Compared to last year’s Redmi Note 11 or even the Note 11S (Review), Xiaomi’s latest Redmi Note 12 5G packs several upgrades. To start with, the phone supports 5G thanks to a more recent Qualcomm SoC, more base storage, and a smoother display. However, all of this comes at a price. At Rs. 17,999 for the base variant, these upgrades don’t look particularly exciting considering that most smartphones in this bracket (or even below) already have them.
And then there’s the competition, with smartphones such as the Realme 10 Pro 5G and Moto G82 5G (Review) that offer much more value at a similar price. Do the upgrades given to the Redmi Note 12 5G add any real value, and should you upgrade to one? I’ve been using it for more than a week and here’s what I think.
Redmi Note 12 5G price in India
The Redmi Note 12 5G is available in two variants and three finishes. There’s the base variant which gets a healthy 128GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM, which is available at Rs. 17,999. There’s the 6GB RAM variant that’s priced at Rs 19,999 which also gets the same amount of storage. Both variants are available in Frosted Green, Matte Black and Mystique Blue finishes. We received the 6GB RAM variant in Frosted Green for this review.
Redmi Note 12 5G design
At 7.9mm, the new Redmi Note 12 5G sure looks slim but it is moderately heavy at 188g. The frame and rear panel are made of polycarbonate. The rear panel has a soft matte finish which lends it an upmarket look and feel, but it also attracts smudges easily. However, these are easy to wipe. The sides are flat and the frame also has a matte finish which makes holding this large phone a task as it’s quite slippery. The camera module’s design has changed, which now looks like a block of polished glass that’s raised from the rear panel giving it a modern appearance.
The display on the Redmi Note 12 5G has a hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera and is of the AMOLED variety. The fingerprint scanner sits on the side, in the power button. The bezel around the left, top and right sides of the display are adequately thin, but there is a noticeable chin at the bottom that takes away its premium appeal.
The Redmi Note 12 5G has the usual IP53 rating for dust and water resistance, but despite all the cosmetic upgrades, it doesn’t really stand out nor is it as flashy as the Realme 10 Pro 5G, in my opinion.
Redmi Note 12 5G specifications and software
While the design isn’t flashy, the Redmi Note 12 5G sure is well equipped when it comes to hardware. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 SoC, LPDDR4X RAM, and UFS 2.2 storage. The latter can be expanded up to 1TB using a microSD card in the hybrid dual-SIM tray. The phone supports eleven 5G bands along with dual-5G standby. Communication standards include Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.1, USB Type-C port, IR sensor, and a 3.5mm headphone port. The latter can be used with the built-in FM Radio app. The phone packs a 5,000mAh battery and can be charged using the 33W charger provided in the box.
In 2023, it is a bit surprising to see Xiaomi release the Redmi Note 12 5G with Android 12. The phone runs MIUI 13, which comes with its own set of customisations although these aren’t as advanced when it comes to theming, like on Android 13-powered devices (regardless of the custom skin). What you do get is the usual bloatware, with several Xiaomi branded and pre-installed third-party apps such as Amazon, Facebook, Amazon Prime Video, Zili, to name a few. Apart from the daily spam notifications from the GetApps app, I thankfully did not receive any other spammy notifications from the other preinstalled apps.
Redmi Note 12 5G performance and battery life
The software experience on the 6GB RAM variant of the Redmi Note 12 5G was quite smooth. Despite all the bloatware and preinstalled third-party apps, it ran smoothly whether I was multi-tasking, launching new apps, or even retrieving recently used apps from memory. The phone supports the virtual RAM (allocated from the internal storage) feature and I had it set to 5GB (maximum limit) during the review period. While day to day usage was smooth, I did notice a random bug which kept locking apps to a particular orientation. Oddly, shaking the phone really hard seemed to temporarily fix this.
The 6.67-inch, full-HD+ Super AMOLED panel on the Redmi Note 12 5G has a 120Hz refresh rate, but is not adaptive so it has to be manually set to 60 or 120Hz. During the review period, I always had the display set to 120Hz. The screen gets quite bright outdoors, and produces vivid colours with the default colour profile, but more natural-looking colours at the ‘Standard’ setting.
There’s no HDR playback support for streaming apps but the Redmi Note 12 5G is Widevine L1 certified, which supports full-HD video playback. Videos look good with punchy colours, but falls a bit short when viewing darker scenes.
In terms of benchmarks, the Redmi Note 12 5G performs as expected. This 6GB RAM variant of the Redmi Note 12 5G manages a score of 3,63,352 points in AnTuTu, along with 626 and 1,696 points in Geekbench’s single and multi-core tests respectively. These scores are justifiable when compared to the more expensive Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G. In games, Call of Duty: Mobile is playable at default settings (‘High’ graphics quality and framerate) but there is noticeable lag from time to time.
The touch sampling rate on the Redmi Note 12 5G also felt inadequate for first person shooter (FPS) games. Asphalt 9 Legends also works similarly as the phone is unable to maintain a steady framerate while playing the game at the default settings. The phone is better suited for more casual titles such as Subway Surfers and the lot. The single bottom-firing speaker, although loud, does sound tinny and not very immersive when it comes to both watching movies and playing games.
The Redmi Note 12 5G managed to deliver about a day and half of battery life on a single charge, even with heavy usage, which is quite good. My usage also involved some gaming and taking camera samples. The phone managed to run for 17 hours and 57 minutes in our HD video loop battery test, which is quite good. Charging the 5,000mAh battery is also quick with the phone managing to reach a 37 percent charge in 30 minutes, and completing the charge in about 1 hour, 14 minutes.
Redmi Note 12 5G cameras
The Redmi Note 12 5G has three rear cameras and a single 13-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies. The rear setup covers all the bases thanks to a 48-megapixel primary camera, 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, and a 2-megapixel macro camera. The camera interface is typically Xiaomi with customisable camera modes and the secondary setting tucked into a slide-out drawer, which can be accessed by tapping the hamburger icon.
Daylight image quality is just about passable and this is mainly down to the details, which are on the lower side and this is something I did not expect from a smartphone at this price point. Dynamic range suffers mainly because the phone is unable to figure out when to use HDR or not, and will automatically turn it off leading to blown-out highlights or overexposed areas. During the review period, I kept the AI mode switched on as it resulted in better images with decent dynamic range compared to the crushed blacks I got in regular photos. But this also lead to more saturated images, depending on the scene.
The phone’s macro camera is difficult to use mainly because of its fixed focus setup and the results after all the adjustments aren’t worth the effort. The ultra-wide-angle camera’s performance is expectedly worse than the primary camera with plenty of barrel distortion and purple fringing in the brighter areas of the image. The colour tones and dynamic range are way off compared to the actual scene and the photos appear as they have been shot using a filter.
Selfies taken in daylight look sharp with decent detail and edge detection but with blown-out backgrounds. In low light, photos appear soft and lack detail so they end up appearing quite flat. There’s no Night mode available for the ultra-wide camera either to save the day (or rather, night).
Low-light performance of the primary camera is quite poor even when capturing city streets with plenty of ambient light. The primary camera is just unable to capture good details in auto mode. Switching to Night mode helps bring out some amount of detail in the scene, but with flat textures and colours that looked like oil paintings when zoomed in. There’s also plenty of visible noise in the darker areas even when using Night mode. Video recording quality maxes out at 1080p at 30fps and is passable at best with an unstable bitrate and slightly jittery footage along with low detail.
At Rs. 17,999, it is hard to recommend Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 12 5G unless all you want is reliable battery life. Xiaomi seems to have lost focus with its base Redmi Note model this year and goes about trying to check all the boxes, rather than focussing on quality. The cameras are probably the biggest disappointment as it often fails to get even the basics right, especially compared to other smartphones both at and below this price point.
The Realme 10 Pro 5G, at an additional Rs. 1,000, packs in a better SoC, 108-megapixel primary camera and stereo speakers, along with an interesting design. Motorola’s Moto G82 5G (Review) is also a better choice from Rs. 18,999 with an OIS-enabled primary camera, an IP52 rating, stereo speakers, and a near-stock serving of Android which is confirmed to receive its Android 13 update this year.
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