Review of Xiaomi 12, the new top-of-the-line 5G phone from the Chinese brand

Although XIaomi expanded significantly in Latin America from 2017 onwards, its devices in Brazil became famous for the infamous gray market — the importers who shipped directly from China to resell cheap here. As a result, it gained a reputation as a “good but clandestine cell phone”.

Today, installed in Brazil, Xiaomi is fighting a battle to transform this image, focusing on high-end releases and devices. And the latest champion in this crusade is Xiaomi 12, its latest top of the linewhich promises to compete for places even with big names in the category, such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 and the iPhone 13.

And to see how much he can take in this comparison, tilt spent a few weeks testing the smartphone, seeing what the Xiaomi flagship is capable of:


Strengths

  • Excellent performance, even with multiple apps open
  • Full battery charge in up to one hour
  • Comfortable design for long-term use

Negative points

  • Lower camera set compared to rivals
  • MIUI is not the most intuitive operating system ever
  • Heats up a lot in more intense gaming sessions

Verdict

In the end, it’s a matter of preference: if you’re already a fan of the iPhone or the Galaxy S series, this phone is unlikely to change your mind. Now, if you’re willing to grab a top of the line at a good price, the Xiaomi 12 more than does the trick.

Taking it out of the box, perhaps the first thing that strikes you is the weight. It is a light cell phone, with 180 g. The corners, with rounded edges, rest the device comfortably in the hand, although sometimes they get in the way to click an exit icon. It’s not very big — it’s 6.28 inches (16 cm) — but overall, it doesn’t get in your pocket either.

On the back, the brushed steel texture has an interesting shimmering effect: sometimes it looks gray, sometimes a few shades of pink stand out. Overall, this gives the device an elegant look, which comes with a transparent case.

Xiaomi 12 version - Gabriel Daros/Tilt - Gabriel Daros/Tilt
Image: Gabriel Daros/Tilt

The Xiaomi 12’s front camera is a hollow point at the top, rather than a beveled (drop-shaped) tip. While it doesn’t get in the way at all, it’s a design element that can divide preferences.

The screen, with a frequency of 120 Hz, also has a high sensitivity, and it catches subtle movements well. Those who type more “loosely” may miss the key more often. Ditto for those who are not very accurate when playing. On the other hand, the response speed is impressive.

Resistance, unfortunately, leaves something to be desired. Quickly, the screen was scarred with scratches from keys, coins and even the wallet’s zipper.

Xiaomi 12 screen showed some scratches after contact with keys in the pocket - Gabriel Daros/Tilt - Gabriel Daros/Tilt

Xiaomi 12 screen showed some scratches after contact with keys in the pocket

Image: Gabriel Daros/Tilt

In general use, the brightness is great — the screen adapts easily to any condition and manages to emit good light even in the blazing sun.

Operational system

This entire screen set, added to the visual effects of MIUI 13 (the version of Android modified by Xiaomi), tends to result in a pleasant interface. And nice boot on it: swiping from one screen to another is strangely relaxing.

Incidentally, the operating system itself is a point worth paying attention to: although it sounds very “familiar” at first glance, the menus do not behave in the same way.

Icons and important tasks (like battery saving, signal router and the like) are hidden in a scroll that is only accessed when you drag right in the top right corner of the screen – practically on the battery icon. For notifications, the same applies, only in the left corner.

But not everything is thorns. The system itself offers, for example, the hidden folder tool, as well as Google’s digital wallet. The company foresees three Android system version updates (ie up to MIUI 16), and four years of security updates, so longevity will be reasonable.

Finally, for Android users, MIUI 13 looks very familiar, but it can cause some confusion. With patience (and a little practice), it soon becomes natural to use.

Main

Xiaomi’s top of the line appears with a set of three cameras — the main one with 50 MP, one with 13 MP ultrawide and another with 2x zoom for macro photos. All of them, lined up vertically, in a highlighted rectangle at the top left.

The set, in fact, offers one less camera. Normally, mid-range and top-of-the-line smartphones come with four, with a dedicated lens exclusively for contrast or even for zoomed photos.

Instead, the Xiaomi 12 follows the philosophy of “doing well with what you already have”, taking advantage of the hardware to, for example, take super fast focused photos. The main set records very colorful photos, even in scenarios where this is not so visible to the naked eye. This effect is further enhanced with the camera’s AI. The photos have a touch of an Instagram filter.

By the way, Xiaomi has built in some interesting filters and features in its photo app. For example, the “Clone” mode, for photo montages; or the “Vlog”, which allows short recordings in sequence, ideal for a Reels or TikTok. The downside is that these functions all need to be downloaded.

Front

The 16 MP front camera delivers three aspect ratios: a standard 3:4, a 9:16 and a full version. Options such as film frames and palm shots are also available.

The sensor captures photos very well, even in low light scenarios. The front camera applies effects on the fly too, which allows for some fine tuning before the click. Overall, it’s a non-intrusive AI. The total set is welcome, especially if you want to take that selfie before (or during) a party, for example.

A single catch is that, regardless of the mode, the focus on the front camera didn’t always hit where I clicked. I went through the slight annoyance having to press repeatedly until the sensor understands the right distance.

To be able to compete with other tops of the line, Xiaomi needed a good engine under the body. No wonder, the flagship of the Chinese company has a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, currently one of the most powerful systems-on-chip with 5G support.

In practice, it is this turbocharged engine that makes the Xiaomi 12 so powerful, and that enables such a pleasant and fluid experience. During our use of Tilt, no bottlenecks were found in everyday use, even when opening several applications at once.

Speaking of them, it’s notable that the Chinese company’s devices come with bloatware — apps that you didn’t ask for and that often only weigh your cell phone, offering the same functionality as YouTube or Netflix (which is already installed). The Xiaomi 12 doesn’t have that many of them, and some, like the usage optimization one, are even welcome.

Anyway, the device is available in a single version, 256 GB, with memory card support. Even if you don’t intend to use an SD card, it will still take a long time for it to fill up all of its native storage.

Performance remained solid when it was put to play games. All experiences occurred without crashes and with fast loading. There was one exception, when there were some lags when loading an interactive advertisement in Unity (something that not everyone will see).

However, in longer gaming sessions – of more than half an hour – the cell phone gets very hot, which is not comfortable or pleasant.

The battery is one of the best points of the Xiaomi 12. Equipped with a 4,500 mAH, it can last about a day and a half away from the charger, with moderate usage time. In more intense activities, such as gaming or playing videos, the performance was between four and five hours uninterrupted – which is not bad at all.

Even if he had to go back to the porter, he didn’t need much time there either. Accompanied by a 65W Dart charger, the charge went from 5% to 100% in an hour. The smartphone also supports wireless charging at 50W stations.

Overall, it has the breath to handle a lot of activity before the battery runs out, and even if the battery runs out — or eventually runs out of cycles and becomes “addicted” — the recharge is fast enough to make up for it.

Getting your hands on a top of the line, usually, means spending a lot. In part, this was the case with the Xiaomi 12, which arrived here with a launch price of BRL 9,499.00 — the same as its direct competitors, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, with the same storage.

However, today it is possible to find the same cell phone for almost half the retail price – a value more affordable than direct competitors, and which tends to fall. In practice, this means a top-of-the-line device, with longevity of use, good performance and a good amount of time away from the socket. All this, on the other hand, with the adaptation of a new interface and a cell phone with some bloatware.

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