Compared to last year’s Redmi Note 11 or even the Note 11S (Review), Xiaomi’s latest Redmi Note 12 5G packs a few upgrades. For starters, the phone supports 5G thanks to a newer Qualcomm SoC, more primary storage and a smoother display. However, all this comes at a price. At Rs. 17,999 for the base variant, these upgrades don’t seem particularly exciting considering that most smartphones in this bracket (or even below) already have them.
And then there’s competition from smartphones like the Realme 10 Pro 5G and Moto G82 5G ( review ), which offer much more value at a similar price. Do the upgrades given to the Redmi Note 12 5G add real value and should you upgrade to one? I’ve been using it for over a week and here’s what I think.
Redmi Note 12 5G Price in India
The Redmi Note 12 5G comes in two variants and three finishes. There is a base variant that gets a healthy 128GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM that comes at Rs. 17,999. There is a 6GB RAM variant 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 certainly looks slim, but it’s moderately heavy at 188g. The frame and back panel are made of polycarbonate. The back panel has a soft matte finish that gives it a sophisticated look and feel, but also attracts smudges easily. However, they are easy to erase. The sides are flat and the frame also has a matte finish which makes holding this big phone a task as it is quite slippery. The design of the camera module has been changed, which now looks like a block of polished glass raised from the rear panel, giving it a modern look.
The display on the Redmi Note 12 5G has a notch with a hole for the selfie camera and is of the AMOLED variety. The fingerprint scanner is located on the side, in the power button. The bezels around the left, top and right sides of the display are thin enough, but there’s a noticeable chin at the bottom that takes away from its premium appeal.
The Redmi Note 12 5G has the usual IP53 rating for dust and water resistance, but despite all the cosmetic improvements, 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 is certainly well-equipped when it comes to hardware. It has 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 3.5mm headphone port. The latter can be used with the built-in FM radio application. The phone packs a 5,000 mAh battery and can be charged with a 33W charger provided in the box.
In 2023, it’s a little surprising to see Xiaomi launch the Redmi Note 12 5G with Android 12. The phone runs MIUI 13, which comes with its own set of customizations, although they’re not as advanced when it comes to theming as the Android 13 devices (regardless of custom skin). What you get is the usual bloated software with a few Xiaomi branded and third party apps pre-installed like Amazon, Facebook, Amazon Prime Video, Zili to name a few. Apart from the daily spam notifications from the GetApps app, luckily I didn’t get any other spam notifications from the other pre-installed apps.
Redmi Note 12 5G performance and battery life
The software experience of the 6GB RAM variant of the Redmi Note 12 5G was quite smooth. Despite all the bloatware and pre-installed third-party apps, it ran smoothly whether I was multitasking, launching new apps, or even retrieving recently used apps from memory. The phone supports the Virtual RAM feature (allocated from the internal storage) and I set it to 5GB (the maximum limit) during the review period. While day-to-day use was smooth, I did notice an occasional bug that locked apps in a certain orientation. Strangely, shaking the phone really hard seems to fix this temporarily.
The Redmi Note 12 5G’s 6.67-inch, full-HD+ Super AMOLED panel has a 120Hz refresh rate, but it’s 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 bright colors with the default color profile, but more natural-looking colors with the Standard setting.
There is 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 rich colors, but fall a little short when watching 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 to achieve a score of 3,63,352 points on AnTuTu, along with 626 and 1,696 points in the Geekbench single and multi-core tests respectively. These results are justified compared to the more expensive Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G. In Call of Duty: Mobile games, it can be played at default settings (“High” graphics quality and frame rate), but there is a noticeable lag from time to time.
The Redmi Note 12 5G’s touch sample rate also felt inadequate for first-person shooter (FPS) games. Asphalt 9 Legends also behaves similarly as the phone cannot maintain a stable frame rate while playing the game on default settings. The phone is better suited for more casual titles like Subway Surfers and others. The single bottom-firing speaker, while loud, sounds weak and not very immersive when it comes to both watching movies and gaming.
The Redmi Note 12 5G managed to deliver about a day and a half of battery life on a single charge, even with heavy usage, which is pretty good. My usage also included some gaming and camera sampling. The phone managed 17 hours and 57 minutes in our HD video cycle battery test, which is pretty good. Charging the 5,000mAh battery is also fast, with the phone managing to reach 37 percent charge in 30 minutes and completing the charge in around 1 hour and 14 minutes.
Redmi Note 12 5G cameras
The Redmi Note 12 5G has three rear cameras and one 13-megapixel front camera for selfies. The rear setup covers all the bases thanks to a 48-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 2-megapixel macro camera. The camera interface is typically Xiaomi with custom camera modes and the secondary setting placed in a sliding drawer that can be accessed by tapping the hamburger icon.
The image quality in daylight is almost acceptable and this is mainly due to the details that are on the lower side and this is something I did not expect from a smartphone in this price range. Dynamic range suffers mainly because the phone can’t tell when to use HDR or not and will automatically turn it off, resulting in blown highlights or overexposed areas. During the review period, I kept the AI mode on as it resulted in better images with decent dynamic range compared to the squashed blacks I got in regular shots. But it also results in more saturated images, depending on the scene.
The phone’s macro camera is difficult to use mainly because of the fixed focus setting and the results after all the settings are not worth the effort. The performance of the ultra-wide camera is predictably worse than the main camera, with lots of cylindrical distortion and purple banding in the brighter areas of the image. The color tones and dynamic range are far off compared to the actual scene, and photos look like they were captured using a filter.
Daylight selfies look sharp with decent detail and edge detection, but with a blown-out background. In low light, photos look soft and lack detail, so they end up looking pretty flat. There is no night mode available for the ultra-wide camera to save the day (or rather the night).
The low-light performance of the main camera is quite poor even when shooting city streets with lots of ambient light. The main camera just can’t capture good details in automatic mode. Switching to night mode helps bring out some detail in the scene, but with flat textures and colors that looked like oil paintings when zoomed in. There’s also a lot of visible noise in darker areas, even when using night mode. Video recording quality tops out at 1080p at 30fps and is passable at best with choppy bitrate and slightly jittery frames along with low detail.
At Rs. 17,999, it’s 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 model Redmi Note this year and is trying to tick all the boxes instead of focusing on quality. The cameras are perhaps the biggest disappointment, as it often fails to get even the basics right, especially when compared to other smartphones at and below this price point.
Realme 10 Pro 5G, at an additional Rs. 1000, features a better SoC, a 108-megapixel primary camera and stereo speakers, along with an interesting design. Motorola’s Moto G82 5G (Review) is also a better choice at Rs. 18,999 with an OIS enabled primary camera, IP52 rating, stereo speakers and almost stock Android which is confirmed to get its Android 13 update this year.