The Xiaomi 12 Pro, released four months ago, was a very good 2022 Android flagship that got good reviews on almost every tech site, including this one. But still, if you read my review carefully, you may have noticed that I was more critical than others, and perhaps even sounded a little disappointed. The reason is that I knew that the Xiaomi 12 Pro was not Xiaomi’s best offering, that an Ultra device was to come eventually, which would become Xiaomi’s true alpha phone. It took a little longer than expected, but it’s finally here: it’s the Xiaomi 12S Ultra.
I’ve only spent about eleven hours with the phone at the time of this writing, so this is by no means a complete review. But on paper, this phone is the over-the-top hardware beast we’ve come to expect from the last two Xiaomi Ultra phones, and from my testing, it still lives up to those gaudy specs so far.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Specifications
|Specifications||Xiaomi 12S Ultra|
|Dimensions and weight||
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1|
|RAM and storage||
|Safety||Under-display fingerprint scanner|
|Front camera(s)||32MP RGBW image sensor|
|Software||MIUI 13 based on Android 12|
About this practical: Xiaomi sent me a Xiaomi 12S Ultra for testing. Xiaomi did not contribute to this article.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: pricing and availability
First, the elephant in the room and bad news for some readers: the release of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is only scheduled for China for now, although an international release may follow later. Xiaomi 12S Ultra comes in three configurations:
- 8GB + 256GB: 5999 Yuan (~$896)
- 12GB + 256GB: 6,499 Yuan (~$970)
- 12GB + 512GB: 6,999 Yuan (~$1,045)
Xiaomi has not yet shared information about the availability of the device. We will update this section when more information becomes available.
Xiaomi 12s Ultra design and hardware: it’s like a camera with a connected phone
Smartphone camera modules have gotten bigger and bigger over the years, but the Xiaomi 12S Ultra really wins. I mean, look at this thing. It also protrudes slightly at the back, so if you place this phone on a table, it sits at an angle, as if you were supporting the keyboard.
As if this camera module isn’t eye-catching enough, there’s also a 24k gold ring around the module. But still, despite the heavy design, the phone can still stand on its own thanks to the flat bottom and top.
This, however, means that the screen of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra loses that quad design seen in the Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra and Mi 11 Ultra (there is no Mi branding for this year’s phone, by the way).
We will return to these cameras shortly, let’s look at other equipment. On the front is a 6.73-inch OLED display, which Xiaomi officially calls “Dolby Vision TrueColor Display”. This is Samsung’s LTPO with a resolution of 3200 x 1440 and a refresh rate of 1 to 120 Hz. It gets bright enough at 1500 nits max brightness, supports 10-bit color depth, and content looks great on it.
At the heart of the phone is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, a new 4nm chip from Qualcomm that supposedly delivers a 10 percent improvement in CPU and GPU performance over the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and, more importantly, improves power efficiency by 30 percent. This will be necessary because the 12S Ultra actually has a smaller battery than last year’s Mi 11 Ultra at 4860 mAh.
I’ve already done some tests and the new chip got high marks. In particular, the Geekbench numbers are slightly better than my Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Galaxy S22 Ultra. In fact, the Geekbench 12S Ultra scores are close to the Apple A15 Bionic.
More importantly, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra successfully completed the 20-minute “Wild Life Extreme Stress Test” in the 3D Mark app, which the Xiaomi 12 Pro failed to do when I tested it a few months ago due to overheating. So, we know that the Xiaomi 12S Ultra at least has better thermal performance (but more importantly, a processor that doesn’t get as hot).
Elsewhere, the phone features a symmetrical speaker stereo that has been seen in several recent Xiaomi flagships, but the 12S Ultra also has a vegan leather finish that I really like.
All the other flagship features you’re used to can be found here: IP68 water and dust resistance, wireless charging (up to 50W) and fast wired charging (67W, charger included). Inside the phone, there are two proprietary chips – Surge P1 and Surge G1, which Xiaomi says will handle charging and battery management separately. Okay, let’s get back to the main selling point of this phone, the optics.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra cameras: the magic of large sensors
The Xiaomi 12S Ultra main camera system consists of three cameras, led by the new 50-megapixel Sony IMX989 camera with a 1-inch sensor and a Leica lens. Xiaomi says the 1-inch Sony IMX sensor was made by Sony specifically for Xiaomi, while the optical lens covering the camera was jointly developed by Leica and Xiaomi. The camera also uses pixel binning technology to achieve a 3.2µm micropixel. These numbers insane.
The 48MP ultra-wide camera and the Periscope zoom camera are also 1/2-inch Sony sensors, and they also use binning technology to produce 12MP shots. The Periscope zoom lens still offers a 5x optical zoom range, but from early testing it looks much better than last year’s Mi 11 Ultra zoom lenses.
Keep in mind that I haven’t had enough time to really push the cameras yet, but these samples should give you an early idea of how the Xiaomi 12S cameras work. You can see from the samples that the 5x zoom lens produces very sharp images, the ultra-wide doesn’t lose too much detail, and colors stay mostly the same as other lenses.
But in fact, most readers are wondering what this 1-inch main camera is capable of, so let’s dive deeper. Yes, the 1-inch sensor provides a very shallow depth of field, resulting in natural bokeh in photos and videos.
And compared to the Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max, we can see that the Xiaomi shot also has noticeably stronger bokeh.
One problem with such a large sensor was that the camera would dim the lights all the time, something Samsung and Apple flagships are prone to from time to time (and those sensors are small compared to the 12S Ultra). Whether it’s Leica optical lenses or Xiaomi’s software algorithms, the images keep a good balance. The set of samples below was taken when it started to get dark (7:20 pm), but it’s not yet dark enough for these phones to turn on night mode, and we can see that the Xiaomi image is clearly stretched out in the lightest (lower third of the shot). The 12S Ultra is also the only camera that exposes my computer screens correctly, while Samsung and Apple ruined them.
Please note that Xiaomi colors are slightly exaggerated. It’s part of Leica’s new image tweak that seems to be doing the same job that the Vivo X flagships have been doing lately, adding a little extra contrast for more impact. It is possible to switch between this mode called “Leica Vibrant” and the more natural colors of “Leica Authentic”.
If we move to proper low-light shots like below in the night park, we can see the superiority in the Xiaomi shot: less noise, sharper details and better lighting around. And here’s what’s interesting: the 12S Ultra didn’t need night mode for this shot, while both Apple and Samsung phones needed two-second night mode.
I will definitely be testing this camera in the coming days as I work on a full review, including against our current camera king, the Vivo X80 Pro, as well as for portrait photography.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: early thoughts
There’s still a lot I haven’t revealed about the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, including video recording, Leica’s portrait modes, battery life (and whether the two proprietary chips help improve efficiency), and gaming and other general phone usage. But so far, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra looks like it’s an easy contender for phone of the year. And while the international release date isn’t a bummer yet, China’s relatively low starting price of around $900 means Western consumers can import the device without paying a ridiculous amount even with the markup. In case you’re wondering, Google apps don’t come with the phone, but they can be easily installed. Xiaomi’s own app store has a Google Play store to download.
Even for a picky phone lover like me, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra seems to meet most of the requirements I want from a phone. Other than the fact that it doesn’t add up, I guess. But as for glass plates with good cameras, this good camera has a glass plate phone.
#1inch #Leica #camera #test