Monday, December 11, 2023

Xiaomi’s pricing gamble may reap rewards, if Redmi Note 12 Pro+ is any evidence

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In trying to strike balance between risk and gamble, often confidence plays a pivotal role. We are barely into 2023, and Xiaomi seems resolute on making up for lost time with the hope to regain market supremacy, at least to an extent it had at one point. No surprise then as it strongest tool has been upgraded. The Redmi Note series, quite popular over time, now enters its latest generation.

But, don’t make the mistake of perceiving the latest set of Redmi Note 12 series as just another bunch of mid-range Android phones, with occasional moments of brilliance as it finds strains in the higher echelons of the price band. With the Redmi Note 12 Pro+ sitting at the top of the ladder, is all grown up. On the price tag too. Let us illustrate a not-so-subtle change of positioning.

The predecessor (it may still be on sale for a while) for most intents and purposes, the Redmi Note 11 series, is priced from around 12,499. This time around, the Redmi Note 12 range starts at a much higher price point – 17,999.

If we are to specifically compare the Redmi Note 12 Pro+, the phone we are reviewing here with its predecessor, the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ – the new model is priced 29,999 onwards, while the previous generation’s ‘pro plus’ phone sported price tags 20,999 onwards.

That’s always been the strategy, and it isn’t changing now. Xiaomi has again overwhelmed the spec sheet (in a positive way, mind you) with the hope that some these forward steps will let you justify spending the extra money. A Super AMOLED screen that supports up to 120Hz refresh rate. The processor has an expected annual power boost. The base storage spec is 256GB instead of the earlier 128GB. But here’s the big one – the camera troika is now led by a 200-megapixel sensor, instead of a 108-megapixel one.

That is the theme we will stick with for the moment. The cameras are a mix of the familiar, with a new element. The 8-megapixel ultrawide and 2-megapixel macro cameras have been carried forward as they were. It all looks unbalanced, at least in terms of outright numbers for a 200-megapixel sensor to be paired with. Costs do play a part, that is understandable. For most intents, you wouldn’t need to bother with these two seemingly underpowered sensors individually.

At default settings, which includes pixel binning tech joining collected data from multiple pixels together, the photography results are impressive. Nicely separated colours and good sharpness, albeit there are noticeable instances of softness around the frames in some photos. Low light photos, with the night mode turned on, are better than any Redmi Note phone. That’s generational improvement at its best.

I must recommend setting the camera app in the dedicated 200-megapixel shooting mode to draw the most advantage from the first ever sensor of its spec in smartphones. You’ll need to select the ‘Ultra HD’ mode and then as a second step, activate ‘200MP’ in the interface (if you don’t, there’s some amount of pixel binning here too that will result in 50-megapixel images). The 2X zoom and optical image stabilization are worth their weight in gold.

The 200-megapixel mode is what you should ideally always use (also get some Google One cloud storage space to store all those detailed photos) for landscape shots. The detailing is close to pristine, and far away objects have more detail than standard photos would. I quite like how colours come through too, but there needs to be a slight rework of the aggressive noise reduction that is very apparent in off-focus areas.

There is a definite utility of this high-resolution mode, thanks to the zoom and stabilisation, in other scenarios too. How adept or interested you are in editing some crops later, will dictate whether even close-ups should come using the full 200-megapixel capabilities of the sensor. The fact that there is so much data that the sensor dumps into every photo, there’s more to work with for your edits.

It is impossible to expect a generational smartphone upgrade, without a boost in processing power, Xiaomi isn’t about to risk that either. The Redmi Note 12 Pro+ has the MediaTek Dimensity 1080 under the hood, and depending on the variant you pick, this will be paired with 8GB or 12GB RAM. To be fair, either spec will be enough for slick multitasking performance.

The Redmi Note 12 Pro+ doesn’t get bogged down, even the slightest, with some fairly robust multi-tasking too. This 6-nanometer process chip will handle gaming too, something I can testify to with a fairly well detailed F1 Mobile Racing stint. The more important takeaway from this isn’t its performance, but how cool the phone remains even after extensive gaming, camera use and navigation. This, in turn, has a positive impact on battery life.

The 4,980-mAh battery is bigger than the predecessor’s charge tank, and in most of the daily phone usage scenarios we chucked at it, this lasted a day and a half. Albeit the days when camera usage was a bit higher (200-megapixel photos can be quite addictive, you must be aware) than usual, the Redmi Note 12 Pro+ still lasted the day with more than 28% charge remaining. There is very little ‘charge anxiety’ as you enter the business end on most days.

Charging isn’t hard either with a 120-watt fast charging (Xiaomi has branded it as HyperCharge) facility.

Also Read:Redmi latest smartphone has 200MP camera; gets fully charged in just 9 mins

As far as the software is concerned, you’ll get Android 12 out of the box, and there is no Android 13 update on the horizon, at least for now. In particular for a phone which gets this close to the 30,000 price point, these sort of things tend to get magnified. Since Xiaomi has promised two major Android updates for this series, it likely means a belated Android 13 and then at the most, Android 14 at some point. That is all.

Would the software be a deal-breaker for you?

Visually, the Redmi Note 12 Pro+ is again making wholesale changes. Something its predecessor also did, in its time. The flat sides now have an accompanying curve on the back panel. The camera module at the back, at least in my book, has less of an edge to its personality now. Yet, there is no doubting the very usable design and ergonomics. It must be remembered, the fingerprint sensor is embedded in the power key, and is not under the display.

There is the definite sense that with the Redmi Note 12 Pro+ and indeed the larger Redmi Note 12 series, Xiaomi wants to play the ‘premium’ card. That is a big bet, particularly for the phones that have done very well for the smartphone maker, particularly in India, while clinging to the aspect of affordability. It is a significant price jump, successor for successor, and that may be too big of a jump for a sizeable chunk of the Redmi buyer demographic.

Yet, it is quite understandable that Xiaomi wants to make the phone(s) attractive for a wider set of potential buyers. For that, there is enough to keep them interested. The 200-megapixel camera being the definite highlight. Finer details have been taken care of too. This being the first Redmi Note series phone with optical image stabilisation. And the fact that the 120-watt fast charger is bundled with the phone adds genuine value.

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