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Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G review: Don’t go looking for extreme performance

Xiaomi’s latest is a perfectly serviceable laptop until you start pushing its limits. Is it the graphics processor?

The Notebook Pro 120G review is quite easily the best laptop Xiaomi has ever produced, period. But is that enough in today’s market? (Sahil Bhalla)

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I have to start this review of Xiaomi’s newest laptop on the market by stating the obvious. The Notebook Pro 120G review is quite easily the best laptop Xiaomi has ever produced, period. But is that enough in today’s market?

Xiaomi may be known primarily for selling quality smartphones at affordable prices, butlike many other Chinese companies, it has dabbled in many different products over the past few years like monitors, smartwatches, TVs, robot vacuums, routers, and much more. Moreover, the company is known for disrupting every market it enters. While it introduced its first laptop way back in China in 2016, it only entered the Indian market in 2020 with the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition, after which came the Mi Notebook Ultra. Xiaomi has promised to continue doubling down in the laptop segment and it's starting off with the Notebook Pro 120G for 2022. 

The Notebook Pro 120G gets a 120Hz refresh rate (the first laptop from the company to feature this tech) display, Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, and an Nvidia GeForce MX550 graphics processor. It only offers a 12th-gen Intel Core i5 processor though. Will that hold it back? Let’s find out.

Pricing and availability

The Notebook Pro comes in two variants: the Notebook Pro 120 model that comes with Intel’s built-in UHD graphics and retails for 69,999, and the Notebook Pro 120G (which we review here) that comes with the Nvidia GeForce MX550 and can be purchased for 74,999. Both models come with an i5 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

Design

While using the laptop for the past two weeks, I’ve been asked many times if I'm using a MacBook. From the get-go, Xiaomi has taken design cues from Apple and there’s no hiding that. Even today, the Notebook Pro 120G’s minimalist aesthetics have a lot in common with the current lineup of MacBooks. 

The Notebook Pro 120G is a well-built machine with high-end hardware. It’s got an aluminium chassis that feels premium through and through. Open the laptop up and you’ll find a large trackpad and a decent keyboard on the inside. The keyboard deck has little to no flex.

The screen may not open as wide as 180 degrees, but it stays firmly in place no matter where you leave it. I had no problems opening the lid one-handed, but doing so might smudge the webcam. The screen, with a matte coating, comes with thin bezels on three sides and an 88% screen-to-body ratio. There’s a 720p webcam and two mics up top.

On the top right corner of the notebook you can find a capacitive fingerprint sensor built in to the power button. It’s slow, and not 100% accurate. 

Xiaomi has now started putting its logo on the lid. It’s minimal and in the company’s new font. Coming in at 1.4 kg, the Notebook Pro 120G is slightly heavier than a MacBook but not at all chunky.

Display

Being the first Xiaomi notebook with a 120Hz refresh rate is a welcome change. It makes a huge difference on a day-to-day basis. The 14-inch IPS LCD panel comes with a QHD (2560 x 144) resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio.

The first thing you notice is that Xiaomi has done some brilliant work on colour calibration. Xiaomi claims 100% coverage of the sRGB colour space and it definitely shows. The only downside to the display is that of brightness. The peak brightness is rated as a measly 255 nits and that’s far behind the competition. It doesn’t get bright enough to be useable in the outside sunlight. The viewing angles are good. 

For content consumption and daily social media scrolling, the Notebook Pro 120G is great! If you’re using this laptop for some photoshop work, then you may need to consider an external monitor. 

Overall, the 14-inch panel is good, and there’s hardly much to complain about here.

Performance

On a daily basis, I’d be hard-pressed to remember a time when the laptop stuttered. It was a smooth experience with no slowdowns. Even for some basic photo editing, the Notebook Pro 120G can hold its own.

It’s when you start pushing the laptop to its limits or try and play a game that was recently launched, that you notice the laptop's limitations. The MX550 has just 2GB of video memory and that’s basically what is holding the laptop back. Gaming is almost a no-no on this laptop. Some casual games like Trackmania Nations Forever run fine but if you try and run Halo, then you’re in for some major disappointment.

There’s a dual-fan cooling solution and the exhaust vents are placed next to the hinge. The fans aren’t particularly quiet. When the laptop heats up, and the fans kick in, there’s an audible noise, but nothing too untoward.

While gaming, or running intense tasks, the laptop does heat up to a point wherein it is uncomfortable to use.

For the average user, it’ll run just fine and shouldn’t reach uncomfortable levels at all. If you’re looking for extreme performance though, then maybe the Notebook Pro 120G isn’t for you.

Battery life

The Notebook Pro 120G comes with a 56W battery. It features 100W fast charging (via the USB PD standard). Xiaomi claims the Notebook Pro 120G will last for up to nine hours on a full charge.

With the screen refresh rate set to 120Hz, I routinely got just under six hours of usage before I needed to plug in the notebook. If you were to turn down the refresh rate to 90Hz or even 60Hz, then you’d be able to extend the battery life. The downside is that you’re missing out on a much smoother experience and one of the USPs of the laptop. 

Conclusion

Xiaomi has once again managed to deliver a value-for-money product in India. One just has to know their use case before picking up the Notebook Pro 120G as it isn’t for everyone. There’s a lot going for the Notebook Pro 120G, no doubt. There’s the high-res screen (with a 120Hz refresh rate), high-end internals, a clean and premium design and a good keyboard.

This may be Xiaomi’s best effort to date, but it isn’t perfect. If you’re a gamer, then something like the Lenovo Ideapad Gaming 3 (which can be found for under 60,000), is an option. If you need a long-lasting battery, then the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (though slightly more expensive) can be considered.

Over the two weeks of using the Notebook Pro 120G, I’ve had a fantastic experience with little to no complaints. The target audience for Xiaomi seems to be the office-going crowd and for them, this gets two thumbs up.

Personally, I’d forgo the Nvidia MX550 (as it doesn’t add much) and get the cheaper Notebook Pro 120 model at  69,999. Xiaomi has a tough job on its hand convincing consumers that their laptop is the best specs-to-price one out there. Considering the competition these days, it won’t be an easy task.

Nonetheless, if you want a high-end premium laptop that is value-for-money, then keep the Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120 near the top of your shopping list.

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