Xiaomi 12 Pro is a sophisticatedly restrained take on Android flagship phones

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Xiaomi is no longer apprehensive about getting into the battles of higher-end smartphone price bands. In the mix is the added dimension of Android flagship phones no longer being just singular entities. There’s now the entry-spec option, a ‘Pro’ or a ‘Plus’, and even an ‘Ultra’ thrown in for good measure. The ‘Pro’ just got ticked off with the Xiaomi 12 Pro, but it leaves you wondering whether it’s a simple enough pick.

Straight off, we get a sense that Xiaomi has left something on the table, perhaps to help the Ultra, which may come sometime later, distinguish successfully from a Pro device. To justify what’ll likely be a higher price tag, you’ll have to consider the camera. It’s a troika of 50-megapixel sensors – what’s not there is a >100-megapixel sensor. That may be for Ultra’s headline. While the display has the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus layer, the rear doesn’t. Gorilla Glass 5 is here, but the complete wrapping should stand out in an Ultra phone. There is also no IP rating, for dust and water resistance. Most flagship rivals do.

At the same time, it is a definite step forward from the predecessor, the Mi 11 Pro (the Mi naming scheme has since been shelved). It couldn’t have been any lesser either, since its biggest rival is the Samsung Galaxy S22 series, with the OnePlus 10 Pro very much in the mix too.

The Xiaomi 12 Pro doesn’t make any attempt to redesign the wheel in terms of design, and it may be that consistency which allows it to put forward a really classic in-hand feel. The phone is well made, the contours are nicely sculpted, and the rounded spines give you more grip. The metal in use alongside the glass gives it a neat combination and Xiaomi is making a subtle play with the colours too – Opera Mauve is a very eye-catching shade, while Couture Blue should appeal to many. Noire Black is the most versatile for anyone who wants the most understated look for their new phone.

The back panel, complete with its matte finish, may give you the visual illusion that it’s plastic. Secondly, this is surprisingly susceptible to catching fingerprints and smudges. The matte finishes usually aren’t as maintenance-demanding, but this bucks that trend.

Xiaomi has reduced the screen size a bit – it is now 6.73-inches AMOLED instead of 6.81-inches. The resolution is the same as the predecessor (3200×1440 pixels), which means there are more pixels theoretically and therefore a denser and sharper display.

It is brighter too, and ticks of the modern-day checklist for Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and TrueColour format support. There is a definite leaning towards dialing down the colour vividness, by default. We would recommend leaving this set for the variable refresh rate, which will switch between 120Hz, 60Hz, 30Hz, 10Hz and 1Hz depending on what’s on the screen at the time.

You’ll still find a bunch of interesting display tweaks, such as Super Resolution and a bunch of HDR features – how well they work for you depends on what you want from the phone in terms of tweaking content that’s on the screen to make it look better.

Battery life on the Xiaomi 12 Pro will depend on which phone you’re upgrading from. On paper, the 4500mAh battery is a tad lesser in capacity compared with most phones that have around 5000mAh batteries. But you’d need to factor in the still unique 120-watt fast charging this gets. For most intents and purposes, a fully charged Xiaomi 12 Pro at 8am ends up with about 25% battery at 8pm when faced with moderately heavy usage. It isn’t at all bad but could have been better. There is still some battery anxiety in the picture.

We’ve noted in the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultras and OnePlus 10 Pros that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chips aren’t exactly what they were initially made out to be – heating issues and therefore quicker battery drain to contend with. Samsung and OnePlus sorted those out to an extent, with software updates, that may be programmed to clock down the chip in case the heating goes beyond a certain threshold. They’d never reveal that secret. Therefore, the battery life you’d get from the Xiaomi 12 Pro will also have the same chip’s foibles factored in.

On the performance front, everything is as you’d expect in an Android flagship phone. It is fast, multiple apps running side by side don’t strain it at all and a persistent session with racing games doesn’t lead to issues of sluggish frame rates or reduced overall performance. You’d get this phone with 8GB or 12GB RAM options, with 256GB storage consistent in both variants. We will urge you to go for the higher RAM spec if the budget permits.

Heating is something Xiaomi will have to sort out in the coming weeks, with software updates. Gaming, using Google Maps for navigation and extensive camera use make the back panel come alight quite a bit on the temperature scale. Very common in phones running the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

The camera system is a troika of 50-megapixel sensors – one each for wide, ultrawide and telephoto. In fact, the first phone to have the Sony IMX707 sensor (albeit this is a minor update to the IMX700). The system, by default, ‘pixel bins’ the images by a factor of four, to give you 12.5-megapixel images. You can of course shoot in full 50-megapixel as well.

Daytime photos from the Xiaomi 12 Pro excel in most aspects. They are bright, have a great dynamic range, accurate colours that don’t come across as boosted artificially and sharpness that’s just about ideal. In some cases, colours may seem a bit muted, but that seems to be the algorithms not attempting to course correct slightly complex frames, leaving the editing call to you. That’s appreciated, thank you very much.

There is something you must keep in mind before taking zoom photos – unlike rivals that have 3x or more zoom, the Xiaomi 12 Pro has just 2x optical zoom. The predecessor got 5x optical zoom. OnePlus 10 Pro gets 3.3x optical zoom.

Night photography is a step forward too. All three cameras get the Night Mode option, which means irrespective of the scene you want to shoot, each camera is at parity. Night mode itself has been tweaked for better illumination of the otherwise dark frame. Yet, you will need to be very steady holding the phone when snapping a photo in low light. There is a high chance you’ll notice some amount of noise in these photos, and colours may look uninspiring. Be ready to take two or three photos of the same frame, one of them might work out better.

There is a definite comfort that Xiaomi works with, for flagship Android phones. That shows. The Xiaomi 12 Pro is a confident upgrade from last year’s phone. It isn’t without the rough edges which you need to keep in mind, but this is closer to the OnePlus 10 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 series than you may have imagined. As we said earlier, the phone leaves something on the table, for the more expensive sibling that may arrive this year. The buying decision depends on whether what it has had is more important to you, or what it leaves for the as yet unknown sibling.




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