Advertisement
Advertisement

Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Xiaomi finally enters the Pro league

Jon Mundy
30 Mar 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,049
inc VAT

The Xiaomi 12 Pro is a stylish, well-equipped phone that makes a couple of costly stumbles

Pros 
Excellent performance
Pin-sharp 50MP camera
Stealthy design is a real grower
Cons 
No IP rating
Zoom lens doesn’t see as far as rivals
Battery life suffers in certain situations
Advertisement

Last year’s Xiaomi Mi 11 turned out to be a brilliantly well-judged assault on established flagship royalty, taking on the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the iPhone 12 spec-for-spec while simultaneously undercutting both on price.

Which is why it’s a little surprising to see the company changing tack for 2022 – and I don’t just mean dropping “Mi” from the title. While the Xiaomi 12 shrinks things down from last year’s Best Buy award-winner, the Xiaomi 12 Pro goes larger on specs and price.

Buy now from Xiaomi


Xiaomi 12 Pro review: What you need to know

The Xiaomi 12 Pro is a premium-priced flagship phone that stands toe to toe with the rest of this year’s big-hitters.

The phone runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, with a pleasingly rounded triple 50MP camera system and a vibrant 6.73in AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. It also comes with a 4,600mAh battery and remarkably rapid 120W charging out of the box.

Xiaomi’s MIUI software is here on top of Android 12, and there’s a meaty set of Harman Kardon stereo speakers flanking that dual-curved display as well.

READ NEXT: The best smartphones

Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Price and competition

Globally speaking, the entry-level Xiaomi 12 Pro model starts at $999 for 8GB RAM and 128GB. Don’t ask us why Xiaomi is giving us US pricing when it has no intention (that we know of) of launching in the US.

Here in the UK, we’re getting the step-up 12GB RAM/256GB model as standard, which costs £1,049. The equivalent model of last year’s Xiaomi Mi 11 cost £799, so this is a definite step up in both class and price.

In this ballpark, the Xiaomi 12 Pro is going head to head with equivalent models of the Oppo Find X5 Pro (£1,049) and the iPhone 13 Pro Max (£1,049). The Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus is around £100 cheaper.

Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Design and key features

I’ve certainly warmed to the design of the Xiaomi 12 Pro during my time with the phone.

Initially, it felt like something of a step back from the Xiaomi Mi 11 Pro’s outrageous curves and iridescent frosted glass finish. But there’s something to be said for the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s stealthy, prototype-phone looks. It’s a rather satisfying look with its clean industrial lines.

The slightly textured matte finish on my grey model (there are also blue, purple and green options) has a pleasing shimmer to it from certain angles. At the top-left corner of the rear of the phone, a slab-like camera module has a matching deep grey finish that sets it apart from the black or shiny (and often black and shiny) finishes of its rivals.

It’s not a small phone by any means, but nor is it an excessively bulky monster like last year’s Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. At 164 x 75 x 8.2mm and weighing 204g, it’s broadly in the same weight class as the OnePlus 10 Pro and the Oppo Find X5 Pro.

Xiaomi hasn’t cut corners with its audio provision either, with stereo Harman Kardon-tuned speakers providing a loud, clear and relatively spacious sound profile.

In fact, there’s just one fundamental design area where Xiaomi has cut corners, and that’s the lack of any IP rating. The Xiaomi 12 might well be able to survive dust and water immersion, but without the IP68 rating that all its rivals have, I wouldn’t rely on it. It’s not a good look for a phone that costs more than a grand.

READ NEXT: The best mid-range smartphones

Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Display

The Xiaomi 12 Pro incorporates a large 6.73in AMOLED display, and it’s the match of any of its flagship rivals in several respects. It’s capable of outputting at both a WQHD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate, though you’ll need to set these manually if you want the maximum pixels and refresh rate at the same time.

By default, the refresh rate will range from 120Hz right down to 1Hz depending on the task, courtesy of LTPO technology. Again, this power-saving feature makes it the equal of any of its Android counterparts.

This screen gets very bright too, with a claimed maximum brightness of 1,000cd/m² in high brightness mode (HBM) and a peak brightness of 1,500cd/m². This held true in my own tests, recording a maximum luminance of 1,258cd/m² in HDR playback.

In further testing, I found that the Xiaomi 12 Pro covered 94.5% of the sRGB gamut in MIUI’s specific sRGB display profile, with a total volume of 97.6%. That’s a fraction better than the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus, though an average Delta E of 1.92 falls short, and is far from perfect in a flagship. Xiaomi does provide multiple display profiles and a fine tuning system, however, and I was able to record a much better Delta E of 1.07 using the Original profile.

The main issue I encountered with the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s display, though, was the semi-frequent occurrence of false inputs while holding it in one hand. That’s the result of the screen’s dual-curved design, and presumably some less than optimal compensatory software on Xiaomi’s part.

Buy now from Xiaomi


Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Performance and battery life

Like many of its flagship rivals, the Xiaomi 12 Pro runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip. It’s as fast as you can get in a non-Apple device in early 2022, and Xiaomi appears to have keyed into the chip’s performance gains well, with impeccably fluid navigation under perpetual 120Hz refresh rate conditions.

It likely helps that the UK’s one and only model ships with 12GB of RAM, which is 50% more than the Oppo Find X5 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus offer.

This performance headroom is demonstrated by an impressive set of benchmark results, with an average Geekbench 5 single-core score of 1,164 matching the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus and beating the Oppo Find X5 Pro, while a multicore score of 3,698 beats both rivals by around 200 points.

It’s a similar case with the GPU, with average GFXBench Manhattan 3 onscreen frame rates that match the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus and double the Oppo Find X5 Pro, and Manhattan 3 offscreen results that blitz the Samsung and match the Oppo.

Xiaomi has fitted the 12 Pro with a 4,600mAh battery, which is exactly the same size as last year’s Xiaomi Mi 11 and just a tad larger than the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus. It’s quite a bit smaller than the Oppo Find X5 Pro and OnePlus 10 Pro, however, both of which give you 5,000mAh cells.

It’s a shame Xiaomi didn’t step its capacity up to match, because while the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s stamina is far from atrocious, it’s equally far from brilliant. In our looping video test, the Xiaomi 12 Pro scored just 14hrs 19mins before conking out. That falls almost ten hours short of the Oppo Find X5 Pro and five hours short of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus. Oh dear.

This could just be a weakness in media playback rather than a more general issue. Hopefully it’s something that can be addressed in a future update, since in real-world usage I was able to get through a full 14-hour day with 4hrs 20mins of screen-on time – what I’d term fairly intensive usage – with around 25% left in reserve, which is perfectly acceptable.

Battery qualms aside, the Xiaomi 12 Pro certainly charges up quickly. One of its standout features is a massive 120W wired charger, which is included in the box. In my experience, 15 minutes of charging got me from empty to 57%, while I hit 100% in less than 30 minutes.

Wireless charging support hits a rapid 50W, too, making the Xiaomi 12 Pro one of the speediest rechargers in the business.

Buy now from Xiaomi


Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Software

MIUI 13 hasn’t evolved all that much from previous versions of Xiaomi’s custom UI. It might sit on top of Android 12, but it’s almost as indebted to Apple’s iOS. That’s most apparent in the split notification menu, which gives you your notifications when dragging down from the left, and a Control Centre-like toggle menu from the right.

Elsewhere, MIUI 13 is as customisable as ever, with a dedicated Themes store and countless Settings options. You really can fine-tune it to your heart’s content, even if you can never quite shake off a slight sense of cheapness that seems baked into MIUI.

It’s a shame Xiaomi hasn’t made use of Android 12’s new smart wallpaper colour-theming ability. Oppo managed it with ColorOS 12.1 on the Find X5 Pro, as did Samsung did with One UI 4.1 on the Samsung Galaxy S22, so why not here?

Xiaomi has promised three Android OS updates and four years of security patches, though, which means that it holds its own with its direct rivals when it comes to future-proofing.

Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Cameras

If there’s one area where the Xiaomi 12 Pro earns its premium price-bump over both the Xiaomi Mi 11 and the Xiaomi 12, it’s the camera system.

Most notably, it gains the telephoto camera that both of those other models so sorely lack. It’s only 2x, which is the biggest disappointment here when rivals are going with 3x and above, but on the plus side this is a pixel-packed 50MP sensor. Indeed, all three of the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s cameras hit the 50MP mark, which lends the system a pleasingly rounded feel.

Not all 50MP cameras are created equal, of course, and the main sensor is undoubtedly the star of the show here. It’s a 1/1.28-inch Sony IMX707 sensor, which is unique to the Xiaomi 12 Pro at the time of launch. This is an even larger sensor than the Sony IMX766 found in the plain Xiaomi 12 and the Oppo Find X5 Pro, which means it sucks up even more light.

It makes for some very accomplished shots in all conditions, with vibrant colours and strong dynamic range. There’s arguably a little too much pop to some of those colours, particularly if you’re a fan of the more natural “as seen” style that Apple shoots for. But that’s more of an artistic choice than a technical limitation, and it never looks too wacky.

More importantly, Xiaomi has managed to carry its vibrant tone through to the other, technically lesser sensors. Again, it makes the camera system feel nice and cohesive, and together with that uniform sharpness I felt encouraged to use all three cameras as intended.

Night mode shots are also impressively crisp and clear, packing in plenty of detail without making everything look weirdly bright.

You get a 32MP selfie camera on the front of the phone, stashed in a centrally placed hole-punch notch, much like the Samsung Galaxy S22 range. Image quality is reasonable here, with decent skin tones (once you turn off the horrible beautification “enhancements”), though it does tend to overexpose elements in the background.

Xiaomi 12 Pro review: Verdict

The Xiaomi 12 Pro is arguably the company’s best phone yet, but it doesn’t quite strike the impeccable price-to-performance balance of last year’s Xiaomi Mi 11.

Its stealthy design, speedy performance and vibrant display put it right up there with the Oppo Find X5 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus. Meanwhile, the 12 Pro’s triple 50MP camera system is impressively balanced, and the main sensor in particular is capable of producing top-notch results in all conditions.

There are a couple of areas where the Xiaomi 12 Pro doesn’t quite justify its new premium pricing, however. The provision of a mere 2x telephoto lens is forgivable, given that its inclusion represents a big advance on both the Xiaomi Mi 11 and the Xiaomi 12.

But the lack of any kind of IP rating is a curious omission for a phone with genuine title aspirations. Elsewhere, we have some concerns about the phone’s battery life, at least when it comes to media playback performance.

The Xiaomi 12 Pro is a fine flagship phone, then, with a few flaws that are cast in a rather unforgiving light by some newly premium pricing.

Buy now from Xiaomi


Read more

Reviews