Xiaomi 12 Lite Review: A great Samsung Galaxy S21 FE alternative

The Xiaomi 12 Lite is a step slower than more expensive phones, but holds its own among similarly priced options

Xiaomi 12 Lite - A great Samsung Galaxy 21 FE alternative
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Xiaomi 12 Lite review

Bottom line

The Xiaomi 12 Lite delivers premium value and more durability at a lower price, but not without a small hit to performance.

Overall
4.3

Pros

  • Premium look and feel
  • IP53 rating
  • Quick charging
  • Terrific battery life
  • Excellent display
  • Great camera for the price

Cons

  • Can feel a little slow compared to flagships
  • No wireless charging
  • Point-and-shoot pictures can be a little overprocessed

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 Review: A great Samsung Galaxy S21 FE alternative 1
The Xiaomi 12 Lite

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.

Xiaomi 12 Lite Review: A great Samsung Galaxy S21 FE alternative 2
The three-sensor camera array on the Xiaomi 12 Lite has a relatively small footprint

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!

Display

Xiaomi 12 Lite Review: A great Samsung Galaxy S21 FE alternative 3
The Xiaomi 12 Lite has kept the best parts of the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s excellent display

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.

Performance

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.