Xiaomi 12 Review: Championing the Compact Flagship Segment
March 31, 2022 Andrew Cheng

It’s tough to find a “feature-rich” flagship smartphone in a compact form factor. While there are are some good options in the market – such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 or iPhone 13 mini – they also sacrifice on a number of key features.

This applies to the Xiaomi 12 as well, but it’s…well, still a relatively complete flagship phone, especially if you don’t care for a zoom camera. Retailing from RM2,899, it’s quite an affordable Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phone too.

What It Is

Display6.28-inch FHD+ AMOLED (2400 x 1080), 120Hz
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 3.0GHz octa-core
GPUAdreno 730
Storage128/256GB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)50MP f/1.88, OIS
13MP f/2.4 (ultra-wide angle)
5MP f/2.4 (telemacro)
Camera (front)32MP f/2.45
4,500mAh with 67W fast charging (50W wireless)
Dimensions152.7 x 69.9 x 8.16 mm
OSMIUI 13 based on Android 12
Bluetooth 5.2
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6
USB Type-C
PriceRM2,899 (128GB), RM2,999 (256GB)

On paper, Xiaomi 12 is a flagship-tier phone. It’s powered by a fast Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, an equally fast 120Hz AMOLED display, along with a sizeable 4,500mAh battery for such a compact phone. The only real missing hardware is a telephoto camera, though you do get a telemacro sensor instead.

Value wise, it’s best to go for the more generous 256GB model for RM2,999. After all, you’re only paying RM100 more to get double the internal storage, even if the 128GB variant can be purchased for only RM2,799 (RM100 discount) in the occasional flash sales.

The Good Stuff

One of the best aspects of the Xiaomi 12 – in my opinion, at least – are its design and compact form factor. Not only does the phone’s matte glass back and metal frame feel good in my hands, the compact size of the Xiaomi 12 also makes it a breeze to be used with only one hand.

Really, it’s refreshing to be able to type a message without having to hold the phone with both hands.

Another noteworthy hardware of the Xiaomi 12 is its bright and vibrant 6.28-inch 1080p AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. This fast panel lends to a very responsive user experience, and the panel itself is also very pleasant to look at with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision support.

This high quality panel also lends to an enjoyable gaming experience. Even though the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset can’t quite run Genshin Impact smoothly at 60fps on the Xiaomi 12 – but it’s worth noting that many other flagship Android phones have the same struggle – it’s still very playable.

Battery life of the Xiaomi 12 is quite good too, especially for such a compact phone. On average, the 4,500mAh battery can consistently return five hours of screen on time. Not the best battery life I’ve seen on a phone, but hey, this is a compact device; there’s only so much battery you can fit into this small chassis.

And then there’s the camera performance of the Xiaomi 12. Not surprisingly, the 50MP primary sensor can take good-looking shots regardless of lighting condition, and the same can be said (to an extent) for the 8MP ultra-wide angle sensor, though its detail preservation isn’t quite as good.

Unfortunately, the Xiaomi 12 doesn’t have a telephoto sensor like the Pro model, limiting the versatility of this triple camera system. What you do get, however, is a 5MP telemacro lens, which can be used to take some interesting close-up shots, as you can see above.

The Bad Stuff

Let’s go back to the previous point: the lack of a telephoto camera on the Xiaomi 12 is really one of its biggest shortcomings. After all, this is supposed to be a flagship phone. It’s not unrealistic to expect a more versatile camera configuration in this segment and price point.

Aside from that, the palm rejection of the Xiaomi 12 could be better too. Yes, the dual curved screen gives the phone a sleek aesthetic, but throughout my time with the phone, I kept hitting the sides of the screen by accident. I’m sure Xiaomi can issue a software update to improve this, though it remains to be seen if it will be done.

Speaking of which, the software experience of the Xiaomi 12 isn’t fantastic either. Granted, Xiaomi’s software has improved over the past few years, but there are still small niggling issues here and there. Take the always on display: it doesn’t show notifications from all apps.

On top of that, I also don’t like the fact that the notification icons will be gone from the always on display after unlocking the phone; this is the case even if I haven’t interacted with said notifications. I’ve never experienced this with Samsung’s always on display, for example.

Is It Worth It?

Despite not having a particularly versatile camera system or a super refined software experience, the value proposition, good performance, and compact form factor of the Xiaomi 12 make for an attractive small phone. Only a handful of other phones offer such a package, and even lesser at this price point.

It would’ve been great if the Xiaomi 12 also had a telephoto camera for a more complete flagship device, but nonetheless, it’s good to see a compact phone that doesn’t sacrifice on too many features.

Hopefully, Xiaomi will continue to improve the software of the Xiaomi 12 for a more pleasant user experience. The Chinese company had always been a value champion, but now that it is charging more for its flagship devices, other aspects of the phones have to improve accordingly as well.