Without much fanfare, the Xiaomi 12 Lite is arriving as the more affordable complement to the flagship Xiaomi 12 Pro. It’s hard to keep track with how many phones Xiaomi has right now, but think of this as similar to the Samsung Galaxy FE series — it offers the look and feel of the flagship, but with a few of the premium features trimmed to get the price down. And while some of those missing features are noticeable, chances are folks looking to get a nice phone for a little less will likely find the saved money outweighs the slight performance hits — our Xiaomi 12 Lite review will touch on those performance hits, and why it should still be considered for folks shopping for phones in 2022.
Xiaomi 12 Lite look and feel
The Xiaomi 12 Lite definitely isn’t light when it comes to size; the 6.55″ display is only slightly smaller than that of the Xiaomi 12 Pro, making the dimensions and weight similar. The Xiaomi 12 Lite weighs 173 g and is 7.29 mm thick — it still feels a little unwieldy when using it with one hand, but no more so than any other phone this size. Folks with smaller hands might find the Xiaomi 12 Lite a little awkward to use after a while. The color options this time around are the black you see reviewed here, plus lite green and lite pink.
Build quality wasn’t one of the cuts, as the Xiaomi 12 Lite still has a premium feel to it. Fortunately, Xiaomi included a transparent protective case for the phone to protect it — these large phones are all too easy to drop, and it’s nice to have something included for a phone that might not have a ton of third-party cases made for it.
One change in the build from the Pro model is the use of flat surfaces, rather than the rounded back and display of the Xiaomi 12 Pro. If you’ve found that rounded backs make for a more comfortable phone to hold, bear that in mind.
The front camera sensor stays out of the way, while on the back, the three-camera array has a similar layout to that of the Xiaomi 12 Pro, one that is, by current standards, fairly unobtrusive. The camera array itself is a little different, but we’ll touch on that later in our Xiaomi 12 Lite review.
Interesting note — the Xiaomi 12 Lite is rated IP53 for water and dust resistance, a feature that was missing in the Xiaomi 12 Pro. Don’t go dunking it underwater, but it’s definitely a little more beach-friendly for your summer vacations!
The most noticeable change in display from the Xiaomi 12 Pro to the Xiaomi 12 Lite is the resolution – 1080 x 2400 here, as opposed to 1440 x 3200 on the Xiaomi 12 Pro. For the phone form factor, resolution is pretty far down the list when it comes to judging display quality, so this seems like a good place to save a little money. Far more important is that we’re still looking at a 120 Hz AMOLED display that easily gets bright enough (500 nits) to be used comfortably in direct sunlight, which we just happened to get a little of despite being right in the thick of a foggy San Francisco summer. It’s still HDR10+ certified and features Dolby Vision processing, so it’s an impressive package on paper and in practice.
While preparing our Xiaomi 12 Lite review, this was one of few places I noticed the phone’s lack of premium standing. Instead of the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, we’ve got a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G chipset — still a 5G phone, then, as the chipset implies. It’s pretty powerful, but when combined with other powerful specs and just 6 GB of RAM, you do feel a little sluggishness when swiping or scrolling. It felt like something you would notice if you’re moving from a premium phone to this next step down, but if you’re used to mid-range performance, you won’t be too disappointed. The Samsung Galaxy FE series is snappier, admittedly, but that’s a high bar. The good news is that the performance is consistent and smooth — there’s no choppiness or stuttering, it just feels a step slow sometimes.
How good is the Xiaomi 12 Lite camera?
The Xiaomi 12 Lite camera array has bigger numbers than that of the Xiaomi 12 Pro — a 108 MP sensor compared to the 50 MP sensor on the Pro — but at this point, we all know that doesn’t mean too much. The Xiaomi 12 Lite’s camera does reveal some sacrifices made when looking at the results. We’re working with a 108 MP sensor with a f/1.9 26 mm lens complemented by an 8 MP 119-degree wide-angle camera and a 2 MP macro camera. Basically, you get easy cracks at taking close-up portrait shots, wide-angle shots, and standard shots.
The results look a lot like what you’d expect when we’re dealing with mid-range sensors — the image processing is doing a little too much of the heavy lifting. Overly sharp and saturated colors cover for a camera that doesn’t focus quite as well as you’d like. I found the regular shots and macro shots to be nice enough, but artifacts and lack of focus became more noticeable on the ultra-wide shots.
The results are still great for a phone that isn’t trying to be a top-tier device, but if you’re not a fan of the kind of color saturation you see here, you probably won’t get the results you want using this phone as a point-and-shoot device.
But, the Xiaomi 12 Lite camera does reward tinkering. There is a pro mode you can use to customize your phone settings, so folks more familiar with the ins and outs of photography can still get what they want out of this camera array. There are also some cool manual editing features — the phone can use machine learning tech to cut out shapes of people and animals to be edited separately. There are automatic processing features to beautify faces — feel about that how you will. As with any phone that does this, the results look clearly edited. Eye tracking also helps to make the most of photos and videos of people, helping the phone to lock in on faces.
How good is the Xiaomi 12 Lite battery life?
It’s good! It’s very good. The upside of taking a downgrade on your processor is that the phone doesn’t need to draw as much power, and that makes the Xiaomi 12 Lite a lock to last the day for most folks. On an average day, I would wind up with over 60 percent battery life left on this 4,300 mAh battery before going to bed, where most flagships I’ve used would be screaming at me to plug it in already. As always, this depends a lot on the display’s brightness settings, but even on sunny days, I didn’t feel the need to have it cranked to the max.
When it comes to charging, this phone comes with a 67-watt brick, so it won’t charge as fast as the Xiaomi 12 Pro, which came with a 120-watt charger. That’s still more than fast enough to give you a full charge overnight. It’ll give you a good amount of juice in just 20-30 minutes of charging, too — given that a 4,500 mAh can make its way to 100% overnight on most chargers, the move is probably to keep that charging brick with you or leave it at work, where you’re more likely to need an emergency charge. You’re not likely to need all that power at the outset, but once battery life starts to degrade over time, it’ll become a nice feature to have.
The Xiaomi 12 Lite runs MIUI 13 on top of Android 12, which seems fine. It adds a little to stock Android — it still does the iPhone thing by default, where swiping down on the right side brings down quick settings, and swiping down on the left brings down notifications. There are some apps included that most will either uninstall or ignore, but I didn’t get the sense that there’s anything here negatively affecting the phone’s performance. It’s not that much of a departure from stock Android, but if you’re a purist, you’ll notice.
Should I buy the Xiaomi 12 Lite?
Given that this still bears the Xiaomi name, it’s going to be on the expensive side of not-quite-flagship phones. There are certainly better deals out there in the mid-range world, depending on what you’re willing to live without. But, the Xiaomi 12 Lite does bear the great build quality of the Xiaomi 12 Pro, and adds flat surfaces and an IP53 rating — we don’t doubt there’s a subset of folks who opted out of the Xiaomi 12 Pro because of the rounded surfaces and lack of an IP rating, so that at least makes the Xiaomi 12 Lite compelling.
The camera array isn’t necessarily a plus, but it’s not a dealbreaker, either. While the charging speeds aren’t as blindingly fast as those of the Xiaomi 12 Pro, they don’t need to be, as the battery life on this phone has proven to be excellent. It’s a good mix for folks looking for something that feels premium without the full-on premium price tag — you just have to be OK with the phone feeling a touch slower than a true flagship phone.
Because this is meant to deliver close to premium value at a lower price, the price was always going to be the most important part of any Xiaomi 12 Lite review. And we have to say, it’s a lower price than we were expecting! While the Xiaomi 12 Pro started at $929 at launch, the Xiaomi 12 Lite is starting at just $399 for the 128 GB + 6 GB of RAM configuration, which goes up to $499 for 256 GB + 8 GB of RAM. Considering we’re only looking at a modest step down in power (which improves battery life substantially), that seems like a pretty solid deal. At that price, any little issues here and there with the camera, we can live with. All told this is a pretty compelling package, especially considering our review unit was the lower-priced configuration.