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Xiaomi -- which currently occupies third place in worldwide smartphone market share (12%), behind Apple (22%) and Samsung (20%) -- has delivered some high-quality flagship handsets in recent years, and I liked last year's 11T Pro and Mi 11 Ultra. The company's 2022 flagships -- the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-based Xiaomi 12 and 12 Pro -- are part of the 12 series, which also includes the less powerful 12X model. My focus here is on the 12 Pro.
The 6.73-inch Xiaomi 12 Pro -- which, along with the 6.28-inch Xiaomi 12, is due to launch in the UK in April -- will start at $999 for a configuration with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. My review unit was a 12GB/256GB model, which will cost £1,049 in the UK (pre-orders from 1 April, official sales from 15 April).
The Xiaomi 12 Pro has a fairly minimalist design. My review unit had a dark grey Gorilla Glass 5 back, although those preferring a more colourful phone can opt for blue or purple shades. Gorilla Glass 5 adds strength, while the finish means the phone doesn't attract fingerprints too assiduously. The back is quite slippery, and of course it regularly slid off the arm of my chair without any encouragement from me. The screen gets higher-grade protection courtesy of Gorilla Glass Victus.
There's no mention of an IP rating for dust and water resistance, which is a curious omission on a flagship handset.
This isn't the lightest phone at 205g (7.23oz), but more importantly it feels top heavy. One-handed use is somewhat compromised because of this, especially if, like me, your hands are quite small. For the record, the Xiaomi 12 Pro measures 74.6mm wide by 163.6mm deep by 8.16mm thick (2.94in. x 6.44in. x 0.32in.). The protruding camera lozenge adds a bit more thickness, and its location in the upper left of the backplate makes the handset do the familiar rock and roll when the screen is prodded while it's sitting on a flat surface.
Overall, the design of the grey model is understated, which lends the phone a certain appeal.
The 6.73-inch AMOLED screen is superb. Its 20:9 aspect ratio makes for a tall format, which is great for reading text and looking at web pages. A very gentle curve along the screen's long edges gives the appearance of zero bezel, while the bezel on the short edges is very small. All this results in a screen-to-body ratio of 89.5%.
The WQHD+ resolution (1,440 x 3200, 522ppi) makes for sharp and clear text and images. The screen's refresh rate goes up to 120Hz, with LTPO technology allowing the refresh rate to change dynamically, bottoming out at 1Hz when the screen is static. This helps to conserve battery life -- and as we shall see later, this handset needs all the help it can get in this department. The screen's 480Hz touch sampling rate makes it feel very responsive, while 10-bit colour support means it can display 1.07 billion colours (1024 shades of red, green and blue).
There are plenty of ways to tweak colour settings, including a reading mode that I've seen on other Xiaomi phones. This mode alters the colour balance, but doesn't take things down to monochrome, so it's not completely ideal for extended bouts of e-book reading. Still, this can be set to kick in on a timed schedule or after sunset, and could help us all reduce eye-strain.
A great screen should be accompanied by great audio, and the Xiaomi 12 Pro is equipped with four speakers -- two tweeters, two subwoofers. Dolby Atmos support and tuning by Harmon Kardon suggest the resulting sound should be impressive, but I was unconvinced. There's a disappointing lack of bass tones and distortion at higher volume levels. If you want to use headphones, you'll have to use USB-C or Bluetooth, as there's no 3.5mm jack here.
The Xiaomi 12 Pro is powered by Qualcomm's top-end 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, accompanied in my review unit by 12GB of RAM. It duly turned in an impressive set of Geekbench 5 CPU benchmarks: 1231 (single core) and 3459 (multi core). That puts it in the forefront of the Android benchmark charts. Compute (GPU) benchmarks of 6167 (OpenCL) and 7001 (Vulkan) are also in the top echelon.
There's plenty of internal storage, with 256GB installed, 30GB used out of the box, and the remaining 226GB free. There is no MicroSD card support, however. The caddy on the bottom of the chassis can accept two 5G SIM cards.
The camera setup is excellent, comprising three 50MP rear cameras and a 32MP f/2.45 hole-punch selfie camera that offers the usual beauty and bokeh options, as well as a night mode. Selfies are certainly good enough to share without embarrassment (over image quality, at any rate).
The triple 50MP rear array comprises f/1.9 wide angle, f/2.2 ultra-wide angle (115°) and f/1.9 telephoto (2x optical zoom) cameras. Point-and-click photography was suitably good. The 2x optical zoom kicks in quickly with a simple screen tap, and digital zoom takes a similar approach, with one pinch of the screen opening tappable buttons that zoom in increments -- 5x, 10x and 20x. There's also a slider that allows for zoom in finer gradients. This is much easier than screen pinching, although that's also an option.
There are some interesting video options, including motion-tracking focus, slow-motion shooting at 120fps, 240fps, 480fps, 960fps and 1920fps, a dual video mode that uses both the selfie and main cameras, and an ultra night video shooting mode that is designed to maximise light capture.
The Xiaomi 12 Pro runs MIUI 13 on top of Android 12. There's a lot going on here, and fans of a clean user interface might struggle. There are shopping and social media apps pre-installed as well as duplicates of some Android apps, which may create confusion for the unwary.
In among all the bloat is the unassuming Mi Remote app. The Xiaomi 12 Pro is one of a small number of handsets to feature an infrared blaster: it's on the top edge of the phone and can be used in conjunction with Mi Remote to control all manner of devices from TVs to digital projectors. It's a nice feature, and I'd like to see more handset makers consider the potential for IR.
The Xiaomi 12 Pro has a 4600mAh battery, which on paper looks short of capacity given that it needs to power a large AMOLED screen and a top-end processor. The norm for today's flagship handsets is 5000mAh. Under the PC Mark for AndroidWork 3.0 battery life test, the phone kept going for just 10 hours and 9 minutes, which is disappointing considering that performance leaders on this test deliver over twice the battery life.
And when I asked a fully charged handset to play YouTube video for three hours, it dropped 40% of its charge, suggesting total battery life of around 7.5 hours. When I ran the test a second time it fared slightly better, dropping 37% over the three hours (~8h total).
There are various power-saving options on board, but these should be there for when you need to eke out a bit more life, not required as a matter of course. Depending on how you use your handset, you might struggle to get a day's life from a full charge in the morning.
Fortunately, the battery charges quickly thanks to 120W HyperCharge support -- 0% to 100% in 18 minutes, according to Xiaomi. When I started using the 120W power adapter with the phone's battery at 13%, it rose to 48% after five minutes, to 68% after 10 minutes, 85% after 15 minutes and 99% after 20 minutes. That power brick will be your new best friend if you opt for the Xiaomi 12 Pro. You also get wireless charging at 50W and reverse wireless charging at 10W.
The Xiaomi 12 Pro is a frustrating handset. Nicely made and featuring a superb AMOLED screen, a top-end chipset and a triple 50MP rear camera array with a usable zoom mode, it also offers very fast charging and a useful IR blaster.
However, the speakers are nothing special, there's no IP rating, and battery life is disappointing.