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Xiaomi 12 Lite review: Class on a mid-range budget

Jon Mundy
11 Jul 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
332
inc VAT

The Xiaomi 12 Lite is another classy mid-ranger, but it falls short of the very best

Pros 
Fluid, colour-accurate display
Slim and sharp design
Solid performance
Cons 
Camera doesn’t match rivals
Stamina is solid but not class-leading
MIUI 13 still rather messy
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Taken at face value, the Xiaomi 12 Lite follows on from the original Xiaomi 12 and Xiaomi 12 Pro, ostensibly offering a mid-range approximation of those two highly regarded flagship smartphones.

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However, the phone can trace its true lineage back to the previous Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite, which turned out to be one of the strongest and most stylish mid-range phones of 2021. Can this most prolific of smartphone brands repeat the trick for its mid-2022 iteration?

Xiaomi 12 Lite review: What you need to know

Like its predecessor, the Xiaomi 12 Lite sets out to provide a broadly flagship-aping experience in an unusually slim and stylish design, all for a mid-range price.

Powering the phone is a more up-to-date Snapdragon 778G processor, while the display is an improved 6.55in FHD+ 120Hz AMOLED number. You also get a 4,300mAh battery and 67W wired charging. On the camera front, Xiaomi has stepped things up to a 108MP main sensor, backed by an 8MP ultrawide and a 2MP macro.

Xiaomi 12 Lite review: Price and competition

The Xiaomi 12 Lite starts at $399 (around £333) for 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Boost the RAM to 8GB and you’re looking at $449 (£375), with the top-end 8GB, 256GB model coming in at $499 (£417).

This places the phone in direct competition with the OnePlus Nord 2T (£369), the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G (£399), and the Realme 9 Pro Plus (£349). That’s a formidable field of classy mid-rangers with some stand-out camera systems.

Xiaomi 12 Lite review: Design and key features

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite was most notable for offering a significantly more refined design than its mid-range competition, and the Xiaomi 12 Lite follows suit. Once again this is a slim (7.29mm), flat-edged phone, with a lightweight (173g) glass-sandwiched body. It’s a little thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but this remains a svelte piece of kit nonetheless.

The phone’s soft-touch rear cover has a shimmery finish that, on my model at least, is slightly green in colour, but which also reflects the surrounding light to a certain degree. Besides this Lite Green offering, you can also find the Xiaomi 12 Lite in Black and Lite Pink.

There isn’t too much of a link to the more curvaceous Xiaomi 12 and Xiaomi 12 Pro designs, with the sole nod being a rather industrial-looking rectangular camera module on the rear. I prefer the more distinctively rounded unit of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite, but overall this remains a handsome handset.

Xiaomi has equipped its mid-ranger with a solid set of edge-mounted dual speakers with Dolby Atmos support. The sound isn’t as nuanced or multi-layered as a genuine flagship phone, but it’s sufficiently loud, clear and well separated.

The fingerprint sensor here is stashed underneath the display, unlike with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite, where it was housed within the power button. In the past, the latter approach has been preferable to a cheaper in-display system, but I have no complaints about the Xiaomi 12 Lite’s implementation. It’s both fast and reliable.

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Xiaomi 12 Lite review: Display

The Xiaomi 12 Lite’s 6.55in FHD+ display is excellent, with an improved 120Hz refresh rate (up from 90Hz in the Mi 11 Lite) and punchy AMOLED colours.

This is an extremely colour-accurate panel, covering 99.6% of the sRGB gamut in MIUI's preferable “Original” display profile, and with a total volume of 101.3%. It scored a practically perfect average Delta E of 1 in my tests.

As always, the default Vivid mode punches things up to a somewhat unnatural degree, but some will doubtless find its icy whites and glowing red tones more appealing. It’s always nice to have the choice, at the very least.

The panel could perhaps stand to get a little brighter in outdoor conditions, but a peak brightness of 443cd/m² (with auto brightness switched off) isn’t bad at all.

Xiaomi 12 Lite review: Performance and battery life

Xiaomi has equipped its phone with the Snapdragon 778G, Qualcomm’s latest 6nm mid-range chip. It’s a capable runner, though it’s technically a slight downgrade from the Snapdragon 780G that powered last year’s Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite.

Still, an average Geekbench 5 multicore score of 2,934 and a single-core score of 784 are decent results. They blitz the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, and comfortably top the OnePlus Nord 2T and the Realme 9 Pro Plus in CPU terms.

I would ordinarily bring you the usual suite of GPU benchmark test results at this point, but Xiaomi seems to have blocked this early review unit from accessing the usual tools. What I can say is that the Xiaomi 12 Lite runs Genshin Impact on Low settings by default, but runs fluidly when you bump things up to Medium, and even remains playable at High/60fps settings.

Given the increase in the phone’s thickness and heaviness, it’s a shame Xiaomi didn’t opt to increase the size of its battery more over the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite. At 4,300mAh, it’s one of the smaller cells in its class.

Despite this, it will get you through a full day of fairly intensive usage. On a long 16-hour day with more than five hours of screen-on time, I found that the Xiaomi 12 Lite only just dipped down into the sub-20% red zone. A more moderate day should see you getting through with 40 to 50% left.

Nevertheless, it’s clearly one of the worst performers in its class under sustained loads. In our standard looping video test, the Xiaomi 12 Lite lasted 17hrs 5mins. The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, OnePlus Nord 2T and Realme 9 Pro Plus all blew well past the 20-hour mark.

Xiaomi has upped its charging game with the provision of a 67W charger in the box, which is up from 33W in the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite. That falls short of the OnePlus Nord 2T’s 80W, but it’s still sufficient to get you from zero to 50% in around 15 minutes.

Xiaomi 12 Lite review: Software

MIUI 13 continues to be a busy, somewhat gauche UI, but at least it sits on top of an up-to-date Android 12 OS. It’s a shame Xiaomi hasn’t made use of Google’s smart wallpaper theming facility, though.

Xiaomi has always seemed more enamoured with Apple’s iOS than Google’s Android, with flourishes such as the lack of an app tray and a split notification shade. Both can be switched off in the Settings menu – personalisation has always been the strong suit of Xiaomi’s UI.

This flexibility allows you to switch off or ignore some of the UI’s more annoying elements, such as Xiaomi’s weirdly elaborate wallpaper carousel feature, or the tendency to issue a security pop-up every time you download a new app.

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Xiaomi 12 Lite review: Cameras

Xiaomi claims to have equipped the 12 Lite with a “studio-level” camera system, which is something of an exaggeration. It’s a competent shooter, led by a 108MP 1/1.52in Samsung HM2 wide sensor, which is the same sensor the brand has used before in the likes of the Xiaomi 11T Pro and the Redmi Note 10 Pro.

This isn’t quite the flagship component it might seem, however. Certainly not when compared to the OnePlus Nord 2T and the Realme 9 Pro Plus, which utilise a genuinely flagship-level Sony IMX766 sensor.

Sure enough, the Xiaomi 12 Lite’s main camera lacks its rivals’ ability to wow with their sense of depth and detail, as well as their impressive capabilities in lesser lighting conditions. You can still capture decent shots that pop with colour, but it simply doesn’t have the same range.

The ultrawide is noticeably flatter and dimmer than the main sensor, while the 2MP macro is predictably hopeless. Neither of those is surprising in a lower-mid-range phone such as this, though.

The Xiaomi 12 Lite’s 32MP selfie camera captures adequate detail, but produces slightly flat and occasionally murky images. The default beautifying effect, meanwhile, makes skin tones appear downright weird.

Xiaomi 12 Lite review: Verdict

The Xiaomi 12 Lite is another impressively slim and stylish mid-range phone from the brand. It’s a pleasure to use day to day, particularly when it comes to the phone’s excellent AMOLED display and snappy performance.

Xiaomi’s phone falls behind rivals such as the OnePlus Nord 2T and the Realme 9 Pro Plus when it comes to camera quality and battery life, however. It’s a classy phone overall, but it doesn’t quite mix it with the very best in its class.

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