Xiaomi 12 Pro review: a discreet success

from Xiaomi latest smartphone, the Xiaomi 12 Pro, takes a very aggressive approach to the market. The title is all about the price, and getting the handset under $999 (in the US) is one of its main features. This low price coupled with the specs suggests that Xiaomi has chosen margins below the industry average in order to be able to hunt market share.

Margins won’t be considered by the consumer, they’ll be looking at what the device can and can’t do against the competition, and the Xiaomi 12 Pro is a close match for the likes of the consumer. Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus.

What the Xiaomi 12 Pro lacks is a feature that clearly stands out. The feeling I get from the phone is that everything is more than competent in every area, be it design, camera or performance. It’s a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla; everything works, the features are all above average for the price, but it’s not going to grab your attention.

Let’s start with these specs. Headlining, of course, is Qualcomm’s latest premium chipset in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, paired with 256GB of storage and 8GB or 12GB of RAM. Without a 128GB option, even the entry-level model has something above the competition. Android 12 comes out of the box and like other manufacturers, Xiaomi has its own layer on Android in MIUI 13.

MIUI debuted in China, and the UI conventions are slightly different from what the US and European markets expect. Over time, that harshness has been eliminated, with options for an app drawer, different transitions, and a tweaked UX flow, all available in settings to tailor the feel to each specific market.

What remains is a heavy investment in UI towards user themes. You can leave MIUI looking like it did when it left the factory, but I suspect there will be very few handsets. If you’re new to MIUI, this is going to be a pleasant surprise, while those moving on from previous Xiaomi devices are going to bring all the feels of their old phone… or go to the theme store and buy some more.

If you are looking for a great feature on the Xiaomi 12 Pro, battery has to be up there, especially battery charging. The 4600mAh battery might not be the largest in its class, but with Xiaomi’s “HyperCharge” it doesn’t take long to top it up. Using the included adapter and cable, you’ll have 120W of charging power; which empties 75% in 15 minutes or empties 100% in 24 minutes. You also get fast wireless charging up to 50W, as well as reverse battery charging to other wireless devices at 10W.

Balancing it’s battery usage, and the 12 Pro puts a lot of demand, when you switch to mobile gaming, up the screen resolution to 1440p and lock the refresh to 120Hz, and you’re going to see a drain high. All around, the 12 Pro feels a bit too demanding on the battery when everything is on. Some optimization from software updates should provide some benefit, but for now you’ll be grateful for the fast charging capabilities.

As with the rest of the package, the camera, while modest, gives consumers a familiar package. It’s a three-camera affair, with a 50-megapixel wide-angle, 50-megapixel ultra-wide-angle and 50-megapixel telephoto offering 2x optical zoom, with 20x digital zoom available.

The software keeps it simple – power users will want to check out a third-party camera app to access more features. With automatic scene detection helping to adjust your settings, the time from launch to shot is comfortably short, thanks in large part to the 12 Pro’s ability to focus quickly.

Photos taken in good conditions (i.e. outdoors with lots of light) pick up detail with very little artifacting, though colors look either naturalistic or muted depending on your vantage point. The contrast isn’t as high as I’d like, but everything looks sharper in a good way. Optical zoom is welcome, but at x2 it feels like the bare minimum – other phones in this class zoom more.

With the Xiaomi 12 Pro, I keep coming back to the word discreet. There’s great tech in this phone… from the bright and vivid display, to the impressive battery charging times, to the quick camera settings, the 12 Pro has a lot of potential. With a relatively angular design that has enough curves to make everything feel good, the 12 Pro typifies the feeling of taking care of business… nothing flashy, no bells and whistles on the outside, just a push to bring a well-equipped premium phone to market at a competitive price.

Mission accomplished, Xiaomi.

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