The maker of the Infinix Note 12 VIP (and little sibling Note 12) may not be too well known around these Western parts yet, but in a sea of abundant and often confusing choice when it comes to smartphones, Infinix has focused squarely on one thing to stand out: camera specs.
And the Note 12 VIP certainly does that. Especially when it comes to the combination of price and camera. With a cool 108-megapixel main camera and a 16-megapixel selfie camera, along with capable ultrawide and macro abilities, it sets itself up as a serious proposition for a smartphone photography fan on a strict budget, as it currently retails for under £250. Meanwhile, the Note 12 may well have the best camera specs of any bargain phone out there, as the unit, which can be had for under £170, has a 50-megapixel main camera and the same 16-megapixel selfie camera as its beefier sibling.
But is that enough to make either the Note 12 and Note 12 VIP one of the best budget camera phones (opens in new tab) out there? I received a test unit of each model, and using them out and about for a number of weeks, the answer will very much depend on whether you want to do other things as well, as unsurprisingly there are a number of compromises made to reach that low price point.
Chipset: Mediatek MT6781 Helio G96 (12 nm)
OS: Android 12, XOS 10.5
Screen: AMOLED, 6.7in IPS screen, 1080 x 2400p
Cameras: 108 MP, f/1.8, (wide), 1/1.67", 0.64µm, PDAF, Laser AF; 13mm f/2.2, (ultrawide); 2 MP, f/2.4 (depth); 16 MP, (front), 1/2.76", 1.12µm
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth, USB Type-C 2.0, microSDXC slot
Dimensions: 163.5 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm (6.44 x 3.02 x 0.31 in)
Weight: 199 g (7.02 oz)
Battery: Li-Po 4500 mAh, non-removable
Infinix Note 12 VIP review: Design and screen
Externally, the phone takes plenty of hints from the likes of the iPhone, with the slightly boxy design, and rounded corners on the aluminium sides framing the large, sharp 6.7-inch screen. It's certainly less distinctive than the waterfall design of the bigger and more premium Infinix Zero Ultra, but it's comfortable to hold and feels reassuringly rugged, especially for a budget phone.
It's available in two colours, Cayenne Grey or Force Black. I received the Cayenne Grey one, and the matte back is slightly grippy and textured, which helps my small fingers feel like it's not going to slip out and go on an unscheduled rapid collision with the ground every time I hold it.
The screen is 1080 x 2400px AMOLED offering with a 120Hz framerate, and is both sharp and bright, and relatively free of distracting or uncomfortable glare. It stays fairly well readable even outside in bright sunshine, although you do have to whack the brightness to max and turn off the automatic brightness adjustment to fully enjoy it. The screen does smudge quite easily, though, but is easily wipeable with a suitable cloth.
The camera lenses jut out of the back ever so slightly, so when it sits on a table it wobbles just that tiny bit, but not so that I felt terrified it would go walkabout off the edge as soon as it starts vibrating with a notification or incoming call. However, a protective case is a wise move to protect the camera lens edges, and helpfully one is provided in the box, albeit a vanilla clear one.
Infinix Note 12 VIP review: Features
Like stated above, the headline feature on the Note 12 VIP is the 108MP camera with an f/1.8 lens. It also has a fingerprint scanner on the power button, for quick unlocking, along with face recognition. Both are straightforward to set up within the native XOS operating system, which is basically a clone of the Android 12 OS, so any Android user will find their way around very quickly. There's also a lift-to-wake feature, which switches the screen on when you pick it up.
The phone is packed with preloaded apps, both from the Google suite of apps and Infinix' own offerings, including a game-focused XArena and WeZone and a social XClub, along with an alternative web browser to Chrome, called Hi Browser. Like so many Android phones, it feels overstuffed from the start, which always makes me feel a little anxious and less in control of creating my own experience with the apps I want than I'd like.
The internal storage is 256GB, with 8GB of RAM, which is extendable to 13GB.
Battery life is really good too, thanks to the 4500mAh battery. It easily saw me through almost two days' worth of relatively heavy use, and with the 120W superfast charger included, I charged it from empty to full in under half an hour.
Infinix Note 12 VIP review: Camera
This is where the Infinix Note 12 VIP comes into its own. The 108-megapixel main camera captures images in really crisp detail, impressively so for a budget phone like this. Outdoor images are effortlessly bright and vivid, and portraits, even in fairly subdued indoor settings, have a nice pop to them, while the super macro gives you very decent super-close-ups for a phone in this price bracket. Yes, there is digital enhancement behind some of the megapixel claim, but for the money you pay, it's going to be hard to find anything that clearly outperforms it on the camera side.
Like on the Infinix Zero Ultra, the camera app has an 'AI Cam' and 'Beauty' mode, the second of which seems mostly geared toward the trend of slightly oversaturated images you see on social media. I tended to switch mostly between the highly adjustable AI Cam setting and the Portrait setting, depending on the occasion.
The Note 12 (non-VIP) has a 50MP camera, which also performs better than most sub-£200 phone cameras do. It's slightly less crisp than its VIP counterpart
Video performance is decent. On the Note 12 VIP, you get 1440p HD video at 30fps, which is good but not spectacular for a phone in this budget category, and on the Note 12, the video maxes out at 1080p at 30fps.
So why is it so cheap, I hear you bellow. Well, in order to have such impressive camera specs at this price, you have to compromise somewhere, and in the Note 12 VIP (and Note 12), that compromise is easy to spot...
Infinix Note 12 VIP review: Performance
...and that's the processor. Using a MediaTek Helio G96 processor, the Note 12 VIP is much less powerful and capable of multitasking than any current Snapdragon processors, as well as the MediaTek Dimensity processors like the 920 powering the Zero Ultra. With a lowly Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 1875, it's here where the Note 12 VIP marks itself out as the budget phone it is.
If you want to do some serious creative work or gaming anywhere above casual app games, the Note 12 VIP will soon start to struggle, and I noticed that performance started to drop noticeably when having multiple apps open at a time, although I didn't encounter the same restart loop problem I did on its sibling, the Zero Ultra, perhaps because I didn't load as many apps onto this already-stuffed phone as I did with the Zero Ultra.
If you're only concerned about the camera, though, this shouldn't bother you too much, as it does very well on that front, with sharing to nearby devices or cloud accounts (to reduce the load on the local storage) working effortlessly.
Infinix Note 12 VIP review: Price
The Note 12 VIP can be had for under £250 in the UK (as an import, it must be stated, as it's not currently sold by high-street retailers here), and the Note 12 is available for under £170. Yes, it has budget-phone innards, but it's neatly designed and a camera that far outperforms that price point.
Should you buy the Infinix Note 12 VIP?
If you want a super-affordable phone primarily for its camera specs, the Infinix Note 12 VIP should definitely be on your shortlist. There are a few reservations, though. One is that the processor is very underpowered, so if your ambitions extend beyond an Insta-machine with an admittedly very good camera, you might soon grow frustrated (as you probably would with most phones in this price bracket). Another is that at the time of writing this it's not currently stocked or supported by any high-street retailers in the UK, so is only available as an import. General phone shops might be able to help with issues, but we can't guarantee it, unfortunately.
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