Xiaomi 12S Ultra Review: Worth the Upgrade?
The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is undeniably an impressive smartphone in its own right, and while it is exclusive to Chinese markets, we were able to get our hands on this rather elusive handset. Today, we finally have our review of Xiaomi’s premium smartphone champ, and if you’re planning to use this in the UK we hope that this is helpful for you. But in a market where powerful phones like the new Samsung Galaxy Z models and even the new POCO handsets are readily available, how much of a value proposition is the 12S Ultra overall?
We actually have an unboxing of the 12S Ultra with some initial hands-on impressions of the phone. The device features some hardware highlights which include the new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip from Qualcomm, as well as a powerful camera set-up. But is it worth upgrading from the Mi 11 Ultra to this newer device? Let’s take a look.
The phone comes with a fantastic 6.73 AMOLED display, protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus, and this houses the phone’s fingerprint scanner, which has been reliable. I do prefer the face unlock method, which does seem faster. The screen also comes with a curved design which may or may not appeal to users.
The 12S Ultra also comes with stereo speakers tuned by Harman Kardon, which do have an excellent sound quality and enhances the user experience, especially during media consumption.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the biggest highlights of the phone is its camera bump at the back, which is a definite eye-catcher. Build quality is impressive, with the metal sides and “Eco-Leather” material used for the rear panel. Of course, we have the Leica branding on the camera, a result of the new partnership between Xiaomi and Leica, the latter of which has split from their previous smartphone partner, Huawei.
The main sensor on the 12S Ultra is a 1-inch, 50-megapixel Sony IMX989 sensor, which allows more light to enter the camera for better shots and even low-light photos. The phone also comes with a 48-megapixel ultrawide sensor and a 48-megapixel telephoto lens, which should make for great optical zoom.
Video maxes out at 8K resolution with 24fps, although we’ve never really needed to use it as we stick to 4K at 60fps, which in my opinion outshines the video quality on phones like the Google Pixel 6 Pro. Check out this video for a full set of photo and video samples.
One weakness of the phone is the front camera, which comes in at 32 megapixels. You can’t shoot 4K on this sensor, which shoots at a maximum of 1080p at 30fps, and elements like dynamic range, in particular are lacking, especially with video clips shot on the front-facing lens. As a whole, the camera system falls short versus the Pixel 6 Pro, mostly due to the selfie camera.
Inside the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, which offers significant performance upgrades to last year’s 8 Gen 1 chip. There’s little to no throttling on the chip, unlike its predecessor. It was mostly reliable and stable during my time using it, although it did get a bit warm at times.
Since the handset was imported all the way from China, it does have support for English language settings, although it runs Chinese software through and through. The unit we have comes with 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of internal storage, although there’s an option for 12GB of RAM and 500GB of storage.
The 12S Ultra runs on a 4,860 mAh battery, which was able to last around 7-8 hours of screen on-time during our usage which is very impressive. It also supports 67W wired fast-charging, which can charge the phone to 100 percent in 14 minutes. There’s also 50W wireless fast-charging.
As for software, the handset comes with Android 12, with Xiaomi’s MIUI (version 13) skin on top. We were able to use it with an EE sim card inside though, and even add some cards with Google Pay. One issue that we ran into however was with the Fitbit app – after pairing a watch to the phone, the Fitbit app would close whenever we tried to open it.
With that said, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is a very competent Android phone, with a set of impressive hardware features – it’s got good build quality, perfect for media consumption, and has great battery life and performance.
If you’re coming from a Mi 11 Ultra though, it might not be worth it – for one, it loses some features like the compact display at the rear panel, and the Mi 11 still comes with a competent camera set-up, despite the lack of a 1-inch sensor, and even the ceramic build is gone in the newer device. Perhaps the only big upgrades with this year’s device is the new Snapdragon chipset and the newer camera lens.
On the other hand, if you’re NOT coming from the Mi 11 Ultra and are thinking of getting the 12S Ultra, then it might be something you’ll enjoy using.
With that said, be sure to visit our official YouTube channel where we review and go hands-on with different kinds of audio gear like headphones, earbuds, and more.
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