There’s a reason why the Redmi Note lineup omits the Xiaomi branding — the Redmi Note is a brand unto itself, one that is responsible for the company’s dominance in the mid-segment. It’s easy to see why a Redmi Note is so easy to recommend — each year, the phones deliver big on the trifecta of performance, camera and design…at a jaw-dropping price to boot.
And so it is with the Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G, a phone that’s landed today (and goes on sale January 11) with some pretty insane features for its segment — a 200-megapixel sensor, super-fast charging and impressive performance. That bit about pricing, though: global supply chain issues and inflationary pressures have seen the latest, greatest Note push past the Rs. 25,000 price point for the first time, even as the competition has been steadily nipping at their heels over the past year. Is the year’s first salvo from the house of Redmi enough to stay atop the pile… and more importantly, to live up to the high expectations set up by its predecessors?
Pulling the Arctic White variant out of its well-appointed box – with a 120W power adapter, a plastic TPU case and a pre-installed screen protector, no less — there’s a distinct sense you’ve seen this design someplace earlier. It’s well built, if a little dense and heavy (208g, 8.9mm) in the hand, and while the main design elements — the flat plastic frame on the sides, a curved-around-the-edges rear panel made of an unnamed toughened glass, Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the display — all check the boxes, the phone looks a bit generic and lacking a distinctive sense of flair.
If you’re looking for a little more color, try out the Iceberg Blue color variant, though it’s a pity we didn’t get to see the Stardust Purple colorway available for the Note 12 Pro for the Note 12 Pro+. Redmi Note loyalists will note the inclusion of the 3.5mm headphone jack, an infrared blaster to control your appliances, and a side-mounted fingerprint scanner which works to unlock the phone a lot more reliably than the in-display fingerprint scanners on many phones in this price segment. IP53 dust and water resistance is a nice touch as well.
Around the front is an expansive 6.67-inch full-HD+-resolution AMOLED display which refreshes at 120Hz and can reproduce a wide color gamut of 1.07 billion colors (10-bit color depth) with support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+ content. Put simply, this is an excellent panel for media consumption on OTT services and gaming, and the dual speaker setup sounds good indoors. You can always use wired audio with the Hi-Res-enabled 3.5mm headphone jack.
Bear in mind, the peak brightness level has dropped to 900 nits (from the 1200 nits on the 11 Pro+), which impacts usage only in the brightest of sun-lit days. I had the opportunity to use the phone across a variety of locations, from hill stations to beaches, but never once did I have to shield the phone to see what was on the screen.
Of course, the big headline this time around is the cameras on the Note 12 Pro+, chief of which is the new 200-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL HPX sensor with optical image stabilization. The new sensor impressed thoroughly with its ability to capture detail and dynamic range across a variety of aforementioned locations. Regular images are taken at a pixel-binned 12.5-megapixel resolution, and while outdoor shoots with sufficient lighting are expectedly good, what’s more impressive is the low-light performance.
The images of the dimly lit toys and the driveway were all taken handheld without using the night mode, and the results, both in terms of details and the colors/mood of the image are excellent for the category. What’s happening here is that overabundance of pixels is combined together with the image stabilization to pack in a lot more detail into each shot than one would typically expect. For most situations, you can skip the night mode, which sometimes tends to boost the exposure levels to borderline unrealistic levels. Turn on the 200-megapixel mode though, and you’re rewarded with an image rich in details that you can zoom into if you really like to pixel peep… albeit at the cost of storage space — each image shot at the full 200MP sets you back by around 30MB or so!
Almost forgotten in this 200-megapixel discussion is the 8-megapixel ultra-wide and a 2MP macro shooter, the former taking sharp images even around the edges while maintaining color consistency with the primary shooter. The macro maintains a modicum of colour accuracy but the details from the 2MP camera are really not worth writing home about.
With the MediaTek Dimensity 1080 running the show on the Redmi Note 12 Pro+, performance was expectedly good, and games like Genshin Impact and Asphalt 9 played smoothly on the device — to be clear, performance is par for the segment. What matters is that there’s a large 4,980mAh battery to keep things humming along for well past a day even on the heavy cocktail of tasks (games, camera, outdoor usage) one puts devices through during a review such as this.
I couldn’t test the phone on 5G in my area in Bengaluru, although it supports up to 10 bands. The other ace up the Redmi sleeve is the super-fast 120W charging, which makes this phone in some ways the successor (in spirit, at least) of the 2022 11i HyperCharge 5G as well. The 120W charger is in the box, in case you were wondering — a fair question when many brands seem to be jettisoning the humble charger from the phone packaging.
Now, we said this about its predecessor, and the same rings true with the Note 12 Pro+ — it lags behind the competition in offering the latest Android 13 version on its phones, and Xiaomi has promised two major Android updates and four years of security support for the Android 12-based MIUI 13 on the Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G. Redemption comes by way of relatively few pre-installed apps, which is a marked improvement over Redmi Notes from the distant past, not to mention quite a few peers out there in the market today.
For good reason, the Redmi Note 12 Pro+ left a solid impression on me during the two weeks of use, though one is left to wonder how often the marquee 200-megapixel shooter (and the faster charging) will be used to justify the upgrade to this device over the seemingly equally capable Redmi 12 Pro 5G.
These are phones that are inching towards the 30,000 mark — the 8GB/256GB variant will retail at Rs. 29,999 and the 12GB/256GB at Rs. 32,999. This is before the bank offers and the loyalty exchange benefits which bring the price down to a slightly more palatable ₹25,999/Rs. 28,999, but even so, the 12 Pro+ is likely to be competing for the upper end of the Redmi Note audience, and that’s territory where spending a little more could get you a lot of extremely tempting options within reach.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets at @2shar.