Every year like clockwork, Xiaomi releases two lines of flagships: the affordable T series in the fall (see my Xiaomi 11T Pro review) and the regular models in the winter (see Helena’s Xiaomi 12 Pro review). This pattern continued in 2022 with the Xiaomi 12T and Xiaomi 13 series, plus one addition: last summer, the company also launched revised versions of its regular flagships as the Xiaomi 12S series, but only in China.
Today I’m taking a look at the Xiaomi 12T Pro ($699), which I’ve been using for a few weeks. Overall, it’s similar to the 11T Pro from 2021 – complete with 120W charging – but it brings several meaningful improvements to the table, including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, a 1220p display, and a 200MP main camera with OIS. In fact, it’s one of the first smartphones to feature Samsung’s new Isocell HP1 200MP sensor.
So, is the Xiaomi 12T Pro a worthy upgrade over its predecessor? Did the company cut any corners? And, most importantly, does that massive 200MP shooter make any difference in image quality? Let’s explore this together in my review.
Hardware and design
Overall, the Xiaomi 12T Pro’s design is pretty generic – especially in black (like our review unit). At least the silver and blue colorways are more interesting. There isn’t much to get excited about here besides the two-tiered aluminum and glass camera pod, which stands out for its size and thickness, especially around that huge 200MP shooter. And while I like the 12T Pro’s frosted glass back, I’m not a fan of the plastic frame. It feels cheap.
An 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro, and dual-color / dual-LED flash round things up in the rear. In front, the 6.67-inch AMOLED screen is perfectly flat with small, even bezels, and incorporates an in-display fingerprint sensor and a center punch hole for the 20MP selfie camera. Basically, it’s all very familiar – in an ordinary smartphone kind of way. On the plus side, the 12T Pro is rated IP53, making it splash and dust resistant.
Taking a look along the edges, you’ll find a volume rocker and power/lock key on the right side, and nothing on the left. One of the two speakers, the primary mic, the USB Type-C Port, and the SIM tray are located along the bottom, while the top edge is home to the other speaker / earpiece, the secondary mic, and an infrared transmitter. The latter lets you remote control appliances like TVs and AC units via a pre-installed app.
The Xiaomi 12T Pro packs a gorgeous 6.67-inch CrystalRes AMOLED display with an unusual 2712 x 1220-pixel resolution (446ppi) and a 20:9 aspect ratio. It’s a 120Hz panel with an adaptive refresh rate (30, 60, 90, and 120Hz) that supports Dolby Vision and HDR10+. This screen delivers accurate colors, deep blacks, and excellent viewing angles. With a peak brightness of 900 nits, it’s also easy to read in direct sunlight.
One of the headlining features of the Xiaomi 12T Pro is its 200MP main camera – yes, two hundred megapixels! It’s one of the first smartphones to rock Samsung’s new Isocell HP1 200MP sensor, along with the Moto Edge 30 Ultra and Infinix Zero Ultra. If 200MP seems excessive, that’s because it is. This kind of resolution is only beneficial for the image processing tricks it enables. Most of the time you’ll be shooting at 12.5MP.
Basically, the Isocell HP1 offers two separate pixel-binning modes. It either combines sixteen (4×4) 0.64-micron pixels into one huge 2.56-micron pixel, resulting in 12.5MP shots, or four (2×2) 0.64-micron pixels into one big 1.28-micron pixel for 50MP images. Larger pixels perform better in low light, so you can decide how much detail you want in your pictures based on the amount of light that’s available. Clever!
A 200MP sensor can also help with digital zoom. At 2x magnification, you have 50MP available at the center of the sensor, which can be binned 4-to-1 for better low-light performance, resulting in a higher-quality 12.5MP 2x photo. Even at 4x zoom, you still have 12.5MP available natively after cropping, so you’re not losing data – though you’re stuck with 0.64-micron pixels, so you’ll want more light when shooting at 4x.
While all three phones also feature OIS (optical image stabilization) and PDAF (phase detection autofocus) on the main shooter, the 12T Pro also boasts a faster f/1.7 lens (vs. f/1.9 for the Moto, and f/2.0 for the Infinix). Thanks to the 12T Pro’s larger aperture, it’s able to capture more light than its competitors to begin with, resulting in better low-light performance. I was able to confirm this since I also have an Infinix Zero Ultra.
The rest of the 12T Pro’s cameras aren’t spectacular. Xiaomi clearly decided to cut corners here. While the 12T Pro inherits the 8MP f/2.2 1.12-micron 120-degree ultrawide from its predecessor, this year’s 2 MP f/2.4 macro (without AF) is a downgrade from last year’s 5MP f/2.4 1.12-micron macro (with autofocus). Seriously, all those crappy 2MP fixed-focus macro shooters just need to go. Why bother?
On the selfie front, the 12T Pro gets a mild upgrade from the 11T Pro, with a 20MP f/2.2 0.8-micron punch hole camera (vs. 16MP f/2.5 1.0-micron). But there’s still no HDR support in portrait mode, and still no 4k video recording here, which is disappointing. The resulting selfies and videos are okay, but don’t really stand out. Overall, it’s hard to see what improvement the higher-resolution front shooter brings to the table.
So does that 200MP main camera make a difference or is it just for bragging rights? While there’s no doubt the 12T Pro takes very nice pictures, it doesn’t outperform its flagship rivals. Google’s 50MP Pixel 7 series, Apple’s 48MP iPhone 14 Pro, and Samsung’s 108MP Galaxy S22 Ultra are still ahead in terms of image quality. And honestly, I’m not surprised. This is a first-generation 200MP camera system, after all.
The good news is that unlike the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 inside the 12T Pro, Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is optimized to support 200MP sensors, so you can expect future 200MP shooters in upcoming flagships like Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra to deliver better photos and videos than the 12T Pro. It’s clear that 200MP sensors have a lot of potential, and the 12T Pro gives us a glimpse of what’s coming next.
Pictures shot with the 12T Pro’s main camera are quite lovely, with accurate colors and exposure, and adequate dynamic range. Low-light performance is quite solid, too. But overall, the default 12.5MP images are a little soft. Switch to 50MP, and photos become pleasantly sharp. Basically, that’s the sweet spot. At 200MP, you get even more detail at the expense of file size (50MB+), and you need more light.
Despite its rather pedestrian specs, the ultrawide benefits from Xiaomi’s excellent image processing, and the resulting photos are fine. Macro shots are pretty much what you’d expect from a 2MP fixed-focus shooter: middling at best. In most cases, you’re better off zooming in with the main camera. Video recording is decent, but 8k capture is overkill, and 24fps isn’t a convenient frame rate for most use cases.
Xiaomi’s camera app is reasonably intuitive and delivers the usual photo modes, including portrait, night (main, ultrawide, selfie), pro (main, ultrawide), panorama, ultra HD (50 / 200MP), macro, and document. Video modes consist of slow motion (up to 960fps at 1080p / 1920fps at 720p), time lapse (up to 4k 30fps), pro, and short video. Additional “fun” modes include long exposure, VLOG, movie effects, dual video, and clone.
The 12T Pro captures stabilized video with stereo audio at up to 8k 24fps with the main camera (4k 30fps in HDR), 4k 60fps with the ultrawide (1080p 30fps in steady video and pro modes), 1080p 60fps with the selfie camera (1080p 30fps in HDR), and 720p 30p with the macro. Last year’s 11T Pro recorded 8k video at 30fps, so this year’s 24fps limitation is odd, especially considering the Isocell HP1 supports 8k 30fps.
Reception and audio
I tested the Xiaomi 12T Pro all over the place – San Francisco, Vancouver and Victoria (Canada), Paris (France), Maui, and Las Vegas – on T-Mobile, AT&T, and Telus’ 5G networks without any problems. Calls sounded clear, and data speeds matched my expectations. Just keep in mind that the 12T Pro doesn’t work on Verizon, and lacks some US bands, so you may be stuck on 4G LTE (or have no service) in some markets.
On the audio front, Xiaomi didn’t mess around. The 12T Pro comes with stereo speakers tuned by Harman Kardon that feature Dolby Atmos and sound pleasantly loud and rich. Like most current flagships, the 12T Pro lacks a headphone jack, but it supports both analog and digital audio devices over USB Type-C for wired listening, and includes both LDAC and aptX HD codecs for wireless playback via Bluetooth.
Performance and battery life
The Xiaomi 12T Pro packs a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, which was Qualcomm’s flagship processor when this handset launched in October, and is still one of the fastest and most efficient SoCs available today. As such, the 12T Pro is delightfully quick no matter what you throw at it – from simple apps to the most intense games. This chip is mated with 8 or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and 128 or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage (no microSD).
As you’d expect, the rest of the specs are pretty typical for a modern flagship. Under the hood, you’ll find sub-6GHz 5G, CAT 20 LTE, dual-band WiFi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.2 (LE), NFC, dual-band A-GPS/ GLONASS / BDS / GALILEO / QZSS / NavIC, and the usual bevy of sensors. The 12T Pro also features a linear motor for precise haptics, and an optical in-display fingerprint reader that’s fast and reliable (just like face unlock).
Battery life is another one of the 12T Pro’s strengths. The 5000mAh battery will often last two days of light use on a full charge, which is great. And when it’s time for a refill, the 12T Pro supports Xiaomi’s 120W HyperCharge wired fast charging, and ships with a 120W charger and cable in the box. That’s 0-100% in just 19 minutes – yes, nineteen minutes! Just don’t expect wireless charging, which is missing here.
On the software front, the Xiaomi 12T Pro runs MIUI 13.0.11, which is based on Android 12. And frankly, it’s a mixed bag. Xiaomi’s skin has improved leaps and bounds in the last few years, and is generally clean and easy to use. Just don’t expect a Pixel- or Moto-like user experience. It’s simply too customized for my liking, and deviates too much from stock Android. Some people really like it, though, so your mileage may vary.
By default, MIUI behaves a lot like iOS. There’s no app drawer, and you have to swipe down separately from the top left and top right sides of the screen to access notifications and quick settings, respectively. Sure, you can re-enable the app drawer and the standard Android notification and quick settings pull-down gesture at any time, but this requires poking around the heavily modified settings menu.
When it comes to software updates, Xiaomi’s made some welcome changes. Based on what the company announced in 2021, you can expect the 12T Pro to receive three Android system upgrades and four years of security patches. That’s not too shabby. And while the 12T Pro does include some bloatware (Amazon Shopping, Genshin Impact, LinkedIn, Netflix, Spotify, TikTok, and WPS Office), these apps are easily uninstalled.
Is the Xiaomi 12T Pro a good phone?
The Xiaomi 12T Pro is an interesting flagship. It boasts a gorgeous 1220p screen, a solid main camera with OIS, excellent speakers, speedy performance, outstanding battery life, and crazy fast 120W charging. And while that giant 200MP shooter is a bit of a one-trick pony, it offers a few immediate benefits and a lot of potential – as long as Xiaomi keeps fine-tuning this camera system with future updates.
But for $699 (currently $692 on Amazon), the 12T Pro’s compromises – the plastic frame, lackluster macro, and lack of wireless charging – make it more difficult to recommend. So unless you absolutely need those 200MP, consider the OnePlus 10T (currently $549) which delivers similar performance with better software and proper US bands. Ditto, Google’s Pixel 7 (currently $499), which also features one of today’s best cameras.