Xiaomi 12 Review: Competently Compact
Now without the ‘Mi’ branding, the Xiaomi 12 series has been given a global launch and the regular model is now smaller and more aligned with Samsung’s Galaxy S range than before. Can Xiaomi win the flagship Android race, though?
Like the Galaxy S22, the Xiaomi 12 offers a much more compact option, leaving the 12 Pro for those that want something bigger – and with more impressive specs.
Starting at US$749, the Xiaomi 12 has a lot going for it including its display, performance, speedy charging and, to an extent, its photography skills. However, some big downsides such as battery life, lack of waterproofing and software peeves mean a rival might be a better choice.
Design & build
- 8.16mm thick
- No IP rating
The Xiaomi 12 is tiny. Well, by modern standards anyway, and especially when I’ve become accustomed to the hefty size of the Pixel 6. Even so, it’s like jumping into a time machine to 2017 and the release of the Galaxy S8.
These two phones have a lot in common and I’m not just talking about the footprint of the handset, although they are very similar. The Xiaomi 12 has a similar metal frame that tapers down to a thin strip on the sides to accommodate the curved display.
It’s 2022 so the screen-to-body ratio is obviously much better and things like a triple rear camera array make it heavier.
I’ll stop comparing two phones that are five years apart now, but my point is that the Xiaomi 12 is small, a lot smaller than the Xiaomi Mi 11 and, really, most phones on the market. It’s refreshing considering the lack of options for those who need a more compact handset – if you don’t want an iPhone 13 mini or iPhone SE, that is.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 is the most obvious rival for a similarly compact flagship. It’s only 7.6mm and 168g so even more impressive than the Xiaomi 12. It’s a fair bit shorter as well, thanks to a smaller 6.1in screen.
A sizeable camera bump is a clear sign that this phone isn’t from 2017 and it even has two levels to account for the large main lens.
While the build quality is excellent, with Gorilla Glass Victus over the display and Gorilla Glass 5 on the rear, Xiaomi continues to produce its flagship devices without any IP rating for dust and waterproofing. I’m sure it will survive if you get caught in a rain shower but a phone at this price without a proper IP rating is disappointing. The S22, for comparison, is IP68.
I’ve taken a look at the purple model which to me is more like a light pink. From some angles, it has a flat matte finish and from others, it sparkles with a glittery effect. If that doesn’t sound appealing, there are also grey and blue colours.
While the rear is made from glass, the frosted texture gives it a cheap plastic feel that I’m personally not keen on, although it is good at repelling fingerprints.
Xiaomi provides a clear silicon case in the box so you can eliminate this cost unless you want something fancier.
Screen & speakers
- 6.28in AMOLED
- Full HD+
- 120Hz with AdaptiveSync
A 6.28in screen is quite small for 2022 and although it’s not much smaller than the Pixel 6’s 6.4in display, the phone is hugely smaller and easier to handle. As mentioned earlier, the S22’s display is even smaller at 6.1in so the Xiaomi 12 is not unique.
Its curved edges on either side are more unusual for today’s market and will likely divide the crowd. I don’t mind it, but equally wouldn’t be unhappy if the display was flat. They have little advantage, although I do like the way they light up for notifications, making it more obvious when the phone is face down.
In terms of specs and performance, the Xiaomi 12 largely delivers the kind of experience you expect from a flagship. The AMOLED display has a Full HD+ resolution and support for things like low blue light certification, HDR10+ and even Dolby Vision.
The refresh rate is 120Hz, it has a 480Hz touch sampling rate and according to Xiaomi, it can hit a peak brightness of 1100 nits. I measured it in direct sunlight at 772 nits and 500 nits with automatic adjustment off and set to maximum.
One thing missing compared to the 12 Pro is AdaptiveSync Pro, meaning its larger brother can dynamically adjust its refresh rate all the way down to 1Hz to save on battery.
The Xiaomi 12 is smooth in operation but can only swap between 60Hz and 120Hz instead. Overall, though, it’s a solid experience if the size and curved style are to your liking.
The display also houses the fingerprint scanner and it’s one of the best I’ve used providing fast and accurate scans of different fingers.
For audio, the phone has stereo speakers with one on either end of the chassis (the Pro has a quad array). These are tuned by Harman Kardon and there’s also support for Dolby Atmos.
I found the speakers to be decent, offering a good level of volume and generally good performance, though the bass is lacking. I also find Dolby Atmos to make things worse – particularly when listening to music – sounding like a bad EQ setting. Like most phones, there’s no headphone jack and nor is there a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box.
Specs & performance
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
- Up to 12GB RAM
- Up to 256GB storage
The Xiaomi 12 comes with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 which is Qualcomm’s latest flagship chipset. This is something the phone has in common with the 12 Pro, while the cheaper 12X has a Snapdragon 870.
There are three SKUs to choose from, combining 8 or 12GB of RAM along with 128 or 256GB of storage, which isn’t expandable.
The RAM is LPDDR5 and the storage is UFS 3.1 so both are quick. The model I’ve tested is the middle-spec and it’s no big surprise that benchmarks are impressive (see below). The phone also coped with anything I could throw at it.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 gets you 5G support (with dual-SIM 5G standby support) and Xiaomi has loaded the phone with plenty of other modern specs including Bluetooth 5.2 and, in some markets, Wi-Fi 6E.
- 50Mp main camera
- 13Mp ultrawide
- 5Mp telemacro
- 32Mp selfie camera
Last year’s Mi 11 came with a 108Mp main camera but the firm has dropped to 50Mp this year with the Xiaomi 12 getting an IMX766, Sony’s popular sensor. This is your main camera but there’s a 13Mp ultrawide and 5Mp telemacro on the back as well.
That’s a similar setup to last year’s Mi 11, so those wanting more impressive shooters should look to the 12 Pro which has three 50Mp cameras: a slightly better IMX707 sensor for the main camera, plus both an ultrawide and a 2x telephoto.
The main camera still offers excellent point and shoot results in a range of conditions thanks to competent exposure, colour accuracy and limited noise – even in lower light situations. The night mode is very good with the latter able to make something out of what was essentially pitch black to my eyes. For portrait shots, I’ve seen much better edge detection.
Like many phones, the phone pixel bins down to a more manageable 12Mp photo but you can use the full 50Mp if you like and you might want to with the lack of a telephoto, although I’d only recommend doing so in good light.
There’s not a big drop in quality moving to the ultrawide and unlike we found with the OnePlus 9 series, the colours are nicely consistent compared to the main camera.
For a while, I wasn’t sure what the third camera even was, as the phone doesn’t make it clear. The ‘super macro’ mode is tucked away in the menu with the aspect ratio, timer and other settings like gridlines instead of under ‘more’ with the likes of Night and Slow motion.
Like most macro lenses on phones, it’s tricky to use as you’ve got to be the correct distance from the subject for it to be in focus even with the help of auto focus. You can get some decent shots if you have some patience, but the question is whether you want to. I know many people would prefer to have a telephoto lens.
Back to the main camera and video quality is excellent with plenty of detail at both 1080p and 4K resolutions, rich colours and the OIS (optical image stabilization) keeping things gimbal-like smooth even when chasing my dog round the garden.
Last but not least is the 32Mp selfie camera which is solid offering excellent detail and the portrait mode, like the main camera, also offers a slider to adjust the level of blur.
Battery & charging
- 67W wired charging
- 50W wireless charging
Considering its compact size, the Xiaomi 12 has a reasonably sized battery at 4500mAh. What’s interesting here is that despite the 12 Pro being significantly bigger it only has an additional 100mAh so you’re not really missing out much on capacity.
In my experience, the 12 can last a day of regular usage though if you’re gaming for extended periods at 120Hz with the brightness up you are unlikely to make it through. In our usual PCMark for Android battery test, the Xiaomi 12 lasted just nine hours and 32 minutes.
Battery life is middling then so it’s a good job the charging is very fast here.
The 67W charger can get the Xiaomi 12 to 57% with a 15-minute charge and to 90% in 30-minutes. The Xiaomi 12 Pro comes with a 120W charger for even faster topping up but the speed of the regular 12 should be enough for most people.
Either way, you get 50W wireless charging, too, which can reverse wireless charge at 10W.
Like some rivals including the Pixel 6, there’s also adaptive charging which can learn your overnight habits and trickle charge the phone while you’re asleep, ensuring it hits 100% before you get up.
Software & updates
I don’t have a huge amount to say on the software side that we haven’t said in various recent Xiaomi phone reviews.
That is to say that you get Android 12, which is the latest version, but paired with Xiaomi’s MIUI, which is still not our favourite skin. It’s certainly a lot better than it used to be and is perfectly useable after you get to know it.
While Xiaomi has moved it closer to stock Android, it still has a somewhat childish look and there are pre-loaded apps such as Facebook, Amazon Shopping, Spotify, and Joom. You can change the look and feel somewhat with the Themes app, fortunately.
You may also have to get use to the notifications and quick settings panels being separate, positioned either side of the punch hole camera. I don’t mind it and anyone coming from an iPhone will be at home but you can’t simply pull the other one down if one is already there, it must be retracted first.
Luckily, you can combine them in the settings if you prefer but this is another area where MIUI just isn’t as good as rivals – the menu is oddly confusing and even searching for specific things can be a pain.
The Xiaomi 12 should receive three years of Android updates and a fourth of security patches, which would see the phone get Android 13, 14, and 15. That’s typical for high-end Android phones, though lags behind Samsung’s promise of four years of updates for its phones, or Apple’s market-leading long-term support.
Price & availability
Xiaomi is gradually rolling out information on price and availability, but for now, we know that the Xiaomi 12 starts at US$749 and will arrive in April. This will get you the entry-level 8/128GB model but there are two more available:
We’ll update with more specific information when we can, including the best Xiaomi 12 deals, but it’s clear the Xiaomi 12 takes aim at the £769/$799 Galaxy S22 and the £779/$799 iPhone 13.
There are cheaper alternatives though, such as the £599/$599 Google Pixel 6 and plenty of even cheaper mid-range phones that can get you pretty close to the experience of the Xiaomi 12.
Take a look at our best phone and best mid-range phone charts for more options, or the best Xiaomi phone ranking for more from the same company.
The Xiaomi 12 is a compelling flagship smartphone in a number of ways. For starters, its new compact form factor will appeal to those who don’t want a huge handset and overall, the design looks and feels great.
You also get a decent collection of high-end specs such as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate, and speedy 67W charging. It’s also got a solid main camera along with a good ultrawide, but few buyers will be excited by a telemacro lens.
While there’s lots to like about the Xiaomi 12, it still has no waterproofing, battery life is nothing special, and MIUI continues to lag behind rivals. Considering the asking price here, it’s slightly tough for it to stand out compared to handsets like the Galaxy S22 and cheaper options like the Pixel 6.
Xiaomi 12: Specs
- Android 12 w/ MIUI 13
- 6.28in FHD+ AMOLED 120Hz curved display, 20:9, 480Hz touch sampling, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
- In-display fingerprint sensor
- Gorilla Glass Victus
- 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
- 8/12GB RAM LPDDR5
- 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 non-expandable storage
- 50Mp, f/1.88, main camera with OIS
- 13Mp, f/2.4 ultrawide camera
- 5Mp, telemacro camera with auto focus
- 32Mp, f/2.54 front-facing camera
- Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
- WiFi 6/6E (market dependent)
- Bluetooth 5.2
- USB-C port
- 4500mAh battery
- 67W fast charging
- 50W wireless charging
- 10W reverse wireless charging
- 152.7 x 69.9 x 8.16mm
- Launch colours: Gray, Purple, Blue