on paper, but the high megapixel count doesn’t always translate into great photos. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
The Xiaomi 12 Pro has a triple 50-megapixel rear camera. That’s right, all three sensors — the main sensor, the ultra-wide sensor, and the telephoto sensor, have a 50-megapixel resolution, outmatching Samsung’s flagships which have a big megapixel count on the main sensor but go down to 10 or 12 megapixels on the other sensors. There’s also a 32-megapixel selfie camera on the front. In short, if you want megapixels, this phone has plenty.
Whether this actually translates into better camera performance is another matter. One thing that this phone can do, and most other phones can’t, is take ultra-wide and telephoto 50-megapixel photos. But typically, switching to 50-megapixel mode is only advisable in perfect light, and that goes for this phone as well.
SEE ALSO: The iPhone 13 Pro’s cameras are too good to be true
The main, wide camera was pretty good in daylight. I was able to capture some beautiful photos with tons of details, though the colors were a bit oversaturated and on the slightly green side. Dynamic range was hit and miss; depending on whether the HDR mode kicked in or not (I kept it on automatic, but you can also turn it on or off permanently). More often than not, I’d get parts of the photo slightly burnt out.
Tons of detail, accurate colors, but the shutters on the left are burnt out. Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
Given its high megapixel count, I hoped I’d be able to use the ultra-wide camera to capture more detailed landscape views, but all I’ve gotten was a noticeable loss of detail compared to the main sensor.
The ultra-wide camera should be used sparingly. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
The telephoto camera also wasn’t as impressive as I would’ve hoped. It will get you more details and a sharper picture of a distant subject, but it’s not that far ahead of taking the photo with the main sensor and just zooming in digitally.
The telephoto sensor is OK up until 5x or so; 10x or more won’t result in a great photo. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
Don’t get me wrong: the ultra-wide and telephoto sensors aren’t bad. It’s just that I expected a little more, given the specs.
The Xiaomi 12 Pro also ups the ante by having a Night Mode option on all three cameras. It sometimes fires automatically, but you can also enable it as a separate camera mode, though it’s a bit hidden behind the “More” menu in the camera app.
Dedicated Night Mode was great. I directly compared the Xiaomi against the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Pro, and Xiaomi took slightly darker, but more detailed photos with far less noise and more accurate colors.
For best results, turn on the dedicated Night Mode. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
Night Mode wasn’t nearly as good in ultra-wide and telephoto mode, though, so again, I recommend using the main sensor whenever possible.
Between two ferns. Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
I’ve no complaints about the selfie camera, which took bright and detailed photos, even in conditions that weren’t ideal. I do recommend you turn off the beautifying effects, which aren’t great on the default setting and get comical real fast as you turn the slider up.
If power is what you need, step right in
Credit: Stan Schroeder / Mashable
Xiaomi 12 Pro starts at $999 for the 8GB variant with 256GB of storage, which is in line with similarly equipped flagships. If you want the sexiest phone around, it probably won’t fit the bill — the design is bland and Xiaomi still doesn’t have the brand power to match Samsung and Apple.
The camera, while very powerful on paper, is a bit uneven; the main sensor can often match any flagship out there, but zoom and ultra-wide performance aren’t the best. The phone also lacks certain features that it should not lack at this price point, such as (official) water and dust resistance.
On the other hand, the Xiaomi 12 Pro has loads of power, with the fastest Snapdragon chip and up to 12GB of RAM, as well as a gorgeous display. If those features are important to you, the Xiaomi 12 Pro is a good deal.