Xiaomi 12 Review: The Default Flagship?

The Xiaomi 12 is the first flagship from Xiaomi that I have had the opportunity to test out. But does it offer a significant performance and experience increase versus the Xiaomi 11T which I reviewed back in November? Does the price increase result in a significantly better phone?

Xiaomi 12
+ FOR
  • Amazing Primary Camera
  • Quick Charging
  • Exceptional Audio
- AGAINST
  • Average Battery Life
  • Doesn't take full advantage of SOC
  • Usable Front Facing Camera

Buy on Amazon – £649

Disclaimer

The Xiaomi 12 was provided to us for review for 2 weeks in exchange for a full and fair review. No money has been exchanged for the publication, and Xiaomi or its PR team will receive no advance copy before publishing.

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Overview & Unboxing

​​Although it may come across as such that the Xiaomi 12 is the successor to the Xiaomi 11T, the Xiaomi 12 is the successor to the Xiaomi Mi 11. Unlike OnePlus, the T edition phones are a completely separate lineup rather than a successor device.

The Xiaomi 12 has followed the Mi 11’s footsteps in terms of its launch schedule just with a year between them. The Xiaomi Mi 11 was announced to the world in late 2020 with a launch in early 2021, with the 12 being showcased in late 2021 and was put out to the market in early 2022.

Let’s take a look at the box and its contents. The box is white with rose gold accents. Inside you have a small box which contains the safety information, quick start guide and warranty card alongside the included clear silicone case and SIM ejector tool. Beneath that, we have the phone in a recycled looking holder and a paper-based sleeve showcasing the key features of the phone. Below that you have the 67W power adapter (in this case I got a European one) and the type A to C USB cable. The déjà vu was very strong during this as the 11T had the exact same packaging and box contents which is good to see as it indicates that Xiaomi is creating cohesive packaging which is also simultaneously easily distinguishable from other brands. 

Taking a look at the phone itself, I was sent the purple variant to review which was interesting to play around with as I have yet to use a purple phone in the day-to-day. It isn’t a bold purple, rather it is very elegant and more of a very pale lilac shade which appears different under varied lighting conditions. 

The back is almost entirely frosted glass with the exception being the Xiaomi 5G logo (in landscape orientation) in the bottom left of the phone. When running your finger over that logo it does feel a little strange compared to the rest of the back and it’s not something I can describe easily. You also do have the regulatory information on the bottom right also in the landscape orientation. The whole landscape layout is encouraging you to take photos and videos in landscape orientation. The top right houses the triple camera and dual flash setup and is in a very complimentary champagne gold glass finish.

The left of the phone is completely bare, whilst the bottom houses one side of the stereo speaker, the USB C 2.0 port, a microphone which is primarily for phone calls and lastly the dual SIM slot. The right of the phone has the power button and volume rocker. The top of the phone has the other side of the stereo setup, a ‘sound by Harman/Kardon’ logo and an IR blaster which was a pleasant surprise. 

The last side of the phone is the front, AKA the display. You have the 32MP front-facing camera in a punch hole variant, the AMOLED 6.28” panel and an under display optical fingerprint scanner.

Spec Sheet

  •     6.28” Display
    • 2400 x 1080 Full HD+ resolution with a density of 419 PPI
    • AMOLED DotDisplay 
    • 1100 nits’ peak brightness 
    • 120Hz variable refresh rate
    • Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
    • HDR10+ 
    • 20:9 Aspect Ratio
    • Under display optical fingerprint scanner
  •     Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 4nm SOC 
  •     128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 Storage
  •     8GB/12GB RAM
  •     Rear Cameras
    • 50 MP f/1.9 wide camera (26mm equivalent)
    • 13 MP f/2.4 123˚ ultrawide camera (12mm equivalent)
    • 5 MP, f/2.4 telemacro (telephoto + macro) camera (50mm equivalent)
  •     32 MP f/2.5 wide angle front facing camera (26mm equivalent)
  •     4500mAh battery
  •     67W wired turbo charging, 50W wireless turbo charging & 10W reverse wireless charging
  •     Wi-Fi 6 (With some markets getting Wi-Fi 6E support)
  •     Bluetooth 5.2 LE
  •     USB C 2.0 
  •     Dual Nano SIM slots 

Performance & Use

I found the setup process to be seamless and a fairly stock experience with the only Xiaomi exclusive step being the Xiaomi account login step. The phone was ready to use within just a couple of minutes however I did set this phone up from scratch rather than transferring it from another smartphone. 

In-Hand Feel

The overall dimensions of the Xiaomi 12 sit at just 152.7mm (h) x 69.9mm (w) x 8.16mm (d) with a weight of 180g. The aforementioned 180g has been dispersed across the body very well without any feeling of top or bottom heaviness. 

I am so used to big devices so even though the sub-6.3” isn’t considered small by any standards, it does feel compact, especially with the included case adding only a minimal amount of additional bulk should you choose to use it. I was easily able to wrap my hands around the phone with ease as the 20:9 aspect ratio of the display results in a phone which is considered tall and narrow. I found when taking calls, the bottom microphone was fairly close to my mouth, whilst the letterboxing around 16:9 content allowed me some space to put my thumbs due to the lack of bezels. However, I did find the letterboxing to be very apparent and even distracting sometimes as I was able to a thumbs width of space on either side of the content so you feel like you are missing out.

With the case on the phone feels very standard, but the bare feel of the back is very unique. My daily driver iPhone 12 Pro Max also has a frosted finish but this is such a unique finish which is incredibly difficult to describe but the closest texture I can find which is similar would be the aluminium on a MacBook but the Xiaomi 12’s back is even smoother. I would feel like this sort of finish would be fantastic on a trackpad as it is just so easy to glide your finger over.

The back also picks up next to no fingerprints across the back or the side which is a huge benefit and this is thanks to its micro speckle design which hides all of the blemishes. 

The keyboard did feel a little squashed when I was typing on it as I am used to a display which is about a centimetre wider. Whilst this is something that inherently goes away after a few weeks of usage as you become fully accustomed to the keyboard and the size of the display, it is annoying at the start especially if you are moving from a device with a 16:9 or 18:9 aspect ratio. 

The narrow display and narrow bezels also meant that whilst holding the phone in one hand and using it in ‘one-handed mode’ then my palm did often end up inadvertently making contact with the screen and the application or system UI reacting. Areas where I found this occurring most commonly included the app drawer where I ended up selecting a random letter in the second half of the alphabet and navigating to applications starting with that letter alongside whilst browsing through webpages.

When comparing the Xiaomi 12 to the Mi 11 (albeit I have not tested it in person), it becomes apparent that there are some inherent character and design continuances between the two phones indicating that they are related in some way. However, I would struggle to put both of these phones together and say the 12 was a direct replacement for the Xiaomi Mi 11. I think the reasoning behind this is because we are so used to small iterative changes between devices in recent years rather than a fairly significant design overhaul especially when talking about flagship devices.

The 12 is smaller in almost all dimensions compared to the Mi 11, 17g lighter and a display size reduction of 0.53”. The lowest spec variation of the 12 features an additional 2GB of RAM but drops the 108MP camera for a 50MP whilst it also contains a slightly smaller battery & lower-resolution display. 

Upon some further investigation, I found that the Xiaomi 12 Pro was actually more of a true successor to the Xiaomi Mi 11. The Mi 11 Ultra doesn’t really get a direct successor as it was a showcase device to show to the world what Xiaomi was capable of, hence it becomes a little difficult to do a direct comparison. The 11T is almost like a halfway point between the Mi 11 and 12 as it retains the larger screen size but features updated display specifications which are carried through to the 12.

Display 

When looking at the specifications alone, the display is one that packs a punch, but does it perform that well in daily use? 

The off axis viewing angles of this screen are fantastic and I was able to read the names of the apps on the home screens with absolutely no difficulty at around 80 degrees with the phone almost perpendicular to my eyes. For content including photos and videos, I would say around 65 degrees is more the sweet spot. 

The display is plenty bright in indoor conditions. The maximum brightness offered by the AMOLED DotDisplay is up to 1100 nits but requires HDR10+ content to be able to be able to showcase this and under normal circumstances, it does not go near this level. In outdoor conditions, on an overcast day (which the UK sees plenty of), the display is visible and you can see the content. But I did struggle on the few sunny days recently we have had and had to either squint or move the phone under some shade to view it clearly so I would like the ability to push the brightness up to the 1100 nits or at least over the current maximum should I need it. 

Having the display go super dim is also great in scenarios such as laying in bed or in an environment where you do not want the display to emit much light. I usually turn the brightness down when in bed to reduce the strain on my eyes and found 30% brightness was usually the sweet spot when I had a lamp on in the room with the minimum brightness being great when the room was pitch black.

This display is not a LTPO one unlike its big brother, the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s display. Rather it offers just 60Hz and 120Hz modes so you will use more battery as the display is unable to scale down to a lower refresh rate when the content being shown on screen isn’t fast-moving. This would typically include content like photos, eBooks and articles. I found the UI and apps to flow smoothly on the display however the lack of a lower refresh rate definitely becomes apparent as part of the battery drain. 

Speakers 

The speakers are tuned by Harman / Kardon and this was interesting to see as its parent brand Harman International Industries is actually owned by Samsung Electronics. Yes, this is the same Samsung that sells the Galaxy S and Fold series – I make this point because there are numerous affiliated brands using the Samsung name including Samsung Display which builds the OLED displays inside the Apple iPhone 13 line-up. When Apple bought Beats, they no longer licensed the name to brands such as HP to use in their laptops and for VW to use it in their cars. In contrast, Samsung has instead opted to licence Harman/Kardon’s speaker tech to a direct competitor in a directly competing product which is a brave move. 

The speakers are in a stereo arrangement with the bottom speaker on the left-hand side of the USB C port and the top one being on the top of the phone on the left edge. This means if you want to play stereo audio in landscape orientation you have to hold the phone with the power button and volume rocker facing down otherwise you would block both speakers with your hands.

Personally, I would have placed the speakers on the right-hand side or moved the volume rocker to the left-hand side of the phone. I say this because when you are playing content, you want to be able to control the volume with the volume rocker with ease and the current placement doesn’t make it very easy to do so. 

Most apps such as Netflix and YouTube lack a built-in volume control during content playback and this is the preferred UI choice for the vast majority of apps as it allows the app designer designers to offer a cleaner looking interface. Only a handful of apps such as VLC actually offer in-playback audio controls. So this is definitely something that is worth being mindful of as you will have to change the way you manage audio playback.  

Dolby Atmos is also a feature of this phone so if you watch content such as Altered Carbon on Netflix or Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime then you can take advantage of both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision to experience a premium viewing experience on the go. 

Both the top and bottom speaker max out at 130 decibels which is identical to the Xiaomi 11T. However, Xiaomi and Harman/Kardon have definitely done some work to make this sound even better. I was really pleased with the Xiaomi 11T’s speakers and this takes it up one more notch. 

I would say the audio is ‘usable’ until the top-most increment in the slider. I say usable in a vague way as the audio sounds amazing, only when the phone goes to full volume then you lose a bit of clarity and some distortion is introduced into the audio but until then it is incredible. Xiaomi has really worked some audio magic here! 

Biometrics

The phone features an under-display optical fingerprint scanner which I found to be about 90-95% accurate. If my finger was off axis or had some debris or if I had just washed my hands I did find it took more than one attempt to unlock the phone. The phone does also feature a face unlock but this is more of a rudimentary method rather than using additional sensors such as the ones that Apple’s Face ID uses so I chose to keep this off. 

Network

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SOC features an integrated Qualcomm X65 5G modem which is touted as the ‘world’s first 10 Gigabit 5G’ and was first seen with the Snapdragon 888 claiming up to a 2.5 gigabit speed increase over the last generation model.

DeviceXiaomi 12 Apple iPhone 12 Pro MaxOppo Find X3 Pro 5G (Past Test)Xiaomi 11T 5G (Past Test)
DownloadUploadDownloadUploadDownloadUploadDownloadUpload
5G Test 140410143965.747960.145968.6
5G Test 243010143869.946051.946468.2
5G Test 343610038269.156759.143568.8
Average423.3100.67419.6768.2350257.03452.6668.53
4G Test 127267.324528.631321.333623.6
4G Test 226367.32502940423.739027.3
4G Test 326367.426829.334121.437533.1
Average26667.33254.3328.97352.6722.1336728

From this test it becomes clear that the 5G Speeds download speeds of the Xiaomi 12 vs the iPhone 12 Pro Max are within a tiny margin of error with 2 tests being almost identical and then the third being a fair bit different. When looking at the upload speeds the Xiaomi 12 beats the iPhone hands down by a margin of about 30Mb.

The 4G tests tell the same story as the 4G download average of the two devices are very similar with the Xiaomi taking the lead, however the upload speeds are more than double on the Xiaomi 12. The X65 5G Modem is identical to the one in the Snapdragon 888 however I have not tested any devices which used this processor so can’t comment if there are any additional factors in play.

One other thing to notice is that the Xiaomi 12 has results that are almost identical time in time out with tiny differences. The 5G upload speeds are within 1Mb of each other and the 4G upload are within 0.1Mb which is very unusual. The 4G download was identical twice and only 9Mb different the other time. It is rare to see a phone achieve repeatable scores like this over and so it does show that even if it isn’t necessarily significantly faster than other devices, it is reliable and will achieve the same great speeds time and time again.

Benchmarks

The Xiaomi 12 is the first Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor powered device that I have tested. The SOC is made under a 4nm manufacturing process which is a first for Qualcomm in their flagship lineup. The octa-core beast features 1 Prime core which is running at 3.0Ghz, 3 Gold cores which run at 2.50Ghz and lastly 4 Silver cores which run at 1.80Ghz. It is also paired with a Qualcomm Adreno 730 GPU, 7th Gen Qualcomm AI Engine and a X65 5G Modem. 

Geekbench 

Single Core Score: 1210

Multi Core Score: 3656

Antutu: 

CPU: 214428

GPU: 383369

Memory: 159879

UX: 161850

The Geekbench single-core score puts the Xiaomi 12 at the top of the Geekbench 5 results league. The next highest device is the Lenovo Legion Y90 which also features the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and receives a score of 1167. The multi core score sits at the top of the table too, with the next device being Lenovo Legion 2 Pro which received a score of 3592 albeit this is a Snapdragon 888 powered device, the next is the Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ which received a score of 3591 and contains the HiSilicon Kirin 9000 SOC.

Whilst running the Antutu benchmarks the phone did excessively hot and Antutu claimed the phone was running at around 50 celsius alongside being very uncomfortable to the touch. 

Looking at the Antutu scores the story is completely different, the phone ranks 9th in their league tables. My device sits below the average score of 942849 for the Xiaomi 12 (this could be due to numerous factors with the ambient room temperature being one of them) with the closest device being the Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G (12GB RAM) which attained a score of both 942849 and 914476 somehow. The current king of the Antutu league tables was the Red Magic 7 which thanks to its 18GB of RAM got a score of 1038771.

Asphalt 9 is the game I chose to push the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and I found that the top of the phone especially near the camera got fairly warm after just a minute or so and continued to get warmer. It didn’t get so uncomfortable it was painful to hold, but I would say that if I continued playing for an extended period of time then I would definitely have to put the phone down to let it cool down. The gameplay itself was flawless with absolutely no stuttering or lost frames as far as I could see.

 

Miscellaneous 

The included silicone case has cut-outs around all of the antennae points around the metal chassis which makes me think that these are quite sensitive and if they are blocked then network performance is potentially degraded such as the iPhone 4’s antennae gate issue. 

The phone features an IR sensor on the top which I found upon further research was more common than I assumed. I had somehow missed it out on the Xiaomi 11T series but premium devices such as the Huawei P50 Pro and Vivo X70 Pro Plus also feature this alongside a whole host of Xiaomi and its sub brands, Redmi and Poco devices.

I found it handy to to be able to control my Samsung TV without using the Samsung SmartThings app which can be a little slow to load up, this bypasses the internet and uses the infrared signal with a line of sight signal for instant actions similar to how you would have with the native IR remote for the TV. Very few other devices in my house use an IR sensor but the Mi Remote app lists a few devices that are compatible including its first-party Mi TV/Mi Box, set top boxes, AC’s, fans, A/V receivers, DVD players, projectors and cameras. 

Camera & Samples

The camera setup is simpler than most with a major focus on the primary shooter, the 50MP f/1.9 lens is the most prominent being placed on the top. The secondary cameras; the 13MP ultrawide and the 5MP telemacro are housed in smaller enclosures directly below. 

I found the primary lens could be trusted to point and shoot without much faffing. The photos really speak for themselves. I did find that when you go up to the 50MP mode (as the primary lens shoots at 9.44MP by default. Even though it is a very strange resolution, I found if you are viewing these photos and zooming in even fairly extensively they retained a lot of their detail however if you pixel peep you will find them fairly easily. For social media and even printing the photos the shots will be plenty, but if you do need to blow it up to something like A3/A2 then you will notice the pixels.

The 50MP mode is enabled by going into the additional options menu and selecting it, there is a 2x digital crop offered within this mode versus the up to 10x digital zoom offered in the normal view. Personally, I would take the shot in 1x zoom and crop later once I had been able to view the full-size image. 

The image output was very good although I forgot to enable it most of the time and I was able to get great shots at the 9.44MP standard resolution as previously mentioned.  

The ultrawide lens provided photos that were more miss than hit, whilst the photos were usable, they definitely lacked saturation, sharpness and looked washed out. I would be happy sharing these to social media on my stories but would have to spend some time editing them before I used them on my feed/wall to bring them up to my preference.

The telemacro lens told the same story to some extent, the colours were considerably lighter so the photos didn’t look as if they came out of the same device. Whilst I would say the pictures came out much more usable, the lack of clarity due to the low megapixel count of just 5MP meant that they had very little sharpness in them.

Using the lens in super macro mode was a fun toy for a short while, but I struggle to see when I would use this in my day to day life. 

Software

My Xiaomi 12 review unit is running MIUI 13.0.14 for a large chunk of my testing period with an update to MIUI 13.0.16 available right at the end of my loan period so I didn’t really spend much time on that. MIUI 13 is running on top of Android 12 but there aren’t a huge amount of differences on the surface.

Some of the key differences include an up to 15% reduction in dropped frames for third party applications vs MIUI 12.5, support for up to 14 apps open in the background on flagship devices such as the Xiaomi 12. One handed mode is back after being rendered unusable in MIUI 8 alongside a bunch of other small system visual tweaks and enhancements. 


The phone performed admirably throughout the OS and I never once noticed any stuttering or sluggishness, but this is exactly what I expect from this flagship smartphone. 

The UI was fairly clean and apart from some of the application icons lacking a consistent design language, especially with the mix of Xiaomi 1st party apps and Google’s mix. 

Battery

The 4500mAh cell is fairly large for the size of the phone as even the Samsung Galaxy S22 which is a tad smaller at 6.1” only has a 3700mAh capacity. I am a heavy user as I end up doing a lot of content consumption throughout the day, I found that come 5-6pm I ended up in the low double-digit numbers if I left the house with my battery in the 90%+ range at around 8am. Although the fact that this doesn’t last as long as I would like it is not too big of an issue especially as it can recharge fairly rapidly as you will find out in the next section so even a quick top-up in the car help to ensure you have some juice until your day ends. 

The phone comes with a Xiaomi 67W turbo charger and in this case, I got the European model as part of my review unit. The charger is capable of 5v at 3A for a total of 15W for normal devices without Xiaomi’s proprietary fast charging tech. In contrast, for devices that do support it, the charger is capable of a faster output of between 5-20V at 3.25-5.2A for a total of 67W which is similar to many laptops. The power brick is also fairly large to account for this wattage – almost as large as a laptop power adapter.

0:00 – 0%

0:01 – 1%

0:03 – 8%

0:04 – 11%

0:05 – 17%

0:06 – 21%

0:07 – 24%

0:09 – 30%

0:11 – 37%

0:13 – 42%

0:15 – 47%

0:17 – 53%

0:19 – 58%

0:21 – 62%

0:23 – 69%

0:25 – 74%

0:27 – 78%

0:29 – 82%

0:31 – 86%

0:33 – 90%

0:35 – 93%

0:37 – 96%

0:39 – 98%

0:41 – 99%

0:43 – 100%

These results show that the phone falls just 4 minutes short (technically longer) of the 39 minutes quoted for a full charge by Xiaomi. This is still astonishingly fast when comparing this to devices like the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G taking 1:13 with the recommended 25W power adapter (according to GSMArena) and the iPhone 13 taking a whopping 1:46. 

The key numbers which are important to focus on include a 30% charge in 9 minutes, a 50% charge in around 16 minutes and a 80% charge in around 28 minutes. This definitely means whether you have forgotten to charge your phone for a busy day ahead or you need a quick top-up for an evening out, the Xiaomi 12 can have ample juice in a relatively short time.

Final Thoughts

I think Xiaomi has created their version of the default flagship smartphone similar to how Apple has poised the iPhone 13 as the everyday-every person’s iPhone. If you want to go for a premium looking and feeling phone and don’t care about every whistle and bell under the sun then the Xiaomi 12 fits the bill. The phone is in no way boring but also does not go out of its way to be out there so its a safe choice. You can view more information about the Xiaomi 12 series from Xiaomi’s website here.

About Siddu Munjal

Reviewer & Partner Outreach for MobileTechTalk - Tech is a key part of my everyday life and I would probably be extremely lost without it.

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