First Impressions: Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 5G
A budget-friendly phone with a top-end display
While I’m not quite ready to deliver my final thoughts, my first impressions of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 5G are largely positive, with a great 120Hz AMOLED display and the same 5000mAh battery found in some flagships. Performance isn’t that great with a Snapdragon 4 Gen 1, and despite a high-res 48MP camera, initial tests weren’t overwhelmingly positive, but sacrifices have to be made at the budget end of the market.
- EuropeRRP: €245
- Huge batteryWith a 5,000mAh battery, the Redmi Note 12 shouldn’t struggle to last all day.
- High-end displayDespite the budget price tag, the Redmi Note 12 5G sports a top-end 6.67-inch AMOLED display with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate.
- Affordable price tagStarting at just £219 with 5G connectivity, the Redmi Note 12 5G is a tempting option at a budget-friendly price.
Announced at the Western Europe launch in Paris, the Redmi Note 12 5G looks to deliver tempting specs including a 6.67-inch AMOLED 120Hz display, 5000mAh battery and a 48MP rear camera for as little as £219 if you want 4GB of RAM, or just £279 if you want to boost that to 6GB.
It certainly sounds like a tempting option on paper, but how does it perform in real life? I spent a bit of time playing with the Redmi Note 12 5G at the launch event in Paris, and here are my initial impressions.
Design and screen
- All-plastic build
- Stylish design
- High-end 120Hz AMOLED display
For a phone that costs just over £200, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 5G looks pretty good. It sports the same minimalistic design as the rest of the Redmi Note 12 range which looks fairly premium on the surface — until you pick it up, that is.
Upon picking it up the illusion of a premium smartphone is shattered, instead sporting an all-plastic build. To its credit, the plastic build means it measures in at a fairly lightweight 189g, and it won’t shatter like glass counterparts, though the completely flat sides and rear mean the relatively large phone isn’t as comfortable to hold as the curvier Note 12 Pro Plus 5G.
Elsewhere, the phone packs key features including a side-mounted fingerprint reader, a USB-C port for charging and even a 3.5mm headphone jack for wired audio connectivity — a feature that has all but disappeared from the top end of the market.
If the design and build aren’t much to write home about, it’s likely because much of the phone’s manufacturing budget went into the display. I assume, anyway. It’s not only large, measuring in at the same 6.67 inches as the rest of the Redmi Note 12 range, but it’s also an AMOLED panel that delivers a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate.
Considering Apple’s £849 iPhone 14 is capped at 60Hz, that’s a massive bonus for budget-focused consumers that makes the overall experience feel a little bit smoother and more responsive.
The FHD+ resolution can make the display look a little soft at times, especially compared to similarly-sized displays with a QHD resolution, but that’s not a frame of reference that many budget buyers will have. It looked perfectly serviceable during my hands-on time, with an impressive peak brightness of 1200 nits.
- 48MP main rear camera
- Colours can look at a little flat
- 2MP macro lens is pointless
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 sports a fairly decent camera setup when you consider the cheap £219 price tag, boasting a main 48MP rear camera with impressive specs including f/1.8, though you’ll have to plump for one of the Pro models if you want to make use with OIS.
However, the megapixel count isn’t everything, and during my brief hands-on testing with the phone I did notice that colours looked a little washed out and flat, and the lack of OIS meant that a few shots came out rather shaky/blurry. Still, it has potential in well-lit conditions — you just might have to boost those colours a little bit.
That’s paired with the same 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP macro lens as the Pro and Pro Plus models, though that’s more of a downside for the more expensive models than a plus for the standard Note 12 — especially when it comes to the 2MP macro that’s essentially just there to bump up the camera count.
Flip the phone over and you’ll find the same 13MP front-facing camera as the rest of the Note 12 lineup, which during quick tests looked fairly decent for selfies, though Xiaomi’s slightly OTT beautify effects are fairly obvious.
- Snapdragon 4 Gen 1
- 5000mAh battery
- MIUI 14 based on the older Android 12
With a starting price of just £219, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Redmi Note 12 5G doesn’t feature the fastest chipset on the market. It features the lesser-known Qualcomm Snapdragon 4 Gen 1, built on the larger 6nm process.
That’s paired with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, though unlike most alternatives, it’s not tied to storage — in the UK market, at least. Both variants available in the UK come with the same 128GB of storage, so be sure you’re getting the right version for your needs.
In the Note 12 5G’s defence, it doesn’t feel that slow in use. It kept up with my rapid swiping around the home screen and app tray most of the time, though I did notice the occasional stutter and functions like switching the camera can sometimes take a second or two to process.
Essentially, it’s obvious that Xiaomi has prioritised elements like display and battery life, while performance has somewhat fallen to the wayside.
Despite the truly budget nature of the standard Redmi Note 12 5G, it packs the same 5000mAh battery as its more expensive siblings as well as flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. It is something we’re seeing more and more on budget and mid-range phones, but still, it’s nice to see here.
Though I’ve not had the chance to fully test the Redmi Note 12’s battery performance just yet, I have no doubt that it’ll provide all-day battery life, though whether it’ll last a second day is yet to be seen.
Instead, the budget focus of the phone shines through with charge speeds, capped at just 33W — a third of the charge speed of the top-end Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus 5G’s 120W.
Though 33W is still relatively fast, when combined with such a high-capacity battery, it’ll likely still take quite a while to go from flat to full. The fact that Xiaomi doesn’t make charge time claims like it does with others in the Redmi Note 12 collection speaks volumes about what you should expect.
The phone’s software isn’t quite up to scratch though; it ships with Xiaomi’s MIUI 14, based on the year-old Android 12. It’s also quite a different approach to Android compared to much of the competition, with an obvious iOS inspiration in places — the notification shade and quick controls are split, for example — and there’s plenty of bloatware too, from random apps to games I’ve never heard of.
That’s kind of expected at the cheaper end of the market, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
While I’m not quite ready to deliver my final thoughts, my first impressions of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 5G are largely positive, with a great 120Hz AMOLED display and the same 5000mAh battery found in some flagships. Of course, performance isn’t that great with a Snapdragon 4 Gen 1, and despite a high-res 48MP camera, initial tests weren’t overwhelmingly positive.
Still, at the budget end of the market sacrifices have to be made, and if display and battery life are the most important elements of a smartphone for you, you’ll struggle to find one better specced at a cheaper price.