Careful cuts make Xiaomi’s mid-ranger the pick of the T-series, but is that enough?
- Sharp, colour accurate AMOLED screen
- Decent performance
- Capable main camera
- No IP rating
- Secondary cameras not up to much
- MIUI not the best
Who has £1,000 to spend on a new phone these days? Far fewer people than before, that’s for sure, which is where the Xiaomi 12T comes in.
Like the Pixel 7 and the Motorola 30 Fusion, Xiaomi’s latest offers a flagship-approximating experience for around the £500 mark. The trick, as ever, is in making the inevitable compromises feel minor or even inconsequential. Overall, the Xiaomi 12T does pretty well to cover its tracks, though it’s not without its flaws.
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Xiaomi 12T review: What you need to know
The Xiaomi 12T looks and feels much like the Xiaomi 12T Pro, which launched at the same time. However, the main benefit of the Xiaomi 12T is that it comes with a significantly lower price attached.
Xiaomi makes a few judicious cuts to achieve that price, chiefly through the use of a lesser MediaTek Dimensity 8100-Ultra processor and a more modest 108MP main camera. That camera is accompanied by the same 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP macro sensors as the Pro.
The phone’s 6.67in AMOLED display is very similar to its more expensive brother, though not quite identical when you drill down into the fine details. Meanwhile, its 5,000mAh battery and 120W charger provision are identical, and among the most generous you’ll find at this price.
Xiaomi 12T review: Price and competition
Prices for the Xiaomi 12T start from £499 for 128GB of internal storage, while you can double that storage provision to 256GB for £549.
At this price, the 12T is competing directly with the Google Pixel 7 and the Motorola Edge 30 Fusion. If you travel a little further down the pricing spectrum, the Xiaomi 12T has to make a case for itself against the likes of the Pixel 6a and the Nothing Phone (1), both of which retail for £100 less.
Head up in the opposite direction, and you’ll find that the Xiaomi 12T undercuts the similarly pitched OnePlus 10T by £130, and its own brother the Xiaomi 12T Pro by £150 – at least if we’re comparing like-for-like in storage terms.
Xiaomi 12T review: Design and key features
The Xiaomi 12T looks an awful lot like the Xiaomi 12T Pro. So much so, in fact, that I initially submitted several 12T photos for my previous Xiaomi 12T Pro review.
It’s got very similar dimensions of 163 x 76 x 8.6mm and a very similar weight of 202g. There’s the same flat display, the same chunky plastic frame, the same shiny top and bottom edges set against a matte plastic rim, and the same silky matte finish to the glass rear.
Speaking in general terms, what felt disappointingly mid-range in the Xiaomi 12T Pro seems just fine here in the Xiaomi 12T. This feels like a £500 phone design, both classy and unstated. With that said, it does lack the sleek visual appeal of the Pixel 7 and the Motorola Edge 30 Fusion, both of which can be had for the same price.
There are a few differences to this design compared to the Pro, with some being more visible than others. The most obvious is that the Xiaomi 12T’s main camera doesn’t stick out from the rest of the module, which is actually preferable to my mind.
Less preferable is the fact that the 12T’s stereo speakers don’t get the Harman Kardon tuning treatment. Playing the two side by side, the 12T’s speakers are noticeably less clear and spacious sounding.
The Xiaomi 12T also lacks any form of water and dust resistance certification, unlike the Pro. It does get the same Gorilla Glass 5 display cover, however, and you also get the same IR blaster on the top edge, which lets you use the phone in place of your remote controls courtesy of the included Mi Remote app.
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Xiaomi 12T review: Display
On the face of it, Xiaomi has fitted the Xiaomi 12T out with much the same 6.67in AMOLED display as the Pro model. You even get the same curious 2,712 x 1,220 resolution, as well as a fluid 120Hz refresh rate and a game-friendly 480Hz touch response rate.
Most capable Android phones will give you an FHD+ or a QHD+ resolution, but the two 12T models go for something in between. It’s an approach that’s somewhat similar to Apple’s, and it yields a nice sharp picture without hitting the battery too hard.
It’s colour-accurate too, with an excellent average Delta E rating of 0.8, a gamut coverage of 99.8%, and gamut volume of 103.1% in the preferable Original display mode. I recorded a max brightness level (with autobrightness active) of 473cd/m2. That’s a little lower than the Xiaomi 12T Pro achieved.
Together with the fact that the Xiaomi 12T lacks the Pro model’s Dolby Vision support, it packs a slightly lesser visual punch. But we’re only talking slightly. All in all, this is as strong a screen as you’ll get for the money.
Xiaomi 12T review: Performance and battery life
Xiaomi has equipped the 12T with a MediaTek Dimensity 8100-Ultra processor, which is an upper-mid-range chip. It’s a considerable step down from the Xiaomi 12T Pro’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 CPU for raw performance, but successfully retains that flagship feel in the hand.
Sure enough, the CPU-focused Geekbench 5 benchmark tests that I ran point to a near-flagship phone, with average scores that outstrip the Pixel 7 and the Xiaomi 11T Pro, and broadly match the Motorola Edge 30 Fusion.
I’d ordinarily talk about the Xiaomi 12T’s GPU performance at this point, but unfortunately none of the usual GPU benchmarking tools would run on my test model.
All I can say is that it’s capable of running Genshin Impact on High settings with Performance mode active, though it doesn’t quite live up to the optimistic frame rate of 60fps. It’s the surest sign that while this is a strong performer, it’s not at the very peak.
The Xiaomi 12T shares a 5,000mAh battery with its Pro brother. That’s significantly bigger than the 4,400mAh cell of the Motorola Edge 30 Fusion and the 4,355mAh battery of the Pixel 7.
In practice, it would routinely leave me with around 50 to 60% at the end of a 16-hour day of light to moderate usage. Running the usual looping video test, the Xiaomi 12T lasted a whopping five hours shy of the Pixel 7, and more than six hours short of the OnePlus 10T. The Xiaomi 12T Pro lasted a similar amount of time, though, so it seems to come down to Xiaomi’s particular approach to battery optimisation.
Like the Xiaomi 12T Pro, one of the key specs here is the provision of a 120W charger in the box. This is sufficient to get the phone from empty to 68% in just 15 minutes, and right the way up to full in around 20 minutes. That’s impressive.
Xiaomi 12T review: Software
The Xiaomi 12T runs on Android 12, with MIUI 13 layered on top. It’s barely distinguishable from the Xiaomi 12T Pro, and even the Xiaomi 12 Pro before that.
I always get the impression that Xiaomi is more of a fan of Apple’s approach to software than Google’s, with app icons, fonts, and menus that ape iOS to an obvious degree. It even adopts the same split control centre menu, with toggles to the right and notifications to the left.
Xiaomi’s take isn’t as seamlessly slick as Apple’s however. The visual language isn’t as cohesive or refined, and there’s too much bloatware. That latter point hits near-farcical status with the provision of three separate web browser apps straight out of the box.
Where MIUI partly redeems itself is through its high degree of customisation. You can revert that split notification menu to something more unified, for example, while Xiaomi’s Themes store allows you to step further away from the default iOS tribute act.
Xiaomi 12T review: Cameras
Like the Xiaomi 12T Pro, and very much unlike the Xiaomi 12 Pro, the Xiaomi 12 packs a rather lopsided triple camera system. It’s led by a 1/1.67″ 108MP wide sensor, as compared to the Pro’s larger and sharper 1/1.22″ 200MP sensor. This is backed by the same underwhelming 8MP ultrawide and 2MP macro sensors as the Pro.
It’s quite a similar set-up to the Xiaomi 11T Pro from last year, all things told, and produces similarly decent results. Shots taken with the Xiaomi 12T tend to be sharp and well exposed, capturing 12MP images with plenty of detail. I never felt the need to activate the optional AI scene enhancer after some initial testing, as it tended to make things look cooler than normal.
By comparison, the 12T Pro’s main camera generally yields sharper and better exposed shots, especially in middling lighting situations, such as indoors during the day. Generally, the Pro’s shots looked more natural. On a cloudier day, the Pro’s shots were a little cooler, while the 12T looked notably yellowier. However, results aren’t universally stacked in the Pro’s favour, and sometimes the 12T produced the better-balanced shot of the two.
There are even differences in tone and detail with the ostensibly identical ultrawide, hinting at the image processing advantage the Pro’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 Pro supplies. Indeed, wide shots on the 12T generally lack quite a lot of detail compared to that pixel-dense main sensor.
More impressive are the 2x zoomed shots, which use the huge number of pixels on that main sensor to crop in without a calamitous drop in detail.
When it comes to Night mode, the 12T doesn’t brighten images as much as the 12T Pro with its larger sensor, meaning that less of the scene is revealed. However, I actually preferred the way in which the 12T preserves shadows and minimises the noise.
There’s another 20MP selfie camera here, which does a good job with detail in decent lighting. It’s also pretty good with skin tones, so long as you steer clear of Xiaomi’s beautifying effect.
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Xiaomi 12T review: Verdict
The Xiaomi 12T is a strong mid-ranger with a capable main camera and decent performance, as well as extremely rapid charging. You won’t find a sharper AMOLED display at this end of the market, either.
However, the competition is particularly strong in late 2022. The Xiaomi 12T lacks the premium design and clean software of the Pixel 7 and the Motorola Edge 30 Fusion, which makes both rival mid-rangers feel more like flagship phones. With the likes of the OnePlus Nord 2T and the Nothing Phone (1) offering so much for £100 less, Xiaomi’s T-series doesn’t quite seem like the outstanding value it once did.
|Xiaomi 12T – key specifications
|Octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 8100-Ultra (4x.285GHz, 4x2GHz)
|2,712 x 1,220
|Screen refresh rate
|108MP (f/1.7), 8MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 2MP (f/2.4) macro
|Dust and water resistance
|3.5mm headphone jack
|USB connection type
|Memory card slot (supplied)
|163 x 76 x 8.6mm
|Android 12 (MIUI 13)