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Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G review: Return of the value champ?

No such thing as a free lunch.

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Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G review: Return of the value champ?
Xiaomi has launched the Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus at a starting price of Rs 29,999 in India. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus has arrived, all guns blazing. This new phone from Xiaomi is everything that you might expect from a Redmi Note. And yet, it’s far from anything we’ve seen before.

There’s lots to take in. Unlike most of our reviews, we’ll try and keep this short and simple, more experiential if you will. So, let’s get into it without further ado.

Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G | The good bits

If you have the slightest interest in new tech— especially smartphones— and follow social media, you’d probably know a thing or two about the Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus’s marquee feature. The thing that Xiaomi really wants to sell to you in this generation is the camera hardware, more specifically the main sensor (and the lens system that’s accompanying it).

No beating around the bush: it is awesome, in fact, even unheard of at this price at the time of writing. So, you’ve got to give it to Xiaomi for making a high spec like this mainstream and more accessible to India’s masses.

Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G review
The Note 12 Pro Plus has a 200MP main camera. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Note 12 Pro Plus is using Samsung’s new 1/1.4-inch HPX sensor mated to a 7P lens system with f/1.65 aperture and optical image stabilisation. Xiaomi says it is also using an atomic layer deposition (ALD) coating on this lens to minimise flare and ghosting, a common issue for smartphone cameras— including the very recent iPhones— under bright light. This camera lives up to its potential, too, especially in ideal lighting and to an extent, in low light as well.

Also Read | Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus first look, impressions: New year, new start

Photos shot when lots of light is available have lots of detail, wide dynamic range and natural bokeh. Their colour science maybe a bit more contrasty— that may appear unnatural in some cases— than we’d like, but we believe the Note 12 Pro Plus’s main camera is a winner for the intended audience. We quite liked the exposure in these photos. This does falter a bit under low and tricky light as Xiaomi’s algorithm tries to bump up the brightness even more so when you fire up the night mode. A good thing about the sensor (and overall hardware) is that you don’t really need to do that unless absolutely necessary. The system is quite powerful to pull light all on its own.  

There are two more use cases of this high-res sensor. It can be used to take photos from far-out, sort of like a makeshift telephoto, and zoomed in shots have enough detail at close crop to give you a very usable image. This is for when you shoot at full 200MP, of course. By default, this camera shoots 12.5MP photos through a process called 16-to-1 pixel binning.

Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G review
The 200MP camera is paired to an 8MP ultrawide and 2MP macro. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The other use case is portrait photography. The Note 12 Pro Plus does not have a dedicated depth sensor and that’s alright as the main sensor can produce competent bokeh with creamy blur and good subject separation, regardless of the lighting unless you’re shooting in very bad light.

Video recording tops out at 4K@30fps even though this sensor is capable of up to 8K. Recorded footage is generally nice and stable with ample detail and pleasing colours.

The 200MP camera isn’t the only ace up the Note 12 Pro’s sleeve as Xiaomi has complemented the phone with excellent hardware across the board.

Also Read | Realme 10 Pro Plus review: Almost a masterpiece

You get a tall 6.7-inch 1080p AMOLED display in this phone with fast 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz touch sampling. The bezels could have been a bit slimmer but at least they are symmetrical on all sides. There is Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection and support for Dolby Vision playback— this works as advertised with supported content on Netflix. The only niggle we have is the brightness which tops out at 900nits. It doesn’t bother much but surely a brighter screen would be nice off chance when you’re viewing it under direct sunlight. For the record, the standard Note 12’s screen can go as high as 1200nits.

Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G review
The AMOLED display supports Dolby Vision playback. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Powering the Note 12 Pro Plus is MediaTek’s Dimensity 1080 processor. The D1080 (6nm, 2x 2.6GHz Cortex-A78, 6x 2.0GHz Cortex-A55, Mali-G68 MC4) is basically a rebadged D920 (6nm, 2x 2.5 GHz Cortex-A78, 6x 2.0GHz Cortex-A55, Mali-G68 MC4) with a slightly bumped up core speed. The performance is comparable to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G. You get up to 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM and up to 256GB of UFS2.2 storage. This is non-expandable.

We have absolutely no complaints about the Redmi Note 12 Pro’s performance. The phone feels fast and responsive consistently without any perceivable throttling, no matter how you push it. It handles everyday tasks and graphical gaming with ease though we do feel that Xiaomi could have given it some more leg room had it gone with LPDDR5 and UFS3.1 configurations like the Redmi K50i. But we digress.

Also Read | Redmi K50i review: Redefining value, yet again

The Note 12 Pro Plus has fantastic battery life. This is easily a day and a half phone, even when you’re pushing it. Sometimes, it can go even longer. The phone tops up incredibly fast too though we were not able to get the exact number that Xiaomi is quoting. In our testing, the bundled charger topped the phone from 0-100% in just under 25 minutes. For context, the Note 12 Pro Plus comes with a 4,980mAh battery with 120W fast charging.

Xiaomi hardware is virtually incomplete without a pair of loud and rich stereo speakers and IR blaster and we are happy to report that the Note 12 Pro Plus has them both. The phone retains the 3.5mm audio jack, too. The haptic feedback on this phone is surprisingly good as well.

Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G | Bits that could have been better

Easily the most mundane aspect of the Note 12 Pro Plus is its design. Though it is rocking some premium materials – including a glass back and metallic camera housing— the phone doesn’t really stand out from the crowd. One reason could be the competition. The Note 12 series is coming hot on the heels of the Realme 10 Pro Plus and that phone has some serious flaunt value what with its sleek body and curved screen goodness.

The Note 12 Pro Plus looks more like the Redmi K50i and we have very similar thoughts here, as we did there. There’s nothing wrong with the Note 12 Pro Plus’s looks but it does lack some of the originality that Xiaomi phones are usually known for. Build-wise, the phone can be a bit unwieldy – the back is also rather slippery—but it’s solid with good weight distribution and no lose ends so to say. You get IP53 certification which is a nice value add.

Also Read | OnePlus Nord 2T review: Dash of future-proofing with a dollop of nostalgia

While we’re on hardware, the Note 12 Pro Plus’s secondary 8MP ultrawide and 2MP macro don’t really move the wheel any further than they do inside the “n” number of budget Xiaomi phones that are packing the same exact specs down to senser size and lens apertures. There’re spec-fillers that work well enough once or maybe twice in a blue moon and are rather forgettable at other times. The 16MP selfie camera is also not very different. It is half decent in good light but fails miserably even at the slightest drop in intensity.

Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G review
The Note 12 Pro Plus runs Android 12. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The most underwhelming aspect of the Note 12 Pro Plus isn’t its hardware though. It is the software. The phone runs Android 12 based MIUI 13. Again, maybe this wouldn’t have been a big deal –though it should be – had competition not been offering newer software. The Realme 10 Pro Plus boots Android 13. In Xiaomi’s defence, the Note 12 Pro Plus doesn’t ship with as many unwanted apps and system-wide ads as the Realme phone but we have to say, we were expecting a bit more since Xiaomi had basically promised to “remove the UI-related monetisation, swapping subsidies for better experience and quality” altogether which would give you the impression of a zero-bloat/ad situation. That is not the case as the Note 12 Pro Plus still has some of it. The phone is guaranteed to get two years of major OS and four years of security updates.

Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G | Should you buy it?

The Note 12 Pro Plus has excellent hardware. There are no two ways about it. But all that great hardware –also—comes at a price, now. Xiaomi has launched the phone at a starting price of Rs 29,999 in India. This is for a version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. A model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage will set you back by Rs 32,999.

Not unless you really want that 200MP camera and 120W fast charging to tag along, the Redmi K50i makes more sense in almost every other perceivable way. That phone is available for as low as Rs 23,999. Even the maxed-out version is cheaper than the Note 12 Pro Plus. There’s also the Poco F4 to look at. Then there is competition from the OnePlus Nord 2T to the Realme 10 Pro Plus, Nothing Phone 1 and Google Pixel 6a, all of which offer terrific value.

The Note 12 Pro Plus is entering a whole new segment – for a Redmi Note— this year, which is fine. But as good as its hardware is, Xiaomi’s software choices – and the fact that it didn’t exactly follow through on its promise to deliver a clean UI experience— have left us wanting for more, from what could otherwise have been the return of the value champ.

Pros Cons
Good display Boring design
Fast performance Other cameras could be better
200MP camera works great Android 12
Outstanding battery life, fast charging Bloat/ads in UI
Good sound, haptics

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First published on: 05-01-2023 at 19:34 IST